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The Lances Of Lynwood by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 3 out of 4

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and go not to this fearful Castle. It is a trap--a snare laid to
be your death, by the foulest treachery!"

"Silence, Arthur!" said the Knight, sternly. "Know you not what
treason you speak? Some trick has been played on your simplicity,
and yet you--child as you are--should as soon think shame of your
own father as of the Prince, the very soul of honour."

"Oh, it is not the Prince: he knows nought of it; it is those double
traitors, the Baron of Clarenham and Sir Leonard Ashton, who have
worked upon him and deceived him."

"Oh, ho!" said Gaston. "The story now begins to wear some semblance
of probability."

Arthur turned, looking perplexed. "Master d'Aubricour," said he,
"I forgot that you were here. This is a secret which should have
been for my uncle's ears alone."

"Is it so?" said Gaston; "then I will leave the room, if it please
you and the Knight--though methought I was scarce small enough to
be so easily overlooked; and having heard the half--"

"You had best hear the whole," said Arthur. "Uncle Eustace, what
think you?"

"I know not what to think, Arthur. You must be your own judge."

Arthur's young brow wore a look of deep thought; at last he said,
"Do not go then, Gaston. If I have done wrong, I must bear the
blame, and, be it as it may, my uncle needs must tell you all that
I may tell him."

"Let us hear, then," said Eustace.

"Well, then," said Arthur, who had by this time collected himself,
"you must know that this Chateau Norbelle is one of those built
by that famous Paladin, the chief of freebooters, Sir Renaud de
Montauban, of whom you have told me so many tales. Now all of
these have secret passages in the vaults communicating with the
outer country."

"The boy is right," said Gaston; "I have seen one of them in the
Castle of Montauban itself."

"Then it seems," proceeded Arthur, "that this Castle hath hitherto
been in the keeping of a certain one-eyed Seneschal, a great friend
and comrade of Sir Leonard Ashton--"

"Le Borgne Basque!" exclaimed both Knight and Squire, looking at
each other in amaze.

"True, true," said Arthur. "Now you believe me. Well, the enemy
being in the neighbourhood, it was thought right to increase the
garrison, and place it under the command of a Knight, and these
cowardly traitors have wrought with my Lord of Pembroke and Sir
John Chandos to induce the Prince to give you this post--it being
their intention that this wicked Seneschal and his equally wicked
garrison should admit Sir Oliver de Clisson, the butcher of Bretagne
himself, through the secret passage. And, uncle," said the boy,
pressing Eustace's hand, while tears of indignation sprang to his
eyes, "the letter expressly said there was to be no putting to
ransom. Oh, Uncle Eustace, go not to this Castle!"

"And how came you by this knowledge?" asked the Knight.

"That I may never tell," said Arthur.

"By no means which might not beseem the son of a brave man?" said
Eustace.

"Mistrust me not so foully," said the boy. "I know it from a sure
hand, and there is not dishonour, save on the part of those villain
traitors. Oh, promise me, fair uncle, not to put yourself in their
hands!"

"Arthur, I have taken the oaths to the Prince as Castellane. I
cannot go back from my duty, nor give up its defence for any cause
whatsoever."

"Alas! alas!"

"There would be only one way of avoiding it," said Eustace, "and you
must yourself say, Arthur, whether that is open to me. To go to the
Prince, and tell him openly what use is made of his Castles, and
impeach the villains of their treachery."

"That cannot be," said Arthur, shaking his head sadly--"it is
contrary to the pledge I gave for you and for myself. But go not,
go not, uncle. Remember, uncle, if you will not take thought for
yourself, that you are all that is left me--all that stands between
me and that wicked Clarenham.--Gaston, persuade him."

"Gaston would never persuade me to disgrace my spurs for the sake
of danger," replied Eustace. "Have you no better learnt the laws
of chivalry in the Prince's household, Arthur? Besides, remember
old Ralph's proverb, 'Fore-warned is fore-armed.' Think you not
that Gaston, and honest Ingram, and I may not be a match for a
dozen cowardly traitors? Besides which, see here the gold allotted
me to raise more men, with which I will obtain some honest hearts
for my defence--and it will go hard with me if I cannot find Sir
Renaud's secret door."

"Then, if you will go, uncle, take, take me with you--I could, at
least, watch the door; and I know how to hit a mark with a cross-
bow as well as Lord Harry of Lancaster himself."

"Take you, Master Arthur? What! steal away the Prince's page that
I have been at such pains to bring hither, and carry him to a nest
of traitors! Why, it would be the very way to justify Clarenham's
own falsehoods."

"And of the blackest are they!" said Arthur. "Think, uncle, of my
standing by to hear him breathing his poison to the Prince, and the
preventing him from searching to find out the truth, by pretending a
regard for my father's name, and your character. Oh that our noble
Prince should be deluded by such a recreant, and think scorn of such
a Knight as you!"

"I trust yet to prove to him that it is a delusion," said Eustace.
"Many a Knight at twenty-two has yet to make his name and fame.
Mine, thanks to Du Guesclin and the Prince himself, is already made,
and though clouded for a time, with the grace of our Lady and of St.
Eustace, I will yet clear it; so, Arthur, be not downcast for me,
but think what Father Cyril hath taught concerning evil report and
good report. But tell me, how came you hither?"

"She--that is, the person that warned me--let me down from the window
upon the head of the great gurgoyle, and from thence I scrambled down
by the vines on the wall, ran through the court without being seen by
the Squires and grooms, and found my way to the bridge, where happily
I met John Ingram, who brought me hither."

"She?" repeated Gaston, with a sly look in his black eyes.

"I have said too much," said Arthur, colouring deeply; "I pray you to
forget."

"Forget!" proceeded the Squire, "that is sooner said than done. We
shall rack our brains to guess what lady can--"

"Hush, Gaston," said Eustace, as his nephew looked at him imploringly,
"tempt not the boy. And you, Arthur, must return to the palace
immediately."

"Oh, uncle!" said the boy, "may I not stay with you this one night?
It is eight weary months since I have ever seen you, save by peering
down through the tall balusters of the Princess's balcony, when the
Knights were going to dinner in the hall, and I hoped you would keep
me with you at least one night. See how late and dark it is--the
Castle gates will be closed by this time."

"It does indeed rejoice my heart to have you beside me, fair nephew,"
said Eustace, "and yet I know not how to favour such an escape as this,
even for such a cause."

"I never broke out of bounds before," said Arthur, "and never will,
though Lord Harry and Lord Thomas Holland have more than once asked
me to join them."

"Then," said the Knight, "since it is, as you say, too late to rouse
the palace, I will take you back in my hand to-morrow morn, see the
master of the Damoiseaux, and pray him to excuse you for coming to
see me ere my departure."

"Yes, that will be all well," said Arthur; "I could, to be sure,
find the corner where Lord Harry has loosened the stones, and get
in by the pages' window, ere old Master Michael is awake in the
morn; but I think such doings are more like those of a fox than
of a brave boy, and though I should be well punished, I will walk
in at the door, and hold up my head boldly."

"Shall you be punished then?" said Gaston. "Is your old master of
the Damoiseaux very severe?"

"He has not been so hitherto with me," said Arthur: "he scolds me for
little, save what you too are displeased with, Master d'Aubricour,
because I cannot bring my mouth to speak your language in your own
fashion. It is Lord Harry that chiefly falls under his displeasure.
But punished now I shall assuredly be, unless Uncle Eustace can work
wonders."

"I will see what may be done, Arthur," said Eustace. "And now, have
you supped?"

The evening passed off very happily to the little page, who, quite
reassured by his uncle's consolations, only thought of the delight
of being with one who seemed to supply to him the place at once of
an elder brother and of a father.

Early the next morning, Eustace walked with him to the palace. Just
before he reached it, he made this inquiry, "Arthur, do you often see
the Lady Agnes de Clarenham?"

"Oh, yes, I am with her almost every afternoon. She hears me read,
she helps me with my French words, and teaches me courtly manners.
I am her own page and servant--but, here we are. This is the door
that leads to the room of Master Michael de Sancy, the master of
the Damoiseaux."

CHAPTER XII

The next few days were spent in taking precautions against the
danger intimated by the mysterious message. Gaston gathered
together a few of the ancient Lances of Lynwood, who were glad to
enlist under the blue crosslet, and these, with some men-at-arms,
who had recently come to Bordeaux to seek employment, formed a body
with whom Eustace trusted to be able to keep the disaffected in
check. Through vineyards and over gently swelling hills did their
course lead them, till, on the evening of the second day's journey,
the view to the south was shut in by more lofty and bolder peaks,
rising gradually towards the Pyrenees, and on the summit of a rock
overhanging a small rapid stream appeared the tall and massive
towers of a Castle, surmounted by the broad red cross of St. George,
and which their guide pronounced to be the Chateau Norbelle.

"A noble eyrie!" said Eustace, looking up and measuring it with his
eye. "Too noble to be sacrificed to the snaring of one poor Knight."

"Shame that such a knightly building should serve for such a nest
of traitors!" said Gaston. "Saving treachery, a dozen boys could
keep it against a royal host, provided they had half the spirit of
your little nephew."

"Let us summon the said traitors," said Eustace, blowing a blast on
his bugle. The gates were thrown wide open, the drawbridge lowered,
and beneath the portcullis stood the Seneschal, his bunch of keys at
his girdle. Both Eustace and Gaston cast searching glances upon him,
and his aspect made them for a moment doubt the truth of the warning.
A patch covered the lost eye, his moustache was shaved, his hair
appeared many shades lighter, as well as his beard, which had been
carefully trimmed, and altogether the obsequious Seneschal presented
a strong contrast to the dissolute reckless man-at-arms. The Knight
debated with himself, whether to let him perceive that he was
recognized; and deciding to watch his conduct, he asked by what
name to address him.

"Thibault Sanchez," replied Le Borgne Basque, giving his real name,
which he might safely do, as it was not known to above two men in the
whole Duchy of Aquitaine. "Thibault Sanchez, so please you, noble
Sir, a poor Squire from the mountains, who hath seen some few battles
and combats in his day, but never one equal to the fight of Najara,
where your deeds of prowess--"

"My deeds of prowess, Sir Seneschal, had better rest in silence until
our horses have been disposed of, and I have made the rounds of the
Castle before the light fails us."

"So late, Sir Knight! and after a long and weary journey? Surely
you will drink a cup of wine, and take a night's rest first, relying
on me, who, though I be a plain man, trust I understand somewhat of
the duties of mine office."

"I sleep not until I have learnt what is committed to my charge,"
replied the Knight. "Lead the way, Master Sanchez."

"Ah! there is what it is to have a Knight of fame," cried Le Borgne
Basque. "What vigilance! what earnestness! Ah, this will be, as I
told my comrades even now, the very school of chivalry, the pride of
the country."

They had by this time crossed the narrow court, and passing beneath
a second portcullised door defended on either side by high battlement
walls, nearly double as thick as the steps themselves were wide. At
the head was an arched door, heavily studded with nails, and opening
into the Castle hall, a gloomy, vaulted room, its loop-hole windows,
in their mighty depth of wall, affording little light. A large wood
fire was burning in the hearth, and its flame cast a bright red light
on some suits of armour that were hung at one end of the hall, as
well as on some benches, and a long table in the midst, where were
placed some trenchers, drinking horns, and a flask or two of wine.

"A drop of wine, noble Knight," said the Seneschal. "Take a cup to
recruit you after your journey, and wash the dust from your throat."

A long ride in full armour beneath the sun of Gascony made this no
unacceptable proposal, but the probability that the wine might be
drugged had been contemplated by Eustace, who had not only resolved
to abstain himself, but had exacted the same promise from d'Aubricour,
sorely against his will.

"We will spare your flasks till a time of need," said Eustace, only
accepting the basin of fair water presented to him to lave his hands.
"And now to the walls," he added, after he had filled a cup with water
from the pitcher and refreshed himself with it. Gaston followed his
example, not without a wistful look at the wine, and Sanchez was
obliged to lead the way up a long flight of spiral steps to two other
vaulted apartments, one over the other--the lower destined for the
sleeping chamber of the Knight and his Squire, the higher for such
of the men-at-arms as could not find accommodation in the hall, or
in the offices below. Above this they came out on the lead-covered
roof, surrounded with a high crenellated stone parapet, where two or
three warders were stationed. Still higher rose one small octagonal
watch-tower, on the summit of which was planted a spear bearing St.
George's pennon, and by its side Sir Eustace now placed his own.

This done, Eustace could not help standing for a few moments to
look forth upon the glorious expanse of country beneath him--the
rich fields and fair vineyards spreading far away to the west and
north, with towns and villages here and there rising among them;
while far away to the east, among higher hills, lay the French
town of Carcassonne, a white mass, just discernible by the light
of the setting sun; and the south was bounded by the peaks of the
Pyrenees, amongst which lay all Eustace's brightest recollections
of novelty, adventure, and hopes of glory.

Descending the stairs once more, after traversing the hall, they
found themselves in the kitchen, where a large supper was preparing.
Here, too, was the buttery, some other small chambers fit for
storehouses, and some stalls for horses, all protected by the great
bartizan at the foot of the stairs, which was capable of being
defended even after the outer court was won. By the time the new-
comers had made themselves acquainted with these localities, the
evening was fast closing in, and Sanchez pronounced that the Knight's
survey was concluded in good time for supper.

"I have not yet seen the vaults," said Eustace.

"The vaults, Sir Knight! what would you see there, save a few rusted
chains, and some whitened bones, that have been there ever since the
days of the Count de Montfort and the heretic Albigenses! They say
that their accursed spirits haunt the place."

"I have heard," returned Sir Eustace, "that these Castles of Gascony
are said to have secret passages communicating with their vaults,
and I would willingly satisfy my own eyes that we are exposed to
no such peril here."

"Nay, not a man in the Castle will enter those vaults after sunset,
Sir Knight. The Albigenses, Sir Eustace!"

"I will take the risk alone," said Eustace. "Hand me a torch there!"

Gaston took another, and Thibault Sanchez, seeing them so resolute,
chose to be of the party. The torches shed their red glare over
the stone arches on which the Castle rested, and there was a chill
damp air and earthy smell, which made both Knight and Squire shudder
and start. No sooner had they entered than Thibault, trembling
exclaimed, in a tone of horror, "There! there! O blessed Lady,
protect us!"

"Where?" asked Eustace, scarce able to defend himself from an
impression of terror.

"'Tis gone--yet methought I saw it again.--There! look yonder, Sir
Knight--something white fluttering behind that column!"

Gaston crossed himself, and turned pale; but Eustace had settled
his nerves. "A truce with these vain follies, Master Seneschal,"
said he, sternly. "Those who know Le Borgne Basque cannot believe
his fears, either of saints or demons, to be other than assumed."

No ghost could have startled the Seneschal of the Chateau Norbelle
as much as this sobriquet. He fell back, and subsided into complete
silence, as he meditated whether it were best to confess the plot,
and throw himself upon Sir Eustace's mercy, or whether he could hope
that this was merely a chance recognition. He inclined to the latter
belief when he observed that the Knight was at fault respecting the
secret passage, searching in vain through every part of the vault,
and twice passing over the very spot. The third time, however, it so
chanced that his spur rung against something of metal, and he called
for Gaston to hold his torch lower. The light fell not only upon an
iron ring, but upon a guard which evidently covered a key-hole.

Sanchez, after in vain professing great amazement, and perfect
ignorance of any such entrance, gave up his bunch of keys, protesting
that there was nothing there which could unlock the mysterious door:
but the Knight had another method. "Look you, Master Sanchez," said
he, "it may be, as you say, that this door hath not been unclosed for
hundreds of years, notwithstanding I see traces in the dust as if it
had been raised of late. I shall, however, sleep more securely if
convinced that it is an impossibility to lift it. Go, therefore,
Gaston, and call half a dozen of the men, to bring each of them the
heaviest stone they can find from that heap I saw prepared for a
mangonel in the court-yard."

"Oh, excellent!" exclaimed Gaston, "and yet, Sir Eustace--"

There he stopped, but it was evident that he was reluctant to leave
his master alone with this villain. Eustace replied by drawing his
good sword, and giving him a fearless smile, as he planted his foot
upon the trap-door; and fixing his gaze upon Le Borgne Basque, made
him feel that this was no moment for treachery.

Gaston sped fast out of the dungeon, and, in brief space, made his
appearance at the head of the men-at-arms, some bearing torches,
others labouring under the weight of the huge stones, which, as he
rightly thought, they were far more inclined to heave at Sir Eustace's
head than to place in the spot he pointed out. They were, however,
compelled to obey, and, with unwilling hands, built up such a pile
upon the secret door, that it could not be lifted from beneath
without gigantic strength, and a noise which would re-echo through
the Castle. This done, Sir Eustace watched them all out of the
vault himself, closed the door, locked it, and announced to the
Seneschal his intention of relieving him for the future from the
care of the keys. Still watching him closely, he ascended to the
hall, and gave the signal for the supper, which shortly made its
appearance.

Thibault Sanchez, who laid claim to some share of gentle blood, was
permitted to enjoy the place of honour together with Sir Eustace and
d'Aubricour--the rather that it gave them a better opportunity of
keeping their eye upon him.

There was an evident attempt, on the part of the garrison, to engage
their new comrades in a carouse in honour of their arrival, but this
was brought to an abrupt conclusion by Sir Eustace, who, in a tone
which admitted no reply, ordered the wine flasks to the buttery, and
the men, some to their posts and others to their beds. Ingram walked
off, muttering his discontent; and great was the ill-will excited
amongst, not only the original garrison, but the new-comers from
Bordeaux, who, from their lairs of straw, lamented the day when
they took service with so severe and rigid a Knight, and compared
his discipline with that of his brother, Sir Reginald, who, strict
as he might be, never grudged a poor man-at-arms a little merriment.
"But as to this Knight, one might as well serve a Cistercian monk!"

As to Le Borgne Basque, he betook himself to the buttery; and there,
in an undertone of great terror, began to mutter to his friend and
ally, Tristan de la Fleche, "It is all over with us! He is a wizard!
Sir Leonard Ashton was right--oaf as he was; I never believed him
before; but what, save enchantment, could have enabled him to
recognize me under this disguise, or how could he have gone straight
to yonder door?"

"Think you not that he had some warning?" asked Tristan.

"Impossible, save from Clarenham, or from Ashton himself; and, dolt
as he is, I trow he has sense enough to keep his own counsel. He
has not forgotten the day when he saw this dainty young sprig rise
up in his golden spurs before his eyes. I know how it is! It is
with him as it was with the Lord of Corasse!"

"How was that, Thibault?"

"Why, you must know that Raymond de Corasse had helped himself to
the tithes of a certain Church in Catalonia, whereby the Priest who
claimed them said to him, 'Know that I will send thee a champion
that thou wilt be more afraid of than thou hast hitherto been of
me.' Three months after, each night, in the Castle of Corasse,
began such turmoil as never was known; raps at every door, and
especially that of the Knight--as if all the goblins in fairy-land
had been let loose. The Knight lay silent all one night; but the
next, when the rioting was renewed as loud as ever, he leapt out
of his bed, and bawled out, 'Who is it at this hour thus knocks at
my chamber door?' He was answered, 'It is I.' 'And who sends thee
hither?' asked the Knight. 'The Clerk of Catalonia, whom thou hast
much wronged. I will never leave thee quiet until thou hast rendered
him a just account.' 'What art thou called,' said the Knight, 'who
art so good a messenger?' 'Orthon is my name.' But it fell out
otherwise from the Clerk's intentions, for Orthon had taken a liking
to the Knight, and promised to serve him rather than the Clerk--
engaging never to disturb the Castle--for, indeed, he had no power
to do ill to any. Often did he come to the Knight's bed by night,
and pull the pillow from under his head--"

"What was he like?" asked Tristan.

"The Lord de Corasse could not tell; he only heard him--he never saw
aught; for Orthon only came by night, and, having wakened him, would
begin by saying, 'he was come from England, Hungary, or elsewhere,'
and telling all the news of the place."

"And what think you was he?"

"That was what our Lord, the Count de Foix, would fain have known,
when he had much marveled at the tidings that were brought him by
the Lord de Corasse, and had heard of the strange messenger who
brought them. He entreated the Knight to desire Orthon to show
himself in his own proper form--and then, having seen, to describe
him.

"So at night, when Orthon came again, and plucked away the pillow,
the Knight asked him from whence he came? 'From Prague, in Bohemia,'
answered Orthon. 'How far is it?'--'Sixty days' journey.' 'Hast
thou returned thence in so short a time?'--'I travel as fast as the
wind, or faster.' 'What! hast thou got wings?'--'Oh, no.' 'How,
then, canst thou fly so fast?'--'That is no business of yours!'
'No,' said the Knight--'I should like exceedingly to see what form
thou hast.'--'That concerns you not,' replied Orthon; 'be satisfied
that you hear me.' 'I should love thee better had I seen thee,'
said the Knight,--whereupon Orthon promised that the first thing
he should see to-morrow, on quitting his bed, should be no other
than himself."

"Ha! then, I wager that he saw one of the black cats that played
round young Ashton's bed."

"Nay, the Knight's lady would not rise all day lest she should see
Orthon; but the Knight, leaping up in the morning, looked about,
but could see nothing unusual. At night, when Orthon came, he
reproached him for not having shown himself, as he had promised.
'I have,' replied Orthon. 'I say No,' said the Knight. 'What!
you saw nothing when you leapt out of bed?'--'Yes,' said the Lord
de Corasse, after having considered awhile, 'I saw two straws,
which were turning and playing together on the floor.' 'That was
myself,' said Orthon.

"The Knight now desired importunately that Orthon would show himself
in his own true shape. Orthon told him that it might lead to his
being forced to quit his service--but he persisted, and Orthon
promised to show himself when first the Knight should leave his
chamber in the morning. Therefore, as soon as he was dressed, the
Knight went to a window overlooking the court, and there he beheld
nothing but a large lean sow, so poor, that she seemed nothing but
skin and bone, with long hanging ears, all spotted, and a thin
sharp-pointed snout. The Lord de Corasse called to his servants
to set the dogs on the ill-favoured creature, and kill it; but, as
the kennel was opened, the sow vanished away, and was never seen
afterwards. Then the Lord de Corasse returned pensive to his
chamber, fearing that the sow had indeed been Orthon!--and truly
Orthon never returned more to his bed-side. Within a year, the
Knight was dead!"

"Is it true, think you, Sanchez?"

"True! why, man, I have seen the Chateau de Corasse, seven leagues
from Orthes!"

"And what think you was Orthon?"

"It is not for me to say; but, you see, there are some who stand
fair in men's eyes, who have strange means of gaining intelligence!
It will be a merit to weigh down a score of rifled Priests, if we
can but circumvent a wizard such as this!"

"But he has brought his books! I saw that broad-faced Englishman
carry up a whole pile of them," cried Tristan, turning pale. "With
his books he will be enough to conjure us all into apes!"

"Now or never," said Sanchez, encouragingly.

"When all is still, I will go round and waken our comrades, while
you creep forth by the hole beneath the bartizan, and warn Clisson
that the secret passage is nought, but that when he sees a light
in old Montfort's turret--"

Tristan suddenly trod on his foot, as a sign of silence, as a step
descended the stairs, and Sir Eustace stood before them.

"You appear to be agreeably employed, gentlemen," said he, glancing
at the stoup of wine which was before them; "but my orders are as
precise as Norman William's. No lights in this Castle, save my own,
after eight o'clock. To your beds, gentlemen, and a good night to
you!" He was still fully armed, so that it was unsafe to attack
him. And he saw them up the spiral stairs that led from the hall,
and watched them enter the narrow dens that served them as sleeping
rooms, where many a curse was uttered on the watchfulness of the
wizard Knight. At the turn of midnight, Le Borgne Basque crept
forth, in some hope that there might be an opportunity of fulfilling
his designs, and earning the reward promised him both by Clarenham
and the French. But he had not descended far before a red gleam of
torchlight was seen on the dark stairs, and, ere he could retreat,
the black head and dark eyes of Gaston appeared, glancing with
mischievous amusement, as he said, in his gay voice, "You are on
the alert, my old comrade. You have not forgotten your former
habits when in command here. But Sir Eustace intrusts the care
of changing the guard to none but me; so I will not trouble you
to disturb yourself another night." And the baffled miscreant
retreated.

In this manner passed day after day, in a tacit yet perpetual war
between the Knight and the garrison. Not a step could be taken,
scarce a word spoken, without some instant reminder that either
Sir Eustace or Gaston was on the watch. On the borders of the
enemy's country, there was so much reason for vigilance, that the
garrison could not reasonably complain of the services required of
them; the perpetual watch, and numerous guards; the occupations
which Knight and Squire seemed never weary of devising for the
purpose of keeping them separate, and their instant prohibition
of any attempt at the riotous festivity which was their only
consolation for the want of active exercises. They grew heartily
weary, and fiercely impatient of restraint, and though the firm,
calm, steady strictness of the Knight was far preferable to the
rude familiarity and furious passions of many a Castellane, there
were many of the men-at-arms who, though not actually engaged in
the conspiracy, were impatient of what they called his haughtiness
and rigidity. These men were mercenaries from different parts of
France, accustomed to a lawless life, and caring little or nothing
whatever whether it were beneath the standard of King Charles or
King Edward that they acquired pay and plunder. The Englishmen
were, of course, devoted to their King and Prince, and though at
times unruly, were completely to be depended upon. Yet, while
owning Sir Eustace to be a brave, gallant, and kind-hearted Knight,
there were times when even they felt a shudder of dread and almost
of hatred pass over them, when tales were told of the supernatural
powers he was supposed to possess; when Leonard Ashton's adventure
with the cats was narrated, or the story of his sudden arrival at
Lynwood Keep on the night before the lady's funeral. His own
immediate attendants might repel the charge with honest indignation,
but many a stout warrior slunk off in terror to bed from the sight
of Sir Eustace, turning the pages of one of his heavy books by the
light of the hall fire, and saw in each poor bat that flitted about
within the damp depths of the vaulted chambers the familiar spirit
which brought him exact intelligence of all that passed at Bordeaux,
at Paris, or in London. Nay, if he only turned his eyes on the
ground, he was thought to be looking for the twisting straws.

CHAPTER XIII

There was a village at some distance from the Chateau Norbelle, the
inhabitants of which were required to furnish it with provisions.
The Castellane, by paying just prices, and preventing his men from
treating the peasants in the cruel and exacting manner to which they
were accustomed, had gained their good-will. Prompt intelligence of
the proceedings of the French army was always brought to him, and he
was thus informed that a large treasure was on its way from Bayonne
to Carcasonne, being the subsidy promised by Enrique, King of
Castile, to his allies, Bertrand du Guesclin and Oliver de Clisson.

It became the duty of the English to intercept these supplies,
and Eustace knew that he should incur censure should he allow the
occasion to pass. But how divide his garrison? Which of the men-
at-arms could be relied on? After consultation with d'Aubricour,
it was determined that he himself should remain with John Ingram
and a sufficient number of English to keep the traitors in check,
while Gaston went forth in command of the party, who were certain
to fight with a good will where spoil was the object. They would
be absent at least two nights, since the pass of the Pyrenees, where
they intended to lie in ambush, was at a considerable distance, nor
was the time of the arrival of the convoy absolutely certain.

The expedition proved completely successful, and on the morning
of the third day the rising sun beheld Gaston d'Aubricour riding
triumphantly at the head of his little band, in the midst of which
was a long line of heavily-laden baggage mules. The towers of
Chateau Norbelle appeared in his view, when suddenly with a cry of
amazement he perceived that the pennon of St. George and the banner
of Lynwood were both absent from the Keep. He could scarcely believe
his eyes, but forcing his horse onward with furious impetuosity to
obtain a nearer view, he discovered that it was indeed true.

"The miscreants!" he shouted. "Oh, my Knight, my Knight!" and
turning to the men who followed him, he exclaimed, "There is yet
hope! Will you see our trust betrayed, our noble Knight foully
murdered and delivered to his enemies, or will ye strike a bold
stroke in his defence? He who is not dead to honour, follow me!"

There was a postern, of which Eustace had given Gaston the key, on
his departure, and thither the faithful Squire hastened, without
looking back to see whether he was followed by many or few--in fact,
rather ready to die with Sir Eustace than hoping to rescue him. The
ten Englishmen and some eight Frenchmen, infected by the desperation
of his manner, followed him closely as he rushed up the slope, dashed
through the moat, and in another moment, opening the door, burst into
the court. There stood a party of the garrison, upon whom he rushed
with a shout of "Death, death to the traitor!" Gaston's arm did the
work of three, as he hewed down the villains, who, surprised and
discomfited, made feeble resistance. Who they were, or how many, he
saw not, he cared not, but struck right and left, till the piteous
cries for mercy, in familiar tones, made some impression, and he
paused, as did his companions, while, in a tone of rage and anguish,
he demanded, "Where is Sir Eustace?"

"Ah! Master d'Aubricour, 'twas not me, 'twas the traitor, Sanchez--
'twas Tristan," was the answer. "Oh, mercy, for our blessed Lady's
sake!"

"No mercy, dogs! till ye have shown me Sir Eustace in life and limb."

"Alas! alas! Master d'Aubricour!" This cry arose from some of the
English; and Gaston, springing towards the bartizan, beheld the
senseless form of his beloved Knight lying stretched in a pool of
his own blood! Pouring out lamentations in the passionate terms of
the South, tearing his hair at having been beguiled into leaving the
Castle, and vowing the most desperate vengeance against Clarenham
and his accomplices, he lifted his master from the ground, and, as
he did so, he fancied he felt a slight movement of the chest, and a
faint moan fell upon his ear.

What recked Gaston that the Castle was but half taken, that enemies
were around on every side? He saw only, heard only, thought only,
of Sir Eustace! What was life or death, prosperity or adversity,
save as shared with him! He lifted the Knight in his arms, and,
hurrying up the stone steps, placed him on his couch.

"Bring water! bring wine!" he shouted as he crossed the hall. A
horse-boy followed with a pitcher of water, and Gaston, unfastening
the collar of his doublet, raised his head, held his face towards
the air, and deluged it with water, entreating him to look up and
speak.

A few long painful gasps, and the eyes were half unclosed, while a
scarce audible voice said, "Gaston! is it thou? I deemed it was
over!" and then the eyes closed again. Gaston's heart was lightened
at having heard that voice once more, even had that word been his
last--and answering, "Ay, truly, Sir Knight, all is well so you
will but look up," he succeed in pouring a little water into his
mouth.

He was interrupted by several of the men-at-arms, who came trooping
up to the door, looking anxiously at the wounded Knight, while the
foremost said, "Master Gaston, here is gear which must be looked
to. Thibault Sanchez and half a dozen more have drawn together in
Montfort's tower, and swear they will not come forth till we have
promised their lives."

"Give them no such pledge!--Hang without mercy!" cried another voice
from behind. "Did not I myself hear the traitorous villains send
off Tristan de la Fleche to bear the news to Carcassonne? We shall
have the butcher of Bretagne at our throats before another hour is
over."

"Cowardly traitor!" cried Gaston. "Wherefore didst thou not cut the
throat of the caitiff, and make in to the rescue of the Knight?"

"Why, Master d'Aubricour, the deed was done ere I was well awake, and
when it was done, and could not be undone, and we were but four men
to a dozen, what could a poor groom do? But you had better look to
yourself; for it is true as the legends of the saints, that Tristan
is gone to Carcassonne, riding full speed on the Knight's own black
charger!"

The news seemed to have greater effect in restoring Eustace than any
of Gaston's attentions. He again opened his eyes, and made an effort
to raise his head, as he said, almost instinctively, "Secure the
gates! Warders, to your posts!"

The men stood amazed; and Eustace, rallying, looked around him, and
perceived the state of the case. "Said you they had sent to summon
the enemy?" said he.

"Martin said so," replied Gaston, "and I fear it is but too true."

"Not a moment to be lost!" said Eustace. "Give me some wine!" and
he spoke in a stronger voice, "How many of you are true to King
Edward and to the Prince? All who will not fight to the death in
their cause have free leave to quit this Castle; but, first, a
message must be sent to Bordeaux."

"True, Sir Eustace, but on whom can we rely?" asked Gaston.

"Alas! I fear my faithful Ingram must be slain," said the Knight,
"else this could never have been. Know you aught of him?" he added,
looking anxiously at the men.

The answer was a call from one of the men: "Here, John, don't stand
there grunting like a hog; the Knight is asking for you, don't you
hear?"

A slight scuffle was heard, and in a few seconds the broad figure
of Ingram shouldered through the midst of the men-at-arms. He came,
almost like a man in a dream, to the middle of the room, and there,
suddenly dropping upon his knees, he clasped his hands, exclaiming,
"I, John Ingram, hereby solemnly vow to our blessed Lady of Taunton,
and St. Joseph of Glastonbury, that never more will I drink sack,
or wine or any other sort or kind, spiced or unspiced, on holiday
or common day, by day or night. So help me, our blessed Lady and
St. Joseph."

"Stand up, John, and let us know if you are in your senses," said
Gaston, angrily; "we have no time for fooleries. Let us know
whether you have been knave, traitor, or fool; for one or other
you must have been, to be standing here sound and safe."

"You are right, Sir Squire," said Ingram, covering his face with his
hands. "I would I were ten feet underground ere I had seen this day;"
and he groaned aloud.

"You have been deceived by their arts," said Eustace. "That I can
well believe; but that you should be a traitor, never, my trusty John!"

"Blessings on you for the word, Sir Eustace!" cried the yeoman, while
tears fell down his rough cheeks. "Oh! all the wine in the world may
be burnt to the very dregs ere I again let a drop cross my lips! but
it was drugged, Sir Eustace, it was drugged--that will I aver to my
dying day."

"I believe it," said Eustace; "but we must not wait to hear your
tale, John. You must take horse and ride with all speed to Bordeaux.
One of you go and prepare a horse--"

"Take Brigliador!" said Gaston; "he is the swiftest. Poor fellow!
well that I spared him from our journey amid the mountain passes."

"Then," proceeded Eustace, "bear the news of our case--that we have
been betrayed--that Clisson will be on us immediately--that we will
do all that man can do to hold out till succour can come, which I
pray the Prince to send us."

"Take care to whom he addresses himself," said Gaston. "To some our
strait will be welcome news."

"True," said Eustace. "Do thy best to see Sir John Chandos, or, if
he be not at the court, prefer thy suit to the Prince himself--to
any save the Earl of Pembroke. Or if thou couldst see little Arthur,
it might be best of all. Dost understand my orders, John?"

"Ay, Sir," said Ingram, shaking his great head, while the tears still
flowed down his cheeks; "but to see you in this case!"

"Think not of that, kind John," said Eustace; "death must come sooner
or later, and a sword-cut is the end for a Knight."

"You will not, shall not die, Sir Eustace!" cried Gaston. "Your
wounds--"

"I know not, Gaston; but the point is now, not of saving my life,
but the Castle. Speed, speed, Ingram! Tell the Prince, if this
Castle be taken, it opens the way to Bordeaux itself. Tell him how
many brave men it contains, and say to him that I pray him not to
deem that Eustace Lynwood hath disgraced his knighthood. Tell
Arthur, too, to bear me sometimes in mind, and never forget the
line he comes of. Fare thee well, good John!"

"Let me but hear that I have your forgiveness, Sir Knight."

"You have it, as freely as I hope for mercy. One thing more: should
you see Leonard Ashton, let him know that I bear him no ill-will, and
pray him not to leave the fair fame of his old comrade foully stained.
Farewell: here is my hand--do not take it as scorn that it is my left
--my right I cannot move--"

The yeoman still stood in a sort of trance, gazing at him, as if
unable to tear himself away.

"See him off, Gaston," said the Knight; "then have the walls
properly manned--all is in your hands."

Gaston obeyed, hurrying him to the gate, and giving him more hope
of Sir Eustace's recovery than he felt; for he knew that nothing
but the prospect of saving him was likely to inspire the yeoman
with either speed or pertinacity enough to be of use. He fondly
patted Brigliador, who turned his neck in amaze at finding it was
not his master who mounted him, and having watched them for a
moment, he turned to look round the court, which was empty, save
for the bodies of those whom he had slain in his furious onset.
He next repaired to the hall, where he found the greater part of
the men loitering about and exchanging different reports of strange
events which had taken place:--"He can't be a wizard, for certain,"
said one, "or he never would be in this case, unless his bargain
was up."

"It were shame not to stand by him now in the face of the enemy,"
said another. "How bold he spoke, weak and wounded as he was!"

"He is of the old English stock," said a third,--"a brave, stout-
hearted young Knight."

"Well spoken, old Simon Silverlocks," said Gaston, entering. "I doubt
where you would find another such within the wide realm of France."

"He is brave enough, that no man doubts," answered Simon, "but
somewhat of the strictest, especially considering his years. Sir
Reginald was nothing to him."

"Was it not time to be strict when there was such a nest of treachery
within the Castle?" said Gaston. "We knew that murderous miscreant
of a Basque, and had we not kept well on our guard against him, you,
Master Simon, would long since have been hanging as high from
Montfort's tower as I trust soon to see him."

"But how knew you him, Master d'Aubricour? that is the question,"
said old Simon with a very solemn face of awe.

"How? why by means of somewhat sharper eyes than you seem to possess.
I have no time to bandy words--all I come to ask is, will you do the
duty of honest men or not? If not, away with you, and I and the
Knight will abide here till it pleases Messire Oliver, the butcher,
to practice his trade on us. I remember, if some of the Lances of
Lynwood do not, a certain camp at Valladolid, when some of us might
have been ill off had he not stood by our beds of sickness; nor will
I easily desert that pennon which was so gallantly made a banner."

These were remembrances to stir the hearts of the ancient Lances of
Lynwood, and there was a cry among them of, "We will never turn our
backs on it! Lynwood for ever!"

"Right, mine old comrades. Our walls are strong; our hearts are
stronger; three days, and aid must come from Bordeaux. The traitors
are captives, and we know to whom to trust; for ye, of English birth,
and ye, my countrymen, who made in so boldly to the rescue, ye will
not fail at this pinch, and see a brave and noble Knight yielded to
a pack of cowardly murderers."

"Never! never! We will stand by him to the last drop of our blood,"
they replied; for the sight of the brave wounded Knight, as well as
the example of Gaston's earnestness and devotion, had had a powerful
effect, and they unanimously joined the Squire in a solemn pledge to
defend both Castle and Knight to the last extremity.

"Then up with the good old banner!" said Gaston, "and let us give
Messire Oliver such a reception as he will be little prepared for."
He then gave some hasty directions, appointed old Silverlocks, a
skilled and tried warrior, to take the place of Seneschal for the
time, and to superintend the arrangements; and sending two men to
guard the entrance of Montfort's tower, where Sanchez and his
accomplices had shut themselves up, he returned to the Castellane's
chamber.

Never was there an apartment more desolate. Chateau Norbelle was
built more to be defended than to be inhabited, and the rooms were
rather so much inclosed space than places intended for comfort.
The walls were of unhewn stone, and, as well as the roof, thickly
tapestried with cobwebs,--the narrow loophole which admitted light
was unglazed,--and there was nothing in the whole chamber that
could be called furniture, save the two rude pallets which served
the Knight and Squire for beds, and a chest which had been forced
open and rifled by the mutineers. They had carried off Eustace's
beloved books, to burn them in the court as instruments of sorcery,
and a few garments it had likewise contained lay scattered about
the room. Gaston hastened to the side of his beloved Knight, almost
dreading, from his silence and stillness, to find him expiring. But
he was only faint and exhausted, and when Gaston raised him, and
began to examine his wounds, he looked up, saying, "Thanks, thanks,
kind Gaston! but waste not your time here. The Castle! the Castle!"

"What care I for the Castle compared to your life!" said Gaston.

"For my honour and your own," said Eustace, fixing his eyes on his
Squire's face. "Gaston, I fear you," he added, stretching out his
hand and grasping that of d'Aubricour; "if you survive, you will
forget the duty you owe the King, for the purpose of avenging me
upon Clarenham. If ever you have loved me, Gaston, give me your
solemn promise that this shall not be."

"It was the purpose for which I should have lived," said Gaston.

"You resign it?" said Eustace, still retaining his hold of his hand.
"You touch not one of my wounds till you have given me your oath."

"I swear it, then," said Gaston, "since you will ever have your own
way, and I do it the rather that Messire Oliver de Clisson will
probably save me the pain of keeping the pledge."

"You have taken all measures for defence?"

"Yes. The men-at-arms, such as are left, may be trusted, and have
all taken an oath to stand by us, which I do not think they will
readily break. The rest either made off with the baggage-mules, or
were slain when we broke in to your rescue, or are shut up with Le
Borgne Basque in Montfort's tower. I have sent the men to their
posts, put them under Silverlock's orders, and told him to come to
me for directions."

Eustace at last resigned himself into the Squire's hands. A broken
arm, a ghastly-looking cut on the head, and a deep thrust with a
poniard in the breast, seemed the most serious of the injuries he had
received; but there were numerous lesser gashes and stabs which had
occasioned a great effusion of blood, and he had been considerably
bruised by his fall.

Gaston could attempt nothing but applying some ointment, sold by a
Jew at Bordeaux as an infallible cure for all wounds and bruises; and,
having done all he could for the comfort of his patient, quitted him
to attend to the defence of the Castle.

His first visit was to Montfort's tower, one of the four flanking the
main body of the Castle.

"Well, Master Thibault Sanchez, or, if you like it better, Le Borgne
Basque," cried he, "thank you for saving us some trouble. You have
found yourself a convenient prison there, and I hope you are at your
ease."

"We shall see how you are at your ease, Master Gaston le Maure,"
retorted Sanchez from the depths of the tower, "when another Borgne
shall make his appearance, and string you up as a traitor to King
Charles, your liege lord."

"Le Borgne Basque talking of traitors and such gear!" returned
Gaston; "but he will tell a different tale when the succours come
from the Prince."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Thibault, "a little bird whispered in mine ear
that you may look long for succour from Bordeaux."

This was, in a great measure, Gaston's own conviction; but he only
replied the more vehemently that it could not fail, since neither
Knights nor Castles were so lightly parted with, and that he trusted
soon to have the satisfaction of seeing the inhabitants of the tower
receive the reward of their treachery.

Thus they parted--Thibault, perfectly well satisfied to remain
where he was, since he had little doubt that Oliver de Clisson's
speedy arrival would set him at liberty, and turn the tables upon
Gaston; and Gaston, glad that, since he could not at present have
the satisfaction of hanging him, he was in a place where he could
do no mischief, and whence he could not escape.

Now the warder on the watch-tower blew a blast, and every eye was
turned towards the eastern part of the country, where, in the
direction of Carcassonne, was to be seen a thick cloud of dust,
from which, in due time, were visible the flashes of armour, and
the points of weapons. Gaston, having given his orders, and
quickened the activity of each man in his small garrison, hurried
down to bear the tidings to Sir Eustace, and to array himself in
his own brightest helmet and gayest surcoat.

Ascending again to the battlements, he could see the enemy approaching,
could distinguish the banner of Clisson, and count the long array of
men-at-arms and crossbow-men as they pursued their way through the
bright green landscape, now half hidden by a rising ground, now slowly
winding from its summit.

At last they came to the foot of the slope. Gaston had already
marked the start and pause, which showed when they first recognized
the English standard; and there was another stop, while they ranged
themselves in order, and, after a moment's interval, a man-at-arms
rode forward towards the postern door, looked earnestly at it, and
called "Sanchez!"

"Shoot him dead!" said Gaston to an English crossbow-man who stood
beside him; "it is the villain Tristan, on poor Ferragus."

The arblast twanged, and Tristan fell, while poor Ferragus, after
starting violently, trotted round to the well-known gate, and stood
there neighing. "Poor fellow!" said Gaston, "art calling Brigliador?
I would I knew he had sped well."

The French, dismayed by the reception of their guide, held back; but
presently a pursuivant came forward from their ranks, and, after his
trumpet had been sounded, summoned, in the name of the good Knight,
Messire Oliver de Clisson, the garrison of Chateau Norbelle to
surrender it into his hands, as thereto commissioned by his grace,
Charles, King of France.

The garrison replied by another trumpet, and Gaston, standing forth
upon the battlements, over the gateway, demanded to speak with Sir
Oliver de Clisson, and to have safe-conduct to and from the open
space at the foot of the slope. This being granted, the drawbridge
was lowered, and the portcullis raised. Ferragus entered, and went
straight to his own stall; and Gaston d'Aubricour came forth in
complete armour, and was conducted by the pursuivant to the leader
of the troop. Sir Oliver de Clisson, as he sat on horseback with
the visor of his helmet raised, had little or nothing of the
appearance of the courteous Knight of the period. His features
were not, perhaps, originally as harsh and ill-formed as those of
his compeer, Bertrand du Guesclin, but there was a want of the
frank open expression and courteous demeanour which so well suited
the high chivalrous temper of the great Constable of France. They
were dark and stern, and the loss of an eye, which had been put out
by an arrow, rendered him still more hard-favoured. He was, in fact,
a man soured by early injuries--his father had been treacherously
put to death by King John of France, when Duke of Normandy, and his
brother had been murdered by an Englishman--his native Brittany was
torn by dissensions and divisions--and his youth had been passed in
bloodshed and violence. He had now attained the deserved fame of
being the second Knight in France, honourable and loyal as regarded
his King, but harsh, rigid, cruel, of an unlovable temper, which
made him in after years a mark for plots and conspiracies; and the
vindictive temper of the Celtic race leading him to avenge the death
of his brother upon every Englishman who fell into his hands.

"So, Sir Squire!" exclaimed he, in his harsh voice, "what excuse
do you come to make for slaying my messenger ere he had time to
deliver his charge?"

"I own him as no messenger," returned Gaston. "He was a renegade
traitor from our own Castle, seeking his accomplice in villainy!"

"Well, speak on," said Oliver, to whom the death of a man-at-arms
was a matter of slight importance. "Art thou come to deliver up
the Castle to its rightful lord?"

"No, Messire Oliver," replied Gaston. "I come to bring the reply
of the Castellane, Sir Eustace Lynwood, that he will hold out the
Castle to the last extremity against all and each of your attacks."

"Sir Eustace Lynwood? What means this, Master Squire? Yonder knave
declared he was dead!"

"Hear me, Sir Oliver de Clisson," said Gaston. "Sir Eustace Lynwood
hath a pair of mortal foes at the Prince's court, who prevailed on a
part of the garrison to yield him into your hands. In my absence,
they in part succeeded. By the negligence of a drunken groom they
were enabled to fall upon him in his sleep, and, as they deemed, had
murdered him. I, returning with the rest of the garrison, was enabled
to rescue him, and deliver the Castle, where he now lies--alive,
indeed, but desperately wounded. Now, I call upon you, Sir Oliver,
to judge, whether it be the part of a true and honourable Knight to
become partner of such miscreants, and to take advantage of so foul
a web of treachery?"

"This may be a fine tale for the ears of younger knights-errant,
Sir Squire," was the reply of Clisson. "For my part though I am
no lover of treason, I may not let the King's service be stayed by
scruples. For yourself, Sir Squire, I make you a fair offer. You
are, by your tongue and countenance, a Gascon--a liegeman born of
King Charles of France. To you, and to every other man of French
birth, I offer to enter his service, or to depart whither it may
please you, with arms and baggage, so you will place the Castle
in our hands--and leave us to work our will of the island dogs
it contains!"

"Thanks, Sir Oliver, for such a boon as I would not vouchsafe to
stoop to pick up, were it thrown at my feet!"

"Well and good, Sir Squire," said Clisson, rather pleased at the
bold reply. "We understand each other. Fare thee well."

And Gaston walked back to the Castle, muttering to himself, "Had it
been but the will of the Saints to have sent Du Guesclin hither,
then would Sir Eustace have been as safe and free as in Lynwood
Keep itself! But what matters it? If he dies of his wounds, what
good would my life do me, save to avenge him--and from that he has
debarred me. So, grim Oliver, do thy worst!--Ha!" as he entered
the Castle--"down portcullis--up drawbridge! Archers, bend your
bows! Martin, stones for the mangonel!"

Nor was the assault long delayed. Clisson's men only waited to
secure their horses and prepare their ladders, and the attack was
made on every side.

It was well and manfully resisted. Bravely did the little garrison
struggle with the numbers that poured against them on every side,
and the day wore away in the desperate conflict.

Sir Eustace heard the loud cries of "Montjoie St. Denis! Clisson!"
on the one side, and the "St. George for Merry England! A Lynwood!"
with which his own party replied; he heard the thundering of heavy
stones, the rush of combatants, the cries of victory or defeat.
Sometimes his whole being seemed in the fight; he clenched his
teeth, he shouted his war-cry, tried to raise himself and lift his
powerless arm; then returned again to the consciousness of his
condition, clasped either the rosary or the crucifix, and turned
his soul to fervent prayer; then, again, the strange wild cries
without confounded themselves into one maddening noise on his
feverish ear, or, in the confusion of his weakened faculties, he
would, as it were, believe himself to be his brother dying on the
field of Navaretta, and scarce be able to rouse himself to a feeling
of his own identity.

So passed the day--and twilight was fast deepening into night, when
the cries, a short time since more furious than ever, and nearer
and more exulting on the part of the French, at length subsided,
and finally died away; the trampling steps of the men-at-arms could
be heard in the hall below, and Gaston himself came up with hasty
step, undid his helmet, and, wiping his brow, threw himself on the
ground with his back against the chest, saying, "Well, we have done
our devoir, at any rate! Poor Brigliador! I am glad he has a kind
master in Ingram!"

"Have they won the court?" asked Eustace. "I thought I heard their
shouts within it."

"Ay! Even so. How could we guard such an extent of wall with barely
five and twenty men? Old Silverlocks and Jaques de l'Eure are slain
Martin badly wounded, and we all forced back into the inner court,
after doing all it was in a man to do."

"I heard your voice, bold and cheerful as ever, above the tumult,"
said Eustace. "But the inner court is fit for a long defence--that
staircase parapet, where so few can attack at once."

"Ay," said Gaston, "it was that and the darkness that stopped
them. There I can detain them long enough to give the chance of the
succours, so those knaves below do not fail in spirit--and they know
well enough what chance they have from yon grim-visaged Breton! But
as to those succours, I no more expect them than I do to see the
Prince at their head! A hundred to one that he never hears of our
need, or, if he should, that Pembroke and Clarenham do not delay the
troops till too late."

"And there will be the loss of the most important castle, and the
most faithful and kindest heart!" said Eustace. "But go, Gaston--
food and rest you must need after this long day's fight--and the
defences must be looked to, and the men cheered!"

"Yes," said Gaston, slowly rising, and bending over the Knight; "but
is there nought I can do for you, Sir Eustace?"

"Nought, save to replenish my cup of water. It is well for me that
the enemy have not cut us off from the Castle well."

Gaston's supper did not occupy him long. He was soon again in
Eustace's room, talking over his plan of defence for the next day;
but with little, if any, hope that it would be other than his last
struggle. At last, wearied out with the exertions of that day and
the preceding, he listened to Eustace's persuasions, and, removing
the more cumbrous portions of his armour, threw himself on his bed,
and, in a moment, his regular breathings announced that he was
sound asleep.

It was in the pale early light of dawn that he awoke, and, starting
up while still half asleep, exclaimed, "Sir Eustace, are you there?
I should have relieved guard long since!" Then, as he recalled his
situation, "I had forgot! How is it with you, Sir Eustace? Have
you slept?"

"No," said Eustace. "I have not lost an hour of this last night
I shall ever see. It will soon be over now--the sun is already
reddening the sky; and so, Gaston, ends our long true-hearted
affection. Little did I think it would bring thee to thy death
in the prime of they strength and manhood!" and he looked
mournfully on the lofty stature and vigorous form of the Squire,
as he stood over him.

"For that, Sir Eustace, there is little cause to grieve. I have been
a wanderer, friendless and homeless, throughout my life; and save for
yourself, and, perhaps, poor little Arthur's kind heart, where is one
who would cast a second thought on me, beyond, perhaps, saying, 'He
was a brave and faithful Squire!' But little, little did I think,
when I saw your spurs so nobly won, that this was to be the end of
it--that you were to die, defamed and reviled, in an obscure den, and
by the foul treachery of--"

"Speak not of that, Gaston," said Eustace. "I have dwelt on it in
the long hours of the night, and I have schooled my mind to bear
it. Those with whom we shall soon be, know that if I have sinned
in many points, yet I am guiltless in that whereof they accuse me--
and, for the rest, there are, at least, two who will think no shame
of Eustace Lynwood. And now, if there is yet time, Gaston, since
no Priest is at hand, I would pray thee to do me the last favour of
hearing the confession of my sins."

And Gaston kneeling down, the Knight and Squire, according to the
custom of warriors in extremity, confessed to each other, with the
crucifix raised between them. Eustace then, with his weak and
failing voice, repeated several prayers and psalms appropriate to
the occasion, in which Gaston joined with hearty devotion. By this
time, a slight stir was heard within the Castle; and Gaston, rising
from his knees, went to the loophole, which commanded a view of the
court, where the French had taken up their quarters for the night
in some of the outbuildings--and the lion rampant of Clisson was
waving in triumph on the gateway tower.

"All silent there," said he; "but I must go to rouse our knaves in
time to meet the first onset." And, as he clasped on his armour,
he continued, "All that is in the power of man will we do! Rest
assured, Sir Eustace, they reach you not save through my body;
and let your prayers be with me. One embrace, Sir Eustace, and
we meet no more--"

"In this world." Eustace concluded the sentence, as Gaston hung
over him, and his tears dropped on his face. "Farewell, most
faithful and most true-hearted! Go, I command thee! Think not
on me--think on thy duty--and good angels will be around us both.
Farewell, farewell."

Gaston, for the first time in his life, felt himself unable to speak.
He crossed the room with slow and lingering step; then, with a great
effort, dashed out at the door, closing his visor as he did so, and,
after a short interval, during which he seemed to have stopped on the
stairs, Eustace could hear his gay bold tones, calling, "Up! up! my
merry men, all! Let not the French dogs find the wolf asleep in his
den. They will find our inner bartizan a hard stone for their teeth--
and it will be our own fault, if they crack it before the coming of
our brave comrades from Bordeaux!"

CHAPTER XIV

The open space beyond the walls of Bordeaux presented a bright and
lively scene. It was here that the pages of the Black Prince were
wont to exercise those sports and pastimes for which the court of
the palace scarce offered sufficient space, or which were too noisy
for the neighbourhood of the ladies, and of the invalid Prince.

Of noble and often of princely birth were all who entered that
school of chivalry, and, for the most part, the fine open
countenances, noble bearing, and well-made figures of the boys,
testified their high descent, as completely as the armorial
bearings embroidered on the back and front of their short kirtles.
Many different provinces had sent their noblest to be there
trained in the service of the bravest Knights and Princes. There,
besides the brown-haired, fair-skinned English boy, was the quick
fiery Welsh child, who owned an especial allegiance to the Prince;
the broad blue-eyed Fleming, whose parents rejoiced in the fame of
the son of Philippa of Hainault; the pert, lively Gascon, and the
swarthy Navarrese mountaineer--all brought together in close and
ever-changing contrast of countenance, habits, and character.

Of all the merry groups scattered through that wide green space, the
most interesting was one formed by three boys, who stood beneath a
tree, a little from the rest. The two eldest might be from ten to
eleven years old, the third two or three years younger, and his
delicate features, fair pale complexion, and slender limbs, made him
appear too weak and childish for such active sports as the rest were
engaged in, but that the lordly glance of his clear blue eye, his
firm tread, and the noble carriage of his shapely head, had in them
something of command, which attracted notice even before the exceeding
beauty of his perfectly moulded face, and long waving curls of golden
hair.

So like him, that they might have passed for brothers, was one of the
elder boys, who stood near--there was the same high white brow, proud
lip, regular features, and bright eye; but the complexion, though
naturally fair, was tanned to a healthy brown where exposed to the
sun; the frame was far stronger and more robust; and the glance of
the eye had more in it of pride and impatience, than of calm command
so remarkable in the little one. The three boys were standing in
consultation over an arrow which they had just discovered, stuck
deep in the ground.

"'Tis my arrow, that I shot over the mark on Monday," said the elder.

"Nay, Harry," said the younger boy, "that cannot be; for remember
Thomas Holland said your arrow would frighten the good nuns of St.
Ursula in their garden."

"It must be mine," persisted Harry--"for none of you all can shoot
as far."

"Yes, English Arthur can," said the little boy. "He shot a whole
cloth-yard beyond you the day--"

"Well, never mind, Edward," said Harry, sharply--"who cares for
arrows?--weapons for clowns, and not for Princes!"

"Nay, not so, Lord Harry," interrupted the third boy: "I have heard
my uncle say, many a time, that England's archery is half her strength
--and how it was our archers at the battle of Crecy--"

"I know all that--how the men of Genoa had wet bow-strings, and ours
dry ones," said Henry; "but they were peasants, after all!"

"Ay; but a King of England should know how to praise and value his
good yeomen."

Henry turned on his heel, and, saying, "Well, let the arrow be whose
it will, I care not for it," walked off.

"Do you know why Harry of Lancaster goes, Arthur?" said Edward,
smiling.

"No, my Lord," replied Arthur.

"He cannot bear to hear aught of King of England," was the answer.
"If you love me, good Arthur, vex him not with speaking of it."

"Father Cyril would say, he ought to learn content with the rank
where he was born," said Arthur.

"Father Cyril, again!" said Prince Edward. "You cannot live a day
without speaking of him, and of your uncle."

"I do not speak of them so much now," said Arthur, colouring, "It
is only you, Lord Edward, who never make game of me for doing so--
though, I trow, I have taught Pierre de Greilly to let my uncle's
name alone."

"Truly, you did so," said Edward, laughing, "and he has scarce yet
lost his black eye. But I love to hear your tales, Arthur, of that
quiet Castle, and the old Blanc Etoile, and your uncle, who taught
you to ride. Sit down here on the grass, and tell me more. But what
are you staring at so fixedly? At the poor jaded horse, that yonder
man-at-arms is urging on so painfully?"

"'Tis--No, it is not--Yes, 'tis Brigliador, and John Ingram himself,"
cried Arthur. "Oh, my uncle! my uncle!" And, in one moment, he
had bounded across the ditch, which fenced in their exercising
ground, and had rushed to meet Ingram. "Oh, John!" exclaimed he,
breathlessly, "have they done it? Oh, tell me of Uncle Eustace!
I he alive?"

"Master Arthur!" exclaimed Ingram, stopping his wearied horse.

"Oh, tell me, Ingram," reiterated Arthur, "is my uncle safe?"

"He is alive, Master Arthur--that is, he was when I came away, but
as sore wounded as ever I saw a Knight. And the butcher of Brittany
is upon them by this time! And here I am sent to ask succours--and
I know no more whom to address myself, than the cock at the top of
Lynwood steeple!"

"But what has chanced, John?--make haste, and tell me."

And John, in his own awkward and confused style, narrated how he
had been entrapped by Sanchez, and the consequences of his excess.
"But," said he, "I have vowed to our Lady of Taunton, and St.
Joseph of Glastonbury, that never again--"

Arthur had covered his face with his hands, and gave way to tears
of indignation and grief, as he felt his helplessness. But one
hand was kindly withdrawn, and a gentle voice said, "Weep not,
Arthur, but come with me, and my father will send relief to the
Castle, and save your uncle."

"You here, Lord Edward?" exclaimed Arthur, who had not perceived
that the Prince had followed him. "Oh yes, thanks, thanks! None
but the Prince can save him. Oh, let me see him myself, and that
instantly!"

"Then, let us come," said Edward, still holding Arthur's hand.

Arthur set off at such a pace, as to press the little Prince into
a breathless trot by his side; but he, too, was all eagerness, and
scorned to complain. They proceeded without interruption to the
court of the palace. Edward, leading the way, hastened to his
mother's apartments. He threw open the door, looked in, and,
saying to Arthur, "He must be in the council chamber," cut short
an exclamation of Lady Maude Holland, by shutting the door, and
running down a long gallery to an ante-chamber, where were several
persons waiting for an audience, and two warders, with halberts
erect, standing on guard outside a closed door.

"The Prince is in council, my Lord."

Edward drew up his head, and, waving them aside with a gesture that
became the heir of England, said, "I take it upon myself." He then
opened the door, and, still holding Arthur fast by the hand, led him
into the chamber where the Prince of Wales sat in consultation.

There was a pause of amazement as the two boys advanced to the high
carved chair on which the Prince was seated--and Edward exclaimed,
"Father, save Arthur's uncle!"

"What means this, Edward?" demanded the Prince of Wales, somewhat
sternly. "Go to your mother, boy--we cannot hear you now, and--"

"I cannot go, father," replied the child, "till you have promised
to save Arthur's uncle! He is wounded!--the traitors have wounded
him!--and the French will take the Castle, and he will be slain!
And Arthur loves him so much!"

"Come here, Edward," said the Prince, remarking the flushed cheek
and tearful eye of his son. "and tell me what this means."

Edward obeyed, but without loosing his hold of his young friend's
hand. "The man-at-arms is come, all heat and dust, on the poor
drooping, jaded steed--and he said, the Knight would be slain, and
the Castle taken, unless you would send him relief. It is Arthur's
uncle that he loves so well."

"Arthur's uncle?" repeated the Prince--and, turning his eyes on the
suppliant figure, he said, "Arthur Lynwood! Speak, boy."

"Oh, my Lord," said Arthur, commanding his voice with difficulty,
"I would only pray you to send succour to my uncle at Chateau
Norbelle, and save him from being murdered by Oliver de Clisson."

It was a voice which boded little good to Arthur's suit that now
spoke. "If it be Sir Eustace Lynwood, at Chateau Norbelle, of
whom the young Prince speaks, he can scarce be in any strait, since
the garrison is more than sufficient."

The little page started to his feet, and, regarding the speaker with
flashing eyes, exclaimed, "Hearken not to him, my Lord Prince! He is
the cause of all the treachery!--he is the ruin and destruction of my
uncle;--he has deceived you with his falsehoods! --and now he would
be his death!"

"How now, my young cousin!" said Clarenham, in a most irritating tone
of indifference--"you forget in what presence you are."

"I do not," replied Arthur, fiercely. "Before the Prince, Fulk
Clarenham, I declare you a false traitor!--and, if you dare deny
it, there lies my gloves!"

Fulk only replied by a scornful laugh, and, addressing the Prince,
said, "May I pray of your Grace not to be over severe with my young
malapert relation."

The Captal de Buch spoke: "You do not know what an adversary you
have provoked, Fulk! The other day, I met my nephew, little Pierre,
with an eye as black as the patch we used to wear in our young days
of knight-errantry. 'What wars have you been in, Master Pierre?'
I asked. It was English Arthur who had fought with him, for
mocking at his talking of nothing but his uncle. But you need not
colour, and look so abashed, little Englishman!--I bear no more
malice than I hope Pierre does--I only wish I had as bold a champion!
I remember thine uncle, if he is the youth to whom the Constable
surrendered at Navaretta, and of whom we made so much."

"Too much then, and too little afterwards," said old Sir John Chandos.

"You do not know all, Chandos," said the Prince.

"You do not yourself know all, my Lord," said Arthur, turning eagerly.
"Lord de Clarenham has deceived you, and led you to imagine that my
uncle wished ill to me, and wanted to gain my lands; whereas it is
he himself who wants to have me in his hands to bend me to his will.
It is he who has placed traitors in Chateau Norbelle to slay my uncle
and deliver him to the enemy; they have already wounded him almost to
death"--here Arthur's lips quivered, and he could hardly restrain a
burst of tears--"and they have sent for Sir Oliver de Clisson, the
butcher. Gaston will hold out as long as they can, but if you will
not send succours, my Lord, he will--will be slain; and kind Gaston
too;" and Arthur, unable to control himself any longer, covered his
face with his hands, and gave way to a silent suppressed agony of
sobs and tears.

"Cheer thee, my boy," said the Prince, kindly; "we will see to thine
uncle." Then, looking at his nobles, he continued, "It seems that
these varlets will allow us no more peace; and since there does in
truth appear to be a Knight and Castle in jeopardy, one of you had,
perhaps, better go with a small band, and clear up this mystery. If
it be as the boy saith, Lynwood hath had foul wrong."

"I care not if I be the one to go, my Lord," said Chandos; "my men
are aver kept in readiness, and a night's gallop will do the lazy
knaves all the good in the world."

Arthur, brushing off the tears, of which he was much ashamed, looked
at the old Knight in transport.

"Thanks, Chandos," said the Prince; "I would commit the matter to
none so willingly as to you, though I scarce would have asked it,
considering you were not quite so prompt on a late occasion."

"My Lord of Pembroke will allow, however, that I did come in time,"
said Sir John. "It was his own presumption and foolhardiness that
got him into the scrape, and he was none the worse for the lesson
he received. But this young fellow seems to have met with this
mischance by no fault of his own; and I am willing to see him
righted; for he is a good lad as well as a brave, as far as I have
known him."

"How came the tidings?" asked the Prince. "Did not one of you boys
say somewhat of a man-at-arms?"

"Yes, my Lord," said Arthur; "John Ingram, my uncle's own yeoman, has
come upon Brigliador with all speed. I sent him to the guard-room,
where he now waits in case you would see him."

"Ay," said old Chandos, "a man would have some assurance that he is
not going on a fool's errand. Let us have him here, my Lord."

"Cause him to be summoned," said the Prince to Arthur.

"And at the same time," said Chandos, "send for my Squire, Henry
Neville, to the ante-chamber. The men may get on their armour in
the meantime."

In a few minutes John Ingram made his appearance, the dust not yet
wiped from his armour, his hair hanging is disordered masses over
his forehead, and his jaws not completely resting from the
mastication of a huge piece of pasty. His tale, though confused,
could not be for an instant doubted, as he told of the situation
in which he had left Chateau Norbelle and its Castellane, "The best
man could wish to live under. Well, he hath forgiven me, and given
me his hand upon it"

"Forgiven thee--for what?" said the Prince.

"Ah! my Lord, I may speak of treason, but I am one of the traitors
myself! Did not the good Knight leave me in charge to make my
rounds constantly in the Castle, while he slept after his long
watching? and lo, there comes that wily rascal, the Seneschal,
Sanchez, with his ''Tis a cold night, friend John; the Knight wakes
thee up early; come down to the buttery, and crack a cup of sack in
all friendliness!' Down then go I, oaf that I was, thinking that,
may be, our Knight was over strict and harsh, and pulled the reins
so tight, that a poor man-at-arms must needs get a little diversion
now and then--as the proverb says, "when the cat's away, the mice
may play.' But it was drugged, my Lord, else when would one cup
of spiced wine have so overcome me that I knew nought till I hear
Master d'Aubricour shouting treason in the courtyard like one
frantic? But the Knight has forgiven me, and I have sworn to our
blessed Lady of Taunton, and St. Joseph of Glastonbury, that not a
draught of wine, spiced or unspiced, shall again cross my lips."

"A wholesome vow," said the Prince; "and her is a token to make
thee remember it,"--and he placed in the hand of the yeoman a
chain of some value. "Go to the guard-room, where you shall be
well entertained till such time as we need thee again, as we may,
if you have been, as you say, long in Sir Eustace Lynwood's service.
But what now? Hast more to say?"

"I would say--so please you, my Lord--that I pray you but to let me
ride back to Chateau Norbelle with this honourable Knight, for I owe
all service to Sir Eustace, nor could I rest till I know how it fares
with him."

"As you will, good fellow," said the Prince; "and you, Chandos, come
with me to my chamber--I would speak with you before you depart."

"My Lord," said Arthur, "would you but grant me one boon--to go with
Sir John to Chateau Norbelle?"

"You too? You would almost make me think you all drawn by witchcraft
to this Castle!" But Arthur's eagerness extorted a consent, and he
rode off amid Sir John Chandos's troop, boldly enough at first, but
by and by so sleepily, that, as night advanced, Sir John ordered him
to be placed in front of a trooper, and he soon lost all perception
of the rough rapid pace at which they travelled. It was broad day
when he was awakened by a halt, and the first thing he heard was,
"There is St. George's pennon still safe!"

He sat upright, gazed eagerly forwards, and beheld a tall dark
tower rising by the bank of a stream at some distance. "Chateau
Norbelle?" he asked.

"Oh, ho! my little page," said Chandos. "You are alive again, are
you? Ay, Chateau Norbelle it is--and we are in time it seems! But
let us have you on your own steed again. And let us see--if Oliver
be there himself, we shall have sharp work. Ay, keep you by the
side of the old master leech there--he will be sure to keep out of
peril. Now--close in--lances in rest--bows bent. Forward banner!"

Arthur, by no means approving of the companionship assigned him,
contrived to wedge in his pony a little in the rear of Sir John's
two Squires, as the whole squadron rode down the slope of the hill,
and up the ascent on which the Castle stood. Loud cries and shrieks
from within began to strike their ears--the clash of arms--all the
tumult of attack and defence raging fearfully high and wild.

"Ho, ho! friend Oliver!--we have you in a trap!" said old Chandos,
in high glee, as he drew up close without the walls. "Neville,
guard the gates!"

He signed to about half his band to remain without, and cut off the
retreat of the enemy. The Jew doctor chose his post in their rear,
close to the Castle moat--but not so Arthur. Unnoticed and forgotten,
he still kept close behind the Squire, who rode alongside of Sir John
Chandos, as he crossed the drawbridge. The Castle gate was open, and
showed a wild confused mass of struggling men and flashing arms. It
was the last, most furious onset, when Clisson, enraged by the long
resistance of so weak a garrison, was concentrating his strength in
one effort, and, in the excitement of the assault, he had failed to
remark that his sentinels had transgressed his orders, and mingled
with the crowd, who were striving, by force of numbers, to overwhelm
the small troop of defenders of the bartizan.

In rushed Chandos, shouting his war-cry!--In dashed his stout
warriors, and loud and fierce pealed forth "St. George! St George!"
drowning the now feebler note of "Montjoie, St. Denis!" and fearful
were the shrieks of horror and of pain that rose mingled with it.
Hemmed in, attacked in front and rear, their retreat cut off, the
French looked in vain for escape; some went down beneath the
tremendous charge of the English, some cried for mercy, and
surrendered as prisoners. Oliver de Clisson himself, seeing that
all was lost, swinging round his head his heavy battle-axe, opened
for himself a way, and, with a few followers, broke through the
men whom Chandos had left outside, and, cutting down a groom who
was holding it, captured one of his led horses, on which he rode
off at his leisure, confident in his own gigantic strength.

So little resistance had been offered, that Arthur's bold advance
had involved him in little danger; he was borne onwards, and only
was conscious of a frightful tumult, where all seemed to be
striking and crushing together. At last, there was something of
a lull; the cries of mercy, and offers to surrender, alone were
heard. Arthur found his pony standing still, and himself pressed
hither and thither by the crowd, from which he knew not how to
escape.

Above these various sounds he heard an opening door--there was
a press forward, which carried him with it. The heavy doors,
shivered here and there by Clisson's axe, had been thrown wide
open; but the crowd closed in--he saw no more. He threw himself
from his pony, struggled forwards, and at last, emerging between
the arms of two tall men, he beheld Sir John Chandos dismounting
from his war-horse, which was held by a grim, bloody, dusty figure
in broken armour, whose length of limb, and the crisp, black,
curled hair that showed through the shattered helmet, proved
that it could be no other than Gaston d'Aubricour.

Arthur darted forwards, his heart upon his lips; but neither Knight
nor Squire had eye or ear for him; they were hastily exchanging
queries about--he knew not what--they were not of his uncle; and,
borne on by his impatience, he hurried past them up the narrow
stone stair. More than one corpse--a ghastly sight--lay on the
steps, but he hastened on; half a dozen men were standing on the
stones at the top, all, like Gaston, dusty and gory, and leaning
on their weapons, or on the wall, as if exhausted. They were
looking intently at the court, and gave no heed to the boy, as he
ran on into the hall. Two men lay there groaning before the fire.
Arthur stood and looked round, hesitating whether to ask them for
his uncle; but, perceiving the spiral stairs, quickly ascended.
Far and far up he wound, till he came to a low-browed arch; he
paused, and saw a large vaulted room, through the loop-hole window
of which shone a yellow stream of golden sunshine. There was a low
bed in one corner, and on it lay a motionless form. On tiptoe, and
with a throbbing heart, the boy approached; he saw the face--it was
ghastly pale. He stood transfixed--could it be?--yes, it must still
be, his own Uncle Eustace.

CHAPTER XV

It was still very early, and the narrow line of sky seen from the
turret window was gilded by the bright pale-green light of morning,
when Sir Eustace awoke. All around was perfectly still, and he
could have believed himself waking merely from a dream of tumult
and disturbance, but for his feelings of pain and weakness. At
some little distance lay, on a softly-dressed sheepskin, the
oriental figure of the Jewish mediciner, and, at the foot of his
own bed, the unexpected form of little Arthur reclined, half
sitting, half lying, with his head resting on his crossed arms,
and his long curls floating over them. All was a riddle to his
misty remembrance, clouded by weakness; and, in vague uncertain
recollections and conjectures, the time rolled away, till the
sounds of awakening and calls of the warders within the Castle
betokened that it was occupied by no small number of persons.
Still Arthur slept on, and Eustace abstained from the slightest
movement that could disturb him, till a step stole quietly to the
door, and Gaston's head was seen cautiously and anxiously looking
in. Eustace, raising his hand, beckoned him, and made a sign of
silence.

"How is with you, Sir Eustace? It must needs be better. I see a
light in your eye once more."

"I am another man since yesterday, Gaston; but be careful--see there."

"Little fear of breaking such sleep as that," said Gaston. "'Tis
a noble-hearted little fellow, and if matters go better with us
henceforth, it will be his work."

"What is become of Clisson?"

"He was riding off headlong when Master Henry Neville last beheld
him, gaining thereby a sound rating from old Chandos."

"Sir John Chandos here?"

"Fast asleep in your own carved chair, with his feet on the oaken
settle."

"Sir John Chandos!" again exclaimed Eustace.

"Even so. All thanks to the brave young damoiseau who--"

Here Gaston's ardour had the effect of awakening the doctor, who
immediately began to grumble at his patient's admitting visitors
without permission. By the time he had examined Eustace's wounds
and pronounced him to be progressing favourably, the whole Castle
was up and awake, and Arthur, against his will, was sent down to
attend on Sir John Chandos at breakfast, when scarce satisfied
that his uncle could speak to him.

In process of time he came up to announce a visit from Chandos
himself, and close on his steps followed the stalwart old warrior.
Pausing at the door, he looked around him, struck with the aspect
of the dungeon-like apartment, still more rugged in the morning
light than in the evening gloom--the bare rough walls, an arrow
sticking between the stones immediately above the Knight's head,
the want of furniture, the Knight's own mantle and that of Gaston
both called into requisition to protect him from the damp chill
night air, their bright hues and rich embroidery contrasting with
the squalid appearance of all around, as, indeed, did the noble
though pale features of the wounded man himself, and the graceful
attire and shining hair of the fair young boy who stood over him.
But Sir John beheld all with no dissatisfaction.

"Well, my brave young Sir," said he, advancing, "how is it with you
this morning? You look cheerily; I trust we shall soon have you on
horseback again."

"Thanks to the blessed Saints and to you, Sir John," replied Eustace.
"I fear you fared ill last night for,"--and he looked round with a
smile--"you see, I occupy the state bed-chamber."

"The better, Sir Eustace," said Chandos. "It does my heart good
to see such a chamber as this--none of the tapestry and hangings
which our young Knights nowadays fence themselves with, as if they
kept out the foe--this is what it is meant for--a stronghold, and
not a bower. I'll have my dainty young Master Neville up here, to
see how a good Knight should be lodged."

"I fear he would scarce consider it as an example," said Eustace,
smiling, "since all our simplicity would not have availed to
protect us, but for your coming. We little dreamt to see this
morning's light."

"True, but where should I look for a garrison to make such a defence
as you and your Squire have done? When I saw the spot, and looked
at the numbers, and heard how long you had held out, methought I
was returned once more to the good old days of Calais. And here
this youth of mine, not yet with his spurs, though I dare say full
five years older than you, must needs look sour upon it, because he
has to sleep on a settle for one night--and that, too, when he has
let Oliver de Clisson slip through his fingers, without so much as
a scratch taken or given on either side! It grieves my very soul
to think on it! But all has gone to rack and ruin since the Prince
has been unable to set the example."

"Is the Prince better in health?"

"Yes--so they say--but his looks tell another tale, and I never
expect to see him on horseback again," said the old warrior, with
a deep sigh. "But I have to do his bidding here, and have much to
ask of you, Sir Eustace; and I do it the more willingly, that I
rejoice to see a brave man righted."

"Has the Prince, then, commanded an inquiry into my conduct?"
exclaimed Eustace, joyfully. "It is what I have ever most warmly
desired."

"And know you whom you have to thank?" said Sire John. "That
youngster who stands at your feet--'twas he that, with little Prince
Edward, burst into the council, and let not another word be said
till he had told your need, given Fulk Clarenham the lie direct,
and challenged him to prove his words. Pray when is the defiance
to be fought out, Sir Page?"

Arthur coloured crimson, and looked down; then raising his glowing
face, said firmly, "To-morrow, if need were, Sir--for God would
defend the right!"

"Roundly spoken, Master Page! But let not your early years be all
talk, nothing worth."

"The same warning that you gave to me, Sir John," said Eustace.

"When you thought I looked coldly and churlishly on your new-won
honours," said Sir John. "I own I thought the Prince was bestowing
knighthood over lightly--and so do I say still, Sir Eustace. But
I saw, afterwards, that you were not so easily uplifted as I had
thought. I saw you as diligent in the study of all that was
knightly as if your spurs were yet to earn, and I knew the Prince
had a brave young servant in you."

"If he would have trusted me!" said Eustace.

"He hath been deceived by the flatterers who have gained his ear.
It should not have been thus had I been at court; but things have
been much against my counsel. It may be that I have been too plain
spoken--forgetting that he is not the boy who used to be committed
to my charge--it may be that he hath been over hasty--and yet, when
I look on his changed mien and wasted face, I can scarce blame him,
nor must you, Sir Eustace, though cruel injustice hath, I fear,
been done you."

"I blame our glorious Prince!" exclaimed the young Knight. "I would
as soon blame the sun in heaven because the clouds hide his face from
me for a time!"

"The clouds are likely to be dispersed with a vengeance," said
Chandos. "The confession of yonder mutinous traitors will clear you
from all that your accusers have said, by proving their villainy and
baseness!"

"How? Sanchez and his fellows? Have they surrendered?"

"Yes. They kept themselves shut up in Montfort's tower until they
lost all hope of relief from their friends without; then, being in
fear of starvation, they were forced to surrender, and came forth,
praying that their lives might be spared. I, as you may suppose,
would as lief have spared the life of a wolf, and the halters were
already round their necks, when your dark-visaged Squire prayed me
to attempt to gain a confession from them; and, sure enough, they
told a marvellous tale:--that Clarenham had placed them here to
deliver you up to the enemy, whom they were to admit by a secret
passage--and that they would have done it, long since, save that
you and your Squire not only discovered the passage, but showed
such vigilance, and so frustrated all their plans, that they firmly
believed that you held commerce with the foul fiend. Did you, in
truth, suspect their treachery?"

"Yes," replied Eustace, looking at Arthur. "The recognition of Le
Borgne Basque in the Seneschal would have been sufficient to set us
on our guard."

"But the passage?" asked Sir John, "what knowledge had you of that?
for they vow that you could never have discovered it but by art
magic."

"We found it by long and diligent search."

"And what led you to search, Sir Eustace? I you can clear up the
matter, it will be the better for you; for this accusation of
witchcraft will hang to you like a burr--the more, perhaps, as you
are somewhat of a scholar!"

"It was I who warned him of it, Sir Knight," said Arthur, stepping
forward.

"You, young Page!" exclaimed Sir John. "Are you jesting? Ha! then
you must have, page-like, been eaves-dropping!--I should scarce have
thought it of you."

"Oh, uncle!" exclaimed Arthur, in great distress, "you do not
believe me capable of aught so unknightly? Do but say that you,
at least, trust my word, when I say that I learnt their plots by
no means unbecoming the son of Sir Reginald Lynwood."

"I believe you fully, Arthur," replied his uncle; "the more, that
I should have been the last person to whom you would have brought
information gained in such a fashion."

"And how was it gained?" asked Sir John.

"That," said the boy, "is a secret I am bound never to disclose."

"Strange, passing strange," repeated the old Knight, shaking his
head. "Clarenham and Ashton would scarce have taken any into their
councils who would warn you. And you will or can tell no more?"

"No more," replied the boy. "I was bidden secretly to warn my uncle
of the entrance to the vaults, and of the treachery of this villain
garrison. I did so, and he who says aught dishonourable of him or
of me lies in his throat."

"Can you read this riddle, Sir Eustace?" asked Chandos, looking
rather suspiciously at the very faint glow which mantled in the
white cheek of the wounded Knight.

"I know nothing but what he has told you, Sir John," replied he.

"Nor guess aught?" said Sir John; "but perhaps that is scarce a
fair query; and I will to the rest of my business, though it is
scarce needed--only I would have the Prince see the full extent
of the falsehoods with which he has been gulled." And he then
proceeded to inquire into the circumstances of Lady Eleanor's
funeral, the brawling, the violent abstraction of Arthur, and
of a considerable portion of his property, and the long delay,
which had given his enemies so much opportunity to blacken his
character. Eustace explained all fully to the satisfaction of
Chandos, and appealed to numerous witnesses.

"That is well," said the old Knight. "We shall have it all clear
as daylight;--and the only wonder is, that the Prince could be so
long deceived by such monstrous falsehoods. Let me see--your right
to the wardship is established?"

"Yes; it hath been so decided by the Bishop of Winchester."

"And let me tell you, Sir Eustace, you did yourself little good by
getting the interest of the Duke of Lancaster. Methought it still
further prejudiced the Prince."

"It was justice that I sought, not favour," said Eustace.

"The knightly view," said Sir John; "and it was more the work of
your friends than yourself; but I never loved that young John of
Lancaster, and still less since he hath seemed willing to make a
party for himself. I trow he hath given the Prince a distrust of
all uncles. Ha! little varlet!" added he, as he met Arthur's eyes--
"if you can keep one secret, keep another, or, still better, forget
what I have said. Understandest thou?"

"I will answer for him," said Eustace.

"And now," said Chandos, "I must be on my way back; for that
expedition to Bescancon must be looked to. But what is to be done
with the boy?"

"Oh, I remain here," cried Arthur, eagerly. "The Prince consented.
Oh, I pray of you let me stay here."

"In this dismal old Castle, Arthur," said Eustace, "apart from all
your playmates? It will not be like home, remember; for scarce
ever will you be able to go beyond the walls--and with me lying
here, and Gaston always occupied, you will find it weary work."

"Not with you, Uncle Eustace! I shall sit by you, and tend you, and
read to you. It is so long since I have been with you! Oh, send me
not away! I care for no playmate--for nothing in the wide world, as
for you!"

"Well, let him e'en stay," said Sir John; "it will be a better
training for him than among the gilded little varlets who are
cockered up among Princess Joan's ladies."

The two Knights had next to arrange some matters respecting the
garrison; Sir John leaving a sufficient number of men to secure
the castle in case of a second attack. He was somewhat inclined
to leave Master Henry Neville to command them; but consideration
for Eustace and Gaston induced him to spare the young gentleman
a sojourn which he would have regarded as so far from enviable.
Nor was the leech more desirous of a lengthened stay with a
patient whom he suspected to be unable to requite him for the
discomfort which he might endure in his service. He therefore
pronounced Sir Eustace to stand in no further need of his
attentions; and recommending rest, and providing him with good
store of remedies, he saddled his mule to accompany Sir John
Chandos.

The old Commander took his leave, with many kind wishes for Sir
Eustace's speedy recovery, and promises that he should ere long
hear from Bordeaux. In ten minutes more Arthur, standing at the
window, announced that the troop was riding off, with Clisson's
pennon borne among them in triumph, and Sanchez and his accomplices,
with their hands tied, and their feet fastened together beneath the
bodies of their horses.

CHAPTER XVI

Four or five weeks had passed away since Sir John Chandos had quitted
the Chateau Norbelle.

The Knight had nearly recovered his full strength, but still wore
his broken arm in a scarf, when, one evening, as he was sitting on
the battlements, delighting the ears of Arthur and of Gaston with

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