Part 2 out of 3
Gertrude's oft-told tale as her more youthful companions could be.
Moreover, it was her father's policy and pleasure to be generous and
gracious towards all those who submitted themselves to his feudal
sovereignty; and to the young he ever showed himself friendly and even
paternal. The stern soldier-king was a particularly tender and loving
father, and his wife the best of mothers, so that the family tie in
their household was a very strong and beautiful thing. When the monarch
was called away from his own royal residences to quell sedition or
rebellion in this turbulent country of Wales, his wife and children
accompanied him thither; and so it happened that in this rather gloomy
fastness in North Wales, when the rebellion of the warlike Llewelyn had
but just been crushed, the king's children were to be found assembled
within its walls, by their bright presence and laughter-loving ways
making the place gay and bright, and bringing even into political
matters something of the leniency and good fellowship which seems to be
the prerogative of childhood.
Thus it was that one powerful and turbulent noble, Einon ap Cadwalader,
had left as hostage of his good faith his only child, the Lady Arthyn,
to be the companion of the king's daughters. She had been received with
open arms by the warm-hearted Joanna, and the two were fast friends
already, although the Welsh girl was several years the elder of the
pair. But Joanna, who had been educated in Spain by her grandmother and
namesake, and who had only recently come to be with her own parents, had
enjoyed abroad a liberty and importance which had developed her rapidly,
and her mind was as quick and forward as her body was active and energetic.
Intercourse with Arthyn, too, had given to the younger princess a great
sympathy with the vanquished Welsh, and she was generously eager that
those who came to pay homage to her father should not feel themselves in
a position that was humiliating or galling. The gentle Eleanor shared
this feeling to the full, and was glad to give to the young knight Sir
Godfrey Challoner, who was one of her own gentlemen-in-waiting, a
gracious message for the young Lord of Dynevor to the effect that she
would be glad to receive him and his brothers in her father's absence,
and to give them places at the royal table for the evening meal shortly
to be served.
Great was the delight of Gertrude when the message was despatched. Her
companions crowded round her to hear again the story of her adventure on
the Eagle's Crag. Gertrude never knew how she had been betrayed by
Wendot's brothers. She believed that they had been accidentally hindered
from coming to her rescue by the difficulties of the climb after the
eagle's nest. There was a faint, uncomfortable misgiving in her mind
with regard to the black-browed twins, but it did not amount to actual
suspicion, far less to any certainty of their enmity; and although
Eleanor had heard the whole story from her parents, she had not
explained the matter more fully to Gertrude.
An invitation from royalty was equal to a command, and the eager
children were not kept waiting long. The double doors at the end of the
long gallery, which had closed behind the retiring form of Godfrey,
opened once again to admit him, and closely in his wake there followed
two manly youths -- two, not four -- upon whose faces every eye was
instantly fixed in frank and kindly scrutiny.
Wendot had developed rapidly during these two last years, although he
retained all his old marked characteristics. The waving hair was still
bright and sunny, the open face, with its rather square features, was
resolute, alert, manly, and strong. The fearless blue eyes had not lost
their far-away dreaminess, as though the possessor were looking onward
and outward beyond the surroundings visible to others; and beneath the
calm determination of the expression was an underlying sweetness, which
shone out from time to time in the sunny smile which always won the
heart of the beholder. The figure was rather that of a man than a lad --
tall, strongly knit, full of grace and power; and a faint yellow
moustache upon the upper lip showed the dawn of manhood in the youth.
There was something in his look which seemed to tell that he had known
sorrow, trial, and anxiety; but this in no way detracted from the power
or attractiveness of the countenance, but rather gave it an added charm.
Griffeth retained his marked likeness to his brother, and was almost his
equal in height; but his cheek was pale and hollow, while Wendot's was
brown and healthy, his hands were slim and white, and there was an air
of languor and ill-health about him which could not fail to make itself
observed. He looked much younger than his brother, despite his tall
stature, and he blushed like a boy as he saw the eyes of the ladies
fixed upon them as they came forward, bowing with no ungraceful deference.
"Wendot, Wendot. don't you know me?"
The young man started and raised his eyes towards the speaker. So far,
he had only been aware that there were a number of persons collected at
the upper end of the long gallery. Now he found himself confronted by a
pair of eager, dancing eyes, as soft and dark as those of a forest deer,
whilst two slim hands were held out to him, and a silvery voice cried
softly and playfully:
"O Wendot, Wendot, to think you have forgotten!"
"Ah, I am glad you have not forgotten, though methinks I have changed
more than you these past years. I should have known you anywhere. But
come, Wendot; I would present you to my friends and companions, who
would fain be acquainted with you. They know how you saved my life that
day, I have told the tale so oft.
"Let me present you first to our sweetest Lady Eleanor, our great king's
eldest daughter. You will love her, I know -- none can help it. And she
lets me call myself her sister."
Young things have a wonderful faculty of growing intimate in a very
brief space, and the formalities of those simpler times were not
excessive, especially away from the trammels of the court. In ten
minutes' time Wendot and his brother had grasped the names and rank of
all those to whom they had been presented, and were joining in the eager
talk with ease and with enjoyment. Joanna stood beside Wendot,
listening, with unfeigned interest, to his answers respecting himself
and those near and dear to him; whilst Alphonso had drawn Griffeth to
the embrasure of a window, and was looking up into his face as they
compared notes and exchanged ideas. It seemed from the first as though a
strong link formed itself between those two.
"Your brothers would not come. Was that fear or shame or pride?" asked
Joanna, with a laughing look into Wendot's flushed face. "Nay, think not
that we would compel any to visit us who do it not willingly. Gertrude
has prepared us to find your brothers different from you. Methinks she
marvelled somewhat that they had come hither at all with their submission."
Wendot hesitated, and the flush deepened on his face; but he was too
young to have learned the lesson of reticence, and there was something
in the free atmosphere of this place which prompted him to frankness.
"I myself was surprised at it," he said. "Llewelyn and Howel have not
been friendly in their dealings with the English so far, and we knew
they aided Llewelyn of North Wales in the revolt which has been lately
quelled. But since our parents died we have seen but little of them.
They became joint owners of the commot of Iscennen, and removed from
Dynevor to the castle of Carregcennen in their own territory, and until
we met them some days since in company with our kinsman Meredith ap Hes,
coming to tender their homage, as we ourselves are about to do, we knew
not what to think of them or what action they would take."
"Are both your parents dead, then?" asked Gertrude, with sympathy in her
eyes. "I heard that Res Vychan was no longer living, but I knew not that
the gentle Lady of Dynevor had passed away also."
Wendot's face changed slightly as he answered:
"They both died within a few days of each other the winter after you had
been with us, Lady Gertrude. We were visited by a terrible sickness that
year, and our people sickened and died in great numbers. Our parents did
all they could for them, and first my father fell ill and died, and
scarce had the grave closed over him before our mother was stricken, and
followed him ere a week had passed. Griffeth was also lying at the point
of death, and we despaired of his life also; but he battled through, and
came back to us from the very gates of the grave, and yet methinks
sometimes that he has never been the same since. He shoots up in height,
but he cannot do the things he did when he was two years younger.
"What think you of him, sweet Lady Gertrude? Is he changed from what he
was when last you saw him, ere the sickness had fastened upon him?"
Several eyes were turned towards the slim, tall figure of the Welsh lad
leaning against the embrasure of the window. The sunlight fell full upon
his face, showing the sharpness of its outlines, the delicate hectic
colouring, the tracery of the blue veins beneath the transparent skin.
And just the same transparent look was visible in the countenance of the
young Prince Alphonso, who was talking with the stranger youth, and more
hearts than that of Wendot felt a pang as their owners' eyes were turned
upon the pair beside the sunny window. But Wendot pressed for no answer
to his question, nor did Gertrude volunteer it; she only asked quickly:
"Then Griffeth and you live yet at Dynevor, beautiful Dynevor, and
Llewelyn and Howel elsewhere?"
"Ay, at Carregcennen. We have our respective lands, though we are minors
yet; and our kinsman Meredith ap Res is our guardian, though it is
little we see of him."
"Meredith ap Res! I know him well," cried a girlish voice, in accents
which betrayed her Welsh origin. "He has ever been a traitor to his
country, a traitor to all who trust him; a covetous, grasping man, who
will clutch at what he can get, and never cease scheming after lands and
titles so long as the breath remains in him."
They all turned to see who had spoken, and Arthyn -- the headstrong,
passionate, patriotic Arthyn, who, despite her love for her present
companions, bitterly resented being left a hostage in the hands of the
English king -- stood out before them, and spoke in the fearless fashion
which nobody present resented.
"Wendot of Dynevor, if you are he, beware of that man, and bid your
brothers beware of him, too. I know him; I have heard much of him. Be
sure he has an eye on your fair lands, and he will embroil you yet with
the English king if he can, that he may lay claim to your patrimony. He
brings you here to the court to make your peace, to pay your homage. If
I mistake not the man, you will not all of you return whence you came.
He will poison the king's mind. Some traitorous practices will be
alleged against you. Your lands will be withheld. You will be fed with
promises which will never be fulfilled. And the kinsman who has sold
himself body and soul to the English alliance will rule your lands, in
your names firstly perchance, until his power is secure, and he can
claim them boldly as his own. See if it be not so."
"It shall not be so," cried Alphonso, suddenly advancing a step forward
and planting himself in the midst of the group.
His cheek was crimson now, there was fire in his eyes. He had all the
regal look of his royal father as he glanced up into Wendot's face and
spoke with an authority beyond his years.
"I, the king's son, give you my word of honour that this thing shall not
be. You are rightful Lord of Dynevor. You took not up arms against my
father in the late rebellion; you come at his command to pay your homage
to him. Therefore, whatever may be his dealings with your brothers who
have assisted the rebels, I pledge my princely word that you shall
return in peace to your own possessions. My father is a just and
righteous king, and I will be his surety that he will do all that is
right and just by you, Wendot of Dynevor."
"Well spoken, Alphonso!" cried Joanna and Britton in a breath, whilst
Wendot took the hand extended to him, and bent over it with a feeling of
loyal gratitude and respect.
There was something very lovable in the fragile young prince, and he
seemed to win the hearts of all who came within the charm of his
personal presence. He combined his father's fearless nobility with his
mother's sweetness of disposition. Had he lived to ascend the throne of
England, one of the darkest pages of its annals might never have been
But this hot discussion was brought to an end by the appearance of the
servants, who carried in the supper, laying it upon a long table at the
far end of the gallery. No great state was observed even in the royal
household, when the family was far away from the atmosphere of the court
as it was held at Westminster or Windsor.
A certain number of servants were in attendance. There were a few
formalities gone through in the matter of tasting of dishes served to
the royal children, but they sat round the table without ceremony; and
when the chaplain had pronounced a blessing, which was listened to
reverently by the young people, who were all very devout and responsive
to religious influences, the unconstrained chatter began again almost at
once, and the Welsh lads lost all sense of strangeness as they sat at
the table of the king's children.
"Our father and mother will not return for several days yet," said
Joanna to Wendot, whom she had placed between herself and Gertrude; "but
we have liberty to do what we wish and to go where we like.
"Say, Gertrude, shall we tell Wendot on what we have set our hearts? It
may be he would help us to our end."
"I would do anything you bid me, gracious lady," answered Wendot with
The girls were eying each other with flushed faces, their voices were
lowered so that they should not reach the ears of the Lady Edeline,
Joanna's governess, who was seated at the board, although she seldom
spoke unless directly addressed by Eleanor, who seemed to be on friendly
terms with her.
"Wendot," whispered Joanna cautiously, "have you ever hunted a wolf in
"Ay, many a time, though they be more seldom seen now. But we never rid
ourselves altogether of them, do as we will."
"And have you killed one yourself?"
"Yes, I have done that, too."
"And is it very dangerous?"
"I scarce know; I never thought about it. I think not, if one is well
armed and has dogs trained to their duties."
Joanna's eyes were alight with excitement; her hands were locked
together tightly. Her animated face was set in lines of the greatest
determination and happiest anticipation.
"Wendot," she said, "there is a wolf up yonder in that wild valley we
can see from yon window, as you look towards the heights of Snowdon.
Some of our people have seen and tracked it, but they say it is an old
and wily one, and no one has got near it yet. Wendot, we have set our
hearts on having a wolf hunt of our very own. We do not want all the men
and dogs and the stir and fuss which they would make if we were known to
be going. I know what that means. We are kept far away behind everybody,
and only see the dead animal after it has been killed miles away from
us. We want to be in the hunt ourselves -- Britten, Alphonso, Arthyn,
Gertrude, and I. Godfrey would perhaps be won over if Gertrude begged
him, and I know Raoul Latimer would -- he is always ready for what turns
up -- but that would not be enough. O Wendot, if you and your brothers
would but come, we should be safe without anybody else. Raoul has dogs,
and we could all be armed, and we would promise to be very careful. We
could get away early, as Gertrude did that day she slipped off to the
"Wendot, do answer -- do say you will come. You understand all about
hunting, even hunting wolves. You are not afraid?"
Wendot smiled at the notion. He did not entirely understand that he was
requested to take part in a bit of defiant frolic which the young
princes and princesses were well aware would not have been permitted by
their parents. All he grasped was that the Lady Joanna requested his
assistance in a hunt which she had planned, and with the details of
which he was perfectly familiar, and he agreed willingly to her request,
not sorry, either for his own sake or for that of his more discontented
brothers, that the monotony of the days spent in waiting the return of
the king should be beguiled by anything so attractive and exciting as a
The Dynevor brothers had often hunted wolves before, and saw no special
peril in the sport; and Joanna and Gertrude felt that not even the most
nervous guardian could hesitate to let them go with such a stout protector.
"I do like him, Gertrude," said Joanna, when Wendot and his brother had
retired. "I hope if I ever have to marry, as people generally do,
especially if they are king's daughters, that I shall find somebody as
brave and handsome and knightly as your Wendot of Dynevor."
For Gertrude and Joanna both took the view that the breaking of the
king's gold coin between them was equivalent to the most solemn of troth
CHAPTER VI. WELSH WOLVES.
The Princess Joanna was accustomed to a great deal of her own way. She
had been born at Acre, whilst her parents had been absent upon Edward's
Crusade, and for many years she had remained in Castile with her
grandmother-godmother, who had treated her with unwise distinction, and
had taught her to regard herself almost as a little queen. The
high-spirited and self-willed girl had thus acquired habits of
independence and commanding ways which were perhaps hardly suited to her
tender years; but nevertheless there was something in her bright
vivacity and generous impetuosity which always won the hearts of those
about her, and there were few who willingly thwarted her when her heart
was set upon any particular thing.
There were in attendance upon the king and his children a number of
gallant youths, sons of his nobles, who were admitted to pleasant and
easy intercourse with the royal family; so that when Joanna and Alphonso
set their hearts upon a private escapade of their own, in the shape of a
wolf hunt, it was not difficult to enlist many brave champions in the
cause quite as eager for the danger and the sport as the royal children
themselves. Joanna was admitted to be a privileged person, and Alphonso,
as the only son of the king, had a certain authority of his own.
The graver and more responsible guardians of the young prince and
princesses might have hesitated before letting them have their way in
this matter; but Joanna took counsel of the younger and more ardent
spirits by whom she was surrounded, and a secret expedition to a
neighbouring rocky fastness was soon planned, which expedition, by a
little diplomacy and management, could be carried out without exciting
The king and queen encouraged their family in hardy exercises and early
hours. If the royal children planned an early ride through the fresh
morning air, none would hinder their departure, and they could easily
shake off their slower attendants when the time came, and join the
bolder comrades who would be waiting for them with all the needful
accoutrements for the hunt on which their minds were bent.
One or two of the more youthful and adventurous attendants might come
with them, but the soberer custodians might either be dismissed or
outridden. They were accustomed to the vagaries of the Lady Joanna, and
would not be greatly astonished at any freak on her part.
And thus it came about that one clear, cold, exhilarating morning in
May, when the world was just waking from its dewy sleep of night, that
Joanna and Alphonso, together with Gertrude and Arthyn, and young Sir
Godfrey and another gentleman in attendance, drew rein laughingly, after
a breathless ride across a piece of wild moorland, at the appointed
spot, where a small but well-equipped company was awaiting them with the
spears, the dogs, and the long, murderous-looking hunting knives needed
by those who follow the tracks of the wild creatures of the mountains.
This little band numbered in its ranks the four Dynevor brothers; a
tall, rather haughty-looking youth, by name Raoul Latimer; and one or
two more with whose names we have no concern. Britten, who accompanied
the royal party, sprang forward with a cry of delight at seeing the
muster, and began eagerly questioning Raoul as to the capabilities of
the dogs he had brought, and the possible dangers to be encountered in
the day's sport.
Gertrude and Joanna rode up to Wendot and greeted him warmly. They had
seen him only once since the first evening after his arrival, and both
girls stole curious glances at the dark faces of the two brothers
unknown as yet to them. They were almost surprised that the twins had
come at all, as they were not disposed to be friendly towards the
English amongst whom they were now mingling; but here they were, and
Gertrude greeted both with her pretty grace, and they answered her words
of welcome with more courtesy than she had expected to find in them.
Llewelyn and Howel were submitting themselves to the inevitable with
what grace they could, but with very indignant and hostile feelings
hidden deep in their hearts. Their old hatred towards the English
remained unaltered. They would have fought the foe tooth and nail to the
last had they been able to find allies ready to stand by them. But when
their uncle of North Wales had submitted, and all the smaller chieftains
were crowding to the court to pay homage, and when they knew that
nothing but their own nominal subjection would save them from being
deprived of their lands, which would go to enrich the rapacious Meredith
ap Res, then indeed did resistance at that time seem hopeless; and
sooner than see themselves thus despoiled by one who was no better than
a vassal of England, they had resolved to take the hated step, and do
homage to Edward for their lands. Indeed, these brothers had to do even
more; for, having been concerned in the late rebellion, they had
forfeited their claim upon their property, only that it was Edward's
policy to restore all lands the owners of which submitted themselves to
his authority. The brothers felt no doubt as to the result of their
submission, but the humiliation involved was great, and it was hard work
to keep their hatred of the English in check. Those wild spirits had not
been used to exercising self-control, and the lesson came hard now that
they were springing up towards man's estate, with all the untempered
recklessness and heat of youth still in their veins.
Perhaps there was something in the expression of those two dark faces
that told its tale to one silent spectator of the meeting between the
Welsh and English; for as the party united forces and pushed onwards and
upwards towards the wild ravine where the haunt of the wolf lay, the
twin brothers heard themselves addressed in their own language, and
though the tones were sweet and silvery, the words had a ring of
passionate earnestness in them which went straight to their hearts.
"Methinks I am not mistaken in you, sons of Dynevor. You have not
willingly left your mountain eyry for these halls where the proud foeman
holds his court and sits in judgment upon those who by rights are free
as air. I have heard of you before, Llewelyn and Howel ap Res Vychan.
You are not here, like your brethren, half won over to the cause of the
foe; you would fight with the last drop of your blood for the liberty of
Turning with a start, the brothers beheld the form of a slight and
graceful maiden, who was pushing her palfrey up beside them. She
appeared to be about their own age, and was very beautiful to look upon,
with a clear, dark skin, large, bright eyes, now glowing with the
enthusiasm so soon kindled in the breast of the children of an oppressed
people -- a people thrilling with the strange, deep poetry of their
race, which made much amends for their lack of culture in other points.
Llewelyn and Howel, learning caution by experience, scarce knew how to
respond to this appeal; but the girl met their inquiring glances by a
vivid smile, and said:
"Nay, fear me not. I am one of yourselves -- one of our country's own
children. Think not that I am here of my own free will. I deny not that
I have learned to love some amongst our conqueror's children and
subjects, but that does not make me forget who I am nor whence I have
come. Let us talk together of our country and of the slender hopes which
yet remain that she may gird herself up and make common cause against
the foe. Oh, would that I might live to see the day, even though my life
might pay the forfeit of my father's patriotism. Let Edward slay me --
ay, and every hostage he holds in his hand -- so that our country shakes
off the foreign yoke, and unites under one head as one nation once again."
These words kindled in the breast of the twin brothers such a glow of
joy and fervour as they had not known for many a weary day. They made
room for Arthyn to ride between them, and eager were the confidences
exchanged between the youthful patriots as they pursued their way
upwards. Little they heeded the black looks cast upon them by Raoul
Latimer, as he saw Arthyn's eager animation, and understood how close
was the bond which had thus quickly been established between them and
the proud, silent girl whose favours he had been sedulously trying to
win this many a day.
Raoul Latimer was a youth with a decided eye to the main chance. He knew
that Arthyn was her father's heiress, and that she would succeed at his
death to some of the richest lands in Wales. Possibly her father might
be deprived of these lands in his lifetime, as he was a turbulent
chieftain, by no means submissive to Edward's rule. If that were the
case, and if his daughter had wedded a loyal Englishman of
unquestionable fidelity, there would be an excellent chance for that
husband of succeeding to the broad lands of Einon ap Cadwalader before
many years had passed. Therefore young Raoul paid open court to the
proud Welsh maiden, and was somewhat discomfited at the small progress
he had made.
But he was a hot-headed youth, and had no intention of being thrown into
the shade by any beggarly Welshmen, be they sons of Dynevor or no, so
that when the party were forced by the character of the ground to
dismount from their horses and take to their own feet, he pressed up to
Arthyn and said banteringly:
"Sweet lady, why burden yourself with the entertainment of these wild,
uncivilized loons? Surely those who can but speak the language of beasts
deserve the treatment of beasts. It is not for you to be thus --"
But the sentence was never finished. Perhaps the flash from Arthyn's eye
warned him he had gone too far in thus designating the youths, who were,
after all, her countrymen; but there was a better reason still for this
sudden pause, for Llewelyn's strong right hand had flown out straight
from the shoulder, and Raoul had received on the mouth a stinging blow
which had brought the red blood upon his lips and the crimson tide of
fury into his cheeks.
With an inarticulate cry of rage he drew his dagger and sprang upon the
young Welshman. Swords were drawn in those days only too readily, and in
this case there had been provocation enough on both sides to warrant
bloodshed. The youths were locked at once in fierce conflict, striking
madly at each other with their shining blades, before those who stood by
well knew what had occurred.
It was only too common at such times that there should be collision
between the sons of England and Wales; and the suffering and the penalty
almost invariably fell upon the latter. This fact was well known to the
children of the king, and possibly prompted the young Alphonso to his
Drawing the small sword he always carried at his side, he threw himself
between the combatants, and striking up their blades he cried in tones
of such authority as only those can assume who feel the right is theirs:
"Put up your weapons, gentlemen; I command you in the king's name.
"Raoul, this is your doing, I warrant. Shame on you for thus falling
upon my father's guest in his absence, and he a stranger and an alien!
Shame on you, I say!"
But scarce had these words been uttered before a shrill cry broke from
several of the girls, who were watching the strange scene with tremulous
excitement. For young Llewelyn, maddened and blinded by the heat of his
passion, and not knowing either who Alphonso was or by what right he
interposed betwixt him and his foe, turned furiously upon him, and
before any one could interpose, a deep red gash in the boy's wrist
showed what the Welsh lad's blade had done.
Wendot, Griffeth, and Godfrey flung themselves upon the mad youth, and
held him back by main force. In Raoul's eyes there was an evil light of
triumph and exultation.
"Llewelyn, Llewelyn, art mad? It is the king's son," cried Wendot in
their native tongue; whilst Joanna sprang towards her brother and
commenced binding up the gash, the lad never for a moment losing his
presence of mind, or forgetting in the smart of the hurt the dignity of
Llewelyn's fierce burst of passion had spent itself, and the sense of
Wendot's words had come home to him. He stood shamefaced and sullen, but
secretly somewhat afraid; whilst Arthyn trembled in every limb, and if
looks would have annihilated, Raoul would not have existed as a
corporate being a moment longer.
"Gentlemen," said Alphonso, turning to those about him, and holding up
his bandaged hand, "this is the result of accident -- pure accident.
Remember that, if it ever comes to the ears of my father. This youth
knew not what he did. The fault was mine for exposing myself thus
hastily. As you value the goodwill in which I hold you all, keep this
matter to yourselves. We are not prince or subject today, but comrades
bent on sport together. Remember and obey my behest. It is not often I
lay my commands upon you."
These words were listened to with gratitude and relief by all the party
save one, and his brow gloomed darker than before. Arthyn saw it, and
sprang towards Alphonso, who was smiling at his sister in response to
her quick words of praise.
"It was his fault -- his," she cried, pointing to the scowling Raoul,
who looked ill-pleased at having his lips thus sealed. "He insulted him
-- he insulted me. No man worthy the name would stand still and listen.
It is the way with these fine gallants of England. They are ever
stirring up strife, and my countrymen bear the blame, the punishment,
the odium --"
But Alphonso took her hand with a gesture of boyish chivalry.
"None shall injure thee or thine whilst I am by, sweet Arthyn. The
nation is dear to me for thy sake, and thy countrymen shall be as our
honoured guests and brothers. Have we not learned to love them for thy
sake and their own? Trouble not thy head more over this mischance, and
let it not cloud our day's sport.
"Raoul," he added, with some sternness, "thou art a turbulent spirit,
and thou lackest the gentle courtesy of a true knight towards those
whose position is trying and difficult. Thou wilt not win thy spurs if
thou mendest not thy ways. Give thy hand now, before my eyes, to the
youth thou didst provoke. If thou marrest the day's pleasure again, I
shall have more to say to thee yet."
It was not often that the gentle Alphonso spoke in such tones, and
therefore his words were the more heeded. Raoul, inwardly consumed with
rage at being thus singled out for rebuke, dared not withstand the order
given him, and grudgingly held out his hand. It was not with much
greater alacrity that Llewelyn took it, for there was much stubborn
sullenness in his disposition, and his passion, though quickly aroused,
did not quickly abate; but there was a compulsion in the glance of the
royal boy which enforced obedience; and harmony being thus nominally
restored, the party once more breathed freely.
"And now upwards and onwards for the lair of the wolf," cried Alphonso;
"we have lost time enough already. Who knows the way to his favourite
haunts? Methinks they cannot be very far away now."
"I should have thought we had had enough of Welsh wolves for one day,"
muttered Raoul sullenly to Godfrey; but the latter gave him a warning
glance, and he forbore to speak more on the subject.
Gertrude had watched the whole scene with dilated eyes, and a feeling of
sympathy and repulsion she was perfectly unable to analyze. When the
party moved on again she stole up to Wendot's side, and said as she
glanced into his troubled face:
"He did not mean it? he will not do it again?"
Wendot glanced down at her with a start, and shook his head.
"He knew not that it was the king's son -- that I verily believe; but I
know not what Llewelyn may say or do at any time. He never speaks to me
of what is in his head. Lady Gertrude, you know the king and his ways.
Will he visit this rash deed upon my brother's head? Will Llewelyn
suffer for what he did in an impulse of mad rage, provoked to it by yon
haughty youth, whose words and bearing are hard for any of us to brook?"
"Not if Alphonso can but get his ear; not if this thing is kept secret,
as he desires, as he has commanded. But I fear what Raoul may say and
do. He is treacherous, selfish, designing. The king thinks well of him,
but we love him not. I trust all will yet be well."
"But you fear it may not," added Wendot, completing the sentence as she
had not the heart to do. "I fear the same thing myself. But tell me
again, Lady Gertrude, what would be the penalty of such an act? Will
"Alphonso has great influence with his father," answered Gertrude
quickly. "He will stand your brother's friend through all; perchance he
may be detained in some sort of captivity; perchance he may not have his
lands restored if this thing comes to the king's ears. But his person
will be safe. Fear not for that. Methinks Alphonso would sooner lay down
his own life than that harm should befall from what chanced upon a day
of sport planned by him and Joanna."
And Gertrude, seeing that a load lay upon the heart of the young Lord of
Dynevor, set herself to chase the cloud from his brow, and had so far
succeeded that he looked himself again by the time a warning shout from
those in advance showed that some tracks of the wild creature of whom
they were in pursuit had been discovered in the path.
"Do not run into danger," pleaded Gertrude, laying a hand on Wendot's
arm as he moved quickly forward to the front. "You are so brave you
never think of yourself; but do not let us have more bloodshed today,
save the blood of the ravenous beast if it must be. I could find it in
my heart to wish that we had not come forth on this errand. The
brightness of the day has been clouded over."
Wendot answered by a responsive glance. There was something soothing to
him in the unsolicited sympathy of Gertrude. He had thought little since
they parted two years before of that childish pledge given and received,
although he always wore her talisman about his neck, and sometimes
looked at it with a smile. He had no serious thoughts of trying to mate
with an English noble's daughter. He had had no leisure to spare for
thoughts of wedlock at all. But something in the trustful glance of
those dark eyes looking confidingly up to him sent a quick thrill
through his pulses, which was perhaps the first dawning life of the love
of a brave heart.
But there was an impatient call from the front, and Wendot sprang
forward, the huntsman awakening within him at the sight of the slot of
the quarry. He looked intently at the tracks in the soft earth, and then
pointed downwards in the direction of a deep gully or cavernous opening
in the hillside, which looked very dark and gloomy to the party who
stood in the sunshine of the open.
"The beast has gone that way," he said; "and by his tracks and these
bloodstains, he has prey in his mouth. Likely his mate may have her lair
in yon dark spot, and they may be rearing their young in that safe
retreat. See how the dogs strain and pant! They smell the prey, and are
eager to be off. We must be alert and wary, for wolves with young ones
to guard are fierce beyond their wont."
He looked doubtfully at the girls, whose faces were full of mingled
terror and excitement. Godfrey read his meaning, and suggested that the
ladies should remain in this vantage ground whilst some of the rest went
forward to reconnoitre.
But Joanna, ever bold and impetuous, would have none of that.
"We will go on together," she said. "We shall be safest so. No wolf,
however fierce, will attack a number like ourselves. They will fly if
they can, and if they are brought to bay we need not go near them. But
why have we come so far to give up all the peril and the sport at the
"She speaks truth," said Wendot, to whom she seemed to look. "At this
season of the year wolves have meat in plenty, and will not attack man
save in self defence. If we track them silently to their lair, we may
surprise and kill the brood; but we are many, and can leave force enough
to defend the ladies whilst the rest fight the battle with the creatures
Nobody really wished to be left behind, and there was a pleasant feeling
of safety in numbers. Slowly and cautiously they all followed the track
of the wolf downwards into the gloomy ravine, which seemed to shut out
all light of the sun between walls of solid rock.
It was a curious freak in which nature had indulged in the formation of
this miniature crevasse between the hillsides. At the base ran a dark
turbid stream, which had hollowed out for itself a sort of cavernous
opening, and the walls of rock rose almost precipitately on three sides,
only leaving one track by which the ravine could be entered. The stream
came bubbling out from the rock, passing through some underground
passage; and within the gloomy cavern thus produced the savage beasts
had plainly made their lair, for there were traces of blood and bones
upon the little rocky platform, and the trained ear of Wendot, who was
foremost, detected the sound of subdued and angry growling proceeding
from the natural cave they were approaching.
"The beasts are in there," he said, pausing, and the next moment Raoul
had loosed the dogs, who darted like arrows from bows along the narrow
track; and immediately a great he wolf had sprung out with a cry of
almost human rage, and had fastened upon one of the assailants, whose
piercing yell made the girls shrink back and almost wish they had not come.
But Wendot was not far behind. He was not one of the huntsmen who give
all the peril to the dogs and keep out of the fray themselves. Drawing
his long hunting knife, and shouting to his brothers to follow him, he
sprang down upon the rocky platform himself, and Llewelyn and Howel were
at his side in a moment. Godfrey would fain have followed, but his duty
obliged him to remain by the side of the princess; and he kept a firm
though respectful grasp upon Alphonso's arm, feeling that he must not by
any means permit the heir of England to adventure himself into the fray.
And indeed the boy's gashed hand hindered him from the use of his
weapon, and he could only look on with the most intense interest whilst
the conflict between the two fierce beasts and their angry cubs was
waged by the fearless lads, who had been through many such encounters
before, and showed such skill, such address, such intrepidity in their
attack, that the young prince shouted aloud in admiration, and even the
girls lost their first sense of terror in the certainty of victory on
the side of the Welsh youths.
As for Raoul Latimer, he stood at a safe distance cheering on his dogs,
but not adventuring himself within reach of the murderous fangs of the
wolves. He occupied a position halfway between the spot upon which the
fray was taking place and the vantage ground occupied by the royal party
in full sight of the strife.
Arthyn had passed several scornful comments upon the care the young
gallant was taking of himself, when suddenly there was a cry from the
spectators; for one of the cubs, escaping from the melee, ran full tilt
towards Raoul, blind as it seemed with terror; and as it came within
reach of his weapon, the sharp blade gleamed in the air, and the little
creature gave one yell and rolled over in its death agony. But that cry
seemed to pierce the heart of the mother wolf, and suddenly, with almost
preternatural strength and activity, she bounded clean over the forms of
men and dogs, and dashed straight at Raoul with all the ferocity of an
animal at bay, and of a mother robbed of her young.
The young man saw the attack; but his weapon was buried in the body of
the cub, and he had no time to disengage it. Turning with a sharp cry of
terror, he attempted to fly up the rocky path; but the beast was upon
him. She made a wild dash and fastened upon his back, her fangs crushing
one shoulder and her hot breath seeming to scorch his cheek. With a wild
yell of agony and terror Raoul threw himself face downwards upon the
ground, whilst his cry was shrilly echoed by the girls -- all but
Arthyn, who stood rigidly as if turned to stone, a strange, fierce light
blazing in her eyes.
But help was close at hand. Wendot had seen the spring, and had followed
close upon the charge of the maddened brute. Flinging himself fearlessly
upon the struggling pair, he plunged his knife into the neck of the
wolf, causing her to relax her hold of her first foe and turn upon him.
Had he stabbed her to the heart she might have inflicted worse injury
upon Raoul in her mortal struggle; as it was, there was fierce fight
left in her still. But Wendot was kneeling upon the wildly struggling
body with all his strength, and had locked his hands fast round her throat.
"Quick, Llewelyn -- the knife!" he cried, and his brother was beside him
in an instant.
The merciful death stroke was given, and the three youths rose from
their crouching posture and looked each other in the eyes, whilst the
wolf lay still and dead by the side of her cub.
"Methinks we have had something too much of Welsh wolves," was the only
comment of Raoul, as he joined the royal party without a word to the
brothers who had saved his life.
CHAPTER VII. THE KING'S JUDGMENT.
The great King Edward had been sitting enthroned in the state apartment
of the castle, receiving the homage of those amongst the Welsh lords and
chieftains who had been summoned to pay their homage to him and had
obeyed this summons.
It was an imposing sight, and one not likely to be forgotten by any who
witnessed it for the first time. The courageous but gentle Queen
Eleanor, who was seldom absent from her lord's side be the times
peaceful or warlike, was seated beside him for the ceremony, with her
two elder daughters beside her. The young Alphonso stood at the right
hand of the king, his face bright with interest and sympathy; and if
ever the act of homage seemed to be paid with effort by some rugged
chieftain, or he saw a look of gloom or pain upon the face of such a
one, he was ever ready with some graceful speech or small act of
courtesy, which generally acted like a charm. And the father regarded
his son with a fond pride, and let him take his own way with these
haughty, untamable spirits, feeling perhaps that the tact of the royal
boy would do more to conciliate and win hearts than any word or deed of
Edward has been often harshly condemned for his cruelty and treachery
towards the vanquished Welsh; but it must be remembered with regard to
the first charge that the days were rude and cruel, that the spirit of
the age was fierce and headstrong, and that the barons and nobles who
were scheming for the fair lands of Wales were guilty of many of the
unjust and oppressive acts for which Edward has since been held
responsible. The Welsh were themselves a very wild race, in some parts
of the country barely civilized; and there can be no denying that a vein
of fierce treachery ran through their composition, and that they often
provoked their adversaries to cruel retaliation. As for the king
himself, his policy was on the whole a merciful and just one, if the one
point of his feudal supremacy were conceded. To those who came to him
with their act of homage he confirmed their possession of ancestral
estates, and treated them with kindness and consideration. He was too
keen a statesman and too just a man to desire anything but a
conciliatory policy so far as it was possible. Only when really roused
to anger and resolved upon war did the fiercer side of his nature show
itself, and then, indeed, he could show himself terrible and lion-like
in his wrath.
The brothers of Dynevor were the last of those who came to pay their act
of homage. The day had waned, and the last light of sunset was streaming
into that long room as the fair-haired Wendot bent his knee in response
to the summons of the herald. The king's eyes seemed to rest upon him
with interest, and he spoke kindly to the youth; but it was noted by
some in the company that his brow darkened when Llewelyn followed his
brother's example, Howel attending him as Griffeth had supported Wendot;
and there was none of the gracious urbanity in the royal countenance now
that had characterized it during the past hour.
Several faces amongst those in immediate attendance upon the king and
his family watched this closing scene with unwonted interest. Gertrude
stood with Joanna's hand clasped in hers, quivering with excitement, and
ever and anon casting quick looks towards her brother, who stood behind
the chair of state observant and watchful, but without betraying his
feelings either by word or look. Raoul Latimer was there, a sneer upon
his lips, a malevolent light in his eyes, which deepened as they rested
upon Llewelyn, whilst Arthyn watched the twin brothers with a strange
look in her glowing eyes, her lips parted, her white teeth just showing
between, her whole expression one of tense expectancy and sympathy. Once
Llewelyn glanced up and met the look she bent on him. A dusky flush
overspread his cheek, and his fingers clenched themselves in an
unconscious movement understood only by himself.
The homage paid, there was a little stir at the lower end of the hall as
the doors were flung open for the royal party to take their departure.
Edward bent a searching look upon the four brothers, who had fallen back
somewhat, and were clustered together not far from the royal group, and
the next minute an attendant whispered to them that it was the king's
pleasure they should follow in his personal retinue, as he had somewhat
to say to them in private.
Wendot's heart beat rather faster than its wont. He had had some
foreboding of evil ever since that unlucky expedition, some days back
now, on which Llewelyn's sword had been drawn upon an English subject,
and had injured the king's son likewise. Raoul had for very shame
affected a sort of condescending friendliness towards the brothers after
they had been instrumental in saving him from the fangs of the she wolf;
but it was pretty evident to them that his friendship was but skin deep;
whilst every word that passed between Arthyn and Llewelyn or his brother
-- and these were many -- was ranked as a dire offence.
Had Wendot been more conversant with the intrigues of courts, he would
have seen plainly that Raoul was paying his addresses to the Welsh
heiress, who plainly detested and abhorred him. The ambitious and clever
young man, who was well thought of by the king, and had many friends
amongst the nobles and barons, had a plan of his own for securing to
himself some of the richest territory in the country, and was leaving no
stone unturned in order to achieve that object. A marriage with Arthyn
would give him the hold he wanted upon a very large estate. But
indifferent as he was to the feelings of the lady, he was wise enough to
see that whilst she remained in her present mood, and was the confidante
and friend of the princesses, he should not gain the king's consent to
prosecuting his nuptials by force, as he would gladly have done.
Whereupon a new scheme had entered his busy brain, as a second string to
his bow, and with the help of a kinsman high in favour with the king, he
had great hopes of gaining his point, which would at once gratify his
ambition and inflict vengeance upon a hated rival.
Raoul had hated the Dynevor brothers ever since he had detected in
Arthyn an interest in and sympathy for them, ever since he had found her
in close talk in their own tongue with the dark-browed twins, whose
antagonism to the English was scarcely disguised. He had done all he
knew to stir the hot blood in Llewelyn and Howel, and that with some
success. The lads were looked upon as dangerous and treacherous by many
of those in the castle; and from the sneering look of coming triumph
upon the face of young Latimer as the party moved off towards the
private apartments of the royal family, it was plain that he anticipated
a victory for himself and a profound humiliation for his foes.
Supper was the first business of the hour, and the Dynevor brothers sat
at the lower table with the attendants of the king. The meal was
well-served and plentiful, but they bad small appetite for it. Wendot
felt as though a shadow hung upon them; and the chief comfort he
received was in stealing glances at the sweet, sensitive face of
Gertrude, who generally responded to his glance by one of her flashing
Wendot wondered how it was that Lord Montacute had never sought him out
to speak to him. Little as the lad had thought of their parting
interview at Dynevor during the past two years, it all came back with
the greatest vividness as he looked upon the fine calm face of the
English noble. Was it possible he had forgotten the half-pledge once
given him? Or did he regret it, now that his daughter was shooting up
from a child into a sweet and gracious maiden whom he felt disposed to
worship with reverential awe? Wendot did not think he was in love -- he
would scarce have known the meaning of the phrase and he as little
understood the feelings which had lately awakened within him; but he did
feel conscious that a new element had entered into his life, and with it
a far less bitter sense of antagonism to the English than he had
experienced in previous years.
After the supper was ended the royal family withdrew into an inner room,
and presently the four brothers were bidden to enter, as the king had
somewhat to say to them. The greater number of the courtiers and
attendants remained in the outer room, but Sir Godfrey Challoner, Raoul
Latimer, and one or two other gentlemen were present in the smaller
apartment. The queen and royal children were also there, and their
playfellows and companions, Gertrude holding her father by the hand, and
watching with intense interest the approach of the brothers and the
faces of the king and his son.
Edward was seated before a table on which certain parchments lay.
Alphonso stood beside him, and Wendot fancied that he had only just
ended some earnest appeal, his parted lips and flushed cheeks seeming to
tell of recent eager speech. The king looked keenly at the brothers as
they made their obeisance to him, and singling out Wendot, bid him by a
gesture to approach nearer.
There was a kindliness in the royal countenance which encouraged the
youth, and few could approach the great soldier king without
experiencing something of the fascination which his powerful
individuality exercised over all his subjects.
"Come hither, boy," he said; "we have heard nought but good of thee.
Thou hast an eloquent advocate in yon maiden of Lord Montacute's, and
mine own son and daughters praise thy gallantry in no measured terms. We
have made careful examination into these parchments here, containing
reports of the late rebellion, and cannot find that thou hast had part
or lot in it. Thou hast paid thy homage without dallying or delay;
wherefore it is our pleasure to confirm to thee thy possession of thy
castle of Dynevor and its territory. We only caution thee to remain
loyal to him thou hast owned as king, and we will establish thee in thy
rights if in time to come they be disputed by others, or thou stirrest
up foes by thy loyalty to us."
Wendot bowed low. If there was something bitter in having his father's
rightful inheritance granted to him as something of a boon, at least
there was much to sweeten the draught in the kindly and gracious bearing
of the king, and in Alphonso's friendly words and looks. He had no
father to look to in time of need, and felt a great distrust of the
kinsman who exercised some guardianship over him; so that there was
considerable relief for the youth in feeling that the great King of
England was his friend, and that he would keep him from the aggression
He stood aside as Edward's glance passed on to Llewelyn and Howel, and
it was plain that the monarch's face changed and hardened as he fixed
his eye upon the twins.
"Llewelyn -- Howel," he said, "joint lords of Iscennen, we wish that we
had received the same good report of you that we have done of your
brethren. But it is not so. There be dark records in your past which
give little hope for the future. Nevertheless you are yet young. Wisdom
may come with the advance of years. But the hot blood in you requires
taming and curbing. You have proved yourselves unfit for the place
hitherto occupied as lords of the broad lands bequeathed you by Res
Vychan, your father. For the present those lands are forfeit. You must
win the right to call them yours again by loyalty in the cause which
every true Welshman should have at heart, because it is the cause which
alone can bring peace and safety to your harassed country. It is not
willingly that we wrest from any man the lands that are his birthright.
Less willingly do we do this when homage, however unwilling and
reluctant, has been paid. But we have our duties to ourselves and to our
submitted subjects to consider, and it is not meet to send firebrands
alight into the world, when a spark may raise so fierce a conflagration,
and when hundreds of lives have to pay the penalty of one mad act of
headstrong youth. It is your youth that shall be your excuse from the
charge of graver offence, but those who are too young to govern
themselves are not fit to govern others."
Whilst the king had been speaking he had been closely studying the faces
of the twin brothers, who stood before him with their eyes on the
ground. These two lads, although by their stature and appearance almost
men, had not attained more than their sixteenth year, and had by no
means learned that control of feature which is one of nature's hardest
lessons. As the king's words made themselves understood, their brows had
darkened and their faces had contracted with a fierce anger and rage,
which betrayed itself also in their clenched hands and heaving chests;
and although they remained speechless -- for the awe inspired by
Edward's presence could not but make itself felt even by them -- it was
plain that only the strongest efforts put upon themselves hindered them
from some outbreak of great violence.
Edward's eye rested sternly upon them for a moment, and then he
addressed himself once again to Wendot.
"To thee, Res Wendot," he said, "we give the charge of these two
turbulent brothers of thine. Had not the Prince Alphonso spoken for
them, we had kept them under our own care here in our fortress of
Rhuddlan. But he has pleaded for them that they have their liberty,
therefore into thy charge do we give them. Take them back with thee to
Dynevor, and strive to make them like unto thyself and thy shadow there,
who is, they tell me, thy youngest brother, and as well disposed as thyself.
"Say, young man, wilt thou accept this charge, and be surety for these
haughty youths? If their own next-of-kin will not take this office, we
must look elsewhere for a sterner guardian."
For a moment Wendot hesitated, He knew well the untamable spirit of his
brothers, and the small influence he was likely to have upon them, and
for a moment his heart shrank from the task. But again he bethought what
his refusal must mean to them -- captivity of a more or less irksome
kind, harsh treatment perhaps, resulting in actual imprisonment, and a
sure loss of favour with any guardian who had the least love for the
English cause. At Dynevor they would at least be free.
Surely, knowing all, they would not make his task too hard. The tie of
kindred was very close. Wendot remembered words spoken by the dying bed
of his parents, and his mind was quickly made up.
"I will be surety for them," he said briefly. "If they offend again, let
my life, my lands, be the forfeit."
The monarch gave him a searching glance. Perhaps some of the effort with
which he had spoken made itself audible in his tones. He looked full at
Wendot for a brief minute, and then turned to the black-browed twins.
"You hear your brother's pledge," he said in low, stern tones. "If you
have the feelings of men of honour, you will respect the motive which
prompts him to give it, and add no difficulties to the task he has
imposed upon himself. Be loyal to him, and loyal to the cause he has
embraced, and perchance a day may come when you may so have redeemed
your past youthful follies as to claim and receive at our hands the
lands we now withhold. In the meantime they will be administered by
Raoul Latimer, who will draw the revenues and maintain order there. He
has proved his loyalty in many ways ere this, and he is to be trusted,
as one day I hope you twain may be."
Llewelyn started as if he had been stung as these words crossed the
king's lips. His black eyes flashed fire, and as he lifted his head and
met the mocking glance of Raoul, it seemed for a moment as if actually
in the presence of the king he would have flown at his antagonist's
throat; but Wendot's hand was on his arm, and even Howel had the
self-command to whisper a word of caution. Alphonso sprang gaily between
the angry youth and his father's keen glance, and began talking eagerly
of Dynevor, asking how the brothers would spend their time, now that
they were all to live there once more; whilst Arthyn, coming forward,
drew Llewelyn gently backward, casting at Raoul a look of such bitter
scorn and hatred that he involuntarily shrank before it.
"Thou hast taken a heavy burden upon thy young shoulders, lad," said a
well-remembered voice in Wendot's ear, and looking up, he met the calm
gaze of Lord Montacute bent upon him; whilst Gertrude, flushing and
sparkling, stood close beside her father. "Thinkest thou that such
tempers as those will be easily controlled?"
Wendot's face was grave, and looked manly in its noble thoughtfulness.
"I know not what to say; but, in truth, I could have given no other
answer. Could I leave my own brethren to languish in captivity, however
honourable, when a word from me would free them? Methinks, sir, thou
scarce knowest what freedom is to us wild sons of Wales, or how the very
thought of any hindrance to perfect liberty chafes our spirit and frets
us past the limit of endurance. Sooner than be fettered by bonds,
however slack, I would spring from yonder casement and dash myself to
pieces upon the stones below. To give my brothers up into unfriendly
hands would be giving them up to certain death. If my spirit could not
brook such control, how much less could theirs?"
Gertrude's soft eyes gave eloquent and sympathetic response. Wendot had
unconsciously addressed his justification to her rather than to her
father. Her quick sympathy gave him heart and hope. She laid her hand
upon his arm and said:
"I think thou art very noble, Wendot; it was like thee to do it. I was
almost grieved when I heard thee take the charge upon thyself, for I
fear it may be one of peril to thee. But I love thee the more for thy
generosity. Thou wilt be a true and brave knight ere thou winnest thy
spurs in battle."
Wendot's face flushed with shy happiness at hearing such frank and
unqualified praise from one he was beginning to hold so dear. Lord
Montacute laid his hand smilingly on his daughter's mouth, as if to
check her ready speech, and then bidding her join the Lady Joanna, who
was making signals to her from the other side of the room, he drew
Wendot a little away into an embrasure, and spoke to him in tones of
"Young man," he said, "I know not if thou hast any memory left of the
words I spake to thee when last we met at Dynevor?"
Wendot's colour again rose, but his glance did not waver.
"I remember right well," he answered simply. "I spoke words then of
which I have often thought since -- words that I have not repented till
today, nor indeed till I heard thee pass that pledge which makes thee
surety for thy turbulent brothers."
A quick, troubled look crossed Wendot's face, but he did not speak, and
Lord Montacute continued -- "I greatly fear that thou hast undertaken
more than thou canst accomplish; and that, instead of drawing thy
brothers from the paths of peril, thou wilt rather be led by them into
treacherous waters, which may at last overwhelm thee. You are all young
together, and many dangers beset the steps of youth. Thou art true and
loyal hearted, that I know well; but thou art a Welshman, and --"
He paused and stopped short, and Wendot answered, not without pride:
"I truly am a Welshman -- it is my boast to call myself that. If you
fear to give your daughter to one of that despised race, so be it. I
would not drag her down to degradation; I love her too well for that.
Keep her to thyself. I give thee back thy pledge."
Lord Montacute smiled as he laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.
"So hot and hasty, Wendot, as hasty as those black-haired twins. Yet,
boy, I like thee for thy outspoken candour, and I would not have thee
change it for the smooth treachery of courtly intrigue. If I had nought
else to think of, I would plight my daughter's hand to thee, an ye both
were willing, more gladly than to any man I know. But, Wendot, she is
mine only child, and very dear to me. There are others who would fain
win her smiles, others who would be proud to do her lightest behest. She
is yet but a child. Perchance she has not seriously considered these
matters. Still there will come a time when she will do so, and --"
"Then let her choose where she will," cried Wendot, proudly and hotly.
"Think you I would wed one whose heart was given elsewhere? Take back
your pledge -- think of it no more. If the day comes when I may come to
her free and unfettered, and see if she has any regard for me, good. I
will come. But so long as you hold that peril menaces my path, I will
not ask her even to think of me. Let her forget. I will not bind her by
a word. It shall be as if those words had never passed betwixt us."
Lord Montacute scarce knew if regret, relief, or admiration were the
feeling uppermost in his mind, as the youth he believed so worthy of his
fair daughter, and perhaps not entirely indifferent to her dawning
charms, thus frankly withdrew his claim upon her hand. It seems strange
to us that any one should be talking and thinking so seriously of
matrimony when the girl was but fourteen and the youth three years her
senior; but in those days marriages were not only planned but
consummated at an absurdly early age according to our modern notions,
and brides of fifteen and sixteen were considered almost mature. Many
young men of Wendot's age would be seriously seeking a wife, and
although no such thought had entered his head until he had seen Gertrude
again, it cannot be denied that the idea had taken some hold upon him
now, or that he did not feel a qualm of pain and sorrow at thus yielding
up one bright hope just when the task he had taken upon himself seemed
to be clouding his life with anxiety and peril.
"Boy," said Lord Montacute, "I cannot forget what thou hast done nor
what she owes to thee. I love thee well, and would fain welcome thee as
a son; but my love for her bids me wait till we see what is the result
of this office thou hast taken on thyself. Thou hast acted rightly and
nobly, but in this world trouble often seems to follow the steps of
those who strive most after the right. If thine own life, thine own
possessions, are to pay the forfeit if thy brethren fall away into
rebellion -- and Edward, though a just man and kind, can be stern to
exact the uttermost penalty when he is angered or defied -- then
standest thou in sore peril, peril from which I would shield my maid.
"Nay, say no more -- say no more. I comprehend it all too well," replied
Wendot, not without a natural though only momentary feeling of
bitterness at the thought of what this pledge was already costing him,
but his native generosity and sweetness of temper soon triumphed over
all besides, and he said with his peculiarly bright and steadfast smile,
"You have judged rightly and well for us both, my lord. Did I but drag
her down to sorrow and shame, it would be the bitterest drop in a bitter
cup. A man placed as I am is better without ties."
"Also the days will soon pass by, and the time will come when this
charge ceases. Then if the Lady Gertrude be still mistress of her hand
and heart, and if the Lord of Dynevor comes to try his fate, methinks,
by what I have seen and heard, that he may chance to get no unkindly
answer to his wooing."
Wendot made no reply, but only blushed deeply as he moved away. He
scarce knew whether he were glad or sorry that Gertrude came out to meet
him, and drew him towards the little group which had gathered in a deep
embrasure of the window. Joanna, Alphonso, and Griffeth were there. They
had been eagerly questioning the younger lad about life at Dynevor, and
what they would do when they were at home all together. Joanna was
longing to travel that way and lodge a night there; and Gertrude was
eloquent in praise of the castle, and looked almost wistfully at Wendot
to induce him to add his voice to the general testimony. But he was
unwontedly grave and silent, and her soft eyes filled with tears. She
knew that he was heavy hearted, and it cut her to the quick; but he did
not speak of his trouble, and only Alphonso ventured to allude to it,
and that was by one quick sentence as he was taking his departure at
"Wendot," he said earnestly, "I will ever be thy friend. Fear not. My
father denies me nothing. Thy trial may be a hard one, but thou wilt
come nobly forth from it. I will see that harm to thee comes not from
thy generosity. Only be true to us, and thou shalt not suffer."
Wendot made no reply, but the words were like a gleam of sunshine
breaking through the clouds; and one more such gleam was in store for
him on the morrow, when he bid a final adieu to Gertrude before the
general departure for Dynevor.
"I have my half gold coin, Wendot. I shall look at it every day and
think of thee. I am so happy that we have seen each other once again.
Thou wilt not forget me, Wendot?"
"Never so long as I live," he answered with sudden fervour, raising the
small hand he held to his lips. "And some day, perchance, Lady Gertrude,
I will come to thee again."
"I shall be waiting for thee," she answered, with a mixture of arch
sweetness and playfulness that he scarce knew whether to call childlike
confidence or maiden trust. But the look in her eyes went to his heart,
and was treasured there, like the memory of a sunbeam, for many long
days to come.
CHAPTER VIII. TURBULENT SPIRITS.
The four sons of Res Vychan went back to Dynevor together, there to
settle down, outwardly at least, to a quiet and uneventful life, chiefly
diversified by hunting and fishing, and such adventures as are
inseparable from those pastimes in which eager lads are engrossed.
Wendot both looked and felt older for his experiences in the castle of
Rhuddlan. His face had lost much of its boyishness, and had taken a
thoughtfulness beyond his years. Sometimes he appeared considerably
oppressed by the weight of the responsibility with which he had charged
himself, and would watch the movements and listen to the talk of the
twins with but slightly concealed uneasiness.
Yet as days merged into weeks, and weeks lengthened into months, and
still there had been nothing to alarm him unduly, he began, as the
inclement winter drew on, to breathe more freely; for in the winter
months all hostilities of necessity ceased, for the mountain passes were
always blocked with snow, and both travelling and fighting were
practically out of the question for a considerable time.
Wendot, too, had matters enough to occupy his mind quite apart from the
charge of his two haughty brothers. He had his own estates to administer
-- no light task for a youth not yet eighteen -- and his large household
to order; and though Griffeth gave him every help, Llewelyn and Howel
stood sullenly aloof, and would not appear to take the least interest in
anything that appertained to Dynevor, although they gave no reason for
their conduct, and were not in other ways unfriendly to their brothers.
The country was for the time being quiet and at peace. Exhausted by its
own internal struggles and by the late disastrous campaign against the
English, the land was, as it were, resting and recruiting itself, in
preparation, perhaps, for another outbreak later on. In the meantime,
sanguine spirits like those of Wendot and Griffeth began to cherish
hopes that the long and weary struggle was over at last, and that the
nation, as a nation, would begin to realize the wisdom and the advantage
of making a friend and ally of the powerful monarch of England, instead
of provoking him to acts of tyranny and retaliation by perpetual and
fruitless rebellions against a will far too strong to be successfully
But Llewelyn and Howel never spoke of the English without words and
looks indicative of the deepest hatred; and the smouldering fire in
their breasts was kept glowing and burning by the wild words and the
wilder songs of the old bard Wenwynwyn, who spent the best part of his
time shut up in his own bare room, with his harp for his companion, in
which room Llewelyn and Howel spent much of their time during the dark
winter days, when they could be less and less out of doors.
Since that adventure of the Eagle's Crag, Wendot had distrusted the old
minstrel, and was uneasy at the influence he exercised upon the twins;
but the idea of sending him from Dynevor was one which never for a
moment entered his head. Had not Wenwynwyn grown old in his father's
service? Had he not been born and bred at Dynevor? The young lord
himself seemed to have a scarce more assured right to his place there
than the ancient bard. Be he friend or be he foe, at Dynevor he must
remain so long as the breath remained in his body.
The bard was, by hereditary instinct, attached to all the boys, but of
late there had been but little community of thought between him and his
young chieftain. Wendot well knew the reason. The old man hated the
English with the bitter, unreasoning, deadly hatred of his wild,
untutored nature. Had he not sprung from a race whose lives had been
spent in rousing in the breasts of all who heard them the most fervent
and unbounded patriotic enthusiasm? And was it to be marvelled at that
he could not see or understand the changes of the times or the
hopelessness of the long struggle, now that half the Welsh nobles were
growing cool in the national cause, and the civilization and wealth of
the sister country were beginning to show them that their own condition
left much to be desired, and that there was something better and higher
to be achieved than a so-called liberty, only maintained at the cost of
perpetual bloodshed? or a series of petty feuds for supremacy, which
went far to keep the land in a state of semi-barbarism?
So the old bard sang his wild songs, and Llewelyn and Howel sat by the
glowing fire of logs that blazed in the long winter evenings upon his
hearth, listening to his fierce words, and hardening their hearts and
bracing their wills against any kind of submission to a foreign yoke. A
burning hatred against the English king also consumed them. Had they
not, at the cost of most bitter humiliation, gone to him as vassals,
trusting to his promise that all who did homage for their lands should
be confirmed in peaceful possession of the same? And how had he treated
this act of painful submission? Was it greatly to be wondered at that
their hearts burned with an unquenchable hatred? To them Edward stood as
the type of all that was cruel and treacherous and grasping. They
brooded over their wrongs by day and by night; they carried their dark
looks with them when they stirred abroad or when they rested at home.
Wenwynwyn sympathized as none besides seemed to do, and he became their
great solace and chief counsellor.
Wendot might uneasily wonder what passed in that quiet room of the old
man's, but he never knew or guessed. He would better have liked to hear
Llewelyn burst forth into the old passionate invective. He was uneasy at
this chronic state of gloom and sullen silence on the vexed question of
English supremacy. But seldom a word passed the lips of either twin.
They kept their secret -- if secret they had -- locked away in their own
breasts. And days and weeks and months passed by, and Wendot and
Griffeth seemed almost as much alone at Dynevor as they had been after
their father's death, when Llewelyn and Howel had betaken themselves to
their castle of Carregcennen.
But at least, if silent and sullen, they did not appear to entertain any
plan likely to raise anxiety in Wendot's mind as to the pledge he had
given to the king. They kept at home, and never spoke of Iscennen, and
as the winter passed away and the spring began to awaken the world from
her long white sleep, they betook themselves with zest to their pastime
of hunting, and went long expeditions that sometimes lasted many days,
returning laden with spoil, and apparently in better spirits from the
bracing nature of their pursuits.
Griffeth, who had felt the cold somewhat keenly, and had been drooping
and languid all the winter, picked up strength and spirit as the days
grew longer and warmer, and began to enjoy open-air life once more.
Wendot was much wrapped up in this young brother of his, who had always
been dearer to him than any being in the world besides.
Since he had been at death's door with the fever, Griffeth had never
recovered the robustness of health which had hitherto been the
characteristic of the Dynevor brothers all their lives. He was active
and energetic when the fit was on him, but he wearied soon of any active
sport. He could no longer bound up the mountain paths with the fleetness
and elasticity of a mountain deer, and in the keen air of the higher
peaks it was difficult for him to breathe.
Still in the summer days he was almost his former self again, or so
Wendot hoped; and although Griffeth's lack of rude health hindered both
from joining the long expeditions planned and carried out by the twins,
it never occurred to Wendot to suspect that there was an ulterior motive
for these, or to realize how unwelcome his presence would have been had
he volunteered it, in lieu of staying behind with Griffeth, and
contenting himself with less adventurous sports.
Spring turned to summer, and summer to autumn, and life at Dynevor
seemed to move quietly enough. Griffeth took a fancy to book learning --
a rare enough accomplishment in those days -- and a monk from the Abbey
of Strata Florida was procured to give him instruction in the obscure
science of reading and writing. Wendot, who had a natural love of study,
and who had been taught something of these mysteries by his mother --
she being for the age she lived in a very cultivated woman -- shared his
brother's studies, and delighted in the acquirement of learning.
But this new development on the part of the Lord of Dynevor and his
brother seemed to divide them still more from the two remaining sons of
Res Vychan; and the old bard would solemnly shake his head and predict
certain ruin to the house when its master laid aside sword for pen, and
looked for counsel to the monk and missal instead of to his good right
hand and his faithful band of armed retainers.
Wendot and Griffeth would smile at these dark sayings, and loved their
studies none the less because they opened out before them some better
understanding of the blessings of peace and culture upon a world harried
and exhausted with perpetual, aimless strife; but their more enlightened
opinions seemed but to widen the breach between them and their brothers,
and soon they began to be almost strangers to each other.
Wendot and Griffeth regretted this without seeing how to mend matters.
They felt sorry for Llewelyn and Howel, deprived of the employments and
authority they had enjoyed of late, and would have gladly given them a
share of authority in Dynevor; but this they would not accept, drawing
more and more away into themselves, and sharing their confidences with
no one except Wenwynwyn.
The summer was now on the wane, and the blustering winds of the equinox
had begun to moan about the castle walls. The men were busy getting in
the last of the fruits of the earth and storing them up against the
winter need, whilst the huntsmen brought in day by day stores of venison
and game, which the women salted down for consumption during the long
dreary days when snow should shut them within their own walls, and no
fresh meat would be obtainable.
It was a busy season, and Wendot had time and mind alike full. He heeded
little the movements of his brothers, whom he thought engrossed in the
pleasures of the chase. He was not even aware that old Wenwynwyn was
absent for several days from the castle, for since the estrangement
between him and the old man he was often days at a time without
Llewelyn and Howel were visibly restless just now. They did not go far
from the castle, nor did they seem interested in the spoil the hunters
brought home. But they spent many long hours in the great gallery where
the arms of the retainers were laid up, and their heads were often to be
seen close together in deep discussion, although if any person came near
to disturb them they would spring asunder, or begin loudly discussing
some indifferent theme.
They were in this vast, gloomy place, sitting together in the deep
embrasure of one of the narrow windows as the daylight began to fail,
when suddenly they beheld Wenwynwyn stalking through the long gallery as
if in search of them, and they sprang forward to greet him with
"Thou hast returned."
"Ay, my sons, I have returned, and am the bearer of good news. But this
is not the place to speak. Stones have ears, and traitors abound even in
these hoary walls which have echoed to the songs of the bard for more
years than man can count. Ah, woe the day; ah, woe the falling off! That
I should live to see the sons of Dynevor thus fall away -- the young
eaglets leaving their high estate to grovel with the carrion vulture and
the coward crow! Ah! in old days it was not so. But there are yet those
of the degenerate race in whom the spirit of their fathers burns. Come,
my sons -- come hither with me. I bring you a message from Iscennen that
will gladden your hearts to hear."
The boys pressed after him up the narrow, winding stair that led to the
room the bard called his own. It was remote from the rest of the castle,
and words spoken within its walls could be heard by none outside. It was
a place that had heard much plotting and planning ere now, and what was
to be spoken tonight was but the sequel of what had gone before.
"Speak, Wenwynwyn, speak!" cried the twins in a breath. "Has he returned
"Ay, my sons; he has come back in person to receive his 'dues,' and to
look into all that has passed in his absence. These eyes have seen the
false, smiling face of the usurper, who sits in the halls which have
rung to the sound of yon harp in days when the accursed foot of the
stranger would have been driven with blows from the door. He is there,
"And they hate and despise and contemn him," cried Llewelyn in wild
excitement. "Every man of Iscennen is his foe. Do not I know it? Have we
not proved it? There is no one but will rise at the sound of my trumpet,
to follow me to victory or death.
"Wenwynwyn, speak! thou hast bid us wait till the hour has come till all
things be ripe for action. Tell us, has not that hour come? Hast thou
not come to bid us draw the sword, and wrest our rightful inheritance
from the hand of the spoiler and alien?"
"Ay, verily, that hour has come," cried the old bard, with a wild
gesture. "The spoiler is there, lurking in his den. His eyes are roving
round in hungry greed to spoil the poor man of his goods, to wrest the
weapon from the strong. He is fearful in the midst of his state --
fearful of those he calls his vassals -- those he would crush with his
iron glove, and wring dry even as a sponge is wrung. Ay, the hour is
come. The loyal patriots have looked upon your faces, my sons, and see
in you their liberators. Go now, when the traitor whose life you saved
is gloating over his spoil in his castle walls. Go and show him what it
is to rob the young lions of their prey; show him what it is to strive
with eagles, when only the blood of the painted jay runs in his craven
veins. Saw I not fear, distrust, and hatred in every line of that smooth
face? Think you that he is happy in the possession of what he sold his
soul to gain? Go, and the victory will be yours. Go; all Iscennen will
be with you. Wenwynwyn has not sung his songs in vain amongst those
hardy people! He has prepared the way. Go! victory lies before you."
The boys' hearts swelled within them at these words. It was not for
nothing that they, with their own faithful followers, sworn to secrecy,
had absented themselves again and again from Dynevor Castle on the
pretence of long hunting expeditions. It was true that they had hunted
game, that they had brought home abundance of spoil with them; but
little had Llewelyn or Howel to do with the taking of that prey. They
had been at Iscennen; they had travelled the familiar tracks once again,
and had found nothing but the most enthusiastic welcome from their own
people, the greatest hatred for the foreign lordling, who had been
foisted upon them by edict of the king.
Truly Raoul Latimer had won but a barren triumph in gaining for himself
the lands of Iscennen. A very short residence there had proved enough
for him, and he had withdrawn, in fear that if he did not do so some
fatal mischance would befall him. He had reigned there as an absentee
ever since, not less cursed and hated for the oppressive measures taken
in his name than when he had been the active agent.
Matters were ripe for revolt. There only wanted the time and the
occasion. The leader was already to hand -- the old lord, young in
years, Llewelyn ap Res Vychan, and Howel his brother. With the twins at
their head, Iscennen would rise to a man; and then let Raoul Latimer
look to himself! For the Welsh, when once aroused to strike, struck
hard; and it cannot be denied that they ofttimes struck treacherously
Small wonder if, as Wenwynwyn declared, young Raoul had found but small
satisfaction in his visit to his new estate, and lived upon it in terror
of his very life, though surrounded by the solid walls of his own castle.
The hour had come. Llewelyn and Howel were about to taste the keen joy
of revenging themselves upon a foe they hated and abhorred, about to
take at least one step towards reinstating themselves in their ancestral
halls. But the second object was really less dear to them than the
first. If the hated Raoul could be slain, or made to fly in ignominy and
disgrace, they cared little who reigned in his place. Their own tenure
at Carregcennen under existing circumstances they knew to be most
insecure, and although they had organized and were to lead the attack,
they were to do so disguised, and those who knew the share they were to
take were pledged not to betray it.
Loose as had grown the bond between the brothers of late, the twins were
not devoid of a certain rude code of honour of their own, and had no
wish to involve Wendot in ruin and disgrace. He was surety for their
good behaviour, and if it became known to Edward that they had led the
attack on one of his English subjects, Dynevor itself might pay the
forfeit of his displeasure, and Wendot might have to answer with his
life, as he had offered to do, for his brothers. Thus, though this
consideration was not strong enough to keep the twins from indulging
their ungovernable hatred to their foe, it made them cautious about
openly appearing in the matter themselves; and when, upon a wild,
blustering night not many days later, a little band of hardy Welshmen,
all armed to the teeth, crept with the silent caution of wild beasts
along a rocky pathway which led by a subterranean way, known only to
Llewelyn and Howel, into the keep of the castle itself; none would have
recognized in the blackened faces of the two leaders, covered, as they
appeared to be, with a tangled growth of hair and beard, the
countenances of the sons of Res Vychan; whilst the stalwart, muscular
figures seemed rather to belong to men than lads, and assisted the
disguise not a little.
The hot-headed but by no means intrepid young Englishman, who had not
had the courage to remain long in the possessions he had coveted, and
who was fervently wishing that this second visit was safely over, was
aroused from his slumbers by the clash of arms, and by the terrified
cries of the guard he always placed about him.
"The Welsh wolves are upon us!" he heard a voice cry out in the
darkness. "We are undone -- betrayed! Every man for himself! They are
murdering every soul they meet."
In a passion of rage and terror Raoul sprang from his bed, and commenced
hurrying into his clothes as fast as his trembling hands would allow
him. In vain he called to his servants; they had every man of them fled.
Below he heard the clash of arms, and the terrible guttural cries with
which the Welsh always rushed into battle, and which echoed through the
halls of Carregcennen like the trump of doom.
It was a terrible moment for the young Englishman, alone, half-armed,
and at the mercy of a merciless foe. He looked wildly round for some
means of escape. The tread of many feet was on the stairs. To attempt
resistance was hopeless. Flight was the only resource left him, and in a
mad impulse of terror he flung himself on the floor, and crept beneath
the bed, the arras of which concealed him from sight. There he lay
panting and trembling, whilst the door was burst open and armed men came
"Ha, flown already!" cried a voice which did not seem entirely
unfamiliar to the shivering youth, though he could not have said exactly
to whom it belonged, and was in no mood to cudgel his brains on the subject.
He understood too little of the Welsh tongue to follow what was said,
but with unspeakable relief he heard steps pass from the room; for even
his foes did not credit him with the cowardice which would drive a man
to perish like a rat in a hole rather than sword in hand like a knight
and a soldier.
The men had dashed out, hot in pursuit, believing him to be attempting
escape through some of the many outlets of the castle; and Raoul, still
shivering and craven, was just creeping out from his hiding place,
resolved to try to find his way to the outer world, when he uttered a
gasp and stood or rather crouched spellbound where he was; for, standing
beside a table on which the dim light of a night candle burned, binding
up a gash in his arm with a scarf belonging to the Englishman, was a
tall, stalwart, soldierly figure, that turned quickly at the sound made
by the wretched Raoul.
"Spare me, spare me!" cried the miserable youth, as the man with a quick
movement grasped his weapon and advanced towards him.
He did not know if his English would be understood, but it appeared to
be, for the reply was spoken in the same tongue, though the words had
strong Welsh accent.
"And wherefore should I spare you? What have you done that we of
Iscennen should look upon you as other than a bitter foe? By what right
are you here wringing our life blood from us? Why should I not stamp the
miserable life out of you as you lie grovelling at my feet? Wales were
well quit of such craven hounds as you."
"Spare me, and I renounce my claim. I swear by all that is holy that if
you will but grant me my life I will repair to the king's court without
delay, and I will yield up to him every claim which I have on these
lands. I swear it by all that is holy in heaven and earth."
"And what good shall we reap from that? We shall but have another
English tyrant set over us. Better kill thee outright, as a warning to
all who may come after."
But Raoul clasped the knees of his foe, and lifted his voice again in
"Kill me not; what good would that do you or your cause? I tell you it
would but raise Edward's ire, and he would come with fire and sword to
devastate these lands as I have never done. Listen, and I will tell you
what I will do. Spare but my life, and I will entreat the king to
restore these lands to your feudal lords, Llewelyn and Howel ap Res
Vychan. It was by my doing that they were wrested from them. I confess
it freely now. Grant me but my life, and I will undo the work I have
done. I will restore to you your youthful chiefs. Again I swear it; and
I have the ear of his Grace. If thou hast thy country's cause at heart
thou wilt hear me in this thing. I will give you back the lords you all
love. I will trouble you no more myself. I would I had never seen this
evil place. It has been nought but a curse to me from the day it was
The man uttered a harsh laugh, and stood as if considering. Raoul, whose
eyes never left the shining blade his foe held suspended in his hand,
pleaded yet more and more eloquently, and, as it seemed, with some
effect, for the soldier presently sheathed his weapon, and bid the
wretched youth rise and follow him. Raoul obeying, soon found himself in
the presence of a wild crew of Welsh kerns, who were holding high
revelry in the banqueting hall, whilst his own English servants --
those, at least, who had not effected their escape -- lay dead upon the
ground, the presence of bleeding corpses at their very feet doing
nothing to check the savage mirth and revelry of the victors, who had
been joined by the whole of the Welsh garrison, only too glad of an
excuse for rising against the usurper.
A silence fell upon the company as the dark-bearded soldier marched his
captive into the hall, the yell of triumph being hushed by commanding
gesture from the captor. A long and unintelligible debate followed,
Raoul only gathering from the faces of those present what were their
feelings towards him. He stood cowering and quaking before that fierce
assembly -- a pitiful object for all eyes. But at length his captor
briefly informed him that his terms were accepted: that if he would
write his request to the king and obtain its fulfilment, he should go
free with a whole skin; but that, pending the negotiation, which could
be carried on by the fathers of the Abbey of Strata Florida, he would
remain a close prisoner, and his ransom would be the king's consent.
These were the best terms the unhappy Raoul could obtain for himself,
and he was forced to abide by them. The fathers of the abbey were honest
and trustworthy, and carried his letters to the king as soon as they had
penned them for him. Raoul was clever in diplomatic matters, and was so
anxious for his own safety that he took good care not to drop a hint as
to the evil conduct of the people of Iscennen, which might draw upon
them the royal wrath and upon him instant death. He simply represented
that he was weary of his charge of this barren estate, that he preferred
life in England and at the court, and found the revenues very barren and
unprofitable. As the former owners had redeemed their character by quiet
conduct during the past year and a half, his gracious Majesty, he
hinted, might be willing to gratify them and their people by reinstating
And when Edward read this report, and heard the opinion of the father
who had brought it -- a wily and a patriotic Welshman, who knew how to
plead his cause well -- he made no trouble about restoring to Llewelyn
and Howel their lands, only desiring that Wendot should renew his pledge
for their loyalty and good conduct, and still hold himself responsible
for his brothers to the king.
And so Llewelyn and Howel went back to Carregcennen, and Wendot and
Griffeth remained at Dynevor, hoping with a fond hope that this act of
clemency and justice on the part of Edward would overcome in the mind of
the twins the deeply-seated hatred they had cherished so long.
CHAPTER IX. THE RED FLAME OF WAR.
"Wendot, Wendot, it is our country's call! Thou canst not hang back.
United we stand; divided we fall. Will the Prince of Dynevor be the man
to bring ruin upon a noble cause, by banding with the alien oppressor
against his own brethren? I will not believe it of thee. Wendot, speak
-- say that thou wilt go with us!"
Wendot was standing in his own hall at Dynevor. In the background was a
crowd of retainers and soldiers, so eagerly discussing some matter of
vital interest that the brothers stepped outside upon the battlemented
terrace to be out of hearing of the noise of their eager voices.
There was a deep gravity on Wendot's face, which was no longer the face
of a boy, but of a youth of two-and-twenty summers, and one upon whom
the cares and responsibilities of life had sat somewhat heavily. The
tall, well-knit frame had taken upon it the stature and developed grace
of manhood; the sun-browned face was lined with traces of thought and
care, though the blue eyes sparkled with their old bright and ready
smile, and the stern lines of the lips were shaded and hidden by the
drooping moustache of golden brown. There were majesty, power, and
intellect stamped upon the face of the young Lord of Dynevor, and it was
very plain to all who observed his relations with those about him that
he was master of his own possession, and that though he was greatly
beloved by all who came in contact with him, he was respected and
obeyed, and in some things feared.
By his side stood Griffeth, almost as much his shadow as of yore. To a
casual observer the likeness between the brothers was very remarkable,
but a closer survey showed many points of dissimilarity. Griffeth's
figure was slight to spareness, and save in moments of excitement there
was something of languor in his movements. The colour in his cheeks was
not the healthy brown of exposure to sun and wind, but the fleeting
hectic flush of long-standing insidious disease, and his eyes had a
far-away look -- dreamy and absorbed; whilst those of his brother
expressed rather watchful observation of what went on around him, and
resolution to mould those about him to his will.
Facing this fair-haired pair were the twin Lords of Iscennen,
considerably changed from the sullen-looking lads of old days, but still
with many of their characteristics unchanged. They were taller and more
stoutly built than Wendot and Griffeth, and their dark skins and
coal-black hair gave something of ferocity and wildness to their
appearance, which look was borne out by the style of dress adopted,
whilst the young Lords of Dynevor affected something of the refinement
and richness of apparel introduced by the English.
For the past years a friendly intercourse had been kept up between
Dynevor and Carregcennen. The country had been at peace -- such peace as
internal dissensions would allow it -- and no one had disturbed the sons
of Res Vychan in the possession of their ancestral rights. The tie
between the brothers had therefore been more closely drawn, and Wendot's
responsibility for the submissive behaviour of the turbulent twins had
made him keep a constant eye upon them, and had withheld them on their
side from attempting to foment the small and fruitless struggles against
English authority which were from time to time arising between the
border-land chief and the Lords of the Marches.
But now something very different was in the wind. After almost five
years of peace with England, revolt had broken out in North Wales.
David, the brother of Llewelyn, had commenced it, and the prince had
followed the example thus set him. He had broken out into open
rebellion, and had summoned the whole nation to stand by him in one
united and gallant effort to free the country from the foreign foe, and
unite it once again as an undivided province beneath the rule of one
The call was enthusiastically responded to. North Wales rose as one man,
and flocked to the banners of the prince and his brother. South Wales
was feeling the contagion of coming strife, and the pulse of the nation
beat wildly at the thought that they might win liberty by the overthrow
of the foe. One after another the petty chiefs, who had sworn fealty to
Edward, renounced their allegiance, and mustered their forces to join
those of Llewelyn and David. The whole country was in a wild ferment of
patriotic excitement. The hour seemed to them to have arrived when all
could once again band together in triumphant vindication of their
Llewelyn and Howel ap Res Vychan were amongst the first to tender their
allegiance to the cause, and, having sent on a compact band of armed men
to announce their coming in person, had themselves hurried to Dynevor to
persuade their brothers there to join the national cause.
And they found Wendot less indisposed than they had feared. The five
years which had passed over his head since he had fallen under the spell
of the English king's regal sway had a good deal weakened the impression
then made upon him. Edward had not visited the country in person since
that day, and the conduct of the English Lords of the Marches, and of
those who held lands in the subjected country, was not such as to endear
their cause to the hearts of the sons of Wales. Heart-burnings and
jealousies were frequent, and Wendot had often had his spirit stirred
within him at some tale of outrage and wrong. The upright justice of the
king was not observed by his subjects, and the hatred to any kind of
foreign yoke was inherently strong in these sons of the mountains. In
the studies the Dynevor brothers had prosecuted together they had
imbibed many noble thoughts and many lofty aspirations, and these,
mingling with the patriotic instinct so strongly bound up in the hearts
of Cambria's sons, had taught them a distrust of princes and an intense
love for freedom's cause, as well as a strong conviction that right must
ever triumph over might.
So when the news arrived that the north was in open revolt, it struck a
chord in the hearts of both brothers; and when the dark-browed twins
came with the news that they had openly joined the standard of Llewelyn,
they did not encounter the opposition they had expected, and it was with
an eager hopefulness that they urged upon the Lord of Dynevor to lend
the strength of his arm to the national cause.
"Wendot, bethink thee. When was not Dynevor in the van when her country
called on her? If thou wilt go with us, we shall carry all the south
with us; but hang thou back, and the cause may be lost. Brother, why
dost thou hesitate? why dost thou falter? It is the voice of thy country
calling thee. Wilt thou not heed that call? O Wendot, thou knowest that
when our parents lived -- when they bid us not look upon the foe with
too great bitterness -- it was only because a divided Wales could not
stand, and that submission to England was better than the rending of the
kingdom by internal strife. But if she would have stood united against
the foreign foe, thinkest thou they would ever have held back? Nay; Res
Vychan, our father, would have been foremost in the strife. Are we not
near in blood to Llewelyn of Wales, prince of the north? Doth not the
tie of blood as well as the call of loyalty urge us to his side? Why
dost thou ponder still? Why dost thou hesitate? Throw to the wind all
idle scruples, and come. Think what a glorious future may lie before our
country if we will but stand together now!"
Wendot's cheek flushed, his eye kindled. He did indeed believe that were
his father living he would be one of the first to hasten to his
kinsman's side. If indeed the united country could be strong enough to
throw off the yoke, what a victory it would be! Was not every son of
Wales bound to his country's cause at such a time?
There was but one thing that made him hesitate. Was his word of honour
in any wise pledged to Edward? He had paid him homage for his lands: did
that act bind him to obedience at all costs?
But such refinements of honour were in advance of the thought of the
time, incomprehensible to the wilder spirits by whom he was surrounded.
Llewelyn answered the brief objection by a flood of rude eloquence, and
Howel struck in with another argument not without its weight.
"Wendot, whatever course thou takest thou art damned in Edward's eyes.
Thou hast held thyself surety for us, and nought but death will hold us
back from the cry of our country in her need. Envious eyes are cast
already by the rapacious English upon these fair lands of thine, which
these years of peace have given thee opportunity to enrich and beautify.
Let the king once hear that we have rebelled, and his nobles will claim
thy lands, thy life, thy liberty, and thou must either yield all in
ignominious flight or take up arms to defend thyself and thine own. I
trow that no son of Res Vychan will stand calmly by to see himself thus
despoiled; and if thou must fight, fight now, forestall the foe, and
come out sword in hand at thy country's call, and let us fight shoulder
to shoulder and hand to hand, as our forefathers have done before us.
Thou knowest somewhat of English rule, now that thou hast lived beneath
it these past years. Say, wilt thou still keep thy neck beneath the
yoke, or wilt thou do battle like a warrior for liberty and
independence? By our act thou art lost -- yet not even that thought can
hold us back -- then why not stand or fall as a soldier, sword in hand,
than be trapped like a rat in a hole in inglorious inaction? For
methinks whatever else betided thou wouldst not raise thy hand against
thy countrymen, even if thy feudal lord should demand it of thee."
"Never!" cried Wendot fiercely, and his quick mind revolved the
situation thus thrust upon him whilst Howel was yet speaking.
He saw at once that a course of neutrality would be impossible to him.
Fight he must, either as Edward's vassal or his foe. The first was
impossible; the second was fraught with a keen joy and secret sense of
exultation. It was true what Howel said: he would be held responsible
for his brothers' revolt. The English harpies would make every endeavour
to poison the king's mind, so that they might wrest from him his
inheritance. He would be required to take up arms against his brothers,
and his refusal to do so would be his death warrant. Disgrace and ruin
lay before him should he abide by such a course. The other promised at
least glory and renown, and perhaps a soldier's death, or, better still,
the independence of his country -- the final throwing off of the
His heart swelled within him; his eyes shone with a strange fire. Only
one thought checked the immediate utterance of his decision, and that
was the vision of a pair of dark soft eyes, and a child's face in which
something of dawning womanhood was visible, smiling upon him in complete
and loving trust.
Yes, Wendot had not forgotten Gertrude; but time had done its work, and
the image of the fair face was somewhat dim and hazy. He yet wore about
his neck the half of the gold coin she had given him; but if he
sometimes sighed as he looked upon it, it was a sigh without much real
bitterness or regret. He had a tender spot in his memory for the little
maid he had saved at the risk of his own life, but it amounted to little
more than a pleasant memory. He had no doubt that she had long ago been
wedded to some English noble, whose estates outshone those of Dynevor in
her father's eyes.
During the first years after his return home he had wondered somewhat
whether the earl and his daughter would find their way again to the rich
valley of the Towy; but the years passed by and they came not, and the
brief dream of Wendot's dawning youth soon ceased to have any real hold
upon him. If her father had had any thoughts of mating her with the Lord
of Dynevor, he would have taken steps for bringing the young people
The last doubt fled as Wendot thought this over; and whilst his brothers
yet spoke, pointing to the rich stretch of country that lay before their
eyes in all the glory of its autumn dress, and asking if that were not
an inheritance worthy to be fought for, Wendot suddenly held out his
hand, and said in clear, ringing tones:
"Brothers, I go with you. I too will give my life and my all for the
liberty of our land. The Lord of Dynevor shall not be slack to respond
to his country's call. Methinks indeed the hour has come. I will follow
our kinsman whithersoever he shall bid."
Llewelyn and Howel grasped the outstretched hand, and from within the
castle walls there burst forth the strains of wild melody from the harp
of old Wenwynwyn. It seemed almost as though he must have heard the
words that bound Wendot to the national cause, so exultant and
triumphant were the strains which awoke beneath his hands.
It was but a few days later that the four brothers rode forth from
beneath the arched gateway of Dynevor, all armed to the teeth, and with
a goodly following of armed attendants. Wendot and Griffeth paused at a
short distance from the castle to look back, whilst a rush of strange
and unwonted emotion brought the tears to Griffeth's eyes which he
trusted none saw beside.
There stood the grand old castle, his home from childhood -- the place
around which all the associations of a lifetime gathered. It was to him
the ideal of all that was beautiful and strong and even holy -- the
massive walls of the fortress rising grandly from the rocky platform,
with the dark background of trees now burning with the rich hues of
autumn. The fair valley stretched before their eyes, every winding of
which was familiar to them, as was also every individual tree or crag or
stretch of moorland fell as far as eye could see. The very heart strings
of Wendot and Griffeth seemed bound round these homelike and familiar
things; and there was something strangely wistful in the glances thrown
around him by the young Lord of Dynevor as he reined in his horse, and
motioning to the armed followers to pass him, stood with Griffeth for a
few brief moments alone and silent, whilst the cavalcade was lost to
sight in the windings of the road.
"Is it a last farewell?" murmured the younger of the brothers beneath
his breath. "Shall I ever see this fair scene again?"
And Wendot answered not, for he had no words in which to do so. He had
been fully occupied all these last days -- too much occupied to have had
time for regretful thought; but Griffeth had been visiting every haunt
of his boyhood with strange feelings of impending trouble, and his cheek
was pale with the stress of his emotion, and his voice was husky with
the intensity of the strain he was putting upon himself.
"Griffeth, Griffeth!" cried Wendot suddenly, "have I done wrong in this
thing? I asked not thy gentle counsel, yet thou didst not bid me hold
back. But tell me, have I been wrong? Could I have done other than I have?"
"I think not that thou couldst. This seems like a call from our country,
to which no son of hers may be deaf. And it is true that our brothers
have undone thee, and that even wert thou not willing to take up arms
against them and thy countrymen, the rupture with Edward is inevitable.
No, I am with thee in what thou hast done. The Lord of Dynevor must show
himself strong in defence of his country's rights.
"Yet my heart is heavy as I look around me. For we are going forth to
danger and death, and who knows what may betide ere we see these fair
lands again, or whether we may ever return to see them more?"
Wendot would fain have replied with cheerful assurance, but a strange
rush of emotion came over him as he gazed at his childhood's home,
together with a sudden strong presentiment that there was something
prophetic in his brother's words. He gazed upon the gray battlements and
the brawling river with a passionate ardour in his glance, and then
turning quickly upon Griffeth, he said:
"Brother, why shouldst thou leave it? thou art more fit for the safe
shelter of home than for the strife of a winter war. Why shouldst thou
come forth with us? Let us leave thee here in safety --"
It was but one word, but the volume of reproach compressed into it
brought Wendot to a sudden stop. They looked into each other's eyes a
moment, and then Griffeth said, with his sweet, meaning smile:
"We have never been separated yet, my Wendot; in sorrow and joy we have
ever been together. It is too late to change all that now. I will be by
thy side to the end. Be it for life or for death we will ride forth
And so with one hard hand clasp that spoke volumes, and with one more
long, lingering look at the familiar towers of the old home, Wendot and
Griffeth, the Lords of Dynevor, rode forth to meet their fate at the
hands of the mighty English king.
Of that sudden, fierce, and partially successful revolt the history
books of the age give account. Llewelyn and his brother David, joined by
the whole strength of the North, and by much able assistance from the
South, drove back the English across the border; and when Edward,
hurrying to the spot, marched against them, his army was utterly routed
near the Menai Straits, and the triumphant Welsh believed for a few
brief months that they were victors indeed, and that the power of the
foe was hopelessly broken.
Llewelyn with his army retired to the fastnesses of Snowdon, where the
English durst not pursue them, and these less hardy soldiers suffered so
terribly in the winter cold that the mortality in their ranks caused the
triumphant mountaineers to prophesy that their work would be done for
them without any more exertion on their part.
But the lion-hearted King of England was not of the stuff that easily
submits to defeat. He knew well that Wales was in his power, and that he
had but to exercise patience and resolution, and the final victory would
Permitting no relaxation of his efforts in the North, even when the
winter's bitter cold was causing untold sufferings amongst his soldiers,
he commenced a muster of troops in the South, from which country most of
the disaffected nobles had drawn away to join the insurgents under the
Prince of Wales, as Llewelyn was called. It was a shock of no small
magnitude to that prince to hear that his foe was thus employing
himself; and leaving the fastnesses of Snowdon with a picked band of his
hardiest men, amongst whom he numbered Llewelyn and Howel, he marched
southward himself, hoping to overthrow this new force before it had
gathered power sufficient to be dangerous.
Wendot would gladly have been of the number, for inaction, and the rude
barbarism he saw around him, were inexpressibly galling to him; and the
more he saw of the savage spirits by whom he was surrounded the less he
was able to hope for any permanent advantage as the result of this
rising. The jealousies of the respective chiefs were hardly held in
check even in the face of a common peril. It was impossible not to
foresee that the termination of a war with England would only be the
signal for an outbreak of innumerable petty animosities and hostile feuds.
So Wendot would have been thankful to escape from this irksome
inactivity, and to join the band going south; but the condition of
Griffeth withheld him, for the youth was very ill, and he often felt
that this winter of hardship up in the mountain air was killing him by
inches, although he never complained.