Part 4 out of 8
All this while the King was hastily clothing himself, and, with
the last word, snatched his sword from the pillar of the tent,
and without any other weapon, or calling any attendance, he
rushed out of his pavilion. Conrade, holding up his hands as if
in astonishment, seemed willing to enter into conversation with
De Vaux; but Sir Thomas pushed rudely past him, and calling to
one of the royal equerries, said hastily, "Fly to Lord
Salisbury's quarters, and let him get his men together and follow
me instantly to Saint George's Mount. Tell him the King's fever
has left his blood and settled in his brain."
Imperfectly heard, and still more imperfectly comprehended, by
the startled attendant whom De Vaux addressed thus hastily, the
equerry and his fellow-servants of the royal chamber rushed
hastily into the tents of the neighbouring nobility, and quickly
spread an alarm, as general as the cause seemed vague, through
the whole British forces. The English soldiers, waked in alarm
from that noonday rest which the heat of the climate had taught
them to enjoy as a luxury, hastily asked each other the cause of
the tumult, and without waiting an answer, supplied by the force
of their own fancy the want of information. Some said the
Saracens were in the camp, some that the King's life was
attempted, some that he had died of the fever the preceding
night, many that he was assassinated by the Duke of Austria. The
nobles and officers, at an equal loss with the common men to
ascertain the real cause of the disorder, laboured only to get
their followers under arms and under authority, lest their
rashness should occasion some great misfortune to the Crusading
army. The English trumpets sounded loud, shrill, and
continuously. The alarm-cry of "Bows and bills, bows and bills!"
was heard from quarter to quarter, again and again shouted, and
again and again answered by the presence of the ready warriors,
and their national invocation, "Saint George for merry England!"
The alarm went through the nearest quarter of the camp, and men
of all the various nations assembled, where, perhaps, every
people in Christendom had their representatives, flew to arms,
and drew together under circumstances of general confusion, of
which they knew neither the cause nor the object. It was,
however, lucky, amid a scene so threatening, that the Earl of
Salisbury, while he hurried after De Vaux's summons with a few
only of the readiest English men-at-arms, directed the rest of
the English host to be drawn up and kept under arms, to advance
to Richard's succour if necessity should require, but in fit
array and under due command, and not with the tumultuary haste
which their own alarm and zeal for the King's safety might have
In the meanwhile, without regarding for one instant the shouts,
the cries, the tumult which began to thicken around him, Richard,
with his dress in the last disorder, and his sheathed blade under
his arm, pursued his way with the utmost speed, followed only by
De Vaux and one or two household servants, to Saint George's
He outsped even the alarm which his impetuosity only had excited,
and passed the quarter of his own gallant troops of Normandy,
Poitou, Gascony, and Anjou before the disturbance had reached
them, although the noise accompanying the German revel had
induced many of the soldiery to get on foot to listen. The
handful of Scots were also quartered in the vicinity, nor had
they been disturbed by the uproar. But the King's person and his
haste were both remarked by the Knight of the Leopard, who, aware
that danger must be afoot, and hastening to share in it, snatched
his shield and sword, and united himself to De Vaux, who with
some difficulty kept pace with his impatient and fiery master.
De Vaux answered a look of curiosity, which the Scottish knight
directed towards him, with a shrug of his broad shoulders, and
they continued, side by side, to pursue Richard's steps.
The King was soon at the foot of Saint George's Mount, the sides
as well as platform of which were now surrounded and crowded,
partly by those belonging to the Duke of Austria's retinue, who
were celebrating, with shouts of jubilee, the act which they
considered as an assertion of national honour; partly by
bystanders of different nations, whom dislike to the English, or
mere curiosity, had assembled together to witness the end of
these extraordinary proceedings. Through this disorderly troop
Richard burst his way, like a goodly ship under full sail, which
cleaves her forcible passage through the rolling billows, and
heeds not that they unite after her passage and roar upon her
The summit of the eminence was a small level space, on which were
pitched the rival banners, surrounded still by the Archduke's
friends and retinue. In the midst of the circle was Leopold
himself, still contemplating with self-satisfaction the deed he
had done, and still listening to the shouts of applause which his
partisans bestowed with no sparing breath. While he was in this
state of self-gratulation, Richard burst into the circle,
attended, indeed, only by two men, but in his own headlong
energies an irresistible host.
"Who has dared," he said, laying his hands upon the Austrian
standard, and speaking in a voice like the sound which precedes
an earthquake--"Who has dared to place this paltry rag beside the
banner of England?"
The Archduke wanted not personal courage, and it was impossible
he could hear this question without reply. Yet so much was he
troubled and surprised by the unexpected arrival of Richard, and
affected by the general awe inspired by his ardent and unyielding
character, that the demand was twice repeated, in a tone which
seemed to challenge heaven and earth, ere the Archduke replied,
with such firmness as he could command, "It was I, Leopold of
"Then shall Leopold of Austria," replied Richard, "presentry see
the rate at which his banner and his pretensions are held by
Richard of England."
So saying, he pulled up the standard-spear, splintered it to
pieces, threw the banner itself on the ground, and placed his
foot upon it.
"Thus," said he, "I trample on the banner of Austria. Is there a
knight among your Teutonic chivalry dare impeach my deed?"
There was a momentary silence; but there are no braver men than
"I," and "I," and "I," was heard from several knights of the
Duke"s followers; and he himself added his voice to those which
accepted the King of England's defiance.
"Why do we dally thus?" said the Earl Wallenrode, a gigantic
warrior from the frontiers of Hungary. "Brethren and noble
gentlemen, this man's foot is on the honour of your country--let
us rescue it from violation, and down with the pride of England!"
So saying, he drew his sword, and struck at the King a blow which
might have proved fatal, had not the Scot intercepted and caught
it upon his shield.
"I have sworn," said King Richard--and his voice was heard above
all the tumult, which now waxed wild and loud--"never to strike
one whose shoulder bears the cross; therefore live, Wallenrode
--but live to remember Richard of England."
As he spoke, he grasped the tall Hungarian round the waist, and,
unmatched in wrestling, as in other military exercises, hurled
him backwards with such violence that the mass flew as if
discharged from a military engine, not only through the ring of
spectators who witnessed the extraordinary scene, but over the
edge of the mount itself, down the steep side of which Wallenrode
rolled headlong, until, pitching at length upon his shoulder, he
dislocated the bone, and lay like one dead. This almost
supernatural display of strength did not encourage either the
Duke or any of his followers to renew a personal contest so
inauspiciously commenced. Those who stood farthest back did,
indeed, clash their swords, and cry out, "Cut the island mastiff
to pieces!" but those who were nearer veiled, perhaps, their
personal fears under an affected regard for order, and cried, for
the most part, "Peace! Peace! the peace of the Cross--the peace
of Holy Church and our Father the Pope!"
These various cries of the assailants, contradicting each other,
showed their irresolution; while Richard, his foot still on the
archducal banner, glared round him with an eye that seemed to
seek an enemy, and from which the angry nobles shrunk appalled,
as from the threatened grasp of a lion. De Vaux and the Knight
of the Leopard kept their places beside him; and though the
swords which they held were still sheathed, it was plain that
they were prompt to protect Richard's person to the very last,
and their size and remarkable strength plainly showed the defence
would be a desperate one.
Salisbury and his attendants were also now drawing near, with
bills and partisans brandished, and bows already bended.
At this moment King Philip of France, attended by one or two of
his nobles, came on the platform to inquire the cause of the
disturbance, and made gestures of surprise at finding the King of
England raised from his sick-bed, and confronting their common
ally, the Duke of Austria, in such a menacing and insulting
posture. Richard himself blushed at being discovered by Philip,
whose sagacity he respected as much as he disliked his person, in
an attitude neither becoming his character as a monarch, nor as a
Crusader; and it was observed that he withdrew his foot, as if
accidentally, from the dishonoured banner, and exchanged his look
of violent emotion for one of affected composure and
indifference. Leopold also struggled to attain some degree of
calmness, mortified as he was by having been seen by Philip in
the act of passively submitting to the insults of the fiery King
Possessed of many of those royal qualities for which he was
termed by his subjects the August, Philip might be termed the
Ulysses, as Richard was indisputably the Achilles, of the
Crusade. The King of France was sagacious, wise, deliberate in
council, steady and calm in action, seeing clearly, and steadily
pursuing, the measures most for the interest of his kingdom
--dignified and royal in his deportment, brave in person, but a
politician rather than a warrior. The Crusade would have been no
choice of his own; but the spirit was contagious, and the
expedition was enforced upon him by the church, and by the
unanimous wish of his nobility. In any other situation, or in a
milder age, his character might have stood higher than that of
the adventurous Coeur de Lion. But in the Crusade, itself an
undertaking wholly irrational, sound reason was the quality of
all others least estimated, and the chivalric valour which both
the age and the enterprise demanded was considered as debased if
mingled with the least touch of discretion. So that the merit of
Philip, compared with that of his haughty rival, showed like the
clear but minute flame of a lamp placed near the glare of a huge,
blazing torch, which, not possessing half the utility, makes ten
times more impression on the eye. Philip felt his inferiority in
public opinion with the pain natural to a high-spirited prince;
and it cannot be wondered at if he took such opportunities as
offered for placing his own character in more advantageous
contrast with that of his rival. The present seemed one of those
occasions in which prudence and calmness might reasonably expect
to triumph over obstinacy and impetuous violence.
"What means this unseemly broil betwixt the sworn brethren of the
Cross--the royal Majesty of England and the princely Duke
Leopold? How is it possible that those who are the chiefs and
pillars of this holy expedition--"
"A truce with thy remonstrance, France," said Richard, enraged
inwardly at finding himself placed on a sort of equality with
Leopold, yet not knowing how to resent it. "This duke, or
prince, or pillar, if you will, hath been insolent, and I have
chastised him--that is all. Here is a coil, forsooth, because of
spurning a hound!"
"Majesty of France," said the Duke, "I appeal to you and every
sovereign prince against the foul indignity which I have
sustained. This King of England hath pulled down my banner-torn
and trampled on it."
"Because he had the audacity to plant it beside mine," said
"My rank as thine equal entitled me," replied the Duke,
emboldened by the presence of Philip.
"Assert such equality for thy person," said King Richard, "and,
by Saint George, I will treat thy person as I did thy broidered
kerchief there, fit but for the meanest use to which kerchief may
"Nay, but patience, brother of England," said Philip, "and I will
presently show Austria that he is wrong in this matter.--Do not
think, noble Duke," he continued, "that, in permitting the
standard of England to occupy the highest point in our camp, we,
the independent sovereigns of the Crusade, acknowledge any
inferiority to the royal Richard. It were inconsistent to think
so, since even the Oriflamme itself--the great banner of France,
to which the royal Richard himself, in respect of his French
possessions, is but a vassal--holds for the present an inferior
place to the Lions of England. But as sworn brethren of the
Cross, military pilgrims, who, laying aside the pomp and pride of
this world, are hewing with our swords the way to the Holy
Sepulchre, I myself, and the other princes, have renounced to
King Richard, from respect to his high renown and great feats of
arms, that precedence which elsewhere, and upon other motives,
would not have been yielded. I am satisfied that, when your
royal grace of Austria shall have considered this, you will
express sorrow for having placed your banner on this spot, and
that the royal Majesty of England will then give satisfaction for
the insult he has offered."
The SPRUCH-SPRECHER and the jester had both retired to a safe
distance when matters seemed coming to blows; but returned when
words, their own commodity, seemed again about to become the
order of the day.
The man of proverbs was so delighted with Philip's politic speech
that he clashed his baton at the conclusion, by way of emphasis,
and forgot the presence in which he was, so far as to say aloud
that he himself had never said a wiser thing in his life.
"It may be so," whispered Jonas Schwanker, "but we shall be
whipped if you speak so loud."
The Duke answered sullenly that he would refer his quarrel to
the General Council of the Crusade--a motion which Philip highly
applauded, as qualified to take away a scandal most harmful to
Richard, retaining the same careless attitude, listened to Philip
until his oratory seemed exhausted, and then said aloud, "I am
drowsy--this fever hangs about me still. Brother of France, thou
art acquainted with my humour, and that I have at all times but
few words to spare. Know, therefore, at once, I will submit a
matter touching the honour of England neither to Prince, Pope,
nor Council. Here stands my banner--whatsoever pennon shall be
reared within three butts' length of it--ay, were it the
Oriflamme, of which you were, I think, but now speaking--shall be
treated as that dishonoured rag; nor will I yield other
satisfaction than that which these poor limbs can render in the
lists to any bold challenge--ay, were it against five champions
instead of one."
"Now," said the jester, whispering his companion, "that is as
complete a piece of folly as if I myself had said it; but yet, I
think, there may be in this matter a greater fool than Richard
"And who may that be?" asked the man of wisdom.
"Philip," said the jester, "or our own Royal Duke, should either
accept the challenge. But oh, most sage SPRUCH-SPECHER, what
excellent kings wouldst thou and I have made, since those on
whose heads these crowns have fallen can play the proverb-monger
and the fool as completely as ourselves!"
While these worthies plied their offices apart, Philip answered
calmly to the almost injurious defiance of Richard, "I came not
hither to awaken fresh quarrels, contrary to the oath we have
sworn, and the holy cause in which we have engaged. I part from
my brother of England as brothers should part, and the only
strife between the Lions of England and the Lilies of France
shall be which shall be carried deepest into the ranks of the
"It is a bargain, my royal brother," said Richard, stretching out
his hand with all the frankness which belonged to his rash but
generous disposition; "and soon may we have the opportunity to
try this gallant and fraternal wager."
"Let this noble Duke also partake in the friendship of this happy
moment," said Philip; and the Duke approached half-sullenly,
half-willing to enter into some accommodation.
"I think not of fools, nor of their folly," said Richard
carelessly; and the Archduke, turning his back on him, withdrew
from the ground.
Richard looked after him as he retired.
"There is a sort of glow-worm courage," he said, "that shows only
by night. I must not leave this banner unguarded in darkness; by
daylight the look of the Lions will alone defend it. Here,
Thomas of Gilsland, I give thee the charge of the standard--watch
over the honour of England."
"Her safety is yet more dear to me," said De Vaux, "and the life
of Richard is the safety of England. I must have your Highness
back to your tent, and that without further tarriance."
"Thou art a rough and peremptory nurse, De Vaux," said the king,
smiling; and then added, addressing Sir Kenneth, "Valiant Scot, I
owe thee a boon, and I will pay it richly. There stands the
banner of England! Watch it as novice does his armour on the
night before he is dubbed. Stir not from it three spears'
length, and defend it with thy body against injury or insult.
Sound thy bugle if thou art assailed by more than three at once.
Dost thou undertake the charge?"
"Willingly," said Kenneth; "and will discharge it upon penalty of
my head. I will but arm me, and return hither instantly."
The Kings of France and England then took formal leave of each
other, hiding, under an appearance of courtesy, the grounds of
complaint which either had against the other--Richard against
Philip, for what he deemed an officious interference betwixt him
and Austria, and Philip against Coeur de Lion, for the
disrespectful manner in which his mediation had been received.
Those whom this disturbance had assembled now drew off in
different directions, leaving the contested mount in the same
solitude which had subsisted till interrupted by the Austrian
bravado. Men judged of the events of the day according to their
partialities, and while the English charged the Austrian with
having afforded the first ground of quarrel, those of other
nations concurred in casting the greater blame upon the insular
haughtiness and assuming character of Richard.
"Thou seest," said the Marquis of Montserrat to the Grand Master
of the Templars, "that subtle courses are more effective than
violence. I have unloosed the bonds which held together this
bunch of sceptres and lances--thou wilt see them shortly fall
"I would have called thy plan a good one," said the Templar, "had
there been but one man of courage among yonder cold-blooded
Austrians to sever the bonds of which you speak with his sword.
A knot that is unloosed may again be fastened, but not so the
cord which has been cut to pieces."
'Tis woman that seduces all mankind. GAY.
In the days of chivalry, a dangerous post or a perilous adventure
was a reward frequently assigned to military bravery as a
compensation for its former trials; just as, in ascending a
precipice, the surmounting one crag only lifts the climber to
points yet more dangerous.
It was midnight, and the moon rode clear and high in heaven, when
Kenneth of Scotland stood upon his watch on Saint George's Mount,
beside the banner of England, a solitary sentinel, to protect the
emblem of that nation against the insults which might be
meditated among the thousands whom Richard's pride had made his
enemies. High thoughts rolled, one after each other, upon the
mind of the warrior. It seemed to him as if he had gained some
favour in the eyes of the chivalrous monarch, who till now had
not seemed to distinguish him among the crowds of brave men whom
his renown had assembled under his banner, and Sir Kenneth little
recked that the display of royal regard consisted in placing him
upon a post so perilous. The devotion of his ambitious and high-placed affection inflamed his military
enthusiasm. Hopeless as
that attachment was in almost any conceivable circumstances,
those which had lately occurred had, in some degree, diminished
the distance between Edith and himself. He upon whom Richard had
conferred the distinction of guarding his banner was no longer an
adventurer of slight note, but placed within the regard of a
princess, although he was as far as ever from her level. An
unknown and obscure fate could not now be his. If he was
surprised and slain on the post which had been assigned him, his
death--and he resolved it should be glorious--must deserve the
praises as well as call down the vengeance of Coeur de Lion, and
be followed by the regrets, and even the tears, of the high-born
beauties of the English Court. He had now no longer reason to
fear that he should die as a fool dieth.
Sir Kenneth had full leisure to enjoy these and similar high-souled thoughts, fostered by that wild spirit of
amid its most extravagant and fantastic flights, was still pure
from all selfish alloy--generous, devoted, and perhaps only thus
far censurable, that it proposed objects and courses of action
inconsistent with the frailties and imperfections of man. All
nature around him slept in calm moon-shine or in deep shadow.
The long rows of tents and pavilions, glimmering or darkening as
they lay in the moonlight or in the shade, were still and silent
as the streets of a deserted city. Beside the banner-staff lay
the large staghound already mentioned, the sole companion of
Kenneth's watch, on whose vigilance he trusted for early warning
of the approach of any hostile footstep. The noble animal seemed
to understand the purpose of their watch; for he looked from time
to time at the rich folds of the heavy pennon, and, when the cry
of the sentinels came from the distant lines and defences of the
camp, he answered them with one deep and reiterated bark, as if
to affirm that he too was vigilant in his duty. From time to
time, also, he lowered his lofty head, and wagged his tail, as
his master passed and repassed him in the short turns which he
took upon his post; or, when the knight stood silent and
abstracted leaning on his lance, and looking up towards heaven,
his faithful attendant ventured sometimes, in the phrase of
romance, "to disturb his thoughts," and awaken him from his
reverie, by thrusting his large rough snout into the knight's
gauntleted hand, to solicit a transitory caress.
Thus passed two hours of the knight's watch without anything
remarkable occurring. At length, and upon a sudden, the gallant
staghound bayed furiously, and seemed about to dash forward where
the shadow lay the darkest, yet waited, as if in the slips, till
he should know the pleasure of his master.
"Who goes there?" said Sir Kenneth, aware that there was
something creeping forward on the shadowy side of the mount.
"In the name of Merlin and Maugis," answered a hoarse,
disagreeable voice, "tie up your fourfooted demon there, or I
come not at you."
"And who art thou that would approach my post?" said Sir
Kenneth, bending his eyes as keenly as he could on some object,
which he could just observe at the bottom of the ascent, without
being able to distinguish its form. "Beware--I am here for death
"Take up thy long-fanged Sathanas," said the voice, "or I will
conjure him with a bolt from my arblast."
At the same time was heard the sound of a spring or check, as
when a crossbow is bent.
"Unbend thy arblast, and come into the moonlight," said the Scot,
"or, by Saint Andrew, I will pin thee to the earth, be what or
whom thou wilt!"
As he spoke he poised his long lance by the middle, and, fixing
his eye upon the object, which seemed to move, he brandished the
weapon, as if meditating to cast it from his hand--a use of the
weapon sometimes, though rarely, resorted to when a missile was
necessary. But Sir Kenneth was ashamed of his purpose, and
grounded his weapon, when there stepped from the shadow into the
moonlight, like an actor entering upon the stage, a stunted,
decrepit creature, whom, by his fantastic dress and deformity, he
recognized, even at some distance, for the male of the two dwarfs
whom he had seen in the chapel at Engaddi. Recollecting, at the
same moment, the other and far different visions of that
extraordinary night, he gave his dog a signal, which he instantly
understood, and, returning to the standard, laid himself down
beside it with a stifled growl.
The little, distorted miniature of humanity, assured of his
safety from an enemy so formidable, came panting up the ascent,
which the shortness of his legs rendered laborious, and, when he
arrived on the platform at the top, shifted to his left hand the
little crossbow, which was just such a toy as children at that
period were permitted to shoot small birds with, and, assuming an
attitude of great dignity, gracefully extended his right hand to
Sir Kenneth, in an attitude as if he expected he would salute it.
But such a result not following, he demanded, in a sharp and
angry tone of voice, "Soldier, wherefore renderest thou not to
Nectabanus the homage due to his dignity? Or is it possible that
thou canst have forgotten him?"
"Great Nectabanus," answered the knight, willing to soothe the
creature's humour, "that were difficult for any one who has ever
looked upon thee. Pardon me, however, that, being a soldier upon
my post, with my lance in my hand, I may not give to one of thy
puissance the advantage of coming within my guard, or of
mastering my weapon. Suffice it that I reverence thy dignity,
and submit myself to thee as humbly as a man-at-arms in my place
"It shall suffice," said Nectabanus, "so that you presently
attend me to the presence of those who have sent me hither to
"Great sir," replied the knight, "neither in this can I gratify
thee, for my orders are to abide by this banner till daybreak
--so I pray you to hold me excused in that matter also."
So saying, he resumed his walk upon the platform; but the dwarf
did not suffer him so easily to escape from his importunity.
"Look you," he said, placing himself before Sir Kenneth, so as to
interrupt his way, "either obey me, Sir Knight, as in duty bound,
or I will lay the command upon thee, in the name of one whose
beauty could call down the genii from their sphere, and whose
grandeur could command the immortal race when they had
A wild and improbable conjecture arose in the knight's mind, but
he repelled it. It was impossible, he thought, that the lady of
his love should have sent him such a message by such a messenger;
yet his voice trembled as he said, "Go to, Nectabanus. Tell me
at once, and as a true man, whether this sublime lady of whom
thou speakest be other than the houri with whose assistance I
beheld thee sweeping the chapel at Engaddi?"
"How! presumptuous Knight," replied the dwarf, "think'st thou
the mistress of our own royal affections, the sharer of our
greatness, and the partner of our comeliness, would demean
herself by laying charge on such a vassal as thou? No; highly as
thou art honoured, thou hast not yet deserved the notice of Queen
Guenevra, the lovely bride of Arthur, from whose high seat even
princes seem but pigmies. But look thou here, and as thou
knowest or disownest this token, so obey or refuse her commands
who hath deigned to impose them on thee."
So saying, he placed in the knight's hand a ruby ring, which,
even in the moonlight, he had no difficulty to recognize as that
which usually graced the finger of the high-born lady to whose
service he had devoted himself. Could he have doubted the truth
of the token, he would have been convinced by the small knot of
carnation-coloured ribbon which was fastened to the ring. This
was his lady's favourite colour, and more than once had he
himself, assuming it for that of his own liveries, caused the
carnation to triumph over all other hues in the lists and in the
Sir Kenneth was struck nearly mute by seeing such a token in such
"In the name of all that is sacred, from whom didst thou receive
this witness?" said the knight. "Bring, if thou canst, thy
wavering understanding to a right settlement for a minute or two,
and tell me the person by whom thou art sent, and the real
purpose of thy message, and take heed what thou sayest, for this
is no subject for buffoonery."
"Fond and foolish Knight," said the dwarf, "wouldst thou know
more of this matter than that thou art honoured with commands
from a princess, delivered to thee by a king? We list not to
parley with thee further than to command thee, in the name and by
the power of that ring, to follow us to her who is the owner of
the ring. Every minute that thou tarriest is a crime against thy
"Good Nectabanus, bethink thyself," said the knight. "Can my
lady know where and upon what duty I am this night engaged? Is
she aware that my life--pshaw, why should I speak of life--but
that my honour depends on my guarding this banner till daybreak;
and can it be her wish that I should leave it even to pay homage
to her? It is impossible--the princess is pleased to be merry
with her servant in sending him such a message; and I must think
so the rather that she hath chosen such a messenger."
"Oh, keep your belief," said Nectabanus, turning round as if to
leave the platform; "it is little to me whether you be traitor or
true man to this royal lady--so fare thee well."
"Stay, stay--I entreat you stay," said Sir Kenneth. "Answer me
but one question: is the lady who sent thee near to this place?"
"What signifies it?" said the dwarf. "Ought fidelity to reckon
furlongs, or miles, or leagues--like the poor courier, who is
paid for his labour by the distance which he traverses?
Nevertheless, thou soul of suspicion, I tell thee, the fair owner
of the ring now sent to so unworthy a vassal, in whom there is
neither truth nor courage, is not more distant from this place
than this arblast can send a bolt."
The knight gazed again on that ring, as if to ascertain that
there was no possible falsehood in the token. "Tell me," he said
to the dwarf, "is my presence required for any length of time?"
"Time!" answered Nectabanus, in his flighty manner; "what call
you time? I see it not--I feel it not--it is but a shadowy name
--a succession of breathings measured forth by night by the clank
of a bell, by day by a shadow crossing along a dial-stone.
Knowest thou not a true knight's time should only be reckoned by
the deeds that he performs in behalf of God and his lady?"
"The words of truth, though in the mouth of folly," said the
knight. "And doth my lady really summon me to some deed of
action, in her name and for her sake?--and may it not be
postponed for even the few hours till daybreak?"
"She requires thy presence instantly," said the dwarf, "and
without the loss of so much time as would be told by ten grains
of the sandglass. Hearken, thou cold-blooded and suspicious
knight, these are her very words--Tell him that the hand which
dropped roses can bestow laurels."
This allusion to their meeting in the chapel of Engaddi sent a
thousand recollections through Sir Kenneth's brain, and convinced
him that the message delivered by the dwarf was genuine. The
rosebuds, withered as they were, were still treasured under his
cuirass, and nearest to his heart. He paused, and could not
resolve to forego an opportunity, the only one which might ever
offer, to gain grace in her eyes whom he had installed as
sovereign of his affections. The dwarf, in the meantime,
augmented his confusion by insisting either that he must return
the ring or instantly attend him.
"Hold, hold, yet a moment hold," said the knight, and proceeded
to mutter to himself, "Am I either the subject or slave of King
Richard, more than as a free knight sworn to the service of the
Crusade? And whom have I come hither to honour with lance and
sword? Our holy cause and my transcendent lady!"
"The ring! the ring!" exclaimed the dwarf impatiently; "false
and slothful knight, return the ring, which thou art unworthy to
touch or to look upon."
"A moment, a moment, good Nectabanus," said Sir Kenneth; "disturb
not my thoughts.--What if the Saracens were just now to attack
our lines? Should I stay here like a sworn vassal of England,
watching that her king's pride suffered no humiliation; or should
I speed to the breach, and fight for the Cross? To the breach,
assuredly; and next to the cause of God come the commands of my
liege lady. And yet, Coeur de Lion's behest--my own promise!
Nectabanus, I conjure thee once more to say, are you to conduct
me far from hence?"
"But to yonder pavilion; and, since you must needs know," replied
Nectabanus, "the moon is glimmering on the gilded ball which
crowns its roof, and which is worth a king's ransom."
"I can return in an instant," said the knight, shutting his eyes
desperately to all further consequences, "I can hear from thence
the bay of my dog if any one approaches the standard. I will
throw myself at my lady's feet, and pray her leave to return to
conclude my watch.--Here, Roswal" (calling his hound, and
throwing down his mantle by the side of the standard-spear),
"watch thou here, and let no one approach."
The majestic dog looked in his master's face, as if to be sure
that he understood his charge, then sat down beside the mantle,
with ears erect and head raised, like a sentinel, understanding
perfectly the purpose for which he was stationed there.
"Come now, good Nectabanus," said the knight, "let us hasten to
obey the commands thou hast brought."
"Haste he that will," said the dwarf sullenly; "thou hast not
been in haste to obey my summons, nor can I walk fast enough to
follow your long strides--you do not walk like a man, but bound
like an ostrich in the desert."
There were but two ways of conquering the obstinacy of
Nectabanus, who, as he spoke, diminished his walk into a snail's
pace. For bribes Sir Kenneth had no means--for soothing no time;
so in his impatience he snatched the dwarf up from the ground,
and bearing him along, notwithstanding his entreaties and his
fear, reached nearly to the pavilion pointed out as that of the
Queen. In approaching it, however, the Scot observed there was a
small guard of soldiers sitting on the ground, who had been
concealed from him by the intervening tents. Wondering that the
clash of his own armour had not yet attracted their attention,
and supposing that his motions might, on the present occasion,
require to be conducted with secrecy, he placed the little
panting guide upon the ground to recover his breath, and point
out what was next to be done. Nectabanus was both frightened and
angry; but he had felt himself as completely in the power of the
robust knight as an owl in the claws of an eagle, and therefore
cared not to provoke him to any further display of his strength.
He made no complaints, therefore, of the usage he had received;
but, turning amongst the labyrinth of tents, he led the knight in
silence to the opposite side of the pavilion, which thus screened
them from the observation of the warders, who seemed either too
negligent or too sleepy to discharge their duty with much
accuracy. Arrived there, the dwarf raised the under part of the
canvas from the ground, and made signs to Sir Kenneth that he
should introduce himself to the inside of the tent, by creeping
under it. The knight hesitated. There seemed an indecorum in
thus privately introducing himself into a pavilion pitched,
doubtless, for the accommodation of noble ladies; but he recalled
to remembrance the assured tokens which the dwarf had exhibited,
and concluded that it was not for him to dispute his lady's
He stooped accordingly, crept beneath the canvas enclosure of the
tent, and heard the dwarf whisper from without, "Remain here
until I call thee."
You talk of Gaiety and Innocence!
The moment when the fatal fruit was eaten,
They parted ne'er to meet again; and Malice
Has ever since been playmate to light Gaiety,
From the first moment when the smiling infant
Destroys the flower or butterfly he toys with,
To the last chuckle of the dying miser,
Who on his deathbed laughs his last to hear
His wealthy neighbour has become a bankrupt. OLD PLAY.
Sir Kenneth was left for some minutes alone and in darkness.
Here was another interruption which must prolong his absence from
his post, and he began almost to repent the facility with which
he had been induced to quit it. But to return without seeing the
Lady Edith was now not to be thought of. He had committed a
breach of military discipline, and was determined at least to
prove the reality of the seductive expectations which had tempted
him to do so. Meanwhile his situation was unpleasant. There was
no light to show him into what sort of apartment he had been led
--the Lady Edith was in immediate attendance on the Queen of
England--and the discovery of his having introduced himself thus
furtively into the royal pavilion might, were it discovered; lead
to much and dangerous suspicion. While he gave way to these
unpleasant reflections, and began almost to wish that he could
achieve his retreat unobserved, he heard a noise of female
voices, laughing, whispering, and speaking, in an adjoining
apartment, from which, as the sounds gave him reason to judge, he
could only be separated by a canvas partition. Lamps were
burning, as he might perceive by the shadowy light which extended
itself even to his side of the veil which divided the tent, and
he could see shades of several figures sitting and moving in the
adjoining apartment. It cannot be termed discourtesy in Sir
Kenneth that, situated as he was, he overheard a conversation in
which he found himself deeply interested.
"Call her--call her, for Our Lady's sake," said the voice of one
of these laughing invisibles. "Nectabanus, thou shalt be made
ambassador to Prester John's court, to show them how wisely thou
canst discharge thee of a mission."
The shrill tone of the dwarf was heard, yet so much subdued that
Sir Kenneth could not understand what he said, except that he
spoke something of the means of merriment given to the guard.
"But how shall we rid us of the spirit which Nectabanus hath
raised, my maidens?"
"Hear me, royal madam," said another voice. "If the sage and
princely Nectabanus be not over-jealous of his most transcendent
bride and empress, let us send her to get us rid of this insolent
knight-errant, who can be so easily persuaded that high-born
dames may need the use of his insolent and overweening valour."
"It were but justice, methinks," replied another, "that the
Princess Guenever should dismiss, by her courtesy, him whom her
husband's wisdom has been able to entice hither."
Struck to the heart with shame and resentment at what he had
heard, Sir Kenneth was about to attempt his escape from the tent
at all hazards, when what followed arrested his purpose.
"Nay, truly," said the first speaker, "our cousin Edith must
first learn how this vaunted wight hath conducted himself, and we
must reserve the power of giving her ocular proof that he hath
failed in his duty. It may be a lesson will do good upon her;
for, credit me, Calista, I have sometimes thought she has let
this Northern adventurer sit nearer her heart than prudence would
One of the other voices was then heard to mutter something of the
Lady Edith's prudence and wisdom.
"Prudence, wench!" was the reply. "It is mere pride, and the
desire to be thought more rigid than any of us. Nay, I will not
quit my advantage. You know well that when she has us at fault
no one can, in a civil way, lay your error before you more
precisely than can my Lady Edith. But here she comes."
A figure, as if entering the apartment, cast upon the partition a
shade, which glided along slowly until it mixed with those which
already clouded it. Despite of the bitter disappointment which
he had experienced--despite the insult and injury with which it
seemed he had been visited by the malice, or, at best, by the
idle humour of Queen Berengaria (for he already concluded that
she who spoke loudest, and in a commanding tone, was the wife of
Richard), the knight felt something so soothing to his feelings
in learning that Edith had been no partner to the fraud practised
on him, and so interesting to his curiosity in the scene which
was about to take place, that, instead of prosecuting his more
prudent purpose of an instant retreat, he looked anxiously, on
the contrary, for some rent or crevice by means of which be might
be made eye as well as ear witness to what was to go forward.
"Surely," said he to himself, "the Queen, who hath been pleased
for an idle frolic to endanger my reputation, and perhaps my
life, cannot complain if I avail myself of the chance which
fortune seems willing to afford me to obtain knowledge of her
It seemed, in the meanwhile, as if Edith were waiting for the
commands of the Queen, and as if the other were reluctant to
speak for fear of being unable to command her laughter and that
of her companions; for Sir Kenneth could only distinguish a sound
as of suppressed tittering and merriment.
"Your Majesty," said Edith at last, "seems in a merry mood,
though, methinks, the hour of night prompts a sleepy one. I was
well disposed bedward when I had your Majesty's commands to
"I will not long delay you, cousin, from your repose," said the
Queen, "though I fear you will sleep less soundly when I tell you
your wager is lost."
"Nay, royal madam," said Edith, "this, surely, is dwelling on a
jest which has rather been worn out, I laid no wager, however it
was your Majesty's pleasure to suppose, or to insist, that I did
"Nay, now, despite our pilgrimage, Satan is strong with you, my
gentle cousin, and prompts thee to leasing. Can you deny that
you gaged your ruby ring against my golden bracelet that yonder
Knight of the Libbard, or how call you him, could not be seduced
from his post?"
"Your Majesty is too great for me to gainsay you," replied Edith,
"but these ladies can, if they will, bear me witness that it was
your Highness who proposed such a wager, and took the ring from
my finger, even while I was declaring that I did not think it
maidenly to gage anything on such a subject."
"Nay, but, my Lady Edith," said another voice, "you must needs
grant, under your favour, that you expressed yourself very
confident of the valour of that same Knight of the Leopard."
"And if I did, minion," said Edith angrily, "is that a good
reason why thou shouldst put in thy word to flatter her Majesty's
humour? I spoke of that knight but as all men speak who have
seen him in the field, and had no more interest in defending than
thou in detracting from him. In a camp, what can women speak of
save soldiers and deeds of arms?"
"The noble Lady Edith," said a third voice, "hath never forgiven
Calista and me, since we told your Majesty that she dropped two
rosebuds in the chapel."
"If your Majesty," said Edith, in a tone which Sir Kenneth could
judge to be that of respectful remonstrance, "have no other
commands for me than to hear the gibes of your waiting-women, I
must crave your permission to withdraw."
"Silence, Florise," said the Queen, "and let not our indulgence
lead you to forget the difference betwixt yourself and the
kinswoman of England.--But you, my dear cousin," she continued,
resuming her tone of raillery, "how can you, who are so good-natured, begrudge us poor wretches a few
minutes' laughing, when
we have had so many days devoted to weeping and gnashing of
"Great be your mirth, royal lady," said Edith; "yet would I be
content not to smile for the rest of my life, rather than--"
She stopped, apparently out of respect; but Sir Kenneth could
hear that she was in much agitation.
"Forgive me," said Berengaria, a thoughtless but good-humoured
princess of the House of Navarre; "but what is the great offence,
after all? A young knight has been wiled hither--has stolen, or
has been stolen, from his post, which no one will disturb in his
absence--for the sake of a fair lady; for, to do your champion
justice, sweet one, the wisdom of Nectabanus could conjure him
hither in no name but yours."
"Gracious Heaven! your Majesty does not say so?" said Edith, in a
voice of alarm quite different from the agitation she had
previously evinced,--"you cannot say so consistently with respect
for your own honour and for mine, your husband's kinswoman! Say
you were jesting with me, my royal mistress, and forgive me that
I could, even for a moment, think it possible you could be in
"The Lady Edith," said the Queen, in a displeased tone of voice,
"regrets the ring we have won of her. We will restore the pledge
to you, gentle cousin; only you must not grudge us in turn a
little triumph over the wisdom which has been so often spread
over us, as a banner over a host."
"A triumph!" exclaimed Edith indignantly--"a triumph! The
triumph will be with the infidel, when he hears that the Queen of
England can make the reputation of her husband's kinswoman the
subject of a light frolic."
"You are angry, fair cousin, at losing your favourite ring," said
the Queen. "Come, since you grudge to pay your wager, we will
renounce our right; it was your name and that pledge brought him
hither, and we care not for the bait after the fish is caught."
"Madam," replied Edith impatiently, "you know well that your
Grace could not wish for anything of mine but it becomes
instantly yours. But I would give a bushel of rubies ere ring or
name of mine had been used to bring a brave man into a fault, and
perhaps to disgrace and punishment."
"Oh, it is for the safety of our true knight that we fear!" said
the Queen. "You rate our power too low, fair cousin, when you
speak of a life being lost for a frolic of ours. O Lady Edith,
others have influence on the iron breasts of warriors as well as
you--the heart even of a lion is made of flesh, not of stone;
and, believe me, I have interest enough with Richard to save this
knight, in whose fate Lady Edith is so deeply concerned, from the
penalty of disobeying his royal commands."
"For the love of the blessed Cross, most royal lady," said Edith
--and Sir Kenneth, with feelings which it were hard to unravel,
heard her prostrate herself at the Queen's feet--"for the love of
our blessed Lady, and of every holy saint in the calendar, beware
what you do! You know not King Richard--you have been but shortly
wedded to him. Your breath might as well combat the west wind
when it is wildest, as your words persuade my royal kinsman to
pardon a military offence. Oh, for God's sake, dismiss this
gentleman, if indeed you have lured him hither! I could almost be
content to rest with the shame of having invited him, did I know
that he was returned again where his duty calls him!"
"Arise, cousin, arise," said Queen Berengaria, "and be assured
all will be better than you think. Rise, dear Edith. I am sorry
I have played my foolery with a knight in whom you take such deep
interest. Nay, wring not thy hands; I will believe thou carest
not for him--believe anything rather than see thee look so
wretchedly miserable. I tell thee I will take the blame on
myself with King Richard in behalf of thy fair Northern friend
--thine acquaintance, I would say, since thou own'st him not as a
friend. Nay, look not so reproachfully. We will send Nectabanus
to dismiss this Knight of the Standard to his post; and we
ourselves will grace him on some future day, to make amends for
his wild-goose chase. He is, I warrant, but lying perdu in some
"By my crown of lilies, and my sceptre of a specially good water-reed," said Nectabanus, "your Majesty is
mistaken, He is nearer
at hand than you wot--he lieth ensconced there behind that canvas
"And within hearing of each word we have said!" exclaimed the
Queen, in her turn violently surprised and agitated. "Out,
monster of folly and malignity!"
As she uttered these words, Nectabanus fled from the pavilion
with a yell of such a nature as leaves it still doubtful whether
Berengaria had confined her rebuke to words, or added some more
emphatic expression of her displeasure.
"What can now be done?" said the Queen to Edith, in a whisper of
"That which must," said Edith firmly. "We must see this
gentleman and place ourselves in his mercy."
So saying, she began hastily to undo a curtain, which at one
place covered an entrance or communication.
"For Heaven's sake, forbear--consider," said the Queen--"my
apartment--our dress--the hour--my honour!"
But ere she could detail her remonstrances, the curtain fell, and
there was no division any longer betwixt the armed knight and the
party of ladies. The warmth of an Eastern night occasioned the
undress of Queen Berengaria and her household to be rather more
simple and unstudied than their station, and the presence of a
male spectator of rank, required. This the Queen remembered, and
with a loud shriek fled from the apartment where Sir Kenneth was
disclosed to view in a compartment of the ample pavilion, now no
longer separated from that in which they stood. The grief and
agitation of the Lady Edith, as well as the deep interest she
felt in a hasty explanation with the Scottish knight, perhaps
occasioned her forgetting that her locks were more dishevelled
and her person less heedfully covered than was the wont of high-born damsels, in an age which was not,
after all, the most
prudish or scrupulous period of the ancient time. A thin, loose
garment of pink-coloured silk made the principal part of her
vestments, with Oriental slippers, into which she had hastily
thrust her bare feet, and a scarf hurriedly and loosely thrown
about her shoulders. Her head had no other covering than the
veil of rich and dishevelled locks falling round it on every
side, that half hid a countenance which a mingled sense of
modesty and of resentment, and other deep and agitated feelings,
had covered with crimson.
But although Edith felt her situation with all that delicacy
which is her sex's greatest charm, it did not seem that for a
moment she placed her own bashfulness in comparison with the duty
which, as she thought, she owed to him who had been led into
error and danger on her account. She drew, indeed, her scarf
more closely over her neck and bosom, and she hastily laid from
her hand a lamp which shed too much lustre over her figure; but,
while Sir Kenneth stood motionless on the same spot in which he
was first discovered, she rather stepped towards than retired
from him, as she exclaimed, "Hasten to your post, valiant
knight!--you are deceived in being trained hither--ask no
"I need ask none," said the knight, sinking upon one knee, with
the reverential devotion of a saint at the altar, and bending his
eyes on the ground, lest his looks should increase the lady's
"Have you heard all?" said Edith impatiently. "Gracious saints!
then wherefore wait you here, when each minute that passes is
loaded with dishonour!"
"I have heard that I am dishonoured, lady, and I have heard it
from you," answered Kenneth. "What reck I how soon punishment
follows? I have but one petition to you; and then I seek, among
the sabres of the infidels, whether dishonour may not be washed
out with blood."
"Do not so, neither," said the lady. "Be wise--dally not here;
all may yet be well, if you will but use dispatch."
"I wait but for your forgiveness," said the knight, still
kneeling, "for my presumption in believing that my poor services
could have been required or valued by you."
"I do forgive you--oh, I have nothing to forgive! have been the
means of injuring you. But oh, begone! I will forgive--I will
value you--that is, as I value every brave Crusader--if you will
"Receive, first, this precious yet fatal pledge," said the
knight, tendering the ring to Edith, who now showed gestures of
"Oh, no, no " she said, declining to receive it. "Keep it--keep
it as a mark of my regard--my regret, I would say. Oh, begone,
if not for your own sake, for mine!"
Almost recompensed for the loss even of honour, which her voice
had denounced to him, by the interest which she seemed to testify
in his safety, Sir Kenneth rose from his knee, and, casting a
momentary glance on Edith, bowed low, and seemed about to
withdraw. At the same instant, that maidenly bashfulness, which
the energy of Edith's feelings had till then triumphed over,
became conqueror in its turn, and she hastened from the
apartment, extinguishing her lamp as she went, and leaving, in
Sir Kenneth's thoughts, both mental and natural gloom behind her.
She must be obeyed, was the first distinct idea which waked him
from his reverie, and he hastened to the place by which he had
entered the pavilion. To pass under the canvas in the manner he
had entered required time and attention, and he made a readier
aperture by slitting the canvas wall with his poniard. When in
the free air, he felt rather stupefied and overpowered by a
conflict of sensations, than able to ascertain what was the real
import of the whole. He was obliged to spur himself to action by
recollecting that the commands of the Lady Edith had required
haste. Even then, engaged as he was amongst tent-ropes and
tents, he was compelled to move with caution until he should
regain the path or avenue, aside from which the dwarf had led
him, in order to escape the observation of the guards before the
Queen's pavilion; and he was obliged also to move slowly, and
with precaution, to avoid giving an alarm, either by falling or
by the clashing of his armour. A thin cloud had obscured the
moon, too, at the very instant of his leaving the tent, and Sir
Kenneth had to struggle with this inconvenience at a moment when
the dizziness of his head and the fullness of his heart scarce
left him powers of intelligence sufficient to direct his motions.
But at once sounds came upon his ear which instantly recalled him
to the full energy of his faculties. These proceeded from the
Mount of Saint George. He heard first a single, fierce, angry,
and savage bark, which was immediately followed by a yell of
agony. No deer ever bounded with a wilder start at the voice of
Roswal than did Sir Kenneth at what he feared was the death-cry
of that noble hound, from whom no ordinary injury could have
extracted even the slightest acknowledgment of pain. He
surmounted the space which divided him from the avenue, and,
having attained it, began to run towards the mount, although
loaded with his mail, faster than most men could have accompanied
him even if unarmed, relaxed not his pace for the steep sides of
the artificial mound, and in a few minutes stood on the platform
upon its summit.
The moon broke forth at this moment, and showed him that the
Standard of England was vanished, that the spear on which it had
floated lay broken on the ground, and beside it was his faithful
hound, apparently in the agonies of death.
All my long arrear of honour lost,
Heap'd up in youth, and hoarded up for age.
Hath Honour's fountain then suck'd up the stream?
He hath--and hooting boys may barefoot pass,
And gather pebbles from the naked ford! DON SEBASTIAN.
After a torrent of afflicting sensations, by which he was at
first almost stunned and confounded, Sir Kenneth's first thought
was to look for the authors of this violation of the English
banner; but in no direction could he see traces of them. His
next, which to some persons, but scarce to any who have made
intimate acquaintances among the canine race, may appear strange,
was to examine the condition of his faithful Roswal, mortally
wounded, as it seemed, in discharging the duty which his master
had been seduced to abandon. He caressed the dying animal, who,
faithful to the last, seemed to forget his own pain in the
satisfaction he received from his master's presence, and
continued wagging his tail and licking his hand, even while by
low moanings he expressed that his agony was increased by the
attempts which Sir Kenneth made to withdraw from the wound the
fragment of the lance or javelin with which it had been
inflicted; then redoubled his feeble endearments, as if fearing
he had offended his master by showing a sense of the pain to
which his interference had subjected him. There was something in
the display of the dying creature's attachment which mixed as a
bitter ingredient with the sense of disgrace and desolation by
which Sir Kenneth was oppressed. His only friend seemed removed
from him, just when he had incurred the contempt and hatred of
all besides. The knight's strength of mind gave way to a burst
of agonized distress, and he groaned and wept aloud.
While he thus indulged his grief, a clear and solemn voice, close
beside him, pronounced these words in the sonorous tone of the
readers of the mosque, and in the lingua franca mutually
understood by Christians and Saracens:--
"Adversity is like the period of the former and of the latter
rain--cold, comfortless, unfriendly to man and to animal; yet
from that season have their birth the flower and the fruit, the
date, the rose, and the pomegranate."
Sir Kenneth of the Leopard turned towards the speaker, and beheld
the Arabian physician, who, approaching unheard, had seated
himself a little behind him cross-legged, and uttered with
gravity, yet not without a tone of sympathy, the moral sentences
of consolation with which the Koran and its commentators supplied
him; for, in the East, wisdom is held to consist less in a
display of the sage's own inventive talents, than in his ready
memory and happy application of and reference to "that which is
Ashamed at being surprised in a womanlike expression of sorrow,
Sir Kenneth dashed his tears indignantly aside, and again busied
himself with his dying favourite.
"The poet hath said," continued the Arab, without noticing the
knight's averted looks and sullen deportment, "the ox for the
field, and the camel for the desert. Were not the hand of the
leech fitter than that of the soldier to cure wounds, though less
able to inflict them?"
"This patient, Hakim, is beyond thy help," said Sir Kenneth;
"and, besides, he is, by thy law, an unclean animal."
"Where Allah hath deigned to bestow life, and a sense of pain and
pleasure," said the physician, "it were sinful pride should the
sage, whom He has enlightened, refuse to prolong existence or
assuage agony. To the sage, the cure of a miserable groom, of a
poor dog and of a conquering monarch, are events of little
distinction. Let me examine this wounded animal."
Sir Kenneth acceded in silence, and the physician inspected and
handled Roswal's wound with as much care and attention as if he
had been a human being. He then took forth a case of
instruments, and, by the judicious and skilful application of
pincers, withdrew from the wounded shoulder the fragment of the
weapon, and stopped with styptics and bandages the effusion of
blood which followed; the creature all the while suffering him
patiently to perform these kind offices, as if he had been aware
of his kind intentions.
"The animal may be cured," said El Hakim, addressing himself to
Sir Kenneth, "if you will permit me to carry him to my tent, and
treat him with the care which the nobleness of his nature
deserves. For know, that thy servant Adonbec is no less skilful
in the race and pedigree and distinctions of good dogs and of
noble steeds than in the diseases which afflict the human race."
"Take him with you," said the knight. "I bestow him on you
freely, if he recovers. I owe thee a reward for attendance on my
squire, and have nothing else to pay it with. For myself, I will
never again wind bugle or halloo to hound!"
The Arabian made no reply, but gave a signal with a clapping of
his hands, which was instantly answered by the appearance of two
black slaves. He gave them his orders in Arabic, received the
answer that "to hear was to obey," when, taking the animal in
their arms, they removed him, without much resistance on his
part; for though his eyes turned to his master, he was too weak
"Fare thee well, Roswal, then," said Sir Kenneth--"fare thee
well, my last and only friend--thou art too noble a possession to
be retained by one such as I must in future call myself!--I
would," he said, as the slaves retired, "that, dying as he is, I
could exchange conditions with that noble animal!"
"It is written," answered the Arabian, although the exclamation
had not been addressed to him, "that all creatures are fashioned
for the service of man; and the master of the earth speaketh
folly when he would exchange, in his impatience, his hopes here
and to come for the servile condition of an inferior being."
"A dog who dies in discharging his duty," said the knight
sternly, "is better than a man who survives the desertion of it.
Leave me, Hakim; thou hast, on this side of miracle, the most
wonderful science which man ever possessed, but the wounds of the
spirit are beyond thy power."
"Not if the patient will explain his calamity, and be guided by
the physician," said Adonbec el Hakim.
"Know, then," said Sir Kenneth, "since thou art so importunate,
that last night the Banner of England was displayed from this
mound--I was its appointed guardian--morning is now breaking--
there lies the broken banner-spear, the standard itself is lost,
and here sit I a living man!"
"How!" said El Hakim, examining him; "thy armour is whole--there
is no blood on thy weapons, and report speaks thee one unlikely
to return thus from fight. Thou hast been trained from thy post
--ay, trained by the rosy cheek and black eye of one of those
houris, to whom you Nazarenes vow rather such service as is due
to Allah, than such love as may lawfully be rendered to forms of
clay like our own. It has been thus assuredly; for so hath man
ever fallen, even since the days of Sultan Adam."
"And if it were so, physician," said Sir Kenneth sullenly, "what
"Knowledge is the parent of power," said El Hakim, "as valour
supplies strength. Listen to me. Man is not as a tree, bound to
one spot of earth; nor is he framed to cling to one bare rock,
like the scarce animated shell-fish. Thine own Christian
writings command thee, when persecuted in one city, to flee to
another; and we Moslem also know that Mohammed, the Prophet of
Allah, driven forth from the holy city of Mecca, found his refuge
and his helpmates at Medina."
"And what does this concern me?" said the Scot.
"Much," answered the physician. "Even the sage flies the tempest
which he cannot control. Use thy speed, therefore, and fly from
the vengeance of Richard to the shadow of Saladin's victorious
"I might indeed hide my dishonour," said Sir Kenneth ironically,
"in a camp of infidel heathens, where the very phrase is unknown.
But had I not better partake more fully in their reproach? Does
not thy advice stretch so far as to recommend me to take the
turban? Methinks I want but apostasy to consummate my infamy."
"Blaspheme not, Nazarene," said the physician sternly. "Saladin
makes no converts to the law of the Prophet, save those on whom
its precepts shall work conviction. Open thine eyes to the
light, and the great Soldan, whose liberality is as boundless as
his power, may bestow on thee a kingdom; remain blinded if thou
will, and, being one whose second life is doomed to misery,
Saladin will yet, for this span of present time, make thee rich
and happy. But fear not that thy brows shall be bound with the
turban, save at thine own free choice."
"My choice were rather," said the knight, "that my writhen
features should blacken, as they are like to do, in this
evening's setting sun."
"Yet thou art not wise, Nazarene," said El Hakim, "to reject this
fair offer; for I have power with Saladin, and can raise thee
high in his grace. Look you, my son--this Crusade, as you call
your wild enterprise, is like a large dromond [The largest sort
of vessels then known were termed dromond's, or dromedaries.]
parting asunder in the waves. Thou thyself hast borne terms of
truce from the kings and princes, whose force is here assembled,
to the mighty Soldan, and knewest not, perchance, the full tenor
of thine own errand."
"I knew not, and I care not," said the knight impatiently. "What
avails it to me that I have been of late the envoy of princes,
when, ere night, I shall be a gibbeted and dishonoured corpse?"
"Nay, I speak that it may not be so with thee," said the
physician. "Saladin is courted on all sides. The combined
princes of this league formed against him have made such
proposals of composition and peace, as, in other circumstances,
it might have become his honour to have granted to them. Others
have made private offers, on their own separate account, to
disjoin their forces from the camp of the Kings of Frangistan,
and even to lend their arms to the defence of the standard of the
Prophet. But Saladin will not be served by such treacherous and
interested defection. The king of kings will treat only with the
Lion King. Saladin will hold treaty with none but the Melech
Ric, and with him he will treat like a prince, or fight like a
champion. To Richard he will yield such conditions of his free
liberality as the swords of all Europe could never compel from
him by force or terror. He will permit a free pilgrimage to
Jerusalem, and all the places where the Nazarenes list to
worship; nay, he will so far share even his empire with his
brother Richard, that he will allow Christian garrisons in the
six strongest cities of Palestine, and one in Jerusalem itself,
and suffer them to be under the immediate command of the officers
of Richard, who, he consents, shall bear the name of King
Guardian of Jerusalem. Yet further, strange and incredible as
you may think it, know, Sir Knight--for to your honour I can
commit even that almost incredible secret--know that Saladin will
put a sacred seal on this happy union betwixt the bravest and
noblest of Frangistan and Asia, by raising to the rank of his
royal spouse a Christian damsel, allied in blood to King Richard,
and known by the name of the Lady Edith of Plantagenet." [This
may appear so extraordinary and improbable a proposition that it
is necessary to say such a one was actually made. The
historians, however, substitute the widowed Queen of Naples,
sister of Richard, for the bride, and Saladin's brother for the
bridegroom. They appear to have been ignorant of the existence
of Edith of Plantagenet.--See MILL'S History of the Crusades,
vol. ii., p. 61.]
"Ha!--sayest thou?" exclaimed Sir Kenneth, who, listening with
indifference and apathy to the preceding part of El Hakim's
speech, was touched by this last communication, as the thrill of
a nerve, unexpectedly jarred, will awaken the sensation of agony,
even in the torpor of palsy. Then, moderating his tone, by dint
of much effort he restrained his indignation, and, veiling it
under the appearance of contemptuous doubt, he prosecuted the
conversation, in order to get as much knowledge as possible of
the plot, as he deemed it, against the honour and happiness of
her whom he loved not the less that his passion had ruined,
apparently, his fortunes, at once, and his honour.--"And what
Christian," he said, With tolerable calmness, "would sanction a
union so unnatural as that of a Christian maiden with an
"Thou art but an ignorant, bigoted Nazarene," said the Hakim.
"Seest thou not how the Mohammedan princes daily intermarry with
the noble Nazarene maidens in Spain, without scandal either to
Moor or Christian? And the noble Soldan will, in his full
confidence in the blood of Richard, permit the English maid the
freedom which your Frankish manners have assigned to women. He
will allow her the free exercise of her religion, seeing that, in
very truth, it signifies but little to which faith females are
addicted; and he will assign her such place and rank over all the
women of his zenana, that she shall be in every respect his sole
and absolute queen."
"What!" said Sir Kenneth, "darest thou think, Moslem, that
Richard would give his kinswoman--a high-born and virtuous
princess--to be, at best, the foremost concubine in the haram of
a misbeliever? Know, Hakim, the meanest free Christian noble
would scorn, on his child's behalf, such splendid ignominy."
"Thou errest," said the Hakim. "Philip of France, and Henry of
Champagne, and others of Richard's principal allies, have heard
the proposal without starting, and have promised, as far as they
may, to forward an alliance that may end these wasteful wars; and
the wise arch-priest of Tyre hath undertaken to break the
proposal to Richard, not doubting that he shall be able to bring
the plan to good issue. The Soldan's wisdom hath as yet kept his
proposition secret from others, such as he of Montserrat, and the
Master of the Templars, because he knows they seek to thrive by
Richard's death or disgrace, not by his life or honour. Up,
therefore, Sir Knight, and to horse. I will give thee a scroll
which shall advance thee highly with the Soldan; and deem not
that you are leaving your country, or her cause, or her religion,
since the interest of the two monarchs will speedily be the same.
To Saladin thy counsel will be most acceptable, since thou canst
make him aware of much concerning the marriages of the
Christians, the treatment of their wives, and other points of
their laws and usages, which, in the course of such treaty, it
much concerns him that he should know. The right hand of the
Soldan grasps the treasures of the East, and it is the fountain
or generosity. Or, if thou desirest it, Saladin, when allied
with England, can have but little difficulty to obtain from
Richard, not only thy pardon and restoration to favour, but an
honourable command in the troops which may be left of the King of
England's host, to maintain their joint government in Palestine.
Up, then, and mount--there lies a plain path before thee."
"Hakim," said the Scottish knight, "thou art a man of peace; also
thou hast saved the life of Richard of England--and, moreover, of
my own poor esquire, Strauchan. I have, therefore, heard to an
end a matter which, being propounded by another Moslem than
thyself, I would have cut short with a blow of my dagger! Hakim,
in return for thy kindness, I advise thee to see that the Saracen
who shall propose to Richard a union betwixt the blood of
Plantagenet and that of his accursed race do put on a helmet
which is capable to endure such a blow of a battle-axe as that
which struck down the gate of Acre. Certes, he will be otherwise
placed beyond the reach even of thy skill."
"Thou art, then, wilfully determined not to fly to the Saracen
host?" said the physician. "Yet, remember, thou stayest to
certain destruction; and the writings of thy law, as well as
ours, prohibit man from breaking into the tabernacle of his own
"God forbid!" replied the Scot, crossing himself; "but we are
also forbidden to avoid the punishment which our crimes have
deserved. And since so poor are thy thoughts of fidelity, Hakim,
it grudges me that I have bestowed my good hound on thee, for,
should he live, he will have a master ignorant of his value."
"A gift that is begrudged is already recalled," said El Hakim;
"only we physicians are sworn not to send away a patient uncured.
If the dog recover, he is once more yours."
"Go to, Hakim," answered Sir Kenneth; "men speak not of hawk and
hound when there is but an hour of day-breaking betwixt them and
death. Leave me to recollect my sins, and reconcile myself to
"I leave thee in thine obstinacy," said the physician; "the mist
hides the precipice from those who are doomed to fall over it."
He withdrew slowly, turning from time to time his head, as if to
observe whether the devoted knight might not recall him either by
word or signal. At last his turbaned figure was lost among the
labyrinth of tents which lay extended beneath, whitening in the
pale light of the dawning, before which the moonbeam had now
But although the physician Adonbec's words had not made that
impression upon Kenneth which the sage desired, they had inspired
the Scot with a motive for desiring life, which, dishonoured as
he conceived himself to be, he was before willing to part from as
from a sullied vestment no longer becoming his wear. Much that
had passed betwixt himself and the hermit, besides what he had
observed between the anchorite and Sheerkohf (or Ilderim), he now
recalled to recollection, and tended to confirm what the Hakim
had told him of the secret article of the treaty.
"The reverend impostor!" he exclaimed to himself; "the hoary
hypocrite! He spoke of the unbelieving husband converted by the
believing wife; and what do I know but that the traitor exhibited
to the Saracen, accursed of God, the beauties of Edith
Plantagenet, that the hound might judge if the princely Christian
lady were fit to be admitted into the haram of a misbeliever? If
I had yonder infidel Ilderim, or whatsoever he is called, again
in the gripe with which I once held him fast as ever hound held
hare, never again should HE at least come on errand disgraceful
to the honour of Christian king or noble and virtuous maiden.
But I--my hours are fast dwindling into minutes--yet, while I
have life and breath, something must be done, and speedily."
He paused for a few minutes, threw from him his helmet, then
strode down the hill, and took the road to King Richard's
The feather'd songster, chanticleer,
Had wound his bugle-horn,
And told the early villager
The coming of the morn.
King Edward saw the ruddy streaks
Of light eclipse the grey,
And heard the raven's croaking throat
Proclaim the fated day.
"Thou'rt right," he said, "for, by the God
That sits enthron'd on high,
Charles Baldwin, and his fellows twain,
This day shall surely die." CHATTERTON.
On the evening on which Sir Kenneth assumed his post, Richard,
after the stormy event which disturbed its tranquillity, had
retired to rest in the plenitude of confidence inspired by his
unbounded courage and the superiority which he had displayed in
carrying the point he aimed at in presence of the whole Christian
host and its leaders, many of whom, he was aware, regarded in
their secret souls the disgrace of the Austrian Duke as a triumph
over themselves; so that his pride felt gratified, that in
prostrating one enemy he had mortified a hundred.
Another monarch would have doubled his guards on the evening
after such a scene, and kept at least a part of his troops under
arms. But Coeur de Lion dismissed, upon the occasion, even his
ordinary watch, and assigned to his soldiers a donative of wine
to celebrate his recovery, and to drink to the Banner of Saint
George; and his quarter of the camp would have assumed a
character totally devoid of vigilance and military preparation,
but that Sir Thomas de Vaux, the Earl of Salisbury, and other
nobles, took precautions to preserve order and discipline among
The physician attended the King from his retiring to bed till
midnight was past, and twice administered medicine to him during
that period, always previously observing the quarter of heaven
occupied by the full moon, whose influences he declared to be
most sovereign, or most baleful, to the effect of his drugs. It
was three hours after midnight ere El Hakim withdrew from the
royal tent, to one which had been pitched for himself and his
retinue. In his way thither he visited the tent of Sir Kenneth
of the Leopard, in order to see the condition of his first
patient in the Christian camp, old Strauchan, as the knight's
esquire was named. Inquiring there for Sir Kenneth himself, El
Hakim learned on what duty he was employed, and probably this
information led him to Saint George's Mount, where he found him
whom he sought in the disastrous circumstances alluded to in the
It was about the hour of sunrise, when a slow, armed tread was
heard approaching the King's pavilion; and ere De Vaux, who
slumbered beside his master's bed as lightly as ever sleep sat
upon the eyes of a watch-dog, had time to do more than arise and
say, "Who comes?" the Knight of the Leopard entered the tent,
with a deep and devoted gloom seated upon his manly features.
"Whence this bold intrusion, Sir Knight?" said De Vaux sternly,
yet in a tone which respected his master's slumbers.
"Hold! De Vaux," said Richard, awaking on the instant; "Sir
Kenneth cometh like a good soldier to render an account of his
guard. To such the general's tent is ever accessible." Then
rising from his slumbering posture, and leaning on his elbow, he
fixed his large bright eye upon the warrior--"Speak, Sir Scot;
thou comest to tell me of a vigilant, safe, and honourable watch,
dost thou not? The rustling of the folds of the Banner of
England were enough to guard it, even without the body of such a
knight as men hold thee."
"As men will hold me no more," said Sir Kenneth. "My watch hath
neither been vigilant, safe, nor honourable. The Banner of
England has been carried off."
"And thou alive to tell it!" said Richard, in a tone of derisive
incredulity. "Away, it cannot be. There is not even a scratch
on thy face. Why dost thou stand thus mute? Speak the truth
--it is ill jesting with a king; yet I will forgive thee if thou
"Lied, Sir King!" returned the unfortunate knight, with fierce
emphasis, and one glance of fire from his eye, bright and
transient as the flash from the cold and stony flint. "But this
also must be endured. I have spoken the truth."
"By God and by Saint George!" said the King, bursting into fury,
which, however, he instantly checked. "De Vaux, go view the
spot. This fever has disturbed his brain. This cannot be. The
man's courage is proof. It CANNOT be! Go speedily--or send, if
thou wilt not go."
The King was interrupted by Sir Henry Neville, who came,
breathless, to say that the banner was gone, and the knight who
guarded it overpowered, and most probably murdered, as there was
a pool of blood where the banner-spear lay shivered.
"But whom do I see here?" said Neville, his eyes suddenly
resting upon Sir Kenneth.
"A traitor," said the King, starting to his feet, and seizing the
curtal-axe, which was ever near his bed--"a traitor! whom thou
shalt see die a traitor's death." And he drew back the weapon as
in act to strike.
Colourless, but firm as a marble statue, the Scot stood before
him, with his bare head uncovered by any protection, his eyes
cast down to the earth, his lips scarcely moving, yet muttering
probably in prayer. Opposite to him, and within the due reach
for a blow, stood King Richard, his large person wrapt in the
folds of his camiscia, or ample gown of linen, except where the
violence of his action had flung the covering from his right arm,
shoulder, and a part of his breast, leaving to view a specimen of
a frame which might have merited his Saxon predecessor's epithet
of Ironside. He stood for an instant, prompt to strike; then
sinking the head of the weapon towards the ground, he exclaimed,
"But there was blood, Neville--there was blood upon the place.
Hark thee, Sir Scot--brave thou wert once, for I have seen thee
fight. Say thou hast slain two of the thieves in defence of the
Standard--say but one--say thou hast struck but a good blow in
our behalf, and get thee out of the camp with thy life and thy
"You have called me liar, my Lord King," replied Kenneth firmly;
"and therein, at least, you have done me wrong. Know that there
was no blood shed in defence of the Standard save that of a poor
hound, which, more faithful than his master, defended the charge
which he deserted."
"Now, by Saint George!" said Richard, again heaving up his arm.
But De Vaux threw himself between the King and the object of his
vengeance, and spoke with the blunt truth of his character, "My
liege, this must not be--here, nor by your hand. It is enough of
folly for one night and day to have entrusted your banner to a
Scot. Said I not they were ever fair and false?" [Such were the
terms in which the English used to speak of their poor northern
neighbours, forgetting that their own encroachments upon the
independence of Scotland obliged the weaker nation to defend
themselves by policy as well as force. The disgrace must be
divided between Edward I. and Edward III., who enforced their
domination over a free country, and the Scots, who were compelled
to take compulsory oaths, without any purpose of keeping them.]
"Thou didst, De Vaux; thou wast right, and I confess it," said
Richard. "I should have known him better--I should have
remembered how the fox William deceived me touching this
"My lord," said Sir Kenneth, "William of Scotland never deceived;
but circumstances prevented his bringing his forces."
"Peace, shameless!" said the King; "thou sulliest the name of a
prince, even by speaking it.--And yet, De Vaux, it is strange,"
he added, "to see the bearing of the man. Coward or traitor he
must be, yet he abode the blow of Richard Plantagenet as our arm
had been raised to lay knighthood on his shoulder. Had he shown
the slightest sign of fear, had but a joint trembled or an eyelid
quivered, I had shattered his head like a crystal goblet. But I
cannot strike where there is neither fear nor resistance."
There was a pause.
"My lord," said Kenneth--
"Ha!" replied Richard, interrupting him, "hast thou found thy
speech? Ask grace from Heaven, but none from me; for England is
dishonoured through thy fault, and wert thou mine own and only
brother, there is no pardon for thy fault."
"I speak not to demand grace of mortal man," said the Scot; "it
is in your Grace's pleasure to give or refuse me time for
Christian shrift--if man denies it, may God grant me the
absolution which I would otherwise ask of His church! But
whether I die on the instant, or half an hour hence, I equally
beseech your Grace for one moment's opportunity to speak that to
your royal person which highly concerns your fame as a Christian
"Say on," said the King, making no doubt that he was about to
hear some confession concerning the loss of the Banner.
"What I have to speak," said Sir Kenneth, "touches the royalty of
England, and must be said to no ears but thine own."
"Begone with yourselves, sirs," said the King to Neville and De
The first obeyed, but the latter would not stir from the King's
"If you said I was in the right," replied De Vaux to his
sovereign, "I will be treated as one should be who hath been
found to be right--that is, I will have my own will. I leave you
not with this false Scot."
"How! De Vaux," said Richard angrily, and stamping slightly,
"darest thou not venture our person with one traitor?"
"It is in vain you frown and stamp, my lord," said De Vaux; "I
venture not a sick man with a sound one, a naked man with one
armed in proof."
"It matters not," said the Scottish knight; "I seek no excuse to
put off time. I will speak in presence of the Lord of Gilsland.
He is good lord and true."
"But half an hour since," said De Vaux, with a groan, implying a
mixture of sorrow and vexation, "and I had said as much for
"There is treason around you, King of England," continued Sir
"It may well be as thou sayest," replied Richard; "I have a
"Treason that will injure thee more deeply than the loss of a
hundred banners in a pitched field. The--the--" Sir Kenneth
hesitated, and at length continued, in a lower tone, "The Lady
"Ha!" said the King, drawing himself suddenly into a state of
haughty attention, and fixing his eye firmly on the supposed
criminal; "what of her? what of her? What has she to do with
"My lord," said the Scot, "there is a scheme on foot to disgrace
your royal lineage, by bestowing the hand of the Lady Edith on
the Saracen Soldan, and thereby to purchase a peace most
dishonourable to Christendom, by an alliance most shameful to
This communication had precisely the contrary effect from that
which Sir Kenneth expected. Richard Plantagenet was one of those
who, in Iago's words, would not serve God because it was the
devil who bade him; advice or information often affected him less
according to its real import, than through the tinge which it
took from the supposed character and views of those by whom it
was communicated. Unfortunately, the mention of his relative's
name renewed his recollection of what he had considered as
extreme presumption in the Knight of the Leopard, even when he
stood high in the roll of chivalry, but which, in his present
condition, appeared an insult sufficient to drive the fiery
monarch into a frenzy of passion.
"Silence," he said, "infamous and audacious! By Heaven, I will
have thy tongue torn out with hot pincers, for mentioning the
very name of a noble Christian damsel! Know, degenerate traitor,
that I was already aware to what height thou hadst dared to raise
thine eyes, and endured it, though it were insolence, even when
thou hadst cheated us--for thou art all a deceit--into holding
thee as of some name and fame. But now, with lips blistered with
the confession of thine own dishonour--that thou shouldst NOW
dare to name our noble kinswoman as one in whose fate thou hast
part or interest! What is it to thee if she marry Saracen or
Christian? What is it to thee if, in a camp where princes turn
cowards by day and robbers by night--where brave knights turn to
paltry deserters and traitors--what is it, I say, to thee, or any
one, if I should please to ally myself to truth and to valour, in
the person of Saladin?"
"Little to me, indeed, to whom all the world will soon be as
nothing," answered Sir Kenneth boldly; "but were I now stretched
on the rack, I would tell thee that what I have said is much to
thine own conscience and thine own fame. I tell thee, Sir King,
that if thou dost but in thought entertain the purpose of wedding
thy kinswoman, the Lady Edith--"
"Name her not--and for an instant think not of her," said the
King, again straining the curtal-axe in his gripe, until the
muscles started above his brawny arm, like cordage formed by the
ivy around the limb of an oak.
"Not name--not think of her!" answered Sir Kenneth, his spirits,
stunned as they were by self-depression, beginning to recover
their elasticity from this species of controversy. "Now, by the
Cross, on which I place my hope, her name shall be the last word
in my mouth, her image the last thought in my mind. Try thy
boasted strength on this bare brow, and see if thou canst prevent
"He will drive me mad!" said Richard, who, in his despite, was
once more staggered in his purpose by the dauntless determination
of the criminal.
Ere Thomas of Gilsland could reply, some bustle was heard
without, and the arrival of the Queen was announced from the
outer part of the pavilion.
"Detain her--detain her, Neville," cried the King; "this is no
sight for women.--Fie, that I have suffered such a paltry traitor
to chafe me thus!--Away with him, De Vaux," he whispered,
"through the back entrance of our tent; coop him up close, and
answer for his safe custody with your life. And hark ye--he is
presently to die--let him have a ghostly father--we would not
kill soul and body. And stay--hark thee--we will not have him
dishonoured--he shall die knightlike, in his belt and spurs; for
if his treachery be as black as hell, his boldness may match that
of the devil himself."
De Vaux, right glad, if the truth may be guessed, that the scene
ended without Richard's descending to the unkingly act of himself
slaying an unresisting prisoner, made haste to remove Sir Kenneth
by a private issue to a separate tent, where he was disarmed, and
put in fetters for security. De Vaux looked on with a steady and
melancholy attention, while the provost's officers, to whom Sir
Kenneth was now committed, took these severe precautions.
When they were ended, he said solemnly to the unhappy criminal,
"It is King Richard's pleasure that you die undegraded--without
mutilation of your body, or shame to your arms--and that your
head be severed from the trunk by the sword of the executioner."
"It is kind," said the knight, in a low and rather submissive
tone of voice, as one who received an unexpected favour; "my
family will not then hear the worst of the tale. Oh, my father
This muttered invocation did not escape the blunt but kindly-natured Englishman, and he brushed the back
of his large hand
over his rough features ere he could proceed.
"It is Richard of England's further pleasure," he said at length,
"that you have speech with a holy man; and I have met on the
passage hither with a Carmelite friar, who may fit you for your
passage. He waits without, until you are in a frame of mind to
"Let it be instantly," said the knight. "In this also Richard is
kind. I cannot be more fit to see the good father at any time
than now; for life and I have taken farewell, as two travellers
who have arrived at the crossway, where their roads separate."
"It is well," said De Vaux slowly and solemnly; "for it irks me
somewhat to say that which sums my message. It is King Richard's
pleasure that you prepare for instant death."
"God's pleasure and the King's be done," replied the knight
patiently. "I neither contest the justice of the sentence, nor
desire delay of the execution."
De Vaux began to leave the tent, but very slowly--paused at the
door, and looked back at the Scot, from whose aspect thoughts of
the world seemed banished, as if he was composing himself into
deep devotion. The feelings of the stout English baron were in
general none of the most acute, and yet, on the present occasion,
his sympathy overpowered him in an unusual manner. He came
hastily back to the bundle of reeds on which the captive lay,
took one of his fettered hands, and said, with as much softness
as his rough voice was capable of expressing, "Sir Kenneth, thou
art yet young--thou hast a father. My Ralph, whom I left
training his little galloway nag on the banks of the Irthing, may
one day attain thy years, and, but for last night, would to God I
saw his youth bear such promise as thine! Can nothing be said or
done in thy behalf?"
"Nothing," was the melancholy answer. "I have deserted my
charge--the banner entrusted to me is lost. When the headsman
and block are prepared, the head and trunk are ready to part
"Nay, then, God have mercy!" said De Vaux. "Yet would I rather
than my best horse I had taken that watch myself. There is
mystery in it, young man, as a plain man may descry, though he
cannot see through it. Cowardice? Pshaw! No coward ever fought
as I have seen thee do. Treachery? I cannot think traitors die
in their treason so calmly. Thou hast been trained from thy post
by some deep guile--some well-devised stratagem--the cry of some
distressed maiden has caught thine ear, or the laughful look of
some merry one has taken thine eye. Never blush for it; we have
all been led aside by such gear. Come, I pray thee, make a clean
conscience of it to me, instead of the priest. Richard is
merciful when his mood is abated. Hast thou nothing to entrust
The unfortunate knight turned his face from the kind warrior, and
And De Vaux, who had exhausted his topics of persuasion, arose
and left the tent, with folded arms, and in melancholy deeper
than he thought the occasion merited--even angry with himself to
find that so simple a matter as the death of a Scottish man could
affect him so nearly.
"Yet," as he said to himself, "though the rough-footed knaves be
our enemies in Cumberland, in Palestine one almost considers them
'Tis not her sense, for sure in that
There's nothing more than common;
And all her wit is only chat,
Like any other woman. SONG.
The high-born Berengaria, daughter of Sanchez, King of Navarre,
and the Queen-Consort of the heroic Richard, was accounted one of
the most beautiful women of the period. Her form was slight,
though exquisitely moulded. She was graced with a complexion not
common in her country, a profusion of fair hair, and features so
extremely juvenile as to make her look several years younger than
she really was, though in reality she was not above one-and-twenty. Perhaps it was under the consciousness
of this extremely
juvenile appearance that she affected, or at least practised, a
little childish petulance and wilfulness of manner, not
unbefitting, she might suppose, a youthful bride, whose rank and
age gave her a right to have her fantasies indulged and attended
to. She was by nature perfectly good-humoured, and if her due
share of admiration and homage (in her opinion a very large one)
was duly resigned to her, no one could possess better temper or a
more friendly disposition; but then, like all despots, the more
power that was voluntarily yielded to her, the more she desired
to extend her sway. Sometimes, even when all her ambition was
gratified, she chose to be a little out of health, and a little
out of spirits; and physicians had to toil their wits to invent
names for imaginary maladies, while her ladies racked their
imagination for new games, new head-gear, and new court-scandal,
to pass away those unpleasant hours, during which their own
situation was scarce to be greatly envied. Their most frequent
resource for diverting this malady was some trick or piece of
mischief practised upon each other; and the good Queen, in the
buoyancy of her reviving spirits, was, to speak truth, rather too
indifferent whether the frolics thus practised were entirely
befitting her own dignity, or whether the pain which those
suffered upon whom they were inflicted was not beyond the
proportion of pleasure which she herself derived from them. She
was confident in her husband's favour, in her high rank, and in
her supposed power to make good whatever such pranks might cost
others. In a word, she gambolled with the freedom of a young
lioness, who is unconscious of the weight of her own paws when
laid on those whom she sports with.
The Queen Berengaria loved her husband passionately, but she
feared the loftiness and roughness of his character; and as she
felt herself not to be his match in intellect, was not much
pleased to see that he would often talk with Edith Plantagenet in
preference to herself, simply because he found more amusement in
her conversation, a more comprehensive understanding, and a more
noble cast of thoughts and sentiments, than his beautiful consort
exhibited. Berengaria did not hate Edith on this account, far
less meditate her any harm; for, allowing for some selfishness,
her character was, on the whole, innocent and generous. But the
ladies of her train, sharpsighted in such matters, had for some
time discovered that a poignant jest at the expense of the Lady
Edith was a specific for relieving her Grace of England's low
spirits, and the discovery saved their imagination much toil.
There was something ungenerous in this, because the Lady Edith
was understood to be an orphan; and though she was called
Plantagenet, and the fair Maid of Anjou, and admitted by Richard
to certain privileges only granted to the royal family, and held
her place in the circle accordingly, yet few knew, and none
acquainted with the Court of England ventured to ask, in what
exact degree of relationship she stood to Coeur de Lion. She had
come with Eleanor, the celebrated Queen Mother of England, and
joined Richard at Messina, as one of the ladies destined to
attend on Berengaria, whose nuptials then approached. Richard
treated his kinswoman with much respectful observance, and the
Queen made her her most constant attendant, and, even in despite
of the petty jealousy which we have observed, treated her,
generally, with suitable respect.
The ladies of the household had, for a long time, no further
advantage over Edith than might be afforded by an opportunity of
censuring a less artfully disposed head attire or an unbecoming
robe; for the lady was judged to be inferior in these mysteries.
The silent devotion of the Scottish knight did not, indeed, pass
unnoticed; his liveries, his cognizances, his feats of arms, his
mottoes and devices, were nearly watched, and occasionally made
the subject of a passing jest. But then came the pilgrimage of
the Queen and her ladies to Engaddi, a journey which the Queen
had undertaken under a vow for the recovery of her husband's
health, and which she had been encouraged to carry into effect by
the Archbishop of Tyre for a political purpose. It was then, and
in the chapel at that holy place, connected from above with a
Carmelite nunnery, from beneath with the cell of the anchorite,
that one of the Queen's attendants remarked that secret sign of
intelligence which Edith had made to her lover, and failed not
instantly to communicate it to her Majesty. The Queen returned
from her pilgrimage enriched with this admirable recipe against
dullness or ennui; and her train was at the same time augmented
by a present of two wretched dwarfs from the dethroned Queen of
Jerusalem, as deformed and as crazy (the excellence of that
unhappy species) as any Queen could have desired. One of
Berengaria's idle amusements had been to try the effect of the
sudden appearance of such ghastly and fantastic forms on the
nerves of the Knight when left alone in the chapel; but the jest
had been lost by the composure of the Scot and the interference
of the anchorite. She had now tried another, of which the
consequences promised to be more serious.
The ladies again met after Sir Kenneth had retired from the tent,
and the Queen, at first little moved by Edith's angry
expostulations, only replied to her by upbraiding her prudery,
and by indulging her wit at the expense of the garb, nation, and,
above all the poverty of the Knight of the Leopard, in which she
displayed a good deal of playful malice, mingled with some
humour, until Edith was compelled to carry her anxiety to her
separate apartment. But when, in the morning, a female whom
Edith had entrusted to make inquiry brought word that the
Standard was missing, and its champion vanished, she burst into
the Queen's apartment, and implored her to rise and proceed to
the King's tent without delay, and use her powerful mediation to
prevent the evil consequences of her jest.
The Queen, frightened in her turn, cast, as is usual, the blame
of her own folly on those around her, and endeavoured to comfort
Edith's grief, and appease her displeasure, by a thousand
inconsistent arguments. She was sure no harm had chanced--the
knight was sleeping, she fancied, after his night-watch. What
though, for fear of the King's displeasure, he had deserted with
the Standard--it was but a piece of silk, and he but a needy
adventurer; or if he was put under warding for a time, she would
soon get the King to pardon him--it was but waiting to let
Richard's mood pass away.
Thus she continued talking thick and fast, and heaping together
all sorts of inconsistencies, with the vain expectation of
persuading both Edith and herself that no harm could come of a
frolic which in her heart she now bitterly repented. But while
Edith in vain strove to intercept this torrent of idle talk, she
caught the eye of one of the ladies who entered the Queen's
apartment. There was death in her look of affright and horror,
and Edith, at the first glance of her countenance, had sunk at
once on the earth, had not strong necessity and her own elevation
of character enabled her to maintain at least external composure.