Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

And surely, as Norman of Torn turned in the direction from which he had
just come, there, racing toward him at full tilt, rode three steel-armored
men on their mighty horses.

"Ride, madam," cried Norman of Torn, "for fly I shall not, nor may I,
alone, unarmored, and on foot hope more than to momentarily delay these
three fellows, but in that time you should easily make your escape. Their
heavy-burdened animals could never o'ertake your fleet palfrey."

As he spoke, he took note for the first time of the young woman. That she
was a lady of quality was evidenced not alone by the richness of her riding
apparel and the trappings of her palfrey, but as well in her noble and
haughty demeanor and the proud expression of her beautiful face.

Although at this time nearly twenty years had passed over the head of
Norman of Torn, he was without knowledge or experience in the ways of
women, nor had he ever spoken with a female of quality or position. No
woman graced the castle of Torn nor had the boy, within his memory, ever
known a mother.

His attitude therefore was much the same toward women as it was toward men,
except that he had sworn always to protect them. Possibly, in a way, he
looked up to womankind, if it could be said that Norman of Torn looked up
to anything: God, man or devil -- it being more his way to look down upon
all creatures whom he took the trouble to notice at all.

As his glance rested upon this woman, whom fate had destined to alter the
entire course of his life, Norman of Torn saw that she was beautiful, and
that she was of that class against whom he had preyed for years with his
band of outlaw cut-throats. Then he turned once more to face her enemies
with the strange inconsistency which had ever marked his methods.

Tomorrow he might be assaulting the ramparts of her father's castle, but
today he was joyously offering to sacrifice his life for her -- had she
been the daughter of a charcoal burner he would have done no less. It was
enough that she was a woman and in need of protection.

The three knights were now fairly upon him, and with fine disregard for
fair play, charged with couched spears the unarmored man on foot. But as
the leading knight came close enough to behold his face, he cried out in
surprise and consternation:

"Mon Dieu, le Prince !" He wheeled his charging horse to one side. His
fellows, hearing his cry, followed his example, and the three of them
dashed on down the high road in as evident anxiety to escape as they had
been keen to attack.

"One would think they had met the devil," muttered Norman of Torn, looking
after them in unfeigned astonishment.

"What means it, lady ?" he asked turning to the damsel, who had made no
move to escape.

"It means that your face is well known in your father's realm, my Lord
Prince," she replied. "And the King's men have no desire to antagonize
you, even though they may understand as little as I why you should espouse
the cause of a daughter of Simon de Montfort."

"Am I then taken for Prince Edward of England ?" he asked.

"An' who else should you be taken for, my Lord ?"

"I am not the Prince," said Norman of Torn. "It is said that Edward is in
France."

"Right you are, sir," exclaimed the girl. "I had not thought on that; but
you be enough of his likeness that you might well deceive the Queen
herself. And you be of a bravery fit for a king's son. Who are you then,
Sir Knight, who has bared your steel and faced death for Bertrade, daughter
of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester ?"

"Be you De Montfort's daughter, niece of King Henry ?" queried Norman of
Torn, his eyes narrowing to mere slits and face hardening.

"That I be," replied the girl, "an' from your face I take it you have
little love for a De Montfort," she added, smiling.

"An' whither may you be bound, Lady Bertrade de Montfort ? Be you niece or
daughter of the devil, yet still you be a woman, and I do not war against
women. Wheresoever you would go will I accompany you to safety."

"I was but now bound, under escort of five of my father's knights, to visit
Mary, daughter of John de Stutevill of Derby."

"I know the castle well," answered Norman of Torn, and the shadow of a grim
smile played about his lips, for scarce sixty days had elapsed since he had
reduced the stronghold, and levied tribute on the great baron. "Come, you
have not far to travel now, and if we make haste you shall sup with your
friend before dark."

So saying, he mounted his horse and was turning to retrace their steps down
the road when he noticed the body of the dead knight lying where it had
fallen.

"Ride on," he called to Bertrade de Montfort, "I will join you in an
instant."

Again dismounting, he returned to the side of his late adversary, and
lifting the dead knight's visor, drew upon the forehead with the point of
his dagger the letters NT.

The girl turned to see what detained him, but his back was toward her and
he knelt beside his fallen foeman, and she did not see his act. Brave
daughter of a brave sire though she was, had she seen what he did, her
heart would have quailed within her and she would have fled in terror from
the clutches of this scourge of England, whose mark she had seen on the
dead foreheads of a dozen of her father's knights and kinsmen.

Their way to Stutevill lay past the cottage of Father Claude, and here
Norman of Torn stopped to don his armor. Now he rode once more with
lowered visor, and in silence, a little to the rear of Bertrade de Montfort
that he might watch her face, which, of a sudden, had excited his interest.

Never before, within the scope of his memory, had he been so close to a
young and beautiful woman for so long a period of time, although he had
often seen women in the castles that had fallen before his vicious and
terrible attacks. While stories were abroad of his vile treatment of women
captives, there was no truth in them. They were merely spread by his
enemies to incite the people against him. Never had Norman of Torn laid
violent hand upon a woman, and his cut-throat band were under oath to
respect and protect the sex, on penalty of death.

As he watched the semi-profile of the lovely face before him, something
stirred in his heart which had been struggling for expression for years.
It was not love, nor was it allied to love, but a deep longing for
companionship of such as she, and such as she represented. Norman of Torn
could not have translated this feeling into words for he did not know, but
it was the far faint cry of blood for blood and with it, mayhap, was mixed
not alone the longing of the lion among jackals for other lions, but for
his lioness.

They rode for many miles in silence when suddenly she turned, saying:

"You take your time, Sir Knight, in answering my query. Who be ye ?"

"I am Nor -- " and then he stopped. Always before he had answered that
question with haughty pride. Why should he hesitate, he thought. Was it
because he feared the loathing that name would inspire in the breast of
this daughter of the aristocracy he despised ? Did Norman of Torn fear to
face the look of seem and repugnance that was sure to be mirrored in that
lovely face ?

"I am from Normandy," he went on quietly. "A gentleman of France."

"But your name ?" she said peremptorily. "Are you ashamed of your name ?"

"You may call me Roger," he answered. "Roger de Conde."

"Raise your visor, Roger de Conde," she commanded. "I do not take pleasure
in riding with a suit of armor; I would see that there is a man within."

Norman of Torn smiled as he did her bidding, and when he smiled thus, as he
rarely did, he was good to look upon.

"It is the first command I have obeyed since I turned sixteen, Bertrade de
Montfort," he said.

The girl was about nineteen, full of the vigor and gaiety of youth and
health; and so the two rode on their journey talking and laughing as they
might have been friends of long standing.

She told him of the reason for the attack upon her earlier in the day,
attributing it to an attempt on the part of a certain baron, Peter of
Colfax, to abduct her, his suit for her hand having been peremptorily and
roughly denied by her father.

Simon de Montfort was no man to mince words, and it is doubtless that the
old reprobate who sued for his daughter's hand heard some unsavory truths
from the man who had twice scandalized England's nobility by his rude and
discourteous, though true and candid, speeches to the King.

"This Peter of Colfax shall be looked to," growled Norman of Torn. "And,
as you have refused his heart and hand, his head shall be yours for the
asking. You have but to command, Bertrade de Montfort."

"Very well," she laughed, thinking it but the idle boasting so much
indulged in in those days. "You may bring me his head upon a golden dish,
Roger de Conde."

"And what reward does the knight earn who brings to the feet of his
princess the head of her enemy ?" he asked lightly.

"What boon would the knight ask ?"

"That whatsoever a bad report you hear of your knight, of whatsoever
calumnies may be heaped upon him, you shall yet ever be his friend, and
believe in his honor and his loyalty."

The girl laughed gaily as she answered, though something seemed to tell her
that this was more than play.

"It shall be as you say, Sir Knight," she replied. "And the boon once
granted shall be always kept."

Quick to reach decisions and as quick to act, Norman of Torn decided that
he liked this girl and that he wished her friendship more than any other
thing he knew of. And wishing it, he determined to win it by any means
that accorded with his standard of honor; an honor which in many respects
was higher than that of the nobles of his time.

They reached the castle of De Stutevill late in the afternoon, and there,
Norman of Torn was graciously welcomed and urged to accept the Baron's
hospitality overnight.

The grim humor of the situation was too much for the outlaw, and, when
added to his new desire to be in the company of Bertrade de Montfort, he
made no effort to resist, but hastened to accept the warm welcome.

At the long table upon which the evening meal was spread sat the entire
household of the Baron, and here and there among the men were evidences of
painful wounds but barely healed, while the host himself still wore his
sword arm in a sling.

"We have been through grievous times," said Sir John, noticing that his
guest was glancing at the various evidences of conflict. "That fiend,
Norman the Devil, with his filthy pack of cut-throats, besieged us for ten
days, and then took the castle by storm and sacked it. Life is no longer
safe in England with the King spending his time and money with foreign
favorites and buying alien soldiery to fight against his own barons,
instead of insuring the peace and protection which is the right of every
Englishman at home.

"But," he continued, "this outlaw devil will come to the end of a short
halter when once our civil strife is settled, for the barons themselves
have decided upon an expedition against him, if the King will not subdue
him."

"An' he may send the barons naked home as he did the King's soldiers,"
laughed Bertrade de Montfort. "I should like to see this fellow; what may
he look like -- from the appearance of yourself, Sir John, and many of your
men-at-arms, there should be no few here but have met him."

"Not once did he raise his visor while he was among us," replied the
Baron, "but there are those who claim they had a brief glimpse of him and
that he is of horrid countenance, wearing a great yellow beard and having
one eye gone, and a mighty red scar from his forehead to his chin."

"A fearful apparition," murmured Norman of Torn. "No wonder he keeps his
helm closed."

"But such a swordsman," spoke up a son of De Stutevill. "Never in all the
world was there such swordplay as I saw that day in the courtyard."

"I, too, have seen some wonderful swordplay," said Bertrade de Montfort,
"and that today. O he !" she cried, laughing gleefully, "verily do I
believe I have captured the wild Norman of Torn, for this very knight, who
styles himself Roger de Conde, fights as I ne'er saw man fight before, and
he rode with his visor down until I chide him for it."

Norman of Torn led in the laugh which followed, and of all the company he
most enjoyed the joke.

"An' speaking of the Devil," said the Baron, "how think you he will side
should the King eventually force war upon the barons ? With his thousand
hell-hounds, the fate of England might well he in the palm of his bloody
hand."

"He loves neither King nor baron," spoke Mary de Stutevill, "and I rather
lean to the thought that he will serve neither, but rather plunder the
castles of both rebel and royalist whilst their masters be absent at war."

"It be more to his liking to come while the master be home to welcome him,"
said De Stutevill, ruthfully. "But yet I am always in fear for the safety
of my wife and daughters when I be away from Derby for any time. May the
good God soon deliver England from this Devil of Torn."

"I think you may have no need of fear on that score," spoke Mary, "for
Norman of Torn offered no violence to any woman within the wall of
Stutevill, and when one of his men laid a heavy hand upon me, it was the
great outlaw himself who struck the fellow such a blow with his mailed hand
as to crack the ruffian's helm, saying at the time, 'Know you, fellow,
Norman of Torn does not war upon women ?'"

Presently the conversation turned to other subjects and Norman of Torn
heard no more of himself during that evening.

His stay at the castle of Stutevill was drawn out to three days, and then,
on the third day, as he sat with Bertrade de Montfort in an embrasure of
the south tower of the old castle, he spoke once more of the necessity for
leaving and once more she urged him to remain.

"To be with you, Bertrade of Montfort," he said boldly, "I would forego any
other pleasure, and endure any privation, or face any danger, but there are
others who look to me for guidance and my duty calls me away from you. You
shall see me again, and at the castle of your father, Simon de Montfort, in
Leicester. Provided," he added, "that you will welcome me there."

"I shall always welcome you, wherever I may be, Roger de Conde," replied
the girl.

"Remember that promise," he said smiling. "Some day you may be glad to
repudiate it."

"Never," she insisted, and a light that shone in her eyes as she said it
would have meant much to a man better versed in the ways of women than was
Norman of Torn.

"I hope not," he said gravely. "I cannot tell you, being but poorly
trained in courtly ways, what I should like to tell you, that you might
know how much your friendship means to me. Goodbye, Bertrade de Montfort,"
and he bent to one knee, as he raised her fingers to his lips.

As he passed over the drawbridge and down toward the highroad a few minutes
later on his way back to Torn, he turned for one last look at the castle
and there, in an embrasure in the south tower, stood a young woman who
raised her hand to wave, and then, as though by sudden impulse, threw a
kiss after the departing knight, only to disappear from the embrasure with
the act.

As Norman of Torn rode back to his grim castle in the hills of Derby, he
had much food for thought upon the way. Never till now had he realized
what might lie in another manner of life, and he felt a twinge of
bitterness toward the hard, old man whom he called father, and whose
teachings from the boy's earliest childhood had guided him in the ways that
had out him off completely from the society of other men, except the wild
horde of outlaws, ruffians and adventurers that rode beneath the grisly
banner of the young chief of Torn.

Only in an ill-defined, nebulous way did he feel that it was the girl who
had come into his life that caused him for the first time to feel shame for
his past deeds. He did not know the meaning of love, and so he could not
know that he loved Bertrade de Montfort.

And another thought which now filled his mind was the fact of his strange
likeness to the Crown Prince of England. This, together with the words of
Father Claude, puzzled him sorely. What might it mean ? Was it a heinous
offence to own an accidental likeness to a king's son ?

But now that he felt he had solved the reason that he rode always with
closed helm, he was for the first time anxious himself to hide his face
from the sight of men. Not from fear, for he knew not fear, but from some
inward impulse which he did not attempt to fathom.

CHAPTER VIII

As Norman of Torn rode out from the castle of De Stutevill, Father Claude
dismounted from his sleek donkey within the ballium of Torn. The austere
stronghold, notwithstanding its repellent exterior and unsavory reputation,
always extended a warm welcome to the kindly, genial priest; not alone
because of the deep friendship which the master of Torn felt for the good
father, but through the personal charm, and lovableness of the holy man's
nature, which shone alike on saint and sinner.

It was doubtless due to his unremitting labors with the youthful Norman,
during the period that the boy's character was most amenable to strong
impressions, that the policy of the mighty outlaw was in many respects pure
and lofty. It was this same influence, though, which won for Father Claude
his only enemy in Torn; the little, grim, gray, old man whose sole aim in
life seemed to have been to smother every finer instinct of chivalry and
manhood in the boy, to whose training he had devoted the past nineteen
years of his life.

As Father Claude climbed down from his donkey -- fat people do not
"dismount" -- a half dozen young squires ran forward to assist him, and to
lead the animal to the stables.

The good priest called each of his willing helpers by name, asking a
question here, passing a merry joke there with the ease and familiarity
that bespoke mutual affection and old acquaintance.

As he passed in through the great gate, the men-at-arms threw him laughing,
though respectful, welcomes and within the great court, beautified with
smooth lawn, beds of gorgeous plants, fountains, statues and small shrubs
and bushes, he came upon the giant, Red Shandy, now the principal
lieutenant of Norman of Torn.

"Good morrow, Saint Claude !" cried the burly ruffian. "Hast come to save
our souls, or damn us ? What manner of sacrilege have we committed now, or
have we merited the blessings of Holy Church ? Dost come to scold, or
praise ?"

"Neither, thou unregenerate villain," cried the priest, laughing. "Though
methinks ye merit chiding for the grievous poor courtesy with which thou
didst treat the great Bishop of Norwich the past week."

"Tut, tut, Father," replied Red Shandy. "We did but aid him to adhere more
closely to the injunctions and precepts of Him whose servant and disciple
he claims to be. Were it not better for an Archbishop of His Church to
walk in humility and poverty among His people, than to be ever surrounded
with the temptations of fine clothing, jewels and much gold, to say nothing
of two sumpter beasts heavy laden with runlets of wine ?"

"I warrant his temptations were less by at least as many runlets of wine as
may be borne by two sumpter beasts when thou, red robber, had finished with
him," exclaimed Father Claude.

"Yes, Father," laughed the great fellow, "for the sake of Holy Church, I
did indeed confiscate that temptation completely, and if you must needs
have proof in order to absolve me from my sins, come with me now and you
shall sample the excellent discrimination which the Bishop of Norwich
displays in the selection of his temptations."

"They tell me you left the great man quite destitute of finery, Red
Shandy, " continued Father Claude, as he locked his arm in that of the
outlaw and proceeded toward the castle.

"One garment was all that Norman of Torn would permit him, and as the sun
was hot overhead, he selected for the Bishop a bassinet for that single
article of apparel, to protect his tonsured pate from the rays of old sol.
Then, fearing that it might be stolen from him by some vandals of the road,
he had One Eye Kanty rivet it at each side of the gorget so that it could
not be removed by other than a smithy, and thus, strapped face to tail upon
a donkey, he sent the great Bishop of Norwich rattling down the dusty road
with his head, at least, protected from the idle gaze of whomsoever he
might chance to meet. Forty stripes he gave to each of the Bishop's
retinue for being abroad in bad company; but come, here we are where you
shall have the wine as proof of my tale."

As the two sat sipping the Bishop's good Canary, the little old man of Torn
entered. He spoke to Father Claude in a surly tone, asking him if he knew
aught of the whereabouts of Norman of Torn.

"We have seen nothing of him since, some three days gone, he rode out in
the direction of your cottage," he concluded.

"Why, yes," said the priest, "I saw him that day. He had an adventure with
several knights from the castle of Peter of Colfax, from whom he rescued a
damsel whom I suspect from the trappings of her palfrey to be of the house
of Montfort. Together they rode north, but thy son did not say whither or
for what purpose. His only remark, as he donned his armor, while the girl
waited without, was that I should now behold the falcon guarding the dove.
Hast he not returned ?"

"No," said the old man, "and doubtless his adventure is of a nature in line
with thy puerile and effeminate teachings. Had he followed my training,
without thy accurst priestly interference, he had made an iron-barred nest
in Torn for many of the doves of thy damned English nobility. An' thou
leave him not alone, he will soon be seeking service in the household of
the King."

"Where, perchance, he might be more at home than here," said the priest
quietly.

"Why say you that ?" snapped the little old man, eyeing Father Claude
narrowly.

"Oh," laughed the priest, "because he whose power and mien be even more
kingly than the King's would rightly grace the royal palace," but he had
not failed to note the perturbation his remark had caused, nor did his
off-hand reply entirely deceive the old man.

At this juncture, a squire entered to say that Shandy's presence was
required at the gates, and that worthy, with a sorrowing and regretful
glance at the unemptied flagon, left the room.

For a few moments, the two men sat in meditative silence, which was
presently broken by the old man of Torn.

"Priest," he said, "thy ways with my son are, as you know, not to my
liking. It were needless that he should have wasted so much precious time
from swordplay to learn the useless art of letters. Of what benefit may a
knowledge of Latin be to one whose doom looms large before him. It may be
years and again it may be but months, but as sure as there be a devil in
hell, Norman of Torn will swing from a king's gibbet. And thou knowst it,
and he too, as well as I. The things which thou hast taught him be above
his station, and the hopes and ambitions they inspire will but make his end
the bitterer for him. Of late I have noted that he rides upon the highway
with less enthusiasm than was his wont, but he has gone too far ever to go
back now; nor is there where to go back to. What has he ever been other
than outcast and outlaw ? What hopes could you have engendered in his
breast greater than to be hated and feared among his blood enemies ?"

"I knowst not thy reasons, old man," replied the priest, "for devoting thy
life to the ruining of his, and what I guess at be such as I dare not
voice; but let us understand each other once and for all. For all thou
dost and hast done to blight and curse the nobleness of his nature, I have
done and shall continue to do all in my power to controvert. As thou hast
been his bad angel, so shall I try to be his good angel, and when all is
said and done and Norman of Torn swings from the King's gibbet, as I only
too well fear he must, there will be more to mourn his loss than there be
to curse him.

"His friends are from the ranks of the lowly, but so too were the friends
and followers of our Dear Lord Jesus; so that shall be more greatly to his
honor than had he preyed upon the already unfortunate.

"Women have never been his prey; that also will be spoken of to his honor
when he is gone, and that he has been cruel to men will be forgotten in the
greater glory of his mercy to the weak.

"Whatever be thy object: whether revenge or the natural bent of a cruel and
degraded mind, I know not; but if any be curst because of the Outlaw of
Torn, it will be thou -- I had almost said, unnatural father; but I do not
believe a single drop of thy debased blood flows in the veins of him thou
callest son."

The grim old man of Torn had sat motionless throughout this indictment, his
face, somewhat pale, was drawn into lines of malevolent hatred and rage,
but he permitted Father Claude to finish without interruption.

"Thou hast made thyself and thy opinions quite clear," he said bitterly,
"but I be glad to know just how thou standeth. In the past there has been
peace between us, though no love; now let us both understand that it be war
and hate. My life work is cut out for me. Others, like thyself, have
stood in my path, yet today I am here, but where are they ? Dost
understand me, priest ?" And the old man leaned far across the table so
that his eyes, burning with an insane fire of venom, blazed but a few
inches from those of the priest.

Father Claude returned the look with calm level gaze.

"I understand," he said, and, rising, left the castle.

Shortly after he had reached his cottage, a loud knock sounded at the door,
which immediately swung open without waiting the formality of permission.
Father Claude looked up to see the tall figure of Norman of Torn, and his
face lighted with a pleased smile of welcome.

"Greetings, my son," said the priest.

"And to thee, Father," replied the outlaw, "And what may be the news of
Torn. I have been absent for several days. Is all well at the castle ?"

"All be well at the castle," replied Father Claude, "if by that you mean
have none been captured or hanged for their murders. Ah, my boy, why wilt
thou not give up this wicked life of thine ? It has never been my way to
scold or chide thee, yet always hath my heart ached for each crime laid at
the door of Norman of Torn."

"Come, come, Father," replied the outlaw, "what dost I that I have not good
example for from the barons, and the King, and Holy Church. Murder, theft,
rapine ! Passeth a day over England which sees not one or all perpetrated
in the name of some of these ?

"Be it wicked for Norman of Torn to prey upon the wolf, yet righteous for
the wolf to tear the sheep ? Methinks not. Only do I collect from those
who have more than they need, from my natural enemies; while they prey upon
those who have naught.

"Yet," and his manner suddenly changed, "I do not love it, Father. That
thou know. I would that there might be some way out of it, but there is
none.

"If I told you why I wished it, you would be surprised indeed, nor can I
myself understand; but, of a verity, my greatest wish to be out of this
life is due to the fact that I crave the association of those very enemies
I have been taught to hate. But it is too late, Father, there can be but
one end and that the lower end of a hempen rope."

"No, my son, there is another way, an honorable way," replied the good
Father. "In some foreign clime there be opportunities abundant for such as
thee. France offers a magnificent future to such a soldier as Norman of
Torn. In the court of Louis, you would take your place among the highest
of the land. You be rich and brave and handsome. Nay do not raise your
hand. You be all these and more, for you have learning far beyond the
majority of nobles, and you have a good heart and a true chivalry of
character. With such wondrous gifts, naught could bar your way to the
highest pinnacles of power and glory, while here you have no future beyond
the halter. Canst thou hesitate, Norman of Torn ?"

The young man stood silent for a moment, then he drew his hand across his
eyes as though to brush away a vision.

"There be a reason, Father, why I must remain in England for a time at
least, though the picture you put is indeed wondrous alluring."

And the reason was Bertrade de Montfort.

CHAPTER IX

The visit of Bertrade de Montfort with her friend Mary de Stutevill was
drawing to a close. Three weeks had passed since Roger de Conde had ridden
out from the portals of Stutevill and many times the handsome young
knight's name had been on the lips of his fair hostess and her fairer
friend.

Today the two girls roamed slowly through the gardens of the great court,
their arms about each other's waists, pouring the last confidences into
each other's ears, for tomorrow Bertrade had elected to return to
Leicester.

"Methinks thou be very rash indeed, my Bertrade," said Mary. "Wert my
father here he would, I am sure, not permit thee to leave with only the
small escort which we be able to give."

"Fear not, Mary," replied Bertrade. "Five of thy father's knights be ample
protection for so short a journey. By evening it will have been
accomplished; and, as the only one I fear in these parts received such a
sound set back from Roger de Conde recently, I do not think he will venture
again to molest me."

"But what about the Devil of Torn, Bertrade ?" urged Mary. "Only
yestereve, you wot, one of Lord de Grey's men-at-arms came limping to us
with the news of the awful carnage the foul fiend had wrought on his
master's household. He be abroad, Bertrade, and I canst think of naught
more horrible than to fall into his hands."

"Why, Mary, thou didst but recently say thy very self that Norman of Torn
was most courteous to thee when he sacked this, thy father's castle. How
be it thou so soon has changed thy mind ?"

"Yes, Bertrade, he was indeed respectful then, but who knows what horrid
freak his mind may take, and they do say that he be cruel beyond compare.
Again, forget not that thou be Leicester's daughter and Henry's niece;
against both of whom the Outlaw of Torn openly swears his hatred and his
vengeance. Oh, Bertrade, wait but for a day or so, I be sure my father
must return ere then, and fifty knights shall accompany thee instead of
five."

"What be fifty knights against Norman of Torn, Mary ? Thy reasoning is on
a parity with thy fears, both have flown wide of the mark.

"If I am to meet with this wild ruffian, it were better that five knights
were sacrificed than fifty, for either number would be but a mouthful to
that horrid horde of unhung murderers. No, Mary, I shall start tomorrow
and your good knights shall return the following day with the best of word
from me."

"If thou wilst, thou wilst," cried Mary petulantly. "Indeed it were plain
that thou be a De Montfort; that race whose historic bravery be second only
to their historic stubbornness."

Bertrade de Montfort laughed, and kissed her friend upon the cheek.

"Mayhap I shall find the brave Roger de Conde again upon the highroad to
protect me. Then indeed shall I send back your five knights, for of a
truth, his blade is more powerful than that of any ten men I ere saw fight
before."

"Methinks," said Mary, still peeved at her friend's determination to leave
on the morrow, "that should you meet the doughty Sir Roger all unarmed,
that still would you send back my father's knights."

Bertrade flushed, and then bit her lip as she felt the warm blood mount to
her cheek.

"Thou be a fool, Mary," she said.

Mary broke into a joyful, teasing laugh; hugely enjoying the discomfiture
of the admission the tell-tale flush proclaimed.

"Ah, I did but guess how thy heart and thy mind tended, Bertrade; but now I
seest that I divined all too truly. He be indeed good to look upon, but
what knowest thou of him ?"

"Hush, Mary !" commanded Bertrade. "Thou know not what thou sayest. I
would not wipe my feet upon him, I care naught whatever for him, and
then -- it has been three weeks since he rode out from Stutevill and no
word hath he sent."

"Oh, ho," cried the little plague, "so there lies the wind ? My Lady would
not wipe her feet upon him, but she be sore vexed that he has sent her no
word. Mon Dieu, but thou hast strange notions, Bertrade."

"I will not talk with you, Mary," cried Bertrade, stamping her sandaled
foot, and with a toss of her pretty head she turned abruptly toward the
castle.

In a small chamber in the castle of Colfax two men sat at opposite sides of
a little table. The one, Peter of Colfax, was short and very stout. His
red, bloated face, bleary eyes and bulbous nose bespoke the manner of his
life; while his thick lips, the lower hanging large and flabby over his
receding chin, indicated the base passions to which his life and been
given. His companion was a little, grim, gray man but his suit of armor
and closed helm gave no hint to his host of whom his guest might be. It
was the little armored man who was speaking.

"Is it not enough that I offer to aid you, Sir Peter," he said, "that you
must have my reasons ? Let it go that my hate of Leicester be the passion
which moves me. Thou failed in thy attempt to capture the maiden; give me
ten knights and I will bring her to you."

"How knowest thou she rides out tomorrow for her father's castle ?" asked
Peter of Colfax.

"That again be no concern of thine, my friend, but I do know it, and, if
thou wouldst have her, be quick, for we should ride out tonight that we may
take our positions by the highway in ample time tomorrow."

Still Peter of Colfax hesitated, he feared this might be a ruse of
Leicester's to catch him in some trap. He did not know his guest -- the
fellow might want the girl for himself and be taking this method of
obtaining the necessary assistance to capture her.

"Come," said the little, armored man irritably. "I cannot bide here
forever. Make up thy mind; it be nothing to me other than my revenge, and
if thou wilst not do it, I shall hire the necessary ruffians and then not
even thou shalt see Bertrade de Montfort more."

This last threat decided the Baron.

"It is agreed," he said. "The men shall ride out with you in half an
hour. Wait below in the courtyard."

When the little man had left the apartment, Peter of Colfax summoned his
squire whom he had send to him at once one of his faithful henchmen.

"Guy," said Peter of Colfax, as the man entered, "ye made a rare fizzle of
a piece of business some weeks ago. Ye wot of which I speak ?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"It chances that on the morrow ye may have opportunity to retrieve thy
blunder. Ride out with ten men where the stranger who waits in the
courtyard below shall lead ye, and come not back without that which ye lost
to a handful of men before. You understand ?"

"Yes, My Lord !"

"And, Guy, I half mistrust this fellow who hath offered to assist us. At
the first sign of treachery, fall upon him with all thy men and slay him.
Tell the others that these be my orders."

"Yes, My Lord. When do we ride ?"

"At once. You may go."

The morning that Bertrade de Montfort had chosen to return to her father's
castle dawned gray and threatening. In vain did Mary de Stutevill plead
with her friend to give up the idea of setting out upon such a dismal day
and without sufficient escort, but Bertrade de Montfort was firm.

"Already have I overstayed my time three days, and it is not lightly that
even I, his daughter, fail in obedience to Simon de Montfort. I shall have
enough to account for as it be. Do not urge me to add even one more day to
my excuses. And again, perchance, my mother and my father may be sore
distressed by my continued absence. No, Mary, I must ride today." And so
she did, with the five knights that could be spared from the castle's
defence.

Scarcely half an hour had elapsed before a cold drizzle set in, so that
they were indeed a sorry company that splashed along the muddy road,
wrapped in mantle and surcoat. As they proceeded, the rain and wind
increased in volume, until it was being driven into their faces in such
blinding gusts that they must needs keep their eyes closed and trust to the
instincts of their mounts.

Less than half the journey had been accomplished. They were winding across
a little hollow toward a low ridge covered with dense forest, into the
somber shadows of which the road wound. There was a glint of armor among
the drenched foliage, but the rain-buffeted eyes of the riders saw it not.
On they came, their patient horses plodding slowly through the sticky road
and hurtling storm.

Now they were half way up the ridge's side. There was a movement in the
dark shadows of the grim wood, and then, without cry or warning, a band of
steel-clad horsemen broke forth with couched spears. Charging at full run
down upon them, they overthrew three of the girl's escort before a blow
could be struck in her defense. Her two remaining guardians wheeled to
meet the return attack, and nobly did they acquit themselves, for it took
the entire eleven who were pitted against them to overcome and slay the
two.

In the melee, none had noticed the girl, but presently one of her
assailants, a little, grim, gray man, discovered that she had put spurs to
her palfrey and escaped. Calling to his companions he set out at a rapid
pace in pursuit.

Reckless of the slippery road and the blinding rain, Bertrade de Montfort
urged her mount into a wild run, for she had recognized the arms of Peter
of Colfax on the shields of several of the attacking party.

Nobly, the beautiful Arab bent to her call for speed. The great beasts of
her pursuers, bred in Normandy and Flanders, might have been tethered in
their stalls for all the chance they had of overtaking the flying white
steed that fairly split the gray rain as lightning flies through the
clouds.

But for the fiendish cunning of the little grim, gray man's foresight,
Bertrade de Montfort would have made good her escape that day. As it was,
however, her fleet mount had carried her but two hundred yards ere, in the
midst of the dark wood, she ran full upon a rope stretched across the
roadway between two trees.

As the horse fell, with a terrible lunge, tripped by the stout rope,
Bertrade de Montfort was thrown far before him, where she lay, a little,
limp bedraggled figure, in the mud of the road.

There they found her. The little, grim, gray man did not even dismount, so
indifferent was he to her fate; dead or in the hands of Peter of Colfax, it
was all the same to him. In either event, his purpose would be
accomplished, and Bertrade de Montfort would no longer lure Norman of Torn
from the path he had laid out for him.

That such an eventuality threatened, he knew from one Spizo the Spaniard,
the single traitor in the service of Norman of Torn, whose mean aid the
little grim, gray man had purchased since many months to spy upon the
comings and goings of the great outlaw.

The men of Peter of Colfax gathered up the lifeless form of Bertrade de
Montfort and placed it across the saddle before one of their number.

"Come," said the man called Guy, "if there be life left in her, we must
hasten to Sir Peter before it be extinct."

"I leave ye here," said the little old man. "My part of the business is
done."

And so he sat watching them until they had disappeared in the forest toward
the castle of Colfax.

Then he rode back to the scene of the encounter where lay the five knights
of Sir John de Stutevill. Three were already dead, the other two, sorely
but not mortally wounded, lay groaning by the roadside.

The little grim, gray man dismounted as he came abreast of them and, with
his long sword, silently finished the two wounded men. Then, drawing his
dagger, he made a mark upon the dead foreheads of each of the five, and
mounting, rode rapidly toward Torn.

"And if one fact be not enough," he muttered, "that mark upon the dead will
quite effectually stop further intercourse between the houses of Torn and
Leicester."

Henry de Montfort, son of Simon, rode fast and furious at the head of a
dozen of his father's knights on the road to Stutevill.

Bertrade de Montfort was so long overdue that the Earl and Princess
Eleanor, his wife, filled with grave apprehensions, had posted their oldest
son off to the castle of John de Stutevill to fetch her home.

With the wind and rain at their backs, the little party rode rapidly along
the muddy road, until late in the afternoon they came upon a white palfrey
standing huddled beneath a great oak, his arched back toward the driving
storm.

"By God," cried De Montfort, "tis my sister's own Abdul. There be
something wrong here indeed." But a rapid search of the vicinity, and loud
calls brought no further evidence of the girl's whereabouts, so they
pressed on toward Stutevill.

Some two miles beyond the spot where the white palfrey had been found, they
came upon the dead bodies of the five knights who had accompanied Bertrade
from Stutevill.

Dismounting, Henry de Montfort examined the bodies of the fallen men. The
arms upon shield and helm confirmed his first fear that these had been
Bertrade's escort from Stutevill.

As he bent over them to see if he recognized any of the knights, there
stared up into his face from the foreheads of the dead men the dreaded
sign, NT, scratched there with a dagger's point.

"The curse of God be on him !" cried De Montfort. "It be the work of the
Devil of Torn, my gentlemen," he said to his followers. "Come, we need no
further guide to our destination." And, remounting, the little party
spurred back toward Torn.

When Bertrade de Montfort regained her senses, she was in bed in a strange
room, and above her bent an old woman; a repulsive, toothless old woman,
whose smile was but a fangless snarl.

"Ho, ho !" she croaked. "The bride waketh. I told My Lord that it would
take more than a tumble in the mud to kill a De Montfort. Come, come, now,
arise and clothe thyself, for the handsome bridegroom canst scarce restrain
his eager desire to fold thee in his arms. Below in the great hall he
paces to and fro, the red blood mantling his beauteous countenance."

"Who be ye ?" cried Bertrade de Montfort, her mind still dazed from the
effects of her fall. "Where am I ?" and then, "O, Mon Dieu !" as she
remembered the events of the afternoon; and the arms of Colfax upon the
shields of the attacking party. In an instant she realized the horror of
her predicament; its utter hopelessness.

Beast though he was, Peter of Colfax stood high in the favor of the King;
and the fact that she was his niece would scarce aid her cause with Henry,
for it was more than counter-balanced by the fact that she was the daughter
of Simon de Montfort, whom he feared and hated.

In the corridor without, she heard the heavy tramp of approaching feet, and
presently a man's voice at the door.

"Within there, Coll ! Hast the damsel awakened from her swoon ?"

"Yes, Sir Peter," replied the old woman, "I was but just urging her to
arise and clothe herself, saying that you awaited her below."

"Haste then, My Lady Bertrade," called the man, "no harm will be done thee
if thou showest the good sense I give thee credit for. I will await thee
in the great hall, or, if thou prefer, wilt come to thee here."

The girl paled, more in loathing and contempt than in fear, but the tones
of her answer were calm and level.

"I will see thee below, Sir Peter, anon," and rising, she hastened to
dress, while the receding footsteps of the Baron diminished down the
stairway which led from the tower room in which she was imprisoned.

The old woman attempted to draw her into conversation, but the girl would
not talk. Her whole mind was devoted to weighing each possible means of
escape.

A half hour later, she entered the great hall of the castle of Peter of
Colfax. The room was empty. Little change had been wrought in the
apartment since the days of Ethelwolf. As the girl's glance ranged the
hall in search of her jailer it rested upon the narrow, unglazed windows
beyond which lay freedom. Would she ever again breathe God's pure air
outside these stifling walls ? These grimy hateful walls ! Black as the
inky rafters and wainscot except for occasional splotches a few shades less
begrimed, where repairs had been made. As her eyes fell upon the trophies
of war and chase which hung there her lips curled in scorn, for she knew
that they were acquisitions by inheritance rather than by the personal
prowess of the present master of Colfax.

A single cresset lighted the chamber, while the flickering light from a
small wood fire upon one of the two great hearths seemed rather to
accentuate the dim shadows of the place.

Bertrade crossed the room and leaned against a massive oak table, blackened
by age and hard usage to the color of the beams above, dented and nicked by
the pounding of huge drinking horns and heavy swords when wild and lusty
brawlers had been moved to applause by the lay of some wandering minstrel,
or the sterner call of their mighty chieftains for the oath of fealty.

Her wandering eyes took in the dozen benches and the few rude, heavy chairs
which completed the rough furnishings of this rough room, and she
shuddered. One little foot tapped sullenly upon the disordered floor which
was littered with a miscellany of rushes interspread with such bones and
scraps of food as the dogs had rejected or overlooked.

But to none of these surroundings did Bertrade de Montfort give but passing
heed; she looked for the man she sought that she might quickly have the
encounter over and learn what fate the future held in store for her.

Her quick glance had shown her that the room was quite empty, and that in
addition to the main doorway at the lower end of the apartment, where she
had entered, there was but one other door leading from the hall. This was
at one side, and as it stood ajar she could see that it led into a small
room, apparently a bedchamber.

As she stood facing the main doorway, a panel opened quietly behind her and
directly back of where the thrones had stood in past times. From the black
mouth of the aperture stepped Peter of Colfax. Silently, he closed the
panel after him, and with soundless steps, advanced toward the girl. At
the edge of the raised dais he halted, rattling his sword to attract her
attention.

If his aim had been to unnerve her by the suddenness and mystery of his
appearance, he failed signally, for she did not even turn her head as she
said:

"What explanation hast thou to make, Sir Peter, for this base treachery
against thy neighbor's daughter and thy sovereign's niece ?"

"When fond hearts be thwarted by a cruel parent," replied the pot-bellied
old beast in a soft and fawning tone, "love must still find its way; and so
thy gallant swain hath dared the wrath of thy great father and majestic
uncle, and lays his heart at thy feet, O beauteous Bertrade, knowing full
well that thine hath been hungering after it since we didst first avow our
love to thy hard-hearted sire. See, I kneel to thee, my dove !" And with
cracking joints the fat baron plumped down upon his marrow bones.

Bertrade turned and as she saw him her haughty countenance relaxed into a
sneering smile.

"Thou art a fool, Sir Peter," she said, "and, at that, the worst species of
fool -- an ancient fool. It is useless to pursue thy cause, for I will
have none of thee. Let me hence, if thou be a gentleman, and no word of
what hath transpired shall ever pass my lips. But let me go, 'tis all I
ask, and it is useless to detain me for I cannot give what you would have.
I do not love you, nor ever can I."

Her first words had caused the red of humiliation to mottle his already
ruby visage to a semblance of purple, and now, as he attempted to rise with
dignity, he was still further covered with confusion by the fact that his
huge stomach made it necessary for him to go upon all fours before he could
rise, so that he got up much after the manner of a cow, raising his stern
high in air in a most ludicrous fashion. As he gained his feet he saw the
girl turn her head from him to hide the laughter on her face.

"Return to thy chamber," he thundered. "I will give thee until tomorrow to
decide whether thou wilt accept Peter of Colfax as thy husband, or take
another position in his household which will bar thee for all time from the
society of thy kind."

The girl turned toward him, the laugh still playing on her lips.

"I will be wife to no buffoon; to no clumsy old clown; to no debauched,
degraded parody of a man. And as for thy other rash threat, thou hast not
the guts to put thy wishes into deeds, thou craven coward, for well ye know
that Simon de Montfort would cut out thy foul heart with his own hand if he
ever suspected thou wert guilty of speaking of such to me, his daughter."
And Bertrade de Montfort swept from the great hall, and mounted to her
tower chamber in the ancient Saxon stronghold of Colfax.

The old woman kept watch over her during the night and until late the
following afternoon, when Peter of Colfax summoned his prisoner before him
once more. So terribly had the old hag played upon the girl's fears that
she felt fully certain that the Baron was quite equal to his dire threat,
and so she had again been casting about for some means of escape or delay.

The room in which she was imprisoned was in the west tower of the castle,
fully a hundred feet above the moat, which the single embrasure
overlooked. There was, therefore, no avenue of escape in this direction.
The solitary door was furnished with huge oaken bars, and itself composed
of mighty planks of the same wood, cross barred with iron.

If she could but get the old woman out, thought Bertrade, she could
barricade herself within and thus delay, at least, her impending fate in
the hope that succor might come from some source. But her most subtle
wiles proved ineffectual in ridding her, even for a moment, of her harpy
jailer; and now that the final summons had come, she was beside herself for
a lack of means to thwart her captor.

Her dagger had been taken from her, but one hung from the girdle of the old
woman and this Bertrade determined to have.

Feigning trouble with the buckle of her own girdle, she called upon the old
woman to aid her, and as the hag bent her head close to the girl's body to
see what was wrong with the girdle clasp, Bertrade reached quickly to her
side and snatched the weapon from its sheath. Quickly she sprang back from
the old woman who, with a cry of anger and alarm, rushed upon her.

"Back !" cried the girl. "Stand back, old hag, or thou shalt feel the
length of thine own blade."

The woman hesitated and then fell to cursing and blaspheming in a most
horrible manner, at the same time calling for help.

Bertrade backed to the door, commanding the old woman to remain where she
was, on pain of death, and quickly dropped the mighty bars into place.
Scarcely had the last great bolt been slipped than Peter of Colfax, with a
dozen servants and men-at-arms, were pounding loudly upon the outside.

"What's wrong within, Coll," cried the Baron.

"The wench has wrested my dagger from me and is murdering me," shrieked the
old woman.

"An' that I will truly do, Peter of Colfax," spoke Bertrade, "if you do not
immediately send for my friends to conduct me from thy castle, for I will
not step my foot from this room until I know that mine own people stand
without."

Peter of Colfax pled and threatened, commanded and coaxed, but all in
vain. So passed the afternoon, and as darkness settled upon the castle the
Baron desisted from his attempts, intending to starve his prisoner out.

Within the little room, Bertrade de Montfort sat upon a bench guarding her
prisoner, from whom she did not dare move her eyes for a single second.
All that long night she sat thus, and when morning dawned, it found her
position unchanged, her tired eyes still fixed upon the hag.

Early in the morning, Peter of Colfax resumed his endeavors to persuade her
to come out; he even admitted defeat and promised her safe conduct to her
father's castle, but Bertrade de Montfort was not one to be fooled by his
lying tongue.

"Then will I starve you out," he cried at length.

"Gladly will I starve in preference to falling into thy foul hands,"
replied the girl. "But thy old servant here will starve first, for she be
very old and not so strong as I. Therefore, how will it profit you to kill
two and still be robbed of thy prey ?"

Peter of Colfax entertained no doubt but that his fair prisoner would carry
out her threat and so he set his men to work with cold chisels, axes and
saws upon the huge door.

For hours, they labored upon that mighty work of defence, and it was late
at night ere they made a little opening large enough to admit a hand and
arm, but the first one intruded within the room to raise the bars was drawn
quickly back with a howl of pain from its owner. Thus the keen dagger in
the girl's hand put an end to all hopes of entering without completely
demolishing the door.

To this work, the men without then set themselves diligently while Peter of
Colfax renewed his entreaties, through the small opening they had made.
Bertrade replied but once.

"Seest thou this poniard ?" she asked. "When that door falls, this point
enters my heart. There is nothing beyond that door, with thou, poltroon,
to which death in this little chamber would not be preferable."

As she spoke, she turned toward the man she was addressing, for the first
time during all those weary, hideous hours removing her glance from the old
hag. It was enough. Silently, but with the quickness of a tigress the old
woman was upon her back, one claw-like paw grasping the wrist which held
the dagger.

"Quick, My Lord !" she shrieked, "the bolts, quick."

Instantly Peter of Colfax ran his arm through the tiny opening in the door
and a second later four of his men rushed to the aid of the old woman.

Easily they wrested the dagger from Bertrade's fingers, and at the Baron's
bidding, they dragged her to the great hall below.

As his retainers left the room at his command, Peter of Colfax strode back
and forth upon the rushes which strewed the floor. Finally he stopped
before the girl standing rigid in the center of the room.

"Hast come to thy senses yet, Bertrade de Montfort ?" he asked angrily. "I
have offered you your choice; to be the honored wife of Peter of Colfax,
or, by force, his mistress. The good priest waits without, what be your
answer now ?"

"The same as it has been these past two days," she replied with haughty
scorn. "The same that it shall always be. I will be neither wife nor
mistress to a coward; a hideous, abhorrent pig of a man. I would die, it
seems, if I felt the touch of your hand upon me. You do not dare to touch
me, you craven. I, the daughter of an earl, the niece of a king, wed to
the warty toad, Peter of Colfax !"

"Hold, chit !" cried the Baron, livid with rage. "You have gone too far.
Enough of this; and you love me not now, I shall learn you to love ere the
sun rises." And with a vile oath he grasped the girl roughly by the arm,
and dragged her toward the little doorway at the side of the room.

CHAPTER X

For three weeks after his meeting with Bertrade de Montfort and his sojourn
at the castle of John de Stutevill, Norman of Torn was busy with his wild
horde in reducing and sacking the castle of John de Grey, a royalist baron
who had captured and hanged two of the outlaw's fighting men; and never
again after his meeting with the daughter of the chief of the barons did
Norman of Torn raise a hand against the rebels or their friends.

Shortly after his return to Torn, following the successful outcome of his
expedition, the watch upon the tower reported the approach of a dozen armed
knights. Norman sent Red Shandy to the outer walls to learn the mission of
the party, for visitors seldom came to this inaccessible and unhospitable
fortress; and he well knew that no party of a dozen knights would venture
with hostile intent within the clutches of his great band of villains.

The great red giant soon returned to say that it was Henry de Montfort,
oldest son of the Earl of Leicester, who had come under a flag of truce and
would have speech with the master of Torn.

"Admit them, Shandy," commanded Norman of Torn, "I will speak with them
here."

When the party, a few moments later, was ushered into his presence it found
itself facing a mailed knight with drawn visor.

Henry de Montfort advanced with haughty dignity until he faced the outlaw.

"Be ye Norman of Torn ?" he asked. And, did he try to conceal the hatred
and loathing which he felt, he was poorly successful.

"They call me so," replied the visored knight. "And what may bring a De
Montfort after so many years to visit his old neighbor ?"

"Well ye know what brings me, Norman of Torn," replied the young man. "It
is useless to waste words, and we cannot resort to arms, for you have us
entirely in your power. Name your price and it shall be paid, only be
quick and let me hence with my sister."

"What wild words be these, Henry de Montfort ? Your sister ! What mean
you ?"

"Yes, my sister Bertrade, whom you stole upon the highroad two days since,
after murdering the knights of John de Stutevill who were fetching her home
from a visit upon the Baron's daughter. We know that it was you for the
foreheads of the dead men bore your devil's mark."

"Shandy !" roared Norman of Torn. "WHAT MEANS THIS ? Who has been upon
the road, attacking women, in my absence ? You were here and in charge
during my visit to my Lord de Grey. As you value your hide, Shandy, the
truth !"

"Since you laid me low in the hut of the good priest, I have served you
well, Norman of Torn. You should know my loyalty by this time and that
never have I lied to you. No man of yours has done this thing, nor is it
the first time that vile scoundrels have placed your mark upon their dead
that they might thus escape suspicion, themselves."

"Henry de Montfort," said Norman of Torn, turning to his visitor, "we of
Torn bear no savory name, that I know full well, but no man may say that we
unsheath our swords against women. Your sister is not here. I give you
the word of honor of Norman of Torn. Is it not enough ?"

"They say you never lie," replied De Montfort. "Would to God I knew who
had done this thing, or which way to search for my sister."

Norman of Torn made no reply, his thoughts were in wild confusion, and it
was with difficulty that he hid the fierce anxiety of his heart or his rage
against the perpetrators of this dastardly act which tore his whole being.

In silence De Montfort turned and left, nor had his party scarce passed the
drawbridge ere the castle of Torn was filled with hurrying men and the
noise and uproar of a sudden call to arms.

Some thirty minutes later, five hundred iron-clad horses carried their
mailed riders beneath the portcullis of the grim pile, and Norman the
Devil, riding at their head, spurred rapidly in the direction of the castle
of Peter of Colfax.

The great troop, winding down the rocky trail from Torn's buttressed gates,
presented a picture of wild barbaric splendor.

The armor of the men was of every style and metal from the ancient banded
mail of the Saxon to the richly ornamented plate armor of Milan. Gold and
silver and precious stones set in plumed crest and breastplate and shield,
and even in the steel spiked chamfrons of the horses' head armor showed the
rich loot which had fallen to the portion of Norman of Torn's wild raiders.

Fluttering pennons streamed from five hundred lance points, and the gray
banner of Torn, with the black falcon's wing, flew above each of the five
companies. The great linden wood shields of the men were covered with gray
leather and, in the upper right hand corner of each, was the black falcon's
wing. The surcoats of the riders were also uniform, being of dark gray
villosa faced with black wolf skin, so that notwithstanding the richness of
the armor and the horse trappings, there was a grim, gray warlike
appearance to these wild companies that comported well with their
reputation.

Recruited from all ranks of society and from every civilized country of
Europe, the great horde of Torn numbered in its ten companies serf and
noble; Britain, Saxon, Norman, Dane, German, Italian and French, Scot, Pict
and Irish.

Here birth caused no distinctions; the escaped serf, with the gall marks of
his brass collar still visible about his neck, rode shoulder to shoulder
with the outlawed scion of a noble house. The only requisites for
admission to the troop were willingness and ability to fight, and an oath
to obey the laws made by Norman of Torn.

The little army was divided into ten companies of one hundred men, each
company captained by a fighter of proven worth and ability.

Our old friends Red Shandy, and John and James Flory led the first three
companies, the remaining seven being under command of other seasoned
veterans of a thousand fights.

One Eye Kanty, owing to his early trade, held the always important post of
chief armorer, while Peter the Hermit, the last of the five cut-throats
whom Norman of Torn had bested that day, six years before, in the hut of
Father Claude, had become majordomo of the great castle of Torn, which post
included also the vital functions of quartermaster and commissary.

The old man of Torn attended to the training of serf and squire in the art
of war, for it was ever necessary to fill the gaps made in the companies,
due to their constant encounters upon the highroad and their battles at the
taking of some feudal castle; in which they did not always come off
unscathed, though usually victorious.

Today, as they wound west across the valley, Norman of Torn rode at the
head of the cavalcade, which strung out behind him in a long column. Above
his gray steel armor, a falcon's wing rose from his crest. It was the
insignia which always marked him to his men in the midst of battle. Where
it waved might always be found the fighting and the honors, and about it
they were wont to rally.

Beside Norman of Torn rode the grim, gray, old man, silent and taciturn;
nursing his deep hatred in the depths of his malign brain.

At the head of their respective companies rode the five captains: Red
Shandy; John Flory; Edwild the Serf; Emilio, Count de Gropello of Italy;
and Sieur Ralph de la Campnee, of France.

The hamlets and huts which they passed in the morning and early afternoon
brought forth men, women and children to cheer and wave God-speed to them;
but as they passed farther from the vicinity of Torn, where the black
falcon wing was known more by the ferocity of its name than by the kindly
deeds of the great outlaw to the lowly of his neighborhood, they saw only
closed and barred doors with an occasional frightened face peering from a
tiny window.

It was midnight ere they sighted the black towers of Colfax silhouetted
against the starry sky. Drawing his men into the shadows of the forest a
half mile from the castle, Norman of Torn rode forward with Shandy and some
fifty men to a point as close as they could come without being observed.
Here they dismounted and Norman of Torn crept stealthily forward alone.

Taking advantage of every cover, he approached to the very shadows of the
great gate without being detected. In the castle, a light shone dimly from
the windows of the great hall, but no other sign of life was apparent. To
his intense surprise, Norman of Torn found the drawbridge lowered and no
sign of watchmen at the gate or upon the walls.

As he had sacked this castle some two years since, he was familiar with its
internal plan, and so he knew that through the scullery he could reach a
small antechamber above, which let directly into the great hall.

And so it happened that, as Peter of Colfax wheeled toward the door of the
little room, he stopped short in terror, for there before him stood a
strange knight in armor, with lowered visor and drawn sword. The girl saw
him too, and a look of hope and renewed courage overspread her face.

"Draw !" commanded a low voice in English, "unless you prefer to pray, for
you are about to die."

"Who be ye, varlet ?" cried the Baron. "Ho, John ! Ho, Guy ! To the
rescue, quick !" he shrieked, and drawing his sword, he attempted to back
quickly toward the main doorway of the hall; but the man in armor was upon
him and forcing him to fight ere he had taken three steps.

It had been short shrift for Peter of Colfax that night had not John and
Guy and another of his henchmen rushed into the room with drawn swords.

"Ware ! Sir Knight," cried the girl, as she saw the three knaves rushing
to the aid of their master.

Turning to meet their assault, the knight was forced to abandon the
terror-stricken Baron for an instant, and again he had made for the doorway
bent only on escape; but the girl had divined his intentions, and running
quickly to the entrance, she turned the great lock and threw the key with
all her might to the far corner of the hall. In an instant she regretted
her act, for she saw that where she might have reduced her rescuer's
opponents by at least one, she had now forced the cowardly Baron to remain,
and nothing fights more fiercely than a cornered rat.

The knight was holding his own splendidly with the three retainers, and for
an instant Bertrade de Montfort stood spell-bound by the exhibition of
swordsmanship she was witnessing.

Fighting the three alternately, in pairs and again all at the same time,
the silent knight, though weighted by his heavy armor, forced them steadily
back; his flashing blade seeming to weave a net of steel about them.
Suddenly his sword stopped just for an instant, stopped in the heart of one
of his opponents, and as the man lunged to the floor, it was flashing again
close to the breasts of the two remaining men-at-arms.

Another went down less than ten seconds later, and then the girl's
attention was called to the face of the horrified Baron; Peter of Colfax
was moving -- slowly and cautiously, he was creeping, from behind, toward
the visored knight, and in his raised hand flashed a sharp dagger.

For an instant, the girl stood frozen with horror, unable to move a finger
or to cry out; but only for an instant, and then, regaining control of her
muscles, she stooped quickly and, grasping a heavy foot-stool, hurled it
full at Peter of Colfax.

It struck him below the knees and toppled him to the floor just as the
knight's sword passed through the throat of his final antagonist.

As the Baron fell, he struck heavily upon a table which supported the only
lighted cresset within the chamber. In an instant, all was darkness.
There was a rapid shuffling sound as of the scurrying of rats and then the
quiet of the tomb settled upon the great hall.

"Are you safe and unhurt, my Lady Bertrade ?" asked a grave English voice
out of the darkness.

"Quite, Sir Knight," she replied, "and you ?"

"Not a scratch, but where is our good friend the Baron ?"

"He lay here upon the floor but a moment since, and carried a thin long
dagger in his hand. Have a care, Sir Knight, he may even now be upon you."

The knight did not answer, but she heard him moving boldly about the room.
Soon he had found another lamp and made a light. As its feeble rays slowly
penetrated the black gloom, the girl saw the bodies of the three
men-at-arms, the overturned table and lamp, and the visored knight; but
Peter of Colfax was gone.

The knight perceived his absence at the same time, but he only laughed a
low, grim laugh.

"He will not go far, My Lady Bertrade," he said.

"How know you my name ?" she asked. "Who may you be ? I do not recognize
your armor, and your breastplate bears no arms."

He did not answer at once and her heart rose in her breast as it filled
with the hope that her brave rescuer might be the same Roger de Conde who
had saved her from the hirelings of Peter of Colfax but a few short weeks
since. Surely it was the same straight and mighty figure, and there was
the marvelous swordplay as well. It must be he, and yet Roger de Conde had
spoken no English while this man spoke it well, though, it was true, with a
slight French accent.

"My Lady Bertrade, I be Norman of Torn," said the visored knight with quiet
dignity.

The girl's heart sank, and a feeling of cold fear crept through her. For
years that name had been the symbol of fierce cruelty, and mad hatred
against her kind. Little children were frightened into obedience by the
vaguest hint that the Devil of Torn would get them, and grown men had come
to whisper the name with grim, set lips.

"Norman of Torn !" she whispered. "May God have mercy on my soul !"

Beneath the visored helm, a wave of pain and sorrow surged across the
countenance of the outlaw, and a little shudder, as of a chill of
hopelessness, shook his giant frame.

"You need not fear, My Lady," he said sadly. "You shall be in your
father's castle of Leicester ere the sun marks noon. And you will be safer
under the protection of the hated Devil of Torn than with your own mighty
father, or your royal uncle."

"It is said that you never lie, Norman of Torn," spoke the girl, "and I
believe you, but tell me why you thus befriend a De Montfort."

"It is not for love of your father or your brothers, nor yet hatred of
Peter of Colfax, nor neither for any reward whatsoever. It pleases me to
do as I do, that is all. Come."

He led her in silence to the courtyard and across the lowered drawbridge,
to where they soon discovered a group of horsemen, and in answer to a low
challenge from Shandy, Norman of Torn replied that it was he.

"Take a dozen men, Shandy, and search yon hellhole. Bring out to me,
alive, Peter of Colfax, and My Lady's cloak and a palfrey -- and Shandy,
when all is done as I say, you may apply the torch ! But no looting,
Shandy."

Shandy looked in surprise upon his leader, for the torch had never been a
weapon of Norman of Torn, while loot, if not always the prime object of his
many raids, was at least a very important consideration.

The outlaw noticed the surprised hesitation of his faithful subaltern and
signing him to listen, said:

"Red Shandy, Norman of Torn has fought and sacked and pillaged for the love
of it, and for a principle which was at best but a vague generality.
Tonight we ride to redress a wrong done to My Lady Bertrade de Montfort,
and that, Shandy, is a different matter. The torch, Shandy, from tower to
scullery, but in the service of My Lady, no looting."

"Yes, My Lord," answered Shandy, and departed with his little detachment.

In a half hour he returned with a dozen prisoners, but no Peter of Colfax.

"He has flown, My Lord," the big fellow reported, and indeed it was true.
Peter of Colfax had passed through the vaults beneath his castle and, by a
long subterranean passage, had reached the quarters of some priests without
the lines of Norman of Torn. By this time, he was several miles on his way
to the coast and France; for he had recognized the swordsmanship of the
outlaw, and did not care to remain in England and face the wrath of both
Norman of Torn and Simon de Montfort.

"He will return," was the outlaw's only comment, when he had been fully
convinced that the Baron had escaped.

They watched until the castle had burst into flames in a dozen places, the
prisoners huddled together in terror and apprehension, fully expecting a
summary and horrible death.

When Norman of Torn had assured himself that no human power could now save
the doomed pile, he ordered that the march be taken up, and the warriors
filed down the roadway behind their leader and Bertrade de Montfort,
leaving their erstwhile prisoners sorely puzzled but unharmed and free.

As they looked back, they saw the heavens red with the great flames that
sprang high above the lofty towers. Immense volumes of dense smoke rolled
southward across the sky line. Occasionally it would clear away from the
burning castle for an instant to show the black walls pierced by their
hundreds of embrasures, each lit up by the red of the raging fire within.
It was a gorgeous, impressive spectacle, but one so common in those fierce,
wild days, that none thought it worthy of more than a passing backward
glance.

Varied emotions filled the breasts of the several riders who wended their
slow way down the mud-slippery road. Norman of Torn was both elated and
sad. Elated that he had been in time to save this girl who awakened such
strange emotions in his breast; sad that he was a loathesome thing in her
eyes. But that it was pure happiness just to be near her, sufficed him for
the time; of the morrow, what use to think ! The little, grim, gray, old
man of Torn nursed the spleen he did not dare vent openly, and cursed the
chance that had sent Henry de Montfort to Torn to search for his sister;
while the followers of the outlaw swore quietly over the vagary which had
brought them on this long ride without either fighting or loot.

Bertrade de Montfort was but filled with wonder that she should owe her
life and honor to this fierce, wild cut-throat who had sworn especial
hatred against her family, because of its relationship to the house of
Plantagenet. She could not fathom it, and yet, he seemed fair spoken for
so rough a man; she wondered what manner of countenance might lie beneath
that barred visor.

Once the outlaw took his cloak from its fastenings at his saddle's cantel
and threw it about the shoulders of the girl, for the night air was chilly,
and again he dismounted and led her palfrey around a bad place in the road,
lest the beast might slip and fall.

She thanked him in her courtly manner for these services, but beyond that,
no word passed between them, and they came, in silence, about midday within
sight of the castle of Simon de Montfort.

The watch upon the tower was thrown into confusion by the approach of so
large a party of armed men, so that, by the time they were in hailing
distance, the walls of the great structure were crowded with fighting men.

Shandy rode ahead with a flag of truce, and when he was beneath the castle
walls Simon de Montfort called forth:

"Who be ye and what your mission ? Peace or war ?"

"It is Norman of Torn, come in peace, and in the service of a De Montfort,"
replied Shandy. "He would enter with one companion, my Lord Earl."

"Dares Norman of Torn enter the castle of Simon de Montfort -- thinks he
that I keep a robbers' roost !" cried the fierce old warrior.

"Norman of Torn dares ride where he will in all England," boasted the red
giant. "Will you see him in peace, My Lord ?"

"Let him enter," said De Montfort, "but no knavery, now, we are a thousand
men here, well armed and ready fighters."

Shandy returned to his master with the reply, and together, Norman of Torn
and Bertrade de Montfort clattered across the drawbridge beneath the
portcullis of the castle of the Earl of Leicester, brother-in-law of Henry
III of England.

The girl was still wrapped in the great cloak of her protector, for it had
been raining, so that she rode beneath the eyes of her father's men without
being recognized. In the courtyard, they were met by Simon de Montfort,
and his sons Henry and Simon.

The girl threw herself impetuously from her mount, and, flinging aside the
outlaw's cloak, rushed toward her astounded parent.

"What means this," cried De Montfort, "has the rascal offered you harm or
indignity ?"

"You craven liar," cried Henry de Montfort, "but yesterday you swore upon
your honor that you did not hold my sister, and I, like a fool, believed."
And with his words, the young man flung himself upon Norman of Torn with
drawn sword.

Quicker than the eye could see, the sword of the visored knight flew from
its scabbard, and, with a single lightning-like move, sent the blade of
young De Montfort hurtling cross the courtyard; and then, before either
could take another step, Bertrade de Montfort had sprung between them and
placing a hand upon the breastplate of the outlaw, stretched forth the
other with palm out-turned toward her kinsmen as though to protect Norman
of Torn from further assault.

"Be he outlaw or devil," she cried, "he is a brave and courteous knight,
and he deserves from the hands of the De Montforts the best hospitality
they can give, and not cold steel and insults." Then she explained briefly
to her astonished father and brothers what had befallen during the past few
days.

Henry de Montfort, with the fine chivalry that marked him, was the first to
step forward with outstretched hand to thank Norman of Torn, and to ask his
pardon for his rude words and hostile act.

The outlaw but held up his open palm, as he said,

"Let the De Montforts think well ere they take the hand of Norman of Torn.
I give not my hand except in friendship, and not for a passing moment; but
for life. I appreciate your present feelings of gratitude, but let them
not blind you to the fact that I am still Norman the Devil, and that you
have seen my mark upon the brows of your dead. I would gladly have your
friendship, but I wish it for the man, Norman of Torn, with all his faults,
as well as what virtues you may think him to possess."

"You are right, sir," said the Earl, "you have our gratitude and our thanks
for the service you have rendered the house of Montfort, and ever during
our lives you may command our favors. I admire your bravery and your
candor, but while you continue the Outlaw of Torn, you may not break bread
at the table of De Montfort as a friend would have the right to do."

"Your speech is that of a wise and careful man," said Norman of Torn
quietly. "I go, but remember that from this day, I have no quarrel with
the House of Simon de Montfort, and that should you need my arms, they are
at your service, a thousand strong. Goodbye." But as he turned to go,
Bertrade de Montfort confronted him with outstretched hand.

"You must take my hand in friendship," she said, "for, to my dying day, I
must ever bless the name of Norman of Torn because of the horror from which
he has rescued me."

He took the little fingers in his mailed hand, and bending upon one knee
raised them to his lips.

"To no other -- woman, man, king, God, or devil -- has Norman of Torn bent
the knee. If ever you need him, My Lady Bertrade, remember that his
services are yours for the asking."

And turning, he mounted and rode in silence from the courtyard of the
castle of Leicester. Without a backward glance, and with his five hundred
men at his back, Norman of Torn disappeared beyond a turning in the
roadway.

"A strange man," said Simon de Montfort, "both good and bad, but from
today, I shall ever believe more good than bad. Would that he were other
than he be, for his arm would wield a heavy sword against the enemies of
England, an he could be persuaded to our cause."

"Who knows," said Henry de Montfort, "but that an offer of friendship might
have won him to a better life. It seemed that in his speech was a note of
wistfulness. I wish, father, that we had taken his hand."

CHAPTER XI

Several days after Norman of Torn's visit to the castle of Leicester, a
young knight appeared before the Earl's gates demanding admittance to have
speech with Simon de Montfort. The Earl received him, and as the young man
entered his presence, Simon de Montfort, sprang to his feet in
astonishment.

"My Lord Prince," he cried. "What do ye here, and alone ?"

The young man smiled.

"I be no prince, My Lord," he said, "though some have said that I favor the
King's son. I be Roger de Conde, whom it may have pleased your gracious
daughter to mention. I have come to pay homage to Bertrade de Montfort."

"Ah," said De Montfort, rising to greet the young knight cordially, "an you
be that Roger de Conde who rescued my daughter from the fellows of Peter of
Colfax, the arms of the De Montforts are open to you.

"Bertrade has had your name upon her tongue many times since her return.
She will be glad indeed to receive you, as is her father. She has told us
of your valiant espousal of her cause, and the thanks of her brothers and
mother await you, Roger de Conde.

"She also told us of your strange likeness to Prince Edward, but until I
saw you, I could not believe two men could be born of different mothers and
yet be so identical. Come, we will seek out my daughter and her mother."

De Montfort led the young man to a small chamber where they were greeted by
Princess Eleanor, his wife, and by Bertrade de Montfort. The girl was
frankly glad to see him once more and laughingly chide him because he had
allowed another to usurp his prerogative and rescue her from Peter of
Colfax.

"And to think," she cried, "that it should have been Norman of Torn who
fulfilled your duties for you. But he did not capture Sir Peter's head, my
friend; that is still at large to be brought to me upon a golden dish."

"I have not forgotten, Lady Bertrade," said Roger de Conde. "Peter of
Colfax will return."

The girl glanced at him quickly.

"The very words of the Outlaw of Torn," she said. "How many men be ye,
Roger de Conde ? With raised visor, you could pass in the King's court for
the King's son; and in manner, and form, and swordsmanship, and your visor
lowered, you might easily be hanged for Norman of Torn."

"And which would it please ye most that I be ?" he laughed.

"Neither," she answered, "I be satisfied with my friend, Roger de Conde."

"So ye like not the Devil of Torn ?" he asked.

"He has done me a great service, and I be under monstrous obligations to
him, but he be, nathless, the Outlaw of Torn and I the daughter of an earl
and a king's sister."

"A most unbridgeable gulf indeed," commented Roger de Conde, drily. "Not
even gratitude could lead a king's niece to receive Norman of Torn on a
footing of equality."

"He has my friendship, always," said the girl, "but I doubt me if Norman of
Torn be the man to impose upon it."

"One can never tell," said Roger de Conde, "what manner of fool a man may
be. When a man's head be filled with a pretty face, what room be there for
reason ?"

"Soon thou wilt be a courtier, if thou keep long at this turning of pretty
compliments," said the girl coldly; "and I like not courtiers, nor their
empty, hypocritical chatter."

The man laughed.

"If I turned a compliment, I did not know it," he said. "What I think, I
say. It may not be a courtly speech or it may. I know nothing of courts
and care less, but be it man or maid to whom I speak, I say what is in my
mind or I say nothing. I did not, in so many words, say that you are
beautiful, but I think it nevertheless, and ye cannot be angry with my poor
eyes if they deceive me into believing that no fairer woman breathes the
air of England. Nor can you chide my sinful brain that it gladly believes
what mine eyes tell it. No, you may not be angry so long as I do not tell
you all this."

Bertrade de Montfort did not know how to answer so ridiculous a sophistry;
and, truth to tell, she was more than pleased to hear from the lips of
Roger de Conde what bored her on the tongues of other men.

De Conde was the guest of the Earl of Leicester for several days, and
before his visit was terminated, the young man had so won his way into the
good graces of the family that they were loath to see him leave.

Although denied the society of such as these throughout his entire life,
yet it seemed that he fell as naturally into the ways of their kind as
though he had always been among them. His starved soul, groping through
the darkness of the empty past, yearned toward the feasting and the light
of friendship, and urged him to turn his back upon the old life, and remain
ever with these people, for Simon de Montfort had offered the young man a
position of trust and honor in his retinue.

"Why refused you the offer of my father ?" said Bertrade to him as he was
come to bid her farewell. "Simon de Montfort is as great a man in England
as the King himself, and your future were assured did you attach your self
to his person. But what am I saying ! Did Roger de Conde not wish to be
elsewhere, he had accepted and, as he did not accept, it is proof positive
that he does not wish to bide among the De Montforts."

"I would give my soul to the devil," said Norman of Torn, "would it buy me
the right to remain ever at the feet of Bertrade Montfort."

He raised her hand to his lips in farewell as he started to speak, but
something -- was it an almost imperceptible pressure of her little fingers,
a quickening of her breath or a swaying of her body toward him ? -- caused
him to pause and raise his eyes to hers.

For an instant they stood thus, the eyes of the man sinking deep into the
eyes of the maid, and then hers closed and with a little sigh that was half
gasp, she swayed toward him, and the Devil of Torn folded the King's niece
in his mighty arms and his lips placed the seal of a great love upon those
that were upturned to him.

The touch of those pure lips brought the man to himself.

"Ah, Bertrade, my Bertrade," he cried, "what is this thing that I have
done ! Forgive me, and let the greatness and the purity of my love for you
plead in extenuation of my act."

She looked up into his face in surprise, and then placing her strong white
hands upon his shoulders, she whispered:

"See, Roger, I am not angry. It is not wrong that we love; tell me it is
not, Roger."

"You must not say that you love me, Bertrade. I am a coward, a craven
poltroon; but, God, how I love you."

"But," said the girl, "I do love -- "

"Stop," he cried, "not yet, not yet. Do not say it till I come again. You
know nothing of me, you do not know even who I be; but when next I come, I
promise that ye shall know as much of me as I myself know, and then,
Bertrade, my Bertrade, if you can then say, 'I love you' no power on earth,
or in heaven above, or hell below shall keep you from being mine !"

"I will wait, Roger, for I believe in you and trust you. I do not
understand, but I know that you must have some good reason, though it all
seems very strange to me. If I, a De Montfort, am willing to acknowledge
my love for any man, there can be no reason why I should not do so,
unless," and she started at the sudden thought, wide-eyed and paling,
"unless there be another woman, a -- a -- wife ?"

"There is no other woman, Bertrade," said Norman of Torn. "I have no wife;
nor within the limits of my memory have my lips ever before touched the
lips of another, for I do not remember my mother."

She sighed a happy little sigh of relief, and laughing lightly, said:

"It is some old woman's bugaboo that you are haling out of a dark corner of
your imagination to frighten yourself with. I do not fear, since I know
that you must be all good. There be no line of vice or deception upon your
face and you are very brave. So brave and noble a man, Roger, has a heart
of pure gold."

"Don't," he said, bitterly. "I cannot endure it. Wait until I come again
and then, oh my flower of all England, if you have it in your heart to
speak as you are speaking now, the sun of my happiness will be at zenith.
Then, but not before, shall I speak to the Earl, thy father. Farewell,
Bertrade, in a few days I return."

"If you would speak to the Earl on such a subject, you insolent young
puppy, you may save your breath," thundered an angry voice, and Simon de
Montfort strode, scowling, into the room.

The girl paled, but not from fear of her father, for the fighting blood of
the De Montforts was as strong in her as in her sire. She faced him with
as brave and resolute a face as did the young man, who turned slowly,
fixing De Montfort with level gaze.

"I heard enough of your words as I was passing through the corridor,"
continued the latter, "to readily guess what had gone before. So it is for
this that you have wormed your sneaking way into my home ? And thought you
that Simon de Montfort would throw his daughter at the head of the first
passing rogue ? Who be ye, but a nameless rascal ? For aught we know,
some low born lackey. Get ye hence, and be only thankful that I do not aid
you with the toe of my boot where it would do the most good."

"Stop !" cried the girl. "Stop, father, hast forgot that but for Roger de
Conde ye might have seen your daughter a corpse ere now, or, worse, herself
befouled and dishonored ?"

"I do not forget," replied the Earl, "and. it is because I remember that
my sword remains in its scabbard. The fellow has been amply repaid by the
friendship of De Montfort, but now this act of perfidy has wiped clean the
score. An' you would go in peace, sirrah, go quickly, ere I lose my
temper."

"There has been some misunderstanding on your part, My Lord," spoke Norman
of Torn, quietly and without apparent anger or excitement. "Your daughter
has not told me that she loves me, nor did I contemplate asking you for her
hand. When next I come, first shall I see her and if she will have me, My
Lord, I shall come to you to tell you that I shall wed her. Norm -- Roger
de Conde asks permission of no man to do what he would do."

Simon de Montfort was fairly bursting with rage but he managed to control
himself to say,

"My daughter weds whom I select, and even now I have practically closed
negotiations for her betrothal to Prince Philip, nephew of King Louis of
France. And as for you, sir, I would as lief see her the wife of the
Outlaw of Torn. He, at least, has wealth and power, and a name that be
known outside his own armor. But enough of this; get you gone, nor let me
see your face again within the walls of Leicester's castle."

"You are right, My Lord, it were foolish and idle for us to be quarreling
with words," said the outlaw. "Farewell, My Lady. I shall return as I
promised, and your word shall be law." And with a profound bow to De
Montfort, Norman of Torn left the apartment, and in a few minutes was
riding through the courtyard of the castle toward the main portals.

As he passed beneath a window in the castle wall, a voice called to him
from above, and drawing in his horse, he looked up into the eyes of
Bertrade de Montfort.

"Take this, Roger de Conde," she whispered, dropping a tiny parcel to him,
"and wear it ever, for my sake. We may never meet again, for the Earl my
father, is a mighty man, not easily turned from his decisions; therefore I
shall say to you, Roger de Conde, what you forbid my saying. I love you,
and be ye prince or scullion, you may have me, if you can find the means to
take me."

"Wait, my lady, until I return, then shall you decide, and if ye be of the
same mind as today, never fear but that I shall take ye. Again, farewell."
And with a brave smile that hid a sad heart, Norman of Torn passed out of
the castle yard.

When he undid the parcel which Bertrade had tossed to him, he found that it
contained a beautifully wrought ring set with a single opal.

The Outlaw of Torn raised the little circlet to his lips, and then slipped
it upon the third finger of his left hand.

CHAPTER XII

Norman of Torn did not return to the castle of Leicester "in a few days,"
nor for many months. For news came to him that Bertrade de Montfort had
been posted off to France in charge of her mother.

From now on, the forces of Torn were employed in repeated attacks on
royalist barons, encroaching ever and ever southward until even Berkshire
and Surrey and Sussex felt the weight of the iron hand of the outlaw.

Nearly a year had elapsed since that day when he had held the fair form of
Bertrade de Montfort in his arms, and in all that time he had heard no word
from her.

He would have followed her to France but for the fact that, after he had
parted from her and the intoxication of her immediate presence had left his
brain clear to think rationally, he had realized the futility of his hopes,
and he had seen that the pressing of his suit could mean only suffering and
mortification for the woman he loved.

His better judgment told him that she, on her part, when freed from the
subtle spell woven by the nearness and the newness of a first love, would
doubtless be glad to forget the words she had spoken in the heat of a
divine passion. He would wait, then, until fate threw them together, and
should that ever chance, while she was still free, he would let her know
that Roger de Conde and the Outlaw of Torn were one and the same.

If she wants me then, he thought, but she will not. No it is impossible.
It is better that she marry her French prince than to live, dishonored, the
wife of a common highwayman; for though she might love me at first, the
bitterness and loneliness of her life would turn her love to hate.

As the outlaw was sitting one day in the little cottage of Father Claude,
the priest reverted to the subject of many past conversations; the
unsettled state of civil conditions in the realm, and the stand which
Norman of Torn would take when open hostilities between King and baron were
declared.

"It would seem that Henry," said the priest, "by his continued breaches of
both the spirit and letter of the Oxford Statutes, is but urging the barons
to resort to arms; and the fact that he virtually forced Prince Edward to
take up arms against Humphrey de Bohun last fall, and to carry the ravages
of war throughout the Welsh border provinces, convinces me that he be, by
this time, well equipped to resist De Montfort and his associates."

"If that be the case," said Norman of Torn, "we shall have war and fighting
in real earnest ere many months."

"And under which standard does My Lord Norman expect to fight ?" asked
Father Claude.

"Under the black falcon's wing," laughed he of Torn.

"Thou be indeed a close-mouthed man, my son," said the priest, smiling.
"Such an attribute helpeth make a great statesman. With thy soldierly
qualities in addition, my dear boy, there be a great future for thee in the
paths of honest men. Dost remember our past talk ?"

"Yes, father, well; and often have I thought on't. I have one more duty to
perform here in England and then, it may be, that I shall act on thy
suggestion, but only on one condition."

"What be that, my son ?"

"That wheresoere I go, thou must go also. Thou be my best friend; in
truth, my father; none other have I ever known, for the little old man of
Torn, even though I be the product of his loins, which I much mistrust, be
no father to me."

The priest sat looking intently at the young man for many minutes before he
spoke.

Without the cottage, a swarthy figure skulked beneath one of the windows,
listening to such fragments of the conversation within as came to his
attentive ears. It was Spizo, the Spaniard. He crouched entirely
concealed by a great lilac bush, which many times before had hid his
traitorous form.

At length the priest spoke.

"Norman of Torn," he said, "so long as thou remain in England, pitting thy
great host against the Plantagenet King and the nobles and barons of his
realm, thou be but serving as the cats-paw of another. Thyself hast said
an hundred times that thou knowst not the reason for thy hatred against
them. Thou be too strong a man to so throw thy life uselessly away to
satisfy the choler of another.

"There be that of which I dare not speak to thee yet and only may I guess
and dream of what I think, nor do I know whether I must hope that it be
false or true, but now, if ever, the time hath come for the question to be
settled. Thou hast not told me in so many words, but I be an old man and
versed in reading true between the lines, and so I know that thou lovest
Bertrade de Montfort. Nay, do not deny it. And now, what I would say be
this. In all England there lives no more honorable man than Simon de
Montfort, nor none who could more truly decide upon thy future and thy
past. Thou may not understand of what I hint, but thou know that thou may
trust me, Norman of Torn."

"Yea, even with my life and honor, my father," replied the outlaw.

"Then promise me, that with the old man of Torn alone, thou wilt come
hither when I bidst thee and meet Simon de Montfort, and abide by his
decision should my surmises concerning thee be correct. He will be the
best judge of any in England, save two who must now remain nameless."

"I will come, Father, but it must be soon for on the fourth day we ride
south."

"It shall be by the third day, or not at all," replied Father Claude, and
Norman of Torn, rising to leave, wondered at the moving leaves of the lilac
bush without the window, for there was no breeze.

Spizo, the Spaniard, reached Torn several minutes before the outlaw chief
and had already poured his tale into the ears of the little, grim, gray,
old man.

As the priest's words were detailed to him the old man of Torn paled in
anger.

"The fool priest will upset the whole work to which I have devoted near
twenty years," he muttered, "if I find not the means to quiet his half-wit
tongue. Between priest and petticoat, it be all but ruined now. Well
then, so much the sooner must I act, and I know not but that now be as good
a time as any. If we come near enough to the King's men on this trip
south, the gibbet shall have its own, and a Plantagenet dog shall taste the
fruits of his own tyranny," then glancing up and realizing that Spizo, the
Spaniard, had been a listener, the old man, scowling, cried:

"What said I, sirrah ? What didst hear ?"

"Naught, My Lord; thou didst but mutter incoherently", replied the
Spaniard.

The old man eyed him closely.

"An did I more, Spizo, thou heardst naught but muttering, remember."

"Yes, My Lord."

An hour later, the old man of Torn dismounted before the cottage of Father
Claude and entered.

"I am honored," said the priest, rising.

"Priest," cried the old man, coming immediately to the point, "Norman of
Torn tells me that thou wish him and me and Leicester to meet here. I know
not what thy purpose may be, but for the boy's sake, carry not out thy
design as yet. I may not tell thee my reasons, but it be best that this
meeting take place after we return from the south."

The old man had never spoken so fairly to Father Claude before, and so the
latter was quite deceived and promised to let the matter rest until later.

A few days after, in the summer of 1263, Norman of Torn rode at the head of
his army of outlaws through the county of Essex, down toward London town.
One thousand fighting men there were, with squires and other servants, and
five hundred sumpter beasts to transport their tents and other impedimenta,
and bring back the loot.

But a small force of ailing men-at-arms, and servants had been left to
guard the castle of Torn under the able direction of Peter the Hermit.

At the column's head rode Norman of Torn and the little grim, gray, old
man; and behind them, nine companies of knights, followed by the catapult
detachment; then came the sumpter beasts. Horsan the Dane, with his
company, formed the rear guard. Three hundred yards in advance of the
column rode ten men to guard against surprise and ambuscades.

The pennons, and the banners and the bugles; and the loud rattling of
sword, and lance and armor and iron-shod hoof carried to the eye and ear
ample assurance that this great cavalcade of iron men was bent upon no

Book of the day: