The Geste of Duke Jocelyn
Part 2 out of 5
Thy prayers like holy angels, watch beside me.
So all day long and in thy pretty sleeping
'Till next we meet the Saints have thee in keeping."
My daughter GILLIAN animadverteth:
GILL: The last part seems to me much better.
I like Yolande, I hope he'll get her.
MYSELF: Patience, my dear, he's hardly met her.
GILL: I think it would be rather nice
To make him kiss her once or twice.
MYSELF: I'll make him kiss her well, my dear,
When he begins--but not just here.
I'll later see what I can do
In this matter to please you.
GILL: And then I hope, that by and by
He kills that frightful beast, Sir Gui.
MYSELF: Yes, I suppose, we ought to slay him,
For all his wickedness to pay him.
GILL: And Pertinax, I think--don't you?
Should have a lady fair to woo.
To see him in love would be perfectly clipping.
It's a corking idea, and quite awfully ripping--
MYSELF: If you use such vile slang, miss, I vow I will not--
GILL: O, Pax, father! I'm sorry; I almost forgot.
MYSELF: Very well, if my warning you'll bear well
A fair damsel for Pertinax I 'll try to find.
GILL: Then make her, father, make her quick,
I always knew you were a brick.
How Pertinax plied angle to his sport
And, catching him no fish, fish-like was caught.
* * * * *
By sleepy stream where bending willows swayed,
And, from the sun, a greeny twilight made,
Sir Pertinax, broad back against a tree,
Lolled at his ease and yawned right lustily.
In brawny fist he grasped a rod or angle,
With hook wherefrom sad worm did, writhing, dangle.
Full well he loved the piscatorial sport,
Though he as yet no single fish had caught.
Hard by, in easy reach upon the sward,
Lay rusty bascinet and good broadsword.
Thus patiently the good Knight sat and fished,
Yet in his heart most heartily he wished
That he, instead of fishing, snug had been
Seated within his goodly tower of Shene.
And thinking thus, he needs must cast his eye
On rusty mail, on battered shoon, and sigh,
And murmur fitful curses and lament
That in such base, unknightly garb he went--
A lord of might whose broad shield bravely bore
Of proud and noble quarterings a score.
"And 't was forsooth for foolish ducal whim
That he must plod abroad in such vile trim!"
Revolving thus, his anger sudden woke,
And, scowling, to the unseen fish he spoke:
"A Duke! A Fool! A fool-duke, by my head!
Who, clad like Fool, like Fool will fain be wed,
For ass and dolt and fool of fools is he
Who'll live in bondage to some talk-full she.
Yet, if he'll wed, why i' the foul fiend's name,
Must he in motley seek the haughty dame?"
But now, while he did on this problem dwell,
Two unexpected happenings befell:
A fish to nibble on the worm began,
And to him through the green a fair maid ran.
Fast, fast amid the tangled brake she fled,
Her cheeks all pale, her dark eyes wide with dread;
But Pertinax her beauty nothing heeded,
Since both his eyes to watch his fish were needed;
But started round with sudden, peevish snort
As in slim hands his brawny fist she caught;
"Ha, maid!" he cried, "Why must thou come this way
To spoil my sport and fright mine fish away?"
"O man--O man, if man thou art," she gasped,
"Save me!" And here his hand she closer grasped,
But even now, as thus she breathless spake,
Forth of the wood three lusty fellows brake;
Goodly their dress and bright the mail they wore,
While on their breasts a falcon-badge they bore.
"Oho!" cried one. "Yon dirty knave she's met!"
Sir Pertinax here donned his bascinet.
"But one poor rogue shan't let us!" t' other roared.
Sir Pertinax here reached and drew his sword.
"Then," cried the third, "let's at him now all three!"
Quoth Pertinax: "Maid, get thee 'hind yon tree,
For now, methinks, hast found me better sport
Than if, forsooth, yon plaguy fish I'd caught."
So saying, up he rose and, eyes a-dance
He 'gainst the three did joyously advance,
With sword that flashed full bright, but brighter yet
The eyes beneath his rusty bascinet;
While aspect bold and carriage proud and high,
Did plainly give his mean array the lie.
Thus, as he gaily strode to meet the three,
In look and gesture all proud knight was he;
Beholding which, the maid forgot her dread,
And, 'stead of pale, her cheek glowed softly red.
Now at the three Sir Pertinax did spring,
And clashing steel on steel did loudly ring,
Yet Pertinax was one and they were three,
And once was, swearing, smitten to his knee,
Whereat the maid hid face in sudden fear,
And, kneeling so, fierce cries and shouts did hear,
The sounds of combat dire, and deadly riot
Lost all at once and hushed to sudden quiet,
And glancing up she saw to her amaze
Three rogues who fleetly ran three several ways,
Three beaten rogues who fled with one accord,
While Pertinax, despondent, sheathed his sword.
"Par Dex!" he growled, "'Tis shame that they should run
Ere that to fight the rogues had scarce begun!"
So back he came, his rod and line he took,
And gloomed to find no worm upon his hook.
But now the maiden viewed him gentle-eyed;
"Brave soldier, I do thank thee well!" she sighed,
"Thou, like true knight, hast fought for me today--"
"And the fish," sighed he, "have stole my worm away,
Which is great pity, since my worms be few!"
And here the Knight's despond but deeper grew.
"Yon rogues," he sighed, "no stomach had for fight,
Yet scared the fish that had a mind to bite!"
"But thou hast saved me, noble man!" said she.
"So must I use another worm!" sighed he.
And straightway with his fishing he proceeded
While sat the maid beside him all unheeded;
Whereat she frowned and, scornful, thus did speak
With angry colour flaming in her cheek:
"What man art thou that canst but fight and fish?
Hast thou no higher thought, no better wish?"
"Certes," quoth he, "I would I had indeed
A goodly pot of foaming ale or mead."
"O base, most base!" the maid did scornful cry,
And viewed him o'er with proud, disdainful eye.
"That I should owe my life to man like thee!
That one so base could fight and master three!
Who art thou, man, and what? Speak me thy name,
Whither ye go and why, and whence ye came,
Thy rank, thy state, thy worth to me impart,
If soldier, serf, or outlawed man thou art;
And why 'neath ragged habit thou dost wear
A chain of gold such as but knights do bear,
Why thou canst front three armed rogues unafraid,
Yet fear methinks to look upon a maid?"
But to these questions Pertinax sat dumb--
That is, he rubbed his chin and murmured, "Hum!"
Whereat she, frowning, set determined chin
And thus again to question did begin:
SHE: What manner of man art thou?
HE: A man.
SHE: A soldier?
HE: Thou sayest.
SHE: Art in service?
SHE: Whom serve ye?
HE: A greater than I.
SHE: Art thou wed?
HE: The Saints forfend!
SHE: Then art a poor soldier and solitary.
HE: I might be richer.
SHE: What dost thou fishing here?
HE: I fish.
SHE: And why didst fight three men for me--a maid unknown?
HE: For lack of better employ.
SHE: Rude soldier--whence comest thou?
HE: Fair maiden, from beyond.
SHE: Gross Knight, whither goest thou?
HE: Dainty damosel, back again.
SHE: Dost lack aught?
SHE: How, would'st have me hold my peace, ill fellow?
HE: 'T would be a marvel.
HE: Thou'rt a woman.
SHE: And thou a man, ill-tongued, ill-beseen, ill-mannered, unlovely,
and I like thee not!
HE: And what is worse, the fish bite not.
Now here, and very suddenly, she fell a-weeping, to the Knight's no small
discomfiture, though she wept in fashion wondrous apt and pretty; wherefore
Sir Pertinax glanced at her once, looked twice and, looking, scratched his
ear, rubbed his chin and finally questioned her in turn:
HE: Distressful damosel, wherefore this dole? SHE: For that I am weary,
woeful and solitary. And thou--thou'rt harsh of look, rough of tongue,
ungentle of--HE: Misfortunate maiden, thy loneliness is soon amended, get
thee to thy friends--thy gossips, thy--
SHE: I have none. And thou'rt fierce and ungentle of face.
Here she wept the more piteously and Sir Pertinax, viewing her distress,
forgot his hook and worm, wherefore a fish nibbled it slyly, while the
Knight questioned her further:
HE: Woeful virgin, whence comest thou?
SHE: From afar. And thou art ofeatures grim and--
HE: And whither would'st journey?
SHE: No where! And thou art--
HE: Nay, here is thing impossible, since being here thou art somewhere and
that within three bowshots of the goodly town of Canalise wherein thou
shalt doubtless come by comfort and succour.
SHE: Never! Never! Here will I weep and moan and perish. And thou--
HE: And wherefore moan and perish?
SHE: For that I am so minded, being a maid forlorn and desolate, a poor
wanderer destitute of kith, of kin, of hope, of love, and all that maketh
life sweet. And thou art sour-faced and--
HE: Grievous maid, is, among thy many wants, a lack of money?
SHE: That also. And thou art cold of eye, fierce of mouth, hooked of nose,
flinty of heart, stony of soul, and I a perishing maid.
At this Sir Pertinax blinked and caught his breath; thereafter he laid down
his rod, whereupon the fish incontinent filched his worm all unnoticed
while the Knight opened the wallet at his girdle and took thence certain
HE: Dolorous damsel, behold six good, gold pieces! Take them and go, get
thee to eat--eat much, so shall thy dolour wax less, eat beef--since beef
is a rare lightener of sorrow, by beef shall thy woes be comforted.
SHE: Alas! I love not beef.
Now here Sir Pertinax was dumb a space for wonder at her saying, while she
stole a glance at him betwixt slender fingers.
HE (_after some while_): Maid, I tell thee beef, fairly cooked and aptly
seasoned, is of itself a virtue whereby the body is strengthened and
nourished, whereby cometh content, and with content kindliness, and with
kindliness charity, and therewith all other virtues small and eke great;
therefore eat beef, maiden, for the good of thy soul.
"How?" said she, viewing him bright-eyed 'twixt her fingers again. "Dost
think by beef one may attain to paradise?"
SHE: Then no beef, for I would not live a saint yet awhile.
HE: Nathless, take thou these monies and go buy what thou wilt.
So saying, Sir Pertinax set the coins beside her shapely foot and took up
his neglected rod.
SHE: And is this gold truly mine?
SHE: Then I pray thee keep it for me lest I lose it by the way and so--let
Here Sir Pertinax started.
"Begone?" quoth he. "Begone--in truth? Thou and I in faith? Go whither?"
SHE: Any whither.
HE: Alone? Thou and I?
"Nay, not alone," she sighed; "let us go together."
Sir Pertinax dropped his fishing-rod and watched it idly float away down
"Together, maiden?" said he at last.
"Truly!" she sighed. "For thou art lonely even as I am lonely, and thou
art, methinks, one a lonely maid may trust."
"Ha--trust!" quoth he. "And wherefore would'st trust me, maiden?"
SHE: For two reasons--thou art of age mature and something ill-favoured.
Now, at this Sir Pertinax grew angered, grew thoughtful, grew sad and,
beholding his image mirrored in the waters, sighed for his grim, unlovely
look and, in his heart, cursed his vile garb anew. At last he spoke:
HE: Truly thou may'st trust me, maiden.
SHE: And wherefore sighest thou, sad soldier?
HE: Verily for thy two reasons. Though, for mine age, I am not forty
Saying which, he sighed again, and stared gloomily into the murmurous
waters. But presently, chancing to look aside, he beheld a head low down
amid the underwood, a head huge and hairy with small, fierce eyes that
watched him right bodefully, and a great mouth that grinned evilly; and now
as he stared, amazed by this monstrous head, it nodded grimly, speaking
"Lob, Lobkyn he
To let her be
And set her free,
Thou scurvy, cutpurse, outlaw knave,
Lest hanged thou be
Upon a tree
Thou knavish, misbegotten slave;
For proud is she
Of high degree,
As unto ye
"Ha!" quoth Sir Pertinax, rising and drawing sword. "Now, be thou imp of
Satan, fiend accursed, or goblin fell, come forth, and I with steel will
try thee, Thing!"
Out from the leaves forthwith crawled a dwarf bowed of leg, mighty of
shoulder, humped of back, and with arms very long and thick and hairy. In
one great fist he grasped a ponderous club shod with iron spikes, and now,
resting his hands on this and his chin on his hands, he scowled at the
Knight, yet grinned also.
"Ho!" he cried, rolling big head in threatening fashion:
"Vile dog, thy rogue's sconce cracked shall be, Thy base-born bones
be-thwacked shall be. I'll deal thee many a dour ding For that thou darest
"Now, as I live!" said Sir Pertinax, scowling also. "Here will I, and with
great joyance, cleave me thine impish mazzard and split thee to thy beastly
chine. And for thy ill rhyming:
"I with this goodly steel will halve thee
And into clammy goblets carve thee.
So stand, Thing, to thy club betake thee,
And soon, Thing, I will no-thing make thee."
But, as they closed on each other with eager and deadly intent, the maid
stepped lightly betwixt.
"Stay, soldier--hold!" she commanded. "Here is none but Lobkyn Lollo--poor,
brave Lob, nor will I suffer him to harm thee."
"How, maiden?" snorted the good Knight fiercely. "Harm me, say'st thou--yon
"Truly, soldier!" said she, roguish-eyed. "For though thou art very
ungentle, harsh of tongue, of visage grim and manners rude--I would not
have Lob harm thee--yet!"
Now hereupon our bold Sir Pertinax
With indignation red of face did wax.
The needful word his tongue was vainly seeking,
Since what he felt was quite beyond the speaking.
Though quick his hand to ward or give a blow,
His tongue all times unready was and slow,
Therefore he speechless looked upon the maid,
Who viewed him 'neath her lashes' dusky shade,
Whence Eros launched a sudden beamy dart
That 'spite chain-mail did reach and pierce his heart.
And in that instant Pertinax grew wise,
And trembled 'neath this forest-maiden's eyes;
And trembling, knew full well, seek where he might,
No eyes might hold for him such magic light,
No lips might hold for him such sweet allure,
No other hand might his distresses cure,
No other voice might so console and cheer,
No foot, light-treading, be so sweet to hear
As the eyes, lips, hand, voice, foot of her who stood
Before him now, cheek flushing 'neath her hood.
All this Sir Pertinax had in his thought,
And, wishing much to say to her, said nought,
By reason that his tongue was something slow,
And of smooth phrases he did little know.
But yet 't is likely, though he nothing said,
She, maid-like, what he spake not, guessed or read
In his flushed brow, his sudden-gentle eyes,
Since in such things all maids are wondrous wise.
Now suddenly the brawny Dwarf did cry:
"Beware, my old great-grand-dam creepeth nigh!"
Thus speaking, 'mid the bushes pointed he,
Where crook'd old woman crouched beneath a tree
Whence, bowed upon a staff, she towards them came,
An ancient, wrinkled, ragged, hag-like dame
With long, sharp nose that downward curved as though
It fain would, beak-like, peck sharp chin below.
Mutt'ring she came and mowing she drew near,
And straightway seized the Dwarf by hairy ear:
Fast by the ear this ancient dame did tweak him,
And cuffed his head and, cuffing, thus did speak him:
"Ha, dolt! Bad elf, and wilt thou slay, indeed,
This goodly man did aid me in my need?
For this was one that fought within the gate
And from Black Lewin saved thy grannam's pate!
Down, down, fool-lad, upon thy knees, I say,
And full forgiveness of this soldier pray."
But Sir Pertinax, perceiving how the old dame
did thus tweak and wring at the Dwarf's great,
hairy ear even until his eyes watered, interceded,
"Good, ancient soul, humble not the sturdy, unlovely,
mis-shapen, rascally imp for such small
"Nay, but," croaked the old woman, tightening
claw-like fingers, "kind master, he would doubtless
have slain thee." At this, Sir Pertinax scowled,
and would have sworn great oath but, meeting the
maid's bright eyes, checked himself, though with
"Art so sure," he questioned, "so sure man of
my inches may be slain by thing so small?"
At this the maid laughed, and the old woman,
sighing, loosed the ear she clutched:
"Shew thy strength, Lob," she commanded and,
drawing the maiden out of ear-shot, sat down beside
her on the sward and fell to eager, whispered talk.
Meantime the Dwarf, having cherished his ear,
sulkily though tenderly, seized hold upon his great
club with both hairy hands:
And whirling it aloft, with sudden might
A fair, young tree in sunder he did smite,
That 'neath the blow it swayed and crashing fell.
Quoth Pertinax: "Good Thing, 't is very well.
Par Dex, and by the Holy Rood," quoth he,
"'T is just as well that I was not yon tree!"
And whirling his long sword as thus he spoke,
Shore through another at a single stroke.
"Here's tree for tree, stout manling!" he did say.
"What other trick canst show to me, I pray?"
Then Lobkyn stooped the broken stump to seize,
Bowed brawny back and with a wondrous ease
Up by the roots the rugged bole he tore
And tossed it far as it had been a straw.
Sad grew our knight this mighty feat perceiving,
Since well he knew't was past his own achieving.
But anon he smiled and clapped the mighty Dwarf on shoulder, saying:
"Greeting to thee, lusty Lob, for by Our Holy Lady of Shene Chapel within
the Wood, ne'er saw I thine equal, since thou, being man so small, may do
what man o' my goodly inches may nowise perform. Thou should'st make a
right doughty man-at-arms!"
Hereupon the Dwarf cut a caper but sighed thereafter: quoth he:
"Aha, good master, and Oho,
As man-at-arms fain would I go;
Aye, verily, I would be so,
But that my grannam sayeth 'No!'
"And, sir, my grand-dam I obey
Since she's a potent witch, they say;
Can cast ye spells by night or day
And charmeth warts and such away.
"Love philtres too she can supply
For fools that fond and foolish sigh,
That wert thou foul as hog in sty
Fair women must unto thee fly.
"Then deadly potions she can make,
Will turn a man to wriggling snake,
Or slimy worm, or duck, or drake,
Or loathly frog that croaks in lake.
"And she can curse beyond compare,
Can curse ye here, or curse ye there;
She'll curse ye clad or curse ye bare,
In fine, can curse ye anywhere.
"And she can summon, so 't is said,
From fire and water, spirits dread,
Strong charms she hath can wake the dead
And set the living in their stead.
"So thus it is, whate'er she say,
My grand-dam, master, I obey."
"Now by my head," quoth Sir Pertinax, "an thy grand-dam hath a potency in
spells and such black arts--the which is an ill thing--thou hast a powerful
gift of versification the which, methinks, is worse. How cometh this
distemper o' the tongue, Lobkyn?"
"O master," spake the sighful Dwarf forlorn,
"Like many such diseases, 't is inborn.
For even as a baby, I
Did pule in rhyme and versify;
And the stronger that I grew,
My rhyming habit strengthened too,
Until my sad sire in despair
Put me beneath the Church's care.
The holy fathers, 't is confessed,
With belt and sandal did their best,
But, though they often whipped me sore,
I, weeping, did but rhyme the more,
Till, finding all their efforts vain,
They sadly sent me home again."
"A parlous case, methinks!" said Sir Pertinax, staring at the Dwarf's
rueful visage. "Learned ye aught of the holy fathers?"
"Aye, sir, they taught me truth to tell,
To cipher and to read right well;
They taught me Latin, sir, and Greek,
Though even then in rhyme I'd speak."
"And thou canst read and write!" exclaimed Sir Pertinax. "So can not I!"
"What matter that? Heaven save the mark,
Far better be a soldier than a clerk,
Far rather had I be a fighter
Than learned reader or a writer,
Since they who'd read must mope in schools,
And they that write be mostly fools.
So 'stead of pen give me a sword,
And set me where the battle's toward,
But the ancient dame who had risen and approached silently, now very
suddenly took Lobkyn by the ear again.
"Talk not of blood and battles, naughty one!" she cried. "Think not to
leave thy old grannam lone and lorn and helpless--nor this our fair maid.
Shame on thee, Lob, O shame!" saying the which she cuffed him again and
"Master," he sighed, "thou seest I may not go,
Since that my grand-dam will not have it so."
"Good mother, wise mother," said the maid, viewing Sir Pertinax smilingly
askance, "why doth poor soldier go bedight in fine linen 'neath rusty
hauberk? Why doth poor soldier wear knightly chain about his neck and swear
by knightly oath? Good mother, wise mother, rede me this."
The old woman viewed Pertinax with her bright, quick eyes, but, ere she
could answer, he sheathed sword, drew ragged mantle about him, and made to
go, but, turning to the maid, bent steel-clad head.
"Most fair damosel," said he gently, "evening cometh on, and now, since
thou art no longer forlorn, I will away."
"Nay, first, I pray thee, what is thy name?"
"So then doth Melissa thank Pertinax. And now--out alas! Will Pertinax
leave Melissa, having but found her?"
Sir Pertinax looked up, looked down, fidgeted with his cloak, and knew not
how to answer; wherefore she sighed again, though with eyes full merry
'neath drooping lashes and reached out to him her slender hand. "Aye me,
and shall we meet no more, poor soldier?" she questioned softly.
"This I know not," he answered.
"For thy brave rescue I do give thee my humble thanks, poor soldier."
"Thy rescue, child?" cried the old woman. "Alack and wert thou seen? Thy
rescue, say'st thou?"
"Indeed, good mother, from Sir Agramore's rough foresters. But for thee,
thou needy soldier, my gratitude is thine henceforth. Had I aught else to
give thee, that were thine also. Is there aught I may? Speak."
Now Sir Pertinax could not but heed all the rich, warm beauty of her--these
eyes so sombrely sweet, her delicate nose, the temptation of her vivid
lips--and so spake hot with impulse:
"Aye, truly, sweet maid, truly I would have of thee a--" Her eyes grew
bright with laughter, a dimple played wanton in her cheek, and Sir
Pertinax was all suddenly abashed, faint-hearted and unsure; thus, looking
down, he chanced to espy a strange jewel that hung tremulous upon her
moving bosom: a crowned heart within a heart of crystal.
"Well, thou staid and sorry soldier, what would'st have of me?" she
"Verily," he muttered, "I would have of thee yon trinket from thy bosom."
Now at his words she started, caught her breath and stared at him
wide-eyed; but, seeing his abashment, laughed and loosed off the jewel with
quick, small fingers.
"Be it so!" said she. But hereupon the old woman reached out sudden hand.
"Child!" she croaked, "Art mad? Mind ye not the prophecy? Beware the
'He that taketh Crystal Heart,
Taketh all and every part!'
Beware, I say, Oh, beware!"
"Nay, good mother, have I not promised? And for this crystal it hath
brought me nought but unease hitherto. Take it, soldier, and for the sake
of this poor maid that giveth, break it not, dishonour it not, and give it
to none but can define for thee the secret thereof--and so, poor, brave,
fearful soldier--fare thee well!"
Saying which this fair maiden turned, and clasping the Witch's bony arm
about her slender loveliness, passed away into the denser wood with Lobkyn
Lollo marching grimly behind, his mighty club across his shoulder.
Long stood Sir Pertinax, staring down at the strange jewel in his hand yet
seeing it not, for, lost in his dreams, he beheld again two eyes, dusky-
lashed and softly bright, a slender hand, a shapelyfoot, while in his ears
was again the soft murmur of a maid's voice, a trill of girlish laughter.
So lost in meditation was he that becoming aware of a shadow athwart the
level sunset-glory, he started, glanced up and into the face of a horseman
who had ridden up unheard upon the velvet ling; and this man was tall and
armed at points like a knight; the vizor of his plumed casque was lifted,
and Sir Pertinax saw a ruddy face, keen-eyed, hawk-nosed, thin-lipped.
"Fellow," questioned the haughty knight, "what hold ye there?"
"Fellow," quoth Sir Pertinax, haughty and gruff also, "'t is no matter to
thee!" And speaking, he buttoned the jewel into the wallet at his belt.
"Fool!" exclaimed the Knight, staring in amaze, "wilt dare name me
'fellow'? Tell me, didst see three foresters hereabout?"
"Poltroon, I did."
"Knave, wilt defy me?"
"Rogue, I do!"
"Slave, what did these foresters?"
"Villain, they ran away!"
"Ha, varlet! and wherefore?"
"Caitiff, I drubbed them shrewdly."
"Dared ye withstand them, dog?"
"Minion, I did."
"Saw ye not the badge they bore?" demanded the fierce stranger-knight.
"'T was the like of that upon thy shield!" nodded Sir Pertinax grimly.
"Know ye who and what I am, dunghill rogue?"
"No, dog's-breakfast--nor care!" growled Sir Pertinax, whereat the
stranger-knight grew sudden red and clenched mailed fist.
"Know then, thou kennel-scourer, that I am Sir
Agramore of Biename, Lord of Swanscote and Hoccom, Lord Seneschal of
Tissingors and the March."
"Ha!" quoth Sir Pertinax, scowling. "So do I know thee for a very rogue
ingrain and villain manifest."
"How!" roared Sir Agramore. "This to my face, thou vile creeper of ditches,
thou unsavoury tavern-haunter--this in my teeth!"
"Heartily, heartily!" nodded Sir Pertinax. "And may it choke thee for the
knavish carcass thou art."
At this, and very suddenly, the Knight loosed mace from saddle-bow, and
therewith smote Sir Pertinax on rusty bascinet, and tumbled him backward
among the bracken. Which done, Sir Agramore laughed full loud and, spurring
his charger, galloped furiously away. And after some while Sir Pertinax
arose, albeit unsteadily, but finding his legs weak, sat him down again;
thereafter with fumbling hands he did off dinted bascinet and viewed it
thoughtfully, felt his head tenderly and, crawling to the stream, bathed it
solicitously; then, being greatly heartened, he arose and drawing sword,
set it upright in the ling and, kneeling, clasped his hands and spake as
"Here and now, upon my good cross-hilt I swear I will with joy and
zeal unremitting, seek me out one Sir Agramore of Biename. Then will I
incontinent with any, all, or whatsoever weapon he chooseth fall upon him
and, for this felon stroke, for his ungentle dealing with the maid, I will
forthwith gore, rend, tear, pierce, batter, bruise and otherwise use the
body of the said Sir Agramore until, growing aweary of its vile tenement,
his viler soul shall flee hence to consume evermore with such unholy knaves
as he. And this is the oath of me, Sir Pertinax,
Knight of Shene, Lord of Westover, Framling, Bracton and Deepdene, to the
which oath may the Saints bend gracious ear, in especial Our Holy Lady of
Shene Chapel within the Wood--Amen!"
Having registered the which most solemn oath, Sir Pertinax arose, sheathed
his sword, and strode blithely towards the fair and prosperous town of
Canalise. But, being come within the gate, he was aware of much riot and
confusion in the square and streets beyond, and hasting forward, beheld a
wild concourse, a pushing, jostling throng of people making great clamour
and outcry, above which hubbub ever and anon rose such shouts, as:
"Murderer! Thief! Away with him! Death to him!"
By dint of sharp elbow and brawny shoulder our good knight forced himself a
way until--surrounded by men-at-arms, his limbs fast bound, his motley torn
and bloody, his battered fool's-cap all awry--he beheld Duke Jocelyn haled
and dragged along by fierce hands. For a moment Sir Pertinax stood dumb
with horror and amaze, then, roaring, clapped hand to sword. Now, hearing
this fierce and well-known battle shout, Duke Jocelyn turned and, beholding
the Knight, shook bloody head in warning and slowly closed one bright, blue
eye; and so, while Sir Pertinax stood rigid and dumb, was dragged away and
lost in the fierce, jostling throng.
My daughter GILLIAN propoundeth:
GILL: Father, when you began this Geste, I thought
It was a poem of a sort.
MYSELF: A sort, Miss Pert! A sort, indeed?
GILL: Of course--the sort folks love to read.
But in the last part we have heard
Of poetry there's scarce a word.
MYSELF: My dear, if you the early Geste-books read,
You'll find that, oft as not, indeed,
The wearied Gestours, when by rhyming stumped,
Into plain prose quite often jumped.
GILL: But, father, dear, the last part seems to me
All prose--as prosy as can be--
MYSELF: Ha, prosy, miss! How, do you then suggest
Our Geste for you lacks interest?
GILL: Not for a moment, father, though
Sir Pertinax was much too slow.
When fair Melissa "laughing stood,"
He should have kissed--you know he
should--Because, of course, she wished him to.
MYSELF: Hum! Girl, I wonder if that's true?
GILL: O father, yes! Of course I'm right,
And you're as slow as your slow knight.
Were you as slow when you were young?
MYSELF: Hush, madam! Hold that saucy tongue.
You may be sure, in my young days,
I was most dutiful always.
Grown up, I was, it seems to me,
No slower than I ought to be.
And now, miss, since you pine for verse,
Rhyme with my prose I'll intersperse;
And, like a doting father, I
To hold your interest will try.
Which of Duke Joc'lyn's woeful plight doth tell,
And all that chanced him pent in dungeon cell.
* * * * *
In gloomy dungeon, scant of air and light,
Duke Joc'lyn lay in sad and woeful plight;
His hands and feet with massy fetters bound,
That clashed, whene'er he moved, with dismal sound;
His back against the clammy wall did rest,
His heavy head was bowed upon his breast,
But, 'neath drawn brows, he watched with wary eye
Three ragged 'wights who, shackled, lay hard by,
Three brawny rogues who, scowling, fiercely eyed him,
And with lewd gibes and mocking gestures plied him.
But Joc'lyn, huddled thus against the wall,
Seemed verily to heed them none at all,
Wherefore a red-haired rogue who thought he slept
With full intent upon him furtive crept.
But, ere he knew, right suddenly he felt
Duke Joc'lyn's battered shoe beneath his belt;
And falling back with sudden strangled cry,
Flat on his back awhile did breathless lie,
Whereat to rage his comrades did begin,
And clashed their fetters with such doleful din
That from a corner dim a fourth man sprang,
And laughed and laughed, until their prison rang.
"Well kicked, Sir Fool! Forsooth, well done!" laughed he,
"Ne'er saw I, Fool, a fool the like o' thee!"
Now beholding this tall fellow, Jocelyn knew him
for that same forest-rogue had wrestled with him
in the green, and sung for his life the "Song of
Roguery." Wherefore he smiled on the fellow and
the fellow on him:
Quoth JOCELYN: I grieve to see
A man like thee
In such a woeful plight--
Quoth the ROGUE: A Fool in fetters,
Like his betters,
Is yet a rarer sight.
"Ha i' the clout, good fellow, for Folly in fetters is Folly in need, and
Folly in need is Folly indeed! But, leaving folly awhile, who art thou and
what thy name?"
Saith the ROGUE: Robin I'm named, Sir Fool,
Rob by the few,
Which few are right, methinks, for
so I do.
"Then, Rob, if dost rob thou'rt a robber, and being robber thou'rt
perchance in bonds for robbing, Robin?"
"Aye, Fool, I, Rob, do rob and have robbed greater robbers that I might
by robbery live to rob like robbers again, as thou, by thy foolish folly,
fooleries make, befooling fools lesser than thou, that thou, Fool, by such
fool-like fooleries may live to fool like fools again!"
Quoth JOCELYN: Thou robber Rob,
By Hob and Gob,
Though robber-rogue, I swear
That 't is great pity
Rogue so pretty
Must dance upon thin air.
Quoth ROBIN: Since I must die
On gallows high
And wriggle in a noose,
I'll none repine
Nor weep nor whine,
For where would be the use?
Yet sad am I
That I must die
With rogues so base and small,
That do in kennel crawl.
"And yet," said Jocelyn, "thou thyself art rogue and thief confessed. How
then art better than these thy fellows?"
"By degree, Sir Fool. Even as thou'rt Fool o' folly uncommon, so am I no
ordinary rogue, being rogue o' rare parts with power of rogues i' the wild
wood, while these be but puny rogues of no parts soever."
"No rogues are we!" the three did loudly cry,
"But sad, poor souls, that perishing do lie!"
"In me," quoth one, "behold a man of worth,
By trade a dyer and yclepen Gurth;
In all this world no man, howe'er he try,
Could live a life so innocent as I!"
The second spake: "I am the ploughman Rick,
That ne'er harmed man or woman, maid or chick!
But here in direful dungeon doomed be I,
Yet cannot tell the wherefore nor the why."
Then spake Red-head, albeit gasping still:
"An honest tanner I, my name is Will;
'T was me thou kickedst, Fool, in such ill manner,
Of crimes unjust accused--and I, a tanner!"
Here Joc'lyn smiled. "Most saintly rogues," said he;
"The Saints, methinks, were rogues compared with ye,
And one must needs in prison come who'd find
The noblest, worthiest, best of all mankind.
Poor, ill-used knaves, to lie in dungeon pent,
Rogues sin-less quite, and eke so innocent,
What though your looks another tale do tell,
Since I'm your fellow, fellows let us dwell,
For if ye're rogues that thus in bonds do lie,
So I'm a rogue since here in bonds am I,
Thus I, a rogue, do hail ye each a brother,
Like brethren, then, we 'll comfort one another."
Thus spake Jocelyn, whereafter these "saintly rogues" all three grew
mightily peevish and, withal, gloomy, while Robin laughed and laughed at
them, nodding head and wagging finger.
"Prithee, good Motley," he questioned, "what should bring so rare a Fool
to lie in dungeon fettered and gyved along of innocent rogues and roguish
Whereto Duke Jocelyn answered on this wise:
"Hast heard, belike, of Gui the Red?"
(Here went there up a howl)
"A mighty lord of whom't is said,
That few do love and many dread."
(Here went there up a growl)
"This potent lord I chanced to view,
Behaving as no lord should do,
And thereupon, this lord I threw
In pretty, plashing pool!
"Whereon this dreadful lord did get
Exceeding wroth and very wet;
Wherefore in dungeon here I'm set,
For fierce and froward Fool."
Here went there up a shout of glee.
Cried Robin: "O sweet Fool,
I would I had been there to see
This haughty lord of high degree
In pretty, plashing pool."
Here shout of glee became a roar,
That made the dungeon ring;
They laughed, they rolled upon the floor,
Till suddenly the massy door
On creaking hinge did swing;
And to them the head jailer now appeared,
A sombre man who sighed through tangled beard.
"How now, rogue-lads," said he, "grow ye merry in sooth by reason o' this
Fool! Aye me, all men do grow merry save only I, Ranulph, Chief Torturer,
Ranulph o' the Keys, o' the Gibbet, o' the City Axe--poor Ranulph the
Headsman. Good lack! I've cut off the head o' many a man merrier than I--
aye, that have I, and more's the pity! And now, ye that are to die so soon
can wax joyous along o' this motley Fool! Why, 't is a manifest good Fool,
and rare singer o' songs, 't is said, though malapert, with no respect for
his betters and over-quick at dagger-play. So 't is a Fool must die and
sing no more, and there's the pity on't for I do love a song, I--being a
companionable soul and jovial withal, aye, a very bawcock of a boy, I.
To-morrow Red Gui doth hale ye to his Castle o' the Rock, there to die all
five for his good pleasure, as is very fitting and proper, so be merry
whiles ye may. Meantime, behold here another rogue, a youngling imp. So is
five become six, and six may laugh louder than five, methinks, so laugh
Then Ranulph o' the Keys sighed, closed the great door and went his way,
leaving the new captive to their mercies. Fair he was and slender, and of
a timid seeming, for now he crouched against the wall, his face hid 'neath
the hood of ragged mantle; wherefore the "saintly" three incontinent
scowled upon him, roared at him and made a horrid clashing with their
"Ha, blood and bones!" cried Rick the Ploughman. "What murderous babe art
thou to go unshackled in presence o' thy betters?"
"Aye, forsooth," growled Will the Tanner, "who 'rt thou to come hither
distressing the last hours o' we poor, perishing mortals? Discourse, lest I
bite the heart o' thee!"
"Pronounce, imp!" roared Gurth the Dyer, "lest I tear thy liver!"
"Sit ye, here beside me, youth," said Jocelyn, "and presently thou shalt
know these tearers of livers and biters of hearts for lambs of innocence
and doves of gentleness--by their own confessions. For, remark now, gentle
boy, all we are prisoners and therefore guiltless of every offence--indeed,
where is the prisoner, but who, according to himself, is not more sinned
against than sinner, and where the convicted rogue but, with his tongue,
shall disprove all men's testimony? So here sit three guileless men,
spotless of soul and beyond all thought innocent of every sin soever.
Yonder is Rob, a robber, and here sit I, a Fool."
"Ha!" cried Rick. "Yet murderous Fool art thou and apt to dagger-play!
Belike hast slain a man this day in way o' folly--ha?"
"Two!" answered Jocelyn, nodding. "These two had been more but that my
Here was silence awhile what time Jocelyn hummed the line of a song and his
companions eyed him with looks askance.
"Why then, good Folly," said Rick at last, "'t is for a little spilling o'
blood art here, a little, pretty business o' murder--ha?"
"'T is so they name it," answered Jocelyn.
"Bones o' me!" growled Will, "I do begin to love this Fool."
"And didst pronounce thyself our brother, Fool?" questioned Gurth.
"Then brethren let us be henceforth, and comrades to boot!" cried Rick.
"Jolly Clerks o' Saint Nicholas to share and share alike--ha? So then 't is
accorded. And now what o' yon lily-livered imp? 'T is a sickly youth and
I love him not. But he hath a cloak, look'ee--a cloak forsooth and poor
Rick's a-cold! Ho, lad--throw me thy cloak!"
"Beshrew me!" roared Gurth. "But he beareth belt and wallet! Ha, boy, give
thy wallet and girdle--bestow!"
"And by sweet Saint Nick," growled Will, "the dainty youngling disporteth
himself to mine eyes in a gold finger-ring! Aha, boy! Give now thy trinket
unto an honest tanner."
Hereupon and with one accord up started the three, fierce-eyed; but
Jocelyn, laughing, rose up also.
"Back, corpses!" quoth he, swinging the heavy fetters to and fro between
shackled wrists. "Stand, good Masters Dry-bones; of what avail cloak, or
wallet, or ring to ye that are dead men? Now, since corpses ye are
insomuch as concerneth this world, be ye reasonable and kindly corpses.
Sit ye then, Masters Dust-and-Ashes, and I will incontinent sing ye, chant
or intone ye a little song of organs and graves and the gallows-tree
whereon we must dance anon; as, hearken:
"Sing a song of corpses three
That ere long shall dancing be,
On the merry gallows-tree--
High and low,
To and fro,
Sing hey for the gallows-tree."
"Stint--stint thy beastly song now!" cried Will, pale of cheek. But Jocelyn
sang the louder:
"Sing a song of dying groans,
Sing a song of cries and moans,
Sing a song of dead men's bones,
That shall rest,
To rot and rot,
For dogs to gnaw
And battle for,
Sing hey for the dead rogue's bones."
"Abate--ha--abate thy fiendish rant!" cried Rick, glancing fearfully over
"Aye, Fool--beseech thee! Fair flesh may not abide it!" cried Gurth,
shivering, while Robin grinned no more and the fearful youth leaned
wide-eyed to behold the singer, this strange, scarred face beneath its
battered cock's-comb, these joyous eyes, these smiling lips as Jocelyn
"Now ends my song with ghosts forlorn,
Three gibbering ghosts that mope and mourn,
Then shrieking, flee at breath of dawn,
Where creatures fell
In torment dwell,
Blind things and foul,
That creep and howl,
That rend and bite
And claw and fight.
Where fires red-hot
Consume them not,
And they in anguish
Writhe and languish
And groan in pain
For night again.
Sing hey for pale ghosts forlorn."
Now when the song was ended, the three looked dismally on one another and,
bethinking them of their cruel end, they groaned and sighed lamentably:
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
GILL: Father, I like that song, it's fine;
But let me ask about this line:
"Blind things and foul,
That creep and howl."
Now tell me, please, if you don't mind,
Why were the little horrors blind?
MYSELF: The beastly things, as I surmise,
Had scratched out one another's eyes.
I suppose this place where creatures fell
In torments dwell is meant for--
I think, my Gill, the place you've guessed,
So let me get on with our Geste.
... they groaned and sighed lamentably--
My daughter GILLIAN interjecteth:
GILL: Father--now don't get in a huff--
But don't you think they've groaned enough?
MYSELF: My Gillian--no! Leave well alone;
This is the place for them to groan.
Lamentably they did together moan,
And uttered each full many a hollow groan.
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
GILL: But, father, groans are so distressing,
And groans in verse are most depressing--
Then peace, child, and in common prose
I'll let the poor rogues vent their woes:
... they groaned and they sighed lamentably--
My daughter GILLIAN interrupteth:
GILL: What, father, are they groaning still?
Of course they are, and so they will,
And so shall I; so, girl, take heed,
And cease their groaning to impede.
Is it agreed?
GILL: Oh, yes, indeed!
MYSELF: Then with our Geste I will proceed.
... they groaned and sighed lamentably.
"Alack!" cried Gurth, "I had not greatly minded till now, but this vile-
tongued Fool hath stirred Fear to wakefulness within me. Here's me, scarce
thirty turned, hale and hearty, yet must die woefully and with a maid as
do love me grievously!"
"And me!" groaned Rick. "No more than twenty and five, I--a very lad--and
with two maids as do languish for me fain and fond!"
"Ha, and what o' me?" mourned dismal, redheaded Will. "A lusty, proper
fellow I be and wi' maids a score as do sigh continual. And me to die--O
woe! And I a tanner!"
"Content ye, brothers!" said Jocelyn. "Look now, here's Gurth hath lived
but thirty years, and now must die--good: so shall he die weighted with
less of sin than had he lived thirty more. Be ye comforted in this,
distressful rogues, the shorter our life the less we sin, the which is a
fair, good thing. As for these shackles, though our bodies be 'prisoned our
souls go free, thus, while we languish here, our souls astride a sunbeam
may mount aloft, 'bove all pains and tribulations soever. Thus if we must
dance together in noose, our souls, I say, escaping these fleshy bonds,
shall wing away to freedom everlasting. Bethink ye of this, grievous
knaves, and take heart. Regarding the which same truths I will, for thy
greater comforting, incontinent make ye a song--hearken!
"Let Folly sing a song to cheer
All poor rogues that languish here,
Doomed in dismal dungeon drear,
Doomed in dungeon dim.
"Though flesh full soon beneath the sod
Doth perish and decay,
Though cherished body is but clod,
Yet in his soul man is a God,
To do and live alway.
So hence with gloom and banish fear,
Come Mirth and Jollity,
Since, though we pine in dungeon drear,
Though these, our bodies, languish here,
We in our minds go free."
Thus cheerily sang Jocelyn until, chancing to see how the youth leaned
forward great-eyed, watching as he sung, he broke off to question him
"How now, good youth, hast a leaning to Folly e'en though Folly go
fettered, and thyself in dungeon?"
"Fool," answered the youth, soft-voiced, "me-thinks 't is strange Folly can
sing thus in chains! Hast thou no fear of death?"
"Why truly I love it no more than my fellow-fools. But I, being fool
uncommon, am wise enough to know that Death, howsoe'er he come, may come
but once--and there's a comfortable thought!"
So saying, Jocelyn seated himself beside the youth and watched him
"And thou canst sing of Freedom, Fool, to the jangle of thy fetters?"
"Truly, youth, 't is but my baser part lieth shackled, thus while body
pineth here, soul walketh i' the kindly sun--aye, e'en now as I do gaze on
thee, I, in my thought, do stand in a fair garden--beside a lily-pool,
where she I love cometh shy-footed to meet me, tall and gracious and sweet,
as her flowers. A dream, belike, yet in this dream she looketh on me with
eyes of love and love is on her lips and in her heart--so is my dream very
At this, the youth shrank beneath his cloak while in an adjacent corner the
three rolled dice with Robin and quarrelled hoarse and loud.
"Youth," said Jocelyn, "I pray thee, tell me thy name."
Without lifting head the youth answered:
"Look up, Hugo!" But Hugo bowed his head the lower.
"Hast wondrous hair, Hugo--red gold 'neath thy hood!"
Here came a slim, white hand to order the rebellious tress but, finding
none, trembled and hid itself. Then very suddenly Jocelyn leaned near and
caught this hand, clasping it fast yet with fingers very gentle, and spake
quick and eager:
"Hugo--alas, Hugo! What bringeth thee in this evil place? Art in danger?
"Nay, here is no harm for me, Joconde. And I am hither come for sake of a
poor Fool that is braver than the bravest--one did jeopardise his foolish
life for sake of a maid, wherefore I, Hugo, do give him life. Take now this
wallet, within is good store of gold and better--a potent charm to close
all watchful eyes. Hist, Joconde, and mark me well! Ranulph o' the Axe is
a mighty drinker--to-night, drawn by fame of thy wit, he cometh with his
fellows. This money shall buy them wine, in the wine cast this powder so
shall they sleep and thou go free."
"Aye!" said Jocelyn, "and then?"
"There will meet thee a dwarf shall free thee of thy fetters, and by secret
ways set thee without the city--then, tarry not, but flee for thy life--"
"Now by the Holy Rood!" quoth Jocelyn softly, "never in all this world was
there prisoner so happy as this poor Fool! But, Hugo, an I win free by
reason of a brave and noble lady, so long as she bide in Canalise, so long
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
GILL: O, father, now I understand--
Of course, this Hugo is Yolande!
MYSELF: Exactly, miss, the fact is clear;
But how on earth did she get here?
I don't want her here--
GILL: Why not?
MYSELF: Because, being here, she spoils my plot,
Which would drive any author frantic--
GILL: I think it's fine, and most romantic.
Besides, you know, you wrote her there--
MYSELF: She came--before I was aware--
GILL: She couldn't, father, for just think,
You've made her all of pen and ink.
So you, of course, can make her do
Exactly as you want her to.
MYSELF: Dear innocent! You little know
The trials poor authors undergo.
How heroines, when they break loose,
Are apt to play the very deuce,
Dragging their authors to and fro,
And where he wills--they will not go.
GILL: Well, since she's here, please let her be,
She wants to set Duke Joc'lyn free.
MYSELF: Enough--enough, my plans are made,
I'll set him free without her aid,
And in a manner, I apprise you,
As will, I fancy, quite surprise you.
Besides, a dungeon no fit place is
For a dainty lady's graces.
So, since she's in, 't is very plain
I now must get her out again.
"To bide in Canalise,'t is folly!" cried Hugo. "O,'t were a madness fond!"
"Aye," sighed Jocelyn, "some do call love a madness--thus mad am I,
"Hush!" whispered Hugo, as from without came the tramp of heavy feet.
"Fare-thee-well and--ah, be not mad, Joconde!"
The door creaked open, and six soldiers entered bringing a prisoner,
chained and fettered, and therewith fast bound and gagged, whom they set
ungently upon the stone floor; then straightway seizing upon Robin, they
haled him to his feet.
"Come, rogue," said one, "thou art to hang at cockcrow!" "Is't so, good
fellows?" quoth Robin,
"Then cock be curst
That croweth first!
As for thee, good Motley, peradventure when, by hangman's noose, our souls
enfranchised go, they shall company together, thine and mine! Till then
So Robin was led forth of the dungeon and the heavy door crashed shut; but
when Jocelyn looked for Hugo--lo! he was gone also.
Evening was come and the light began to fail, therefore Jocelyn crouched
beneath the narrow loophole and taking from his bosom the wallet, found
therein good store of money together with the charm or philtre: and bowing
his head above this little wallet, he fell to profound meditation.
But presently, roused by hoarse laughter, he glanced up to find the three
plaguing the helpless prisoner with sundry kicks and buffets; so Jocelyn
crossed the dungeon, and putting the tormentors aside, stood amazed to
behold in this latest captive none other than Sir Pertinax. Straightway he
loosed off the gag, whereupon the good knight incontinent swore a gasping
oath and prayed his limbs might be loosed also; the which done, he
forthwith sprang up, and falling on the astonished three, he beat and
clouted them with fist and manacles, and drave them to and fro about the
"Ha, dogs! Wilt spurn me with they vile feet, buffet me with thy beastly
hands, forsooth!" roared he and kicked and cuffed them so that they,
thinking him mad, cried aloud in fear until Sir Pertinax, growing a-weary,
seated himself against the wall, and folding his arms, scowled indignant
upon Jocelyn who greeted him merrily:
"Hail and greeting to thee, my Pertinax; thy gloomy visage is a joy!"
Sir Pertinax snorted, but spake not; wherefore the Duke questioned him full
blithe: "What fair, good wind hath blown thee dungeon-wards, sweet soul?"
"Ha!" quoth the knight. "Fetters, see'st thou, a dungeon, and these foul
knaves for company--the which cometh of thy fool's folly, messire! So
prithee ha' done with it!"
"Stay, gentle gossip, thou'rt foolish, methinks; thou frettest 'gainst
fate, thou kickest unwisely 'gainst the pricks, thou ragest pitifully
'gainst circumstance--in fine, thou'rt a very Pertinax, my Pertinax!"
"Aye troth, that am I and no dog to lie thus chained in noisome pit, par
Dex! So let us out, messire, and that incontinent!"
"Why here is a bright thought, sweet lad, let us out forthwith--but how?"
"Summon the town-reeve, messire, the burgesses, the council, declare thy
rank, so shall we go free--none shall dare hold thus a prince of thy
exalted state and potent might! Declare thyself, lord."
"This were simple matter, Pertinax, but shall they believe us other than we
seem, think ye?"
Quoth Pertinax: "We can try!"
"Verily," said Jocelyn, "this very moment!" So saying, he turned to the
three who sat in a corner muttering together.
"Good brothers, gentle rogues," said he, "behold and regard well this
sturdy cut-throat fellow that sitteth beside me, big of body, unseemly of
habit, fierce and unlovely of look--one to yield the wall unto, see ye! And
yet--now heed me well, this fellow, ragged and unkempt, this ill-looking
haunter of bye-ways, this furtive snatcher of purses (hold thy peace,
Pertinax!). I say this unsavoury-seeming clapper-claw is yet neither one
nor other, but a goodly knight, famous in battle, joust and tourney, a
potent lord of noble heritage, known to the world as Sir Pertinax of Shene
Castle and divers rich manors and demesnes. Furthermore, I that do seem a
sorry jesting-fellow, I that in antic habit go, that cut ye capers with
ass's ears a-dangle and languish here your fellow in bonds, am yet no
antic, no poor, motley Fool, but a duke and lord of many fair towns
and rich cities beyond Morfeville and the Southward March. How say ye,
"That thou'rt a fool!" quoth Rick.
"True!" nodded Jocelyn.
"Most true!" sighed Sir Pertinax.
"And a liar!" growled Gurth.
"And a murderous rogue!" cried Will, "and shall hang, along of us--as I'm a
"Alack, Sir Knight," smiled Jocelyn, "of what avail rank or fame or both
'gainst a motley habit and a ragged mantle. Thus, Pertinax, thou art
no more than what thou seemest, to wit--a poor, fierce rogue, and I, a
"And like to have our necks stretched, lord, by reason of a fond and
"Unless, Pertinax, having naught to depend on but our native wit we, by our
wit, win free. Other poor rogues in like case have broke prison ere now,
and 'tis pity and shame in us if thou, a knight so potent and high-born,
and I, a prince, may not do the like."
"Messire, unlearned am I in the breaking o' prisons so when my time cometh
to die in a noose I can but die as knight should--though I had rather 't
were in honest fight."
"Spoken like the very fool of a knight!" quoth Jocelyn. "So now will I
show thee how by the wit of a brave and noble lady we may yet 'scape the
hangman. Hearken in thine ear!"
But, when Jocelyn had told him all and shown money and sleeping-charm, Sir
Pertinax grew thoughtful, sighing deep and oft, yet speaking not, wherefore
the Duke questioned him.
"Good gossip, gasp not!" quoth he. "How think'st thou of prison-breaking
"Why, sir, I think when all do charmed and spellbound
Then will we shrewdly choke them that they wake
"Nay, Pertinax, here shall be no need of choking, forsooth!" Sir Pertinax
bowed chin on fist and sighed again.
"Pertinax, prithee puff not! Yet, an puff ye will, pronounce me then the
why and wherefore of thy puffing."
"Lord, here is neither gasp nor puff, here is honest sighing. I can sigh as
well as another."
"Since when hast learned this so tender art, my Pertinax?"
"And I do sigh by reason of memory."
"As what, Pertinax?"
"Eyes, lord--her eyes so darkly bright and, as I do think--black!"
"Nay, blue, Pertinax--blue as heaven!"
"Black, messire, black as--as black!"
"Blue, boy, blue!"
"Lord, they are black!"
"Speak'st thou of Yolande?"
"Messire, of one I speak, but whom, I know not. She came to me i' the
greenwood as I sat a-fishing. Her hair long and black--ay, black and
curled, her eyes dark, and for beauty ne'er saw I her like."
"And yet hast seen my Lady Yolande oft!"
"Her voice, messire, her voice soft and sweet as the murmur of waters, and
very full of allure."
"Why, how now!" cried Jocelyn. "Art thou--thou, my Pertinax, become
at last one of Cupid's humble following? All joy to thee, my lovely
lover--here in truth is added bond betwixt us! For since thou dost love a
maid, even as I do love a maid, so being lovers twain needs must we love
each other the better therefore."
"Nay, out alack, my lord!" sighed Sir Pertinax. "For though I do love her,
she, by reason o' my ill-favoured looks, the which, woe's me, I may not
alter, loveth not me, as I do judge."
"How judge ye this?"
"Lord, she giveth me hard names. She, all in a breath, hath pictured me
thus: 'Hooked of nose, fierce-eyed, of aspect grim--ungentle, unlovely,
harsh o' tongue, dour o' visage, hard o' heart, flinty o' soul and of
"Good! But was this all, my Pertinax?"
"Nay, lord, and with a wannion--there was more to like purpose."
"Excellent, my lovely knight--let hope sing in thee. For look now, if she
named thee hooked of nose, fierce-eyed and of aspect grim--she speaketh
very truth, for so thou art, my Pertinax. Now truth is a fair virtue in man
or maid, so is she both virtuous and fair! Nay, puff not, sighful Pertinax,
but for thy comforting mark this--she hath viewed and heeded thy outward
man narrowly--so shall she not forget thee soon; she with woman's eye hath
marked the great heart of thee through sorry habit and rusty mail, and
found therein the love thy harsh tongue might not utter; and thus,
methinks, she hath thee in mind--aye, even now, mayhap. Lastly, good,
lovely blunderbore--mark this! 'Tis better to win a maid's anger than she
should heed thee none at all. Let love carol i' thy heart and be ye worthy,
so, when ye shall meet again, 'tis like enough, despite thy hooked nose,
she shall find thine eyes gentle, thy unloveliness lovely, thy harsh tongue
wondrous tender and thy flinty soul the soul of a man."
"Why, faith, lord," quoth Pertinax, his grim lips softening to a smile,
"despite her words, she spake in voice full sweet, and her eyes--ah,
messire, her eyes were wondrous kind--gentle eyes--aye, her eyes were--"
"Eyes, my Pertinax--black eyes!"
"And gentle! By which same token, lord, she did give to me this token--this
most strange trinket."
But all at once, was the creak of hinges, and the ponderous door opening,
Ranulph o' the Axe appeared, followed by divers of the warders bearing
"Oho!" sighed Ranulph, doleful of visage. "Aha, good bawcocks, here come
I, and these my fellows, for love o' thee, good Fool, thy quips, thy
quirks, thy songs and antics capersome. For troth I'm a merry dog, I--a
wanton wag, a bully boy and jovial, though woeful o' look!"
"For that I am not joyous, good Motley. Look 'ee--here's me born with a
rare, merry heart, but sad and sober of head! Here's a heart bubbling with
kindliness and soft and tender as sucking lamb, wedded to head and face
full o' gloom! Here's laughter within me and woe without me, so am I ever
at odds with myself--and there's my sorrow. Regarding the which same I will
now chaunt ye song I made on myself; 'twas meant for merry song and blithe,
but of itself turned mournful song anon as ye shall hear."
So saying, Ranulph o' the Axe threw back grim head and sang gruff, albeit
"O! merry I am and right merry I'll be,
Ho-ho for block, gibbet and rack--oho!
To hang or behead ye there's none like to me,
For I'm headsman, tormentor, and hangman, all three,
And never for work do I lack--oho!
"I live but to torture since torment's my trade,
But my torment well meant is, I trow;
If I hang or behead ye, it can't be gainsaid,
Though my head for the head of a headsman was made,
Still I'm all loving-kindness below.
"But if ever I strive merry story to tell,
Full of japeful and humorsome graces,
'T is as though I were tolling a funeral bell
As if dismally, dolefully tolling a knell,
So solemn and sad grow all faces.
"I hang, burn and torture the best that I may,
Ho pincers and thumbscrews and rack--oho!
And all heads I cut off in a headsmanlike way;
So I'll hang, burn and torment 'till cometh the day
That my kind heart within me shall crack--oho!
Woe is me for the day
That my poor heart inside me shall crack! Oho!
"So there's my song! 'T is dull song and, striving to be merry song, is sad
song, yet might be worse song, for I have heard a worse song, ere now--but
't is poor song. So come, Fool, do thou sing us merry song to cheer us
'gainst my sad song."
"Why truly, Sir Headsman," said Jocelyn, "here be songs a-many, yet if thou
'rt for songs, songs will we sing thee, each and every of us. But first,
behold here is money shall buy us wine in plenty that we may grow merry
withal in very sooth."
"Oho!" cried Ranulph. "Spoken like a noble Motley, a fair, sweet Fool! Go
thou, Bertram, obey this lord-like Fool--bring wine, good wine and much,
and haste thee, for night draweth on and at cock-crow I must away."
"Aye," nodded Jocelyn, "in the matter of one--Robin?"
"Verily, Fool. A cheery soul is Robin, though an outlaw, and well beloved
in Canalise. So is he to hang at cock-crow lest folk make disturbance."
"Where lieth he now?"
"Where but in the watch-house beside the gallows 'neath Black Lewin's
charge. But come, good Motley, sing--a pretty song, a merry ditty, ha!"
So forthwith Jocelyn took his lute and sang:
"With dainty ditty
Quaint and pretty
I will fit ye,
So heed and mark me well,
And who we be
That here ye see
Now unto ye
Explicit I will tell:
"Then here first behold one Gurth, a worthy, dying
Since he by dyeing liveth, so to dye is his desire:
For being thus a very Dyer, he liveth but to dye,
And dyeing daily he doth all his daily wants
Full often hath he dyed ere now to earn his
Thus, dyeing not, this worthy Dyer must soon,
alas! be dead.
"Here's Rick--a saintly ploughman, he
Hath guided plough so well,
That here, with rogues the like of me,
He pines in dungeon cell.
"Here's Red-haired Will--O fie!
That Will should fettered lie
In such base, cruel manner!
For though his hair be red,
Brave Will, when all is said,
Is--hark 'ee--Will's a tanner!"
"Enough, Fool!" cried Will. "An thou must sing, sing of thyself, for
thyself, to thyself, and I will sing of myself an' need be!"
Why then, brave Will,
Come, sing thy fill.
Whereupon Will cleared his throat, squared his shoulders, and rumbling a
note or so to fix the key, burst into songful roar:
"A tanner I, a lusty man,
A tanner men call Will,
And being tanner true, I tan,
Would I were tanning still;
Ho derry, derry down,
Hey derry down,
Would I were tanning still."
"Aye, verily!" growled Sir Pertinax. "And choked in thy vile tan-pit, for
scurvier song was never heard, par Dex!"
"Why 'tis heard, forsooth," said Jocelyn, "and might be heard a mile hence!
Chant on, brave Will."
The Tanner, nothing loth, wiped his mouth, clenched his fists and standing
square and rigid, continued:
"How gaily I a-tanning went,
No tanner blithe as I,
No tanner e'er so innocent,
Though here in chains I lie.
Ho derry down,
Hey derry down,
In grievous chains I lie.
"No more, alack, poor Will will tan,
Since Will will, all unwilling,
Though tanner he and proper man,
A gloomy grave be filling.
Hey derry down,
Ho derry down,
A gloomy grave be filling."
"Now out upon thee, Tanner!" sighed Ranulph. "Here's sad song, a song o'
graves, and therefore most unlovely, a song I--Saints and Angels!" he
And pointed where Sir Pertinax did stand,
The Heart of Crystal shining in his hand.
"The Heart-in-Heart! The Crystal Heart!" cried he,
And crying thus, sank down on bended knee,
While jailers all and scurvy knaves, pell-mell,
Betook them to their marrow-bones as well;
Whereat Sir Pertinax oped wond'ring eyes,
And questioned him 'twixt anger and surprise.
Then answered Ranulph, "Sir, though chained ye go,
Yet to thee we do all obedience owe
By reason of that sacred amulet,
That crystal heart in heart of crystal set:
'For he that holdeth Crystal Heart
Holdeth all and every part,
And by night or eke by day
The Heart-in-Heart all must obey!"'
"Obey?" quoth Pertinax. "Ha! Let us see
If in thy vaunt there aught of virtue be:
For by this Heart of Crystal that I bear,
I charge ye loose the chains the Fool doth wear,
Then off with these accursed gyves of mine,
Ranulph to the warders gave a sign,
And they to work did go with such good speed,
That Joc'lyn soon with Pertinax stood freed,
"Now by my halidome!" quoth Pertinax,
"This talisman methinks no magic lacks,
So knaves, I bid ye--by this magic Heart,
Draw bolt and bar that hence we may depart--"
But now the scurvy knaves made dismal cry.
"Good sir!" they wailed, "Ah, leave us not to die!"
"Aye, by Heav'n's light!" fierce quoth Sir Pertinax,
"Ye're better dead by gibbet or by axe,
Since naught but scurvy, coward rogues are ye,
And so be hanged--be hanged to ye, all three!"
"Knight!" Joc'lyn sighed, "'neath Heaven's light
Doth live a dark-eyed maid with black-curled hair--
Her voice is soft and full of sweet allure,
And thou, perchance, one day may humbly woo her;
So these poor rogues now woo their lives of thee,
Show mercy then and mercy find of she."
At this Sir Pertinax rubbed chin and frowned,
Red grew his cheek, his fierce eyes sought the ground,
Then, even as he thus pinched chin and scowled,
"Loose, then, the dismal knaves!" at last he
But now grim Ranulph tangled beard tore
And wrung his hands and sighed and groaned and
With loud complaints and woeful lamentations,
With muttered oaths and murmured objurgations,
With curses dire and impious imprecations.
"Beshrew me, masters all!" quoth he. "Now here's ill prank to play a poor
hangman, may I ne'er quaff good liquor more, let me languish o' the
quartern ague and die o' the doleful dumps if I ever saw the like o' this!
For look 'ee now, if I set these three rogues free, how may I hang 'em as
hang 'em I must, since I by hanging live to hang again, and if I don't
hang 'em whom shall I hang since hang I must, I being hangman? Bethink ye
o' this, sirs, and show a little pity to a poor hangman."
"Why then, mark ye this, hangman," said Jocelyn, "since on hanging doth thy
hangman's reputation hang, then hang thou must; therefore, an ye lack rogue
to hang, go hang thyself, so, hanging, shall thy hanging be done with and
thou having lived a hangman, hangman die, thus, hangman hanging hangman,
hangman hanging shall be hangman still, and being still, thus hanging,
shall hang no more."
"Aye, verily!" quoth Sir Pertinax, "there it is in a nutshell--hangman, be
hanged to thee! So off with their fetters, Master Gallows, by Crystal Heart
I charge thee!"
Hereupon the scurvy knaves were freed, to their great joy, and following
the bold knight, made haste to quit their gloomy dungeon. Reaching the
guardroom above, Sir Pertinax called lustily for sword and bascinet, and
thereafter chose divers likely weapons for his companions who, with axe and
pike and guisarme on shoulder, followed him out into the free air.
Now it was night and very dark, but Gurth, who was a man of the town,
brought them by dim and lonely alleys and crooked ways until at last they
halted within a certain dark and narrow street.
"Whither now?" questioned Sir Pertinax.
"Verily," said Jocelyn, "where but to the gatehouse--"
"Not so," muttered Gurth, "'tis overly well guarded--"
"Aye," growled Will, "which is true, as I'm a tanner!"
"Howbeit," said Jocelyn, "I'm for the gatehouse!"
"And wherefore?" demanded Sir Pertinax.
"In cause of one Rob, a robber."
"Aye, but," said Gurth, "he is to hang at crow-o'-cock and 'tis nigh
"The more need for haste," said Jocelyn.
But, even now, as they together spoke,
A sullen tramp the sleeping echoes woke,
Behind them in the gloom dim forms they saw,
While others grimly barred the way before;
And so, by reason that they could not fly,
They grasped their weapons and prepared to die.
Then in the darkness of that narrow street,
Broad axe and pike and flashing sword did meet.
Duke Jocelyn full many a thrust drave home,
Till whirling pike-staff smote him on cock's-comb,
And staggering back to an adjacent wall,
In deep-sunk doorway groaning he did fall.
My daughter GILLIAN remonstrateth:
GILL: Now, father, please don't let him die--
MYSELF: No, no, indeed, my Gill, not I,
My heroes take a lot of killing--
GILL: Then go on quick, it's very thrilling!
I hope he vanquishes his foes,
And let him do it, please, in prose.
"O woe!" said a quavering voice. "Alack, and well-a-wey--"
My daughter GILLIAN demurreth:
GILL: No, father--that's not right at all.
You'd got to where you'd made him fall.
MYSELF: Well, then, Duke Joc'lyn, from his swoon awaking,
Found that his head confoundedly was aching;
Found he was bruised all down from top to toe--
GILL: A bruise, father, and he a duke? No, no!
Besides, you make
A frightful mistake--
A hero's head should never ache;
And, father, now, whoever knew
A hero beaten black and blue?
And then a bruise, it seems to me,
Is unromantic as can be.
He can't be bruised,
And shan't be bruised,
For, if you bruise him,
And ill-use him,
I'll refuse him--
No reader, I am sure, would choose
A hero any one can bruise.
So, father, if you want him read,
Don't bruise him, please--
MYSELF: Enough is said!
At this, Jocelyn sat up and wondered to find himself in a small chamber
dim-lit by a smoking cresset. On one side of him leaned an ancient woman,
a very hag-like dame
With long, sharp nose that downward curved as though
It fain would, beak-like, peck sharp chin below;
and upon his other side a young damsel of a wondrous dark beauty.
"Lady," said he, "where am I?"
"Hush, poor Motley!" whispered the maid. "Thou didst fall 'gainst the door
yonder. But speak low, they that seek thy life may yet be nigh."
"Nay, then," quoth Jocelyn, reaching for his sword, "I must out and aid my
"Alack!" sighed the old woman. "Thy comrades do without lie all slain save
one that groaneth--hearken!"
"O, woe!" mourned a quavering voice beyond the door. "O, woe, sore hurted I
be, and like to die--and I a tanner!"
Very heedfully, Jocelyn unbarred the door, and peering into the narrow
street, found it deserted and empty save for certain outstretched forms
that stirred not; looking down on these dim shapes he knew one for Rick the
Ploughman, whose ploughing days were sped and, huddled in a corner hard by,
he found Will the Tanner, who groaned fitfully; but of Sir Pertinax and
Gurth he saw nothing. So Jocelyn made shift to bear the Tanner within the
house, and here Will, finding his hurts of small account, sat up, and while
the wise old woman bandaged his wound, answered Jocelyn's eager questions,
and told how Sir Pertinax and Gurth the Dyer had broken through their
assailants and made good their escape.
Now, when the old woman had thus cherished their hurts, Jocelyn would
fain have given her money, but she mumbled and mowed and cracked her
finger-joints and shook grey head.
"Not so, good Fool!" she croaked, "for I do know thee for that same gentle
Motley did save me from Black Lewin--a murrain seize him! So now will I
save thee--behold!" So saying she set bony hand to wall; and lo! in the
wall yawned a square opening narrow and dark, whence issued a cold wind.
"Begone, thou brave merryman!" quoth she. "Yonder safety lieth; this
darksome way shall carry thee out beneath the city wall!"
"Gramercy, thou kindly Witch!" said Jocelyn. "Yet first must I to the
watch-house beside the gate for one Robin that lieth 'prisoned there."
"How, Fool, dost mean Robin-a-Green that is to hang?"
"But Rob o' the Green is outlawed, banned o' Church, a very rogue!"
"But a man, wherefore I would save him alive."
"Nay, Fool, o' thy folly be wise and seek ye safety instead. Would'st peril
thy body for a thief?"
"Verily, dame, even as I did for a Witch."
Now, here the old woman scowled and mumbled and cracked her finger-bones
angrily. But the beauteous young maid viewed Jocelyn with bright, approving
"But, Fool," cried she, "O wondrous Fool, wilt adventure thyself in cause
"Blithely, fair lady!"
"But, alas! the guards be many and thou but one--"
"Nay!" cried a voice:
"For thou may'st see
That two are we!"
And forth of the dark opening in the wall strode Lobkyn Lollo the Dwarf,
his great, spiked club on brawny shoulder. Jocelyn viewed the monstrous
little man in awed wonder; but beholding his mighty girth and determined
aspect, wonder changed to kindliness; quoth he:
"Fair greeting, comrade! If thou'rt for a little bickering and disputation
with that goodly club o' thine, come thy ways for methinks I do smell the
"Aha, thou naughty little one!" cried the Witch, shaking bony fist. "Art
for fighting for rogue's life along of a Fool, then?"
Aye, grannam, though ye slap me, still,
Fight and aid this Fool I will--
"And talking o' Will," quoth Will, "what o' me, for though I'm a tanner I'm
a man, aye, verily, as I'm a tanner."
"And methinks a better man than tanner!" said Jocelyn. "So here we stand
three goodly wights and well armed. Let's away--"
"Nay, then, wild Madcap," croaked the Witch, "an my Lobkyn go I go, and,
though I be old and feeble, shalt find my craft more potent than sword or
Here the old woman, opening a dingy cupboard, took thence a small crock
over which she muttered spells and incantations with look and gesture so
evil that Lobkyn eyed her askance, Will the Tanner cowered and whispered
fragments of prayers, and even Jocelyn crossed himself.
"Come!" croaked the Witch. "Now do I go to save rogue from gallows for sake
of thee, tall Fool. Come ye, come and do as I bid ye in all things--come!"
Tells how for Robin a good fight was fought
And our old Witch a spell mysterious wrought.
* * * * *
Phoebus, the young and gladsome god of day,
His fiery steeds had yoked to flaming car
(By which, my Gill, you may surmise
The sun was just about to rise)
And that be-feathered, crook-billed harbinger,
The rosy-wattled herald of the dawn,
Red comb aflaunt, bold-eyed and spurred for strife,
Brave Chanticleer, his strident summons raised
(By which fine phrase I'd have you know,
The cock had just begun to crow)
And gentle Zephyr, child of Boreas,
Stole soft the hush of dewy leaves,
And passing kissed the flowers to wakefulness.
Thus, laden with their sweetness, Zephyr came
O'er hill and dale, o'er battlement and wall,
Into the sleeping town of Canalise,
Through open lattice and through prison-bars,
To kiss the cheek of sleeping Innocence
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