The Outlaw of Torn
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 4 out of 4
heard at Lewes, she dropped the dish upon the stone floor and, turning,
ran, still shrieking at the top of her lungs, straight for the great dining
So close behind her came the little band of outlaws that scarce had the
guests arisen in consternation from the table at the shrill cries of the
girl than Norman of Torn burst through the great door with twenty drawn
swords at his back.
The hall was filled with knights and gentlewomen and house servants and
men-at-arms. Fifty swords flashed from fifty scabbards as the men of the
party saw the hostile appearance of their visitors, but before a blow could
be struck, Norman of Torn, grasping his sword in his right hand, raised his
left aloft in a gesture for silence.
"Hold !" he cried, and, turning directly to Roger de Leybourn, "I have no
quarrel with thee, My Lord, but again I come for a guest within thy halls.
Methinks thou hast as bad taste in whom thou entertains as didst thy fair
"Who be ye, that thus rudely breaks in upon the peace of my castle, and
makes bold to insult my guests ?" demanded Roger de Leybourn.
"Who be I ! If you wait, you shall see my mark upon the forehead of yon
grinning baboon," replied the outlaw, pointing a mailed finger at one who
had been seated close to De Leybourn.
All eyes turned in the direction that the rigid finger of the outlaw
indicated, and there indeed was a fearful apparition of a man. With livid
face he stood, leaning for support against the table; his craven knees
wabbling beneath his fat carcass; while his lips were drawn apart against
his yellow teeth in a horrid grimace of awful fear.
"If you recognize me not, Sir Roger," said Norman of Torn, drily, "it is
evident that your honored guest hath a better memory."
At last the fear-struck man found his tongue, and, though his eyes never
left the menacing figure of the grim, iron-clad outlaw, he addressed the
master of Leybourn; shrieking in a high, awe-emasculated falsetto:
"Seize him ! Kill him ! Set your men upon him ! Do you wish to live
another moment, draw and defend yourselves for he be the Devil of Torn, and
there be a great price upon his head.
"Oh, save me, save me ! for he has come to kill me," he ended in a pitiful
The Devil of Torn ! How that name froze the hearts of the assembled
The Devil of Torn ! Slowly the men standing there at the board of Sir
Roger de Leybourn grasped the full purport of that awful name.
Tense silence for a moment held the room in the stillness of a sepulchre,
and then a woman shrieked, and fell prone across the table. She had seen
the mark of the Devil of Torn upon the dead brow of her mate.
And then Roger de Leybourn spoke:
"Norman of Torn, but once before have you entered within the walls of
Leybourn, and then you did, in the service of another, a great service for
the house of Leybourn; and you stayed the night, an honored guest. But a
moment since, you said that you had no quarrel with me. Then why be you
here ? Speak ! Shall it be as a friend or an enemy that the master of
Leybourn greets Norman of Torn; shall it be with outstretched hand or naked
"I come for this man, whom you may all see has good reason to fear me. And
when I go, I take part of him with me. I be in a great hurry, so I would
prefer to take my great and good friend, Peter of Colfax, without
interference; but, if you wish it otherwise; we be a score strong within
your walls, and nigh a thousand lie without. What say you, My Lord ?"
"Your grievance against Peter of Colfax must be a mighty one, that you
search him out thus within a day's ride from the army of the King who has
placed a price upon your head, and from another army of men who be equally
"I would gladly go to hell after Peter of Colfax," replied the outlaw.
"What my grievance be matters not. Norman of Torn acts first and explains
afterward, if he cares to explain at all. Come forth, Peter of Colfax, and
for once in your life, fight like a man, that you may save your friends
here from the fate that has found you at last after two years of patient
Slowly, the palsied limbs of the great coward bore him tottering to the
center of the room, where gradually a little clear space had been made; the
men of the party forming a circle, in the center of which stood Peter of
Colfax and Norman of Torn.
"Give him a great draught of brandy," said the outlaw, "or he will sink
down and choke in the froth of his own terror."
When they had forced a goblet of the fiery liquid upon him, Peter of Colfax
regained his lost nerve enough so that he could raise his sword arm and
defend himself and, as the fumes circulated through him, and the primal
instinct of self-preservation asserted itself, he put up a more and more
creditable fight, until those who watched thought that he might indeed have
a chance to vanquish the Outlaw of Torn. But they did not know that Norman
of Torn was but playing with his victim, that he might make the torture
long, drawn out, and wreak as terrible a punishment upon Peter of Colfax,
before he killed him, as the Baron had visited upon Bertrade de Montfort
because she would not yield to his base desires.
The guests were craning their necks to follow every detail of the
fascinating drama that was being enacted before them.
"God, what a swordsman !" muttered one.
"Never was such swordplay seen since the day the first sword was drawn from
the first scabbard !" replied Roger de Leybourn. "Is it not marvellous !"
Slowly but surely was Norman of Torn cutting Peter of Colfax to pieces;
little by little, and with such fiendish care that, except for loss of
blood, the man was in no way crippled; nor did the outlaw touch his
victim's face with his gleaming sword. That he was saving for the
fulfillment of his design.
And Peter of Colfax, cornered and fighting for his life, was no marrowless
antagonist, even against the Devil of Torn. Furiously he fought; in the
extremity of his fear, rushing upon his executioner with frenzied agony.
Great beads of cold sweat stood upon his livid brow.
And then the gleaming point of Norman of Torn flashed, lightning-like, in
his victim's face, and above the right eye of Peter of Colfax was a thin
vertical cut from which the red blood had barely started to ooze ere
another swift move of that master sword hand placed a fellow to parallel
Five times did the razor point touch the forehead of Peter of Colfax, until
the watchers saw there, upon the brow of the doomed man, the seal of death,
in letters of blood -- NT.
It was the end. Peter of Colfax, cut to ribbons yet fighting like the
maniac he had become, was as good as dead, for the mark of the Outlaw of
Torn was upon his brow. Now, shrieking and gibbering through his frothy
lips, his yellow fangs bared in a mad and horrid grin, he rushed full upon
Norman of Torn. There was a flash of the great sword as the outlaw swung
it to the full of his mighty strength through an arc that passed above the
shoulders of Peter of Colfax, and the grinning head rolled upon the floor,
while the loathsome carcass, that had been a baron of England, sunk in a
disheveled heap among the rushes of the great hall of the castle of
A little shudder passed through the wide-eyed guests. Some one broke into
hysterical laughter, a woman sobbed, and then Norman of Torn, wiping his
blade upon the rushes of the floor as he had done upon another occasion in
that same hall, spoke quietly to the master of Leybourn.
"I would borrow yon golden platter, My Lord. It shall be returned, or a
mightier one in its stead."
Leybourn nodded his assent, and Norman of Torn turned, with a few words of
instructions, to one of his men.
The fellow gathered up the head of Peter of Colfax, and placed it upon the
"I thank you, Sir Roger, for your hospitality," said Norman of Torn, with a
low bow which included the spellbound guests. "Adieu." Thus followed by
his men, one bearing the head of Peter of Colfax upon the platter of gold,
Norman of Torn passed quietly from the hall and from the castle.
Both horses and men were fairly exhausted from the gruelling strain of many
days of marching and fighting, so Norman of Torn went into camp that night;
nor did he again take up his march until the second morning, three days
after the battle of Lewes.
He bent his direction toward the north and Leicester's castle, where he had
reason to believe he would find a certain young woman, and though it galled
his sore heart to think upon the humiliation that lay waiting his coming,
he could not do less than that which he felt his honor demanded.
Beside him on the march rode the fierce red giant, Shandy, and the wiry,
gray little man of Torn, whom the outlaw called father.
In no way, save the gray hair and the parchment-surfaced skin, had the old
fellow changed in all these years. Without bodily vices, and clinging ever
to the open air and the exercise of the foil, he was still young in muscle
For five years, he had not crossed foils with Norman of Torn, but he
constantly practiced with the best swordsmen of the wild horde, so that it
had become a subject often discussed among the men as to which of the two,
father or son, was the greater swordsman.
Always taciturn, the old fellow rode in his usual silence. Long since had
Norman of Torn usurped by the force of his strong character and masterful
ways, the position of authority in the castle of Torn. The old man simply
rode and fought with the others when it pleased him; and he had come on
this trip because he felt that there was that impending for which he had
waited over twenty years.
Cold and hard, he looked with no love upon the man he still called "my
son." If he held any sentiment toward Norman of Torn, it was one of pride
which began and ended in the almost fiendish skill of his pupil's mighty
The little army had been marching for some hours when the advance guard
halted a party bound south upon a crossroad. There were some twenty or
thirty men, mostly servants, and a half dozen richly garbed knights.
As Norman of Torn drew rein beside them, he saw that the leader of the
party was a very handsome man of about his own age, and evidently a person
of distinction; a profitable prize, thought the outlaw.
"Who are you," said the gentleman, in French, "that stops a prince of
France upon the highroad as though he were an escaped criminal ? Are you
of the King's forces, or De Montfort's ?"
"Be this Prince Philip of France ?" asked Norman of Torn.
"Yes, but who be you ?"
"And be you riding to meet my Lady Bertrade de Montfort ?" continued the
outlaw, ignoring the Prince's question.
"Yes, an it be any of your affair," replied Philip curtly.
"It be," said the Devil of Torn, "for I be a friend of My Lady Bertrade,
and as the way be beset with dangers from disorganized bands of roving
soldiery, it is unsafe for Monsieur le Prince to venture on with so small
an escort. Therefore will the friend of Lady Bertrade de Montfort ride
with Monsieur le Prince to his destination that Monsieur may arrive there
"It is kind of you, Sir Knight, a kindness that I will not forget. But,
again, who is it that shows this solicitude for Philip of France ?"
"Norman of Torn, they call me," replied the outlaw.
"Indeed !" cried Philip. "The great and bloody outlaw ?" Upon his handsome
face there was no look of fear or repugnance.
Norman of Torn laughed.
"Monsieur le Prince thinks, mayhap, that he will make a bad name for
himself," he said, "if he rides in such company ?"
"My Lady Bertrade and her mother think you be less devil than saint," said
the Prince. "They have told me of how you saved the daughter of De
Montfort, and, ever since, I have been of a great desire to meet you, and
to thank you. It had been my intention to ride to Torn for that purpose so
soon as we reached Leicester, but the Earl changed all our plans by his
victory and only yesterday, on his orders, the Princess Eleanor, his wife,
with the Lady Bertrade, rode to Battel, where Simon de Montfort and the
King are to be today. The Queen also is there with her retinue, so it be
expected that, to show the good feeling and renewed friendship existing
between De Montfort and his King, there will be gay scenes in the old
fortress. But," he added, after a pause, "dare the Outlaw of Torn ride
within reach of the King who has placed a price upon his head ?"
"The price has been there since I was eighteen," answered Norman of Torn,
"and yet my head be where it has always been. Can you blame me if I look
with levity upon the King's price ? It be not heavy enough to weigh me
down; nor never has it held me from going where I listed in all England. I
am freer than the King, My Lord, for the King be a prisoner today."
Together they rode toward Battel, and as they talked, Norman of Torn grew
to like this brave and handsome gentleman. In his heart was no rancor
because of the coming marriage of the man to the woman he loved.
If Bertrade de Montfort loved this handsome French prince, then Norman of
Torn was his friend; for his love was a great love, above jealousy. It not
only held her happiness above his own, but the happiness and welfare of the
man she loved, as well.
It was dusk when they reached Battel and as Norman of Torn bid the prince
adieu, for the horde was to make camp just without the city, he said:
"May I ask My Lord to carry a message to Lady Bertrade ? It is in
reference to a promise I made her two years since and which I now, for the
first time, be able to fulfill."
"Certainly, my friend," replied Philip. The outlaw, dismounting, called
upon one of his squires for parchment, and, by the light of a torch, wrote
a message to Bertrade de Montfort.
Half an hour later, a servant in the castle of Battel handed the missive to
the daughter of Leicester as she sat alone in her apartment. Opening it,
To Lady Bertrade de Montfort, from her friend, Norman of Torn.
Two years have passed since you took the hand of the Outlaw of Torn in
friendship, and now he comes to sue for another favor.
It is that he may have speech with you, alone, in the castle of Battel this
Though the name Norman of Torn be fraught with terror to others, I know
that you do not fear him, for you must know the loyalty and friendship
which he bears you.
My camp lies without the city's gates, and your messenger will have safe
conduct whatever reply he bears to,
Norman of Torn.
Fear ? Fear Norman of Torn ? The girl smiled as she thought of that
moment of terrible terror two years ago when she learned, in the castle of
Peter of Colfax, that she was alone with, and in the power of, the Devil of
Torn. And then she recalled his little acts of thoughtful chivalry, nay,
almost tenderness, on the long night ride to Leicester.
What a strange contradiction of a man ! She wondered if he would come with
lowered visor, for she was still curious to see the face that lay behind
the cold, steel mask. She would ask him this night to let her see his
face, or would that be cruel ? For, did they not say that it was from the
very ugliness of it that he kept his helm closed to hide the repulsive
sight from the eyes of men !
As her thoughts wandered back to her brief meeting with him two years
before, she wrote and dispatched her reply to Norman of Torn.
In the great hall that night as the King's party sat at supper, Philip of
France, addressing Henry, said:
"And who thinkest thou, My Lord King, rode by my side to Battel today, that
I might not be set upon by knaves upon the highway ?"
"Some of our good friends from Kent ?" asked the King.
"Nay, it was a man upon whose head Your Majesty has placed a price, Norman
of Torn; and if all of your English highwaymen be as courteous and pleasant
gentlemen as he, I shall ride always alone and unarmed through your realm
that I may add to my list of pleasant acquaintances."
"The Devil of Torn ?" asked Henry, incredulously. "Some one be hoaxing
"Nay, Your Majesty, I think not," replied Philip, "for he was indeed a grim
and mighty man, and at his back rode as ferocious and awe-inspiring a pack
as ever I beheld outside a prison; fully a thousand strong they rode. They
be camped not far without the city now."
"My Lord," said Henry, turning to Simon de Montfort, "be it not time that
England were rid of this devil's spawn and his hellish brood ? Though I
presume," he added, a sarcastic sneer upon his lip, "that it may prove
embarrassing for My Lord Earl of Leicester to turn upon his companion in
"I owe him nothing," returned the Earl haughtily, "by his own word."
"You owe him victory at Lewes," snapped the King. "It were indeed a sad
commentary upon the sincerity of our loyalty-professing lieges who turned
their arms against our royal person, 'to save him from the treachery of his
false advisers,' that they called upon a cutthroat outlaw with a price upon
his head to aid them in their 'righteous cause'."
"My Lord King," cried De Montfort, flushing with anger, "I called not upon
this fellow, nor did I know he was within two hundred miles of Lewes until
I saw him ride into the midst of the conflict that day. Neither did I
know, until I heard his battle cry, whether he would fall upon baron or
"If that be the truth, Leicester," said the King, with a note of skepticism
which he made studiously apparent, "hang the dog. He be just without the
city even now."
"You be King of England, My Lord Henry. If you say that he shall be
hanged, hanged he shall be," replied De Montfort.
"A dozen courts have already passed sentence upon him, it only remains to
catch him, Leicester," said the King.
"A party shall sally forth at dawn to do the work," replied De Montfort.
"And not," thought Philip of France, "if I know it, shall the brave Outlaw
of Torn be hanged tomorrow."
In his camp without the city of Battel, Norman of Torn paced back and forth
waiting an answer to his message.
Sentries patrolled the entire circumference of the bivouac, for the outlaw
knew full well that he had put his head within the lion's jaw when he had
ridden thus boldly to the seat of English power. He had no faith in the
gratitude of De Montfort, and he knew full well what the King would urge
when he learned that the man who had sent his soldiers naked back to
London, who had forced his messenger to eat the King's message, and who had
turned his victory to defeat at Lewes, was within reach of the army of De
Norman of Torn loved to fight, but he was no fool, and so he did not relish
pitting his thousand upon an open plain against twenty thousand within a
No, he would see Bertrade de Montfort that night and before dawn his rough
band would be far on the road toward Torn. The risk was great to enter the
castle, filled as it was with his mighty enemies. But if he died there, it
would be in a good cause, thought he and, anyway, he had set himself to do
this duty which he dreaded so, and do it he would were all the armies of
the world camped within Battel.
Directly he heard a low challenge from one of his sentries, who presently
appeared escorting a lackey.
"A messenger from Lady Bertrade de Montfort," said the soldier.
"Bring him hither," commanded the outlaw.
The lackey approached and handed Norman of Torn a dainty parchment sealed
with scented wax wafers.
"Did My Lady say you were to wait for an answer ?" asked the outlaw.
"I am to wait, My Lord," replied the awestruck fellow, to whom the service
had been much the same had his mistress ordered him to Hell to bear a
message to the Devil.
Norman of Torn turned to a flickering torch and, breaking the seals, read
the message from the woman he loved. It was short and simple.
To Norman of Torn, from his friend always, Bertrade de Montfort.
Come with Giles. He has my instructions to lead thee secretly to where I
Bertrade de Montfort.
Norman of Torn turned to where one of his captains squatted upon the ground
beside an object covered with a cloth.
"Come, Flory," he said, and then, turning to the waiting Giles, "lead on."
They fell in single file: first the lackey, Giles, then Norman of Torn and
last the fellow whom he had addressed as Flory bearing the object covered
with a cloth. But it was not Flory who brought up the rear. Flory lay
dead in the shadow of a great oak within the camp; a thin wound below his
left shoulder blade marked the spot where a keen dagger had found its way
to his heart, and in his place walked the little grim, gray, old man,
bearing the object covered with a cloth. But none might know the
difference, for the little man wore the armor of Flory, and his visor was
And so they came to a small gate which let into the castle wall where the
shadow of a great tower made the blackness of a black night doubly black.
Through many dim corridors, the lackey led them, and up winding stairways
until presently he stopped before a low door.
"Here," he said, "My Lord," and turning left them.
Norman of Torn touched the panel with the mailed knuckles of his right
hand, and a low voice from within whispered, "Enter."
Silently, he strode into the apartment, a small antechamber off a large
hall. At one end was an open hearth upon which logs were burning brightly,
while a single lamp aided in diffusing a soft glow about the austere
chamber. In the center of the room was a table, and at the sides several
Before the fire stood Bertrade de Montfort, and she was alone.
"Place your burden upon this table, Flory," said Norman of Torn. And when
it had been done: "You may go. Return to camp."
He did not address Bertrade de Montfort until the door had closed behind
the little grim, gray man who wore the armor of the dead Flory and then
Norman of Torn advanced to the table and stood with his left hand
ungauntleted, resting upon the table's edge.
"My Lady Bertrade," he said at last, "I have come to fulfill a promise."
He spoke in French, and she started slightly at his voice. Before, Norman
of Torn had always spoken in English. Where had she heard that voice !
There were tones in it that haunted her.
"What promise did Norman of Torn e'er make to Bertrade de Montfort ?" she
asked. "I do not understand you, my friend."
"Look," he said. And as she approached the table he withdrew the cloth
which covered the object that the man had placed there.
The girl started back with a little cry of terror, for there upon a golden
platter was a man's head; horrid with the grin of death baring yellow
"Dost recognize the thing ?" asked the outlaw. And then she did; but still
she could not comprehend. At last, slowly, there came back to her the
idle, jesting promise of Roger de Conde to fetch the head of her enemy to
the feet of his princess, upon a golden dish.
But what had the Outlaw of Torn to do with that ! It was all a sore puzzle
to her, and then she saw the bared left hand of the grim, visored figure of
the Devil of Torn, where it rested upon the table beside the grisly head of
Peter of Colfax; and upon the third finger was the great ring she had
tossed to Roger de Conde on that day, two years before.
What strange freak was her brain playing her ! It could not be, no it was
impossible; then her glance fell again upon the head grinning there upon
the platter of gold, and upon the forehead of it she saw, in letters of
dried blood, that awful symbol of sudden death - NT !
Slowly her eyes returned to the ring upon the outlaw's hand, and then up to
his visored helm. A step she took toward him, one hand upon her breast,
the other stretched pointing toward his face, and she swayed slightly as
might one who has just arisen from a great illness.
"Your visor," she whispered, "raise your visor." And then, as though to
herself: "It cannot be; it cannot be."
Norman of Torn, though it tore the heart from him, did as she bid, and
there before her she saw the brave strong face of Roger de Conde.
"Mon Dieu !" she cried, "Tell me it is but a cruel joke."
"It be the cruel truth, My Lady Bertrade," said Norman of Torn sadly. And,
then, as she turned away from him, burying her face in her raised arms, he
came to her side, and, laying his hand upon her shoulder, said sadly:
"And now you see, My Lady, why I did not follow you to France. My heart
went there with you, but I knew that naught but sorrow and humiliation
could come to one whom the Devil of Torn loved, if that love was returned;
and so I waited until you might forget the words you had spoken to Roger de
Conde before I came to fulfill the promise that you should know him in his
"It is because I love you, Bertrade, that I have come this night. God
knows that it be no pleasant thing to see the loathing in your very
attitude, and to read the hate and revulsion that surges through your
heart, or to guess the hard, cold thoughts which fill your mind against me
because I allowed you to speak the words you once spoke, and to the Devil
"I make no excuse for my weakness. I ask no forgiveness for what I know
you never can forgive. That, when you think of me, it will always be with
loathing and contempt is the best that I can hope.
"I only know that I love you, Bertrade; I only know that I love you, and
with a love that surpasseth even my own understanding.
"Here is the ring that you gave in token of friendship. Take it. The hand
that wore it has done no wrong by the light that has been given it as
"The blood that has pulsed through the finger that it circled came from a
heart that beat for Bertrade de Montfort; a heart that shall continue to
beat for her alone until a merciful providence sees fit to gather in a
wasted and useless life.
"Farewell, Bertrade." Kneeling he raised the hem of her garment to his
A thousand conflicting emotions surged through the heart of this proud
daughter of the new conqueror of England. The anger of an outraged
confidence, gratitude for the chivalry which twice had saved her honor,
hatred for the murderer of a hundred friends and kinsmen, respect and honor
for the marvellous courage of the man, loathing and contempt for the base
born, the memory of that exalted moment when those handsome lips had clung
to hers, pride in the fearlessness of a champion who dared come alone among
twenty thousand enemies for the sake of a promise made her; but stronger
than all the rest, two stood out before her mind's eye like living
things -- the degradation of his low birth, and the memory of the great
love she had cherished all these long and dreary months.
And these two fought out their battle in the girl's breast. In those few
brief moments of bewilderment and indecision, it seemed to Bertrade de
Montfort that ten years passed above her head, and when she reached her
final resolution she was no longer a young girl but a grown woman who, with
the weight of a mature deliberation, had chosen the path which she would
travel to the end -- to the final goal, however sweet or however bitter.
Slowly she turned toward him who knelt with bowed head at her feet, and,
taking the hand that held the ring outstretched toward her, raised him to
his feet. In silence she replaced the golden band upon his finger, and
then she lifted her eyes to his.
"Keep the ring, Norman of Torn," she said. "The friendship of Bertrade de
Montfort is not lightly given nor lightly taken away," she hesitated, "nor
is her love."
"What do you mean ?" he whispered. For in her eyes was that wondrous light
he had seen there on that other day in the far castle of Leicester.
"I mean," she answered, "that, Roger de Conde or Norman of Torn, gentleman
or highwayman, it be all the same to Bertrade de Montfort -- it be thee I
love; thee !"
Had she reviled him, spat upon him, he would not have been surprised, for
he had expected the worst; but that she should love him ! Oh God, had his
overwrought nerves turned his poor head ? Was he dreaming this thing, only
to awaken to the cold and awful truth !
But these warm arms about his neck, the sweet perfume of the breath that
fanned his cheek; these were no dream !
"Think thee what thou art saying, Bertrade ?" he cried. "Dost forget that
I be a low-born knave, knowing not my own mother and questioning even the
identity of my father ? Could a De Montfort face the world with such a man
for husband ?"
"I know what I say, perfectly," she answered. "Were thou born out of
wedlock, the son of a hostler and a scullery maid, still would I love thee,
and honor thee, and cleave to thee. Where thou be, Norman of Torn, there
shall be happiness for me. Thy friends shall be my friends; thy joys shall
be my joys; thy sorrows, my sorrows; and thy enemies, even mine own father,
shall be my enemies.
"Why it is, my Norman, I know not. Only do I know that I didst often
question my own self if in truth I did really love Roger de Conde, but
thee -- oh Norman, why is it that there be no shred of doubt now, that this
heart, this soul, this body be all and always for the Outlaw of Torn ?"
"I do not know," he said simply and gravely. "So wonderful a thing be
beyond my poor brain; but I think my heart knows, for in very joy, it is
sending the hot blood racing and surging through my being till I were like
to be consumed for the very heat of my happiness."
"Sh !" she whispered, suddenly, "methinks I hear footsteps. They must not
find thee here, Norman of Torn, for the King has only this night wrung a
promise from my father to take thee in the morning and hang thee. What
shall we do, Norman ? Where shall we meet again ?"
"We shall not be separated, Bertrade; only so long as it may take thee to
gather a few trinkets, and fetch thy riding cloak. Thou ridest north
tonight with Norman of Torn, and by the third day, Father Claude shall make
"I am glad thee wish it," she replied. "I feared that, for some reason,
thee might not think it best for me to go with thee now. Wait here, I will
be gone but a moment. If the footsteps I hear approach this door," and she
indicated the door by which he had entered the little room, "thou canst
step through this other doorway into the adjoining apartment, and conceal
thyself there until the danger passes."
Norman of Torn made a wry face, for he had no stomach for hiding himself
away from danger.
"For my sake," she pleaded. So he promised to do as she bid, and she ran
swiftly from the room to fetch her belongings.
When the little, grim, gray man had set the object covered with a cloth
upon the table in the center of the room and left the apartment, he did not
return to camp as Norman of Torn had ordered.
Instead, he halted immediately without the little door, which he left a
trifle ajar, and there he waited, listening to all that passed between
Bertrade de Montfort and Norman of Torn.
As he heard the proud daughter of Simon de Montfort declare her love
for the Devil of Torn, a cruel smile curled his lip.
"It will be better than I had hoped," he muttered, and easier. 'S blood !
How much easier now that Leicester, too, may have his whole proud heart in
the hanging of Norman of Torn. Ah, what a sublime revenge ! I have waited
long, thou cur of a King, to return the blow thou struck that day, but the
return shall be an hundred-fold increased by long accumulated interest."
Quickly, the wiry figure hastened through the passageways and corridors,
until he came to the great hall where sat De Montfort and the King, with
Philip of France and many others, gentlemen and nobles.
Before the guard at the door could halt him, he had broken into the room
and, addressing the King, cried:
"Wouldst take the Devil of Torn, My Lord King ? He be now alone where a
few men may seize him."
"What now ! What now !" ejaculated Henry. "What madman be this ?"
"I be no madman, Your Majesty. Never did brain work more clearly or to
more certain ends," replied the man.
"It may doubtless be some ruse of the cut-throat himself," cried De
"Where be the knave ?" asked Henry.
"He stands now within this palace and in his arms be Bertrade, daughter of
My Lord Earl of Leicester. Even now she did but tell him that she loved
"Hold," cried De Montfort. "Hold fast thy foul tongue. What meanest thou
by uttering such lies, and to my very face ?"
"They be no lies, Simon de Montfort. An I tell thee that Roger de Conde
and Norman of Torn be one and the same, thou wilt know that I speak no
De Montfort paled.
"Where be the craven wretch ?" he demanded.
"Come," said the little, old man. And turning, he led from the hall,
closely followed by De Montfort, the King, Prince Philip and the others.
"Thou hadst better bring twenty fighting men -- thou'lt need them all to
take Norman of Torn," he advised De Montfort. And so as they passed the
guard room, the party was increased by twenty men-at-arms.
Scarcely had Bertrade de Montfort left him ere Norman of Torn heard the
tramping of many feet. They seemed approaching up the dim corridor that
led to the little door of the apartment where he stood.
Quickly, he moved to the opposite door and, standing with his hand upon the
latch, waited. Yes, they were coming that way, many of them and quickly
and, as he heard them pause without, he drew aside the arras and pushed
open the door behind him; backing into the other apartment just as Simon de
Montfort, Earl of Leicester, burst into the room from the opposite side.
At the same instant, a scream rang out behind Norman of Torn, and, turning,
he faced a brightly lighted room in which sat Eleanor, Queen of England and
another Eleanor, wife of Simon de Montfort, with their ladies.
There was no hiding now, and no escape; for run he would not, even had
there been where to run. Slowly, he backed away from the door toward a
corner where, with his back against a wall and a table at his right, he
might die as he had lived, fighting; for Norman of Torn knew that he could
hope for no quarter from the men who had him cornered there like a great
bear in a trap.
With an army at their call, it were an easy thing to take a lone man, even
though that man were the Devil of Torn.
The King and De Montfort had now crossed the smaller apartment and were
within the room where the outlaw stood at bay.
At the far side, the group of royal and noble women stood huddled together,
while behind De Montfort and the King pushed twenty gentlemen and as many
"What dost thou here, Norman of Torn ?" cried De Montfort, angrily. "Where
be my daughter, Bertrade ?"
"I be here, My Lord Earl, to attend to mine own affairs," replied Norman of
Torn, "which be the affair of no other man. As to your daughter: I know
nothing of her whereabouts. What should she have to do with the Devil of
Torn, My Lord ?"
De Montfort turned toward the little gray man.
"He lies," shouted he. "Her kisses be yet wet upon his lips."
Norman of Torn looked at the speaker and, beneath the visor that was now
partly raised, he saw the features of the man whom, for twenty years, he
had called father.
He had never expected love from this hard old man, but treachery and harm
from him ? No, he could not believe it. One of them must have gone mad.
But why Flory's armor and where was the faithful Flory ?
"Father !" he ejaculated, "leadest thou the hated English King against
thine own son ?"
"Thou be no son of mine, Norman of Torn," retorted the old man. "Thy days
of usefulness to me be past. Tonight thou serve me best swinging from a
wooden gibbet. Take him, My Lord Earl; they say there be a good strong
gibbet in the courtyard below."
"Wilt surrender, Norman of Torn ?" cried De Montfort.
"Yes," was the reply, "when this floor be ankle deep in English blood and
my heart has ceased to beat, then will I surrender."
"Come, come," cried the King. "Let your men take the dog, De Montfort !"
"Have at him, then," ordered the Earl, turning toward the waiting
men-at-arms, none of whom seemed overly anxious to advance upon the doomed
But an officer of the guard set them the example, and so they pushed
forward in a body toward Norman of Torn; twenty blades bared against one.
There was no play now for the Outlaw of Torn. It was grim battle and his
only hope that he might take a fearful toll of his enemies before he
himself went down.
And so he fought as he never fought before, to kill as many and as quickly
as he might. And to those who watched, it was as though the young officer
of the Guard had not come within reach of that terrible blade ere he lay
dead upon the floor, and then the point of death passed into the lungs of
one of the men-at-arms, scarcely pausing ere it pierced the heart of a
The soldiers fell back momentarily, awed by the frightful havoc of that
mighty arm. Before De Montfort could urge them on to renew the attack, a
girlish figure. clothed in a long riding cloak. burst through the little
knot of men as they stood facing their lone antagonist.
With a low cry of mingled rage and indignation, Bertrade de Montfort threw
herself before the Devil of Torn, and facing the astonished company of
king, prince, nobles and soldiers, drew herself to her full height, and
with all the pride of race and blood that was her right of heritage from a
French king on her father's side and an English king on her mother's, she
flashed her defiance and contempt in the single word:
"What means this, girl ?" demanded De Montfort, "Art gone stark mad ? Know
thou that this fellow be the Outlaw of Torn ?"
"If I had not before known it, My Lord," she replied haughtily, "it would
be plain to me now as I see forty cowards hesitating to attack a lone man.
What other man in all England could stand thus against forty ? A lion at
bay with forty jackals yelping at his feet."
"Enough, girl," cried the King, "what be this knave to thee ?"
"He loves me, Your Majesty," she replied proudly, "and I, him."
"Thou lov'st this low-born cut-throat, Bertrade," cried Henry. "Thou, a De
Montfort, the daughter of my sister; who have seen this murderer's accursed
mark upon the foreheads of thy kin; thou have seen him flaunt his defiance
in the King's, thy uncle's, face, and bend his whole life to preying upon
thy people; thou lov'st this monster ?"
"I love him, My Lord King."
"Thou lov'st him, Bertrade ?" asked Philip of France in a low tone,
pressing nearer to the girl.
"Yes, Philip," she said, a little note of sadness and finality in her
voice; but her eyes met his squarely and bravely.
Instantly, the sword of the young Prince leaped from its scabbard, and
facing De Montfort and the others, he backed to the side of Norman of Torn.
"That she loves him be enough for me to know, my gentlemen," he said. "Who
takes the man Bertrade de Montfort loves must take Philip of France as
Norman of Torn laid his left hand upon the other's shoulder.
"No, thou must not do this thing, my friend," he said. "It be my fight and
I will fight it alone. Go, I beg of thee, and take her with thee, out of
As they argued, Simon de Montfort and the King had spoken together, and, at
a word from the former, the soldiers rushed suddenly to the attack again.
It was a cowardly strategem, for they knew that the two could not fight
with the girl between them and their adversaries. And thus, by weight of
numbers, they took Bertrade de Montfort and the Prince away from Norman of
Torn without a blow being struck, and then the little, grim, gray, old man
"There be but one sword in all England, nay in all the world that can,
alone, take Norman of Torn," he said, addressing the King, "and that sword
be mine. Keep thy cattle back, out of my way." And, without waiting for a
reply, the grim, gray man sprang in to engage him whom for twenty years he
had called son.
Norman of Torn came out of his corner to meet his new-found enemy, and
there, in the apartment of the Queen of England in the castle of Battel,
was fought such a duel as no man there had ever seen before, nor is it
credible that its like was ever fought before or since.
The world's two greatest swordsmen: teacher and pupil -- the one with the
strength of a young bull, the other with the cunning of an old gray fox,
and both with a lifetime of training behind them, and the lust of blood and
hate before them -- thrust and parried and cut until those that gazed
awestricken upon the marvellous swordplay scarcely breathed in the tensity
of their wonder.
Back and forth about the room they moved, while those who had come to kill
pressed back to make room for the contestants. Now was the young man
forcing his older foeman more and more upon the defensive. Slowly, but as
sure as death, he was winning ever nearer and nearer to victory. The old
man saw it too. He had devoted years of his life to training that mighty
sword arm that it might deal out death to others, and now -- ah ! The grim
justice of the retribution he, at last, was to fall before its diabolical
He could not win in fair fight against Norman of Torn; that the wily
Frenchman saw; but now that death was so close upon him that he felt its
cold breath condensing on his brow, he had no stomach to die, and so he
cast about for any means whereby he might escape the result of his rash
Presently he saw his opportunity. Norman of Torn stood beside the body of
one of his earlier antagonists. Slowly the old man worked around until the
body lay directly behind the outlaw, and then with a final rally and one
great last burst of supreme swordsmanship, he rushed Norman of Torn back
for a bare step -- it was enough. The outlaw's foot struck the prostrate
corpse; he staggered, and for one brief instant his sword arm rose, ever so
little, as he strove to retain his equilibrium; but that little was
enough. It was what the gray old snake had expected, and he was ready.
Like lightning, his sword shot through the opening, and, for the first time
in his life of continual combat and death, Norman of Torn felt cold steel
tear his flesh. But ere he fell, his sword responded to the last fierce
command of that iron will, and as his body sank limply to the floor,
rolling with outstretched arms, upon its back, the little, grim, gray man
went down also, clutching frantically at a gleaming blade buried in his
For an instant, the watchers stood as though petrified, and then Bertrade
de Montfort, tearing herself from the restraining hand of her father,
rushed to the side of the lifeless body of the man she loved. Kneeling
there beside him she called his name aloud, as she unlaced his helm.
Tearing the steel headgear from him, she caressed his face, kissing the
white forehead and the still lips.
"Oh God ! Oh God !" she murmured. "Why hast thou taken him ? Outlaw
though he was, in his little finger was more of honor, of chivalry, of true
manhood than courses through the veins of all the nobles of England.
"I do not wonder that he preyed upon you," she cried, turning upon the
knights behind her. "His life was clean, thine be rotten; he was loyal to
his friends and to the downtrodden, ye be traitors at heart, all; and ever
be ye trampling upon those who be down that they may sink deeper into the
mud. Mon Dieu ! How I hate you," she finished. And as she spoke the
words, Bertrade de Montfort looked straight into the eyes of her father.
The old Earl turned his head, for at heart he was a brave, broad, kindly
man, and he regretted what he had done in the haste and heat of anger.
"Come, child," said the King, "thou art distraught; thou sayest what thou
mean not. The world is better that this man be dead. He was an enemy of
organized society, he preyed ever upon his fellows. Life in England will
be safer after this day. Do not weep over the clay of a nameless
adventurer who knew not his own father."
Someone had lifted the little, grim, gray, old man to a sitting posture.
He was not dead. Occasionally he coughed, and when he did, his frame was
racked with suffering, and blood flowed from his mouth and nostrils.
At last they saw that he was trying to speak. Weakly he motioned toward
the King. Henry came toward him.
"Thou hast won thy sovereign's gratitude, my man," said the King, kindly.
"What be thy name ?"
The old fellow tried to speak, but the effort brought on another paroxysm
of coughing. At last he managed to whisper.
"Look -- at -- me. Dost thou -- not -- remember me ? The --- foils --
the -- blow -- twenty-long-years. Thou -- spat -- upon --- me."
Henry knelt and peered into the dying face.
"De Vac !" he exclaimed.
The old man nodded. Then he pointed to where lay Norman of Torn.
"Outlaw -- highwayman -- scourge -- of -- England. Look --- upon -- his --
face. Open -- his tunic -- left -- breast."
He stopped from very weakness, and then in another moment, with a final
effort: "De -- Vac's -- revenge. God -- damn -- the --- English," and
slipped forward upon the rushes, dead.
The King had heard, and De Montfort and the Queen. They stood looking into
each other's eyes with a strange fixity, for what seemed an eternity,
before any dared to move; and then, as though they feared what they should
see, they bent over the form of the Outlaw of Torn for the first time.
The Queen gave a little cry as she saw the still, quiet face turned up to
"Edward !" she whispered.
"Not Edward, Madame," said De Montfort, "but -- "
The King knelt beside the still form, across the breast of which lay the
unconscious body of Bertrade de Montfort. Gently, he lifted her to the
waiting arms of Philip of France, and then the King, with his own hands,
tore off the shirt of mail, and with trembling fingers ripped wide the
tunic where it covered the left breast of the Devil of Torn.
"Oh God !" he cried, and buried his head in his arms.
The Queen had seen also, and with a little moan she sank beside the body of
her second born, crying out:
"Oh Richard, my boy, my boy !" And as she bent still lower to kiss the lily
mark upon the left breast of the son she had not seen to know for over
twenty years, she paused, and with frantic haste she pressed her ear to his
"He lives !" she almost shrieked. "Quick, Henry, our son lives !"
Bertrade de Montfort had regained consciousness almost before Philip of
France had raised her from the floor, and she stood now, leaning on his
arm, watching with wide, questioning eyes the strange scene being enacted
at her feet.
Slowly, the lids of Norman of Torn lifted with returning consciousness.
Before him, on her knees in the blood spattered rushes of the floor, knelt
Eleanor, Queen of England, alternately chafing and kissing his hands.
A sore wound indeed to have brought on such a wild delirium, thought the
Outlaw of Torn.
He felt his body, in a half sitting, half reclining position, resting
against one who knelt behind him, and as he lifted his head to see whom it
might be supporting him, he looked into the eyes of the King, upon whose
breast his head rested.
Strange vagaries of a disordered brain ! Yes it must have been a very
terrible wound that the little old man of Torn had given him; but why could
he not dream that Bertrade de Montfort held him ? And then his eyes
wandered about among the throng of ladies, nobles and soldiers standing
uncovered and with bowed heads about him. Presently he found her.
"Bertrade !" he whispered.
The girl came and knelt beside him, opposite the Queen.
"Bertrade, tell me thou art real; that thou at least be no dream."
"I be very real, dear heart," she answered, "and these others be real,
also. When thou art stronger, thou shalt understand the strange thing that
has happened. These who wert thine enemies, Norman of Torn, be thy best
friends now -- that thou should know, so that thou may rest in peace until
thou be better."
He groped for her hand, and, finding it, closed his eyes with a faint sigh.
They bore him to a cot in an apartment next the Queen's, and all that night
the mother and the promised wife of the Outlaw of Torn sat bathing his
fevered forehead. The King's chirurgeon was there also, while the King and
De Montfort paced the corridor without.
And it is ever thus; whether in hovel or palace; in the days of Moses, or
in the days that be ours; the lamb that has been lost and is found again be
always the best beloved.
Toward morning, Norman of Torn fell into a quiet and natural sleep; the
fever and delirium had succumbed before his perfect health and iron
constitution. The chirurgeon turned to the Queen and Bertrade de Montfort.
"You had best retire, ladies," he said, "and rest. The Prince will live."
Late that afternoon he awoke, and no amount of persuasion or commands on
the part of the King's chirurgeon could restrain him from arising.
"I beseech thee to lie quiet, My Lord Prince," urged the chirurgeon.
"Why call thou me prince ?" asked Norman of Torn.
"There be one without whose right it be to explain that to thee," replied
the chirurgeon, "and when thou be clothed, if rise thou wilt, thou mayst
see her, My Lord."
The chirurgeon aided him to dress and, opening the door, he spoke to a
sentry who stood just without. The sentry transmitted the message to a
young squire who was waiting there, and presently the door was thrown open
again from without, and a voice announced:
"Her Majesty, the Queen !"
Norman of Torn looked up in unfeigned surprise, and then there came back to
him the scene in the Queen's apartment the night before. It was all a sore
perplexity to him; he could not fathom it, nor did he attempt to.
And now, as in a dream, he saw the Queen of England coming toward him
across the small room, her arms outstretched; her beautiful face radiant
with happiness and love.
"Richard, my son !" exclaimed Eleanor, coming to him and taking his face in
her hands and kissing him.
"Madame !" exclaimed the surprised man. "Be all the world gone crazy ?"
And then she told him the strange story of the little lost prince of
When she had finished, he knelt at her feet, taking her hand in his and
raising it to his lips.
"I did not know, Madame," he said, "or never would my sword have been bared
in other service than thine. If thou canst forgive me, Madame, never can I
"Take it not so hard, my son," said Eleanor of England. "It be no fault of
thine, and there be nothing to forgive; only happiness and rejoicing should
we feel, now that thou be found again."
"Forgiveness !" said a man's voice behind them. "Forsooth, it be we that
should ask forgiveness; hunting down our own son with swords and halters.
"Any but a fool might have known that it was no base-born knave who sent
the King's army back, naked, to the King, and rammed the King's message
down his messenger's throat.
"By all the saints, Richard, thou be every inch a King's son, an' though we
made sour faces at the time, we be all the prouder of thee now."
The Queen and the outlaw had turned at the first words to see the King
standing behind them, and now Norman of Torn rose, half smiling, and
greeted his father.
"They be sorry jokes, Sire," he said. "Methinks it had been better had
Richard remained lost. It will do the honor of the Plantagenets but little
good to acknowledge the Outlaw of Torn as a prince of the blood."
But they would not have it so, and it remained for a later King of England
to wipe the great name from the pages of history -- perhaps a jealous king.
Presently the King and Queen, adding their pleas to those of the
chirurgeon, prevailed upon him to lie down once more, and when he had done
so they left him, that he might sleep again; but no sooner had the door
closed behind them than he arose and left the apartment by another exit.
It was by chance that, in a deep set window, he found her for whom he was
searching. She sat looking wistfully into space, an expression half sad
upon her beautiful face. She did not see him as he approached, and he
stood there for several moments watching her dear profile, and the rising
and falling of her bosom over that true and loyal heart that had beaten so
proudly against all the power of a mighty throne for the despised Outlaw of
He did not speak, but presently that strange, subtle sixth sense which
warns us that we are not alone, though our eyes see not nor our ears hear,
caused her to turn.
With a little cry she arose, and then, curtsying low after the manner of
the court, said:
"What would My Lord Richard, Prince of England, of his poor subject ?" And
then, more gravely, "My Lord, I have been raised at court, and I understand
that a prince does not wed rashly, and so let us forget what passed between
Bertrade de Montfort and Norman of Torn."
"Prince Richard of England will in no wise disturb royal precedents," he
replied, "for he will wed not rashly, but most wisely, since he will wed
none but Bertrade de Montfort." And he who had been the Outlaw of Torn took
the fair young girl in his arms, adding: "If she still loves me, now that I
be a prince ?"
She put her arms about his neck, and drew his cheek down close to hers.
"It was not the outlaw that I loved, Richard, nor be it the prince I love
now; it be all the same to me, prince or highwayman -- it be thee I love,
dear heart -- just thee."
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