The Prince and the Page
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 3 out of 4
look towards them; and he was seriously discomfited by the difficulty
of obtaining a godfather for the combat. No one chose even to be
asked, lest they might be suspected of approving of the murder of
Prince Henry; and the unhappy page re-entered his tent with the most
desolate sense of being abandoned by heaven and man.
Fastened upon the pole of the tent by an arrowhead, a small scroll of
parchment met his eyes. He read in English--"A steed and a lance are
ready for the lioncel who would rather avenge his father than lick
the tyrant's feet. A guide awaits thee."
Some weeks since, this might have been a tempting summons; but now
the sickening sense of the sacrilegious murder, and of the life of
outlawry utterly unrestrained, passed over Richard. Yet, if he
should not accept the offer, what was before him? A shameful death,
perhaps; if he failed in the ordeal, disgrace, captivity, or
expulsion; if he succeeded, bondage and distrust for ever. Some new
accusation! some deeper fall!
There was a low growl from Leonillo; the hangings of the tent were
raised, and an archer bending his head said, "A word with you, Sir."
"Who art thou?" demanded Richard.
"Hob Longbow, Sir. Remember you not old passages--in the forest,
there--and Master Adam?"
Richard did remember the archer in the days of his outlaw life, in a
very different capacity.
"You were grown so tall, Sir, and so hand and glove with the
Longshanks, that Nick Dustifoot and I knew not an if it were
yourself--but now your name is out, and the wind is in another
quarter"--he grinned, then seeing Richard impatient of the approach
to familiarity, "You did not know Nick Dustifoot? He was one of
young Sir Simon's men-at-arms, you see, and took to the woods, like
other folk, after Kenilworth was given up, till stout men were
awanting for this Crusade. And he knew Sir Guy when he came to the
camp yon by Tunis, and spake with him; moreover, he went in the train
of him of Almayne to Viterbo, and had speech again with Sir Simon,
who gave him this scroll. And if you will meet him at the Syren's
Rock to-night, my Lord Richard, he will bring you to those who will
conduct you to Sir Guy's brave castle, where he laughs kings and
counts to scorn! We have the guard, and will see you safe past the
gates of the camp."
The way to liberty was open: Richard deliberated. The atmosphere of
distrust and suspicion under the Prince's coldness was well-nigh
unbearable. Danger faced him for the next day! Disgrace was
everywhere. Should he leave it behind, where, at least, he would not
hear and feel it? Should he, when all had turned from him, meet a
Then came back on him the thought of what Simon and Guy had made
themselves; the thought of his father's grief at former doings of
theirs, which had fallen so far short of the atrocity of this. He
knew that his father had rather have seen each one of his five sons
slain, or helpless cripples like the firstborn, than have been thus
avenged. Nay, had he this morning prayed for the pardon of a crime,
to which he would thus become a consenting party?
He looked up resolutely. "No, Hob Longbow. Hap what hap, my part
can never be with those who have stained the Church with blood. Let
my brothers know that my heart yearned to them before, but now all is
over between us. I can only bear the doom they have brought upon
It was not possible to remain and argue. A tent was a dangerous
place for secret conferences, and Hob Longbow could only growl, "As
you will, Sir. Now nor you nor any one else can say I have not done
"Alack, alack!" sighed Richard, "would that, my honour once redeemed,
Hamlyn might make an end of me! But for thee, my poor Leonillo, I
have no comforter or friend!" and he flung his arms round the dog's
CHAPTER X--THE COMBAT
"And now with sae sharp of steele
They 'gan to lay on load."
Heavy-hearted and pale-cheeked with his rigidly observed fast,
Richard armed himself in early morning, and set forth to the chapel
tent, where the previous solemnities had to be observed. He had made
up his mind to make an earnest appeal to the Earl of Gloucester, for
the sake of the old friendship with his father, to become his
godfather in the combat, as one whose character stood too high to be
injured by connection with him. Even this plan was frustrated, for
Hamlyn de Valence entered, led by Earl Gilbert as his sponsor.
Should he turn to his one other friend, the Prince himself? Nay, the
Prince was umpire and judge. Never stood warrior so lonely. Little
John of Dunster crept up to his side; and but for fear of injuring
the child, he would almost have asked him to be his sponsor. At that
moment, however, the tramp of horses' feet was heard, and Sir
Reginald de Ferrieres, with his squires, galloped up to the tent.
The young Hospitalier held out his hand cordially. "In time, I
hope," said he; "I have ridden ever since Lauds at Castel San
Giovanni, hoping to be with you, so as to stand by you in this
"It was kindly done of you," said Richard, tears of gratitude
swelling in his eyes, as he wrung Sir Raynald's hand. "I have not
even a godfather for the fight! How could you know of my need?"
"Some of our brethren came over from the camp, for our Ash Wednesday
procession, and spoke of the stress you were in--that your Montfort
lineage was out, and that you were thought to have writ a letter--but
stay, there's no time for words; methinks here's the Prince and all
Sir Raynald went through the solemnity of presenting Richard de
Montfort as about to fight in defence of his own innocence. The
Prince coldly accepted the presentation. Richard knew that Sir
Raynald was deemed anything but a satisfactory sponsor; but the young
knight's hearty sympathy, a sort of radiance caught from good old Sir
Robert, was too comforting not to be reposed on.
Each champion then confessed. Raynald heard Richard's shrift, and
nearly wept over it--it was the first the young priestly knight had
received, and he could scarcely clear his voice to speak the words of
absolution. Even as they left the confessional, he grasped Richard's
hand and said, "Cast in thy lot with us! St. John will find thee
father and home and brethren!"
And a gleam of joy and hope flashed on the youth's heart, and shone
brighter as he participated in the solemn Mass in preparation for the
combat. This over, each champion made oath of the justice of his
quarrel in the hands of his godfather before the Prince: Hamlyn de
Valence swearing that to the best of his belief, Richard de Montfort
was a traitor, in league with his brothers, and art and part in the
murder of Prince Henry of Almayne, and offering to prove it on his
body; while on the other hand Richard swore that he was a true and
faithful liegeman to the King, free from all intercourse with his
brethren, and sackless of the death of Prince Henry.
Then each mounted on horseback, the trumpets sounded, the sponsors
led them to their places, and the Prince's clear voice exclaimed,
"And so God show the right." One glance of pitying sympathy would
have filled Richard's arm with fresh vigour.
The two youths closed with shivered lances, and horses reeling from
the shock. Backing their steeds, each received a fresh lance. Again
they met; Richard felt the point of Hamlyn's lance glint against his
breastplate, glide down, enter, make its way into his flesh; but at
the same instant his lance was pushing, driving, bearing on Hamlyn
before him; the sheer force in his Plantagenet shoulders was telling
now, the very pain seemed as it were to add to the energy with which
he pressed on--on, till the hostile spear dropped from his own side,
and Hamlyn was borne backwards over the croup of the staggering
horse, till he fell with crashing ringing armour upon the ground.
Little John clapped his hands, and shouted for joy; but no one
Richard leapt down in another second, and stood over him. "Yield
thee, Hamlyn de Valence. Confess that thou hast slandered me with an
Hamlyn had no choice. "Let me rise," he said sullenly; "I will
confess, so thou letst me open my visor."
And Richard standing aside, Hamlyn spoke out in a dogged formal tone.
"I hereby own, that by the judgment of Heaven, Richard de Montfort
hath cleared himself of all share in the foul murder of Lord Henry,
whose soul Heaven assoilzie. Also that he hath disproven the charge
of leaguing with his brethren."
Richard was the victor, but where were the gratulations? Young
John's hearty but slender hurrah was lost in the general silence.
The Prince reared his stately form, and said, "The judgment of Heaven
is final. Richard de Montfort is pronounced free of all penalty for
treason in the matter of the death of our dear cousin, and is free to
go where he will."
Cold as ice was the Prince's face. That Richard meant murder to
Henry, he had never believed; but that he had hankered after his
brothers, and held dangerous communings with them, was evidently
still credited and unforgiven. The very form of words was a
dismissal--and the youth's heart was wrung.
He stood, looking earnestly up as the Prince moved from his place,
without a glance towards him. The next moment Raynald's kind hand
was on his shoulder, and his voice saying, "Well fought, brother, a
brave stroke! Come with me, thou art hurt."
"Would it were to the death!" murmured Richard dreamily, as Raynald,
throwing his arm round him, led him away; but before they had reached
the tent there was a plunging rush and scampering behind them, and
John of Dunster came dashing up. "I knew it! I knew it!" he cried.
"I knew he would overset spiteful Hamlyn! Hurrah! They can't keep
me away now, Richard--now the judgment of Heaven has gone for you!"
Richard smiled, and put his gauntleted hand caressingly on the boy's
"I was afraid," added John, "that you would think me like the rest of
them. Miscreants, all! Not one would shout for you--you, the
victor! They don't heed the judgment of Heaven one jot. And that's
what they call being warriors of the Cross! If the Prince were a
true-born Englishman, he would be ashamed of himself. But never
heed, Richard. Why don't you speak to me? Are you angered that I
told of the letter? Indeed, I never guessed--"
"Hush, varlet," said Sir Raynald, "see you not that he has neither
breath nor voice to speak? If you wish to do him a service, hie to
our tents--down yonder, to the east, where you see the eight-pointed
"I know, Sir," said John, perfectly civil on hearing accents as
English as his own.
"And bring up Brother Bartlemy, he is a better infirmarer than I.
Bid him from me bring his salves and bandages."
Richard was barely conscious when he reached the tent, as much from
rigid fasting and sleeplessness as from the actual loss of blood.
His friend disarmed him tenderly, and revived him with bread and
wine, silencing a half-murmured scruple about Lenten diet with the
dispensation due to sickness. The wound was not likely to be serious
or disabling, and the cares of the Hospitalier and his infirmarer had
presently set their patient so much at ease that he dropped into a
sound sleep, having scarcely said a word, beyond a few faintly
uttered thanks, since he had fought the combat.
At first his sleep was profound, but by and by the associations of
blows and wounds carried him back to the field of Evesham. The wild
melee was renewed, he heard the voice of his father, but always in
that strange distressing manner peculiar to dreams of the departed,
always far away, and just beyond his reach, ever just about to give
him the succour he needed, but ever withheld. The thunderstorm that
broke over the contending armies roared again in his ears; and then
again recurred the calm still night, when he had lain helpless on the
battle-field; even the caress of Leonillo, and his low growl, were
vividly repeated; but as the dog moved, it was to Richard as if the
form of his father rose up in its armour from the dark field, and
said in a deep hollow voice, "Well fought, my son; I will give thee
knighthood." Then Richard thought he was kneeling before his father,
and hearing that same voice saying, "My son, be true and loyal. In
the name of God and St. James. I dub thee knight of death!" and
looking up, he beheld under the helmet, not Simon de Montfort's face
but the Prince's. He awoke with a start of disappointment--and there
stood Edward himself, leaning against the tent-pole, looking down at
He sprang on his feet, scarcely knowing whether he slept or woke; but
Edward said, in that voice that at times was so ineffably sweet, "Be
still, Richard; I fear me thou hast suffered a wrong, and I am come
to repair it, as far as I can! Lay thee down again."
And the Prince seated himself on the oaken chest; while Richard,
after a few words, sat down on his couch.
"Is this the letter about which there has been such a coil?" said
Edward, giving him the scroll in its sepia ink.
"It is!" replied Richard in amazement and dismay.
"The only letter thou didst write?"
"The only one," repeated Richard.
"And," added Edward, "it concerns thy brother Henry.
Richard turned even paler than before, and could not suppress a gasp
of dismay. "My Lord, make me not forsworn!"
"Listen to me, Richard," said Edward. "My sweet lady gave me no rest
about thee. She held that I had withdrawn my trust over lightly, for
what was no blame to thine heart; and that having set thee here apart
from thy natural friends, we owed thee more notice than I have been
wont to think wholesome for untried striplings. Others, and I among
them, held that Raynald Ferrers' friendship and countenance showed
thee stubbornly set on old connections, and many thought the letter
to the Grand Prior Darcy a mere excuse. But when Hamlyn fell, and I
still held that thou wert merely cleared from wilful share in the
deadly crime of which I had never held thee guilty, then she spake
more earnestly. She of her own will sent for Raynald Ferrers to our
tent, and called me to speak with him, sure that, even though his
family had been our foes, he was too honourable a knight to have
espoused thy cause without good reason. Then it was that he told us
of thine interest for the blind beggar whose child thou didst save,
and of the Grand Prior's message. Also, as full exculpation of thee,
he gave me the letter, which, having failed to find a home-bound
messenger at San Giovanni, he had brought back to the camp. And now,
Richard, what can I say more, than that I did thee wrong, and pray
thee to give me thy hand in pardon?"
Richard hid his face and sobbed, completely overwhelmed by the simple
dignity of the humility of such a man as Edward. He held the
Prince's hand to his lips, and exclaimed, "Oh, how--how could I have
ever felt discontent, or faltered? not in truth--oh, no--but in trust
and patience? Oh! my Lord, that I could die for you!"
"Not yet," said Edward, smiling; "we have much to do together first.
And now tell me, Richard, this beggar is indeed Henry?"
Richard hung his head.
"What, thou mayst not betray him?"
"I am under an oath, my Lord."
"Nay, I know well-nigh all, Richard. I did indeed see my dear old
comrade laid in Evesham Church, so as it broke my heart to see him,
bleeding from many wounds, and even his hand lopped by the savage
Mortimers. Then, as I bent down, and gave his brow a last kiss, it
struck me, for a moment, that the touch was not that of a dead man's
skin. But I looked again at the deadly wounds of head and breast,
and thought it would be but cruelty to strive to bring back the
glimmer of life only to--to see the ruin of his house; and all that
he could not be saved from. O Richard, to no man in either host
could the day of Evesham have been so sore, as to me, who had to sit
in the gate, to gladden men's hearts, like holy King David, when he
would fain have been weeping for his son! But in early morning came
Abbot William of Whitchurch to my chamber, and with much secrecy told
me that the corpse of Henry de Montfort had been stolen from the
church by night, praying me to excuse that the monks, wearied out
with the day of alarms, and the care of our wounded, had not kept
better watch. Then knew I that some one had been less faithless than
I, and I hoped that poor Henry was at least dying in peace; I had
never deemed that he could survive. But when I saw thy billet, and
heard Ferrers' tale, I had no further doubt, remembering likewise how
strangely familiar was the face of that little one at Westminster."
"Yes, my Lord, it was even as a strange, wild, wilful, blind beggar
that I found poor Henry; and heavy was the curse he laid me under,
should I make him known to you. He calls himself thus a freer and
happier man than he could be even were he pardoned and reinstated;
and he can indulge his vein of mockery."
"I dare be sworn that consoles him for all," said Edward, nearly
laughing. "So long as he could utter his gibe, Henry little recked
which way the world passed round him; and I trow he has found some
mate of low degree, that he would be loth to produce in open day."
"Not so, my Lord: it is so wild a tale of true love that I can
sometimes scarce believe a minstrel did not sing it to me!" And
Richard told the history of Isabel Mortimer's fidelity. The Prince
was deeply touched, and then remembered the marked manner in which
the Baron of Mortimer had replied to his inquiry, in what convent he
had bestowed Henry de Montfort's betrothed. "She is dead, my Lord,
dead to us." Then he added suddenly, "So that black-eyed babe is the
heiress of Leicester and all the honours of Montfort!"
"It is one of the causes for Henry's resolve to be secret," said
Richard. "I thought it harsh and distrustful then, but he dreaded
Simon's knowledge of her."
"We will find a way of securing her from Simon," said the Prince.
"But fear not, Richard, Henry's secret shall be safe with me! I have
kept his secrets before now," he added, with a smile. "Only, when we
are at home again--so it please the Saints to spare us--thou shalt
strive to show him cause to trust my Lady with his child, if he doth
not seek to breed her up to scrip and wallet. I see such is thy
counsel in this scroll, and it is well."
"How could I say other?" said Richard, "and now, more than ever! I
long to thank the gracious Princess this very evening."
"Thy wound?' said the Prince.
"My wound is naught, I scarce feel it."
"Then," said the Prince, "unless the leech gainsay it, it would be as
well to be at our pavilion this evening, that men may see thou art
not in any disgrace. Rest then till supper-time." And as he spoke
he rose to depart, but Richard made a gesture of entreaty. "So
please your Grace, grant me a few farther words. I sware, and truly,
that I had heard nothing from my brothers when I was accused of
writing that letter to them. But see here, what yester-morn was
pinned to that tent-pole."
He gave Edward the scroll, at which the Prince looked half smiling.
"So! A dagger in store for me too, is there? Well, my cousins have
a goodly thirst for vengeance! Hast thou any suspicion how this
billet came here?"
"Ay, my Lord; and for that cause I would warn you against two of the
archers, one of whom was in Simon's troop, and went with the late
prince to Viterbo. I gave them no promise of silence."
"You spoke with them?"
"With one, who was charged to let me through the outposts to a spot
where means were provided for bringing me to Guy."
"And thou," said Edward, smiling, "didst choose to bide the buffet?"
"Sir," said Richard, "I did indeed long after my brethren when Guy
had been so near me in Africa; but now, I would far rather die than
cast in my lot with them."
"Thou art wise," said Edward; "not merely right, but wise. I have
sent Gloucester to my uncle of Sicily with such messages that he will
scarce dare to leave them scatheless! Then, at supper-time we meet
again--in thine own name, Richard, and as my kinsman and esquire.
Thou shalt bear thine own name and arms. I will cause a mourning
suit to be sent to thee--thou art equally of kin with myself to poor
Henry--and shalt mourn him with Edmund and me at the requiem to-
morrow. So will it best be manifest to the camp, that we exempt thee
from all blame." Again he was departing, when Richard added--"The
archers, my Lord--were it not good to dismiss them?"
"Tush," said Edward; "tell me not their names. So soon as the wind
veers, they will be beyond Guy's reach; and if I were to stand on my
guard against every man who loved thy father better than mine, what
good would my life do me? The poor knaves will be true enough when
they see a Saracen before them!"
And away went Edward, to be glanced at as he passed through the camp,
as a severe, hard, cruel tyrant. Had he only been gay, open-hearted,
and careless, he might have hung both the guilty archers, and a dozen
innocent ones into the bargain, and yet have never won the character
for harshness and unmercifulness that he had acquired even while
condoning many a dire offence, simply from his stern gravity, and his
punctilious exactitude in matters of discipline. But the evils of a
lax and easy-going court had been so fatal, and had produced such
suffering, that it was no marvel that he had adopted a rule of iron;
and in the pain and distress of seeing his closest friends, the
noblest subjects in the realm, pushed into a rebellion where he had
himself to maintain his father's cause, and then to watch, without
being able to hinder, the mean-spirited revenge of his own partizans,
his manner had acquired that silent reserve and coldness which made
him feared and hated by the many, while intensely beloved by the few.
Even towards those few it was absolutely difficult to him to unbend,
as he had done in this hour of effusion towards Richard; and the
youth was proportionably moved and agitated with fervent gratitude
He had scarcely had so happy an evening since he had been a boy at
Odiham. He was indeed feeble and dizzy at times, but with a far from
painful languor; and the Princess, enjoying the permission to follow
the dictates of her own heart, was kind to him with a motherly or
sisterly kindness, could not bear to receive from him his wonted
attendance, but made him lie upon the cushions at her feet, and when
out of hearing of every one, talked of the faithful Isabel, and of
"pretty Bessee," on whom she already looked as the companion of her
little Eleanor, whom she had left at home.
It might be questioned whether Richard did not undergo more in
watching little John de Mohun's endeavours at waiting than he would
have suffered from doing it himself. And not a few dissatisfied
glances were levelled at the favoured stripling, besides the
literally as well as figuratively sour glances of Dame Idonea.
Edward, being of course unable to betray his real grounds for
acquitting Richard, had only deigned to inform Prince Edmund that he
knew all, and was perfectly satisfied. Now Prince Edmund, as well as
all the old court faction, deemed Edward's regard for the Barons'
party an unreasonable weakness that they durst not indeed combat
openly, but which angered them as a species of disaffection to his
own cause. The outer world thought him a tyrant, but there was an
inner world to whom he appeared weakly good-natured and generous; and
this inner world thought Richard had successfully hoodwinked him!
Therefore Edmund of Lancaster desired to adopt Hamlyn de Valence as
his own squire, to save him from association with Richard; and both
prince and squire, and all the rest of the train, made it perfectly
evident to the young Montfort that he was barely tolerated out of
respect for the Prince.
But Richard in his joy could have borne worse than this, for the
Prince had not relaxed in his kindness, and made his young cousin's
wound an excuse for showing him more tenderness and consideration
than he would otherwise have thought befitting. Moreover, an
esquire, as Richard had now become, might be in much closer relations
of intimacy with his master than was possible to a page; and the day
that had begun so sadly was like the dawn of a brighter period.
Sir Raynald Ferrers had been invited to the Prince's pavilion, but
the rules of his Order did not permit his joining a secular
entertainment in Lent, and he did not admit either the camp life or
the gravity of the Prince's mourning household as a dispensation.
However, when Richard, leaning fondly on little John's ready
shoulder, crossed to his own tent, he found his good friend waiting
there to attend to his wound, which Sir Raynald professed to regard
as an excellent subject to practise upon, and likewise to hear
whether all had been cleared up, and had gone right with him.
"Though," he said, "I could not doubt of it when that fair and lovely
Princess had taken your matters in hand. Tell me, Richard, have you
secular men many such dames as that abroad in the world?"
"Not many such as she," said Richard, smiling.
"Well, I have not spoken to a female thing, save perhaps pretty
Bessee, since I went into the Spital, ten years ago; and verily the
sound of the lady's voice was to me as if St. Margaret had begun
talking to me! And so wise and clear of wit too. I thought women
were feather-pated wilful beings, from whom there was no choice but
to shut oneself up! I trow, that now all is well with thee, thou
wilt scarce turn a thought again towards our brotherhood, where to
glance at such a being becomes a sin." And Raynald crossed himself,
with an effort to recall his wonted asceticism.
"Ladies' love is not like to be mine," said Richard, laughing, as one
not yet awake to the force of the motive. "No! Gladly would I be
one of your noble brotherhood, where alone have I met with kindness--
but, Sir Raynald, my first duty under Heaven must be to redeem my
father's name, by my service to the Prince. My brothers think they
uphold it by deadly revenge. I want to show what a true Montfort can
be with such a master as my father never had! And, Raynald, I cannot
but fear that further schemes of vengeance may be afloat. The Prince
is too fearless to take heed to himself, and who is so bound to watch
for him as I?"
CHAPTER XI--THE VIEW FROM CARMEL
"On her who knew that love can conquer death;
Who, kneeling with one arm about her king,
Drew forth the poison with her balmy breath,
Sweet as new buds in spring."--TENNYSON.
A year had elapsed since the crusaders had landed in Palestine;
Nazareth had been taken, and the Christian host were encamped upon
the plain before Acre, according to their Prince's constant habit of
preferring to keep his troops in the open field, rather than to
expose them to the temptations of the city--which was, alas! in a
state most unworthy of the last stronghold of Latin Christianity in
the Holy Land.
It was on a scorching June day, Whitsun Tuesday, in the exquisite
beauty of an early summer in the mountains of the Levant--when "the
flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is
come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree
putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape
give a good smell,"--that Richard de Montfort was descending the
wooded sides of Mount Carmel.
Anxious tidings had of late come from England respecting the health
of the little Prince John; and Princess Eleanor was desirous of
offering gifts and obtaining prayers on his behalf, on the part of
the good Fathers of the convent associated with the memory of the
great Prophet who had raised the dead child to life. She herself,
however, was at the time unfit for a mountain ride; and Prince
Edward, who was a lay brother of the Carmelite order, and had fully
intended himself to go and offer his devotions for his child, was so
unwell on that day, from the feverish heat of the summer, that he
could not expose himself to the sun; and Richard was therefore
despatched on the part of the royal pair. He had ascended in the
cool of the morning, setting forth before sunrise, and attending the
regular Mass. The good Fathers would fain have detained him till the
heat of the day should be past; but his anxiety not to overpass in
the slightest degree the time fixed by the Prince, made him resolved
on setting out so soon as his errand was sped.
Unspeakably beautiful was his ride--through rocky dells filled with
copsewood, among which jessamine, lilies, and exquisite flowers were
peeping up, and the coney, the fawn, and other animals, made Leonillo
prick his ears and wistfully seek from his master's eye permission to
dash off in pursuit. Or the "oaks of Carmel," with many a dark-
leaved evergreen, towered in impenetrable thicket, and at an opening
glade might be beheld on the north-east, "that goodly mountain
Lebanon" rising in a thick clothing of wood; and beyond, in sharp
cool softness, the white cone of rain-distilling Hermon. Far to the
west lay the glorious glittering sheet of the Mediterranean; but
nearer, almost beneath his feet, was the curving bay and harbour of
Ptolemais, filled with white sails, the white city of Acre full of
fortresses and towers; while on the plain beside it, green with
verdure as Richard's own home greenwood of Odiham, lay the white
tents of the Christian army, in so clear an atmosphere that he could
see the flash of the weapons of the men on guard, and almost
distinguish the blazonry of the banners.
Richard dismounted to gather some roses and jessamine for the
Princess, and to collect some of the curious fossil echini, which he
believed to be olives turned to stone by the Prophet Elijah, as a
punishment to a churlish peasant who refused him a meal. He thought
that such treasures would be a welcome addition to the store he was
accumulating for the good old Grand Prior. He gave his horse to Hob
Longbow, his only attendant except a young Sicilian lad. This same
Longbow had stuck to him with a pertinacity that he could not shake
off, and in truth had hitherto justified the Prince's prediction that
he would be a brave and faithful fellow when his allegiance was no
further disturbed by the proximity of the outlawed Montforts. There
had been nothing to lead Richard to think he ought to indicate either
him or Nick Dustifoot to the Prince as the persons who had been
connected with Guy in Italy.
Presently Leonillo bounded forward, and Richard became aware of the
figure of a man in light armour standing partly hidden among the
brushwood, but looking down intently into the Christian camp. The
dog leapt up, fawning on the stranger with demonstrations of rapture;
and he, turning in haste, stood face to face with Richard.
"Here!" was his exclamation, and a grasp was instantly laid upon his
"Simon!" burst from Richard's lips at the same moment, "dost not know
"Thou, boy?" and the hold was relaxed. "What lucky familiar sent
thee hither? What--thou art grown such a huge fellow that I had
well-nigh struck thee down for Longshanks himself, had it not been
for thy voice. Thou hast his very bearing."
"Simon!" again repeated Richard, in his extremity of amazement.
"What dost thou? How camest thou here? Whence--?"
"That thou shalt soon see," said Simon. "A right free and merry home
and company have we up yonder,"--and he pointed towards Mount
"Thou and Guy?"
"No, no; Guy turned craven. Could not endure our wanderings in the
marshes and hills, pined for his wife forsooth, fell sick, and must
needs go and give himself up to the Pope; so he sings the penitential
psalms night and day."
"And we heard thou wast dead at Siena."
"Thou hearest many a false tale," said Simon. "Of my death thou
shalt judge, if thou wilt turn thy horse and ride with me to our
hill-fort of Ain Gebel, in Galilee. They say 'tis the very one which
King David or King Herod, whichever it was, could only take by
letting down his men-at-arms in boxes! I should like to see the
boxes that we could not send skimming down the abyss! And a wondrous
place they have left us--vaults as cool as a convent wine-cellar,
fountains out of the rock, marble columns."
"But, brother, for whom do you hold it? For the King of Cyprus or--
"For myself, boy! For King Simon, an it like you better! None can
touch me or my merry band there, and a goodly company we are--
pilgrims grown wiser, and runaway captives, and Druses, and bold
Arabs too: and the choicest of many a heretic Armenian merchants'
caravan is ours, and of many a Saracen village; corn and wine, fair
dames, and Damascus blades, and Arab steeds. Nothing has been
wanting to me but thee and vengeance, and both are, I hope, on the
"Not I, certainly!" said Richard, shrinking back in horror: "I--a
"Tush, what are we but crusaders too, boy? 'Tis all service against
the Moslem! Thy patron saint sent thee to me to-day from special
care for thy safety."
"How so!" exclaimed Richard. "If peril threaten my Lord, I must be
with him at once."
"Much hast thou gained by hanging on upon him," said Simon
scornfully, glancing at Richard's heels; "not so much as a pair of
gilt spurs! Creeping after him like a hound, thou hast not even the
"I have all I seek," said Richard. "I have his brotherly kindness.
I have the opportunity of redeeming my name. Nay, I should even
regret any honour that took me from the services I now perform.
Simon, didst thou but know his love for our father!"
"Silence, base caitiff!" thundered Simon; "I know his deeds, and that
is enough for me! Look here, mean-spirited as thou wert to be taken
with his hypocrisy, I have pity on thee yet. I would spare thee what
awaits thee in the camp!"
"For heaven's sake, Simon, dost know of any attack of the Emir? The
Princess must at once be conveyed into the town! As thou art a man,
a Christian, speak plainly!"
"Foolish lad, the infidels are quiet enough! No peril threatens the
camp! Only if thou wilt run thy head into it, thou art like to find
it too hot to hold thee!"
"I am afraid of no accusations," said Richard; "my Lord knows and
Simon laughed a loud ringing scornful laugh.
"Wilful will to water," he said. "Well, thou besotted lad, if it be
not too late when thou getst into the hands of Crookbacked Edmund and
Red Gilbert, remember the way to Galilee, that is all!"
"I tell thee, Simon," said Richard, turning round and fully facing
him; "I would rather perish an innocent man by the hands of the
Provost Marshal, than darken my soul with thy counsels of blood. O
Simon! What thy purpose may be I know not; but canst thou deem it
faithfulness to our father, saint as he was, to live this dark wild
life, so utterly abhorrent to him?"
"Let those look to that who slew him, and made me such as I am,"
returned Simon, turning from him, and gazing steadfastly down into
the camp. Suddenly a gleam of fierce exultation lighted up his face,
and again facing Richard he exclaimed, "Yes, go home, tame cringing
spaniel, and see whether a Montfort is still in favour below there!
See if proud Edward is still ready to meet thy fawning with his
scornful patronage! See if the honour of a murdered father has not
been left in better hands than thine! And when thou hast had thy
lesson, find the way to Ain Gebel, or ask Nick Dustifoot."
Richard, with a startled exclamation, looked down, but could discern
nothing unusual in the camp. The royal banner hung in heavy folds
over the Prince's pavilions, and all was evidently still in the same
noontide repose, or rather exhaustion, to which the Syrian sun
reduced even the hardy active Englishmen. "What mean you?" he began;
but Simon was no longer beside him. He called, but echo alone
answered; and all he could do was to throw himself on his horse, and
hurry down the mountain side, with a vague presentiment of evil, and
a burning desire to warn his lord or share his peril.
He understood Simon's position. Many of the almost inaccessible
rocks, where the sons of Anak had built their Cyclopean fortresses,
and which had been abodes of almost fabulous beauty and strength in
the Herodian days, had been resorted to again by the crusaders, and
had served as isolated strongholds whence to annoy the enemy.
Frightfully lawless had, in too many instances, been the life there
led, more especially by the Levant-born sons of Europeans; and in the
universal disorganization of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, that took
place in consequence of the disputed rights of Cyprus and
Hohenstaufen, most of them had become free from all control. If the
garrisons bore the Christian name at all, it chiefly was as an excuse
for preying on all around; but too often they were renegades of every
variety of nation, drawn together by the vilest passions, commanded
by some reckless adventurer, and paying a species of allegiance to
any power that either endangered them, or afforded them the hopes of
plunder. Bloodthirsty and voluptuous alike, they were viewed with
equal terror by the Frank pilgrim, the Syriac villager, the Armenian
merchant, and the Saracen hadji--whose ransom and whose spoil
enriched their chambers, with all that the licentious tastes of East
and West united could desire. There were comparatively few of these
nests of iniquity in these latter days of the Crusades, but some
still survived; and Richard had seen some of their captains with
their followers at the siege of Nazareth, where the atrocities they
had committed had been such as to make the English army stand aghast.
As a member of such a crew, Simon could hardly fail to find means of
attempting that revenge on which it was but too evident that he was
still bent; and Richard, as every possible risk rose before him,
urged his horse to perilous speed down the steep descent, and chid
every obstacle, though in fact the descent which ordinarily occupied
two hours, for men who cared for their own necks, was effected by him
in a quarter of the time. He came to the entrenched camp. The
entrance, where the Prince made so strict a point of keeping a
sentinel, was completely unguarded. The foremost tents were empty,
but there was a sound as of the murmuring voices of numbers towards
the centre of the camp. The next moment he met Hamlyn de Valence
riding quickly, and followed by two attendants.
"Hamlyn! a moment!" he gasped. "Has aught befallen the Prince?"
"You were aware of it, then!" said Hamlyn, checking his horse, and
looking him full in the face.
"Answer me, for Heaven's sake! Is all well with the Princes?"
"As well as your house desires--or it may be somewhat better," said
Hamlyn; "but let me pass. I am on an errand of life or death."
So saying, Hamlyn dashed forwards; and Richard, in double alarm, made
his way to the space in the centre of the camp, where he found
himself on the outskirts of a crowd, talking in the various tongues
of English, French, and Lingua Franca. "He lives--the good Princess-
-the dogs of infidels--poison--" were the words he caught. He flung
himself from his horse, and was about to interrogate the nearest man,
when John of Dunster came hurrying towards him from the tents, and
threw himself upon him, sobbing with agitation and dismay.
"What is it? Speak, John! The Prince!"
"Oh, if you had but been there! It will not cease bleeding. O
Richard, he looks worse than my father when he came home!"
"Let me hear! Where? How is he hurt?"
"In the arm and brow," said the boy.
"The arm!" said Richard, much relieved.
"Ah, but they say the dagger is poisoned! Stay, Richard, I'll tell
you all. Dame Idonea turned me out of the tent, and she will not let
any one in. It was thus--even now the Prince was lying on the day-
bed in his own outer tent, no one else there save myself. I believe
everybody was asleep, I know I was--when Nick Dustifoot called me,
and bade me tell the Prince there was a messenger from the Emir of
Joppa, asking to see him. So the Prince roused himself up, and bade
him come in. He was one of those quick-eyed Moorish-looking
infidels, in the big turbans and great goat's hair cloaks; and he
went down on his knees, and hit the ground with his forehead, and
said Salam aleikum--traitor that he was--and gave the Prince a
letter. Well, the Prince muttered something about his head aching so
sorely that he could scarce see the writing, and had just put up his
hand to shade his eyes from the light, when the dog was out with a
dagger and fell on him! The Prince's arm being raised, caught the
stroke, you see; and that moment his foot was up," said John, acting
the kick, "and down went the rogue upon his back! And I--I threw
myself right down over him!"
"Did you, my brave little fellow? Well done of you!" cried Richard.
"And the Prince wrested the dagger out of the rogue's hand, only he
tore his own forehead sorely, as the point flew up with the shock--
and then stabbed the villain to the heart--see how the blood rushed
over me! Then the Prince pulled me up, and called me a brave lad,
and set me on my feet, and asked me if I were sure I was not hurt.
And by that time the archers were coming in, when all was over; and
Long Robin must needs snatch up a joint stool and have a stroke at
the Moor's head. I trow the Prince was wrath with the cowardly clown
for striking a dead man. He said I alone had been any aid!"
"'Well?" anxiously asked Richard, gathering intense alarm as he saw
that the boy's trouble still exceeded his elation, even at such
commendation as this.
"But then," said John sadly, "even while he called it nothing, there
came a dizziness over him. And even then the Princess had heard the
outcry, and came in haste with Dame Idonea. And so soon as the Dame
had picked up the dagger and looked well at it, and smelt it, she
said there was poison on it. No sooner did the Princess hear that,
than, without one word, she put her lips to his arm to suck forth the
venom. He was for withholding her, but the Dame said that was the
only safeguard for his life; and she looked--oh, so imploring!"
"Blessings on the sweet Princess and true wife!" cried the men-at-
arms, great numbers of whom had gathered round the little eye-witness
to hear his account.
"And so is he saved?" said Richard, with a long breath.
"Ah! but," said John, his eyes beginning to fill with tears, "there
is the Grand Master of the Templars come now, and he says that to
suck the poison is of no avail; and that nothing will save him but
cutting away the living flesh as I would carve the wing of a bustard;
and Dame Idonea says that is just the way King Coeur de Lion died,
and the Princess is weeping, and the wound will not stop bleeding;
and Hamlyn is gone to Acre for a surgeon, and they are all wrangling,
and Dame Idonea boxed my ears at last, and said I was gaping there."
The boy absolutely burst into sobs and tears, and at the same moment
a growl arose among the archers, of "Curses on the Moslem hounds!
Not one shall escape! Death to every captive in our hands!"
"Nay, nay," exclaimed Richard, looking up in horror; "the poor
captives are utterly guiltless! Far more justly make me suffer,"
murmured he sadly.
"All tarred with the same stick," said the nearest; "serve them as
"Think," added Richard, "if the Prince would see no dishonour done to
the dead carcase of the murderer himself, would he be willing to have
ill worked on living men, sackless of the wrong? English turning
butchers--that were fit work for Paynims."
"No, no, not one shall live to laugh at our Edward's fall," burst out
the men; and a voice among them added, "Sure the young squire seems
to know a vast deal about the guilty and the guiltless--the Montfort!
Ay! Away with all foes to our Edward--"
"Best withdraw yourself, Sir," said Hob Longbow; "their blood is up.
Baulk them of their prey, and they will set on you next."
Richard just then beheld a person from whose interposition he had
much greater hopes, namely the Earl of Gloucester, who, though still
a young man, was the chief English noble in the camp, and whose
special charge the Saracen captives were. He hurried towards him,
and asked tidings of the Prince.
"Ill tidings, I trow," said the Earl, bitterly. "Ay, Richard de
Montfort, you had best take heed to yourself, he was your best
friend; and a sore lookout it is for us all. Between the old dotard
his father and the poor babes his children, England is in woeful
plight. Would that your father's wits were among us still! There's
some curse on this fools' errand of a Crusade, for here is the sixth
prince it hath slain, and well if we lose not our Princess too. But
what is all this uproar!"
"The men-at-arms, my Lord," said Richard, "fierce to visit the crime
on the captives."
"A good riddance!" said Earl Gilbert; "the miscreants eat as much as
ten score yeomen, and my knaves are weary with guarding them. If
this matter brings all the pagans in Palestine on our hands, we shall
have enough to do without looking after this nest of heathens."
"But would the Prince have it so?"
"I fear me the Prince is like to have little will in the matter! No,
no, I'm not the man to order a butchery, but if the honest fellows
must needs shed blood for blood, I'm not going to meddle between them
and the heathen wolves."
Assuredly nothing was to be done with the Red de Clare, and Richard
pushed on, with throbbing dismayed heart, to the tent, dreading to
behold the condition of him whom he best loved and honoured on earth.
The tent was crowded, but Richard's unusual height enabled him to
see, over the heads of those nearest, that Edward was sitting on the
edge of his couch, his wife and Dame Idonea endeavouring to check the
flow of blood from his wound. The elbow of his other arm was on his
knee, and his head on his hand, but the opening of the curtain let in
the light; he looked up, and Richard saw how deathly white his face
had become, and the streaks of blood from the scratch upon his brow.
He greeted Richard, however, with the look of recognition to which
his young squire had now become used--not exactly a smile, but a
well-satisfied welcome; and though he spoke low and feebly to his
brother who stood near him, Richard caught the words with a thrill of
"Let him near me, Edmund. He hath a ready hand, and may aid thee,
sweet wife. Thou art wearying thyself." Then, as Richard
approached, "Thou hast sped well! I looked not for thee so soon."
"Alack, my Lord!" said Richard, "I hurried on to warn you. Ah! would
I had been in time!"
"Thy little pupil, John, did all man could do," said Edward,
languidly smiling. "But what--hast aught in charge to say to me? Be
brief, for I am strangely dizzy."
"My Lord," said Richard, "the archers and men-at-arms are furiously
wrath with the Saracens. They would wreak their vengeance on the
prisoners, who at least are guiltless!"
"The knaves!" exclaimed Edward promptly. "Why looks not Gloucester
"My Lord, the Earl saith that he would not command the slaughter, but
that he will not forbid it."
"Saints and angels!" burst forth the Prince, and to the amazement of
all, he started at once on his feet, and striding through the
bystanders to the opening of the tent, he looked out on the crowd,
who were already rushing towards the inclosure where their victims
were penned. Raising his mighty voice as in a battle-day, he called
aloud to them to halt, turn back, and hear him. They turned, and
beheld the lofty form in the entrance of the tent, wrapped in a long
loose robe, which, as well as his hair, was profusely stained with
blood, his wan face, however, making that marble dignity and
sternness of his even more awful and majestic as he spoke aloud.
"So, men, you would have me go down to my grave blood-stained and
accursed by the death of guiltless captives? And I pray you, what is
to be the lot of our countrymen, now on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, if
you thus deal with our prisoners, taken in war? Senseless bloody-
minded hounds that ye are, mark my words. The life of one of you for
the life of a Saracen captive; and should I die, I lay my curse on ye
all, if every man of them be not set free the hour my last breath is
drawn. Do you hear me, ye cravens?"
Unsparing, unconciliatory as ever, even when most merciful and
generous, Edward turned, but reeled as he re-entered the tent, and
his dizziness recurring, needed the support of both his brother and
Richard to lay him down on the couch.
The Grand Master of the Temple renewed his assurance that this was a
token of the poison, and Eleanor was unheeded when she declared that
her dear lord had been affected in the same manner before his wound,
ever since indeed the Whit Sunday when he had ridden home from the
great Church of St. John of Acre in the full heat of the sun.
Dame Idonea was muttering the mediaeval equivalent for fiddlesticks,
as plain as her respect for the Temple would allow her.
At that moment the leech whom Hamlyn had been sent into the town to
summon, made his appearance, and fully confirmed the Templar's
opinion. Neither the wizened Greek physician, nor the dignified
Templar, considered the soft but piteous assurance of the wife that
the venom had at once been removed by her own lips as more than mere
feminine folly, and Dame Idonea's real experience of knights thus
saved, and on the other hand of the fatal consequences of rude
surgery in such a climate, were disregarded as an old woman's babble.
Her voice waxed shrill and angry, and her antagonists' replies in
Lingua Franca, mixed with Arabic, Latin, and Greek, rang through the
tent, till the Prince could bear it no longer.
"Peace," he said, with an asperity unlike his usual stern patience,
"I had liefer brook your knives than your tongues! Without further
jangling, tell me clearly, learned physician, the peril of either
submitting or not submitting to your steel."
The Greek told, with as little tergiversation as was in his nature,
that he viewed a refusal as certain death, but several times Dame
Idonea was bursting out upon him, and Edward had to hold up his
finger to silence her.
"Now, kind lady," quoth he, "let me hear the worst you foretell for
me from your experience."
Dame Idonea did not spare him either the fate of Coeur de Lion, the
dangers of fever and pain, and above all "of that strange enchantment
that binds the teeth together and forbids a man to swallow his food."
Poor Eleanor looked at him imploringly all the time, but as none of
them had ever heard of the circulation of the blood, they could not
tell that her simple remedy had been truly efficacious, and that if
it had been otherwise the incisions would now come too late. Thus
the balance of prudence made itself appear to be on the side of the
physician, and for him the Prince decided. "Mi Dona," he said, ever
his most caressing term for her, "it must be so! I think not lightly
of what thou hast done for me, but, as matters stand, too much hangs
upon this life of mine for me not to be bound to run no needless risk
for fear of a little pain. If I live and speak now, next to highest
Heaven it is owing to thee; and when we came on this holy war, sweet
Eleanor, didst thou not promise to hinder me from naught that a true
warrior of the Cross ought to undergo? And is this the land to
shrink from the Cross?"
Alas! to Eleanor the pang was the belief in the uselessness of his
suffering and danger. She never withstood his will, but physically
she was weak, and her weeping was piteous in its silence. Edward
bade his brother lead her away; and Edmund, after the usual fashion,
vented his own perplexity and distress upon the most submissive
person in his way. He assumed more resistance on the part of his
gentle sister-in-law than she made, and carrying her from the tent,
roughly told her, silent as she was, that it was better that she
should scream and cry than all England wail and lament.
And so Eleanor's devoted deed, the true saving of her husband, has
lived on as a mere delusive tradition, weakly credited by the
romantic, while the credit of his recovery has been retained by the
Knight-Templars' leech. Not a sound was uttered by the Prince while
under those hands; but when his wife was permitted to return to him,
she found him in a dead faint, and the silver reliquary she had left
with him crushed flat and limp between his fingers.
Richard had given his attendance all the time, and for several hours
afterwards, during which the Princess hung over her husband,
endeavouring to restore him from the state of exhaustion in which he
scarcely seemed conscious of anything but her presence. Late in the
evening, some one came to the entrance of the tent, and beckoned to
the young squire; he came out expecting to receive some message, but
to his extreme surprise found himself in the grasp of the Provost
"On what charge?" he demanded, so soon as he was far enough beyond
the precincts of his tent not to risk a disturbance.
"By the command of the council. On the charge of being privy to the
attempt on the Prince's life."
"By whom preferred?" asked Richard.
"By the Lord Hamlyn de Valence."
Richard attempted not another word. In effect the condition of the
Prince seemed to him so hopeless that his most acute suffering at the
moment was in the being prevented from ministering to him, or
watching for a last word or look of recognition. He had no heart for
self-vindication, even if he had not known its utter futility with
men who had been prejudiced against him from the outset. Nor had he
the opportunity, for the Provost Marshal conducted him at once to the
tent where he was to be in ward for the night, a heap of straw for
him to lie upon, and a guard of half a dozen archers outside; and
there was he left to his despairing prayers for the Prince's life.
He could dwell on nothing else, there was no room in his mind for any
thought but of that glory of manhood thus laid low, and of the
anguish of the sweet face of the Princess.
"Sir--!" there was a low murmur near him--"now is the time. I have
brought an archer's gown and barrett, and we may easily get past the
yeomen." These last words were uttered, as on hands and knees a
figure whose dark outline could barely be discerned, crept under the
border of the tent.
"Who art thou?" hastily inquired Richard.
"You should know me, Sir,--I have done you many a good turn, and
served your house truly."
"Talk not of truth, thou traitor," said Richard, recognizing
Dustifoot's voice. "Knowst thou that but for the Prince's clemency
thou hadst a year ago been out of the reach of the cruel evil thou
hast now shared in."
"Nay, now, Lord Richard," returned the man, "you should not treat
thus an honest fellow that would fain do you service."
"I need no service such as thine," returned Richard. "Thy service
has made my brothers murderers, and brought ruin and woe unspeakable
upon the land."
"Beshrew me," muttered the man, "but one would have thought the young
damoiseau would have had more feeling about his father's death! But
I swore to do Sir Simon's bidding, so that is no concern of mine; and
he bade me, if any one strove to lay hands on you, Sir, to lead you
down to Kishon Brook, where he will meet us with a plump of spears."
"Meet him then," said Richard, "and say to him that if from his crag
above, on Carmel, he sees me hung on the gallows tree as a traitor,
he may count that I am willingly offered for our family sin! Ay, and
that if he thinks an old man's hairs brought down to the grave, a
broken-hearted wife, helpless orphans, and a land without a head, to
be a grateful offering to my father, let him enjoy the thought of how
the righteous Earl would have viewed all the desolation that will
fall on England without the one--one scholar who knew how to value
and honour his lessons."
"Hush! Sir," hastily interposed Dustifoot; but it was too late, the
murmur of voices had already been caught by the guard, and quick as
he was to retreat, their torches discovered him as he was creeping
out, and he was dragged back by the feet, and the light held up to
his face, while many voices proclaimed him as the rogue who had been
foremost in admitting the assassin to the royal tent. It was from
the tumult of voices that Richard first understood that on examining
the body of the murderer, it had been ascertained that he was neither
a Bedouin nor one of the assassins belonging to the Old Man of the
Mountain, but an European, probably a Provencal; and this, added to
Hamlyn's representation of Richard's words, together with what the
Earls of Lancaster and Gloucester recollected, had directed the
suspicion upon himself. And here was, as it seemed, undeniable
evidence of his connection with the plot!
The miserable Dustifoot, vainly imploring his intercession, was tied
hand and foot, and the guard returned to the outside of the tent,
except one archer, who thought it needful to bring in his torch, and
keep the prisoners in sight.
The night passed wearily, and with morning Dustifoot was removed to a
place of captivity more befitting his degree; but of the Prince,
Richard only heard that he continued to be in great danger. No
attempt on the part of the council was made to examine their
prisoner; and Richard suspected, as time wore on, that no one chose
to act in this time of suspense for fear of incurring the lion-like
wrath of Edward in the event of his recovery, but that in case of his
death, small would be his own chances of life. Death had fewer
horrors for the lonely boy than it would have had for one with whom
life had been brighter. In battle for the Cross, or in shielding his
Prince's life, it would have been welcome, but death, branded with
vile ingratitude, as a traitor to that master, was abhorrent. Shrunk
up in the corner of the tent, half asleep after the night's vigil,
yet too miserable for the entire oblivion of rest, Richard spent the
day in dull despair, listening for sounds without with an intensity
of attention that seemed to pervade every limb, and yet with snatches
of sleep that brought dreams more intolerable than the reality which
they yet seemed to enhance.
At last, however, the sultry closeness of the day subsided, the
Angelus bell sounded far off from the churches and convents of Acre,
and near from the chapel tent, and the devotions that it proclaimed
were not ended when Richard heard the cry of the crusading watch--
"Remember the Holy Sepulchre."
Yes, the Holy Sepulchre might not be recovered and reached by the
English army, but it might still be remembered, and therein be laid
down all struggles of the will, all rebellious agony, at the being
misunderstood, misused, vituperated, all suffering might there be
offered up; nor could the most ignominious death stand between him
and the thought of that Holy Tomb, and of the joy beyond.--Son of a
man who, sorely tried, had drawn his sword against his king, brother
of wilful murderers, perhaps to die innocent was the best fate he
could hope; and in accordance with the doctrine of his time, he hoped
that his death might serve as a part of a sacrifice for the family
guilt. Nay, the Prince gone, wherefore should he wish to live?
"Don't you see? The Prince's signet! He said I should bring him!
Clown that thou art, hast no eyes nor ears? What, don't you know me?
I am the young lord of Dunster, the Prince's foot-page. It is his
And amid some perplexed mutterings from the guard, little John of
Dunster burst into the tent. "Up, up," he cried, "you are to come to
the Prince instantly."
"How fares he?"--Richard's one question of the day.
"Sorely ill at ease," said the boy, "but he wants you, he calls for
you, and no one would tell him where you were, so I spoke out at
last, and he bade me take his ring and bring you, for 'tis his
pleasure. Come now, for the Earl of Lancaster and Hamlyn are gone to
take the Princess to Acre, and my Lord of Gloucester has taken his
red head off to sleep, and no one is there but old Raymond and some
of the grooms.
"The Princess gone!"
"Ay, and Dame Idonea with her. So we shall hear no more of King
Coeur de Lion. Hamlyn swears she was on his crusade. Do you think
she was, Richard? nobody knows how old she is."
Richard was a great deal too anxious to ask questions himself, to be
able to answer this query. And as the yeomen let him pass them, only
begging him to bear him out with the Princes, he hastily gathered
from the boy all that he could tell. The Prince had, it appeared,
been in a most suffering state from pain and fever all the night and
the ensuing day, and had hardly noticed any one but his devoted wife,
who had attended him unremittingly, until with the cooler air of
evening she saw him slightly revived, but was herself so completely
spent, and so unwell, as to be incapable of opposing his decision
that she should at once be carried into the city to receive the
succours her state demanded. When she was gone, Edward, who had
perhaps sought to spare her the sight of his last agony, had roused
himself to make his will, and choose protectors for his father and
young children; and it was after this that his inquiries became
urgent for Richard de Montfort. He was at length answered by the
indignant little foot-page; and greatly resenting the action of the
council, he had, as John said, "frowned and spoken like himself," and
sent the little fellow in quest of the young esquire.
The tent was nearly dark, and Richard could only see the outline of
the tall form laid prostrate, but the voice he had feared never to
hear again, spoke, though slowly and wearily, and a hand was held
out. "Welcome, cousin," he said. "Poor boy, they must needs have at
thee ere the breath was out of my body; but for that, at least, they
shall wait, and longer if my word and will can avail after I am gone.
What has given them occasion against thee, Richard?"
"Alas! my Lord, you are too ill at ease to vex yourself with my
"Nay, but I must see thee righted, Richard; there are services for
thee to do to me. Hark thee! I have bequeathed thee thy mother's
lands at Odiham, which my father gave to me. So mayest thou do for
Henry whate'er he will brook," he added, with a languid smile,
holding Richard's hand in such a manner as to impress that though his
words came very tardily, he did not mean to be interrupted.
"Methinks Henry will not grudge a kindly thought and a few prayers
for his old comrade. And, Richard, strive to be near my poor boys;
strive that they be bred in strict self-rule, and let them hear of
the purposes thy father left to me: I think thou knowst them or
canst divine them better than any other near me. Thou SHALL be with
them if--if Heaven and the blessed Saints bear my sweet wife through
this trouble. She will love and trust thee."
Edward's voice broke down in a half-strangled sob between grief and
pain; he could not contemplate the thought of his wife, and weakness
had broken down much of his power over himself. He did not speak at
once, or invite an answer; and when he did, his words were an
exclamation of despairing weariness at the trumpet of a gnat that
hovered above him.
Richard presently understood that the thin goats' hair curtains which
even the crusaders had learnt to adopt from their Oriental neighbours
as protections against these enemies, being continually disarranged
to give the Prince drink or to put cool applications to his wound,
the winged foes were sure to enter, and with their exasperating hum
further destroy all chance of rest. The Prince had not slept since
he had been wounded, and was well-nigh distraught with wakefulness,
and with the continual suffering, which was only diminished at the
first moment that a cold lotion touched his arm. The Hospitaliers
had sent in some ice from Mount Hermon, but no one knew how to apply
it, and even Dame Idonea had despised it.
Fortunately, however, Richard had spent a few weeks on his first
arrival in the infirmary of the Knights of St. John, and before his
recovery had become familiar with their treatment of both ice and
mosquito curtains; and when Edmund of Lancaster came into the tent
cautiously in early dawn, he could hardly credit his eyes, for the
squire whom he believed to be in close custody was beside his
brother, holding the cold applications on the arm, and it was
impossible to utter inquiry or remonstrance, for the Prince was in
the profoundest, most tranquil slumber.
Nor did he awake till the camp was astir in the morning with the
activity that in this summer time could only be exerted before the
sun had come to his full strength. Then, when at length he opened
his eyes, he pronounced himself to be greatly refreshed; and the
physician at the same time found the state of the wound greatly
improved. A cheerful answer was returned by the patient to the
message of anxious inquiry sent from his Princess at Acre and then
looking up kindly at Richard, he said, "Boy, if my wife saved my life
once, I think thou hast saved it a second time."
"Brother!" here broke in the Earl of Lancaster, "I would not grieve
you, but for your own safety you ought to know of the grave suspicion
that has fallen on this youth."
"I know that you all have suspected him from the first, Edmund,"
returned the Prince coolly, "but I little expected that the first
hour of my sickness would be spent in slaking your hatred of him."
"You do not know the reasons, brother," said Edmund, confused; "nor
are you in a state to hear them."
"Wherefore not?" said Edward. "Thanks to him, I have my wits clear
and cool, and ere the day is older his cause shall be heard. Fetch
Gloucester, fetch the rest of the council, and let me hear your
witnesses against him! What! do you think I could rest or amend
while I know not whether I have a traitor or not beside me?"
There could be no doubt that Edward was fully himself after his
night's rest, determined and prompt as ever. No one durst withstand
him, and Edmund went to take measures for his being obeyed.
Meantime, the Prince grasped Richard by the wrist, and looking him
through with the keen blue eyes that seemed capable of piercing any
disguise, he said, "Boy, hast thou aught that thou wouldst tell to
thy kinsman Edward in this strait, that thou couldst not say to the
Prince in council?"
"Sir," said Richard, with choking voice, "I was on my way to give
that very warning, when I found that the blow had fallen. My Lord,"
he added, lowering his tone, as he knelt by the Prince's couch,
"Simon lives; I met him on Mount Carmel."
"I thought so," muttered the Prince. "And this is his work?"
Richard hurriedly told the circumstances of the encounter, a matter
on which he had the less scruple as Simon was entirely out of reach.
He had hardly completed his narration when Prince Edmund returned,
and with him came others of the council. Edmund was followed by his
squire, Hamlyn; and some of the archers were left without. Richard
had told his tale, but had had no assurance of how the Prince would
act upon it, nor how far the brand of shame might be made to rest on
him and his unhappy house. He had avowed his brother's guilt to the
Prince; alas! must it again be blazoned through the camp?
The greetings and inquiries of the new arrivals were hastily got over
by the Prince, who lay--holding truly a bed of justice--partly raised
by his cushions, with bloodless cheeks indeed, but with flashing
eyes, and lips set to all their wonted resoluteness.
"Let me hear, my Lords," he said, "wherefore--so soon as I was
disabled--you thought it meet to put mine own body squire and kinsman
"Sir," said the Provost Marshal, "these knaves of mine have let an
accomplice escape who peradventure might have been made to tell
"An accomplice? Of whom?" demanded the Prince.
"Of the--the assassin, my Lord, on whom your own strong hand
inflicted chastisement. This Dustifoot, who was the yeoman on guard
by your tent, and introduced him to your presence, was seized by the
villains at night, endeavouring to hold converse with this gentleman,
and was by them taken into custody, whence, I grieve to say, he hath
"Give his guard due punishment!" said Edward shortly. "But how
concerns this the Lord Richard de Montfort's durance?"
"Sir," added the Earl of Gloucester, "is it known to you that the dog
of a murderer was yet no Moslem?"
"What of that?" sharply demanded Edward.
"There can scarcely be a doubt," continued the red-haired Earl, "that
an attempt on your life, my Lord, could only come from one quarter."
"Oh," dryly replied Edward, "good cause for you to be willing that
the Saracen captives should be massacred."
"Sir, I did not then know that the miscreant was not of their faith,"
said Gloucester. "I now believe that the same revenge that caused
the death of Lord Henry of Almayne has now nearly quenched the hope
of England, that if you will not be warned, my Lord, worse evil may
Gloucester spoke with much feeling, but Edward did not show himself
touched; he only said, "All this may be very well, but my question is
not answered--Why was my squire put in ward?"
"Speak, Hamlyn," said Edmund of Lancaster; "say to the Prince what
thou didst tell me."
Hamlyn stood forth, excusing himself for the painful task of accusing
his kinsman, but seeing the Prince's impatient frown, he came to the
point, and declared that Richard de Montfort, on meeting him speeding
to Acre, had eagerly asked him if aught had befallen the Prince, and
had looked startled and confused on being taxed with being aware of
what had taken place.
"Well!" said Edward.
Gloucester next beckoned a yeoman forward, who, much confused under
the Prince's keen eye, stammered out that he did not wish to harm the
young gentleman, but that he had seemed mighty anxious to spare the
Pagan hounds of prisoners, and had even been heard to say that their
revenge would better fall on himself.
"And is this all for which you had laid hands on him?" said the
Prince, looking from one to the other.
"Nay, brother," said Edmund. "It might have been unmarked by thee,
but in the first hour myself and others heard him speak of having
made speed to warn thee, but finding it too late. Therefore did we
conclude that it were well to have him in ward, lest, as in the
former unhappy matter, he should have been conversant with traitors,
and thus that we might obtain intelligence from him. Remember
likewise the fellow who was found in the tent."
"So!" said Edward, "an honourable youth hath been treated as a
traitor, because of another springald's opinion of his looks, and
because a few yeomen thought he seemed over-anxious to save a few
wretched captives, whom they knew to be guiltless. Will there ever
come a time when Englishmen will learn what IS witness?"
"His name and lineage, brother," began Edmund.
"That, gentles, is the witness upon which the wolf slew the lamb for
fouling the stream."
"Then you will not examine him?" asked Gloucester.
"Not as a suspected felon," said Edward. "One who by your own
evidence was heedless of himself in seeking to save the helpless--
nay, who spake of hasting to warn me--scarce merits such usage. What
consorts with his honour and my safety, I can trust to him to tell me
as true friend and liegeman!" and the confiding smile with which he
looked at Richard was like a sunbeam in a dark cloud.
"My Lord Prince," objected Gloucester, "we cannot think that this is
for your safety."
"See here, Gloucester," said Edward. "Till my arm can keep my head
again, double the guards, and search all envoys, under whatever
pretext they may enter; but never for the rest of thy life brand a
man with imprisonment till you have reasonable proof against him.
Thanks for your care of me, my Lords, but I can scarce yet brook long
converse. The council is dismissed."
Richard, infinitely relieved, could hardly wait till he could safely
speak to the Prince to express his gratitude and joy that he had been
not only defended, but freed from all examination, so as to have been
spared from denouncing his brother, and that the family had been
spared from this additional stigma. Edward, who like all reserved
men could not endure the expression of thanks, even while their utter
omission would have been wounding, cut him short.
"Tush, boy, Simon is as much my cousin as thy brother, and I would
not help to throw fresh stains on the name that, but for my father's
selfish counsellors, would stand highest at home! Besides," he
added, as one half ashamed of his generosity and willing to qualify
it, "supposing it got abroad that he had aimed this stroke at the
heir of England--why, then England's honour would be concerned, and
we should have stout Gilbert de Clare and all the rest of them wild
to storm Simon in his Galilean fastness, without King Herod's boxes,
I trow. Then would all the Druses, and the Maronites, and the
Saracens, and the half-breeds, the worst of the whole, come down on
them in some impassable gorge, and the troops I have taken such pains
to keep in health and training would leave their bones in those
doleful passes; and not for the sake of the Holy Sepulchre, but of my
private quarrel. No, no, Richard, we will keep our own counsel, and
do our best that Simon may not get another chance, before I can move
within the walls of Acre; and then we will spread our sails, and pray
that the Holy Land may make a holier man of him."
CHAPTER XII--THE GARDEN OF THE HOSPITAL
"And who is yon page lying cold at his knee?"--SCOTT.
Edward differed from Coeur de Lion in this, that he was one of the
most abstemious men in his army, and disciplined himself at least as
rigidly as he did other people. And it was probably on this account
that he did not fulfil Dame Idonea's predictions, but recovered
favourably, and by the end of a fortnight was able, in the first
coolness of early morning, to ride gently into the city of Acre,
where a few days previously the Princess Eleanor had given birth to a
daughter. She was christened Joan on the day of her father's
arrival, and afterwards became the special spoilt favourite of
Edward, whose sternness gave place to excessive fondness among his
children. Moreover, she in the end became the wife of that same red-
haired Earl Gilbert of Gloucester, who at this time stood holding his
wax taper, and looking at the small swaddled morsel of royalty with
all a bachelor's contempt for infancy, and little dreaming that he
beheld his future Countess.
Prince Edward had accepted the invitation of Sir Hugh de Revel, Grand
Master of the Order of St. John, to take up his quarters in the
Commandery of the brotherhood; and Richard was greatly relieved to
have him there, since no watch or ward in the open camp could be so
secure as this double fortress, protected in the first place by the
walls of the city, and in the second by those of the Hospital itself,
with its strict military and monastic discipline.
A wonderful place was that Hospital--infirmary, monastery, and
castle, all in one, and with a certain Eastern grace and beauty of
its own. The deep massive walls, heavy towers, and portcullised
gateway, were in the most elaborate and majestic style of defensive
architecture; and the main building rose to a great height, filled
with galleries of small, bare, rigid-looking cells, just large enough
for a knight, his pallet, and his armour. Below was a noble vaulted
hall, the walls hung with well-tried hawberks, and shields and
helmets which had stood many a dint; captured crescents and green
banners waved as trophies over crooked scymetars and Damascus blades
inlaid with sentences from the Koran in gold, and twisted cuirasses
rich with barbaric gold and gems; the blazoned arms of the noblest
families of France, Spain, England, Germany, and Italy, decked the
panels and brightened the windows; while the stone pulpit for the
reader showed that it was still a convent refectory.
The chapel was grave and massive, but at the same time gorgeous with
colouring suited to eyes accustomed to Oriental brightness of hue;
the chancel walls were inlaid with the porphyry, jasper, and marble,
of exquisite tints, that came from the mountains around; the shrines
were touched with gold, and the roofs and vaultings painted with
fretwork of unapproachable brilliance and purity of tints; yet all
harmonizing together, as only Eastern colouring can harmonize, and
giving a sense of rest and coolness.
Within those huge thick walls, whose windows, sunk deep into their
solid mass, only let in threads of jewelled light, under their solemn
circular richly carved brows, between those marble pillars; the elder
ones, round and solid, with Romanesque mighty strength; the new
graceful clusters of shining blood-red marble shafts, surrounding a
slender white one, all banded together with gold, under the vaults of
the stone roof, upon the mosaic floor--there was always a still
refreshing coolness, like the "shadow of a great rock in a weary
land." One transept had a window communicating with the upper room
of the Infirmary, so that the sick who there lay in their beds might
take part in the services in the chapel.
The outer court, with the great fortified gateway towards the street,
was a tilt-yard, where martial exercises took place as in any other
castle; but pass through the great hall to the inner court, of which
the chapel formed one side, and where could such cloisters have been
found in the West? Their heavy columns and deep-browed arches
clinging against the thick walls, afforded unfailing shelter from the
sun, and their coolness was increased by the marble of the pavement,
inlaid in rich intricate mosaics.
Extending around the interior of the external wall, they enclosed an
exquisite Eastern garden, perfumed with flowering shrubs, shady with
trees, and lovely with tall white lilies, hollyhocks, purple irises,
stars of Bethlehem, and many another Eastern flower, which would send
forth seeds or roots for the supply of the trim gardens of Western
convents. The soft bubbling of fountains gave a sense of delicious
freshness; doves flew hither and thither, and their soft murmuring
was heard in the branches; and at certain openings in their foliage
might be seen the azure of the Mediterranean, which little John of
Dunster persisted in calling too blue--why could it not be a sober
proper-coloured sea like his own Bristol Channel?
Richard was very happy here. There was something of the same charm
as in modern days is experienced in staying at a college. The
brethren were thorough monks in religious observance, but they were
also high-bred nobles, and had seen many wild adventures, and hard-
fought battles, and moreover, had entertained in turn almost every
variety of pilgrim who had visited the Holy Land; so that none could
have been found who had more of interest to tell, or more friendly
hospitable kindness towards their guests. Richard was a favourite
there, not only as a friend of Reginald Ferrers, but as acquainted
with the Grand Prior, Sir Robert Darcy, whose memory was still green
in Palestine. Tales of his feats of mighty strength still lingered
at Acre; how he had held together, by his single arm, the gates of a
house in the retreat from Damietta, against a whole troop of
Mamelukes, until every Christian had left it on the other side, and
then had slowly followed them, not a Moslem daring to attack him; how
he had borne off wounded knights on his back, and on sultry marches
would load himself with the armour of any one who was exhausted, and
never fail to declare it was exactly what he liked best! More than
once it had been intimated that Richard de Montfort would be gladly
accepted as a brother of the Order; and he often thought over the
offer, but not only was he unwilling to separate himself from the
Prince, but he felt it needful at any rate to return to England to
judge of the condition of his brother Henry, ere becoming one of an
Order where he could no longer dispose of himself.
He was resolved never to quit the Prince till he had seen him beyond
the reach of any machination of his brother's, nor indeed was it easy
to think of parting at all, for Edward, who had relaxed all coldness
of manner towards him ever since the affair at Trapani, had now
become warmly affectionate and confidential. The Prince was still
far from having regained his usual health, his arm was still in a
scarf, and was often painful, and the least exposure to the sun
brought on violent headache, which some attributed to the poison in
the scratch on his forehead, but the Hospitaliers, more reasonably,
ascribed to a slight sun-stroke. Their character of infirmarers
rendered them especially considerate hosts, and they never
overwhelmed their guest with the stiff formalities of courtesy for
his rank's sake, but allowed him to follow his inclination, and this
led him to spend great part of his time in a pavilion, a thoroughly
Eastern erection, which stood in the garden, at the top of the white
marble steps leading to a fountain of delicious sparkling water, and
sheltered from the sun by the dark solid horizontal branches of a
noble Cedar of Lebanon, which tradition connected with the visit of
the Empress Helena. Here, lying upon mats placed on the steps, the
convalescent Prince would rest for hours, sometimes holding converse
with the Grand Master, or counsel with his visitors from the camp;
but more often in the dreamy repose of recovery, silent or talking to
Richard of matters that lay deep within his heart; but which,
perhaps, nothing but this softening species of waking dream would
have drawn from him. He would dwell on those two hero models of his
boyhood, so diverse, yet so closely connected together by their
influence upon his character, Louis of France, and Simon of
Leicester; and of the impression both had left, that judgment, mercy,
faith, and the subject's welfare, were the primary duties of a
sovereign--an idea only now and then glimpsed by the feudal
sovereigns, who thought that the people lived for them rather than
they for the people. And when, as in England, the King's good-nature
had been abused by swarms of foreign-born relations, who had not even
his claims on the people, no wonder the yoke had been galling beyond
endurance. Of the end Edward could not bear to think--of the broken
friendships--the enmity of kindred--the faults on either side that
had embittered the strife, till he had been forced to become the
sword in the hands of the royal party to liberate his father--and
with consequences that had so far out-run his powers of controlling
them. To make England the land of law, peace, and order, that Simon
de Montfort would fain have seen it, was his present aspiration; and
then, he said, when all was purified at home, it might yet be
permitted to him to return and win back the Holy City, Jerusalem, to
the Christian world. In the meantime, as a memorial of this, his
earnest longing, he was causing, at great expense and labour, one of
the huge stones of the Temple to be transported over the hills, and
embarked on board a ship, to carry home with him. Richard, meantime,
learnt to know and love his Prince with a more devoted love, if that
were possible, and to grieve the more at the persistent hatred of his
brothers, who, utterly uncomprehending their father's high purposes
themselves, sought blindly to slake their vengeance for the ruin they
had themselves provoked, and upon one who mourned him far more truly
than they could ever do.
A few days had thus passed, when Richard was one day called by his
friend, Sir Raynald, into the Infirmary, to speak a few kind words to
a dying English pilgrim, who had come from his native country, and
confided to him his dearly-purchased palm and scallop shell, to be
conveyed to his aged mother.
As Richard was passing along the great lofty chamber, two rows of
beds were arranged; one of the patients rather hastily, as it seemed
to him, enveloped himself in his coverlet, leaving nothing visible
but a great black patch which seemed to cover the whole side of his
"That is a strange varlet," said Raynald, as they passed him; "it is
an old wound that the patch covers, not what has brought him here;
and what the nature of his ailment may be, not one of our infirmarers
can make out; his tongue is purple, and he hath such strange
shiverings and contortions in all his limbs, that they are at their
wits' end, and some hold that he must have undergone some sorcery in
his passage through the Infidel domains."
"He came from the East, then?" asked Richard.
"Yea, verily. We have many more sick among the returning than the
"And what is his nation?"
"Nay; all the scanty words he hath spoken have been in Lingua Franca,
and he hath been in such trances and trembling fits that it hath not
been easy to question him. Nor is it our custom to trouble a pilgrim
"How did he enter?" said Richard.
"Brother Antonio found him yester-eve cast down, gasping for breath,
by the gate of the Hospital, just able to entreat for the love of St.
John to be admitted. He had all the tokens of a pilgrim about him,
and seemed better at first, walked lustily to bath and bed, and did
not show himself helpless; but I much suspect his disease is the work
of the Arch Enemy, for he is always at his worst if one of our
Brethren in full orders comes near him. You saw how he cowered and
hid himself when I did but pass through the hall. I shall speak to
the Preceptor, and see if it were not best to try what exorcism will
There was something in all this that made Richard vaguely uneasy.
After the recent attack upon the Prince, he suspected all that he did
not fully understand; and though in the guarded precincts of the
Hospital he had once dismissed his anxiety, it returned upon him in
redoubled force. He thought of Nick Dustifoot, but that worthy was
of a uniform tint of whitey brown, skin, hair and all; and Richard
had assured himself that the strange patient had black hair and a
brown skin, but that was all that he could guess at. The exorcism
would, however, be an effectual means of disclosing the "myster
wight's" person, and it sometimes included measures so strong, that
few pretences could hold out against them. But it was too serious
and complicated a ceremony to be got up at short notice; and when
they met in the Refectory for supper, Raynald told Richard that the
Grand Master intended to make a personal inspection next day, before
deciding on using his spiritual weapons.
"And then!" cried John of Dunster, dancing round, "you will let me be
there! Pray, good Father, let me be there! Oh, I hope there will be
a rare smell of brimstone, and the foul fiend will come out with huge
claws, and a forked tail. I don't care to see him if he only comes
out like a black crow; I can see crows enough in the trees at
"Peace, John; this is no place for idle talk," said Richard gravely.
"Stand aside, here comes the Prince."
The Prince had spent a fatiguing day over the terms of the ten years,
ten months, ten weeks, ten days, ten hours, and ten minutes' truce
with the Emir of Joppa; he ate little, and after the meal, took
Richard's arm, and craved leave from the Grand Master to seek the
fresh air beneath the cedar tree. And when there, he could not
endure the return to the closeness of his own apartment, but declared
his intention of sleeping in the pavilion. He dismissed his
attendants, saying he needed no one but Richard, who, since his
illness, had always slept upon cushions at his feet.
Where was Richard?
He presently appeared, carrying on one arm a mantle, and over the
other shoulder the Prince's immense two-handled sword; while his own
sword was in his belt. Leonillo followed him.
"How now!" said Edward, "are we to have a joust? Dost look for
phantom Saracens out of yonder fountain, such as my Dona tells me
rise out of the fair wells in Castille, wring their hands and pray
"You said your hand should keep your head, my Lord," said Richard;
"this is but a lone place."
"What! amid all the guards of the good Fathers! Well, old comrade,"
as he took his sword in his right hand; "I am glad to handle thee
once more, and I hope soon to grasp thee as I am wont, with both
hands. Lay it down, Richard. There--thanks--that is well. I wonder
what my father would have thought if one of his many crusading vows
had led him hither. Should we ever have had him back again? How
well this dreamy leisure would have suited him! It would almost make
a troubadour of a rough warrior like me. See the towers and
pinnacles against the sky, and the lights within the windows--and the
stars above like lamps of gold, and the moonshine sparkling on the
bubbles of the water, ever floating off, yet ever in the same place.
Were the good old man here, how peacefully would he sing, and pray,
and dream, free from debts, parliament and barons. Ah! had his
kinsmen let him keep his vow, it had been happier for us all."
So mused the Prince, and with a weary smile resigned himself to rest.
But Richard was too full of vague uneasiness to sleep. He could not
dismiss from his mind the thought of the unknown pilgrim, and was
resolved to relax no point of vigilance until the full investigation
should have satisfied him that his fears were unfounded. He had been
accustomed to watching and broken rest during the Prince's illness,
and though he durst not pace up and down for fear of disturbing the
sleeper--nay, could hardly venture a movement--he strained his eyes
into the twilight, and told his beads fervently; but sleep hung on
him like a spell, and even while sitting upright there were strange
dreams before him, and one that he had had before, though with a
variation. It was the field of Evesham once more; but this time the
strange pilgrim rose in his dark wrappings before him, and suddenly
developed into that same shadowy form of his father, who again struck
him on the shoulder with his sword, and dubbed him again "The Knight
Hark! there was a growl from Leonillo; a footstep, a dark figure--the
pilgrim himself! Richard shouted aloud, grasped at his sword, and
flung himself forward.
"Montfort's vengeance!" The sound rang in his ears as a sharp pang
thrilled through his side; the hot blood welled up, and he was dashed
to the ground; but even in falling he heard the Prince's "What
treason is this?" and felt the rising of the mighty form. At the
same moment the murderer was in the grasp of that strong right hand,
and was dragged forward into the full light of the lamp that hung
from the roof of the pavilion.
"Thou!" he gasped. "Who--what?"
"Richard!" exclaimed the Prince, and relaxing his hold, "Simon de
Montfort, thou hast slain thy brother!"
The sudden shock and awe had overwhelmed Simon, who was indeed
weaponless, since his dagger remained in Richard's wound. He
silently assisted the Prince in lifting Richard to the cushions of
the couch, and the low groan convinced them that he lived: looked
anxiously for the wound. The dagger had gone deep between the ribs,
and little but the haft could be seen.
"Poisoned?" Edward asked, looking up at Simon.
"No. It failed once. He may live," said Simon, with bent brows and
"No, no. My death-blow!" gasped Richard, with sobbing breath. "Best
so, if--Oh, could I but speak!"
The Prince raised him, supporting his head on his own broad breast
and shoulder, and signed to Simon to hold to his lips the cup of
water that stood near. Richard slightly revived, and in this posture
breathed more easily.
"He might yet live. Call speedy aid!" said the Prince, who seemed to
have utterly forgotten that he was practically alone with his
persevering and desperate enemy.
"Wait! Oh, wait!" cried Richard, holding out his hand; "it would be
vain; but it will be all joy did I but know that there will be no
more of this. Simon, he loved my father--he has spared thee again
"Simon," said the Prince, "for this dear youth's sake and thy
father's, I raise no hand against thee. Bitter wrong has been done
to thy house, by what persons, and how provoked, it skills not now to
ask. Twice thy fury has fallen on the guiltless. Enough blood has
been shed. Let there be peace henceforth."
Simon stood moody, with folded arms, and Richard groaned, and essayed
"Peace, boy," tenderly said Edward; "and thou, Simon, hear me. I
loved thy father, and knew the upright noble spirit that arrayed him
against us. Heaven is my witness that I would have given my life to
have been able to save him on yon wretched battle-field. But he fell
in fair fight, in helm and corselet, like a good knight. Peace be
with him! Surely in this land of pardon and redemption his son and
nephew may cease to seek one another's blood for his sake! Cheer thy
brother by letting him feel his brave deed hath not been fruitless.
Free thou shalt go--do what thou wilt; no word of mine shall betray
that this deed is thine."
"Lay aside thy purpose," entreated Richard. "Bind him by oath, my
"Nay," said the Prince. "Here, on foreign soil, the strife lies
between the cousins, the sons of Henry and of Eleanor; and if Simon
must needs still slake his revenge in my blood, he may have better
success another time. Or, so soon as I can wear my armour again, I
offer him a fair combat in the lists, man to man; better so than
staining his soul with privy murder--but I had far rather that it
should be peace between us--and that thou shouldst see it." And
Edward, still supporting Richard on his breast, held out his right
hand to Simon, adding, "Let not thy brother's blood be shed in vain."
Richard made a gesture of agonized entreaty.
"My father--my father!" he said. "He forgave--he hated blood; Simon,
didst but know--"
"I see," said Simon impatiently, "that Heaven and earth alike are set
against my purpose. Fear not for his days, Richard, they are safe
from me, and here is my hand upon it."
The tone was sullen and grudging, and Richard looked scarcely
comforted; but the Prince was in haste that he should be succoured at
once, and even while receiving Simon's unwilling hand, said, "We lose
time. Speed near enough to the Spital to be heard, and shout for
aid. Then seek thine own safety. I will say no more of thy share in
Simon lingered one moment. "Boy," he said, "I told thee thou wast
over like him. Live, live if thou canst! Alas! I had thought to
make surer work this time; but thou dost pardon me the mischance?"
"More than pardon--thank thee--since he is safe," whispered Richard,
and as Simon bent over him the boy crossed his brow, and returned a
look of absolute joy.
Simon sped away; and the Prince, when left alone with Richard, put no
restraint upon the warmth of his feelings, and his tears fell fast
"Boy, boy," he said; "I little thought thou wast to bear what was
meant for me!" And then, with tenderness that would have seemed
foreign to his nature, he inquired into the pain that Richard was
suffering, tried to make his position more easy, and lamented that he
could not venture to draw out the weapon until the leeches should
"It has been my best hope," said Richard; "and now that it should
have been thus. With your goodness I have nothing--nothing to wish.
Sir Raynald will be here--I have only my charge for Henry to give
him--and poor Leonillo!"
"I will bear thy charges to Henry," said the Prince. "Nor shall he
think thou didst betray his secret. I will watch over him so far as
he will let me, and do all I may for his child. Yet it may be thou
wilt still return. I hear the stir in the House. They will be here
anon. Thou must live, Richard, my friend, where I have few friends.
I thought to have knighted thee, boy, when thou hadst won fame. Oh,
would that I had shown thee more of my love while it was time!"
"All, all I hoped or longed for I have," murmured Richard. "If you
see Henry, my Lord, bear him my greetings--and to poor Adam--yea, and
my mother. Oh! would that I could make them all know your kindness
and my joy--that it should be thus!"
By this time the whole Hospital was astir, and the knights and lay
brethren came flocking out in consternation and dread of finding
their royal host himself murdered within their cloisters.
Great was the confusion, and eager the search for the assassin, while
others crowded round the Prince, who still would not give up his post
of supporting the sufferer in his arms, while a few moments'
examination convinced the experienced infirmarers that the wound was
mortal, and that the extraction of the dagger would but hasten death,
which could not be other than very near. Indeed, Richard already
spoke with such difficulty that only the Prince's ear could detect
his entreaty that Raynald Ferrers might act as his priest. Raynald
was already near, only withheld by the crowd of knights of higher
degree who had thronged before him. Richard looked up to him with a
face that in all its mortal agony seemed to ask congratulation. The
power of making confession was gone, and when Raynald would have
offered to take him in his own arms, both he and the Prince showed
disinclination to the move. So thus they still remained, while the
young knightly priest spoke the words of Absolution, and then, across
the solemn darkness of the garden, amid the light of tapers, the Host
was borne from the Chapel, while the low subdued chant of the
brethren swelled up through the night air. Poor little John of
Dunster, with his arms round Leonillo's neck, to keep him from
disturbing his master, knelt, sobbing as though his heart would
break, but trying to stifle the sounds as the priest's voice came
grave and full on the silent air, responded to by the gathered tones
of the brethren: the fountain bubbled on, and the wakening birds
began to stir in the trees.
Once more Richard opened his eyes, looked up at his Prince, and
smiled. That smile remained while Edward kissed his brow with
fervour, laid him down on the cushions, and rising to his feet, bowed
his head to the Grand Master, but did not even strive to speak, and
gravely walked across the cloister, with a slow though steady step,
to his own chamber. No one saw him again till the sun was high,
when, with looks as composed as ever, he went forth to lay his page's
head in the grave, and thence visit and calm the fears of his
Search had everywhere been made for the assassin, but no traces of
him were found. Only the strange pilgrim had vanished in the
confusion; and the Prince never contradicted the Grand Master in his
indignation that a Moslem hound should have assumed such a disguise.
CHAPTER XIII--THE BEGGAR AND THE PRINCE
"This favour only, that thou would'st stand out of my sunshine."
It was the last week of August, 1274, the morrow of the most splendid
coronation that England had ever beheld, either for the personal
qualities and appearance of the sovereigns, or for the magnificence
of the adornments, and the bounteous feasting of multitudes.
A whole fortnight of entertainments to rich and poor had been
somewhat exhausting, even to the guests; and the suburbs of London
wore an unusually sleepy and quiescent appearance in the hot beams of
the August sun. Bethnal Green lay very silent, parched, and weary,
not even enlivened by its usual gabbling flocks of geese, all of
whom, poor things! except the patriarchal gander, and one or two of
his ladies, had gone to the festival--but to return no more!
One of those who had been in the midst of the pageant, and had
returned unscathed, was Blind Hal of Bethnal Green. Many a coin had
gone into his scrip--uncontested king of the beggars as he was; many
a savoury morsel had been conveyed to him and his child by his
admiring brethren of the wallet; with many a gibing scoff had he
driven from the field presuming mendicants, not of his own
fraternity; and with half-bitter, half-amused remarks, had he
listened to the rapturous descriptions of the splendours of king,
queen, and their noble suite. And pretty Bessee had clung fast to
his hand, and discreetly guided him through every maze of the crowd,
with the strange dexterity of a child bred up in throngs. And now
tired out with the long-continued festivities, the beggar sat in
front of his hut, basking in the sun, and more than half asleep;
while Bessee, her lap full of heather-blossoms and long bents of
grass, was endeavouring to weave herself chains, bracelets, and
coronals, in imitation of those which had recently dazzled her eyes.
She had just encircled her dark auburn locks with a garland of purple
heather, studded here and there with white or gold, when, starting
upon her little bare but delicately clean pink feet, she laid her
hand on her father's lap, and said, "Father, hark! I see two of the
good red monks coming!"
"Well, child; and wherefore waken me? They are after their own
affairs, I trow. Moreover, I hear no horses' feet."
"They are not riding," said Bessee; "and they are walking this way.
They have a dog, too! Oh, such a gallant glorious dog, father! Ah,"
cried she joyfully, "'tis the good Father Grand Prior!" and she was
about to start forward, but the blind man's ear could now distinguish
the foot-falls; and holding her fast, he almost gasped--"And the
other, child--who is he?"
"No knight at our Spital! A stranger, father. So tall, so tall!
His mantle hardly reaches his knee his robe leaves his ankles bare.
O father, they are coming. Let me go to meet dear good Father
Robert! But what--Oh, is the fit coming? Father Robert will stop
"Hush thy prattle," said the beggar, clutching her fast, and
listening as one all ear; and by this time the two knights were close
at hand, the taller holding the dog, straining in a leash, while the
good Grand Prior spoke. "How fares it with thee, friend? And thou,
my pretty one? No mishaps among the throng?"
"None," returned Hal; "though the King and his suite DID let loose
five hundred chargers in the crowd at their dismounting, to trample
down helpless folk, and be caught by rogues. Largesse they called
it! Fair and convenient largesse--easily providing for those that
"No harm was done," briefly but sharply exclaimed the strange knight;
and the blind man, who had, as little Bessee at least perceived, been
turning his acute ear in that direction all the time he had been
speaking, now let his features light up with sudden perception.
But Sir Robert Darcy, thinking that he only now became aware of the
stranger's presence, said, "A knight is here from the East, who
brings thee tidings, my son."
Sir Robert would have said more, but the beggar standing up, cut him
short, by saying, "So, cousin, you have yet to learn the vanity of
disguises and feignings towards a blind man."
"Nay, fair cousin," was the answer, "my feigning was not towards you;
but I doubted me whether you would have the world see me visit you in
my proper character. Will not you give me a hand, Henry?"
"First say to me," said Henry, embracing with his maimed arm his
staff, planted in front of him defiantly, and still holding tight his
little daughter in his hand, "what brings you here to break into the
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