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´╗┐Title: The Lord of Dynevor
Author: Everett-Green, Evelyn, 1856-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Lord of Dynevor" ***

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  THE LORD OF DYNEVOR:

A Tale of the Times of Edward the First

by Evelyn Everett-Green.



    CHAPTER I. DYNEVOR CASTLE.


"La-ha-hoo! la-ha-hoo!"

Far down the widening valley, and up the wild, picturesque ravine, rang
the strange but not unmusical call. It awoke the slumbering echoes of
the still place, and a hundred voices seemed to take up the cry, and
pass it on as from mouth to mouth. But the boy's quick ears were not to
be deceived by the mocking voices of the spirits of solitude, and
presently the call rang out again with greater clearness than before:

"La-ha-hoo!"

The boy stood with his head thrown back, his fair curls floating in the
mountain breeze, his blue eyes, clear and bright and keen as those of a
wild eaglet, fixed upon a craggy ridge on the opposite side of the
gorge, whilst his left hand was placed upon the collar of a huge
wolfhound who stood beside him, sniffing the wind and showing by every
tremulous movement his longing to be off and away, were it not for the
detaining hand of his young master.

The lad was very simply dressed in a tunic of soft, well-dressed
leather, upon the breast of which was stamped some device which might
have been the badge of his house. His active limbs were encased in the
same strong, yielding material, and the only thing about him which
seemed to indicate rank or birth was a belt with a richly-chased gold
clasp and a poniard with a jewelled hilt.

Perhaps the noble bearing of the boy was his best proof of right to the
noble name he bore. One of the last of the royal house of Dynevor, he
looked every inch a prince, as he stood bare-headed in the sunlight
amidst the everlasting hills of his well-loved home, too young to see
the clouds which were settling so darkly and so surely upon the bright
horizon of his life -- his dreams still of glory and triumph,
culminating in the complete emancipation of his well-loved country from
the hated English yoke.

The dog strained and whined against the detaining clasp upon his neck,
but the boy held him fast.

"Nay, Gelert, we are not going a-hunting," he said. "Hark! is not that
the sound of a horn? Are they not even now returning? Over yon fell they
come. Let me but hear their hail, and thou and I will be off to meet
them. I would they heard the news first from my lips. My mother bid me
warn them. I wot she fears what Llewelyn and Howel might say or do were
they to find English guests in our hall and they all unwarned."

Once more the boy raised his voice in the wild call which had awakened
the echoes before, and this time his practised ear distinguished amongst
the multitudinous replies an answering shout from human lips. Releasing
Gelert, who dashed forward with a bay of delight, the lad commenced
springing from rock to rock up the narrowing gorge, until he reached a
spot where the dwindling stream could be crossed by a bound; from which
spot a wild path, more like a goat track than one intended for the foot
of man, led upwards towards the higher portions of the wild fell.

The boy sped onwards with the fleetness and agility of a born
mountaineer. The hound bounded at his side; and before either had
traversed the path far, voices ahead of them became distinctly audible,
and a little group might be seen approaching, laden with the spoils of
the chase.

In the van of the little party were three lads, one of whom bore so
striking a resemblance to the youth who now hastened to meet them, that
the relationship could not be for a moment doubted. As a matter of fact
the four were brothers; but they followed two distinct types -- Wendot
and Griffeth being fair and bright haired, whilst Llewelyn and Howel
(who were twins) were dark as night, with black hair and brows, swarthy
skins, and something of the wildness of aspect which often accompanies
such traits.

Wendot, the eldest of the four, a well-grown youth of fifteen, who was
walking slightly in advance of his brothers, greeted Griffeth's approach
with a bright smile.

"Ha, lad, thou shouldst have been with us! We have had rare sport today.
The good fellows behind can scarce carry the booty home. Thou must see
the noble stag that my bolt brought down. We will have his head to adorn
the hall -- his antlers are worth looking at, I warrant thee. But what
brings thee out so far from home? and why didst thou hail us as if we
were wanted?"

"You are wanted," answered Griffeth, speaking so that all the brothers
might hear his words. "The mother herself bid me go in search of you,
and it is well you come home laden with meat, for we shall need to make
merry tonight. There are guests come to the castle today. Wenwynwyn was
stringing his harp even as I came away, to let them hear his skill in
music. They are to be lodged for so long as they will stay; but the
manner of their errand I know not."

"Guests!" echoed all three brothers in a breath, and very eagerly; "why,
that is good hearing, for perchance we may now learn some news. Come
these strangers from the north? Perchance we shall hear somewhat of our
noble Prince Llewelyn, who is standing out so boldly for the rights of
our nation. Say they not that the English tyrant is on our borders now,
summoning him to pay the homage he repudiates with scorn? Oh, I would
that this were a message summoning all true Welshmen to take up arms in
his quarrel! Would not I fly to his standard, boy though I be! And would
I not shed the last drop of my blood in the glorious cause of liberty!"

Llewelyn was the speaker, and his black eyes were glowing fiercely under
their straight bushy brows. His face was the least boyish of any of the
four, and his supple, sinewy frame had much of the strength of manhood
in it. The free, open-air life that all these lads had lived, and the
training they had received in all martial and hardy exercises, had given
them strength and height beyond their years. It was no idle boast on the
part of Llewelyn to speak of his readiness to fight. He would have
marched against the foe with the stoutest of his father's men-at-arms,
and doubtless have acquitted himself as well as any; for what the lads
lacked in strength they made up in their marvellous quickness and agility.

The love of fighting seemed born in all these hardy sons of Wales, and
something of warfare was known to them even now, from the never-ending
struggles between themselves, and their resistance of the authority,
real or assumed, of the Lords of the Marches. But petty forays and
private feuds with hostile kinsmen was not the kind of fighting these
brothers longed to see and share. They had their own ideas and
aspirations, and eager glances were turned upon Griffeth, lest he might
be the bearer of some glorious piece of news that would mean open
warfare with England.

But the boy's face was unresponsive and even a little downcast. He gave
a quick glance into the fierce, glowing face of Llewelyn, and then his
eyes turned upon Wendot.

"There is no news like that," he said slowly. "The guests who have come
to Dynevor are English themselves."

"English!" echoed Llewelyn fiercely, and he turned away with a smothered
word which sounded like an imprecation upon all the race of foreigners;
whilst Howel asked with quick indignation:

"What right have English guests at Dynevor? Why were they received? Why
did not our good fellows fall upon them with the sword or drive them
back the way they came? Oh, if we had but been there --"

"Tush, brother!" said young Griffeth quickly; "is not our father lord of
Dynevor? Dost think that thou canst usurp his authority? And when did
ever bold Welshmen fall upon unarmed strangers to smite with the sword?
Do we make war upon harmless travellers -- women and children? Fie upon
thee! it were a base thought. Let not our parents hear thee speak such
words."

Howel looked a little discomfited by his younger brother's rebuke,
though he read nothing but sympathy and mute approbation in Llewelyn's
sullen face and gloomy eyes. He dropped a pace or so behind and joined
his twin, whilst Wendot and Griffeth led the way in front.

"Who are these folks?" asked Wendot; "and whence come they? And why have
they thus presented themselves unarmed at Dynevor? Is it an errand of
peace? And why speakest thou of women and children?"

"Why, brother, because the traveller has his little daughter with him,
and her woman is in their train of servants. I know not what has brought
them hither, but I gather they have lost their road, and lighted by
chance on Dynevor. Methinks they are on a visit to the Abbey of Strata
Florida; but at least they come as simple, unarmed strangers, and it is
the boast of Wales that even unarmed foes may travel through the breadth
and length of the land and meet no harm from its sons. For my part I
would have it always so. I would not wage war on all alike. Doubtless
there are those, even amongst the English, who are men of bravery and
honour."

"I doubt it not," answered Wendot, with a gravity rather beyond his
years. "If all our mother teaches us be true, we Welshmen have been
worse enemies to one another than ever the English have been. I would
not let Llewelyn or Howel hear me say so, and I would fain believe it
not. But when we see how this fair land has been torn and rent by the
struggles after land and power, and how our own kinsman, Meredith ap
Res, is toying with Edward, and striving to take from us the lands we
hold yet -- so greatly diminished from the old portion claimed by the
lords of Dynevor -- we cannot call the English our only or even our
greatest foes. Ah, if Wales would but throw aside all her petty feuds,
and join as brothers fighting shoulder to shoulder for her independence,
then might there be some hope! But now --"

Griffeth was looking with wide-open, wondering eyes into his brother's
face. He loved and reverenced Wendot in a fashion that was remarkable,
seeing that the elder brother was but two years and a half his senior.
But Wendot had always been grave and thoughtful beyond his years, and
had been taken much into the counsels of his parents, so that questions
which were almost new to the younger lad had been thought much of by the
eldest, the heir of the house of Dynevor.

"Why, brother, thou talkest like a veritable monk for learning," he
said. "I knew not thou hadst the gift of such eloquent speech. Methought
it was the duty of every free-born son of Wales to hate the English tyrant."

"Ay, and so I do when I think of his monstrous claims," cried Wendot
with flashing eyes. "Who is the King of England that he should lay claim
to our lands, our homage, our submission? My blood boils in my veins
when I think of things thus. And yet there are moments when it seems the
lesser ill to yield such homage to one whom the world praises as
statesman and soldier, than to see our land torn and distracted by petty
feuds, and split up into a hundred hostile factions. But let us not talk
further of this; it cuts me to the heart to think of it. Tell me more of
these same travellers. How did our parents receive them? And how long
purpose they to stay?"

"Nay, that I have not heard. I was away over yon fell with Gelert when I
saw the company approach the castle, and ere I could find entrance the
strangers had been received and welcomed. The father of the maiden is an
English earl, Lord Montacute they call him. He is tall and soldier-like,
with an air of command like unto our father's. The damsel is a
fair-faced maiden, who scarce opens her lips; but she keeps close to our
mother's side, and seems loath to leave her for a moment. I heard her
father say that she had no mother of her own. Her name, they say, is
Lady Gertrude."

"A damsel at Dynevor," said Wendot, with a smile; "methinks that will
please the mother well."

"Come and see," cried Griffeth eagerly. "Let us hasten down to the
castle together."

It was easy work for the brothers to traverse the rocky pathway.
Dangerous as the descent looked to others, they were as surefooted as
young chamois, and sprang from rock to rock with the utmost confidence.
The long summer sunlight came streaming up the valley in level rays of
shimmering gold, bathing the loftier crags in lambent fire, and filling
the lower lands with layers of soft shadow flecked here and there with
gold. A sudden turn in the narrow gorge, through which ran a brawling
tributary of the wider Towy, brought the brothers full in sight of their
ancestral home, and for a few seconds they paused breathless, gazing
with an unspeakable and ardent love upon the fair scene before them.

The castle of Dynevor (or Dinas Vawr = Great Palace) stood in a
commanding position upon a rocky plateau overlooking the river Towy.
From its size and splendour -- as splendour went in those days -- it had
long been a favourite residence with the princes of South Wales; and in
a recent readjustment of disputed lands, consequent upon the perpetual
petty strife that was ruining the land, Res Vychan, the present Lord of
Dynevor, had made some considerable sacrifice in order to keep in his
own hands the fair palace of his fathers.

The majestic pile stood out boldly from the mountain side, and was
approached by a winding road from the valley. A mere glance showed how
strong was the position it occupied, and how difficult such a place
would be to capture. On two sides the rock fell away almost sheer from
the castle walls, whilst on the other two a deep moat had been dug,
which was fed by small mountain rivulets that never ran dry; and the
entrance was commanded by a drawbridge, whose frowning portcullis was
kept by a grim warder looking fully equal to the office allotted to him.

Lovely views were commanded from the narrow windows of the castle, and
from the battlements and the terraced walk that ran along two sides of
the building. And rough and rude as were the manners and customs of the
period, and partially uncivilized as the country was in those far-off
days, there was a strong vein of poetry lying latent in its sons and
daughters, and an ardent love for the beautiful in nature and for the
country they called their own, which went far to redeem their natures
from mere savagery and brute ferocity.

This passionate love for their home was strong in all the brothers of
the house of Dynevor, and was deepened and intensified by the sense of
uncertainty now pervading the whole country with regard to foreign
aggression and the ever-increasing claims upon Welsh lands by the
English invaders. A sense as of coming doom hung over the fair
landscape, and Wendot's eyes grew dreamy as he stood gazing on the
familiar scene, and Griffeth had to touch his arm and hurry him down to
the castle.

"Mother will be wanting us," he said. "What is the matter, Wendot?
Methinks I see the tears in thine eyes."

"Nay, nay; tears are for women," answered Wendot with glowing cheeks, as
he dashed his hand across his eyes. "It is for us men to fight for our
rightful inheritance, that the women may not have to weep for their
desolated homes."

Griffeth gave him a quick look, and then his eyes travelled lovingly
over the wide, fair scene, to the purple shadows and curling mists of
the valley, the dark mysterious woods in front, the clear, vivid
sunlight on the mountain tops, and the serried battlements of the
castle, now rising into larger proportions as the boys dropped down the
hillside towards the postern door, which led out upon the wild fell.
There was something of mute wistfulness in his own gaze as he did so.

"Brother," he said thoughtfully, "I think I know what those feelings are
which bring tears to the eyes of men -- tears of which they need feel no
shame. Fear not to share with me all thy inmost thoughts. Have we not
ever been brothers in all things?"

"Ay, truly have we; and I would keep nothing back, only I scarce know
how to frame my lips to give utterance to the thoughts which come
crowding into my brain. But see, we have no time for communing now. Go
on up the path to the postern; it is too narrow for company."

Indeed, so narrow was the track, so steep the uncertain steps worn in
the face of the rock, so deep the fall if one false step were made, that
few save the brothers and wilder mountaineers ever sought admission by
the postern door. But Wendot and Griffeth had no fears, and quickly
scaled the steps and reached the entrance, passing through which they
found themselves in a narrow vaulted passage, very dark, which led, with
many twists and turns, and several ascending stairs, to the great hall
of the castle, where the members of the household were accustomed for
the most part to assemble.

A door deeply set in an embrasure gave access to this place, and the
moment it was opened the sound of a harp became audible, and the
brothers paused in the deep shadow to observe what was going on in the
hall before they advanced further.

A scene that would be strange and picturesque to our eyes, but was in
the main familiar to theirs, greeted them as they stood thus. The castle
hall was a huge place, large enough to contain a muster of armed men. A
great stone staircase wound upwards from it to a gallery above. There
was little furniture to be seen, and that was of a rude kind, though not
lacking in a certain massiveness and richness in the matter of carving,
which gave something baronial to the air of the place. The walls were
adorned with trophies of all sorts, some composed of arms, others of the
spoil of fell and forest. The skins of many savage beasts lay upon the
cold stone flooring of the place, imparting warmth and harmony by the
rich tints of the furs. Light was admitted through a row of narrow
windows both above and below; but the vast place would have been dim and
dark at this hour had it not been that the huge double doors with their
rude massive bolts stood wide open to the summer air, and the last beams
of the westering sun came shining in, lying level and warm upon the
group at the upper end of the hall, which had gathered around the
white-haired, white-bearded bard, who, with head thrown backwards, and
eyes alight with strange passions and feelings, was singing in a deep
and musical voice to the sound of his instrument.

Old Wenwynwyn was a study in himself; his flowing hair, his fiery eyes,
his picturesque garb and free, untrammelled gestures giving him a weird
individuality of his own. But it was not upon him that the eyes of the
brothers dwelt, nor even upon the soldier-like figure of their stalwart
father leaning against the wall with folded arms, and eyes shining with
the patriotic fervour of his race. The attention of the lads was
enchained by another and more sumptuous figure --that of a fine-looking
man, approaching to middle life, who was seated at a little distance
from the minstrel, and was smiling with pleasure and appreciation at the
wild sweetness of the stream of melody poured forth.

One glance at the dress of the stranger would have been enough to tell
the brothers his nationality. His under tunic, which reached almost to
the feet, was of the finest cloth, and was embroidered along the lower
border with gold thread. The sur-tunic was also richly embroidered; and
the heavy mantle clasped upon the shoulder with a rare jewel was of some
rich texture almost unknown to the boys. The make and set of his
garments, and the jewelled and plumed cap which he held upon his knee,
alike proclaimed him to be English; yet as he gazed upon the noble face,
and looked into the clear depths of the calm and fearless eyes, Wendot
felt no hostility towards the representative of the hostile race, but
rather a sort of reluctant admiration.

"In faith he looks born to command," he whispered to Griffeth. "If all
were like unto him --"

But the lad did not complete the sentence, for he had suddenly caught
sight of another figure, another face, and he stopped short in a sort of
bewildered amaze.

In Dynevor Castle there had never been a girl child to share the honours
with her brothers. No sister had played in its halls, or tyrannized over
the lads or their parents. And now when Wendot's glance fell for the
first time upon this little fairy-like creature, this lovely little
golden-haired, blue-eyed maiden, he felt a new sensation enter his life,
and gazed as wonderingly at the apparition as if the child had been a ghost.

And the soft shy eyes, with their fringe of dark lashes, were looking
straight at him. As he gazed the child suddenly rose, and darted towards
the brothers as if she had wings on her feet.

"Oh, you have come back!" she said, looking from one to the other, and
for a moment seeming puzzled by the likeness; "and -- why, there are two
of you," and the child broke into the merriest and silveriest of laughs.
"Oh, I am so glad! I do like boys so much, and I never have any to play
with at home. I am so tired of this old man and his harp. Please let me
go somewhere with you," and she thrust her soft little hand confidingly
into Wendot's, looking up saucily into his face as she added, "You are
the biggest; I like you the best."

Wendot's face glowed; but on the whole he was flattered by the attention
and the preference of the little maiden. He understood her soft English
speech perfectly, for all the Dynevor brothers had been instructed in
the English tongue by an English monk who had long lived at the castle.
Res Vychan, the present Lord of Dynevor, foresaw, and had foreseen many
years, the gradual usurpation of the English, and had considered that a
knowledge of that tongue would in all probability be an advantage to
those who were likely to be involved in the coming struggle. The boys
all possessed the quick musical ear of their race, and found no
difficulty in mastering the language; but neither Llewelyn nor Howel
would ever speak a single word of the hated tongue if they could help
it, though Wendot and Griffeth conversed often with the old monk right
willingly.

So as Wendot looked down into the bright little upturned face, he was
able to reply readily and smilingly:

"Where would you like to go, little lady, and what would you like me to
show you?"

"Oh, everything -- all out there," said the little girl, with a wave of
her hand towards the front door. "I want to go and see the sun. I am
tired of it in here."

Wendot led the child through the hall, and out upon the great terrace
which overlooked the steep descent to the valley and away to the glowing
west. Griffeth followed, glad that his elder brother had been preferred
before himself by the little maiden, yet half fascinated by her nameless
charm. Wendot lifted her up in his strong arms to see over the wide
stone balustrade, and she made him set her down there and perch himself
by her side; for she seemed loath to go back to the hall again, and the
boys were as willing as she to remain out in the open air.

"It is pretty here," said the child graciously; "I think I should like
to live here sometimes, if it was always summer. Tell me your name, big
boy. I hope it is not very hard. Some people here have names I cannot
speak right."

"They call me Res Wendot," answered the lad; "generally Wendot at home
here. This is Griffeth, my youngest brother. Those are not hard names,
are they?"

"No, not very. And how old are you, Wendot?"

"I am fifteen."

"Oh, how big you are!" said the little lady, opening her eyes wide; "I
thought you must be much older than that. I am twelve, and you can lift
me up in your arms. But then I always was so little -- they all say so."

"Yet you travel about with your father," said Wendot.

"I never did before; but this time I begged, and he took me. Sometimes
he says he shall have to put me in a nunnery, because he has nobody to
take care of me when he has to travel about. But I don't think I should
like that; I would rather stay here."

Wendot and Griffeth laughed; but the child was not at all disconcerted.
She was remarkably self possessed for her years, even if she was small
of stature and infantile in appearance.

"What is your name?" asked Wendot; and the little maid answered, with
becoming gravity and importance:

"I am called Lady Gertrude Cherleton; but you may call me Gertrude if
you like, because you are kind and I like you. Are there any more of
you? Have you any sisters?"

"No; only two brothers."

"More brothers! and what are their names?"

"Llewelyn and Howel."

"Llewelyn? Why, that is the name of the Prince of North Wales that the
king is going to fight against and conquer. Do you think when he has
done so that he will come here and conquer you, too?"

Wendot's cheek burned a sudden red; but he made no reply, for at that
moment a head suddenly appeared round an angle of the wall, and a heavy
grip was laid upon the shoulder of the child. A wild face and a pair of
flashing black eyes were brought into close proximity with hers, and a
smothered voice spoke in fierce, low accents.



    CHAPTER II. THE BROTHERS


"What is that you dare to say?"

The voice was harsh, the words were spoken with a rough accent, unlike
the gentler tones of Wendot and Griffeth. The child uttered a little cry
and shrank back away from the grip of the strong hand, and might have
been in some danger of losing her balance and of falling over the
balustrade, had not Wendot thrown a protecting arm round her, whilst
pushing back with the other hand that of the rude interloper.

"Llewelyn! for shame!" he said in his own tongue. "Art thou a man, and
claimest the blood of princes, and yet canst stoop to frighten an
inoffensive child?"

"She spoke of conquest -- the conquest of our country," cried Llewelyn
fiercely, in the hated English tongue, scowling darkly at the little
girl as he spoke. "Thinkest thou that I will stand patiently by and hear
such words? What right hath she or any one besides to speak of that
tyrant and usurper in such tones?"

"He is not a tyrant, he is not a usurper!" cried the little Lady
Gertrude, recovering herself quickly, and, whilst still holding Wendot
by the hand, turning fearlessly upon the dark-faced lad who had startled
and terrified her at the first. "I know of whom you are speaking -- it
is of our great and noble King Edward. You do not know him -- you cannot
know how great and good he is. I will not hear you speak against him. I
love him next best to my own father. He is kind and good to everybody.
If you would all give your homage to him you would be happy and safe,
and he would protect you, and --"

But Llewelyn's patience was exhausted; he would listen no more. With a
fierce gesture of hatred that made the child shrink back again he turned
upon her, and it seemed for a moment almost as though he would have
struck her, despite Wendot's sturdy protecting arm, had not his own
shoulder been suddenly grasped by an iron hand, and he himself
confronted by the stern countenance of his father.

"What means this, boy?" asked Res Vychan severely. "Art thou daring to
raise thine arm against a child, a lady, and thy father's guest? For
shame! I blush for thee. Ask pardon instantly of the lady and of her
father. I will have no such dealings in mine house. Thou shouldst be
well assured of that."

The black-browed boy was crimson with rage and shame, but there was no
yielding in the haughty face. He confronted his father with flashing
eyes, and as he did so he met the keen, grave glance of the stranger's
fixed upon him with a calm scrutiny which aroused his fiercest rage.

"I will not ask pardon," he shouted. "I will not degrade my tongue by
uttering such words. I will not --"

The father's hand descended heavily upon his son's head, in a blow which
would have stunned a lad less hardy and hard-headed. Res Vychan was not
one to be defied with impunity by his own sons, and he had had hard
encounters of will before now with Llewelyn.

"Choose, boy," he said with brief sternness. "Either do my will and obey
me, or thou wilt remain a close prisoner till thou hast come to thy
senses. My guests shall not be insulted by thy forward tongue. Barbarous
and wild as the English love to call us, they shall find that Res Vychan
is not ignorant of those laws which govern the world in which they live
and move. Ask pardon of the lady, or to the dungeon thou goest."

Llewelyn glanced up into his father's face, and saw no yielding there.
Howel was making vehement signs to him which he and he alone could
interpret. His other brothers were eagerly gazing at him, and Griffeth
even went so for as to murmur into his ear some words of entreaty.

It seemed as though the silence which followed Res Vychan's words would
never be broken, but at last the culprit spoke, and spoke in a low,
sullen tone.

"I meant no harm. I would not have hurt her."

"Ask her pardon then, boy, and tell her so."

"Nay, force him no more," said the little lady, who was regarding this
curious scene with lively interest, and who began to feel sorry for the
dark wild boy who had frightened her by his vehemence before; "I was to
blame myself. I should not have spoken as I did.

"Father, tell them how my tongue is always running away with me. Hast
not thou told me a hundred times that it would get me into trouble one
of these days? It is right that he should love his country. Do not think
ill of him for that."

"Ay, let the lad go now, good friend," quoth Lord Montacute. "No doubt
this little witch of mine was at the bottom of the mischief. Her tongue,
as she truly says, is a restless and mischievous possession. She has
found a stanch protector at least, and will come to no harm amongst thy
stalwart lads. I could envy thee such a double brace of boys. I would it
had pleased Providence to send me a son."

"Nay, father, say not so," cried little Lady Gertrude coaxingly. "I
would not have a brother for all the world. Thou wouldst love him so
well, if thou hadst him, that thou wouldst have none to spare for thy
maid. I have seen how it ever is. I love to have all thy heart for mine
own."

The father smiled, but Res Vychan's face was still severe, and he had
not loosed his clasp upon Llewelyn's arm.

"Say that thou art sorry ere I let thee go," he said, in low but very
stern tones; and after a moment's hesitation, Llewelyn spoke in audible
tones.

"I am sorry," he said slowly; "I am sorry."

And then as his father's clasp upon his arm relaxed he darted away like
an arrow from the bow, and plunged with Howel through a dark and gloomy
doorway which led up a winding turret stair to a narrow circular
chamber, which the brothers shared together.

"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" he panted fiercely; "ay, that indeed I am. Sorry
that I did not wring her neck as the fowler wrings the neck of the bird
his shaft hath brought down; sorry I did not cast her headlong down the
steep precipice, that there might be one less of the hated race
contaminating the air of our pure Wales with their poisonous breath.
Sorry! ay, that I am! I would my hand had done a deed which should have
set proud Edward's forces in battle array against us. I would that this
tampering with traitors were at an end, and that we warriors of South
Wales might stand shoulder to shoulder, firmly banded against the
foreign foe. I would plunge a dagger in the false heart of yon proud
Englishman as he lies sleeping in his bed tonight, if by doing so I
could set light to the smouldering flame of national hatred.

"What sayest thou? Can we do nought to bring upon us an open war, which
is a thousand times better than this treacherous, hollow peace? Our
father and mother are half won over to the cause of slavery. They --"

Llewelyn paused, choking back the fierce tide of passion which went far
to unman him. He had not forgotten the humiliation placed upon him so
recently, when his father had compelled him to sue for pardon to an
English maiden. His heart was burning, his soul was stirred to its
depths. He had to stop short lest his passion should carry him away.

Howel seemed to understand him without the medium of words. The links
which bound the twin brothers together were very subtle and very strong.
If Llewelyn were the more violent and headstrong, Howel was more than
his equal in diplomacy. He shared every feeling of his brother's heart,
but he was less outspoken and less rash.

"I know what thou wouldst do," he said thoughtfully: "thou wouldst force
upon our father a step which shall make a rupture with the English
inevitable. Thou wouldst do a thing which should bring upon us the wrath
of the mighty Edward, and force both ourselves and our neighbours to
take arms against him. Is not that so?"

"Ay, truly; and could such a thing be, gladly would I lay down my life
in the cause of liberty and freedom."

Howel was pondering deeply.

"Perchance it might be done," he said.

Llewelyn eagerly raised his head.

"Thinkest thou so? How?"

"I know not yet, but we shall have time for thought. Knowest thou that
the maid will remain here beneath our mother's charge for a while,
whilst our father goes forward as far as the Abbey of Strata Florida
with yon stranger, to guide him on his way? The maid will remain here
until her father's return."

"How knowest thou that?"

"I had it from Wenwynwyn's lips. He heard the discussion in the hall,
and it seems that this Lord Montacute would be glad to be free of the
care of the child for a while. Our mother delights in the charge of a
little maid, and thus it will be as I have said."

A strange fire gleamed in Llewelyn's eyes. The brothers looked at each
other a good while in silence.

"And thou thinkest --" said Llewelyn at last.

Howel was some time in replying, and his answer was a little
indeterminate, although sufficiently significant.

"Why, the maid will be left here; but when her father returns to claim
her, perchance she will not be found. If that were so, thinkest thou not
that nought but open war would lie before us?"

Llewelyn's eyes glowed. He said not a word, and the darkness gathered
round the boys in the narrow chamber. They thought not of descending or
of asking for food, even after their day's hunting in the hills. They
were hardy, and seasoned to abstemious ways, and had no room for
thoughts of such a kind. Silence was settling down upon the castle, and
they had no intention of leaving their room again that night. Dark
thoughts were their companions as they undressed and made ready for bed;
and hardly were they settled there before the door opened, and the old
bard Wenwynwyn entered.

This old man was almost like a father to these boys, and Llewelyn and
Howel were particularly attached to him and he to them. He shared to the
full their ardent love for their country and their untempered hatred of
the English race. He saw, as they did, nothing but ill in the
temporizing attitude now to be found amongst the smaller Welsh
chieftains with regard to the claims made by the English monarch; and
much of the fierce hostility to be found in the boys had been the result
of the lessons instilled into their mind by the wild-eyed, passionate
old bard, one of the last of a doomed race.

"Wenwynwyn, is it thou?"

"Ay, boys, it is I. You did well to abstain from sitting at meat with
the stranger tonight. The meat went nigh to choke me that was swallowed
in his presence."

"How long stays he, contaminating our pure air?"

"He himself is off by sunrise tomorrow, and Res Vychan goes with him. He
leaves behind the little maid in the care of thy mother."

A strange smile crossed the face of the old man, invisible in the darkness.

"Strange for the parent bird to leave the dove in the nest of the hawk
-- the eyry of the eagle."

"Ha!" quoth Llewelyn quickly, "that thought hath likewise come to thee,
good Wenwynwyn."

The old man made no direct response, but went on speaking in low even tones.

"The maid has dwelt in the household of the great king. She has played
with his children, been the companion of the young princesses. She is
beloved of them and of the monarch and his wife. Let them but hear that
she is lost in the fastness of Dynevor, and the royal Edward will march
in person to her rescue. All the country will rise in arms to defend
itself. The north will join with the south, and Wales will shake off the
hated foreign yoke banded as one man against the foreign foe."

The boys listened spellbound. They had often talked together of some
step which might kindle the conflagration, but had never yet seen the
occasion. Hot-headed, rash, reckless as were the youths; wild, tameless,
and fearless as was the ancient bard; they had still been unable to hit
upon any device which might set a light to the train. Discontent and
resentment were rife all over the country, but it was the fashion rather
to temporize with the invader than to defy him. There was a strong party
gathering in the country whose policy was that of paying homage to
Edward and retaining their lands under his protection and countenance,
as being more truly patriotic and farsighted than continuing the old
struggle for supremacy among themselves. This was a policy utterly
incomprehensible both to the boys and the old man, and stirred the blood
of the lads to boiling pitch.

"What can we do?" asked Llewelyn hoarsely.

"I will tell you," whispered the old man, approaching close to the bed
whereon the brothers lay wide-eyed and broad awake. "This very night I
leave the castle by the postern door, and in the moonlight I make my way
to the commot of Llanymddyvri, where dwells that bold patriot Maelgon ap
Caradoc. To him I tell all, and he will risk everything in the cause. It
will be very simply done. You boys must feign a while -- must feign
friendship for the maid thus left behind. Your brothers have won her
heart already; you must not be behind them. The dove must have no fear
of the young eaglets. She has a high courage of her own; she loves
adventure and frolic; she will long to stretch her wings, and wander
amid the mountain heights, under the stanch protection of her comrades
of Dynevor.

"Then listen, boys. The day will come when the thing is to be done. In
some of the wild fastnesses of the upper Towy will be lurking the bold
bands of Maelgon ap Caradoc. Thither you must lead the unsuspicious
maid, first by some device getting rid of your brothers, who might try
to thwart the scheme. These bold fellows will carry off the maid to the
safe keeping of Maelgon, and once let her be his prisoner, there is no
fear of her escaping from his hands. Edward himself and all his forces
at his back will scarce wrest away the prize, and the whole country will
be united and in arms ere it suffer the tyrant to march through our fair
vales."

Whilst within this upper turret chamber this plot was being concocted
against the innocent child by two passionate, hot-headed boys and one of
the ancient race of bards, the little maiden was herself sleeping
soundly and peacefully within a small inner closet, close to the room
where Gladys, the lady of the castle, reposed; and with the earliest
streak of dawn, when the child opened her eyes upon the strange bare
walls of the Welsh stronghold, the first thing that met her eyes was the
sweet and gentle face of the chatelaine bending tenderly over her.

Although the present lady of Dynevor was the sister of the bold and
fierce Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, who gave more trouble to the
King of England than did anybody else, she was herself of a gentle and
thoughtful disposition, more inclined to advocate peace than war, and
more far-seeing, temperate, and well-informed than most persons of her
time, and especially than the women, who for the most part had but very
vague ideas as to what was going on in the country.

She had had many thoughts herself during the still hours of this summer
night, and when she bent over the sleeping child and wakened her by a
kiss, she felt a strange tenderness towards her, which seemed to be
reciprocated by the little one, who suddenly flung her arms about her
neck and kissed her passionately.

"Is my father gone?" she asked, recollection coming back.

"Not gone, but going soon," answered the Lady of Dynevor, smiling; "that
is why I have come to waken thee early, little Gertrude, that thou
mayest receive his farewell kiss and see him ride away. Thou wilt not be
grieved to be left with us for a while, little one? Thou wilt not pine
in his absence?"

"Not if I have you to take care of me," answered the child confidingly
-- "you and Wendot and Griffeth. I am weary of always travelling on
rough roads. I will gladly stay here a while with you."

There was the bustle of preparation going on in the hall when the lady
descended with the child hanging on to her hand. Gertrude broke away and
ran to her father, who was sitting at the board, with Wendot standing
beside him listening eagerly to his talk. The boy's handsome face was
alight, and he seemed full of eager interest in what was being said.
Lord Montacute frequently raised his head and gave the lad a look of
keen scrutiny. Even whilst caressing his little daughter his interest
seemed to be centred in Wendot, and when at parting the lad held his
stirrup for him, and gently restrained little Gertrude, who was in
danger of being trampled on by the pawing charger, Lord Montacute looked
for a moment very intently at the pair, and then let his glance wander
for a moment over the grand fortress of Dynevor and the beautiful valley
it commanded.

Then he turned once more to Wendot with a kindly though penetrating smile.

"In the absence of your father, Wendot, you are the master and guardian
of this castle, its occupants and its treasures. I render my little
daughter into your safe keeping. Of your hands I shall ask her back when
I return in a week's time."

Wendot flushed with pleasure and gratification. What boy does not like
the thought of being looked upon as his father's substitute? He raised
his head with a gesture of pride, and clasped the little soft hand of
Gertrude more closely in his.

"I will take the trust, Lord Montacute," he said. "I will hold myself
responsible for the safety of Lady Gertrude. At my hands demand her when
you return. If she is not safe and well, take my life as the forfeit."

Lord Montacute smiled slightly at the manly words and bearing of the
lad, but he did not like him the less for either. As for little
Gertrude, she gazed up into the bold bright face of Wendot, and clasping
his hand in hers, she said:

"Am I to belong to you now? I think I shall like that, you are so brave
and so kind to me."

The father gave the pair another of his keen looks, and rode off in the
bright morning sunshine, promising not to be very long away.

"I shan't fret, now that I have you and the Lady of Dynevor," said the
child confidingly to Wendot. "I've often been left for a long time at
the palace with the ladies Eleanor and Joanna, and with Alphonso and
Britton, but I shall like this much better. There is no governess here,
and we can do as we like. I want to know everything you do, and go
everywhere with you."

Wendot promised to show the little lady everything she wanted, and led
her in to breakfast, which was a very important meal in those days. All
the four brothers were gathered at the board, and the child looked
rather shyly at the dark-browed twins, whom she hardly knew one from the
other, and whom she regarded with a certain amount of awe. But there was
nothing hostile in the manner of any of the party. Llewelyn was silent,
but when he did speak it was in very different tones from those of last
night; and Howel was almost brilliant in his sallies, and evoked many a
peal of laughter from the lighthearted little maiden. Partings with her
father were of too common occurrence to cause her much distress, and she
was too well used to strange places to feel lost in these new
surroundings, and she had her own nurse and attendant left with her.

Full of natural curiosity, the child was eager to see everything of
interest near her temporary home, and the brothers were her very devoted
servants, taking her everywhere she wished to go, helping her over every
difficult place, and teaching her to have such confidence in them, and
such trust in their guidance, that she soon ceased to feel fear however
wild was the ascent or descent, however lonely the region in which she
found herself.

Although Wendot continued her favourite, and Griffeth stood next, owing
to his likeness to his eldest brother, the twins soon won her favour
also. They were in some respects more interesting, as they were less
easily understood, wilder and stranger in their ways, and always full of
stories of adventure and warfare, which fascinated her imagination even
when she knew that they spoke of the strife between England and Wales.
She had a high spirit and a love of adventure, which association with
these stalwart boys rapidly developed.

One thing about Llewelyn and Howel gratified her childlike vanity, and
gave her considerable pleasure. They would praise her agility and
courage, and urge her on to make trial of her strength and nerve, when
the more careful Wendot would beg her to be careful and not risk herself
by too great recklessness. A few days spent in this pure, free air
seemed to infuse new life into her frame, and the colour in her cheeks
and the light in her eyes deepened day by day, to the motherly
satisfaction of the Lady of Dynevor and the pride of Wendot, who
regarded the child as his especial charge.

But in his father's absence many duties fell upon Wendot, and there came
a bright evening when he and Griffeth were occupied about the castle,
and only Llewelyn and Howel had leisure to wander with the little guest
to her favourite spot to see the red sun set.

Llewelyn was full of talk that evening, and spoke with a rude eloquence
and fire that always riveted the attention of the child. He told of the
wild, lonely beauty of a certain mountain peak which he pointed out up
the valley, of the weird charm of the road thither, and above all of the
eagle's nest which was to be found there, and the young eaglets being
now reared therein, which he and Howel meant to capture and keep as
their own, and which they purposed to visit the very next day to see if
they were fit yet to leave the nest.

Gertrude sat entranced as the boy talked, and when she heard of the
eagle's nest she gave a little cry of delight.

"O Llewelyn, take me with you. Let me see the eagle's nest and the
little eaglets."

But the boy shook his head doubtfully.

"You could not get as far. It is a long way, and a very rough walk."

The child shook back her curling hair defiantly.

"I could do it! I know I could. I could go half the way on my palfrey,
and walk the rest. You would help me. You know how well I can climb. Oh,
do take me -- do take me! I should so love to see an eagle's nest."

But still Llewelyn shook his head.

"Wendot would not let you go; he would say it was too dangerous."

Again came the little defiant toss.

"I am not Wendot's slave; I can do as I choose."

"If he finds out he will stop you."

"But we need not tell him, need we?"

"I thought you always told him everything."

The child stamped her little foot.

"I tell him things generally, but I can keep a secret. If he would stop
us from going, we will not tell him, nor Griffeth either. We will get up
very early and go by ourselves. We could do that, could we not, and come
back with the young eaglets in our hands? O let us go! let us do it
soon, and take me with you, kind Llewelyn! Indeed I shall not be in your
way. I will be very good. And you know you have taught me to climb so
well. I know I can go where you can go. You said so yourself once."

Llewelyn turned his head away to conceal a smile half of triumph, half
of contempt. A strange flash was in his eyes as he looked up the valley
towards the crag upon which he had told the child the eyry of the eagles
hung. She thought he was hesitating still, and laid a soft little hand
upon his arm.

"Please say that I may go."

He turned quickly and looked at her. For a moment she shrank back from
the strange glow in his eyes; but her spirit rose again, and she said
rather haughtily: "You need not be angry with me. If you don't wish me
to come I will stay at home with Wendot. I do not choose to ask favours
of anybody if they will not give them readily."

"I should like to take you if it would be safe," answered Llewelyn,
speaking as if ashamed of his petulance or reluctance.

"Howel, could she climb to the crag where we can look down upon the eyry
if we helped her up the worst places?"

"I think she could."

The child's face flushed; she clasped her hands together and listened
eagerly whilst the brothers discussed the plan which in the end was
agreed to -- a very early start secretly from the castle before the day
dawned, the chief point to be observed beforehand being absolute
secrecy, so that the projected expedition should not reach the ears
either of Wendot, his mother, or Griffeth. It was to be carried out
entirely by the twins themselves, with Gertrude as their companion.



    CHAPTER III. THE EAGLE'S CRAG.


"Where is the maid, mother?"

"Nay, I know not, my son. I thought she was with thee."

"I have not seen her anywhere. I have been busy with the men."

"Where are the other boys?"

"That I know not either. I have seen none since I rose this morning. I
have been busy."

"The maid had risen and dressed herself, and had slipped out betimes,"
said the Lady of Dynevor, as she took her place at the board. "Methought
she would be with thee. She is a veritable sprite for flitting hither
and thither after thee. Doubtless she is with some of the others. Who
knows where the boys have gone this morning? They are not wont to be
absent at the breakfast hour."

This last question was addressed to the servants who were at the lower
end of the board, and one of them spoke up in reply. By what he said it
appeared that Griffeth had started off early to fly a new falcon of his,
and it seemed probable that his brothers and little Lady Gertrude had
accompanied him; for whilst he had been discussing with the falconer the
best place for making the proposed trial, Llewelyn had been to the
stables and had saddled and led out the palfrey upon which their little
guest habitually rode, and there seemed no reason to doubt that all the
party had gone somewhere up upon the highlands to watch the maiden essay
of the bird.

"She would be sure to long to see the trial," said Wendot, attacking the
viands before him with a hearty appetite. "She always loves to go with
us when there is anything to see or hear. I marvel that she spoke not of
it to me, but perchance it slipped her memory."

The early risers were late at the meal, but no one was anxious about
them. When anything so engrossing as the flying of a young falcon was in
the wind, it was natural that so sublunary a matter as breakfast should
be forgotten. The servants had finished their meal, and had left the
table before there was any sign of the return of the wanderers, and then
it was only Griffeth who came bounding in, his face flushed and his eyes
shining as he caressed the hooded bird upon his wrist.

"He is a beauty, Wendot. I would thou hadst been there to see. I took
him up to --"

"Ay, tell us all that when thou hast had something to eat," said Wendot.
"And where is Gertrude? she must be well-nigh famished by this time."

"Gertrude? Nay, I know not. I have not seen her. I would not have
wearied her with such a tramp through the heavy dews."

"But she had her palfrey; Llewelyn led it away ere it was well light.
Were you not all together?"

"Nay, I was all alone. Llewelyn and Howel were off and away before I was
ready; for when I sought them to ask if they would come, they were
nowhere to be found. As for the maid, I never thought of her. Where can
they have taken her so early?"

A sudden look of anxiety crossed Wendot's face; but he repressed any
exclamation of dismay, and glanced at his mother to see if by any chance
she shared his feeling. But her face was calm and placid, and she said
composedly:

"If she is with Llewelyn and Howel she will be safe. They have taken her
on some expedition in secret, but none will harm her with two such stout
protectors as they."

And then the lady moved away to commence her round of household duties,
which in those days was no sinecure; whilst Wendot stood in the midst of
the great hall with a strange shadow upon his face. Griffeth, who was
eagerly discussing his breakfast, looked wonderingly at him.

"Brother, what ails thee?" he said at length; "thou seemest ill at ease."

"I am ill at ease," answered Wendot, and with a quick glance round him
to assure himself that there was no one by to hear, he approached
Griffeth with hasty steps and sat down beside him, speaking in a low,
rapid way and in English, "Griffeth, tell me, didst thou hear aught last
night ere thou fell asleep?"

"Ay, I heard Wenwynwyn singing to his harp in his own chamber, but
nought beside."

"I heard that too," said Wendot, "and for his singing I could not sleep;
so when it ceased not, I rose and stole to his room to ask him to
forbear, yet so wild and strange was the song he sang that at the door I
paused to listen; and what thinkest thou was the burden that he sang?"

"Nay, I know not; tell me."

"He sang a strange song that I have never heard before, of how a dove
was borne from safe shelter -- a young dove in the absence of the father
bird; not the mother bird, but the father -- and carried away to the
eagle's nest by two fierce young eaglets untamed and untamable, there to
be left till the kites come down to carry off the prize.

"Ha! thou startest and changest colour! What is it thou fearest? Where
are Llewelyn and Howell and what have they done with the maid? What
kuowest thou, Griffeth?"

"I know nought," answered Griffeth, "save that Wenwynwyn has been up to
the commot of Llanymddyvri, and thou knowest what all they of that place
feel towards the English. Then Llewelyn and Howel have been talking of
late of the eagle's nest on the crag halfway thither, and if they had
named it to Gertrude she would have been wild to go and see it. We know
when Wenwynwyn sings his songs how he ever calls Maelgon ap Caradoc the
kite, and the lords of Dynevor the eagles. But, Wendot, it could not be
-- a child -- a maid -- and our father's guest. I cannot believe it of
our own brothers."

"I know not what to think, but my heart misgives me. Thou knowest what
Llewelyn ever was, and Howel is but his shadow. I have mistrusted this
strange friendship before now, remembering what chanced that first day,
and that Llewelyn never forgives or forgets; but I would not have
dreamed of such a thing as this. Yet, Griffeth, if the thing is so,
there is no time to lose. I am off for the crag this very minute. Thou
must quietly collect and arm a few of our stanchest men, together with
the English servants left here with their young mistress. Let all be
done secretly and quietly, and come after me with all speed. It may be
that we are on a fool's errand, and that our fears are groundless. But
truly it may be that our brothers are about to betray our guest into the
hands of one of England's most bitter foes.

"Oh, methinks were her father to return, and I had her not safe to
deliver back to him, I would not for very shame live to see the day when
I must avow to him what had befallen his child at the hands of my brethren!"

Griffeth was fully alive to the possible peril menacing the child, and
eagerly took his orders from his elder brother. It would not be
difficult to summon some dozen of the armed men on the place to
accompany him quietly and secretly. They would follow upon Wendot's
fleet steps with as little delay as might be, and would at least track
the fugitive and her guides, whether they succeeded in effecting a
rescue that day or not.

Wendot waited for nothing but to give a few directions to his brother.
Scarce ten minutes had elapsed from the moment when the first
illumination of mind had come to him respecting some plot against the
life of an innocent child, before he had armed himself, and unleashed
two of the fleetest, strongest, fiercest of the hounds, and was speeding
up across the moor and fell towards the lonely crag of the eagle's nest,
which lay halfway between the castle of Dynevor and the abode of Maelgon
ap Caradoc.

There was one advantage Wendot possessed over his brothers, and that was
that he could take the wild-deer tracks which led straight onward and
upward, whilst they with their charge would have to keep to the winding
mule track, which trebled the distance. The maiden's palfrey was none
too clever or surefooted upon these rough hillsides, and their progress
would be but slow.

Wendot moved as if he had wings to his feet, and although the hot summer
sun began to beat down upon his head, and his breath came in deep,
laboured gasps, he felt neither heat nor fatigue, but pressed as eagerly
onwards and upwards as the strong, fleet hounds at his side.

He knew he was on the right track; for ever and anon his path would
cross that which had been trodden by the feet of the boys and the horse
earlier in the day, and his own quick eyes and the deep baying of the
hounds told him at once whenever this was the case. Upwards and onwards,
onwards and upwards, sprang the brave lad with the untiring energy of a
strong and righteous purpose. He might be going to danger, he might be
going to his death; for if he came into open collision with the wild and
savage retainers of Maelgon, intent upon obtaining their prey, he knew
that they would think little of stabbing him to the heart rather than be
balked. There was no feud so far between Llanymddyvri and Dynevor, but
Wendot knew that his father was suspected of leaning towards the English
cause, and that it would take little to provoke some hostile
demonstration on the part of his wild and reckless neighbour. The whole
country was torn and rent by internecine strife, and there was a chronic
state of semi-warfare kept up between half the nobles of the country
against the other half.

But of personal danger Wendot thought nothing. His own honour and that
of his father were at stake. If the little child left in their care were
treacherously given up to the foes of the English, the boy felt that he
should never lift up his head again. He must save her -- he would. Far
rather would he die in her defence than face her father with the story
of the base treachery of his brothers.

The path grew wilder and steeper; the vegetation became more scant. The
heat of the sun was tempered by the cold of the upper air. It was easier
to climb, and the boy felt that his muscles were made of steel.

Suddenly a new sound struck upon his ear. It was like the whinny of a
horse, only that there was in it a note of distress. Glancing sharply
about him, Wendot saw Lady Gertrude's small white palfrey standing
precariously on a ledge of rock, and looking pitifully about him, unable
to move either up or down. The creature had plainly been turned loose
and abandoned, and in trying to find his way home had stranded upon this
ledge, and was frightened to move a step. Wendot was fond of all
animals, and could not leave the pretty creature in such a predicament.

"Besides, Gertrude may want him again for the descent," he said; and
although every moment was precious, he contrived to get the horse up the
steep bank and on to better ground, and then tethered him on a small
grassy plateau, where he could feed and take his ease in safety for an
hour or two to come.

That matter accomplished, the lad was up and off again. He had now to
trust to the hounds to direct him, for he did not know what track his
brothers would have taken, and the hard rocks gave no indications which
he could follow. But the dogs were well used to their work, and with
their noses to the ground followed the trail unceasingly, indicating
from time to time by a deep bay that they were absolutely certain of
their direction.

High overhead loomed the apex of the great crag. Wendot knew that he had
not much farther to go. He was able to distinguish the cairn of stones
which he and his brothers had once erected on the top in honour of their
having made the ascent in a marvellously short space of time. Wendot had
beaten that record today, he knew; but his eyes were full of anxiety
instead of triumph. He was scanning every track and every inch of
distance for traces of the foe he felt certain were somewhere at hand.
Had they been here already, and had they carried off the prey? Or were
they only on their way, and had he come in time to thwart their purpose yet?

Ha! what was that?

Wendot had reached the shoulder of the mountain; he could see across the
valley -- could see the narrow winding track which led to the stronghold
of Maelgon. The Eagle's Crag, as it was called, fell away precipitously
on the other side. No one could scale it on that face. The path from the
upper valley wound round circuitously towards it; and along this path,
in the brilliant sunshine, Wendot saw distinctly the approach of a small
band of armed men. Yes: they were approaching, they were not retreating.
Then they had not already taken their prey; they were coming to claim
it. The boy could have shouted aloud in his triumph and joy; but he held
his peace, for who could tell what peril might not lie in the way?

The next moment he had scaled the steep, slippery rock which led to the
precipitous edge of the crag. Not a sign could he see of his brothers or
the child, but the hounds led right on to the very verge of the
precipice, and for a moment the boy's heart stood still. What if they
had grown afraid of the consequences of their own act, and had resolved
to get rid of the child in a sure and safe fashion!

For a moment Wendot's blood ran cold. He recalled the traits of fierce
cruelty which had sometimes shown themselves in Llewelyn from childhood,
his well-known hatred of the English, his outburst of passion with
Gertrude, so quickly followed by a strange appearance of friendship.
Wendot knew his countrymen and his nation's characteristics, and knew
that fierce acts of treachery were often truly charged upon them. What
if -- But the thought was too repellent to be seriously pursued, and
shaking it off by an effort, he raised his voice and called his brothers
by name.

And then, almost as it seemed from beneath his very feet, there came an
answering call; but the voice was not that of his brothers, but the cry
of a terrified child.

"Oh, who are you? Do, please, come to me. I am so frightened. I know I
shall fall. I know I shall be killed. Do come to me quickly. I don't
know where Llewelyn and Howel have gone."

"I am coming -- I am Wendot," cried the boy, his heart giving a sudden
bound. "You are not hurt, you are safe?"

"Yes; only so giddy and frightened, and the sun is so hot and burning,
and yet it is cold, too. It is such a narrow place, and I cannot get up
or down. I can't see the eagle's nest, and they have been such a long
time going after it. They said they would bring the nest and the young
eagles up to me, but they have never come back. I'm afraid they are
killed or hurt. Oh, if you would only help me up, then we would go and
look for them together! Oh, I am so glad that you have come!"

Wendot could not see the child, though every word she spoke was
distinctly audible. He certainly could not reach her from the place
where he now stood; but the hounds had been following the tracks of the
quarry they had been scenting all this way, and stood baying at a
certain spot some fifty yards away, and a little lower down than the
apex of the crag. It was long since Wendot had visited this spot, his
brothers knew it better than he; but when he got to the place indicated
by the dogs, he saw that there was a little precipitous path along the
face of the cliff, which, although very narrow and not a little
dangerous, did give foothold to an experienced mountaineer. How the
child had ever had the nerve to tread it he could not imagine, but
undoubtedly she was there, and he must get her back, if possible, and
down the mountainside, before those armed men from the upper valley
could reach them.

But could he do this? He cast an apprehensive glance over his shoulder,
and saw to his dismay how quickly they were approaching. From their
quickened pace he fancied that his own movements had been observed.
Certainly there was not a moment to lose, and leaving the dogs to keep
guard at the entrance, he set his foot upon the perilous path and
carefully pursued his way.

The face of the cliff jutted outwards for some yards, and then made a
sharp turn round an angle. At the spot where this turn occurred, a sort
of natural arch had formed itself over the narrow ledge which formed the
path, and immediately behind the arch there was a small plateau which
gave space to stand and move with some freedom, although a step over the
edge would plunge the unwary victim into the deep gulf beneath. The
cliff then fell away once again, but the ledge wound round it still,
until it ended in a shallow alcove some eight feet deep, which lay just
beneath the highest part of the crag, which overhung it by many yards.

And it was crouched up against the cliff in this little alcove that
Wendot found Gertrude; cowering, white-faced, against the hard rock,
faint from want of food, terrified at the loneliness and at her own
fears for the safety of her companions, and so overwrought by the
tension of nerve she had undergone, that when Wendot did stand beside
her she could only cling to him sobbing passionately, and it was long
before he could even induce her to let him go, or to attempt to eat the
contents of a small package he had had the forethought to bring in his
wallet.

He heard her tale as she sobbed in his arms. They had come here after
the eagle's nest. Llewelyn and Howel had been so kind! They had not
minded her being so slow, but had brought her all the way; and when she
wanted to follow them along the ledge to get a better view of the nest,
they had blindfolded her that she might not get giddy, and had put a
rope round her and brought her safely along the narrow ledge till she
had got to this place. But the nest could not be seen even from there,
and they had left her to see where it really was. They said they would
soon be back, but they had not come, and she had got first anxious and
then terrified about them, and then fearful for her own safety. At last
when faintness and giddiness had come upon her, and she could get no
answer to her repeated shouts, her spirit had altogether given way; and
unless Wendot had really come to her rescue, she was certain she should
have fallen down the precipice. She did not know now how she should ever
get back along the narrow ridge, she was so frightened and giddy. But if
Llewelyn and Howel would come, perhaps she might.

Did Wendot know where they were? Would he take care of her now, and
bring her safe home?

"I will if I can," answered the boy, with a strange light in his blue
eyes. "Griffeth is on his way with plenty of help. He will be here soon.
Do you think you could walk along the ridge now, if I were to hold you
up and help you? We should get home sooner if you could."

But the child shrank back and put her hand before her eyes.

"Oh, let us wait till Griffeth comes. I am so giddy still, and I am so
afraid I should fall. Hark! I'm sure I hear voices. They are coming
already. Oh, I am so glad! I do want to get home. Wendot, why do you
look like that? Why do you get out that thing? You are not going to fight?"

"Lady Gertrude," said Wendot, speaking in a grave, manly way that at
once riveted the child's attention, "I am afraid that those voices do
not belong to our friends, but to a band of men who are coming to try
and take you prisoner to a castle up the valley there. No: do not be
frightened; I will save you from them if I can. There is help coming for
us, and I think I can hold this path against them for some time to come.
You must try and keep up heart and not be frightened. You may see some
hard blows struck, but you can shut your eyes and not think about it. If
they do kill me and carry you off, do not give up hope, for Griffeth and
our own men will be after you to rescue you. Now let me go, and try not
to be afraid. I think we can hold them at bay till we are more equally
matched."

The child's eyes dilated with horror. She caught Wendot by the hand.

"Give me up," she said firmly. "I will not have you killed for me. I
would rather go with them. Give me up, I say!"

"No, Gertrude; I will not give you up," answered Wendot very quietly,
but with an inflexibility of tone which made his voice seem like that of
another person. "Your father placed you in my hands; to him I must
answer for your safety. What is life to a man without honour? Would you
have me stain my name for the sake of saving my life? I think not that
that is the English code of honour."

Child as she was, little Gertrude understood well what was implied in
those words, and a new light flashed into her eyes. Something of the
soldier spirit awoke within her, and she snatched at a small dagger
Wendot carried in his belt, and drawing her small figure to its full
height, she said:

"We will both fight, Wendot; we will both fight, and both die rather
than let them take us."

He smiled, and just for a moment laid his hand upon her head; then he
drew on his mailed gloves and looked well to the buckles of the stout
leathern jerkin, almost as impervious to the stabs of his foes as a suit
of mail itself. The temper of his weapon he well knew; he had no fear
that it would play him false. He had not the headpiece of mail; he had
started in too great a hurry to arm himself completely, and speed was
too much an object for him to willingly encumber himself needlessly. But
as he skirted the narrow ledge, and placed himself beneath the
protecting arch, he smiled grimly to himself, and thought that the stone
would be as good a guard, and that here was a place where a man could
sell his life dear, and send many a foe to his account before striking
his own colours.

Scarcely had he well established himself in the commanding position he
had resolved upon, when the sound of voices became more distinct. The
party had plainly arrived at the appointed place, and Wendot could hear
them discussing who was best fitted for the task of traversing the
dangerous ledge to bring back the captive who was to be found there. The
wild Welsh was unintelligible to Gertrude, or she would have known at
once what dark treachery had been planned and carried out by her trusted
companions; but Wendot's cheek glowed with shame, and he set his teeth
hard, resolved to redeem the honour of his father's name to the last
drop of his blood if he should be called upon to shed it in the cause.

He heard the slow and cautious steps approaching along the path, and he
gripped his weapon more tightly in his hand. The red light of battle was
in his eyes, and the moment he caught sight of the form of the stalwart
soldier threading his perilous way along the path he sprang upon him
with a cry of fury, and hurled him into the gulf beneath.

Down fell the man, utterly unprepared for such an attack, and his sharp
cry of terror was echoed from above by a dozen loud voices.

Cries and shouts and questions assailed Wendot, but he answered never a
word. Those above knew not if it had been an accident, or if an ambushed
foe had hurled their comrade to destruction. Again came a long pause for
consideration -- and every moment wasted was all in favour of the pair
upon the ledge -- and then it became plain that some course of action
had been determined upon, and Wendot heard the cautious approach of
another foe. This man crept on his way much more cautiously, and the
youth held himself ready for a yet more determined spring. Luckily for
him, he could remain hidden until his opponent was close to him; and so
soon as he was certain from the sound that the man was reaching the
angle of the rock, he made another dash, and brought down his sword with
all the strength of his arm upon the head of the assailant.

Once again into the heart of the abyss crashed the body of the
unfortunate soldier; but a sharp thrill of pain ran through Wendot's
frame, and a barbed arrow, well aimed at the joint of his leather
jerkin, plunged into his neck and stuck fast.

The first assailant whom he had disposed of was but one of a close line,
following each other in rapid succession. As his face became visible to
the man now foremost a shout of surprise and anger rose up.

"It is Res Wendot! It is one of the sons of the house of Dynevor!

"Wendot, thou art mad! We are the friends of thy house. We are here at
the instigation of thine own kindred. Give us the maid, and thou shalt
go free. We would not harm thee."

"Stir but one step nearer, and I slay thee as I have slain thy two
comrades," cried Wendot, in a voice which all might hear. "I deal not in
treachery towards those that trust us. I will answer for the safety of
the maid with mine own life. Of my hand her father will demand her when
he comes again. Shall we men of Wales give right cause to the English to
call us murderers, traitors, cowards? Take my life if you will, take it
a thousand times over if you will, it is only over my dead body that you
will reach that child."

"Down with him -- traitor to the cause! He is sold to the English! He is
no countryman of ours! Spare him not! He is worthy of death! Down with
every Welshman who bands not with those who would uphold his country's
cause!"

Such were the shouts which rent the air as the meaning of Wendot's words
made itself understood. As for the brave lad himself, he had plucked the
arrow from his neck, and now stood boldly on guard, resolved to husband
his strength and keep on the defensive only, hoping thus to gain time
until Griffeth and the armed men should arrive.

He had all the advantage of the position; but his foes were strong men,
and came on thick and fast one after another, till it seemed as if the
lad might be forced backwards by sheer weight and pressure. But Wendot
was no novice at the use of arms: as his third foe fell upon him with
heavy blows of his weighted axe, he stepped backwards a pace, and let
the blows descend harmlessly upon the solid rock of the arch; until the
man, disgusted at the non-success of his endeavours to tempt his
adversary out of his defended position, threw away his blunted axe, and
was about to draw his sword for a thrust, when the boy sprang like
lightning upon him, and buried his poniard in his heart.

Over went the man like a log, almost dragging Wendot with him as he
fell, and before the youth had had time to recover himself, he had
received a deep gash in his sword arm from the foe who pressed on next,
and who made a quick dash to try to get possession of the vantage ground
of the arch.

But Wendot staggered back as if with weakness, let his adversary dash
through the arch after him; and then, hurling himself upon him as he
passed through, pushed him sheer off the ledge on the other side into
the yawning gulf beneath.

The comrades of this last victim, who had just sent up a shout of
triumph, now changed their note, and it became a yell of rage. Wendot
was back in his old vantage ground, wounded by several arrows, spent by
blows, and growing faint from loss of blood, but dauntless and resolute
as ever, determined to sell his life dearly, and hold out as long as he
had breath left in him, sooner than let the helpless child fall into the
clutches of these fierce men, goaded now to madness by the opposition
they had met with.

Hark! what was that? It was a shout, a hail, and then the familiar call
of the Dynevor brothers rang through the still air.

"La-ha-boo!"

It was Griffeth's voice. He had come at last. It was plain that the foe
had heard, and had paused; for if they were menaced from another
quarter, it was time to think of their own safety.

Summoning up all his strength, Wendot sent back an answering hail, and
the next moment there was the sound of fierce voices and the clashing of
weapons overhead on the summit of the cliff; and in quick, urgent
accents Wendot's foes were ordered to retreat, as there was treachery
somewhere, and they had been betrayed.

Wendot saw his antagonists lower their weapons, and return the way they
had come, with fearful backward glances, lest their boy foe should be
following them. But he had no wish to do that. He was spent and
exhausted and maimed. He turned backwards towards the safer shelter of
the little alcove, and sank down beside the trembling child, panting,
bleeding, and almost unconscious.



    CHAPTER IV. WENDOT'S REWARD.


"Father, father, father!"

The shrill, glad cry broke from the lips of little Gertrude almost at
the same moment as Wendot sank at her feet, spent and fainting; and the
lad, making a great effort, opened his dim eyes to see the tall form of
the English noble stooping over his little daughter, gathering her in
his arms with a gesture of passionate endearment.

Wendot fancied he must be dreaming; perhaps it was all a strange,
terrible dream: everything was swimming before his eyes in a sort of
blood-coloured mist. He gave up the effort to try to disentangle the
maze in which he seemed to be moving, and was sinking into
unconsciousness again when a sharp cry from his brother aroused him.

"Wendot, Wendot! -- O father, see --they have killed him!"

"Nay, lad, not that. Here, let me get to him.

"Griffeth, run thou and tell the fellows to let down ropes from above to
draw him up. He cannot return along that narrow ledge. He and the child
had best be drawn up by those above. Tell them to lose no time. The boy
must be taken home to his mother's care. This narrow ledge is growing
like an oven. Bid one of the men run to the brook for a draught of water."

Wendot's lips framed themselves to the word "water" as he heard it
spoken. If he had but a draught of water, perhaps he could speak again
and understand what was passing. As it was, he only heard the sound of a
confusion of voices, the clear tones of little Gertrude being the most
continuous and the most distinct. She seemed to be pouring some tale
into the ears of her listeners, and Wendot was certain, from the quick,
sudden movements of his father, who was supporting him as he lay, that
the story heard was exciting in him feelings of indignation and
amazement, although the boy's brain was too much confused to tell him
the reason for this displeasure.

But the sense of rest and safety inspired by his father's presence was
very comforting; and when the wounded lad had been drawn to the summit
of the cliff by the strong, willing arms of the retainers, and his hurts
rudely dressed by kindly hands, and his parched throat refreshed by deep
draughts of cold water, he began to shake off the sense of unreality
which had made him feel like one in a dream, and to marvel at the
unexpected appearance on the lonely fell of his father and Lord Montacute.

A sure-footed mountain pony was bearing him gently down the steep slope,
and his questioning look called Griffeth to his side.

"What means all this, Griffeth?" he whispered. "Whence came they? and
what do they know? And Llewelyn and Howel, where are they? Can it be
that they --"

He could not frame his lips to speak the words, but Griffeth understood
him without, and his cheek flushed.

"I fear me it is indeed as we thought. She went with them, and they left
her alone on the ledge, where once the eagle's eyry used to be.
Maelgon's men came to carry her off thence. Had it not been for thee,
Wendot, she would have been in their hands ere now. I would I had stood
beside thee, brother. I would I had shared thy perils and thy hurts."

"Thou didst better than that," answered Wendot, faintly smiling, "for
thou broughtest aid in the very nick of time. And how came it that our
father and our guest were with thee? Methought it must surely be a dream
when I saw them."

"Ay, we met them journeying towards the castle when we had but made a
short mile from it. They would have reached last night but for an
accident to one of the beasts, which detained them on the road; but they
had started ere the sun rose, and were hard by when we encountered them.
Hearing our errand, some went forward as before, but others joined our
party. It was well we were thus reinforced, for Maelgon's men fight like
veritable wolves."

"What knoweth our father of the matter? Spakest thou to him of Llewelyn
and Howel?"

"I had perforce to do so, they questioned me so closely. I know not what
they thought. Our guest's face is not one that may be read like a book,
and our father only set his lips in his stern fashion, as though he
would never open them again. I trow he is sore displeased that sons of
his should thus act; but perchance it may not be so bad as we think."

Wendot made no reply. He was growing too spent and weary to have words
or thoughts to spare. It seemed as if the long and weary descent would
never be accomplished; and the beat of the sun beating down upon them
mercilessly as they reached the lower ground turned him sick and faint.
Little Gertrude, mounted now upon her palfrey, was chattering
ceaselessly to her father, as he strode on beside her down the hillside;
but Lord Montacute was grave and silent; and as for the face of Res
Vychan, it looked as if carved out of marble, as he planted himself by
the side of the sturdy pony who carried his son, and placed his arm
round the lad to support him during that long and weary ride.

It was plain that the thoughts of both men were of a very serious
complexion, and gave them food for much reflection and consideration.

Griffeth bounded on a little ahead of the cavalcade, excited by the
events of the day, anxious for his brother, yet intensely proud of him,
envying him the chance of thus displaying his heroic qualities, yet only
wishing to have shared them -- not that anything should be detracted
from the halo which encircled Wendot. He had reached a turn in the path,
and for a moment was alone and out of sight of the company that
followed, when the hounds who had accompanied Wendot, and were now
returning with them, uttered a deep bay as of welcome, and the next
moment two dark and swarthy heads appeared from behind the shelter of
some great boulders, and the faces of Llewelyn and Howel looked
cautiously forth.

In a moment Griffeth was by their side, various emotions struggling in
his face for mastery; but the tie of brotherhood was a strong one, and
his first words were those of warning.

"It is all known -- our father knows, and hers. I know not what your
punishment will be. I have never seen our father look so stern. Do as
you will about returning home, but I wot not how you will be received."

Llewelyn and Howel exchanged glances; and the former asked eagerly, "And
the maid?"

"Is safe with her father and ours. Wendot risked his life to save her
from Maelgon's men. Nay, linger not to hear the tale, if you would fly
from the anger of those who know that you sought to betray her. It will
be no easy thing to make peace with our father. You know his thoughts
upon the sacredness of hospitality."

But even as he spoke Griffeth saw the change that came over his
brothers' faces as they looked past him to something behind; then as he
himself turned quickly to see what it was, he beheld their father and
two of the servants approaching; and Res Vychan pointed sternly to the
two dark-leaded boys, now involuntarily quailing beneath the fiery
indignation in his eyes, and said:

"Bind them hand and foot and carry them to the castle. They shall be
dealt with there as their offence shall warrant."

Then turning on his heel, he rejoined the company; whilst Llewelyn and
Howel were brought captive to the paternal halls of Dynevor.

Wendot knew very little of the occurrences of the next few days. He was
carried to the chamber that he shared with Griffeth, and there he lay
for several days and nights in a dreamy, semi-conscious state, tended by
his mother with all the skill and tenderness she possessed, and, save
when the pain of his wounds made him restless and feverish, sleeping
much, and troubling his head little about what went on within or without
the castle. He was dimly aware that little Gertrude came in and out of
his room sometimes, holding to his mother's hands, and that her gentle
prattle and little caressing gestures were very soothing and pleasant.
But he did not trouble his head to wonder how it was he was lying there,
nor what event had crippled him so; and only in the fevered visions of
the night did he see himself once again standing upon the narrow ledge
of the Eagle's Crag, with a host of foes bearing down upon him to
overpower and slay both him and his charge.

But after a few days of feverish lassitude and drowsiness the lad's
magnificent constitution triumphed -- the fever left him; and though he
now lay weak and white upon his narrow bed, his mind was perfectly
clear, and he was eager and anxious to know what had happened whilst he
had been shut out from the life of the castle.

His mother was naturally the one to whom he turned for information. He
saw that she was unwontedly pale and grave and thoughtful. As she sat
beside his bed with some needlework in her hands one bright afternoon,
when the sunlight was streaming into the chamber, and the air floating
in through the narrow casement was full of scent and song, his eyes
fixed themselves upon her face with more of purpose and reflection, and
he begged her to tell him all that had passed.

"For I know that our guests are still here. Gertrude comes daily to see
me. But where are Llewelyn and Howel? I have not seen them once. Is my
father angry with them still? or have they been punished and forgiven?"

"Your brothers are still close prisoners," answered the mother with a
sigh. "They have been chastised with more severity than any son of ours
has needed to be chastised before; but they still remain sullen and
obdurate and revengeful, and thy father will not permit them to come out
from their retirement so long as our guests remain. Perchance it is best
so, for it would but cause trouble in the house for them to meet. I
would that they could see matters differently; and yet there are many
amongst our people who would say that the true patriotism was theirs."

"And our guests, mother -- why linger they still? Methought they Would
leave so soon as Lord Montacute returned."

"So they purposed once; but he has wished to remain till thou art sound
once more, my son. He hath a very warm feeling towards thee, and would
speak to thee of something that is in his heart ere he quits Dynevor. He
has spoken of it to thy father and to me, but he wishes thee to hear it
from his own lips."

Wendot's interest was aroused. Something in his mother's expression told
him that the thing of which she spoke was a matter of some importance.
As an eldest son and forward for his years, and of a reflective and
thoughtful turn, he had often been consulted by his parents, and
particularly by his mother, in matters rather beyond his comprehension,
and had shared in discussions which many youths of his age would have
shunned and despised. Now, therefore, he looked eagerly at his mother
and said:

"What is it he wishes to say Canst thou not tell me thyself?"

The Lady of Dynevor paused awhile in thought; and when she spoke, it did
not appear to be in direct reply to her son's question.

"Wendot," she said gravely, "thou hast heard much talk of the troubled
state of these times and of the nation's affairs. Thou hast lived long
enough to see how hopeless some amongst us feel it ever to hope for
unity amongst ourselves. We are torn and distracted by faction and feud.
Families are banded together against families, and brothers strive with
brothers for the inheritance each claims as his own. Each lord of some
small territory tries to wrest from his weaker neighbour that which
belongs to him; and if for a moment at some great crisis petty feuds are
forgotten, and a blow is struck for national liberty, scarce has peace
been proclaimed again before the old strife breaks out once more, and
our fair land is desolated by a more grievous war than ever the English
wage."

Wendot bent his head in voiceless assent. He knew something of his
country's history, and that his mother spoke only the sad truth.

"My son," continued she after a pause, "it chances sometimes in this
troubled life of ours that we are called upon to make choice, not
between good and evil, but between two courses, both of which are beset
with difficulties and obstacles, both of which mingle together evil and
good, for which and against which much may be argued on both sides, and
many things that are true be said for and against both. To some such
choice as this has our poor country now come. Experience has taught us
that she is incapable of uniting all her forces and of making of herself
one compact, united kingdom. That course, and that alone, would be her
true salvation; but that course she will not take, and failing that, she
has to choose between being torn and rent by faction till she is an easy
prey to the English king, who will then divide her territories amongst
his own hungry and rapacious barons, or for the princes to submit to pay
him the homage for their lands which he (possibly with injustice)
demands, but which if paid will make of him their friend and protector,
and will enable the country to live in peace and prosperity, assured
that the king will support those who acknowledge him, and that he will
not deprive of their ancestral rights any who will bring their homage to
him, and hold their territory as it were from him. Understandest thou
thus much?"

"Ay, mother, I understand it well; and though there is something in the
thought that stirs my blood and sets it coursing through my veins in
indignation -- for I see not by what right the English king lays claim
to our fair lands -- still I know that conquest gives to the conqueror a
right, and that if he chose to march against us with his armies, he
might well find us too much weakened by our petty feuds to resist his
strong veterans. And the English are not all bad. I have learned that
these many days whilst our guests have been with us. I have thought at
times that they would be true friends and allies, and that we might do
well to copy them in many ways. In truth, if the choice lies betwixt
being rent in pieces by each other and giving homage to the great
Edward, who can be merciful and just, I would rather choose the latter.
For there must be something grand and noble about him by what our little
maid says; and to pay homage is no such hard thing. Why, does not he
himself pay homage to the King of France for the lands he holds in his
kingdom?"

A look of relief crossed the face of the mother as she heard these words
from her first-born son. She took his hand in hers and said earnestly:

"Wendot, I am glad to hear thee speak thus, for thou art the heir of
Dynevor, and upon thee much may fall some day. Thou knowest what thy
brothers are -- I speak of Llewelyn and Howel. I cannot but fear for
them -- unless, indeed, the rapacious greed I sometimes see in Llewelyn
proves stronger than his fierce hatred to the English, and he prefers to
do homage for his lands rather than lose them. But thou art the head of
the family, and the chief power will rest with thee when thy father is
gone. I counsel thee, if the time comes when thou must make thy choice,
be not led away by blind hatred of the English. They may prove less
cruel foes than thine own countrymen are to one another. If Wales may
not be united under one native king, let her think well ere she rejects
the grace held out to all who will yield fealty to the English monarch.
That is what I wished to say to thee. Remember that the English are not
always cruel, always rapacious. There are generous, noble, honourable
men amongst them, of whom I am sure our guest is one."

"Ay, he has a grand face," said Wendot. "A face one can both love and
trust. And all that the little one tells me of the king and his family
inclines my heart towards him and his. I will remember what you have
said, mother, and will ponder your words. Methinks it is no lovely thing
to hate as Llewelyn and Howel hate; it makes men act rather as fiends
than as honourable soldiers should."

The conversation ended there, and was not renewed; but the very next day
Lord Montacute sought Wendot's room, when the lad was lying alone,
wearying somewhat of his own company, and the light sprang into his eyes
as he saw the guest approach, for in his own boyish way he had a great
admiration for this man.

"Well, lad, I am glad to see thee looking something more substantial and
like thine own self," said Lord Montacute, seating himself upon the edge
of the bed and taking Wendot's hand in his. "This hand has done good
service to me and mine -- good service, indeed, to the King of England,
who would have been forced to chastise with some severity the outrage
planned upon a subject of his, and one dear to him from association with
his children. Tell me, boy, what can I do for thee when I tell this tale
to my lord of England? What boon hast thou to ask of him or of me? For
thou needest not fear; whatever it be it shall be granted."

"Nay, I have no boon," answered Wendot, his cheek flushing. "I did but
do my duty by any guest beneath my father's roof. I was responsible for
the safety of the maid. I had taken that duty on myself. I want nothing;
she is safe, and that is enough. Only if you would speak to my father
for my brothers Llewelyn and Howel. I know they have merited deep
displeasure; yet they are but lads, and doubtless they were led away by
evil counsels. He would hear pleading better from you than from me."

"It shall be done," said Lord Montacute, still regarding Wendot
steadily; "and now, boy, I would speak to thee seriously and gravely as
man to man, for thou hast proved thyself to be a man in action, in
courage, and in foresight. And thy parents tell me that thou art
acquainted with the burning questions of the day, and that thy brothers'
headstrong hatreds and prejudices do not blind thee."

Wendot made no reply, but fixed his bright eyes steadily on Lord
Montacute's face. He on his side, after a brief silence, began again in
clear, terse phrases:

"Lad, if thou livest thou wilt some day be Lord of Dynevor -- master of
this fair heritage, the fairest, perhaps, in all South Wales. Thou hast
noble blood in thy veins -- the blood of princes and kings; thou hast
much that men covet to call their own; but thou art surrounded by foes
who are jealous of thee, and by kinsmen who have already cast covetous
eyes on thy possessions."

"Ay, that traitorous Meredith ap Res, whose mother is English, and who
would -- But pardon me. I would not willingly speak against your nation.
Indeed, I feel not bitter as others do; only --"

"Boy, thou art right to be loyal and true. I like thee none the less for
the patriotic fervour which breaks out in thee. But I am glad that thou
shouldest see both sides of this matter, that thou shouldest see the
peril menacing thy brothers from thine own kinsman, who has strengthened
himself by an English alliance. It is useless to blind thine eyes to
what is coming. They tell me thou art not blind; and I come to thee,
lad, because I think well of thee, to ask if it would please thee to
strengthen thy position in thine own land and in Edward's sight by an
alliance with an English maiden of noble birth. Hast thou ever thought
of such a thing?"

Wendot's wide-open eyes gave answer enough. Lord Montacute smiled
slightly as he said:

"Ah, thou art full young for such thoughts; and thou livest not in the
atmosphere of courts, where babes are given in marriage almost from
their cradles. But listen, Res Wendot; I speak not in jest, I am a man
of my word. Thou hast risked thy life to save my little maid. Thou art a
noble youth, and I honour both thee and thy parents. The maid has told
me that she loves thee well, and would be well pleased to wed thee when
she is of the age to do so. These are but childish words, yet they may
prove themselves true in days to come. It is in the interests of all
those who have the peace and prosperity of this land at heart to
strengthen themselves in every way they can. My little daughter will
have an ample dower to bring her husband; and I will keep her for thee
if thou wilt be willing to claim her in days to come. I should like well
to see her ruling in these fair halls; and thou hast proved already that
thou art a knightly youth, whose hand she may well take with confidence
and pride.

"Thy parents are willing; it waits only for thee to say. What thinkest
thou of a troth plight with the little maid?"

Wendot's face glowed with a sort of boyish shame, not unmingled with
pride; but the idea was altogether too strange and new to him to be
readily grasped.

"I have never thought of such things," he said shyly, "and I am too
young to wed. Perchance I may grow into some rough, uncouth fellow, who
may please not the maiden when she reaches years of discretion. Methinks
it would scarce be fair to plight her now, at least not with such a
plight as might not be broken. If our nations meet in fierce conflict,
as they yet may, it would be a cruel thing to have linked her hand with
that of a rebel, for such we are called by the English monarch, they
say, when we rise to fight for our liberties bequeathed by our ancestors.

"Nay, noble lord, frown not on me. There be moments when methinks two
spirits strive within me, and I am fearful of trusting even myself. I
would not that grief or sorrow should touch her through me. Let me come
and claim her anon, when I have grown to man's estate, and can bring her
lands and revenues. But bind her not to one whose fate may be beset with
perils and shadows. There be those amongst our bards who see into the
future; and they tell us that a dark fate hangs over the house of
Dynevor, and that we four shall be the last to bear the name."

Lord Montacute was looking grave and earnest. There was something in his
face which indicated disappointment, but also something that spoke of
relief. Possibly he himself had offered this troth plight with something
of hesitation, offered it out of gratitude to the noble lad, and out of
respect to his parents, who, as he saw, would prove valuable allies to
the English cause, could they but be induced to give their allegiance to
it. Yet there was another side to the picture, too; and Wendot was too
young for any one to predict with certainty what would be his course in
the future. The hot blood of his race ran in his veins; and though his
judgment was cool, and he saw things in a reasonable and manly light, it
would be rash to predict what the future might have in store for him.

"Well, lad, thou hast spoken bravely and well," said the Englishman,
after a pause for thought. "Perchance thy words are right; perchance it
will be well to let matters rest as they are for the present. We will
have no solemn troth plight betwixt ye twain; but the maid shall be
promised to none other these next four years, so that if thou carest to
claim her ere she reaches woman's estate, thou shalt find her waiting
for thee. And now I must say thee farewell, for tomorrow we ride away
the way we came. I trust to see thee at the king's court one of these
days, and to make known to his royal majesty the noble youth of Dynevor."

Wendot was left alone then for some time, pondering the strange offer
made to him, and wondering whether he had been foolish to refuse the
promised reward. He had never seriously thought of marriage, although in
those days wedlock was entered upon very young if there were any
advantage to be gained from it. A lad of fifteen is seldom sentimental;
but Wendot was conscious of a very warm spot in his heart for little
Gertrude, and he knew that he should miss her sorely when she went, and
think of her much. Would it have been a sweet or a bitter thing to have
felt himself pledged to a daughter of England? He felt that he could not
tell; but at least the decision was made now, and his words could not be
recalled.

Just ere the sun set that summer's day there came down the stone
corridor which led to his room the patter of little feet, and he leaned
up on his elbow with brightening eyes as the door opened and little
Gertrude came dancing in.

"I thought I was to have been married to you, Wendot, before we went
away," she said, looking into his face with the most trusting expression
in her soft dark eyes; "but father says you will come to marry me some
day at the king's court. Perhaps that will be better, for I should like
Eleanor and Joanna to see you. They would like you so, and you would
like them. But do come soon, Wendot. I do so like you; and I shall want
to show you to them all. And I have broken my gold coin in two -- the
one the king gave me once. I got the armourer to do it, and to make a
hole in each half. You must wear one half round your neck, and I will
wear the other. And that will be almost the same as being married, will
it not? And you will never forget me, will you?"

Wendot let her hang the half of the coin round his neck by a silken
thread, strange new thoughts crowding into his mind as he felt her soft
little hands about him. Suddenly he clasped them in both of his and
pressed warm kisses upon them. Gertrude threw her arms about his neck in
a childish paroxysm of affection, saying as she did so between her kisses:

"Now, it's just like being husband and wife; and we shall never forget
one another -- never."



    CHAPTER V. THE KING'S CHILDREN.


"Dynevor --did you say Dynevor? O Eleanor, it must be he!"

A tall, slim, fair-faced maiden, with a very regal mien, looked up
quickly from an embroidery frame over which she was bending, and glanced
from the eager, flushed face of the younger girl who stood beside her to
that of a tall and stalwart English youth, who appeared to be the bearer
of a piece of news, and asked in her unconsciously queenly way:

"What is it, Sir Godfrey, that you have told this impetuous child, to
have set her in such a quiver of excitement?"

"Only this, gracious lady, that certain youthful chieftains from the
south have come hither to Rhuddlan to pay their homage to your royal
father. In his absence at Chester they have been lodged within the
castle walls, as becomes their station. It has been told me that amongst
them are four sons of one Res Vychan, lately dead, and that he was Lord
of Dynevor, which honour has descended to his eldest son. I was telling
what I knew to Lady Gertrude when she broke away to speak to you."

"Eleanor, it must be he -- it must be they!" cried Gertrude, with
flushing cheek and kindling eye -- "Res Vychan, Lord of Dynevor, and his
four sons. It could be none else than they. O Eleanor, sweet Eleanor,
bid them be brought hither to see us! Thou hast heard the story of how
we went thither, my father and I, two years agone now, and of what
befell me there. I have never heard a word of Wendot since, and I have
thought of him so oft. Thou art mistress here now; they all heed thy
lightest word. Bid that the brothers be brought hither to us. I do so
long to see them again!"

Gertrude was fairly trembling with excitement; but that was no unusual
thing for her, as she was an ardent, excitable little mortal, and ever
in a fever of some kind or another. The young knight who had brought the
news looked at her with unmistakable admiration and pleasure, and seemed
as though he would gladly have obeyed any behest of hers; but he was
fain to wait for the decision of the stately Eleanor, the king's eldest
and much-beloved child, who in the temporary absence of her parents
occupied a position of no little importance in the household, and whose
will, in the royal apartments at any rate, was law.

But there were other listeners to Gertrude's eager words. At the far end
of the long gallery, which was occupied by the royal children as their
private apartment, a group of three young things had been at play, but
the urgency of Gertrude's tones had arrested their attention, and they
had drawn near to hear her last words. One of these younger children was
a black-eyed girl, with a very handsome face and an imperious manner,
which gave to onlookers the idea that she was older than her years.
Quick tempered, generous, hasty, and self willed was the Lady Joanna,
the second daughter of the king; but her warm affections caused all who
knew her to love her; and her romantic temperament was always stirred to
its depths by any story that savoured of chivalry or heroism.

"What!" she cried; "is Wendot here -- Wendot of Dynevor, who held the
Eagle's Crag against half a hundred foemen to save thee, sweetest
Gertrude, from captivity or death? -- Eleanor, thou knowest the story;
thou must bid him hither at once! Why, I would thank him with my own
lips for his heroism. For is not Gertrude as our own sister in love?"

"Ay, Eleanor, bid him come," pleaded Alphonso, a fragile-looking boy a
year younger than Joanna, whose violet-blue eyes and fair skin were in
marked contrast to her gipsy-like darkness of complexion; and this
request was echoed eagerly by another boy, a fine, bold-looking lad,
somewhat older than Alphonso, by name Britten, who was brought up with
the king's children, and treated in every way like them, as the wardrobe
rolls of the period show, though what his rank and parentage were cannot
now be established, as no mention of him occurs in any other documents
of that time.

The Princess Eleanor, as she would now be called, although in those
far-back days the title of Lady was generally all that was bestowed upon
the children of the king, did not attempt to resist the combined
entreaties of her younger playfellows. Indeed, although somewhat mature
both in mind and appearance for her years, she was by no means devoid of
childish or feminine curiosity, and was as willing to see the hero of
Gertrude's oft-told tale as her more youthful companions could be.
Moreover, it was her father's policy and pleasure to be generous and
gracious towards all those who submitted themselves to his feudal
sovereignty; and to the young he ever showed himself friendly and even
paternal. The stern soldier-king was a particularly tender and loving
father, and his wife the best of mothers, so that the family tie in
their household was a very strong and beautiful thing. When the monarch
was called away from his own royal residences to quell sedition or
rebellion in this turbulent country of Wales, his wife and children
accompanied him thither; and so it happened that in this rather gloomy
fastness in North Wales, when the rebellion of the warlike Llewelyn had
but just been crushed, the king's children were to be found assembled
within its walls, by their bright presence and laughter-loving ways
making the place gay and bright, and bringing even into political
matters something of the leniency and good fellowship which seems to be
the prerogative of childhood.

Thus it was that one powerful and turbulent noble, Einon ap Cadwalader,
had left as hostage of his good faith his only child, the Lady Arthyn,
to be the companion of the king's daughters. She had been received with
open arms by the warm-hearted Joanna, and the two were fast friends
already, although the Welsh girl was several years the elder of the
pair. But Joanna, who had been educated in Spain by her grandmother and
namesake, and who had only recently come to be with her own parents, had
enjoyed abroad a liberty and importance which had developed her rapidly,
and her mind was as quick and forward as her body was active and energetic.

Intercourse with Arthyn, too, had given to the younger princess a great
sympathy with the vanquished Welsh, and she was generously eager that
those who came to pay homage to her father should not feel themselves in
a position that was humiliating or galling. The gentle Eleanor shared
this feeling to the full, and was glad to give to the young knight Sir
Godfrey Challoner, who was one of her own gentlemen-in-waiting, a
gracious message for the young Lord of Dynevor to the effect that she
would be glad to receive him and his brothers in her father's absence,
and to give them places at the royal table for the evening meal shortly
to be served.

Great was the delight of Gertrude when the message was despatched. Her
companions crowded round her to hear again the story of her adventure on
the Eagle's Crag. Gertrude never knew how she had been betrayed by
Wendot's brothers. She believed that they had been accidentally hindered
from coming to her rescue by the difficulties of the climb after the
eagle's nest. There was a faint, uncomfortable misgiving in her mind
with regard to the black-browed twins, but it did not amount to actual
suspicion, far less to any certainty of their enmity; and although
Eleanor had heard the whole story from her parents, she had not
explained the matter more fully to Gertrude.

An invitation from royalty was equal to a command, and the eager
children were not kept waiting long. The double doors at the end of the
long gallery, which had closed behind the retiring form of Godfrey,
opened once again to admit him, and closely in his wake there followed
two manly youths -- two, not four -- upon whose faces every eye was
instantly fixed in frank and kindly scrutiny.

Wendot had developed rapidly during these two last years, although he
retained all his old marked characteristics. The waving hair was still
bright and sunny, the open face, with its rather square features, was
resolute, alert, manly, and strong. The fearless blue eyes had not lost
their far-away dreaminess, as though the possessor were looking onward
and outward beyond the surroundings visible to others; and beneath the
calm determination of the expression was an underlying sweetness, which
shone out from time to time in the sunny smile which always won the
heart of the beholder. The figure was rather that of a man than a lad --
tall, strongly knit, full of grace and power; and a faint yellow
moustache upon the upper lip showed the dawn of manhood in the youth.
There was something in his look which seemed to tell that he had known
sorrow, trial, and anxiety; but this in no way detracted from the power
or attractiveness of the countenance, but rather gave it an added charm.

Griffeth retained his marked likeness to his brother, and was almost his
equal in height; but his cheek was pale and hollow, while Wendot's was
brown and healthy, his hands were slim and white, and there was an air
of languor and ill-health about him which could not fail to make itself
observed. He looked much younger than his brother, despite his tall
stature, and he blushed like a boy as he saw the eyes of the ladies
fixed upon them as they came forward, bowing with no ungraceful deference.

"Wendot, Wendot. don't you know me?"

The young man started and raised his eyes towards the speaker. So far,
he had only been aware that there were a number of persons collected at
the upper end of the long gallery. Now he found himself confronted by a
pair of eager, dancing eyes, as soft and dark as those of a forest deer,
whilst two slim hands were held out to him, and a silvery voice cried
softly and playfully:

"O Wendot, Wendot, to think you have forgotten!"

"Lady Gertrude!"

"Ah, I am glad you have not forgotten, though methinks I have changed
more than you these past years. I should have known you anywhere. But
come, Wendot; I would present you to my friends and companions, who
would fain be acquainted with you. They know how you saved my life that
day, I have told the tale so oft.

"Let me present you first to our sweetest Lady Eleanor, our great king's
eldest daughter. You will love her, I know -- none can help it. And she
lets me call myself her sister."

Young things have a wonderful faculty of growing intimate in a very
brief space, and the formalities of those simpler times were not
excessive, especially away from the trammels of the court. In ten
minutes' time Wendot and his brother had grasped the names and rank of
all those to whom they had been presented, and were joining in the eager
talk with ease and with enjoyment. Joanna stood beside Wendot,
listening, with unfeigned interest, to his answers respecting himself
and those near and dear to him; whilst Alphonso had drawn Griffeth to
the embrasure of a window, and was looking up into his face as they
compared notes and exchanged ideas. It seemed from the first as though a
strong link formed itself between those two.

"Your brothers would not come. Was that fear or shame or pride?" asked
Joanna, with a laughing look into Wendot's flushed face. "Nay, think not
that we would compel any to visit us who do it not willingly. Gertrude
has prepared us to find your brothers different from you. Methinks she
marvelled somewhat that they had come hither at all with their submission."

Wendot hesitated, and the flush deepened on his face; but he was too
young to have learned the lesson of reticence, and there was something
in the free atmosphere of this place which prompted him to frankness.

"I myself was surprised at it," he said. "Llewelyn and Howel have not
been friendly in their dealings with the English so far, and we knew
they aided Llewelyn of North Wales in the revolt which has been lately
quelled. But since our parents died we have seen but little of them.
They became joint owners of the commot of Iscennen, and removed from
Dynevor to the castle of Carregcennen in their own territory, and until
we met them some days since in company with our kinsman Meredith ap Hes,
coming to tender their homage, as we ourselves are about to do, we knew
not what to think of them or what action they would take."

"Are both your parents dead, then?" asked Gertrude, with sympathy in her
eyes. "I heard that Res Vychan was no longer living, but I knew not that
the gentle Lady of Dynevor had passed away also."

Wendot's face changed slightly as he answered:

"They both died within a few days of each other the winter after you had
been with us, Lady Gertrude. We were visited by a terrible sickness that
year, and our people sickened and died in great numbers. Our parents did
all they could for them, and first my father fell ill and died, and
scarce had the grave closed over him before our mother was stricken, and
followed him ere a week had passed. Griffeth was also lying at the point
of death, and we despaired of his life also; but he battled through, and
came back to us from the very gates of the grave, and yet methinks
sometimes that he has never been the same since. He shoots up in height,
but he cannot do the things he did when he was two years younger.

"What think you of him, sweet Lady Gertrude? Is he changed from what he
was when last you saw him, ere the sickness had fastened upon him?"

Several eyes were turned towards the slim, tall figure of the Welsh lad
leaning against the embrasure of the window. The sunlight fell full upon
his face, showing the sharpness of its outlines, the delicate hectic
colouring, the tracery of the blue veins beneath the transparent skin.
And just the same transparent look was visible in the countenance of the
young Prince Alphonso, who was talking with the stranger youth, and more
hearts than that of Wendot felt a pang as their owners' eyes were turned
upon the pair beside the sunny window. But Wendot pressed for no answer
to his question, nor did Gertrude volunteer it; she only asked quickly:

"Then Griffeth and you live yet at Dynevor, beautiful Dynevor, and
Llewelyn and Howel elsewhere?"

"Ay, at Carregcennen. We have our respective lands, though we are minors
yet; and our kinsman Meredith ap Res is our guardian, though it is
little we see of him."

"Meredith ap Res! I know him well," cried a girlish voice, in accents
which betrayed her Welsh origin. "He has ever been a traitor to his
country, a traitor to all who trust him; a covetous, grasping man, who
will clutch at what he can get, and never cease scheming after lands and
titles so long as the breath remains in him."

They all turned to see who had spoken, and Arthyn -- the headstrong,
passionate, patriotic Arthyn, who, despite her love for her present
companions, bitterly resented being left a hostage in the hands of the
English king -- stood out before them, and spoke in the fearless fashion
which nobody present resented.

"Wendot of Dynevor, if you are he, beware of that man, and bid your
brothers beware of him, too. I know him; I have heard much of him. Be
sure he has an eye on your fair lands, and he will embroil you yet with
the English king if he can, that he may lay claim to your patrimony. He
brings you here to the court to make your peace, to pay your homage. If
I mistake not the man, you will not all of you return whence you came.
He will poison the king's mind. Some traitorous practices will be
alleged against you. Your lands will be withheld. You will be fed with
promises which will never be fulfilled. And the kinsman who has sold
himself body and soul to the English alliance will rule your lands, in
your names firstly perchance, until his power is secure, and he can
claim them boldly as his own. See if it be not so."

"It shall not be so," cried Alphonso, suddenly advancing a step forward
and planting himself in the midst of the group.

His cheek was crimson now, there was fire in his eyes. He had all the
regal look of his royal father as he glanced up into Wendot's face and
spoke with an authority beyond his years.

"I, the king's son, give you my word of honour that this thing shall not
be. You are rightful Lord of Dynevor. You took not up arms against my
father in the late rebellion; you come at his command to pay your homage
to him. Therefore, whatever may be his dealings with your brothers who
have assisted the rebels, I pledge my princely word that you shall
return in peace to your own possessions. My father is a just and
righteous king, and I will be his surety that he will do all that is
right and just by you, Wendot of Dynevor."

"Well spoken, Alphonso!" cried Joanna and Britton in a breath, whilst
Wendot took the hand extended to him, and bent over it with a feeling of
loyal gratitude and respect.

There was something very lovable in the fragile young prince, and he
seemed to win the hearts of all who came within the charm of his
personal presence. He combined his father's fearless nobility with his
mother's sweetness of disposition. Had he lived to ascend the throne of
England, one of the darkest pages of its annals might never have been
written.

But this hot discussion was brought to an end by the appearance of the
servants, who carried in the supper, laying it upon a long table at the
far end of the gallery. No great state was observed even in the royal
household, when the family was far away from the atmosphere of the court
as it was held at Westminster or Windsor.

A certain number of servants were in attendance. There were a few
formalities gone through in the matter of tasting of dishes served to
the royal children, but they sat round the table without ceremony; and
when the chaplain had pronounced a blessing, which was listened to
reverently by the young people, who were all very devout and responsive
to religious influences, the unconstrained chatter began again almost at
once, and the Welsh lads lost all sense of strangeness as they sat at
the table of the king's children.

"Our father and mother will not return for several days yet," said
Joanna to Wendot, whom she had placed between herself and Gertrude; "but
we have liberty to do what we wish and to go where we like.

"Say, Gertrude, shall we tell Wendot on what we have set our hearts? It
may be he would help us to our end."

"I would do anything you bid me, gracious lady," answered Wendot with
boyish chivalry.

The girls were eying each other with flushed faces, their voices were
lowered so that they should not reach the ears of the Lady Edeline,
Joanna's governess, who was seated at the board, although she seldom
spoke unless directly addressed by Eleanor, who seemed to be on friendly
terms with her.

"Wendot," whispered Joanna cautiously, "have you ever hunted a wolf in
your mountains?"

"Ay, many a time, though they be more seldom seen now. But we never rid
ourselves altogether of them, do as we will."

"And have you killed one yourself?"

"Yes, I have done that, too."

"And is it very dangerous?"

"I scarce know; I never thought about it. I think not, if one is well
armed and has dogs trained to their duties."

Joanna's eyes were alight with excitement; her hands were locked
together tightly. Her animated face was set in lines of the greatest
determination and happiest anticipation.

"Wendot," she said, "there is a wolf up yonder in that wild valley we
can see from yon window, as you look towards the heights of Snowdon.
Some of our people have seen and tracked it, but they say it is an old
and wily one, and no one has got near it yet. Wendot, we have set our
hearts on having a wolf hunt of our very own. We do not want all the men
and dogs and the stir and fuss which they would make if we were known to
be going. I know what that means. We are kept far away behind everybody,
and only see the dead animal after it has been killed miles away from
us. We want to be in the hunt ourselves -- Britten, Alphonso, Arthyn,
Gertrude, and I. Godfrey would perhaps be won over if Gertrude begged
him, and I know Raoul Latimer would -- he is always ready for what turns
up -- but that would not be enough. O Wendot, if you and your brothers
would but come, we should be safe without anybody else. Raoul has dogs,
and we could all be armed, and we would promise to be very careful. We
could get away early, as Gertrude did that day she slipped off to the
Eagle's Crag.

"Wendot, do answer -- do say you will come. You understand all about
hunting, even hunting wolves. You are not afraid?"

Wendot smiled at the notion. He did not entirely understand that he was
requested to take part in a bit of defiant frolic which the young
princes and princesses were well aware would not have been permitted by
their parents. All he grasped was that the Lady Joanna requested his
assistance in a hunt which she had planned, and with the details of
which he was perfectly familiar, and he agreed willingly to her request,
not sorry, either for his own sake or for that of his more discontented
brothers, that the monotony of the days spent in waiting the return of
the king should be beguiled by anything so attractive and exciting as a
wolf hunt.

The Dynevor brothers had often hunted wolves before, and saw no special
peril in the sport; and Joanna and Gertrude felt that not even the most
nervous guardian could hesitate to let them go with such a stout protector.

"I do like him, Gertrude," said Joanna, when Wendot and his brother had
retired. "I hope if I ever have to marry, as people generally do,
especially if they are king's daughters, that I shall find somebody as
brave and handsome and knightly as your Wendot of Dynevor."

For Gertrude and Joanna both took the view that the breaking of the
king's gold coin between them was equivalent to the most solemn of troth
plights.



    CHAPTER VI. WELSH WOLVES.


The Princess Joanna was accustomed to a great deal of her own way. She
had been born at Acre, whilst her parents had been absent upon Edward's
Crusade, and for many years she had remained in Castile with her
grandmother-godmother, who had treated her with unwise distinction, and
had taught her to regard herself almost as a little queen. The
high-spirited and self-willed girl had thus acquired habits of
independence and commanding ways which were perhaps hardly suited to her
tender years; but nevertheless there was something in her bright
vivacity and generous impetuosity which always won the hearts of those
about her, and there were few who willingly thwarted her when her heart
was set upon any particular thing.

There were in attendance upon the king and his children a number of
gallant youths, sons of his nobles, who were admitted to pleasant and
easy intercourse with the royal family; so that when Joanna and Alphonso
set their hearts upon a private escapade of their own, in the shape of a
wolf hunt, it was not difficult to enlist many brave champions in the
cause quite as eager for the danger and the sport as the royal children
themselves. Joanna was admitted to be a privileged person, and Alphonso,
as the only son of the king, had a certain authority of his own.

The graver and more responsible guardians of the young prince and
princesses might have hesitated before letting them have their way in
this matter; but Joanna took counsel of the younger and more ardent
spirits by whom she was surrounded, and a secret expedition to a
neighbouring rocky fastness was soon planned, which expedition, by a
little diplomacy and management, could be carried out without exciting
much remark.

The king and queen encouraged their family in hardy exercises and early
hours. If the royal children planned an early ride through the fresh
morning air, none would hinder their departure, and they could easily
shake off their slower attendants when the time came, and join the
bolder comrades who would be waiting for them with all the needful
accoutrements for the hunt on which their minds were bent.

One or two of the more youthful and adventurous attendants might come
with them, but the soberer custodians might either be dismissed or
outridden. They were accustomed to the vagaries of the Lady Joanna, and
would not be greatly astonished at any freak on her part.

And thus it came about that one clear, cold, exhilarating morning in
May, when the world was just waking from its dewy sleep of night, that
Joanna and Alphonso, together with Gertrude and Arthyn, and young Sir
Godfrey and another gentleman in attendance, drew rein laughingly, after
a breathless ride across a piece of wild moorland, at the appointed
spot, where a small but well-equipped company was awaiting them with the
spears, the dogs, and the long, murderous-looking hunting knives needed
by those who follow the tracks of the wild creatures of the mountains.

This little band numbered in its ranks the four Dynevor brothers; a
tall, rather haughty-looking youth, by name Raoul Latimer; and one or
two more with whose names we have no concern. Britten, who accompanied
the royal party, sprang forward with a cry of delight at seeing the
muster, and began eagerly questioning Raoul as to the capabilities of
the dogs he had brought, and the possible dangers to be encountered in
the day's sport.

Gertrude and Joanna rode up to Wendot and greeted him warmly. They had
seen him only once since the first evening after his arrival, and both
girls stole curious glances at the dark faces of the two brothers
unknown as yet to them. They were almost surprised that the twins had
come at all, as they were not disposed to be friendly towards the
English amongst whom they were now mingling; but here they were, and
Gertrude greeted both with her pretty grace, and they answered her words
of welcome with more courtesy than she had expected to find in them.

Llewelyn and Howel were submitting themselves to the inevitable with
what grace they could, but with very indignant and hostile feelings
hidden deep in their hearts. Their old hatred towards the English
remained unaltered. They would have fought the foe tooth and nail to the
last had they been able to find allies ready to stand by them. But when
their uncle of North Wales had submitted, and all the smaller chieftains
were crowding to the court to pay homage, and when they knew that
nothing but their own nominal subjection would save them from being
deprived of their lands, which would go to enrich the rapacious Meredith
ap Res, then indeed did resistance at that time seem hopeless; and
sooner than see themselves thus despoiled by one who was no better than
a vassal of England, they had resolved to take the hated step, and do
homage to Edward for their lands. Indeed, these brothers had to do even
more; for, having been concerned in the late rebellion, they had
forfeited their claim upon their property, only that it was Edward's
policy to restore all lands the owners of which submitted themselves to
his authority. The brothers felt no doubt as to the result of their
submission, but the humiliation involved was great, and it was hard work
to keep their hatred of the English in check. Those wild spirits had not
been used to exercising self-control, and the lesson came hard now that
they were springing up towards man's estate, with all the untempered
recklessness and heat of youth still in their veins.

Perhaps there was something in the expression of those two dark faces
that told its tale to one silent spectator of the meeting between the
Welsh and English; for as the party united forces and pushed onwards and
upwards towards the wild ravine where the haunt of the wolf lay, the
twin brothers heard themselves addressed in their own language, and
though the tones were sweet and silvery, the words had a ring of
passionate earnestness in them which went straight to their hearts.

"Methinks I am not mistaken in you, sons of Dynevor. You have not
willingly left your mountain eyry for these halls where the proud foeman
holds his court and sits in judgment upon those who by rights are free
as air. I have heard of you before, Llewelyn and Howel ap Res Vychan.
You are not here, like your brethren, half won over to the cause of the
foe; you would fight with the last drop of your blood for the liberty of
our country."

Turning with a start, the brothers beheld the form of a slight and
graceful maiden, who was pushing her palfrey up beside them. She
appeared to be about their own age, and was very beautiful to look upon,
with a clear, dark skin, large, bright eyes, now glowing with the
enthusiasm so soon kindled in the breast of the children of an oppressed
people -- a people thrilling with the strange, deep poetry of their
race, which made much amends for their lack of culture in other points.

Llewelyn and Howel, learning caution by experience, scarce knew how to
respond to this appeal; but the girl met their inquiring glances by a
vivid smile, and said:

"Nay, fear me not. I am one of yourselves -- one of our country's own
children. Think not that I am here of my own free will. I deny not that
I have learned to love some amongst our conqueror's children and
subjects, but that does not make me forget who I am nor whence I have
come. Let us talk together of our country and of the slender hopes which
yet remain that she may gird herself up and make common cause against
the foe. Oh, would that I might live to see the day, even though my life
might pay the forfeit of my father's patriotism. Let Edward slay me --
ay, and every hostage he holds in his hand -- so that our country shakes
off the foreign yoke, and unites under one head as one nation once again."

These words kindled in the breast of the twin brothers such a glow of
joy and fervour as they had not known for many a weary day. They made
room for Arthyn to ride between them, and eager were the confidences
exchanged between the youthful patriots as they pursued their way
upwards. Little they heeded the black looks cast upon them by Raoul
Latimer, as he saw Arthyn's eager animation, and understood how close
was the bond which had thus quickly been established between them and
the proud, silent girl whose favours he had been sedulously trying to
win this many a day.

Raoul Latimer was a youth with a decided eye to the main chance. He knew
that Arthyn was her father's heiress, and that she would succeed at his
death to some of the richest lands in Wales. Possibly her father might
be deprived of these lands in his lifetime, as he was a turbulent
chieftain, by no means submissive to Edward's rule. If that were the
case, and if his daughter had wedded a loyal Englishman of
unquestionable fidelity, there would be an excellent chance for that
husband of succeeding to the broad lands of Einon ap Cadwalader before
many years had passed. Therefore young Raoul paid open court to the
proud Welsh maiden, and was somewhat discomfited at the small progress
he had made.

But he was a hot-headed youth, and had no intention of being thrown into
the shade by any beggarly Welshmen, be they sons of Dynevor or no, so
that when the party were forced by the character of the ground to
dismount from their horses and take to their own feet, he pressed up to
Arthyn and said banteringly:

"Sweet lady, why burden yourself with the entertainment of these wild,
uncivilized loons? Surely those who can but speak the language of beasts
deserve the treatment of beasts. It is not for you to be thus --"

But the sentence was never finished. Perhaps the flash from Arthyn's eye
warned him he had gone too far in thus designating the youths, who were,
after all, her countrymen; but there was a better reason still for this
sudden pause, for Llewelyn's strong right hand had flown out straight
from the shoulder, and Raoul had received on the mouth a stinging blow
which had brought the red blood upon his lips and the crimson tide of
fury into his cheeks.

With an inarticulate cry of rage he drew his dagger and sprang upon the
young Welshman. Swords were drawn in those days only too readily, and in
this case there had been provocation enough on both sides to warrant
bloodshed. The youths were locked at once in fierce conflict, striking
madly at each other with their shining blades, before those who stood by
well knew what had occurred.

It was only too common at such times that there should be collision
between the sons of England and Wales; and the suffering and the penalty
almost invariably fell upon the latter. This fact was well known to the
children of the king, and possibly prompted the young Alphonso to his
next act.

Drawing the small sword he always carried at his side, he threw himself
between the combatants, and striking up their blades he cried in tones
of such authority as only those can assume who feel the right is theirs:

"Put up your weapons, gentlemen; I command you in the king's name.

"Raoul, this is your doing, I warrant. Shame on you for thus falling
upon my father's guest in his absence, and he a stranger and an alien!
Shame on you, I say!"

But scarce had these words been uttered before a shrill cry broke from
several of the girls, who were watching the strange scene with tremulous
excitement. For young Llewelyn, maddened and blinded by the heat of his
passion, and not knowing either who Alphonso was or by what right he
interposed betwixt him and his foe, turned furiously upon him, and
before any one could interpose, a deep red gash in the boy's wrist
showed what the Welsh lad's blade had done.

Wendot, Griffeth, and Godfrey flung themselves upon the mad youth, and
held him back by main force. In Raoul's eyes there was an evil light of
triumph and exultation.

"Llewelyn, Llewelyn, art mad? It is the king's son," cried Wendot in
their native tongue; whilst Joanna sprang towards her brother and
commenced binding up the gash, the lad never for a moment losing his
presence of mind, or forgetting in the smart of the hurt the dignity of
his position.

Llewelyn's fierce burst of passion had spent itself, and the sense of
Wendot's words had come home to him. He stood shamefaced and sullen, but
secretly somewhat afraid; whilst Arthyn trembled in every limb, and if
looks would have annihilated, Raoul would not have existed as a
corporate being a moment longer.

"Gentlemen," said Alphonso, turning to those about him, and holding up
his bandaged hand, "this is the result of accident -- pure accident.
Remember that, if it ever comes to the ears of my father. This youth
knew not what he did. The fault was mine for exposing myself thus
hastily. As you value the goodwill in which I hold you all, keep this
matter to yourselves. We are not prince or subject today, but comrades
bent on sport together. Remember and obey my behest. It is not often I
lay my commands upon you."

These words were listened to with gratitude and relief by all the party
save one, and his brow gloomed darker than before. Arthyn saw it, and
sprang towards Alphonso, who was smiling at his sister in response to
her quick words of praise.

"It was his fault -- his," she cried, pointing to the scowling Raoul,
who looked ill-pleased at having his lips thus sealed. "He insulted him
-- he insulted me. No man worthy the name would stand still and listen.
It is the way with these fine gallants of England. They are ever
stirring up strife, and my countrymen bear the blame, the punishment,
the odium --"

But Alphonso took her hand with a gesture of boyish chivalry.

"None shall injure thee or thine whilst I am by, sweet Arthyn. The
nation is dear to me for thy sake, and thy countrymen shall be as our
honoured guests and brothers. Have we not learned to love them for thy
sake and their own? Trouble not thy head more over this mischance, and
let it not cloud our day's sport.

"Raoul," he added, with some sternness, "thou art a turbulent spirit,
and thou lackest the gentle courtesy of a true knight towards those
whose position is trying and difficult. Thou wilt not win thy spurs if
thou mendest not thy ways. Give thy hand now, before my eyes, to the
youth thou didst provoke. If thou marrest the day's pleasure again, I
shall have more to say to thee yet."

It was not often that the gentle Alphonso spoke in such tones, and
therefore his words were the more heeded. Raoul, inwardly consumed with
rage at being thus singled out for rebuke, dared not withstand the order
given him, and grudgingly held out his hand. It was not with much
greater alacrity that Llewelyn took it, for there was much stubborn
sullenness in his disposition, and his passion, though quickly aroused,
did not quickly abate; but there was a compulsion in the glance of the
royal boy which enforced obedience; and harmony being thus nominally
restored, the party once more breathed freely.

"And now upwards and onwards for the lair of the wolf," cried Alphonso;
"we have lost time enough already. Who knows the way to his favourite
haunts? Methinks they cannot be very far away now."

"I should have thought we had had enough of Welsh wolves for one day,"
muttered Raoul sullenly to Godfrey; but the latter gave him a warning
glance, and he forbore to speak more on the subject.

Gertrude had watched the whole scene with dilated eyes, and a feeling of
sympathy and repulsion she was perfectly unable to analyze. When the
party moved on again she stole up to Wendot's side, and said as she
glanced into his troubled face:

"He did not mean it? he will not do it again?"

Wendot glanced down at her with a start, and shook his head.

"He knew not that it was the king's son -- that I verily believe; but I
know not what Llewelyn may say or do at any time. He never speaks to me
of what is in his head. Lady Gertrude, you know the king and his ways.
Will he visit this rash deed upon my brother's head? Will Llewelyn
suffer for what he did in an impulse of mad rage, provoked to it by yon
haughty youth, whose words and bearing are hard for any of us to brook?"

"Not if Alphonso can but get his ear; not if this thing is kept secret,
as he desires, as he has commanded. But I fear what Raoul may say and
do. He is treacherous, selfish, designing. The king thinks well of him,
but we love him not. I trust all will yet be well."

"But you fear it may not," added Wendot, completing the sentence as she
had not the heart to do. "I fear the same thing myself. But tell me
again, Lady Gertrude, what would be the penalty of such an act? Will
they --"

"Alphonso has great influence with his father," answered Gertrude
quickly. "He will stand your brother's friend through all; perchance he
may be detained in some sort of captivity; perchance he may not have his
lands restored if this thing comes to the king's ears. But his person
will be safe. Fear not for that. Methinks Alphonso would sooner lay down
his own life than that harm should befall from what chanced upon a day
of sport planned by him and Joanna."

And Gertrude, seeing that a load lay upon the heart of the young Lord of
Dynevor, set herself to chase the cloud from his brow, and had so far
succeeded that he looked himself again by the time a warning shout from
those in advance showed that some tracks of the wild creature of whom
they were in pursuit had been discovered in the path.

"Do not run into danger," pleaded Gertrude, laying a hand on Wendot's
arm as he moved quickly forward to the front. "You are so brave you
never think of yourself; but do not let us have more bloodshed today,
save the blood of the ravenous beast if it must be. I could find it in
my heart to wish that we had not come forth on this errand. The
brightness of the day has been clouded over."

Wendot answered by a responsive glance. There was something soothing to
him in the unsolicited sympathy of Gertrude. He had thought little since
they parted two years before of that childish pledge given and received,
although he always wore her talisman about his neck, and sometimes
looked at it with a smile. He had no serious thoughts of trying to mate
with an English noble's daughter. He had had no leisure to spare for
thoughts of wedlock at all. But something in the trustful glance of
those dark eyes looking confidingly up to him sent a quick thrill
through his pulses, which was perhaps the first dawning life of the love
of a brave heart.

But there was an impatient call from the front, and Wendot sprang
forward, the huntsman awakening within him at the sight of the slot of
the quarry. He looked intently at the tracks in the soft earth, and then
pointed downwards in the direction of a deep gully or cavernous opening
in the hillside, which looked very dark and gloomy to the party who
stood in the sunshine of the open.

"The beast has gone that way," he said; "and by his tracks and these
bloodstains, he has prey in his mouth. Likely his mate may have her lair
in yon dark spot, and they may be rearing their young in that safe
retreat. See how the dogs strain and pant! They smell the prey, and are
eager to be off. We must be alert and wary, for wolves with young ones
to guard are fierce beyond their wont."

He looked doubtfully at the girls, whose faces were full of mingled
terror and excitement. Godfrey read his meaning, and suggested that the
ladies should remain in this vantage ground whilst some of the rest went
forward to reconnoitre.

But Joanna, ever bold and impetuous, would have none of that.

"We will go on together," she said. "We shall be safest so. No wolf,
however fierce, will attack a number like ourselves. They will fly if
they can, and if they are brought to bay we need not go near them. But
why have we come so far to give up all the peril and the sport at the
last moment?"

"She speaks truth," said Wendot, to whom she seemed to look. "At this
season of the year wolves have meat in plenty, and will not attack man
save in self defence. If we track them silently to their lair, we may
surprise and kill the brood; but we are many, and can leave force enough
to defend the ladies whilst the rest fight the battle with the creatures
at bay."

Nobody really wished to be left behind, and there was a pleasant feeling
of safety in numbers. Slowly and cautiously they all followed the track
of the wolf downwards into the gloomy ravine, which seemed to shut out
all light of the sun between walls of solid rock.

It was a curious freak in which nature had indulged in the formation of
this miniature crevasse between the hillsides. At the base ran a dark
turbid stream, which had hollowed out for itself a sort of cavernous
opening, and the walls of rock rose almost precipitately on three sides,
only leaving one track by which the ravine could be entered. The stream
came bubbling out from the rock, passing through some underground
passage; and within the gloomy cavern thus produced the savage beasts
had plainly made their lair, for there were traces of blood and bones
upon the little rocky platform, and the trained ear of Wendot, who was
foremost, detected the sound of subdued and angry growling proceeding
from the natural cave they were approaching.

"The beasts are in there," he said, pausing, and the next moment Raoul
had loosed the dogs, who darted like arrows from bows along the narrow
track; and immediately a great he wolf had sprung out with a cry of
almost human rage, and had fastened upon one of the assailants, whose
piercing yell made the girls shrink back and almost wish they had not come.

But Wendot was not far behind. He was not one of the huntsmen who give
all the peril to the dogs and keep out of the fray themselves. Drawing
his long hunting knife, and shouting to his brothers to follow him, he
sprang down upon the rocky platform himself, and Llewelyn and Howel were
at his side in a moment. Godfrey would fain have followed, but his duty
obliged him to remain by the side of the princess; and he kept a firm
though respectful grasp upon Alphonso's arm, feeling that he must not by
any means permit the heir of England to adventure himself into the fray.
And indeed the boy's gashed hand hindered him from the use of his
weapon, and he could only look on with the most intense interest whilst
the conflict between the two fierce beasts and their angry cubs was
waged by the fearless lads, who had been through many such encounters
before, and showed such skill, such address, such intrepidity in their
attack, that the young prince shouted aloud in admiration, and even the
girls lost their first sense of terror in the certainty of victory on
the side of the Welsh youths.

As for Raoul Latimer, he stood at a safe distance cheering on his dogs,
but not adventuring himself within reach of the murderous fangs of the
wolves. He occupied a position halfway between the spot upon which the
fray was taking place and the vantage ground occupied by the royal party
in full sight of the strife.

Arthyn had passed several scornful comments upon the care the young
gallant was taking of himself, when suddenly there was a cry from the
spectators; for one of the cubs, escaping from the melee, ran full tilt
towards Raoul, blind as it seemed with terror; and as it came within
reach of his weapon, the sharp blade gleamed in the air, and the little
creature gave one yell and rolled over in its death agony. But that cry
seemed to pierce the heart of the mother wolf, and suddenly, with almost
preternatural strength and activity, she bounded clean over the forms of
men and dogs, and dashed straight at Raoul with all the ferocity of an
animal at bay, and of a mother robbed of her young.

The young man saw the attack; but his weapon was buried in the body of
the cub, and he had no time to disengage it. Turning with a sharp cry of
terror, he attempted to fly up the rocky path; but the beast was upon
him. She made a wild dash and fastened upon his back, her fangs crushing
one shoulder and her hot breath seeming to scorch his cheek. With a wild
yell of agony and terror Raoul threw himself face downwards upon the
ground, whilst his cry was shrilly echoed by the girls -- all but
Arthyn, who stood rigidly as if turned to stone, a strange, fierce light
blazing in her eyes.

But help was close at hand. Wendot had seen the spring, and had followed
close upon the charge of the maddened brute. Flinging himself fearlessly
upon the struggling pair, he plunged his knife into the neck of the
wolf, causing her to relax her hold of her first foe and turn upon him.
Had he stabbed her to the heart she might have inflicted worse injury
upon Raoul in her mortal struggle; as it was, there was fierce fight
left in her still. But Wendot was kneeling upon the wildly struggling
body with all his strength, and had locked his hands fast round her throat.

"Quick, Llewelyn -- the knife!" he cried, and his brother was beside him
in an instant.

The merciful death stroke was given, and the three youths rose from
their crouching posture and looked each other in the eyes, whilst the
wolf lay still and dead by the side of her cub.

"Methinks we have had something too much of Welsh wolves," was the only
comment of Raoul, as he joined the royal party without a word to the
brothers who had saved his life.



    CHAPTER VII. THE KING'S JUDGMENT.


The great King Edward had been sitting enthroned in the state apartment
of the castle, receiving the homage of those amongst the Welsh lords and
chieftains who had been summoned to pay their homage to him and had
obeyed this summons.

It was an imposing sight, and one not likely to be forgotten by any who
witnessed it for the first time. The courageous but gentle Queen
Eleanor, who was seldom absent from her lord's side be the times
peaceful or warlike, was seated beside him for the ceremony, with her
two elder daughters beside her. The young Alphonso stood at the right
hand of the king, his face bright with interest and sympathy; and if
ever the act of homage seemed to be paid with effort by some rugged
chieftain, or he saw a look of gloom or pain upon the face of such a
one, he was ever ready with some graceful speech or small act of
courtesy, which generally acted like a charm. And the father regarded
his son with a fond pride, and let him take his own way with these
haughty, untamable spirits, feeling perhaps that the tact of the royal
boy would do more to conciliate and win hearts than any word or deed of
his own.

Edward has been often harshly condemned for his cruelty and treachery
towards the vanquished Welsh; but it must be remembered with regard to
the first charge that the days were rude and cruel, that the spirit of
the age was fierce and headstrong, and that the barons and nobles who
were scheming for the fair lands of Wales were guilty of many of the
unjust and oppressive acts for which Edward has since been held
responsible. The Welsh were themselves a very wild race, in some parts
of the country barely civilized; and there can be no denying that a vein
of fierce treachery ran through their composition, and that they often
provoked their adversaries to cruel retaliation. As for the king
himself, his policy was on the whole a merciful and just one, if the one
point of his feudal supremacy were conceded. To those who came to him
with their act of homage he confirmed their possession of ancestral
estates, and treated them with kindness and consideration. He was too
keen a statesman and too just a man to desire anything but a
conciliatory policy so far as it was possible. Only when really roused
to anger and resolved upon war did the fiercer side of his nature show
itself, and then, indeed, he could show himself terrible and lion-like
in his wrath.

The brothers of Dynevor were the last of those who came to pay their act
of homage. The day had waned, and the last light of sunset was streaming
into that long room as the fair-haired Wendot bent his knee in response
to the summons of the herald. The king's eyes seemed to rest upon him
with interest, and he spoke kindly to the youth; but it was noted by
some in the company that his brow darkened when Llewelyn followed his
brother's example, Howel attending him as Griffeth had supported Wendot;
and there was none of the gracious urbanity in the royal countenance now
that had characterized it during the past hour.

Several faces amongst those in immediate attendance upon the king and
his family watched this closing scene with unwonted interest. Gertrude
stood with Joanna's hand clasped in hers, quivering with excitement, and
ever and anon casting quick looks towards her brother, who stood behind
the chair of state observant and watchful, but without betraying his
feelings either by word or look. Raoul Latimer was there, a sneer upon
his lips, a malevolent light in his eyes, which deepened as they rested
upon Llewelyn, whilst Arthyn watched the twin brothers with a strange
look in her glowing eyes, her lips parted, her white teeth just showing
between, her whole expression one of tense expectancy and sympathy. Once
Llewelyn glanced up and met the look she bent on him. A dusky flush
overspread his cheek, and his fingers clenched themselves in an
unconscious movement understood only by himself.

The homage paid, there was a little stir at the lower end of the hall as
the doors were flung open for the royal party to take their departure.
Edward bent a searching look upon the four brothers, who had fallen back
somewhat, and were clustered together not far from the royal group, and
the next minute an attendant whispered to them that it was the king's
pleasure they should follow in his personal retinue, as he had somewhat
to say to them in private.

Wendot's heart beat rather faster than its wont. He had had some
foreboding of evil ever since that unlucky expedition, some days back
now, on which Llewelyn's sword had been drawn upon an English subject,
and had injured the king's son likewise. Raoul had for very shame
affected a sort of condescending friendliness towards the brothers after
they had been instrumental in saving him from the fangs of the she wolf;
but it was pretty evident to them that his friendship was but skin deep;
whilst every word that passed between Arthyn and Llewelyn or his brother
-- and these were many -- was ranked as a dire offence.

Had Wendot been more conversant with the intrigues of courts, he would
have seen plainly that Raoul was paying his addresses to the Welsh
heiress, who plainly detested and abhorred him. The ambitious and clever
young man, who was well thought of by the king, and had many friends
amongst the nobles and barons, had a plan of his own for securing to
himself some of the richest territory in the country, and was leaving no
stone unturned in order to achieve that object. A marriage with Arthyn
would give him the hold he wanted upon a very large estate. But
indifferent as he was to the feelings of the lady, he was wise enough to
see that whilst she remained in her present mood, and was the confidante
and friend of the princesses, he should not gain the king's consent to
prosecuting his nuptials by force, as he would gladly have done.
Whereupon a new scheme had entered his busy brain, as a second string to
his bow, and with the help of a kinsman high in favour with the king, he
had great hopes of gaining his point, which would at once gratify his
ambition and inflict vengeance upon a hated rival.

Raoul had hated the Dynevor brothers ever since he had detected in
Arthyn an interest in and sympathy for them, ever since he had found her
in close talk in their own tongue with the dark-browed twins, whose
antagonism to the English was scarcely disguised. He had done all he
knew to stir the hot blood in Llewelyn and Howel, and that with some
success. The lads were looked upon as dangerous and treacherous by many
of those in the castle; and from the sneering look of coming triumph
upon the face of young Latimer as the party moved off towards the
private apartments of the royal family, it was plain that he anticipated
a victory for himself and a profound humiliation for his foes.

Supper was the first business of the hour, and the Dynevor brothers sat
at the lower table with the attendants of the king. The meal was
well-served and plentiful, but they bad small appetite for it. Wendot
felt as though a shadow hung upon them; and the chief comfort he
received was in stealing glances at the sweet, sensitive face of
Gertrude, who generally responded to his glance by one of her flashing
smiles.

Wendot wondered how it was that Lord Montacute had never sought him out
to speak to him. Little as the lad had thought of their parting
interview at Dynevor during the past two years, it all came back with
the greatest vividness as he looked upon the fine calm face of the
English noble. Was it possible he had forgotten the half-pledge once
given him? Or did he regret it, now that his daughter was shooting up
from a child into a sweet and gracious maiden whom he felt disposed to
worship with reverential awe? Wendot did not think he was in love -- he
would scarce have known the meaning of the phrase and he as little
understood the feelings which had lately awakened within him; but he did
feel conscious that a new element had entered into his life, and with it
a far less bitter sense of antagonism to the English than he had
experienced in previous years.

After the supper was ended the royal family withdrew into an inner room,
and presently the four brothers were bidden to enter, as the king had
somewhat to say to them. The greater number of the courtiers and
attendants remained in the outer room, but Sir Godfrey Challoner, Raoul
Latimer, and one or two other gentlemen were present in the smaller
apartment. The queen and royal children were also there, and their
playfellows and companions, Gertrude holding her father by the hand, and
watching with intense interest the approach of the brothers and the
faces of the king and his son.

Edward was seated before a table on which certain parchments lay.
Alphonso stood beside him, and Wendot fancied that he had only just
ended some earnest appeal, his parted lips and flushed cheeks seeming to
tell of recent eager speech. The king looked keenly at the brothers as
they made their obeisance to him, and singling out Wendot, bid him by a
gesture to approach nearer.

There was a kindliness in the royal countenance which encouraged the
youth, and few could approach the great soldier king without
experiencing something of the fascination which his powerful
individuality exercised over all his subjects.

"Come hither, boy," he said; "we have heard nought but good of thee.
Thou hast an eloquent advocate in yon maiden of Lord Montacute's, and
mine own son and daughters praise thy gallantry in no measured terms. We
have made careful examination into these parchments here, containing
reports of the late rebellion, and cannot find that thou hast had part
or lot in it. Thou hast paid thy homage without dallying or delay;
wherefore it is our pleasure to confirm to thee thy possession of thy
castle of Dynevor and its territory. We only caution thee to remain
loyal to him thou hast owned as king, and we will establish thee in thy
rights if in time to come they be disputed by others, or thou stirrest
up foes by thy loyalty to us."

Wendot bowed low. If there was something bitter in having his father's
rightful inheritance granted to him as something of a boon, at least
there was much to sweeten the draught in the kindly and gracious bearing
of the king, and in Alphonso's friendly words and looks. He had no
father to look to in time of need, and felt a great distrust of the
kinsman who exercised some guardianship over him; so that there was
considerable relief for the youth in feeling that the great King of
England was his friend, and that he would keep him from the aggression
of foes.

He stood aside as Edward's glance passed on to Llewelyn and Howel, and
it was plain that the monarch's face changed and hardened as he fixed
his eye upon the twins.

"Llewelyn -- Howel," he said, "joint lords of Iscennen, we wish that we
had received the same good report of you that we have done of your
brethren. But it is not so. There be dark records in your past which
give little hope for the future. Nevertheless you are yet young. Wisdom
may come with the advance of years. But the hot blood in you requires
taming and curbing. You have proved yourselves unfit for the place
hitherto occupied as lords of the broad lands bequeathed you by Res
Vychan, your father. For the present those lands are forfeit. You must
win the right to call them yours again by loyalty in the cause which
every true Welshman should have at heart, because it is the cause which
alone can bring peace and safety to your harassed country. It is not
willingly that we wrest from any man the lands that are his birthright.
Less willingly do we do this when homage, however unwilling and
reluctant, has been paid. But we have our duties to ourselves and to our
submitted subjects to consider, and it is not meet to send firebrands
alight into the world, when a spark may raise so fierce a conflagration,
and when hundreds of lives have to pay the penalty of one mad act of
headstrong youth. It is your youth that shall be your excuse from the
charge of graver offence, but those who are too young to govern
themselves are not fit to govern others."

Whilst the king had been speaking he had been closely studying the faces
of the twin brothers, who stood before him with their eyes on the
ground. These two lads, although by their stature and appearance almost
men, had not attained more than their sixteenth year, and had by no
means learned that control of feature which is one of nature's hardest
lessons. As the king's words made themselves understood, their brows had
darkened and their faces had contracted with a fierce anger and rage,
which betrayed itself also in their clenched hands and heaving chests;
and although they remained speechless -- for the awe inspired by
Edward's presence could not but make itself felt even by them -- it was
plain that only the strongest efforts put upon themselves hindered them
from some outbreak of great violence.

Edward's eye rested sternly upon them for a moment, and then he
addressed himself once again to Wendot.

"To thee, Res Wendot," he said, "we give the charge of these two
turbulent brothers of thine. Had not the Prince Alphonso spoken for
them, we had kept them under our own care here in our fortress of
Rhuddlan. But he has pleaded for them that they have their liberty,
therefore into thy charge do we give them. Take them back with thee to
Dynevor, and strive to make them like unto thyself and thy shadow there,
who is, they tell me, thy youngest brother, and as well disposed as thyself.

"Say, young man, wilt thou accept this charge, and be surety for these
haughty youths? If their own next-of-kin will not take this office, we
must look elsewhere for a sterner guardian."

For a moment Wendot hesitated, He knew well the untamable spirit of his
brothers, and the small influence he was likely to have upon them, and
for a moment his heart shrank from the task. But again he bethought what
his refusal must mean to them -- captivity of a more or less irksome
kind, harsh treatment perhaps, resulting in actual imprisonment, and a
sure loss of favour with any guardian who had the least love for the
English cause. At Dynevor they would at least be free.

Surely, knowing all, they would not make his task too hard. The tie of
kindred was very close. Wendot remembered words spoken by the dying bed
of his parents, and his mind was quickly made up.

"I will be surety for them," he said briefly. "If they offend again, let
my life, my lands, be the forfeit."

The monarch gave him a searching glance. Perhaps some of the effort with
which he had spoken made itself audible in his tones. He looked full at
Wendot for a brief minute, and then turned to the black-browed twins.

"You hear your brother's pledge," he said in low, stern tones. "If you
have the feelings of men of honour, you will respect the motive which
prompts him to give it, and add no difficulties to the task he has
imposed upon himself. Be loyal to him, and loyal to the cause he has
embraced, and perchance a day may come when you may so have redeemed
your past youthful follies as to claim and receive at our hands the
lands we now withhold. In the meantime they will be administered by
Raoul Latimer, who will draw the revenues and maintain order there. He
has proved his loyalty in many ways ere this, and he is to be trusted,
as one day I hope you twain may be."

Llewelyn started as if he had been stung as these words crossed the
king's lips. His black eyes flashed fire, and as he lifted his head and
met the mocking glance of Raoul, it seemed for a moment as if actually
in the presence of the king he would have flown at his antagonist's
throat; but Wendot's hand was on his arm, and even Howel had the
self-command to whisper a word of caution. Alphonso sprang gaily between
the angry youth and his father's keen glance, and began talking eagerly
of Dynevor, asking how the brothers would spend their time, now that
they were all to live there once more; whilst Arthyn, coming forward,
drew Llewelyn gently backward, casting at Raoul a look of such bitter
scorn and hatred that he involuntarily shrank before it.

"Thou hast taken a heavy burden upon thy young shoulders, lad," said a
well-remembered voice in Wendot's ear, and looking up, he met the calm
gaze of Lord Montacute bent upon him; whilst Gertrude, flushing and
sparkling, stood close beside her father. "Thinkest thou that such
tempers as those will be easily controlled?"

Wendot's face was grave, and looked manly in its noble thoughtfulness.

"I know not what to say; but, in truth, I could have given no other
answer. Could I leave my own brethren to languish in captivity, however
honourable, when a word from me would free them? Methinks, sir, thou
scarce knowest what freedom is to us wild sons of Wales, or how the very
thought of any hindrance to perfect liberty chafes our spirit and frets
us past the limit of endurance. Sooner than be fettered by bonds,
however slack, I would spring from yonder casement and dash myself to
pieces upon the stones below. To give my brothers up into unfriendly
hands would be giving them up to certain death. If my spirit could not
brook such control, how much less could theirs?"

Gertrude's soft eyes gave eloquent and sympathetic response. Wendot had
unconsciously addressed his justification to her rather than to her
father. Her quick sympathy gave him heart and hope. She laid her hand
upon his arm and said:

"I think thou art very noble, Wendot; it was like thee to do it. I was
almost grieved when I heard thee take the charge upon thyself, for I
fear it may be one of peril to thee. But I love thee the more for thy
generosity. Thou wilt be a true and brave knight ere thou winnest thy
spurs in battle."

Wendot's face flushed with shy happiness at hearing such frank and
unqualified praise from one he was beginning to hold so dear. Lord
Montacute laid his hand smilingly on his daughter's mouth, as if to
check her ready speech, and then bidding her join the Lady Joanna, who
was making signals to her from the other side of the room, he drew
Wendot a little away into an embrasure, and spoke to him in tones of
considerable gravity.

"Young man," he said, "I know not if thou hast any memory left of the
words I spake to thee when last we met at Dynevor?"

Wendot's colour again rose, but his glance did not waver.

"I remember right well," he answered simply. "I spoke words then of
which I have often thought since -- words that I have not repented till
today, nor indeed till I heard thee pass that pledge which makes thee
surety for thy turbulent brothers."

A quick, troubled look crossed Wendot's face, but he did not speak, and
Lord Montacute continued -- "I greatly fear that thou hast undertaken
more than thou canst accomplish; and that, instead of drawing thy
brothers from the paths of peril, thou wilt rather be led by them into
treacherous waters, which may at last overwhelm thee. You are all young
together, and many dangers beset the steps of youth. Thou art true and
loyal hearted, that I know well; but thou art a Welshman, and --"

He paused and stopped short, and Wendot answered, not without pride:

"I truly am a Welshman -- it is my boast to call myself that. If you
fear to give your daughter to one of that despised race, so be it. I
would not drag her down to degradation; I love her too well for that.
Keep her to thyself. I give thee back thy pledge."

Lord Montacute smiled as he laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.

"So hot and hasty, Wendot, as hasty as those black-haired twins. Yet,
boy, I like thee for thy outspoken candour, and I would not have thee
change it for the smooth treachery of courtly intrigue. If I had nought
else to think of, I would plight my daughter's hand to thee, an ye both
were willing, more gladly than to any man I know. But, Wendot, she is
mine only child, and very dear to me. There are others who would fain
win her smiles, others who would be proud to do her lightest behest. She
is yet but a child. Perchance she has not seriously considered these
matters. Still there will come a time when she will do so, and --"

"Then let her choose where she will," cried Wendot, proudly and hotly.
"Think you I would wed one whose heart was given elsewhere? Take back
your pledge -- think of it no more. If the day comes when I may come to
her free and unfettered, and see if she has any regard for me, good. I
will come. But so long as you hold that peril menaces my path, I will
not ask her even to think of me. Let her forget. I will not bind her by
a word. It shall be as if those words had never passed betwixt us."

Lord Montacute scarce knew if regret, relief, or admiration were the
feeling uppermost in his mind, as the youth he believed so worthy of his
fair daughter, and perhaps not entirely indifferent to her dawning
charms, thus frankly withdrew his claim upon her hand. It seems strange
to us that any one should be talking and thinking so seriously of
matrimony when the girl was but fourteen and the youth three years her
senior; but in those days marriages were not only planned but
consummated at an absurdly early age according to our modern notions,
and brides of fifteen and sixteen were considered almost mature. Many
young men of Wendot's age would be seriously seeking a wife, and
although no such thought had entered his head until he had seen Gertrude
again, it cannot be denied that the idea had taken some hold upon him
now, or that he did not feel a qualm of pain and sorrow at thus yielding
up one bright hope just when the task he had taken upon himself seemed
to be clouding his life with anxiety and peril.

"Boy," said Lord Montacute, "I cannot forget what thou hast done nor
what she owes to thee. I love thee well, and would fain welcome thee as
a son; but my love for her bids me wait till we see what is the result
of this office thou hast taken on thyself. Thou hast acted rightly and
nobly, but in this world trouble often seems to follow the steps of
those who strive most after the right. If thine own life, thine own
possessions, are to pay the forfeit if thy brethren fall away into
rebellion -- and Edward, though a just man and kind, can be stern to
exact the uttermost penalty when he is angered or defied -- then
standest thou in sore peril, peril from which I would shield my maid.
Wherefore --"

"Nay, say no more -- say no more. I comprehend it all too well," replied
Wendot, not without a natural though only momentary feeling of
bitterness at the thought of what this pledge was already costing him,
but his native generosity and sweetness of temper soon triumphed over
all besides, and he said with his peculiarly bright and steadfast smile,
"You have judged rightly and well for us both, my lord. Did I but drag
her down to sorrow and shame, it would be the bitterest drop in a bitter
cup. A man placed as I am is better without ties."

"Also the days will soon pass by, and the time will come when this
charge ceases. Then if the Lady Gertrude be still mistress of her hand
and heart, and if the Lord of Dynevor comes to try his fate, methinks,
by what I have seen and heard, that he may chance to get no unkindly
answer to his wooing."

Wendot made no reply, but only blushed deeply as he moved away. He
scarce knew whether he were glad or sorry that Gertrude came out to meet
him, and drew him towards the little group which had gathered in a deep
embrasure of the window. Joanna, Alphonso, and Griffeth were there. They
had been eagerly questioning the younger lad about life at Dynevor, and
what they would do when they were at home all together. Joanna was
longing to travel that way and lodge a night there; and Gertrude was
eloquent in praise of the castle, and looked almost wistfully at Wendot
to induce him to add his voice to the general testimony. But he was
unwontedly grave and silent, and her soft eyes filled with tears. She
knew that he was heavy hearted, and it cut her to the quick; but he did
not speak of his trouble, and only Alphonso ventured to allude to it,
and that was by one quick sentence as he was taking his departure at
bedtime.

"Wendot," he said earnestly, "I will ever be thy friend. Fear not. My
father denies me nothing. Thy trial may be a hard one, but thou wilt
come nobly forth from it. I will see that harm to thee comes not from
thy generosity. Only be true to us, and thou shalt not suffer."

Wendot made no reply, but the words were like a gleam of sunshine
breaking through the clouds; and one more such gleam was in store for
him on the morrow, when he bid a final adieu to Gertrude before the
general departure for Dynevor.

"I have my half gold coin, Wendot. I shall look at it every day and
think of thee. I am so happy that we have seen each other once again.
Thou wilt not forget me, Wendot?"

"Never so long as I live," he answered with sudden fervour, raising the
small hand he held to his lips. "And some day, perchance, Lady Gertrude,
I will come to thee again."

"I shall be waiting for thee," she answered, with a mixture of arch
sweetness and playfulness that he scarce knew whether to call childlike
confidence or maiden trust. But the look in her eyes went to his heart,
and was treasured there, like the memory of a sunbeam, for many long
days to come.



    CHAPTER VIII. TURBULENT SPIRITS.


The four sons of Res Vychan went back to Dynevor together, there to
settle down, outwardly at least, to a quiet and uneventful life, chiefly
diversified by hunting and fishing, and such adventures as are
inseparable from those pastimes in which eager lads are engrossed.

Wendot both looked and felt older for his experiences in the castle of
Rhuddlan. His face had lost much of its boyishness, and had taken a
thoughtfulness beyond his years. Sometimes he appeared considerably
oppressed by the weight of the responsibility with which he had charged
himself, and would watch the movements and listen to the talk of the
twins with but slightly concealed uneasiness.

Yet as days merged into weeks, and weeks lengthened into months, and
still there had been nothing to alarm him unduly, he began, as the
inclement winter drew on, to breathe more freely; for in the winter
months all hostilities of necessity ceased, for the mountain passes were
always blocked with snow, and both travelling and fighting were
practically out of the question for a considerable time.

Wendot, too, had matters enough to occupy his mind quite apart from the
charge of his two haughty brothers. He had his own estates to administer
-- no light task for a youth not yet eighteen -- and his large household
to order; and though Griffeth gave him every help, Llewelyn and Howel
stood sullenly aloof, and would not appear to take the least interest in
anything that appertained to Dynevor, although they gave no reason for
their conduct, and were not in other ways unfriendly to their brothers.

The country was for the time being quiet and at peace. Exhausted by its
own internal struggles and by the late disastrous campaign against the
English, the land was, as it were, resting and recruiting itself, in
preparation, perhaps, for another outbreak later on. In the meantime,
sanguine spirits like those of Wendot and Griffeth began to cherish
hopes that the long and weary struggle was over at last, and that the
nation, as a nation, would begin to realize the wisdom and the advantage
of making a friend and ally of the powerful monarch of England, instead
of provoking him to acts of tyranny and retaliation by perpetual and
fruitless rebellions against a will far too strong to be successfully
resisted.

But Llewelyn and Howel never spoke of the English without words and
looks indicative of the deepest hatred; and the smouldering fire in
their breasts was kept glowing and burning by the wild words and the
wilder songs of the old bard Wenwynwyn, who spent the best part of his
time shut up in his own bare room, with his harp for his companion, in
which room Llewelyn and Howel spent much of their time during the dark
winter days, when they could be less and less out of doors.

Since that adventure of the Eagle's Crag, Wendot had distrusted the old
minstrel, and was uneasy at the influence he exercised upon the twins;
but the idea of sending him from Dynevor was one which never for a
moment entered his head. Had not Wenwynwyn grown old in his father's
service? Had he not been born and bred at Dynevor? The young lord
himself seemed to have a scarce more assured right to his place there
than the ancient bard. Be he friend or be he foe, at Dynevor he must
remain so long as the breath remained in his body.

The bard was, by hereditary instinct, attached to all the boys, but of
late there had been but little community of thought between him and his
young chieftain. Wendot well knew the reason. The old man hated the
English with the bitter, unreasoning, deadly hatred of his wild,
untutored nature. Had he not sprung from a race whose lives had been
spent in rousing in the breasts of all who heard them the most fervent
and unbounded patriotic enthusiasm? And was it to be marvelled at that
he could not see or understand the changes of the times or the
hopelessness of the long struggle, now that half the Welsh nobles were
growing cool in the national cause, and the civilization and wealth of
the sister country were beginning to show them that their own condition
left much to be desired, and that there was something better and higher
to be achieved than a so-called liberty, only maintained at the cost of
perpetual bloodshed? or a series of petty feuds for supremacy, which
went far to keep the land in a state of semi-barbarism?

So the old bard sang his wild songs, and Llewelyn and Howel sat by the
glowing fire of logs that blazed in the long winter evenings upon his
hearth, listening to his fierce words, and hardening their hearts and
bracing their wills against any kind of submission to a foreign yoke. A
burning hatred against the English king also consumed them. Had they
not, at the cost of most bitter humiliation, gone to him as vassals,
trusting to his promise that all who did homage for their lands should
be confirmed in peaceful possession of the same? And how had he treated
this act of painful submission? Was it greatly to be wondered at that
their hearts burned with an unquenchable hatred? To them Edward stood as
the type of all that was cruel and treacherous and grasping. They
brooded over their wrongs by day and by night; they carried their dark
looks with them when they stirred abroad or when they rested at home.
Wenwynwyn sympathized as none besides seemed to do, and he became their
great solace and chief counsellor.

Wendot might uneasily wonder what passed in that quiet room of the old
man's, but he never knew or guessed. He would better have liked to hear
Llewelyn burst forth into the old passionate invective. He was uneasy at
this chronic state of gloom and sullen silence on the vexed question of
English supremacy. But seldom a word passed the lips of either twin.
They kept their secret -- if secret they had -- locked away in their own
breasts. And days and weeks and months passed by, and Wendot and
Griffeth seemed almost as much alone at Dynevor as they had been after
their father's death, when Llewelyn and Howel had betaken themselves to
their castle of Carregcennen.

But at least, if silent and sullen, they did not appear to entertain any
plan likely to raise anxiety in Wendot's mind as to the pledge he had
given to the king. They kept at home, and never spoke of Iscennen, and
as the winter passed away and the spring began to awaken the world from
her long white sleep, they betook themselves with zest to their pastime
of hunting, and went long expeditions that sometimes lasted many days,
returning laden with spoil, and apparently in better spirits from the
bracing nature of their pursuits.

Griffeth, who had felt the cold somewhat keenly, and had been drooping
and languid all the winter, picked up strength and spirit as the days
grew longer and warmer, and began to enjoy open-air life once more.

Wendot was much wrapped up in this young brother of his, who had always
been dearer to him than any being in the world besides.

Since he had been at death's door with the fever, Griffeth had never
recovered the robustness of health which had hitherto been the
characteristic of the Dynevor brothers all their lives. He was active
and energetic when the fit was on him, but he wearied soon of any active
sport. He could no longer bound up the mountain paths with the fleetness
and elasticity of a mountain deer, and in the keen air of the higher
peaks it was difficult for him to breathe.

Still in the summer days he was almost his former self again, or so
Wendot hoped; and although Griffeth's lack of rude health hindered both
from joining the long expeditions planned and carried out by the twins,
it never occurred to Wendot to suspect that there was an ulterior motive
for these, or to realize how unwelcome his presence would have been had
he volunteered it, in lieu of staying behind with Griffeth, and
contenting himself with less adventurous sports.

Spring turned to summer, and summer to autumn, and life at Dynevor
seemed to move quietly enough. Griffeth took a fancy to book learning --
a rare enough accomplishment in those days -- and a monk from the Abbey
of Strata Florida was procured to give him instruction in the obscure
science of reading and writing. Wendot, who had a natural love of study,
and who had been taught something of these mysteries by his mother --
she being for the age she lived in a very cultivated woman -- shared his
brother's studies, and delighted in the acquirement of learning.

But this new development on the part of the Lord of Dynevor and his
brother seemed to divide them still more from the two remaining sons of
Res Vychan; and the old bard would solemnly shake his head and predict
certain ruin to the house when its master laid aside sword for pen, and
looked for counsel to the monk and missal instead of to his good right
hand and his faithful band of armed retainers.

Wendot and Griffeth would smile at these dark sayings, and loved their
studies none the less because they opened out before them some better
understanding of the blessings of peace and culture upon a world harried
and exhausted with perpetual, aimless strife; but their more enlightened
opinions seemed but to widen the breach between them and their brothers,
and soon they began to be almost strangers to each other.

Wendot and Griffeth regretted this without seeing how to mend matters.
They felt sorry for Llewelyn and Howel, deprived of the employments and
authority they had enjoyed of late, and would have gladly given them a
share of authority in Dynevor; but this they would not accept, drawing
more and more away into themselves, and sharing their confidences with
no one except Wenwynwyn.

The summer was now on the wane, and the blustering winds of the equinox
had begun to moan about the castle walls. The men were busy getting in
the last of the fruits of the earth and storing them up against the
winter need, whilst the huntsmen brought in day by day stores of venison
and game, which the women salted down for consumption during the long
dreary days when snow should shut them within their own walls, and no
fresh meat would be obtainable.

It was a busy season, and Wendot had time and mind alike full. He heeded
little the movements of his brothers, whom he thought engrossed in the
pleasures of the chase. He was not even aware that old Wenwynwyn was
absent for several days from the castle, for since the estrangement
between him and the old man he was often days at a time without
encountering him.

Llewelyn and Howel were visibly restless just now. They did not go far
from the castle, nor did they seem interested in the spoil the hunters
brought home. But they spent many long hours in the great gallery where
the arms of the retainers were laid up, and their heads were often to be
seen close together in deep discussion, although if any person came near
to disturb them they would spring asunder, or begin loudly discussing
some indifferent theme.

They were in this vast, gloomy place, sitting together in the deep
embrasure of one of the narrow windows as the daylight began to fail,
when suddenly they beheld Wenwynwyn stalking through the long gallery as
if in search of them, and they sprang forward to greet him with
unconcealed eagerness.

"Thou hast returned."

"Ay, my sons, I have returned, and am the bearer of good news. But this
is not the place to speak. Stones have ears, and traitors abound even in
these hoary walls which have echoed to the songs of the bard for more
years than man can count. Ah, woe the day; ah, woe the falling off! That
I should live to see the sons of Dynevor thus fall away -- the young
eaglets leaving their high estate to grovel with the carrion vulture and
the coward crow! Ah! in old days it was not so. But there are yet those
of the degenerate race in whom the spirit of their fathers burns. Come,
my sons -- come hither with me. I bring you a message from Iscennen that
will gladden your hearts to hear."

The boys pressed after him up the narrow, winding stair that led to the
room the bard called his own. It was remote from the rest of the castle,
and words spoken within its walls could be heard by none outside. It was
a place that had heard much plotting and planning ere now, and what was
to be spoken tonight was but the sequel of what had gone before.

"Speak, Wenwynwyn, speak!" cried the twins in a breath. "Has he returned
thither?"

"Ay, my sons; he has come back in person to receive his 'dues,' and to
look into all that has passed in his absence. These eyes have seen the
false, smiling face of the usurper, who sits in the halls which have
rung to the sound of yon harp in days when the accursed foot of the
stranger would have been driven with blows from the door. He is there,
and --"

"And they hate and despise and contemn him," cried Llewelyn in wild
excitement. "Every man of Iscennen is his foe. Do not I know it? Have we
not proved it? There is no one but will rise at the sound of my trumpet,
to follow me to victory or death.

"Wenwynwyn, speak! thou hast bid us wait till the hour has come till all
things be ripe for action. Tell us, has not that hour come? Hast thou
not come to bid us draw the sword, and wrest our rightful inheritance
from the hand of the spoiler and alien?"

"Ay, verily, that hour has come," cried the old bard, with a wild
gesture. "The spoiler is there, lurking in his den. His eyes are roving
round in hungry greed to spoil the poor man of his goods, to wrest the
weapon from the strong. He is fearful in the midst of his state --
fearful of those he calls his vassals -- those he would crush with his
iron glove, and wring dry even as a sponge is wrung. Ay, the hour is
come. The loyal patriots have looked upon your faces, my sons, and see
in you their liberators. Go now, when the traitor whose life you saved
is gloating over his spoil in his castle walls. Go and show him what it
is to rob the young lions of their prey; show him what it is to strive
with eagles, when only the blood of the painted jay runs in his craven
veins. Saw I not fear, distrust, and hatred in every line of that smooth
face? Think you that he is happy in the possession of what he sold his
soul to gain? Go, and the victory will be yours. Go; all Iscennen will
be with you. Wenwynwyn has not sung his songs in vain amongst those
hardy people! He has prepared the way. Go! victory lies before you."

The boys' hearts swelled within them at these words. It was not for
nothing that they, with their own faithful followers, sworn to secrecy,
had absented themselves again and again from Dynevor Castle on the
pretence of long hunting expeditions. It was true that they had hunted
game, that they had brought home abundance of spoil with them; but
little had Llewelyn or Howel to do with the taking of that prey. They
had been at Iscennen; they had travelled the familiar tracks once again,
and had found nothing but the most enthusiastic welcome from their own
people, the greatest hatred for the foreign lordling, who had been
foisted upon them by edict of the king.

Truly Raoul Latimer had won but a barren triumph in gaining for himself
the lands of Iscennen. A very short residence there had proved enough
for him, and he had withdrawn, in fear that if he did not do so some
fatal mischance would befall him. He had reigned there as an absentee
ever since, not less cursed and hated for the oppressive measures taken
in his name than when he had been the active agent.

Matters were ripe for revolt. There only wanted the time and the
occasion. The leader was already to hand -- the old lord, young in
years, Llewelyn ap Res Vychan, and Howel his brother. With the twins at
their head, Iscennen would rise to a man; and then let Raoul Latimer
look to himself! For the Welsh, when once aroused to strike, struck
hard; and it cannot be denied that they ofttimes struck treacherously
beside.

Small wonder if, as Wenwynwyn declared, young Raoul had found but small
satisfaction in his visit to his new estate, and lived upon it in terror
of his very life, though surrounded by the solid walls of his own castle.

The hour had come. Llewelyn and Howel were about to taste the keen joy
of revenging themselves upon a foe they hated and abhorred, about to
take at least one step towards reinstating themselves in their ancestral
halls. But the second object was really less dear to them than the
first. If the hated Raoul could be slain, or made to fly in ignominy and
disgrace, they cared little who reigned in his place. Their own tenure
at Carregcennen under existing circumstances they knew to be most
insecure, and although they had organized and were to lead the attack,
they were to do so disguised, and those who knew the share they were to
take were pledged not to betray it.

Loose as had grown the bond between the brothers of late, the twins were
not devoid of a certain rude code of honour of their own, and had no
wish to involve Wendot in ruin and disgrace. He was surety for their
good behaviour, and if it became known to Edward that they had led the
attack on one of his English subjects, Dynevor itself might pay the
forfeit of his displeasure, and Wendot might have to answer with his
life, as he had offered to do, for his brothers. Thus, though this
consideration was not strong enough to keep the twins from indulging
their ungovernable hatred to their foe, it made them cautious about
openly appearing in the matter themselves; and when, upon a wild,
blustering night not many days later, a little band of hardy Welshmen,
all armed to the teeth, crept with the silent caution of wild beasts
along a rocky pathway which led by a subterranean way, known only to
Llewelyn and Howel, into the keep of the castle itself; none would have
recognized in the blackened faces of the two leaders, covered, as they
appeared to be, with a tangled growth of hair and beard, the
countenances of the sons of Res Vychan; whilst the stalwart, muscular
figures seemed rather to belong to men than lads, and assisted the
disguise not a little.

The hot-headed but by no means intrepid young Englishman, who had not
had the courage to remain long in the possessions he had coveted, and
who was fervently wishing that this second visit was safely over, was
aroused from his slumbers by the clash of arms, and by the terrified
cries of the guard he always placed about him.

"The Welsh wolves are upon us!" he heard a voice cry out in the
darkness. "We are undone -- betrayed! Every man for himself! They are
murdering every soul they meet."

In a passion of rage and terror Raoul sprang from his bed, and commenced
hurrying into his clothes as fast as his trembling hands would allow
him. In vain he called to his servants; they had every man of them fled.
Below he heard the clash of arms, and the terrible guttural cries with
which the Welsh always rushed into battle, and which echoed through the
halls of Carregcennen like the trump of doom.

It was a terrible moment for the young Englishman, alone, half-armed,
and at the mercy of a merciless foe. He looked wildly round for some
means of escape. The tread of many feet was on the stairs. To attempt
resistance was hopeless. Flight was the only resource left him, and in a
mad impulse of terror he flung himself on the floor, and crept beneath
the bed, the arras of which concealed him from sight. There he lay
panting and trembling, whilst the door was burst open and armed men came
flocking in.

"Ha, flown already!" cried a voice which did not seem entirely
unfamiliar to the shivering youth, though he could not have said exactly
to whom it belonged, and was in no mood to cudgel his brains on the subject.

He understood too little of the Welsh tongue to follow what was said,
but with unspeakable relief he heard steps pass from the room; for even
his foes did not credit him with the cowardice which would drive a man
to perish like a rat in a hole rather than sword in hand like a knight
and a soldier.

The men had dashed out, hot in pursuit, believing him to be attempting
escape through some of the many outlets of the castle; and Raoul, still
shivering and craven, was just creeping out from his hiding place,
resolved to try to find his way to the outer world, when he uttered a
gasp and stood or rather crouched spellbound where he was; for, standing
beside a table on which the dim light of a night candle burned, binding
up a gash in his arm with a scarf belonging to the Englishman, was a
tall, stalwart, soldierly figure, that turned quickly at the sound made
by the wretched Raoul.

"Spare me, spare me!" cried the miserable youth, as the man with a quick
movement grasped his weapon and advanced towards him.

He did not know if his English would be understood, but it appeared to
be, for the reply was spoken in the same tongue, though the words had
strong Welsh accent.

"And wherefore should I spare you? What have you done that we of
Iscennen should look upon you as other than a bitter foe? By what right
are you here wringing our life blood from us? Why should I not stamp the
miserable life out of you as you lie grovelling at my feet? Wales were
well quit of such craven hounds as you."

"Spare me, and I renounce my claim. I swear by all that is holy that if
you will but grant me my life I will repair to the king's court without
delay, and I will yield up to him every claim which I have on these
lands. I swear it by all that is holy in heaven and earth."

"And what good shall we reap from that? We shall but have another
English tyrant set over us. Better kill thee outright, as a warning to
all who may come after."

But Raoul clasped the knees of his foe, and lifted his voice again in
passionate appeal.

"Kill me not; what good would that do you or your cause? I tell you it
would but raise Edward's ire, and he would come with fire and sword to
devastate these lands as I have never done. Listen, and I will tell you
what I will do. Spare but my life, and I will entreat the king to
restore these lands to your feudal lords, Llewelyn and Howel ap Res
Vychan. It was by my doing that they were wrested from them. I confess
it freely now. Grant me but my life, and I will undo the work I have
done. I will restore to you your youthful chiefs. Again I swear it; and
I have the ear of his Grace. If thou hast thy country's cause at heart
thou wilt hear me in this thing. I will give you back the lords you all
love. I will trouble you no more myself. I would I had never seen this
evil place. It has been nought but a curse to me from the day it was
bestowed."

The man uttered a harsh laugh, and stood as if considering. Raoul, whose
eyes never left the shining blade his foe held suspended in his hand,
pleaded yet more and more eloquently, and, as it seemed, with some
effect, for the soldier presently sheathed his weapon, and bid the
wretched youth rise and follow him. Raoul obeying, soon found himself in
the presence of a wild crew of Welsh kerns, who were holding high
revelry in the banqueting hall, whilst his own English servants --
those, at least, who had not effected their escape -- lay dead upon the
ground, the presence of bleeding corpses at their very feet doing
nothing to check the savage mirth and revelry of the victors, who had
been joined by the whole of the Welsh garrison, only too glad of an
excuse for rising against the usurper.

A silence fell upon the company as the dark-bearded soldier marched his
captive into the hall, the yell of triumph being hushed by commanding
gesture from the captor. A long and unintelligible debate followed,
Raoul only gathering from the faces of those present what were their
feelings towards him. He stood cowering and quaking before that fierce
assembly -- a pitiful object for all eyes. But at length his captor
briefly informed him that his terms were accepted: that if he would
write his request to the king and obtain its fulfilment, he should go
free with a whole skin; but that, pending the negotiation, which could
be carried on by the fathers of the Abbey of Strata Florida, he would
remain a close prisoner, and his ransom would be the king's consent.

These were the best terms the unhappy Raoul could obtain for himself,
and he was forced to abide by them. The fathers of the abbey were honest
and trustworthy, and carried his letters to the king as soon as they had
penned them for him. Raoul was clever in diplomatic matters, and was so
anxious for his own safety that he took good care not to drop a hint as
to the evil conduct of the people of Iscennen, which might draw upon
them the royal wrath and upon him instant death. He simply represented
that he was weary of his charge of this barren estate, that he preferred
life in England and at the court, and found the revenues very barren and
unprofitable. As the former owners had redeemed their character by quiet
conduct during the past year and a half, his gracious Majesty, he
hinted, might be willing to gratify them and their people by reinstating
them.

And when Edward read this report, and heard the opinion of the father
who had brought it -- a wily and a patriotic Welshman, who knew how to
plead his cause well -- he made no trouble about restoring to Llewelyn
and Howel their lands, only desiring that Wendot should renew his pledge
for their loyalty and good conduct, and still hold himself responsible
for his brothers to the king.

And so Llewelyn and Howel went back to Carregcennen, and Wendot and
Griffeth remained at Dynevor, hoping with a fond hope that this act of
clemency and justice on the part of Edward would overcome in the mind of
the twins the deeply-seated hatred they had cherished so long.



    CHAPTER IX. THE RED FLAME OF WAR.


"Wendot, Wendot, it is our country's call! Thou canst not hang back.
United we stand; divided we fall. Will the Prince of Dynevor be the man
to bring ruin upon a noble cause, by banding with the alien oppressor
against his own brethren? I will not believe it of thee. Wendot, speak
-- say that thou wilt go with us!"

Wendot was standing in his own hall at Dynevor. In the background was a
crowd of retainers and soldiers, so eagerly discussing some matter of
vital interest that the brothers stepped outside upon the battlemented
terrace to be out of hearing of the noise of their eager voices.

There was a deep gravity on Wendot's face, which was no longer the face
of a boy, but of a youth of two-and-twenty summers, and one upon whom
the cares and responsibilities of life had sat somewhat heavily. The
tall, well-knit frame had taken upon it the stature and developed grace
of manhood; the sun-browned face was lined with traces of thought and
care, though the blue eyes sparkled with their old bright and ready
smile, and the stern lines of the lips were shaded and hidden by the
drooping moustache of golden brown. There were majesty, power, and
intellect stamped upon the face of the young Lord of Dynevor, and it was
very plain to all who observed his relations with those about him that
he was master of his own possession, and that though he was greatly
beloved by all who came in contact with him, he was respected and
obeyed, and in some things feared.

By his side stood Griffeth, almost as much his shadow as of yore. To a
casual observer the likeness between the brothers was very remarkable,
but a closer survey showed many points of dissimilarity. Griffeth's
figure was slight to spareness, and save in moments of excitement there
was something of languor in his movements. The colour in his cheeks was
not the healthy brown of exposure to sun and wind, but the fleeting
hectic flush of long-standing insidious disease, and his eyes had a
far-away look -- dreamy and absorbed; whilst those of his brother
expressed rather watchful observation of what went on around him, and
resolution to mould those about him to his will.

Facing this fair-haired pair were the twin Lords of Iscennen,
considerably changed from the sullen-looking lads of old days, but still
with many of their characteristics unchanged. They were taller and more
stoutly built than Wendot and Griffeth, and their dark skins and
coal-black hair gave something of ferocity and wildness to their
appearance, which look was borne out by the style of dress adopted,
whilst the young Lords of Dynevor affected something of the refinement
and richness of apparel introduced by the English.

For the past years a friendly intercourse had been kept up between
Dynevor and Carregcennen. The country had been at peace -- such peace as
internal dissensions would allow it -- and no one had disturbed the sons
of Res Vychan in the possession of their ancestral rights. The tie
between the brothers had therefore been more closely drawn, and Wendot's
responsibility for the submissive behaviour of the turbulent twins had
made him keep a constant eye upon them, and had withheld them on their
side from attempting to foment the small and fruitless struggles against
English authority which were from time to time arising between the
border-land chief and the Lords of the Marches.

But now something very different was in the wind. After almost five
years of peace with England, revolt had broken out in North Wales.
David, the brother of Llewelyn, had commenced it, and the prince had
followed the example thus set him. He had broken out into open
rebellion, and had summoned the whole nation to stand by him in one
united and gallant effort to free the country from the foreign foe, and
unite it once again as an undivided province beneath the rule of one
sovereign.

The call was enthusiastically responded to. North Wales rose as one man,
and flocked to the banners of the prince and his brother. South Wales
was feeling the contagion of coming strife, and the pulse of the nation
beat wildly at the thought that they might win liberty by the overthrow
of the foe. One after another the petty chiefs, who had sworn fealty to
Edward, renounced their allegiance, and mustered their forces to join
those of Llewelyn and David. The whole country was in a wild ferment of
patriotic excitement. The hour seemed to them to have arrived when all
could once again band together in triumphant vindication of their
national rights.

Llewelyn and Howel ap Res Vychan were amongst the first to tender their
allegiance to the cause, and, having sent on a compact band of armed men
to announce their coming in person, had themselves hurried to Dynevor to
persuade their brothers there to join the national cause.

And they found Wendot less indisposed than they had feared. The five
years which had passed over his head since he had fallen under the spell
of the English king's regal sway had a good deal weakened the impression
then made upon him. Edward had not visited the country in person since
that day, and the conduct of the English Lords of the Marches, and of
those who held lands in the subjected country, was not such as to endear
their cause to the hearts of the sons of Wales. Heart-burnings and
jealousies were frequent, and Wendot had often had his spirit stirred
within him at some tale of outrage and wrong. The upright justice of the
king was not observed by his subjects, and the hatred to any kind of
foreign yoke was inherently strong in these sons of the mountains. In
the studies the Dynevor brothers had prosecuted together they had
imbibed many noble thoughts and many lofty aspirations, and these,
mingling with the patriotic instinct so strongly bound up in the hearts
of Cambria's sons, had taught them a distrust of princes and an intense
love for freedom's cause, as well as a strong conviction that right must
ever triumph over might.

So when the news arrived that the north was in open revolt, it struck a
chord in the hearts of both brothers; and when the dark-browed twins
came with the news that they had openly joined the standard of Llewelyn,
they did not encounter the opposition they had expected, and it was with
an eager hopefulness that they urged upon the Lord of Dynevor to lend
the strength of his arm to the national cause.

"Wendot, bethink thee. When was not Dynevor in the van when her country
called on her? If thou wilt go with us, we shall carry all the south
with us; but hang thou back, and the cause may be lost. Brother, why
dost thou hesitate? why dost thou falter? It is the voice of thy country
calling thee. Wilt thou not heed that call? O Wendot, thou knowest that
when our parents lived -- when they bid us not look upon the foe with
too great bitterness -- it was only because a divided Wales could not
stand, and that submission to England was better than the rending of the
kingdom by internal strife. But if she would have stood united against
the foreign foe, thinkest thou they would ever have held back? Nay; Res
Vychan, our father, would have been foremost in the strife. Are we not
near in blood to Llewelyn of Wales, prince of the north? Doth not the
tie of blood as well as the call of loyalty urge us to his side? Why
dost thou ponder still? Why dost thou hesitate? Throw to the wind all
idle scruples, and come. Think what a glorious future may lie before our
country if we will but stand together now!"

Wendot's cheek flushed, his eye kindled. He did indeed believe that were
his father living he would be one of the first to hasten to his
kinsman's side. If indeed the united country could be strong enough to
throw off the yoke, what a victory it would be! Was not every son of
Wales bound to his country's cause at such a time?

There was but one thing that made him hesitate. Was his word of honour
in any wise pledged to Edward? He had paid him homage for his lands: did
that act bind him to obedience at all costs?

But such refinements of honour were in advance of the thought of the
time, incomprehensible to the wilder spirits by whom he was surrounded.
Llewelyn answered the brief objection by a flood of rude eloquence, and
Howel struck in with another argument not without its weight.

"Wendot, whatever course thou takest thou art damned in Edward's eyes.
Thou hast held thyself surety for us, and nought but death will hold us
back from the cry of our country in her need. Envious eyes are cast
already by the rapacious English upon these fair lands of thine, which
these years of peace have given thee opportunity to enrich and beautify.
Let the king once hear that we have rebelled, and his nobles will claim
thy lands, thy life, thy liberty, and thou must either yield all in
ignominious flight or take up arms to defend thyself and thine own. I
trow that no son of Res Vychan will stand calmly by to see himself thus
despoiled; and if thou must fight, fight now, forestall the foe, and
come out sword in hand at thy country's call, and let us fight shoulder
to shoulder and hand to hand, as our forefathers have done before us.
Thou knowest somewhat of English rule, now that thou hast lived beneath
it these past years. Say, wilt thou still keep thy neck beneath the
yoke, or wilt thou do battle like a warrior for liberty and
independence? By our act thou art lost -- yet not even that thought can
hold us back -- then why not stand or fall as a soldier, sword in hand,
than be trapped like a rat in a hole in inglorious inaction? For
methinks whatever else betided thou wouldst not raise thy hand against
thy countrymen, even if thy feudal lord should demand it of thee."

"Never!" cried Wendot fiercely, and his quick mind revolved the
situation thus thrust upon him whilst Howel was yet speaking.

He saw at once that a course of neutrality would be impossible to him.
Fight he must, either as Edward's vassal or his foe. The first was
impossible; the second was fraught with a keen joy and secret sense of
exultation. It was true what Howel said: he would be held responsible
for his brothers' revolt. The English harpies would make every endeavour
to poison the king's mind, so that they might wrest from him his
inheritance. He would be required to take up arms against his brothers,
and his refusal to do so would be his death warrant. Disgrace and ruin
lay before him should he abide by such a course. The other promised at
least glory and renown, and perhaps a soldier's death, or, better still,
the independence of his country -- the final throwing off of the
tyrant's yoke.

His heart swelled within him; his eyes shone with a strange fire. Only
one thought checked the immediate utterance of his decision, and that
was the vision of a pair of dark soft eyes, and a child's face in which
something of dawning womanhood was visible, smiling upon him in complete
and loving trust.

Yes, Wendot had not forgotten Gertrude; but time had done its work, and
the image of the fair face was somewhat dim and hazy. He yet wore about
his neck the half of the gold coin she had given him; but if he
sometimes sighed as he looked upon it, it was a sigh without much real
bitterness or regret. He had a tender spot in his memory for the little
maid he had saved at the risk of his own life, but it amounted to little
more than a pleasant memory. He had no doubt that she had long ago been
wedded to some English noble, whose estates outshone those of Dynevor in
her father's eyes.

During the first years after his return home he had wondered somewhat
whether the earl and his daughter would find their way again to the rich
valley of the Towy; but the years passed by and they came not, and the
brief dream of Wendot's dawning youth soon ceased to have any real hold
upon him. If her father had had any thoughts of mating her with the Lord
of Dynevor, he would have taken steps for bringing the young people
together.

The last doubt fled as Wendot thought this over; and whilst his brothers
yet spoke, pointing to the rich stretch of country that lay before their
eyes in all the glory of its autumn dress, and asking if that were not
an inheritance worthy to be fought for, Wendot suddenly held out his
hand, and said in clear, ringing tones:

"Brothers, I go with you. I too will give my life and my all for the
liberty of our land. The Lord of Dynevor shall not be slack to respond
to his country's call. Methinks indeed the hour has come. I will follow
our kinsman whithersoever he shall bid."

Llewelyn and Howel grasped the outstretched hand, and from within the
castle walls there burst forth the strains of wild melody from the harp
of old Wenwynwyn. It seemed almost as though he must have heard the
words that bound Wendot to the national cause, so exultant and
triumphant were the strains which awoke beneath his hands.

It was but a few days later that the four brothers rode forth from
beneath the arched gateway of Dynevor, all armed to the teeth, and with
a goodly following of armed attendants. Wendot and Griffeth paused at a
short distance from the castle to look back, whilst a rush of strange
and unwonted emotion brought the tears to Griffeth's eyes which he
trusted none saw beside.

There stood the grand old castle, his home from childhood -- the place
around which all the associations of a lifetime gathered. It was to him
the ideal of all that was beautiful and strong and even holy -- the
massive walls of the fortress rising grandly from the rocky platform,
with the dark background of trees now burning with the rich hues of
autumn. The fair valley stretched before their eyes, every winding of
which was familiar to them, as was also every individual tree or crag or
stretch of moorland fell as far as eye could see. The very heart strings
of Wendot and Griffeth seemed bound round these homelike and familiar
things; and there was something strangely wistful in the glances thrown
around him by the young Lord of Dynevor as he reined in his horse, and
motioning to the armed followers to pass him, stood with Griffeth for a
few brief moments alone and silent, whilst the cavalcade was lost to
sight in the windings of the road.

"Is it a last farewell?" murmured the younger of the brothers beneath
his breath. "Shall I ever see this fair scene again?"

And Wendot answered not, for he had no words in which to do so. He had
been fully occupied all these last days -- too much occupied to have had
time for regretful thought; but Griffeth had been visiting every haunt
of his boyhood with strange feelings of impending trouble, and his cheek
was pale with the stress of his emotion, and his voice was husky with
the intensity of the strain he was putting upon himself.

"Griffeth, Griffeth!" cried Wendot suddenly, "have I done wrong in this
thing? I asked not thy gentle counsel, yet thou didst not bid me hold
back. But tell me, have I been wrong? Could I have done other than I have?"

"I think not that thou couldst. This seems like a call from our country,
to which no son of hers may be deaf. And it is true that our brothers
have undone thee, and that even wert thou not willing to take up arms
against them and thy countrymen, the rupture with Edward is inevitable.
No, I am with thee in what thou hast done. The Lord of Dynevor must show
himself strong in defence of his country's rights.

"Yet my heart is heavy as I look around me. For we are going forth to
danger and death, and who knows what may betide ere we see these fair
lands again, or whether we may ever return to see them more?"

Wendot would fain have replied with cheerful assurance, but a strange
rush of emotion came over him as he gazed at his childhood's home,
together with a sudden strong presentiment that there was something
prophetic in his brother's words. He gazed upon the gray battlements and
the brawling river with a passionate ardour in his glance, and then
turning quickly upon Griffeth, he said:

"Brother, why shouldst thou leave it? thou art more fit for the safe
shelter of home than for the strife of a winter war. Why shouldst thou
come forth with us? Let us leave thee here in safety --"

"Wendot!"

It was but one word, but the volume of reproach compressed into it
brought Wendot to a sudden stop. They looked into each other's eyes a
moment, and then Griffeth said, with his sweet, meaning smile:

"We have never been separated yet, my Wendot; in sorrow and joy we have
ever been together. It is too late to change all that now. I will be by
thy side to the end. Be it for life or for death we will ride forth
together."

And so with one hard hand clasp that spoke volumes, and with one more
long, lingering look at the familiar towers of the old home, Wendot and
Griffeth, the Lords of Dynevor, rode forth to meet their fate at the
hands of the mighty English king.

Of that sudden, fierce, and partially successful revolt the history
books of the age give account. Llewelyn and his brother David, joined by
the whole strength of the North, and by much able assistance from the
South, drove back the English across the border; and when Edward,
hurrying to the spot, marched against them, his army was utterly routed
near the Menai Straits, and the triumphant Welsh believed for a few
brief months that they were victors indeed, and that the power of the
foe was hopelessly broken.

Llewelyn with his army retired to the fastnesses of Snowdon, where the
English durst not pursue them, and these less hardy soldiers suffered so
terribly in the winter cold that the mortality in their ranks caused the
triumphant mountaineers to prophesy that their work would be done for
them without any more exertion on their part.

But the lion-hearted King of England was not of the stuff that easily
submits to defeat. He knew well that Wales was in his power, and that he
had but to exercise patience and resolution, and the final victory would
be his.

Permitting no relaxation of his efforts in the North, even when the
winter's bitter cold was causing untold sufferings amongst his soldiers,
he commenced a muster of troops in the South, from which country most of
the disaffected nobles had drawn away to join the insurgents under the
Prince of Wales, as Llewelyn was called. It was a shock of no small
magnitude to that prince to hear that his foe was thus employing
himself; and leaving the fastnesses of Snowdon with a picked band of his
hardiest men, amongst whom he numbered Llewelyn and Howel, he marched
southward himself, hoping to overthrow this new force before it had
gathered power sufficient to be dangerous.

Wendot would gladly have been of the number, for inaction, and the rude
barbarism he saw around him, were inexpressibly galling to him; and the
more he saw of the savage spirits by whom he was surrounded the less he
was able to hope for any permanent advantage as the result of this
rising. The jealousies of the respective chiefs were hardly held in
check even in the face of a common peril. It was impossible not to
foresee that the termination of a war with England would only be the
signal for an outbreak of innumerable petty animosities and hostile feuds.

So Wendot would have been thankful to escape from this irksome
inactivity, and to join the band going south; but the condition of
Griffeth withheld him, for the youth was very ill, and he often felt
that this winter of hardship up in the mountain air was killing him by
inches, although he never complained.

It was out of the question for Griffeth to march or to fight. He lay
most of the day beside a little fire of peat, in a cabin that Wendot and
his men had constructed with their own hands, beneath the shelter of a
rock which broke the force of the north wind, and formed some protection
against the deep snow. Griffeth had borne his share gallantly in the
earlier part of the campaign, but a slight wound had laid him aside; and
since the intense cold had come, he had only grown more white and wasted
and feeble day by day. Now that the sun was gaining a little more power,
and that the melting of the snow bespoke that spring was at hand, Wendot
began to hope the worst was over; but to leave his brother in such a
state was out of the question, and he saw Llewelyn and Howel depart
without attempting to join them.

Days and weeks had passed, and no news had been received by those up in
the mountains of the result of Llewelyn's expedition. It was reported by
scouts that Edward was at Carnarvon Castle in person, making hostile
demonstrations of a determined kind, which, in the absence of their
chief, the wild Welsh kerns knew not how to repel. They were safe where
they were, and awaited the return of their leader; but a terrible stroke
had yet to fall upon them, which proved the final blow to all their
hopes and ambitions.

It was a wild, windy night. Wendot had piled the fire high, and was
sitting with Griffeth talking of past days, and gazing with an
unconscious wistfulness into the glowing embers, which seemed to him to
take the semblance of those familiar towers and rocks which he sometimes
felt as though he should never see again. Griffeth paused in the midst
of something he was saying, and looked round with a start. It seemed to
both brothers as though a hand was fumbling at the latch. Wendot rose
and opened the door, and a tall, gaunt figure staggered rather than
walked into the room, and sank down as if perfectly exhausted beside the
glowing fire.

Griffeth uttered a startled exclamation.

"Llewelyn!" he cried sharply; and Wendot, barring the door, and coming
forward like one in a dream, asked with the calmness of one who reads
dire disaster:

"Where is Howel?"

"Dead," came the answer in a hollow voice, as though the speaker was
exhausted past words -- "dead by the side of Llewelyn our prince. Would
that I too lay beside them!"

Wendot, too stunned to say another word at that moment, busied himself
in getting his brother food and wine, of which he plainly stood sorely
in need. He ate ravenously and in perfect silence; and his brothers
watched him without having the heart to put another question. Indeed
they knew the worst: their prince dead; the flower of their army slain
-- their own brother among the number -- the rest dispersed; the
remaining forces without a leader, without a rallying point, without a
hope. What need of farther words?

Presently Llewelyn spoke again, this time with more strength, but still
with the sullenness of despair:

"It was a mere skirmish on the banks of the Wye. We were in advance of
the main body, and a party of English fell upon us. We did our best to
sell our lives dearly. I thought I had sold mine when my time came, but
I awoke and found myself beside the stream. Howel was lying upon me,
stark and dead, and our prince a few yards away, with his own men round
him. I do not think the foe knew whom they had slain, or they would have
taken at least his head away as a trophy. I know not who took the news
to our comrades, but they learned it, and dispersed to the four winds. I
was forced to remain for some days in a shepherd's hut till my wounds
were somewhat healed, and since then I have been struggling back here,
not knowing what had befallen our camp in these mountains. Am I the
first to bear the, news, or has it been known before?"

"You are the first," answered Wendot in a strange, blank voice. "We have
heard nothing; we have been living in hopes of some triumph, some
victory. We will let our fellows rest in peace one night longer.
Tomorrow we must tell all, and decide what our action must be."

"There is nothing more to hope for," said Llewelyn darkly. "Our hope is
dead, our last prince lies in a nameless grave. There is but one choice
open to us now. Let those who will submit themselves to the proud
usurper, and let us, who cannot so demean the name we bear, go forth
sword in hand, and die fighting to the last for the country we may not
live to deliver."

It seemed, indeed, as if Llewelyn's words were to prove themselves true;
for no sooner did the news of the disaster on the banks of the Wye
become known than the army began to melt away, like the snow in the
increasing power of the sun. The chiefs, without a head, without a cause
or a champion, either retired to their own wild solitudes or hastened to
make their peace with their offended king; and only those who put honour
before safety or life itself stood forth sword in hand to die, if it
might be, with face to foe in defence of a cause which they knew was
hopelessly lost.

And amongst this gallant but reckless little band were the three
brothers of Dynevor, who, having once taken up the sword against Edward,
were determined not to lay it down until the hand of death was cold upon
each heart.



    CHAPTER X. CARNARVON CASTLE.


"There has been a battle -- desperate fighting. They are bringing the
prisoners into the guardroom," cried Britton, bursting into the royal
apartments with small ceremony in his excitement. "Come, Alphonso; come,
Joanna -- let us go and see them. Our fellows say they made a gallant
stand, and fought like veritable tigers. In sooth, I would I had been
there. Methinks it is the last of the fighting these parts will see for
many a long year."

Alphonso sprang up at the word of his comrade, eager to go and see the
prisoners, his humane and kindly nature prompting him to ascertain that
no undue harshness was displayed towards them by the rude soldiers. But
Joanna, although her face was full of interest and eagerness, shook her
head with a little grimace and a glance in the direction of her
governess, Lady Edeline; for during the years that had elapsed between
the visit of the royal children to Rhuddlan and this present visit to
Carnarvon, Joanna had grown from a child to a woman, and was no longer
able to run about with her brothers at will, though she still retained
her old fearless, independent spirit and impulsive generosity of
temperament, and was a universal favourite, despite the fact that she
gave more trouble than any of her younger sisters.

The royal family had been for some time in Wales. They had wintered at
Rhuddlan, where the little Princess Elizabeth had been born the previous
year, just prior to the outbreak of the rebellion. Now they were at
Carnarvon for greater security, the king considering that fortress the
stronger of the two. The rebellion was practically at an end, but there
was much to look into and arrange with regard to the rebels and their
affairs, and there was the prospect of a considerable sojourn at the castle.

At this moment Edward was himself absent, though not far away. It had
been rumoured that there had been sharp, irregular fighting all about
the region of Snowdon, where the rebels had had their headquarters.
Considerable excitement had prevailed for some time in the English
ranks, and there was still complete uncertainty as to the fate of
Llewelyn, Prince of Wales; for although a rumour was rife that he had
fallen in fight, it had never been corroborated by trustworthy
testimony, and so long as that turbulent prince remained alive there was
no security for the peace or submission of the country.

Thus it was that the news of a victory and the capture of prisoners was
exceedingly exciting to those within the castle. Alphonso, who was
looking somewhat stronger for his sojourn in the bracing air of Wales,
sprang up to go with Britton to make inspection, and again Joanna
secretly bewailed her fate at being a girl, unable to take an equal
share with her brother in such matters.

The guardroom at the castle was a vast and really fine apartment, with a
vaulted roof and majestic pillars, that gave the idea of much rude
strength of construction. Just at this moment it was the scene of an
animated picture, and the boys paused at the door by which they had
entered to look about them with eager curiosity.

The hall was full of soldiers, most of whom wore the English king's
badge, and were known by sight to them as being attached to the castle;
but mingled with these were other men, some in the English dress, but
many others wearing the wild garb of the sons of the mountains, and
these last had, for the most part, fetters on their wrists, or were
bound two and two together and guarded by the English, whilst many of
them were drooping under the effect of ghastly wounds, and several forms
lay stretched along the ground indifferent to, or insensible of, their
surroundings.

Desperate fighting there had been, indeed, to judge from appearances,
and Alphonso's gentle spirit was stirred within him as he caught the
sound of deep groans mingling with the loud voices of the soldiers. He
had inherited the gentle spirit of his mother, and the generosity which
always takes the part of the weak and oppressed. It mattered not that
these men had been taken with swords drawn against his royal father;
they were prisoners now, they had lost their all; and if rebels from the
English standpoint, had been striving to free their country from what
appeared to them as the unjust inroads of a foreign foe.

Alphonso, himself sinking into an early grave, and fully aware of his
own state, saw life somewhat differently from his soldier sire, and felt
little sympathy for that lust of conquest which was to the great Edward
as the elixir of life. The lad's thoughts were more of that eternal
crown laid up in the bright land where the sword comes not, and where
the trump of war may never be heard. The glory of an earthly diadem was
as nothing to him, and he had all that deep love for his fellow men
which often characterizes those who know that their time on earth is short.

Stepping forward, therefore, with the air of quiet authority which he
knew so well how to assume, he enforced silence by a gesture; and as the
soldiers respectfully fell back before him, he walked through the groups
of prisoners, speaking friendly words to them in their own tongue, and
finally gave strict command to the captain of the guardroom to remove
the fetters from those who were wounded, and see that they had all due
tendance and care, whilst the rest were to be guarded with as little
rigour as possible, and shut up together, where they would have at least
the consolation of companionship in their misfortune.

The captain gave respectful heed to these words, and was by no means
loath to carry out his instructions. He was a humane man himself, though
inured to the horrors of war, and he, in common with all who came into
contact with the young prince, felt towards him a great love and
reverence; for there was something unearthly at times in the radiant
beauty of the young Alphonso's face, and the growing conviction that he
was not long for this world increased the loving loyalty shown to him by
all.

"Your Grace's behests shall be obeyed," answered the man readily; "I
myself will see that the wounded receive due and fitting care. They are
brave fellows, be they rebels or no, and verily I believe there is not a
man of them but would have laid down his life a hundred times to save
that of the two young leaders who led them on to the last desperate
sally. Such gallant feats of arms I have seldom beheld, and it was sore
trouble to capture without killing them, so fiercely did they fight. But
I bid the men take them alive, if possible, as they seemed too gallant
and noble to fall in that vain struggle. Methinks, could they be tamed
to serve the king as valiantly as they fought for that forlorn hope,
they might be well worth the saving. I am always loath to see a brave
life flung away, be it of friend or foe."

"Right, good Poleyn; thy words do thee credit. And where are these
gallant leaders? Show me them, for I would fain speak a kindly word to
them. I would not that they feared my father's wrath too much. Stern he
may be, but cruel never, and it would please me well to bid them submit
themselves to him, that he might the more readily forgive them. Tell me
which they be."

"They are not here," answered the captain; "I had them removed for
greater comfort and security to mine own lodging. One of them is so sore
wounded that I feared he would not live to make submission to the king
unless he had prompt and skilful tendance; whilst the other, although
his hurts be fewer and less severe, looks as if some mortal sickness
were upon him. It may be nought but the feebleness that follows loss of
blood and hard fighting; but I left them both to the care of my wife,
who is the best tender of the sick that I have ever known. They came
under her hands last night, brought on by our mounted fellows in advance
of the rest. Today they are somewhat recovered; but I have had scarce
time to think of them. I have been occupied since dawn with these other
prisoners."

"I would fain see these youths; said you not they were but youths,
Poleyn?" said Alphonso, whose interest was aroused by the tale he had
heard. "I will go to your lodging and request admittance. Your worthy
wife will not refuse me, I trow?"

The man smiled, and said that his wife would be proud indeed to be so
visited. Alphonso, to whom the intricacies of the castle were well
known, lost no time in finding the lodging of the captain of the guard,
and quickly obtained admittance to the presence of the wounded youths,
who occupied a comfortable chamber over the gateway, and had plainly
been well looked to by the capable and kindly woman who called Poleyn
her lord and master.

The bright light of day was excluded from the sickroom, and as the
prince stood in the doorway his eyes only took in the general appearance
of two recumbent figures, one lying upon a couch beside a glowing fire
of wood, and the other extended motionless upon a bed in an attitude
that bespoke slumber, his face bandaged in such a way that in no case
would it have been recognizable.

But as Alphonso's eyes grew used to the darkness, and fixed themselves
upon the face of the other youth, who was dressed and lying on the
couch, he suddenly gave a great start, and advanced with quick steps to
his side.

"Griffeth!" he cried suddenly.

The figure on the couch gave a start, a pair of hollow eyes flashed
open, there was a quick attempt to rise, checked by the prince himself,
and Griffeth exclaimed in the utmost astonishment:

"Prince Alphonso!"

"Yes, Griffeth, it is I indeed;" and then the prince sat down on the
edge of the couch and gazed intently at the wasted features of the
youth, towards whom in days gone by he had felt such a strong attachment.

There was something of sorrow and reproach in his glance as he said gently:

"Griffeth, can it really be thou? I had not thought to have seen thee in
the ranks of our foes, fighting desperately against my father's
soldiers. Whence has come this bitter change in thy feelings? and what
is Wendot doing, who was to act as guardian toward his younger brethren?
Hast thou broken away from his controlling hand? O Griffeth, I grieve to
see thee here and in such plight."

But Griffeth's sad glance met that of the young prince unfalteringly and
without shame, although there was something in it of deep and settled
sorrow. He made a gesture as though he would have put out his hand, and
Alphonso, who saw it, grasped it warmly, generous even when he felt that
he and his father had been somewhat wronged.

"Think not that we took up arms willingly, Wendot and I," he said
faintly, yet with clearness and decision. "Ay, it is Wendot who lies
there, sore wounded, and sleeping soundly after a night of fever and
pain. We shall not disturb him, he is fast in dreamland; and if you
would listen to my tale, gentle prince, I trow you would think something
less hardly of us, who have lost our all, and have failed to win the
soldier's death that we went forth to seek, knowing that it alone could
make atonement for what must seem to your royal father an act of
treachery and breach of faith."

And then Griffeth told all his tale -- told of the wrongs inflicted on
hapless Wales in Edward's absence by the rapacious nobles he had left
behind him to preserve order, of the ever-increasing discontent amongst
the people, the wild hope, infused by David's sudden rising, of uniting
once and for all to throw off the foreign yoke and become an independent
nation again. He told of the action taken by their twin brothers, of the
pressure brought to bear upon Wendot, of the vigilant hostility of their
rapacious kinsman Res ap Meredith, son of the old foe Meredith ap Res,
now an English knight, and eager to lay his hands upon the broad lands
of Dynevor. It was made plain to the prince how desperate would have
been Wendot's condition, thus beset with foes and held responsible for
his brothers' acts. Almost against his will had he been persuaded, and
at least he had played the man in his country's hour of need, instead of
trying to steer his way by a cold neutrality, which would have ruined
him with friend and foe alike.

Griffeth told of the hardships of that campaign amongst the mountains;
of the death of Llewelyn the prince, and of his brother Howel; and of
the resolve of the gallant little band, thus bereft of their hope, to go
out and die sword in hand, and so end the miserable struggle that had
ceased to be aught but a mockery of war. It was plainly a bitter thought
even to the gentle Griffeth that they had not met the death they craved,
but had fallen alive into the hands of the foe.

Alphonso gently chid him, and comforted him with brave and kindly words;
and then he asked what had befallen his brother Llewelyn, and if he had
likewise fallen in the fight.

"Nay; he was not with us when we made that last rally. He commenced the
march with us, but his wound broke out again, and we were forced to
leave him behind. He and a handful of faithful servants from Iscennen
and Dynevor were to try and push on to the stronghold of Einon ap
Cadwalader, and ask counsel and assistance from him. In old days he and
our father were friends. Although he was one of the few who did not join
Llewelyn in this rising, he has ever been well-disposed towards his
countrymen. So we hoped our brother would find shelter and help there.
If he had tried to march with us, he must assuredly have died."

"Ha!" said Alphonso smilingly, "methinks Llewelyn will have no trouble
in gaining entrance there. Rememberest thou the Lady Arthyn, who was
with us at Rhuddlan when thou wast there before? She hath left us of
late to return to her father, whose loyalty has been proved, and whose
request for his child was listened to graciously. But we shall be seeing
them soon again, for my father betrothed Arthyn's hand to Raoul Latimer,
whom doubtless thou rememberest as a somewhat haughty and quarrelsome
lad. Time has softened down some of his rude tempers, and he has ever
been eager for the match. My father has promised her hand in troth
plight to him, and we await the coming of her and her father for the
ceremony of betrothal.

"If I remember rightly, she was always a friend to thy brother. If so,
he will find a ready welcome at her father's house, for my Lady Arthyn
always had a soft spot in her heart for those we called rebels. She was
a true daughter of Wales, albeit she loved us well, and she will like
thy brother none the less that his sword has been unsheathed against the
English usurper."

And then the prince and the rebel subject both laughed, and that laugh
did more to bring them back to their old familiar relations than all
that had gone before.

Griffeth was easily led on to tell the story of the life at Dynevor
these past years; and Alphonso better understood from his unconscious
self-betrayal than from his previous explanation how the fire of
patriotic love burned in the hearts of these brothers. He thought that
had he been one of them he would have acted even as they had done, and
there was no anger but only a pitying affection in his heart towards one
whose life was overshadowed by a cloud so like the one which hung upon
the horizon of his own sky.

For it was plain to him that Griffeth's hold on life was very slight;
that he was suffering from the same insidious disease which was sapping
away his own health and strength. He had suspected it years before, and
this supposition had made a link between them then; now he was certain
of it, and certain, too, that the end could not be very far off. The
fine constitution of the young Welshman had been undermined by the
rigours of the past winter, and there was little hope that the coming
summer would restore to him any of the fictitious strength which had
long buoyed up Wendot with the hope that his brother would yet live to
grow to man's estate.

"For myself I do not think I wish it," said Griffeth, with one of his
luminous glances at Alphonso; "life is very hard, and there seems
nothing left to live for. I know not how I could live away from the
woods and rocks of Dynevor. But there is Wendot -- my dear, kind, most
loving brother. It cuts me to the heart to think of leaving him alone.
Prince Alphonso, you are the king's son; will you pardon Wendot his
trespass, and stand his friend with your royal father? I have no right
to ask it. We have grievously offended, but he is my brother --"

A violent fit of coughing came on, and the sentence was never completed.
Alphonso raised the wasted form in his arms, and soothed the painful
paroxysm as one who knows just what will best relieve the sufferer. The
sound roused Wendot, who had been sleeping for many hours, and although
he had been brought in last night in an apparently almost dying state,
his vigorous constitution was such that even these few hours' quiet
rest, and the nourishment administered to him by the good woman who
waited on him, had infused new life into his frame, so that he had
strength to sit up in bed, and to push aside the bandage which had
fallen over his eyes, as he anxiously asked his brother what was amiss.

Then Alphonso came towards him, and, holding his hand in a friendly
clasp, told him that he had heard all the story, and that he was still
their friend, and would plead for them with his father. Wendot,
bewildered and astonished and ashamed, could scarce believe his senses,
and asked, with a proud independence which raised a smile in Alphonso's
eyes, that he might be led out to speedy death -- the death by the
headsman's axe, which was all he had now to hope for. Life had no longer
any charms for him, he said; if only his young brother might be
pardoned, he himself would gladly pay the forfeit for both.

But Alphonso, upon whose generous spirit bravery and self devotion, even
in a foe, were never thrown away, replied kindly that he would see if
peace could not be made with his offended sire, and that meantime Wendot
must get well fast, and regain his health and strength, so as to be fit
to appear before the king in person if he should be presently summoned.

But though the young prince left lighter hearts behind him in the room
where the two eagles of Dynevor were imprisoned, he found that the task
he had set himself with his father was a more difficult one than he had
anticipated. Edward was very greatly incensed by this fierce and futile
rebellion that had cost him so many hundreds of brave lives, and had
inflicted such sufferings on his loyal troops. The disaster at Menai
still rankled in his breast, and it was with a very stern brow and a
face of resolute determination that he returned to Carnarvon to look
into matters, and to settle upon the fate of the many prisoners and
vassals who had once mere placed themselves or their lands in his sole
power through the act which had rendered them forfeit.

Nor was Alphonso's task rendered less difficult from the fact that Sir
Res ap Meredith had been before him, poisoning the king's mind against
many of the Welsh nobles, and particularly against the sons of Res
Vychan, in whose possession were the province and castle of Dynevor.
Upon that fair territory he had long cast covetous eyes. He cared little
in comparison for the more barren and turbulent region of Iscennen, and
it was upon Wendot and Griffeth, but particularly upon Wendot, that the
full bitterness of his invective was poured. He had so imbued the king
with the idea that the youth was dangerous, turbulent, and treacherous
(charges that his conduct certainly seemed to bear out), that it was
small wonder if Edward, remembering his own former goodwill towards the
youth, should feel greatly incensed against him. And although he
listened to Alphonso's pleadings, and the lad told his story with much
simple eloquence and fervour, the stern lines of his brow did not relax,
and his lips set themselves into an ominous curve which the prince liked
little to see.

"Boy," he said, with an impatience that boded ill for the success of the
cause, "I verily believe wert thou in the place of king, thou wouldst
give to every rebel chief his lands again, and be not contented until
thine own throne came tottering about thine ears. Mercy must temper
justice, but if it take the place of justice it becomes mere weakness. I
trusted Wendot ap Res Vychan once, and laid no hand upon his lands. Thou
hast seen how this trust has been rewarded. To reinstate him now would
be madness. No. I have in Sir Res ap Meredith a loyal and true servant,
and his claims upon his traitorous kinsman's lands may not be
disregarded. Dynevor will pass away from Wendot. It is throwing words
away to plead with me. My mind is made up. I trust not a traitor twice."

There was something in his father's tone that warned Alphonso to press
the matter no more. He knew that when Edward thus spoke his word was
final and irrevocable; and all he ventured now to ask was, "What will
become of Wendot and his brother? You will not take their lives, sweet
sire?"

"Their lives I give to thee, my son," answered Edward, with a gesture
towards his boy which betrayed a deep love, and showed that although he
had denied him sternly he did not do so willingly. "As thou hast pleaded
for them, I will not sentence them to death; but they remain my
prisoners, and regain not their liberty. I know the turbulent race from
which they spring. Sir Res will have small peace in his new possessions
if any of the former princes of Dynevor are at large in the country.
Wendot and Griffeth remain my prisoners."

"Nay, father; let them be my prisoners, I pray," cried Alphonso, with
unwonted energy and animation. "Thou hast granted me their lives; grant
me the keeping of their persons too. Nay, think not that I will connive
at their escape. Give whatsoever charge thou wilt concerning the safety
of their persons to those who guard us in our daily life, but let me
have them as gentlemen of mine own. Call them prisoners an you will, but
let their imprisonment be light -- let me enjoy their company. Thou
knowest that Britton is fretting for a freer life, and that I see little
of him now. I have often longed for a companion to share my solitary
hours. Give me Griffeth and Wendot. They have the royal blood of Wales
flowing in their veins, and methinks they love me even as I love them.
And, father, Griffeth has not many months, methinks, to live; and I know
so well all he suffers that my heart goes out to him. He has the love of
books that I have, and we have so many thoughts which none seem to
understand save our two selves. And he and Wendot are as one. It would
be cruelty such as thou wouldst not inflict to separate them whilst one
has so short a time to live. Give me them for mine own attendants, and
bid the servants guard them as best pleaseth thee. Sweet father, I have
not asked many boons of thee. Grant me this one, I pray thee, for my
heart is verily set on it."

There was something in this appeal, something in the look upon
Alphonso's face, something in the very words he had used, that made it
impossible to his father to refuse him. Blind his eyes as he would to
the truth, he was haunted by a terrible fear that the life of his only
son was surely slipping away. Alphonso did not often speak of his
health, and the hint just dropped struck chill upon the father's heart.
Passing his hand across his face to conceal the sudden spasm of pain
that contracted it, he rose hastily from his chair, and said:

"Give thine own orders concerning these youths. I leave them in thy
hands. Make of them what it pleaseth thee. Only let them understand that
charge will be given to the custodians of the castle, and of whatever
place they visit in the future, that they are prisoners at the king's
pleasure, and that any attempt at escape will be punished with instant
and rigorous captivity."

"So be it," answered Alphonso, with brightening eyes. "I thank thee,
father, for the boon. Thou shalt never have cause to repent it."



    CHAPTER XI. THE KING'S CLEMENCY.


"Unhand me, sir. How dare you thus insult me? Let go my hand, or I
summon help instantly. I am come to seek the king. Will you raise a
tumult within hearing of his private apartments? Unhand me, I say," and
Arthyn's cheeks flamed dangerously, whilst her eyes flashed fire.

But Raoul Latimer, though a craven before the face of an armed foe,
could be resolute enough when he had only an unprotected woman to deal
with, and was quite disposed to show his valour by pressing his
unwelcome salutations upon the cheek of the girl he regarded as his
future wife. His surprise at encountering Arthyn, whom he believed far
away in her father's castle, hastening alone down one of the long
corridors of Carnarvon Castle, had been very great. He could not imagine
what had thus brought her, and was eager to claim from her the greeting
he felt was his due.

But Arthyn had never lacked for spirit, and had always confessedly
abhorred Raoul, nor had absence seemed to make the heart grow fonder, at
least in her case. She repulsed him with such hearty goodwill that his
cowardly fury was aroused, and had not the girl cried aloud in her anger
and fear, he might have done her some mischief. But even as she lifted
her voice a door in the corridor was flung open, and the king himself
strode forth, not, as it chanced, in response to the call, which had not
reached his ears, but upon an errand of his own. Now when he saw that at
the doors of his own private apartments one of his own gentlemen had
dared to lay rude hands upon a woman, his kingly wrath was stirred, and
one blow from his strong arm sent Raoul reeling across the corridor till
the wall stopped his farther progress.

"How now, malapert boy?" cried Edward in deep displeasure. "Is it thus
you disgrace your manhood by falling upon the defenceless, and by
brawling even within hearing of your sovereign? You are not so wondrous
valiant in battle, Raoul Latimer, that you can afford to blast the small
reputation you have.

"Sweet lady, be not afraid; thy king will protect thee from farther insult.

"Ha, Arthyn, is it thou, my child? Nay, kneel not in such humbly
suppliant fashion; rise and kiss me, little one, for thou art only less
dear to me than mine own children. Come hither, maiden, and speak to me.
What has brought thee here alone and unannounced? And what has raised
this storm betwixt ye twain?"

"Sire -- my king -- hear me," cried Arthyn in a choked voice; "and bid
that wicked youth, whom I have ever hated, leave us. Let me speak to you
alone and in private. It is to you, gracious lord, that I have come.
Grant me, I pray you, the boon of but a few words alone and in private.
I have somewhat to tell your grace -- your royal pardon to ask."

"Pardon? tush, maiden! thou canst not have offended greatly. But come
hither; what thou hast to say thou shalt say before the queen and
Eleanor. They have ever been as mother and sister to thee. Thou hast no
secrets for me which they may not hear?"

"Ah no; I would gladly speak all before them," answered Arthyn eagerly,
knowing that in the gentle Eleanor of Castile and her daughter she would
find the most sympathizing of friends.

Intensely patriotic as the girl had ever been, loving her country above
all else, and throwing heart and soul into that country's cause, she had
yet learned a deep love and reverence for the family of the English
king, amongst whom so many years of her young life had been spent. She
was able to do full justice to the kindly and domestic side of the
soldier king's nature, and, whilst she regarded him as a foe to Wales,
looked upon him personally as a friend and protector.

Edward's gentleness and affection in his private life equalled his
stern, unbending policy in matters of state. It was very tenderly and
kindly that he led the girl to the private apartments of the queen; and
when once Arthyn found herself face to face with one who had given to
her more of mother love than any other being in the world, she flung
herself into the arms opened to receive her, and out came the whole
story which had brought her on this secret mission to Carnarvon.

"Sweet lady, O most gracious madam, listen and plead for me with the
king. He is kind and good, and he knows what true love is. Lady, it is
as a wedded wife I come to you, craving pardon for what I have done. But
I ever hated that wicked Raoul Latimer, my country's foe, and would have
died rather than plight my troth to him. And when he came to us -- he,
my love, my life, he whom I loved long years ago when we met as boy and
girl, and whom I have never forgotten -- what could I do? How could I
resist?

"And my father approved. He gave my hand in wedlock. And now I am come
to pray your pardon for myself and for him whom I love. Oh, do not turn
a deaf ear to me! As you have loved when you were young, pardon those
who have done likewise."

King and queen exchanged glances, half of amusement, half of
astonishment, but there was no anger in either face. Raoul was no
favourite in the royal circle, and his visible cowardice in the recent
campaign had brought him into open disfavour with the lion-hearted
Edward. He loved Arthyn dearly, and this proof of her independence of
spirit, together with her artless confidence in his kindliness of heart,
pleased him not a little. He had been forced during these past days to
act a stern part towards many of the Welsh nobles who had been brought
before him. He was glad enough, this thankless task accomplished, to
allow the softer and more kindly side of his nature to assert itself.
And perhaps the sympathetic glances of his son Alphonso, who had just
entered the room, helped to settle his resolve that Arthyn at least
should receive full and free forgiveness.

Eleanor had drawn her former playmate towards her, and was eagerly
questioning her as to the name of him to whom her heart and hand were
now given, and the answer sent a thrill of surprise through the whole
company.

"It is one whom you all know, sweet Eleanor -- Llewelyn, the son of Res
Vychan, Lord of Dynevor. Thou knowest, Eleanor, how he came amongst us
at Rhuddlan years agone now, and perchance thou sawest even then how we
loved one another, albeit it was but the love of children. But we never
have forgotten, and when he came to my father's castle, wounded and
weary and despairing after the disaster which robbed Wales of her last
native prince, what could we do but receive and tend him? It was thus it
came about, and love did the rest."

"And so thou hast wed a rebel, maiden?" quoth Edward, in tones that
seemed to be stern by effort rather than by the will of the speaker,
whilst the kindly light in the eyes belied his assumed harshness; "and
having done so thou hast the hardihood to come and tell us of it thine
own self. Fie upon thee for a saucy wench! What better dost thou expect
for thyself and thy lord than a lodging in the lowest dungeon of the keep?"

"I know that we ought to expect nothing better," answered Arthyn, with
her brightest smile, as she turned fearlessly upon the king. "But do as
you will with us, noble king, and we will not rebel or complain, so that
we may be together. And my dear lord bid me give you this. He took it
with his own hands from the dead hand of Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, and
he charged me to place it in your hands as a pledge and token that your
enemy ceased to live. Report has told him that men say Llewelyn escaped
that day, and that he yet lives to rise against you again. By this
signet you may know that he lies dead and cold, and that with him has
perished the last hope of Wales ever to be ruled by a prince of her own."

Edward put forth his hand eagerly, and examined the signet ring, which
was one he himself had given to Llewelyn on the occasion of his last
submission. And as he looked upon it a great weight seemed to be rolled
from off him, for it was the first decided intimation he had had that
his foe was actually slain. Rumour had been rife with reports of his
escape, and although there had not been lacking testimony to the effect
that the prince had fallen in battle, the fact had never been adequately
established. A few quick questions to Arthyn appeared to establish this
beyond all doubt, and in the expansion of the moment Edward was ready
not only to forgive the bearer of such welcome tidings, but to forget
that he had ever been an offender. One of the sons of Res Vychan had
paid the price of his breach of faith with his life; two more were
prisoners at his royal pleasure. Surely the family had suffered enough
without harsher vengeance being taken. Surely he might give to Arthyn
the liberty and possibly even the lands of her lord in return for the
welcome intelligence she had brought.

Alphonso, ever on the side of mercy, joined with the queen and Eleanor
in persuading the king to forgive and forget, and Arthyn was sent home
the day following laden with presents and good wishes, bearing a full
pardon to her lord from the English king, as well as a half promise that
when the country became somewhat more settled he might make request for
his commot of Iscennen with reasonable chance of being heard.

Wendot and Griffeth both saw their new sister before her return, and
charged her with all sorts of friendly messages for Llewelyn. If Wendot
thought it hard that the brother who had always been England's bitterest
foe should be pardoned and rewarded, whilst he himself should be left to
pine in captivity, at least he made no sign, and never let a word of
bitterness pass his lips. Indeed he was too ill greatly to trouble
himself over his own condition or the future that lay before him. Fever
and ague had supervened upon the wounds he had received, and whilst
Griffeth was rapidly recovering such measure of health and strength as
he ever could boast, Wendot lay helpless and feeble, scarce able to lift
his head from the pillow, and only just equal to the task of speaking to
Arthyn and comprehending the good news with which she came charged.

The brothers had now been removed to better apartments, near to those
occupied by the prince, whose servants they nominally were. Griffeth had
begun to enter upon some of his duties towards his royal patron, and the
friendship begun in boyhood was rapidly ripening to an intimacy which
surprised them both. Such perfect mutual understanding and sympathy was
rare and precious; and Griffeth did not even look back with longing to
the old life, so entirely had his heart gone out to the youthful prince,
whose days on earth, like his own, were plainly numbered.

Lady Gertrude Cherleton was still an inmate of the royal household. She
was now a ward of Edward's, her father having died a year or two
previously. She was not considered a minor any longer, having attained
the age of eighteen some time before, and the management of her estates
was left partially to her. But she remained by choice the companion of
Eleanor and Joanna, and would probably continue to do so until she
married. It was a source of wonder to the court why she did not make
choice of a husband amongst the many suitors for her hand; but she had
hitherto turned a deaf ear to the pleadings of all. Sir Godfrey
Challoner had long been sighing at her feet, but she would have none of
him, and appeared to be proof against all the shafts of the blind god of
love.

But her intense excitement when she heard of the arrival at Carnarvon of
the two brothers from Dynevor told its own tale to the Princess Joanna,
who had ever been the girl's confidante in this matter, and who had
known from childhood how Gertrude had always believed herself pledged.
It was a charming secret for them to cherish between them; and now that
Wendot was once more beneath the castle roof, the impulsive Joanna would
launch out into extravagant pictures of future happiness and prosperity.
Her ardent temperament, having no personal romance to feed upon -- for
though her hand had once been plighted, her future lord had been drowned
the previous year in a boating accident, and she was again free --
delighted to throw itself into the concerns of her friend, and the sense
of power which had been so early implanted within her made her confident
of being able to overcome obstacles and attain the object of her wishes,
be the difficulties and dangers in their path never so great.

"You shall be united, Gertrude, an he loves thee," cried the generous
Joanna, flinging her arms round the neck of her companion, and kissing
her again and again. "His life, his liberty, shall be obtained, and thou
and he shall be happy together. I have said it, and I will do it."

Whatever was known to Joanna was known to Alphonso, who shared all her
feelings, and was most tenderly beloved by her. He was as ardent in the
cause as his sister could be; but he saw more of the difficulties that
beset their path, and knew better his father's iron temperament, and how
deeply Wendot had offended. Doubtless much was due to the
misrepresentations of Sir Res ap Meredith, who had now secured for
himself the coveted lands of Dynevor; but whatever the cause, the eldest
son of the house of Dynevor was the object of the king's severe
displeasure, and it was not likely he would relax his vigilance or
depart from his word, not even for the prayers of his children or the
tears of his favourite Gertrude. He had pardoned Llewelyn at the
instance of Arthyn; if the same game were to be played over again by
another of his daughters' companions, he would not unnaturally believe
that he was being cajoled and trifled with.

"If it were only Griffeth it would be easy," said Alphonso thoughtfully.
"But Wendot --"

And there he stopped and shook his head.

It was some days before the king saw the new attendant of his sons; but
coming into Alphonso's private apartment one day suddenly, he found
several of the royal children gathered there, and with them a
fair-haired youth, who was reading to the prince out of an illuminated
missal. Alphonso was lying on a couch, and his look of fragile weakness
struck cold to the father's heart. Of late the lad's strength had been
failing rapidly, but Edward had tried to blind his eyes to the truth.
Now he took a hasty step towards the couch, and Griffeth rose quickly
from his seat and bent the knee before the king.

"Ha, Wendot," said Edward, with a grave but not unkindly glance, "I have
not seen you at these new duties before. So you are a student as well as
a soldier? Well, the arts of peace will better become you for the
future. I remember your face well, young man. I would it had not been my
duty to place you under restraint; but you have broken faith with me,
and that grievously. How then can it be possible to trust you in the
future? You, as the head of the house, should have set your brothers an
example of honour and fealty. As it is, it has been far otherwise, and
now you will have to bear the burden of that breach of trust and honour."

Twice Griffeth had opened his lips as if to speak, but Alphonso laid his
hand upon his arm with a warning touch, which said as plainly as words
could do, "Be silent."

So the youth held his peace, and only bent his head in submission; and
Edward, after a moment's pause, added more kindly:

"And how fares it with your brother, Wendot? I hear that his state is
something precarious. I hope he has the best tendance the castle can
afford, for I would not that any member of my son's household should
suffer from lack of care."

"He has all that he needs, I thank you, sire," answered Griffeth. "He
lies sorely sick at this present time, but I trust he will amend ere long."

And then the king turned to his son, and spoke with him on some message
of the state, and departed without heeding the excited glances of Joanna
or the restless way in which she kept looking first at Alphonso and then
at Gertrude.

But scarcely had the door closed behind the retiring form of the king
before the excitable girl had bounded to her brother's side.

"O Alphonso," she cried, "did you do it on purpose? Tell me what you
have in your head."

Alphonso sat up and pushed the hair out of his eyes. Griffeth was simply
looking on in surprise and bewilderment. The prince laid a hand upon his
arm and spoke very earnestly.

"Griffeth," he said, "it seems to me that through this error of my
father's we may yet find means to compass the deliverance of Wendot.
There are none of those save ourselves who know which of you twain is
the first-born and which the youngest. In your faces there is little to
mark you one from the other. Griffeth, if thou wilt be willing to be
called Wendot-- if Wendot will consent to be Griffeth -- then we may
perchance make his way plain to depart and live in liberty once more;
for it is Wendot, and not Griffeth, who has so roused my father's anger.
Griffeth he might easily consent to pardon; but Wendot he will keep as a
hostage in his own hands possibly for life itself."

Griffeth listened, and a strange look crept into his face. His cheek
flushed, and his breath came thick and fast. He knew Alphonso's motive
in suggesting this change of identity. The lads, so closely drawn
together in bonds of more than brotherly love, had not opened to each
other their innermost souls for nought. Alphonso knew that no freedom,
no liberty, would give to the true Griffeth any extension of his brief
span of life. His days were as assuredly numbered as those of the royal
lad himself, and life had ceased to have attractions for the pair, whose
spirits were almost on the wing, who had set their hopes and aspirations
higher than anything which earth could give, and whose chiefest wish now
was to remain together until death should call them home.

Griffeth's only trouble had been the thought of leaving his brother, and
it was when he had realized from Alphonso's words that the king was
deeply offended with Wendot, and that it was almost hopeless to think of
his obtaining his liberty again, that the heart of the lad sank in
despondency and sorrow.

For one of the young eagles of Dynevor thus to be caged -- to be left to
pine away in hopeless captivity, his brother gone from him as well as
the prince who would stand his friend; possibly incarcerated at last in
some dreary fortress, there to linger out his days in hopeless misery
and inaction -- the thought had been so terrible to Griffeth that there
had been moments when he had almost longed to hear that the leeches gave
up hope of saving his brother's life.

But Wendot was mending now; there was no doubt of ultimate recovery. He
would rise from his sickbed to find -- what? Griffeth had not dared to
ask himself this question before; but now a great hope possessed him
suddenly. He looked into Alphonso's eyes, and the two instantly
understood one another; as did also Gertrude and Joanna, who stood by
flushed and quivering.

"Let it be so," said Griffeth, in a voice which trembled a little,
although the words were firm and emphatic. "I take the name the king has
given me. I am Wendot, whom he believes the traitor and the foe.
Griffeth lies yonder, sick and helpless, a victim to the influence of
the first-born son of Res Vychan. It may be, when the king hears more of
him, he will in his clemency release and pardon him.

"Ah, if I could but be the means of saving my brother -- the brother
dearer to me than life -- from the fate which others have brought upon
him, that I could lay down my life without a wish ungratified! It has
been the only thought of bitterness in my cup that I must leave him
alone -- and a prisoner."

Gertrude's face had flushed a deep red; she put out her hand and clasped
that of Griffeth hard; there was a little sob in her voice as she said:

"Oh, if you will but save him -- if you will but save him!"

Griffeth looked into her sweet face, with its sensitive features and
soft eyes shining through a mist of tears, and he understood something
which had hitherto been a puzzle to him.

There had been days when the intermittent fever from which Wendot
suffered left him entirely for hours together, sometimes for a whole
day; and Griffeth had been sure that on some of these days, in the hours
of his own attendance on the prince, his brother had received visits
from others in the castle: for flowers had appeared to brighten the sick
room, and there had been a wonderful new look of happiness in the
patient's eyes, although he had said nothing to his brother as to what
had befallen him.

And in truth Wendot was half disposed to believe himself the victim of
some sweet hallucination, and was almost afraid to speak of the fancies
that floated from time to time before his eyes, lest he should be told
that his mind was wandering, and that he was the victim of delusion.

Not once alone, but many times, during the hours of his tardy
convalescence, when he had been lying alone, crushed by the sense of
weariness and oppression which illness brings to one so little
accustomed to it, he had been roused by the sound of light footfalls in
his room; he had seen a graceful form flitting about, bringing lightness
and beauty in her wake, and leaving it behind when she left. The vision
of a sweet, small face, and the lustrous dark eyes which had haunted him
at intervals through the long years of his young manhood, appeared again
before him, and sometimes his name was spoken in the gentle tones which
had never been forgotten, although the memory was growing dim.

Weak and dazed and feeble, both in body and mind, from the exhausting
and wasting illness that had followed the severe winter's campaign,
Wendot knew not if this vision was but the figment of his own brain, or
whether the passionate love he felt rising up in his heart was lavished
upon a mere phantom. But so long as she flitted about him he was content
to lie and watch her, with the light of a great happiness in his eyes;
and once when he had called her name -- the never forgotten name of
Gertrude -- he had thought that she had come and taken his hand and had
bent over him with a wonderful light in her eyes, but the very effort he
made to rise up and grasp her hands, and learn if indeed it were a
creature of flesh and blood, had resulted in a lapse back into
unconsciousness, and he was silent as to the vision even to Griffeth,
lest perchance he should have to learn that it was but a fevered dream,
and that there was no Gertrude within the castle walls at all.

But Gertrude knew all; it was no dream to her. She saw the love light in
the eyes dearest to her in the world. She had heard her name called; she
had seen that the love she had cherished for the hero of her childhood
had not been cherished in vain. Perhaps Wendot had betrayed more in his
sickness and weakness than he would have allowed himself to do in his
strength, knowing himself a helpless, landless prisoner in the hands of
the stern monarch who occupied England's throne. But be that as it may,
Gertrude had read his secret and was happy, though with such a chastened
happiness as alone was possible to one who knew the peril in which her
lover lay, and how hopeless even Alphonso thought it to obtain for him
the king's pardon.

"My father would have betrothed us as children," said Gertrude, her face
glowing, but her voice steady and soft, for why should she be ashamed of
the faithful love of a lifetime?

"When we saw each other again he would have plighted us, but for the
fear of what Llewelyn and Howel would do. But think you I love him less
for his love to his country? Think you that I have aught to reproach him
with, when I know how he was forced into rebellion by others? I care not
what he has done. I love him, and I know that he loves me. Sooner would
I share a prison with him than a palace with any man beside; yet I fear
that in prison walls he will pine and die, even as a caged eagle, and it
is that fear which breaks my heart.

"O Griffeth, Griffeth, if you can save him, how we will bless you from,
our hearts! Give him to me, and I will guard and cherish him. I have
wealth and lands for us both. Only his liberty is lacking --"

"And that we will strive to compass yet," said Alphonso gently. "Fear
not, sweet Gertrude, and betray not thyself. Only remember from this
time forward that Wendot is my friend and companion here, and that thy
lover Griffeth lieth in yon chamber, sick and stricken."

"I will remember," she answered resolutely; and so the change of
identity was accomplished, with the result that the old chroniclers aver
that Wendot, eldest son of Res Vychan, died in the king's prison in
England, whilst all that is known of the fate of Griffeth is that he was
with his brother in captivity in England in the year 1283, after which
his name completely disappears, and no more is known of him, good or bad.

That night there were commotion and distress in Carnarvon Castle, for
the young Alphonso broke a blood vessel in a violent fit of coughing,
and for some hours his life was in the utmost danger.

The skill of the leeches, however, combined with the tender care of his
mother and sisters, averted for a time fatal consequences, and in a few
days the prince was reported to be out of immediate danger. But the
doctors all agreed that it would not be wise for him to remain longer in
the colder air of north Wales, and advised an immediate removal to
Windsor, where more comforts could be obtained, and where the climate
was milder and more genial.

Edward's work in Wales was done. The country was quiet, and he had no
longer any fear of serious rebellion. The first thought in his mind was
the precarious condition of his son, and immediate steps were taken to
convey the invalid southward by slow and gentle stages.

A horse litter was prepared for him, and by his own special request this
easy conveyance was shared by him with the two Welsh youths, to whom, as
his father and mother thought, he had taken one of those strange sick
fancies not uncommon to those in his state of health.

Wendot, as he called the younger brother, had been his most devoted
nurse during the days of peril, and his quick understanding of the
unspoken wishes of the prince had evoked a real and true gratitude from
the royal parents.

The real Wendot was by this time so far recovered as to be able to bear
the journey, and illness had so wasted him that he looked no older than
Griffeth; and though still perplexed at being called Griffeth, and by no
means understanding his brother's earnest request that he would continue
to answer to the name, he was too weak to trouble his head much about
the matter; and the two Welsh brothers were regarded by the English
attendants as too insignificant to be worthy of much notice. The
prince's freak to have them as travelling-companions was humoured by his
parents' wish; but they little knew how much he was wrapped up in the
brothers, nor how completely his heart was set upon seeing the
accomplishment of his plan before he died.

Alphonso had all his senses about him, and the wistful look on
Griffeth's face, as the mountains of his beloved Wales grew dim in the
distance, was not lost upon him. Wendot was sleeping restlessly in the
litter, and Alphonso stretched out his hand, and laid it gently upon
Griffeth's.

"Art regretting that thou leavest all for me?" he asked gently; and the
answer was such a look of love as went to his very heart.

"Nay; I would leave far more than that for thee, sweet prince, but it is
my last look at home. I shall see these grand, wild hills no more."

"No, nor yet I," answered the prince, his own eyes growing somewhat dim;
"and I, too, have loved them well, though not as thou lovest, my friend.
But be content; there are fairer things, sweeter scenes than even these,
in store for us somewhere. Shall we repine at leaving the beauties of
earth, when the pearly gates of Paradise are opening before our very eyes?

"O Griffeth, it is a wondrous thought how soon we may be soaring above
the very stars! And methinks it may well be given to thee to wing thy
way to thine own home for one last look ere thou departest for the holy
land whence we can never wish to return."

Griffeth gave him a bright, eager look.

"I will think that myself -- I will believe it. This is not my last
farewell."



    CHAPTER XII. A STRANGE BRIDAL.


"My prince, tempt me not. It is hard to refuse; but there are some
things no man may do with honour, and, believe me, honour is dearer to
me than life, dearer even than liberty; though Heaven alone knows how
dear that is to every free-born son of Cambria. I to leave my brother to
wear away his days in captivity whilst I escape under his name! Prince
Alphonso, I know not what you think my heart is made of. Am I to live in
freedom, whilst he whom I love best in the world bears the burden of my
fault, and lingers out his young life within the walls of the king's
prison?"

Alphonso looked searchingly in Wendot's face, and realized for the first
time the youth's absolute ignorance of his brother's state. No wonder he
refused with scorn the proffered boon! Yet it would be a hard task to
break the sad tidings to one who so deeply loved his gentle younger
brother, from childhood his chosen comrade.

Alphonso was lying on a couch in one of the smaller state apartments of
Windsor Castle, and the window, close to which he had bidden his
attendants wheel him, overlooked the beautiful valley of the Thames. The
first of the autumn tints were gilding the rich stretches of woodland,
whilst a faint blue haze hung over the distance, and the river ran like
a silver thread, glinting here and there into golden brightness as some
brighter ray of sunlight fell upon it.

Alphonso loved the view commanded by this window. He and Griffeth spent
many long happy hours here, looking out on the fair prospect, and
exchanging whispered thoughts and bright aspirations with regard to some
land even fairer than the one they now beheld.

But Wendot never looked at the beautiful valley without experiencing a
strange oppression of spirit. It reminded him of that wilder valley of
the Towy, and his eyes would grow dim and his heart sick with the
fruitless longing after home, which grew harder and harder to hear with
every week of captivity, now that his bodily health was restored.
Captivity was telling upon him, and he was pining as an eagle pines when
caught and shut up by man even in a gilded cage. He looked pale and wan
and wistful. Often he felt stifled by the warm, close air of the valley,
and felt that he must die did he not escape to the freer air of the
mountains.

But he seldom spoke of these feelings even to Griffeth, and strangely
enough his illness and these homesick longings produced upon his outer
man an effect which was wonderfully favourable to the plan fermenting in
the brains of the royal children and their immediate companions.

Wendot had lost the sturdiness of figure, the brown colouring, and the
strength of limb which had distinguished him in old days from Griffeth.
A striking likeness had always existed between the brothers, whose
features were almost identical, and whose height and contours were the
same. Now that illness had sharpened the outlines of Wendot's face, had
reduced his fine proportions, and had given to him something of the
hollow-eyed wistfulness of expression which Griffeth had so long worn,
this likeness became so remarkable that few in the castle knew one
brother from the other. Knowing this, they both answered indifferently
to the name of either, and any change of personality would be managed
without exciting the smallest fear of remark.

Wendot had been perplexed at times by the persistence with which he had
been addressed as Griffeth, even when he was certain that the speaker
was one of the few who knew him and his brother apart; but he had not
troubled his head much over the matter until this day, when Alphonso had
openly spoken to him of the plan that was in their minds, and had bidden
him prepare for a secret flight from the castle, promising that there
should be no ardent search after him, as Wendot, and not Griffeth, was
the culprit who had fallen under the royal displeasure, and the king
would care little for the escape of the younger brother so long as he
held the ex-Lord of Dynevor in his own safe keeping.

Wendot's indignant refusal to leave his brother and make good his own
escape showed Alphonso how little he realized Griffeth's condition, and
with gentle sympathy, but with candour and frankness, he explained to
the elder brother how short would be the period of Griffeth's captivity
-- how soon and how complete the release for which he was patiently and
happily waiting.

Wendot gave a great start as the meaning of Alphonso's words first broke
upon him, and then he buried his face in his hands, and sat motionless,
neither answering nor moving. Alphonso looked at him, and by-and-by put
out his own wasted hand and laid it upon Wendot's knee.

"Does it seem a sad thing to thee, Wendot? Believe me, there is no
sadness for Griffeth in the thought. Nay, is it not a blessed thing to
know that soon, very soon, we shall be free of this weary burden of pain
and sickness and weakness, and laying all aside will pass away to the
land of which the seer of old foretold that 'the wicked cease from
troubling, and the weary are at rest.' Thou knowest not, perhaps, the
sweetness of those words, but I know it well, and Griffeth likewise.

"Nay, Wendot, thou must learn not to grudge him the rest and the bliss
of yon bright land. In this world he could look for nothing save wearing
weakness and lingering pain. Thou shouldst be glad that the fiat has
gone forth, and that the end may not be far off -- the end of trouble
and sorrow; for of the glory that shall follow there shall be no end."

But Wendot broke in hoarsely and impetuously.

"If he must die, let him at least die in freedom, with the old hills
around him; let him be laid to rest beneath their shadow. You say that
he might well escape; that no cry would be made after him so long as I
were in the king's safe keeping. Let him then fly. Let him fly to
Llewelyn and Arthyn. They will give him tendance and a home. He shall
not die in prison, away from all that he holds dear. I cannot brook the
thought!"

"Nay, Wendot," answered Alphonso with a kindling smile, "thou needest
not grieve for thy brother because that he is here. Ask him -- take it
not from my lips; but I will tell thee this, that where thou art and
where I am is the place where Griffeth would fain end his days. Ah! thou
canst not understand, good youth, how when the great and wonderful call
comes for the human soul, how lightly press the fetters of the flesh;
how small these things of time and place appear that erst have been of
such moment. Griffeth and I are treading the same path at the same time,
and I think not even the offer of a free pardon and unfettered liberty
would draw him from my side.

"Moreover, Wendot, he could not take the journey of which thou speakest.
The keen autumn air, which will give thee strength and vigour, would but
lay him low on the bed from which he would never rise. His heart is here
with me. Think not that thou art wronging him in taking his name. The
one load lying now upon his heart is the thought that he is leaving thee
in captivity. Let him but know that thou art free -- that he has been
thy helper in thy flight -- and he will have nought left to wish for in
this world. His soul will be at peace."

Wendot rose and paced through the chamber, and then returned to the side
of the prince. His face betrayed many conflicting emotions. He spoke
with bitterness and impetuosity.

"And what good is life to me if I take you at your word and fly this
spot? Have I not lost all that makes life worth living? My lands given
to my traitorous kinsman; the brother who has been more to me than life
lying in a foreign grave. What use is life to one so lonely and bereft?
Where should I fly? what should I do? I have never lived alone. I have
always had another to live for and to love. Methinks death would be the
better thing than such a loveless life."

"And why should thy life be loveless, Wendot?" asked Alphonso, with
kindling eyes and a brightening smile. "Dost not thou know? -- does not
thine own heart tell thee that one faithful heart beats for thee and
thee alone? Have I not seen thee with her times and again? Have not your
eyes told eloquent secrets -- though I know not what your lips have said --"

Wendot's face was all in a glow, but he broke in hastily:

"Prince, prince, speak not of her. If I have been beguiled, if I have
betrayed the feelings which I cannot help, but which I must hold sternly
in check -- be not thou the one to taunt me with my weakness. There is
none like her in the world. I have known it for long. But even because I
know it so well I may not even dream of her. It is not with me as of
old, when her father spoke to me of troth plight. I am a beggar, an
outcast, a prisoner. She is rich, honoured, courted. She is the
brightest star of the court --"

"And she loveth thee, Wendot," interposed Alphonso firmly. "She has
loved thee from childhood with a faithful and true love which merits
better things than to be cast aside as if it were but dross. What are
lands and gold to a woman if her lover share them not? Is it meet that
she should suffer so cruelly simply because her father has left her well
endowed? Wendot, on Lord Montacute's dying bed this daughter of his
avowed her love for thee, and he gave her his blessing and bade her act
as she would. Art thou, then, to be the one to break her heart, ay, and
thine own, too, because thou art too proud to take more than thou canst
give?

"Fie, man! the world is wide and thou art young. Thou hast time to win
thy spurs and bring home noble spoil to lay at thy lady's feet. Only let
not pride stand in the way of her happiness and thine own. Thou hast
said that life is dark and drear unless it be shared with some loved
one. Then how canst thou hold back, when thou hast confessed thine own
love and learned that hers is thine? Take it, and be grateful for the
treasure thou hast won, and fear not but that thou wilt bring as much as
thou wilt receive. There are strange chances in the fate of each one of
us. Who knows but that thou and she will not yet reign again in the
halls of Dynevor?"

Wendot started and flushed, and again paced down the whole length of the
room. When he returned to the window Alphonso had gone, and in his place
stood Gertrude herself, her sweet face dyed rosy red with blushes, her
hands half stretched out towards him, her lips quivering with the
intensity of her emotion.

He paused just one moment looking at her, and then holding out his arms,
he said:

"Gertrude!"

Next moment she was clasped in his close embrace, and was shedding happy
tears upon his shoulder.

"Oh!" said Gertrude at last, in a soft whisper, "it was worth waiting
for this. I never thought I could have been so happy."

"Joanna -- Alphonso, it is all settled. He will leave the castle with
me. He will help me now in the care of my lands. But he will not move
whilst Griffeth lives. And I think he is right. They have so loved each
other, and he will not leave his brother to die amongst strangers in
captivity."

"It is like him," said Joanna eagerly. "Gertrude, thou hast found a very
proper knight, as we told thee from the first, when he was but a lad,
and held the Eagle's Crag against a score of men. But ye must be wedded
soon, that there be no delay when once the poor boy be gone. Every day
he looks more shadowy and frail. Methinks that our softer air ill suits
him, for he hath dwindled to a mere shadow since he came. You will not
have to wait long."

"Joanna speaks the truth," said Alphonso, half sadly, half smilingly.
"He will not be with us long. But it is very true that this marriage
must be privately celebrated, and that without delay, that when the day
comes when 'Griffeth' flies from the castle, he and his wife may go
together."

"Ay, and my chaplain will make them man and wife, and breathe not a word
to any man," cried Joanna, who, now that she was older, had her own
retinue of servants, equal in number to those of her sister, by whom she
was dearly loved for her generosity and frankness, so that she could
always command ready and willing obedience to any expressed wish of hers.

"You think he will? O Joanna, when shall it be?"

"It shall be at midnight in the chapel," said the girl, with the prompt
decision which characterized her. "Not tonight, but three nights from
this. Leave all things in my hands, sweet Gertrude; I will see that
nought is lacking to bind thee lawfully to thy lord. My chaplain is a
good and holy man from the west country. He loveth those poor Welsh who
are prisoners here, and spends much of his time in ministering to them.
He loves thy future lord and his dying brother, and he knows somewhat of
our plan, for I have revealed it in the confessional, and he has not
chided me for it.

"Oh, I can answer for him. He will be glad that thou shouldst find so
proper a knight; and he is kind of heart, and stanch to my service. Fear
not, sweet Gertrude: ere three days have gone by thou shalt be a wedded
wife; and when the time comes thou mayest steal away with him thy
plighted lord, and trust thy sister Joanna to make thy peace with the
king, if he be in any way angered or grieved."

Gertrude threw herself into Joanna's arms and kissed her a hundred
times; and Joanna laughed, and said she deserved much credit for
plotting to rid herself of her dearest friend, but was none the less
loyal to the cause because Gertrude's gain would be her loss.

So there came a strange night, never to be forgotten by those who
witnessed the proceedings, when Wendot ap Res Vychan and the Lady
Gertrude Cherleton stood at midnight before the altar in the small
private chapel of the castle, whilst the chaplain of the Princess
Joanna's private suite made them man and wife according to the law of
the Church. And of the few spectators who witnessed the ceremony two
were of royal blood -- Alphonso and Joanna -- and beside them were only
one or two attendants, sworn to secrecy, and in full sympathy with the
youthful lovers thus plighting their troth and being united in wedlock
at one and the same time.

Griffeth was not of the number who was present to witness this ceremony.
He was unable to rise from his bed, a sudden access of illness having
overtaken him, possibly as the result of the excitement of hearing what
was about to take place.

When the solemn words had been spoken, and the bride was led away by her
proud and happy spouse -- happy even in the midst of so much peril and
sorrow in the thought of the treasure he had won -- she paused at the
door of her apartments, whither he would have left her (for so long as
they remained within the walls of the castle they would observe the same
manner of life as before), and glancing into his face said softly:

"May I not go with thee to tell the news to Griffeth?"

"Ay, well bethought," said Alphonso, who was leaning on Wendot's other
arm, the distance through the long passages being somewhat fatiguing to
him. "Let us go and show to him thy wife. None will rejoice more than he
to know that she is thine in very truth, and that none can take her from
thee."

Griffeth's room was nigh at hand, and thither Wendot led his bride. A
taper was burning beside the bed, and the sick youth lay propped up with
pillows, his breath coming in laboured gasps, though his eyes were
bright and full of comprehension as Wendot led the slim, white-robed
figure to his side.

But the elder brother was startled at the change he saw in his patient
since he had left him last. There was something in his look that struck
chill upon his heart. He came forward and took the feeble hand in his.
It was deadly cold, and the unearthly radiance upon the lad's face was
as significant in its own way. Had not their mother looked at them with
just such a smile when she had slipped away into another world, whilst
they were trying to persuade themselves that she was better?

"My sister Gertrude," whispered Griffeth. "Oh, I am so happy! You will
be good to him -- you will comfort him.

"Wendot -- Gertrude --" he made a faint effort, and joined their hands
together; and then, as if his last earthly task was accomplished, he
seemed to look right on beyond them, whilst a strange expression of awe
and wonder shone from his closing eyes.

"Howel," he whispered -- "father -- mother -- oh, I am coming! Take me
with you."

Then the head fell backwards, the light vanished from the eyes, the cold
hand fell nervelessly from Wendot's grasp, and they knew that Griffeth
was the king's prisoner no longer.

Three days later the Lady Gertrude Cherleton said farewell to her royal
companions, and started forth for her own estates in Derbyshire, which
she had purposed for some time to visit. Perhaps had the minds of those
in the castle been free to wonder at anything so trivial as the
movements of the young heiress, they would have felt surprise at her
selecting this time to betake herself to a solitary and independent
existence, away from all her friends and playmates; but the mortal
illness of the Prince Alphonso occupied the whole attention of the
castle. The remains of the so-called Wendot, late of Dynevor, had been
laid to rest with little ceremony and no pomp, and the very existence of
the other brother was almost forgotten in the general dismay and grief
which permeated through all ranks of people both within and without the
castle walls.

The lady had a small but sufficient retinue; but it was considered
rather strange that she should not start until the dusk had begun to
gather round the castle, so that the confusion of the start was a good
deal increased from the darkness which was stealing upon the place. Had
there been much time or attention free, it might have been noted by a
keen observer that Lady Gertrude had added to her personal attendants
one who looked like a tall and stout woman, though her hood was so
closely drawn that her face was seen by none of the warders, who,
however, let her pass unchallenged: for she rode beside her mistress,
and was evidently in the position of a trusted companion; for the lady
was speaking to her as they passed out through the gate, and there could
certainly be no reason for offering any obstruction to any servant of hers.

If there were any fear or excitement in Gertrude's breast as she and her
husband passed out of the gate and rode quickly along the path which led
through the town, she did not betray it by look or gesture. Her
eagerness was mainly showed by a desire to push on northward as fast as
possible, and the light of a full harvest moon made travelling almost as
easy as by day. On they rode, by sleeping hamlets and dreaming pastures,
until the lights of Windsor lay twinkling in the dim, hazy distance
miles away.

Then Gertrude suddenly threw back her hood, and leaning towards her
companion -- they two had outridden their followers some time before --
cried in a strange, tense voice:

"O Wendot husband, thou art free! Tomorrow will see us safe within those
halls of which thou art rightful lord. Captivity, trouble, peril is at
an end. Nothing can greatly hurt us now, for are we not one in bonds
that no man may dissever?"

"My noble, true-hearted wife," said Wendot, in accents of intense
feeling; and then he leaned forward and kissed her in the whispering
wood, and they rode forward through the glades of silvery moonlight
towards the new life that was awaiting them beyond.

"Hills, wild rocks, woods, and water!" cried Wendot, with a sudden
kindling gleam in his eyes. "O Gertrude, thou didst not tell me the
half! I never guessed that England had aught so like home as this. Truly
it might be Dynevor itself -- that brawling torrent, those craggy fells,
and these gray stone walls. And to be free -- free to breathe the fresh
wind, to go where the fancy prompts, to be loosed from all control save
the sweet bonds that thou boldest me in, dearest! Ah, my wife, thou
knowest not what thou hast done for me. How shall I thank thee for the
boon?"

"Why, by being thine old self again, Vychan," said Gertrude, who was
standing by her husband's side on a natural terrace of rock above the
Hall which was to be their home. She had brought him out early in the
morning to see the sun rise upon their home, and the rapture of his
face, the passionate joy she saw written there, was more than she had
hoped for.

"Thou hast grown old and worn of late, too saddened, too grave for thy
years. Thou must grow young again, and be the bright-faced youth to whom
I gave my heart. Thy youth is not left so far behind but what thou canst
recall it ere it be too late."

"In sooth I shall grow young again here, sweetheart," quoth Wendot, or
Vychan, as we must call him now. He had an equal right to that name with
his father, though for convenience he had always been addressed by the
other; and now that Lady Gertrude had brought her husband home, he was
to be known as Res Vychan, one of the descendants of the last princes of
South Wales, who had taken his wife's name also, as he was now the ruler
of her land; so, according to the fashion of the English people, he
would henceforth be known as Vychan Cherleton. His brother's name he
could not bear to hear applied to himself, and it was left to Joanna to
explain matters to the king and queen when the chance should arrive.
None else need ever know that the husband of the Lady Gertrude had ever
been a captive of Edward's; and the name of Griffeth ap Res Vychan
disappears from the ken of the chroniclers as if it had never been known
that he was once a prisoner in England.

There was no pursuit made after the missing Welshman. The king and queen
had other matters to think of, and the fondness of their son for the
youth would have been protection enough even if he had not begged with
his dying breath that his father would forgive and forget. Lady Gertrude
and her husband did not come to court for very many years; and by the
time they did so, Vychan Cherleton's loyalty and service to the English
cause were too well established for any one to raise a question as to
his birth or race.

If the king and queen ever knew they had been outwitted by their
children, they did not resent that this had been so, nor that an act of
mercy had been contrived greater than they might have felt justified in
ratifying.

But all this was yet in the future. As Vychan and his wife stood on that
high plateau overlooking the fair valley of the Derwent, it seemed to
Gertrude as though during the past three days her husband had undergone
some subtle change. There was a new light in his eyes; his frame had
lost its drooping air of languor; he had stood the long days of rough
riding without the smallest fatigue. It really seemed as if the old
Wendot had come back again, and she smilingly asked him how it was that
he had gained such strength in so short a time.

"Ah, that question is soon answered, sweet wife. It is freedom that is
the elixir of life to us sons of Cambria. I know not if your
English-born men can brook the sense of fetter and constraint, but it is
death to us.

"Let us not think of it more. That page has closed for ever; and never
shall it reopen, for sooner will I die than fall alive into the hands of
a foe. Nay, sweetest Gertrude, look not so reproachfully at me. Thou
shalt soon see that I mean not to die, but to live for thee. Here in
this fair, free spot we begin our new life together. It may be even yet
-- for see, is not that bright sky, illumined by those quivering shafts
of light athwart our path, an omen of good? -- that as thou showest me
this fair spot with which thou hast endowed me, I may one day show thee
again and endow thee with the broad lands of Dynevor."



    CHAPTER XIII. THE NEW LORD OF DYNEVOR.


"Vychan, Vychan, the hour has come! That false traitor Sir Res has risen
in revolt against England's king. Loyal men are called upon to put down
the rebellion, and such as do so will be rewarded with the lands reft
from the traitor. Vychan, Vychan, lose not a moment; arm and take the
men, and fly to Dynevor! Now is the time to strike the blow! And I will
to Edward's court, to plead with him for the lands and castle of Dynevor
as my husband's guerdon for his services. O Vychan, Vychan, have not I
always said that thou shouldest live to call thyself Lord of Dynevor again?"

Gertrude came flying to her husband with these words, looking scarce
less young and certainly none less bright and happy than she had done
four years back, when she and her husband had first stood within the
walls of her ancestral home. A beautiful, sturdy boy hung upon her hand,
keeping pace gallantly even with her flying steps, and the joy of
motherhood had given something of added lustre to the soft beauty of her
dark eyes; otherwise she was scarce changed from the Gertrude of past
days. As for Vychan, he still retained the eagle glance, the almost
boyish freshness of colouring, and the soldier-like bearing which
distinguished his race, and the gold of his hair had not tarnished or
faded, though he had developed from the youth to the man, and was a
noble specimen of manhood in the zenith of its strength and beauty.

Rising hastily at his wife's approach, he gazed at her with parted lips
and glowing eyes, whilst she once more told him the news, brought by a
special messenger from the Princess Joanna, brought thus, as both knew,
with a special meaning which they well understood. Four years of
peaceful prosperity in England had in no whit weakened Vychan's love for
his own land or blunted the soldier-like instincts of his race. There
was something of the light of battle and of conquest in his eye as he
gazed at his wife, and his voice rang out clear and trumpet-like as he
gathered the sense of the message she brought.

"Take up arms against that false traitor-kinsman of mine? ay, verily,
that I will. False first to his kindred and his country, then false to
the king who has trusted and rewarded him so nobly. Res ap Meredith,
methinks thine hour is come! Thou didst plot and contrive to wrest from
me the fair lands my father bequeathed me; but I trow the day has dawned
when the false lord shall be cast forth, even as he has cast forth
others, and when there shall be a lord of the old race ruling at
Dynevor, albeit he rule beneath a new name."

"Heaven grant it may be so!" cried Gertrude, the tears of excitement
sparkling in her eyes; whilst little Griffeth, catching some of the
sense of his father's words, and understanding with the quick instinct
of childhood that there was something unwonted going on, shook his
little fist in the air, and cried:

"Dynevor, Dynevor! me fight for Dynevor, too."

The father picked up his son and held him in a close embrace.

"Ay, Griffeth, my man, thou shalt reign at Dynevor one of these days,
please God to give us victory over false friends and traitorous allies."

And even as the parents stood looking smilingly at the brave child, the
blast from the warder's trumpet gave notice that strangers were
approaching the Hall; and hurrying to the entrance gate to be ready to
receive the guests, Vychan and his wife beheld a little troop of
horsemen winding their way up the valley, headed by a pair who appeared
to be man and wife, and to hold some exalted position, for the trappings
of their steeds and the richness of their own dress marked them as of no
humble rank.

Visitors were sufficiently rare at this lonely place for this sight to
cause some stir in the Hall; and Gertrude, shading her eyes with her
hand, gazed eagerly at the two figures in advance. Suddenly she gave a
little cry of rapture, and bounded forward through the gateway.

"It is Arthyn -- Arthyn and Llewelyn! Vychan, thy brother and his wife
are here. Oh, they have come to bid thee to the fray! They bring
tidings, and are come to summon thee to the fight.

"Arthyn, sweetest sister, ten thousand welcomes to our home! Nay, I can
scarce believe this is not a dream. How I have longed to see thee here!"

Vychan was at his brother's side, as Arthyn, flinging herself from her
saddle, flew into Gertrude's arms. For some moments nothing could be
distinguished but the glad clamour of welcome, and scarce had that
subsided before it recommenced in the eager salutations of the Welsh
retainers, who saw in Vychan another of the sons of their well-loved
Lord, Res Vychan, the former Lord of Dynevor and Iscennen, whose wise
and merciful rule had never been forgotten.

Vychan was touched, indeed, to see how well he was remembered, and the
sound of the familiar tongue sent thrills of strange emotion through
him. It was some time before he could free himself from the throng of
servants who pressed round him; and when he could do so he followed his
wife and guests into the banqueting hall, where the noonday repast was
spread, giving charge to his seneschal for the hospitable entertainment
of the retinue his brother had brought and their lodgment within the
walls of the Hall.

When he reached the inner hall he found the servants spreading the best
viands of the house upon the table; whilst Gertrude, Arthyn, and
Llewelyn were gathered together in the embrasure of a window in eager
discussion. Gertrude broke away and came quickly towards him, her face
deeply flushed and her eyes very bright.

"Vychan, it is even as we have heard. That false traitor is in open
revolt, and he has been even more false than we knew. What think you of
this? -- he professed to be sorry for his revolt, and sent a letter of
urgent pleading to Llewelyn and Arthyn begging them to use their
influence with the king to obtain his pardon. Believing him to be
sincere, Llewelyn set out for England not more than two short weeks
back, taking with him, on account of the unsettled state of the country,
the pick of the men from Carregcennen. And when this double-dyed traitor
knows that Arthyn is alone and unprotected in the castle, what does he
do but send a strong band of his soldiers, himself at their head, who
obtain entrance by the subterranean passage, slay the guard, and take
possession of the fortress. Arthyn has but bare time to escape with a
handful of men, and by hard riding to join her husband on the road to
England.

"So now have they turned aside to tell the tale to us, and to summon
thee to come with thy men and fight in the king's quarrel against this
wicked man. And whilst ye lead your soldiers into Wales, Arthyn and I
will to the court, to lay the story before the royal Edward, and to gain
from him the full and free grants of the castles of Dynevor and
Carregcennen for our husbands, who have responded to his call, and have
flown to wrest from the traitor the possession he has so unrighteously
grasped."

"Thy wife speaketh wise words, Vychan," said Llewelyn, whose dark brows
wore a threatening look, and who had the appearance of a man deeply
stirred to wrath, as indeed he well might be; "and it were well that we
lost no time in dallying here. How many men canst thou summon to thy
banner, and when can we be on the march for the south? The Earl of
Cornwall has been called upon to quell this revolt, and he has summoned
to his aid all loyal subjects of the king who hold dear the peace and
prosperity of their land.

"The days are gone by in which I should despise that call and join the
standard of revolt. The experience of the past has taught me that in the
English alliance is Wales's only hope of tranquillity and true
independence and civilization. When such men as this Res ap Meredith
break into revolt against Edward, it is time for us to rally round his
standard. What would our lives, our lands, our liberties be worth were
such a double-distilled traitor as he transformed into a prince, as is
his fond ambition?"

"True, Llewelyn, true. The race of kings has vanished from Wales, and
methinks there is no humiliation in owning as sovereign lord the
lion-hearted King of England. Moreover, has he not given us a prince of
our own, born upon Welsh soil, sprung of a kingly race? We will rally
round the standard of father and son, and trust that in the future a
brighter day will dawn for our long-distracted country."

So forthwith there sped messengers through the wild valleys and wilder
fells of Derbyshire, and many a sturdy son of the mountains came gladly
and willingly at the call of the feudal lord whose wise and kindly rule
had made him greatly beloved. The fighting instinct of the age and of
the race was speedily aroused by this call to arms, and the surrounding
gentlemen and yeomen of the county likewise pressed their services upon
Vychan, glad to be able to strike a blow to uphold the authority of a
king whose wise and brave rule had already made him the idol of the nation.

It was a goodly sight to see the brothers of Dynevor (as their wives
could not but call them once again) ride forth at the head of this
well-equipped following. Llewelyn marvelled at the discipline displayed
by the recruits -- a discipline decidedly in advance of anything his own
ruder followers could boast. But Welsh and English for once were in
brotherly accord, and rode shoulder to shoulder in all good fellowship;
and the English knew that their ruder comrades from Cambria, if less
well trained and drilled, would be able to show them a lesson in fierce
and desperate fighting, to which they were far more inured than their
more peaceable neighbours from the sister country.

And fighting there was for all; but the struggle, if fierce, was brief.
Sir Res was a coward at heart, as it is the wont of a traitor to be, and
finding himself opposed by foes as relentless and energetic as Vychan
and Llewelyn, he was speedily driven from fortress to fortress, till at
length he was forced to surrender himself a prisoner to the Earl of
Gloucester; who, out of kindness to his wife, Auda de Hastings, connived
at his escape to Ireland.

There he lived in seclusion for some time; but the spirit of rebellion
was still alive within him, and two years later he returned to Wales,
and succeeded in collecting an army of four thousand turbulent spirits
about him, at the head of which force he fought a pitched battle with
the king's justiciary, Robert de Tibetot. His army was cut to pieces. He
was taken prisoner himself, and met a cruel death at York as the reward
of his many acts of treasonable rebellion.

But the halls of Dynevor saw him no more from the moment when Res
Vychan, with a swelling heart, first drove him forth, and planted his
own foot once again upon the soil dearer to him than any other spot on
earth. As he stood upon the familiar terrace, looking over the wide,
fair valley of the Towy, his heart swelled with thankfulness and joy;
and if a slow, unwonted tear found its way to his eye, it was scarce a
tear of sorrow, for he felt assured that his brother Griffeth was
sharing in the joy of this restoration to the old home, and that his
loving and gentle spirit was not very far from him at this supreme hour
of his life.

"Father, father, father!"

Vychan turned with a start at the sound of the joyous call, and the next
moment was clasping wife and son to his breast.

"Sweetheart! come so quickly? How couldst thou?"

"Ay, Vychan, love hath ever wings, and neither I nor Arthyn could keep
away, our business at the court once accomplished. Vychan, husband, thou
standest here Lord of Dynevor in thine own right. Thou hast won back
thine ancestral home, the boy's inheritance.

"Seest thou this deed? Knowest thou the king's seal? Take it, for it
secureth all to thee under thy name of Vychan Cherleton. And if in times
to come those who come after know not that it was the son of Res Vychan
who thus reclaimed his patrimony, and if our worthy chroniclers set down
that Dynevor and its lands passed to the keeping of the English, what
matters it? We know the truth, and those who have loved thee and thy
father know who thou art and whence thou hast come. Let that be
sufficient for thee and for me.

"Griffeth, little son, kiss thy father, and bid him welcome to his own
halls again -- the halls of Dynevor."

Vychan could not speak. He pressed one passionate kiss upon the lips of
his wife, and another upon the brow of his noble boy, who looked every
inch a Dynevor, with the true Dynevor features, and the bold, fearless
mien so like his father's.

Then commanding himself by an effort, he opened the king's parchment and
quickly mastered its contents, after which he took his wife's hand and
held out the other to his son.

"My faithful fellows are mustering in the hall to bid me welcome once
more to Dynevor. Come, sweet wife; I must show to them their lady and
their future lord.

"Arthyn -- where is she? Has she gone on to Iscennen to meet Llewelyn
there?"

"Ay, verily: she was as hungry for him as I for thee; and she hath a
similar mandate for him regarding his rights to Carregcennen.

"O Vychan, dearest husband, I can scarce believe it is not all a dream."

Indeed, to Vychan it seemed almost as though he dreamed, as in the old
familiar hall he stood, a little raised from the crowd of armed
retainers upon the steps of the wide oak staircase, as he addressed to
them a speech eloquent with that thrilling eloquence which is the gift
of all who speak from the heart, and speak to hearts beating in deep and
true response. Vychan thanked all those who had so bravely fought for
him, explained to all assembled there his new position and his new name,
bid them not think him less a Welshman and a Dynevor because he bore his
wife's arms and called himself the servant of the English king, and held
up before their eyes the mandate of that English king confirming to him
the lands and halls of Dynevor.

A wild, ringing cheer broke from all who heard him as he thus proved to
their own satisfaction that the royal Edward was their best friend, and
as the new Lord of Dynevor held up his child for them to see, and to own
as future lord in the time-honoured fashion, such a shout went up from
the throats of all as made the vaulted roof ring again. Blades were
unsheathed and waved in wild enthusiasm, and Gertrude's dark eyes
glistened through a mist of proud and happy tears.

Suddenly from some dim recess in the old ball there issued a strain of
wild music -- the sound of a harp played by no unskilled hand; whilst
mingling with the twang of the strings was the voice of the ancient
bard, cracked through age, yet still retaining the old power and some of
the old sweetness. And harp and voice were raised alike in one of those
triumph songs that have ever been as the elixir of life to the strong,
rude, sensitive sons of wild Cambria.

"It is Wenwynwyn," quoth Vychan. "He is yet alive. I little thought to
see him more.

"Griffeth, boy, run to yon old man and bid him give thee his blessing,
and tell him that there is a son of Dynevor come back to rule as Lord of
Dynevor once again."

POSTSCRIPT.

The story of the sons of Res Vychan is very intricate and difficult to
follow, owing to the lack of contemporaneous documents; but the main
facts of their story as related in the foregoing pages are true, though
a certain license has been taken for purposes of fiction.

They have been represented as somewhat younger than they were at the
time of these events, whilst the children of Edward the First have been
made some few years older than their true ages.

There is no actual historical warrant for the change of identity between
Wendot and Griffeth, and for the escape and reinstatement of the former
in the halls of Dynevor; but there are traditions which point to a
possibility that he did escape from prison, in spite of the affirmation
of the chroniclers, as there have been those who claim descent from him,
which they would hardly have done if such had not been the case, for
there is no record that he was married before he was taken prisoner to
England.

The children of the English king were not really at Rhuddlan Castle in
1277, as represented here, as they were at that time too young to
accompany their father on his expeditions. If, however, they had been as
old as represented in these pages, there is little doubt they would have
accompanied him, as the monarch was a most affectionate father, and
loved to have wife and children about him.

Arthyn is a fictitious character; as is also Gertrude. There is no
record that any of the sons of Res Vychan married or left descendants,
except the tradition alluded to above.

THE END.





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