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´╗┐Title: Keeping Tryst - A Tale of King Arthur's Time
Author: Johnston, Annie F. (Annie Fellows), 1863-1931
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 "Keeping Tryst - A Tale of King Arthur's Time" ***

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Internet Archive)



[Illustration: Cover]



_KEEPING TRYST_

_A TALE OF KING ARTHUR'S TIME_



The Johnston Jewel Series

BY ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON

    Each, small 16mo, cloth,
    decorated cover and frontispiece,
    with decorative text
    borders           _75c._


LIST OF TITLES

      THE RESCUE OF THE PRINCESS WINSOME: A Fairy Play for
      Old and Young.

      KEEPING TRYST: A Tale of King Arthur's Time.

      *IN THE DESERT OF WAITING: The Legend of Camelback
      Mountain.

      *THE THREE WEAVERS: A Fairy Tale for Fathers and
      Mothers as Well as for Their Daughters.

      THE LEGEND OF THE BLEEDING HEART.

      *THE JESTER'S SWORD.

*Also bound in full flexible leather, with special tooling in gold,
boxed _$2.00_


    THE PAGE COMPANY
    53 BEACON STREET, BOSTON, MASS.

[Illustration: I am Ederyn come to keep the King's tryst]



_KEEPING TRYST_

A Tale of King Arthur's Time

    "_'Tis the king's call. O list!
    Thou heart and hand of mine,
        Keep tryst--
        Keep tryst or die!_"

BY ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON

    _Author of "The Little Colonel Series," "Big
    Brother," "Joel: A Boy of Galilee," etc._

[Illustration]

    BOSTON
    _THE PAGE COMPANY_
    PUBLISHERS



    _Copyright, 1905_
    BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
    (Incorporated)


    _Copyright, 1906_
    BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
    (Incorporated)


    _All rights reserved_


    Second Impression, December, 1906
    Third Impression, April, 1910
    Fourth Impression, May, 1911
    Fifth Impression, February, 1914
    Sixth Impression, April, 1918
    Seventh Impression, June, 1920


    _COLONIAL PRESS_
    _Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co._
    _Boston, U.S.A._



_Keeping Tryst_


NOW there was a troubadour in the kingdom of Arthur, who, strolling
through the land with only his minstrelsy to win him a way, found in
every baron's hall and cotter's hut a ready welcome. And while the
boar's head sputtered on the spit, or the ale sparkled in the shining
tankards, he told such tales of joust and journey, and feats of brave
knight errantry, that even the scullions left their kitchen tasks, and,
creeping near, stood round the door with mouths agape to listen.

Then with his harp-strings tuned to echoes of the wind on winter moors,
he sang of death and valour on the field, of love and fealty in the
hall, till those who listened forgot all save his singing and the noble
knights whereof he sang.

One winter night, as thus he carolled in a great earl's hall, a little
page crept nearer to his bench beside the fire, and, with his blue eyes
fixed in wonderment upon the graybeard's face, stood spellbound. Now
Ederyn was the page's name, an orphan lad whose lineage no man knew,
but that he came of gentle blood all eyes could see, although as vassal
'twas his lot to wait upon the great earl's squire.

It was the Yule-tide, and the wassail-bowl passed round till boisterous
mirth drowned oftentimes the minstrel's song, but Ederyn missed no word.
Scarce knowing what he did, he crept so close he found himself with
upturned face against the old man's knee.

"How now, thou flaxen-haired," the minstrel said, with kindly smile.
"Dost like my song?"

"Oh, sire," the youth made answer, "methinks on such a wing the soul
could well take flight to Paradise. But tell me, prithee, is it possible
for such as _I_ to gain the title of a knight? How doth one win such
honours and acclaim and reach the high estate that thou dost laud?"

The minstrel gazed a little space into the Yule log's flame, and stroked
his long hoar beard. Then made he answer:

"Some win their spurs and earn the royal accolade because the blood of
dragons stains their hands. From mighty combat with these terrors they
come victorious to their king's reward. And some there be sore scarred
with conquest of the giants that ever prey upon the borders of our fair
domain. Some, who have gone on far crusades to alien lands, and there
with heart of gold and iron hand have proved their fealty to the Crown."

Then Ederyn sighed, for well he knew his stripling form could never
wage fierce combat with a dragon. His hands could never meet the brawny
grip of giants. "Is there no other way?" he faltered.

"I wot not," was the answer. "But take an old man's counsel. Forget thy
dreams of glory, and be content to serve thy squire. For what hast such
as thou to do with great ambitions? They'd prove but flames to burn
away thy daily peace."

With that he turned to quaff the proffered bowl and add his voice to
those whose mirth already shook the rafters. Nor had he any further
speech with Ederyn. But afterward the pretty lad was often in his
thoughts, and in his wanderings about the land he mused upon the
question he had asked.

Another twelvemonth sped its way, and once again the Yule log burned
within the hall, and once again the troubadour knocked at the gate, all
in the night and falling snow. And as before, with merry jests they led
him in and made him welcome. And as before, was every mouth agape from
squire's to scullion's, as he sang.

Once more he sang of knights and ladyes fair, of love and death and
valour; and Ederyn, the page, crept nearer to him till the harp-strings
ceased to thrill. With head upon his hands, he sat and sighed. Not even
when the wassail-bowl was passed with mirth and laughter did he look up.
And when the graybeard minstrel saw his grief, he thought upon his
question of the Yule-tide gone.

"Ah, now, thou flaxen-haired," he whispered in his ear. "I bear thee
tidings which should make thee sing for joy. There _is_ a way for even
such as thou to win the honours thou dost covet. I heard it in the royal
court when last I sang there at the king's behest."

Then all aquiver with his eagerness did Ederyn kneel, with face alight,
beside the minstrel's knee to hear.

"Know this," began the graybeard. "'Tis the king's desire to 'stablish
round him at his court a chosen circle whose fidelity hath stood the
utmost test. Not deeds of prowess are required of these true followers,
with no great conquests doth he tax them, but they must prove
themselves trustworthy, until on hand and heart it may be graven large,
'_In all things faithful_.'

"To Merlin, the enchanter, he hath left the choice, who by some strange
spell I wot not of will send an eerie call through all the kingdom. And
only those will hear who wake at dawn to listen in high places. And only
those will heed who keep the compass needles of their souls true to the
north star of a great ambition. The time of testing will be long, the
summons many. To duty and to sorrow, to disappointment and defeat, thou
may'st be called. No matter what the tryst, there is but one reply if
thou wouldst win thy knighthood. Give heed and I will teach thee now
that answer."

Then smiting on his harp, the minstrel sang, so softly under cover of
the noise, that only Ederyn heard. Through all the song ran ever this
refrain. It seemed a brooklet winding in and out through some fair
meadow:

    "'Tis the king's call. O list!
     Thou heart and hand of mine, keep tryst--
          Keep tryst or die!"

Then Ederyn, with his hand upon his heart, made solemn oath. "Awake at
dawn and listening in high places will I await that call. With the
compass needle of my soul true to the north star of a great ambition
will I follow where it leads, and though through fire and flood it take
me, I'll make but this reply:

    "''Tis the king's call. O list!
     Thou heart and hand of mine, keep tryst--
         Keep tryst or die!'"

Pressing the old man's hand in gratitude (he could say no word for the
strange fulness in his throat that well-nigh choked him), he rose from
his knees and left the hall to muse on what had passed.

That night he climbed into the tower, and, with his face turned to the
east, kept vigil all alone. Below, the rioters waxed louder in their
mirth. The knife was in the meat, the drink was in the horn. But he
would not join their revels, lest morning find him sunk in sodden sleep,
heavy with feasting and witless from wine.

As gray dawn trailed across the hills, he started to his feet, for far
away sounded the call for which he had been waiting. It was like the
faint blowing of an elfin horn, but the words came clearly.

"Ederyn! Ederyn! One awaits thee at nightfall in the shade of the
yew-tree by the abbey tower! Keep tryst!"

Now the abbey tower was the space of forty furlongs from the domain of
the earl, and full well Ederyn knew that only by especial favour of his
squire could he gain leave of absence for this jaunt. So, from sunrise
until dusk, he worked with will, to gain the wished-for leave. Never
before did buckles shine as did the buckles of the squire entrusted to
his polishing. Never did menial tasks cease sooner to be drudgery,
because of the good-will with which he worked. And when the day was
done, so well had every duty been performed, right willingly the squire
did grant him grace, and forthwith Ederyn sped upon his mission.

The way was long, and, when he reached the abbey tree, he fell
a-trembling, for there a tall wraith stood within the shadows of the
yew. No face had it that he could see, its hands no substance, but he
met it bravely, saying: "I am Ederyn, come to keep the king's tryst."

And then the spectre's voice replied: "Well hast thou kept it, for 'tis
known to me the many menial tasks thou didst perform ere thou couldst
come upon thy quest. In token that we two have met, here is my pledge
that thou may'st keep to show the king."

He felt a light touch on the bosom of his inner vestment, and suddenly
he stood alone beside the gruesome abbey. Clammy with fear, he knew not
why, he drew his mantle round him and sped home as one speeds in a
fearsome dream. And that it was a dream he half-believed, when later, in
the hall, he served at meat those gathered round the old earl's board.
But when he sought his bed, and threw aside his outer garment, there on
his coarse, rough shirt of hodden gray a pearl gleamed white above his
heart, where the wraith's cold hand had touched him. It was the token to
the king that he had answered faithfully his call.

Again before the dawn he climbed into the tower, and, listening when
the voices of the world were still, heard clear and sweet, like
far-blown elfin horn, another summons.

"Ederyn! Ederyn! One awaits thee at the midnight hour beside black
Kilgore's water. Keep tryst!"

Again to gain his squire's permission he toiled with double care. This
time his task was counting all the spears and halberds, the battle-axes
and the coats of mail that filled the earl's great armament. And o'er
and o'er he counted, keeping careful tally with a bit of keel upon the
iron-banded door, till the red lines that he marked there made his eyes
ache and his head swim. At last the task was finished, and so well the
squire praised him, and for his faithfulness again was fain to speed
him on his way.

It was a woful journey to the waters of Kilgore. Sleep weighed on
Ederyn's eyelids, and haltingly he went the weary miles, footsore and
worn. But midnight found him on the spot where one awaited him, another
wraith-like envoy of the king, and it, too, left a touch upon his heart
in token he had kept the tryst. And when he looked, another pearl
gleamed there beside the first.

So many a day went by, and Ederyn failed not in his homely tasks, but
carried to his common round of duties all his might, as if they were
great feats of prowess. Thus gained he liberty to keep the tryst with
every messenger the king did send.

Once he fared forth along a dangerous road that led he knew not where,
and, when he found it crossed a loathly swamp all filled with slime and
creeping things, fain would he have fled. But, pushing on for sake of
his brave oath, although with fainting heart, he reached the goal at
last. This time his token made him wonder much. For when he wakened from
his swoon, a shining star lay on his heart above the pearls.

Now it fell out the squire to whom this Ederyn was page was killed in
conflict with a robber band, and Ederyn, for his faithfulness, was taken
by the earl to fill that squire's place. Soon after that, they left the
hall, and journeyed on a visit to a distant lord. 'Twas to the Castle of
Content they came, where was a joyous garden. And now no menial tasks
employed the new squire's time. Here was he free to wander all the day
through vistas of the joyous garden, or loiter by the fountain in the
courtyard and watch the maidens at their tasks, having fair speech with
them among the flowers. And one there was among them, so lily-like in
face, so gentle-voiced and fair, that Ederyn well-nigh forgot his oath,
and felt full glad when for a space the king's call ceased to sound. And
gladder was he still, when, later on, the earl's long visit done, he
left young Ederyn behind to serve the great lord of the castle, for so
the two friends had agreed, since Ederyn had pleased the old lord's
fancy.

Yet was he faithful to his vow, and failed not every dawn to mount to
some high place, when all the voices of the world were still, and listen
for the sound of Merlin's horn. One morn it came:

"Ederyn! Ederyn! One waits thee far away. By the black cave of Atropos,
when the moon fulls, keep thy tryst!"

Now 'twas a seven days' journey to that cave, and Ederyn, thinking of
the lily maid, was loath to leave the garden. He lingered by the
fountain until nightfall, saying to himself: "Why should I go on longer
in these foolish quests, keeping tryst with shadows that vanish at the
touch? No nearer am I to a knight's estate than when, a stripling page,
I listened to the minstrel's tales."

The fountain softly splashed within the garden. From out the
banquet-hall there stole the sound of tinkling lutes, and then the lily
maiden sang. Her siren voice filled all his heart, and he forgot his
oath to duty. But presently a star reflected in the fountain made him
look up into the jewelled sky, where shone the polar constellation. And
there he read the oath he had forgotten: "With the compass needle of my
soul true to the north star of my great ambition, I will follow where it
leads."

Thrusting his fingers in his ears to silence the beloved voice of her
who sang, he madly rushed from out the garden into the blackness of the
night. The Castle of Content clanged its great gate behind him. He
shivered as he felt the jar through all his frame, but, never taking
out his fingers, on he ran, till scores of furlongs lay between him and
the tempting of that siren voice.

It was a strange and fearsome wood that lay between him and the cave.
All things seemed moaning and afraid. He saw no forms, but everywhere
the shadows shuddered, and moans and groans pursued him till nameless
fears clutched at his heart with icy chill. Then suddenly the earth
slipped way beneath his feet, and cold waves closed above his head. He
knew now he had fallen in the pool that lies upon the far edge of the
fearsome wood,--a pool so deep and of such whirling motion that only by
the fiercest struggle may one escape. Gladly he would have allowed the
waters to close over him, such cold pains smote his heart, had he not
seemed to hear the old minstrel's song. It aroused him to a final
effort, and he gasped between his teeth:

    "''Tis the king's call! O list!
     Thou heart and hand of mine, keep tryst--
          Keep tryst or die!'"

With that, in one mighty struggle he dragged himself to land. A
bow-shot farther on he saw the cave, and by sheer force of will crept
toward it. What happened then he knew not till the moon rose full and
high above him. A form swathed all in black bowed over him.

"Ederyn," she sighed, "here is thy token that the king may know that
thou hast met me face to face."

He thought it was a diamond at first, that sparkled there beside the
star, but when he looked again, lo, nothing but a tear.

Then went he back unto the joyous garden by slow degrees, for he was now
sore spent. And after that the summons came full often. Whenever all the
world seemed loveliest and life most sweet, then was the call most sure
to come. But never once he faltered. Never was he faithless to the
king's behest. Up weary mountain steps he toiled to find the sombre face
of Disappointment there in waiting, and Suffering and Pain were often at
his journey's end, and once a sore Defeat. But bravely as the months
went by he learned to smile into their eyes, no matter which one handed
out to him the pledge of Duty well performed.

One day, when he no longer was a beardless youth, but grown to pleasing
stature and of great brawn, he heard the hoped-for call of which he long
had dreamed: "Ederyn! Ederyn! The king himself awaits thee. Midsummer
morn at lark-song, keep tryst beside the palace gate."

As travellers on the desert, spent and worn, see far across the sand the
palm-tree's green that marks life-giving wells, so Ederyn hailed this
summons to the king. The soul-consuming thirst that long had urged him
on grew fiercer as the well of consummation came in sight. Hope shod his
feet with wings, as thus with every nerve a-strain he pushed toward the
final tryst. So fearful was he some mishap might snatch the cup away ere
it had touched his thirsty lips, that three full days before the time he
reached the Vale of Avalon, and sat him down outside the entrance to the
palace.

Now there came prowling through the wood that edged the fair domain the
gnarled dwarfs that do the will of Shudderwain. And Shudderwain, of all
the giants thereabouts, most cruel was and to be feared. Knowing full
well what pleasure it would give the bloody monster, these dwarfs laid
evil hands on Ederyn. Sleeping they found him, and bound him with hard
leathern thongs, and then with gibes and impish laughter dragged him
into a dungeon past the help of man.

Two days and nights he lay there, raging at fate and at his
helplessness, till he was well-nigh mad, bethinking him of all his
baffled hopes. And like a madman gnawed he on the leathern thongs till
he was free, and beat his hands against the stubborn rock that would not
yield, and threw himself against the walls that held him in.

The dwarfs from time to time peered through the slatted window overhead
and mocked him, pointing with their crooked thumbs.

"Ha! ha! Thou'lt keep no tryst," they chattered. "But if thou'lt swear
upon thy oath to go back to the joyous garden, and hark no more for
Merlin's call, we'll let thee loose from out this Dungeon of thy
Disappointment."

Then was Ederyn tempted, for the dungeon was foul indeed, and his heart
cried out to go back to the lily maiden. But once more in his ears he
thrust his fingers and cried:

    "'To the king's call alone I'll list!
     Oh, heart and hand of mine, keep tryst--
          Keep tryst or die!'"

On the third night, with the quiet of despair he threw him prone upon
the dungeon floor and held his peace, no longer gnawing on his thongs or
beating on the rock. A single moonbeam straggled through the slatted
window, and by its light he saw a spider spinning out a web. Then,
looking dully around, he saw the dungeon was hung thick with other webs,
foul with the dust of years. Great festoons of the cobweb film shrouded
his prison walls. As up and down the hairy creature swung itself upon
its thread, the hopeless eyes of Ederyn followed it.

All in a twinkling he saw how he might profit by the spider's teaching,
and clapped his hand across his mouth to keep from shouting out his joy
so that the dwarfs could hear. Now once more like a madman rushing at
the walls, he tore down all the dusty webs, and twisted them together in
long strands. These strands he braided in thick ropes and tied them,
knotting them and twisting and doubling once again. All the while he
kept bewailing the stupid way in which he wasted time. "Three days ago I
might have quit this den," he sighed, "had I but used the means that
lay at hand. Full well I knew that heaven always finds a way to help the
man who helps himself. No creature lives too mean to be of service, and
even dungeon walls must harbour help for him who boldly grasps the first
thing that he sees and makes it serve him."

So fast and furiously he worked that, long before the moonbeam faded,
his cobweb rope was strong enough to bear his weight, and long enough to
reach twice over to the slatted window overhead. By many trials he at
last succeeded in throwing it around a spike that barred the window,
and, climbing up, he forced the slats apart and clambered through. Then
tying the rope's end to the window, he slid down all the dizzy
cliffside in which the dwarfs had dug the dungeon, and dropped into the
stream that ran below.

Lo, when he looked around him it was dawn. Midsummer morn it was, and,
plunging through the wood, he heard the lark's song rise, and reached
the palace gate just as it opened to the blare of trumpets for the
king's train to ride forth. When Ederyn saw the royal cavalcade, he
shrunk back into the wayside bushes, so ill-befitting did it seem that
he should come before the king in tattered garments, with blood upon his
hands where the sharp rocks had cut, and with foul dungeon stains.

But that the king might know he'd ever proven faithful, he sank upon his
knees and bared his breast at his approach. There all the pledges
glistened in the sunlight, in rainbow hues. There Pain had dropped her
heart's blood in a glittering ruby, and Honour set her seal upon him in
a golden star. A diamond gleamed where Sorrow's tear had fallen, and
amethysts glowed now with purple splendour to mark his patient meeting
with Defeat. But mostly were the pledges little pearls for little
duties faithfully performed; and there they shone, and, as the people
gazed, they saw the jewels take the shape of letters, so that the king
read out before them all, "_Semper fidelis_."

Then drew the king his royal sword and lightly smote on Ederyn's
shoulder, and cried: "Arise, Sir Knight, Sir Ederyn the Trusty. Since I
may trust thee to the utmost in little things as well as great, since
thou of all men art most worthy, henceforth by thy king's heart thou
shalt ride, ever to be his faithful guard and comrade."

So there before them all he did him honour, and ordered that a prancing
steed be brought and a good sword buckled on his side.

Thus Ederyn won his sovereign's favour. Soon, by his sovereign's grace
permitted, he went back to the joyous garden to woo the lily maiden.
When he had won his bride and borne her to the palace, then was his
great reward complete for all his years of fealty to his vow. Then out
into the world he went to guard his king. Henceforth blazoned on his
shield and helmet he bore the crest--a heart with hand that grasped a
spear, and, underneath, these words:

    "_I keep the tryst!_"


THE END.





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