Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Via Crucis: A Romance of the Second Crusade
Author: Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion)
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 "Via Crucis: A Romance of the Second Crusade" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: "SO GILBERT FIRST MET THE QUEEN"]



VIA CRUCIS

A Romance of the Second Crusade

BY

F. MARION CRAWFORD



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"So Gilbert first met the Queen"

"Perhaps that is one reason why I like you"

"Crosses! Give us Crosses!"

Beatrix and Gilbert

"He ... held, while earth and sky whirled with him"

The Knighting of Gilbert

"For a space Gilbert answered nothing"

The Way of the Cross



CHAPTER I


The sun was setting on the fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord's
grace eleven hundred and forty-five. In the little garden between the
outer wall of the manor and the moat of Stoke Regis Manor, a lady
slowly walked along the narrow path between high rose bushes trained
upon the masonry, and a low flower-bed, divided into many little
squares, planted alternately with flowers and sweet herbs on one side,
and bordered with budding violets on the other. From the line where the
flowers ended, spiked rushes grew in sharp disorder to the edge of the
deep green water in the moat. Beyond the water stretched the
close-cropped sward; then came great oak trees, shadowy still in their
spring foliage; and then, corn-land and meadow-land, in long, green
waves of rising tilth and pasture, as far as a man could see.

The sun was setting, and the level rays reddened the lady's golden
hair, and fired the softness of her clear blue eyes. She walked with a
certain easy undulation, in which there were both strength and grace;
and though she could barely have been called young, none would have
dared to say that she was past maturity. Features which had been coldly
perfect and hard in early youth, and which might grow sharp in old age,
were smoothed and rounded in the full fruit-time of life's summer. As
the gold deepened in the mellow air, and tinged the lady's hair and
eyes, it wrought in her face changes of which she knew nothing. The
beauty of a white marble statue suddenly changed to burnished gold
might be beauty still, but of different expression and meaning. There
is always something devilish in the too great profusion of precious
metal--something that suggests greed, spoil, gain, and all that he
lives for who strives for wealth; and sometimes, by the mere absence of
gold or silver, there is dignity, simplicity, even solemnity.

Above the setting sun, tens of thousands of little clouds, as light and
fleecy as swan's-down, some dazzling bright, some rosy-coloured, some,
far to eastward, already purple, streamed across the pale sky in the
mystic figure of a vast wing, as if some great archangel hovered below
the horizon, pointing one jewelled pinion to the firmament, the other
down and unseen in his low flight. Just above the feathery oak trees,
behind which the sun had dipped, long streamers of red and yellow and
more imperial purple shot out to right and left. Above the moat's broad
water, the quick dark May-flies chased one another, in dashes of
straight lines, through the rosy haze, and as the sinking sun shot a
last farewell glance between the oak trees on the knoll, the lady stood
still and turned her smooth features to the light. There was curiosity
in her look, expectation, and some anxiety, but there was no longing. A
month, had passed since Raymond Warde had ridden away with his
half-dozen squires and servants to do homage to the Empress Maud. Her
court was, indeed, little more than a show, and Stephen ruled in
wrongful possession of the land; but here and there a sturdy and honest
knight was still to be found, who might, perhaps, be brought to do
homage for his lands to King Stephen, but who would have felt that he
was a traitor, and no true man, had he not rendered the homage of
fealty to the unhappy lady who was his rightful sovereign. And one of
these was Raymond Warde, whose great-grandfather had ridden with Robert
the Devil to Jerusalem, and had been with him when he died in Nicaea;
and his grandsire had been in the thick of the press at Hastings, with
William of Normandy, wherefore he had received the lands and lordship
of Stoke Regis in Hertfordshire; and his name is on Battle Abbey Roll
to this day.

During ten years Stephen of Blois had reigned over England with varying
fortune, alternately victor and vanquished, now holding his great
enemy, Robert of Gloucester, a prisoner and hostage, now himself in the
Empress's power, loaded with chains and languishing in the keep of
Bristol Castle. Yet of late the tide had turned in his favour; and
though Gloucester still kept up the show of warfare for his
half-sister's sake,--as indeed he fought for her so long as he had
breath,--the worst of the civil war was over; the partisans of the
Empress had lost faith in her sovereignty, and her cause was but
lingering in the shadow of death. The nobles of England had judged
Stephen's character from the hour in which King Henry died, and they
knew him to be a brave soldier, a desperate fighter, an indulgent man,
and a weak ruler.

Finding themselves confronted by a usurper who had no great talent to
recommend him, nor much political strength behind his brilliant
personal courage, their first instinct was to refuse submission to his
authority, and to drive him out as an impostor. It was not until they
had been chilled and disappointed by the scornful coldness of the
Empress Queen's imperious bearing that they saw how much pleasanter it
would be to rule Stephen than to serve Maud. Yet Gloucester was
powerful, and with his feudal retainers and devoted followers and a
handful of loyal independent knights, he was still able to hold Oxford,
Gloucester, and the northernmost part of Berkshire for his sister.

Now, in the early spring of this present year, the great earl had gone
forth, with his followers and a host of masons and labouring men, to
build a new castle on the height by Faringdon, where good King Alfred
had carved the great white horse by tearing the turf from the gravel
hill, for an everlasting record of victory. Broadly and boldly
Gloucester had traced the outer wall and bastions, the second wall
within that, and the vast fortress which was to be thus trebly
protected. The building was to be the work of weeks, not months, and,
if it were possible, of days rather than of weeks. The whole was to be
a strong outpost for a fresh advance, and neither gold nor labour was
to be spared in the execution of the plan. Gloucester pitched his
sister's camp and his own tent upon the grassy eminence that faced the
castle. Thence he himself directed and commanded, and thence the
Empress Maud, sitting beneath the lifted awning of her imperial tent,
could see the grey stones rising, course upon course, string upon
string, block upon block, at a rate that reminded her of that Eastern
trick which she had seen at the Emperor's court, performed by a
turbaned juggler from the East, who made a tree grow from the seed to
the leafy branch and full ripe fruit while the dazed courtiers who
looked on could count fivescore.

Thither, as to a general trysting-place, the few loyal knights and
barons went up to do homage to their sovereign lady, and to grasp the
hand of the bravest and gentlest man who trod English ground; and
thither, with the rest, Raymond Warde was gone, with his only son,
Gilbert, then but eighteen years of age, whom this chronicle chiefly
concerns; and Raymond's wife, the Lady Goda, was left in the manor
house of Stoke Regis under the guard of a dozen men-at-arms, mostly
stiff-jointed veterans of King Henry's wars, and under the more
effectual protection of several hundred sturdy bondsmen and yeomen,
devoted, body and soul, to their master and ready to die for his blood
or kin. For throughout Hertfordshire and Essex and Kent there dwelt no
Norman baron nor any earl who was beloved of his Saxon people as was
the Lord of Stoke; wherefore his lady felt herself safe in his absence,
though she knew well enough that only a small part of that devotion was
for herself.

There are people who seem able to go through life, with profit to
themselves, if not to others, by a sort of vicarious grace arising out
of the devotion wasted on them by their nearest and dearest, and
dependent upon the success, the honour, and the reputation of those who
cherish them. The Lady Goda set down to her own full credit the
faithful attachment which her husband's Saxon swains not only felt for
him, but owed him in return for his unchanging kindness and impartial
justice; and she took the desert to herself, as such people will, with
a whole-souled determination to believe that it was all her due though
she knew that she deserved none of it.

She had married Raymond Warde without loving him, being ambitious of
his name and honours, when his future had seemed brilliant in the days
of good King Henry. She had borne him an only son, who worshipped her
with a chivalric devotion that was almost childlike in its blindness;
but the most that she could feel, in return, was a sort of motherly
vanity in his outward being; and this he accepted as love, though it
was as far from that as devotion to self is from devotion to
another--as greed is far from generosity. She had not been more than
sixteen years of age when she had married, being the youngest of many
sisters, left almost dowerless when their father had departed on a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from which he had never returned. Raymond
Warde had loved her for her beauty, which was real, and for her
character, which was entirely the creation of his own imagination; and
with the calm, unconscious fatuity which so often underlies the
characters of honest and simple men, he had continued throughout his
married life to believe that his wife's affection, if neither very deep
nor very high, was centred upon himself and upon Gilbert. Any man a
whit less true and straightforward would have found out the utter
emptiness of such belief within a year. Goda had been bitterly
disappointed by the result of her marriage, so far as her real tastes
and ambitions were concerned. She had dreamt of a court; she was
condemned to the country. She loved gayety; she was relegated to
dulness. Moreover the Lord of Stoke was strong rather than attractive,
imposing rather than seductive, and he had never dreamed of that small
coin of flattery which greedy and dissatisfied natures require at all
costs when their real longings are unfed. It is their nature to give
little; it is their nature and their delight to ask much, and to take
all that is within their reach. So it came to pass that Goda took her
husband's loving generosity and her son's devotion as matters foregone
and of course, which were her due, and which might stay hunger, though
they could not satisfy her vanity's large appetite; and she took,
besides, such other things, both good and bad, as she found in her
path, especially and notably the heart of Arnold de Curboil, a widowed
knight, cousin to that Archbishop of Canterbury who had crowned Stephen
king, after swearing allegiance to Maud. This Arnold, who had followed
his great cousin in supporting King Stephen's cause, had received for
his service broad lands, both farm and forest, in Hertfordshire,
bordering upon the hereditary estates of the Wardes; and in the turmoil
and chaos of the long civil war, his word, at first without Raymond's
knowledge, had more than once saved the latter's little castle from
siege and probable destruction. Warde, in his loyalty to the rightful
sovereign, had, indeed, rather drawn back from the newcomer's
friendship than made advances to win it; but Raymond had yielded in the
end to his wife's sarcasms and to his own sense of obligation, as he
began to find out how, again and again, in the turning tides of civil
strife, his neighbour, though of opposite conviction, served him by
protecting his bondsmen, his neat cattle, and his growing crops from
pillage and destruction. Raymond did not trace such acts of neighbourly
kindness to the day when, hawking with his lady and little Gilbert,
then hardly big enough to sit upon a horse, they had been overtaken by
a winter storm not far from Arnold's lands, and when Arnold himself,
returning from a journey, had bidden them take shelter in a small
outlying manor house, where he was to spend the night, and whither his
servants had brought his little daughter Beatrix to meet her father.
Raymond had accepted the offer for his wife's sake, and the two
families had made acquaintance on that evening, by the blazing fire in
the little hall.

Before supper, the men had talked together with that sort of cheery
confidence which exists almost before the first meeting between men who
are neighbours and of the same rank, and the Lady Goda had put in a
word now and then, as she sat in the high-backed chair, drying the
bright blue cloth skirt of her gown before the crackling logs; and
meanwhile, too, young Gilbert, who had his mother's hair and his
father's deep-set eyes, walked round and round the solemn little
dark-faced girl, who sat upon a settle by herself, clad in a green
cloth dress which was cut in the fashion for grown-up women, and having
two short stiff plaits of black hair hanging down behind the small
coverchief that was tied under her fat chin. And as the boy in his
scarlet doublet and green cloth hose walked backward and forward,
stopping, moving away, then standing still to show off his small
hunting-knife, drawing it half out of its sheath, and driving it home
again with a smart push of the palm of his hand, the little girl's
round black eyes followed all his movements with silent and grave
curiosity. She was brotherless, he had no sisters, and both had been
brought up without companions, so that each was an absolute novelty to
the other; and when Gilbert threw his round cap, spinning on itself, up
to the brown rafters of the dim fire-lit chamber and caught it upon one
finger as it came down again, the little Beatrix laughed aloud. This
seemed to him nothing less than an invitation, and he immediately sat
down beside her on the settle, holding his cap in his hand, and began
to ask her how she was called, and whether she lived in that place all
the year round; and before long they were good friends, and were
talking of plovers' eggs and kingfishers' nests, and of the time when
they should each have a hawk of their own, and a horse, and each a
hound and a footman.

When supper was over and a serving-woman had taken the little Beatrix
away to sleep in the women's upper chamber, and when the steward of the
manor farm, and his wife and the retainers and servants, who had eaten
and drunk their fill at the lower end of the hall, were all gone to
their quarters in the outbuildings,--and when a bed had been made for
Gilbert, in a corner near the great chimney-piece, by filling with
fresh straw a large linen sack which was laid upon the chest in which
the bag was kept during the daytime, and was then covered with a fine
Holland sheet and two thick woollen blankets, under which the boy was
asleep in five minutes,--then the two knights and the lady were left to
themselves in their great carved chairs before the fire. But the Lord
of Stoke, who was a strong man and heavy, and had eaten well and had
drunk both ale and Gascony wine at supper, stretched out his feet to
the fire-dogs, and rested his elbows upon the arms of his chair, and
matched his hands together by the thumbs and by the forefingers, and by
the other fingers, one by one; and little by little the musical, false
voice of his lady, and the singularly gentle and unctuous tones of his
host, Arnold de Curboil, blended together and lost themselves, just as
the gates of dreamland softly closed behind him.

The Lady Goda, who had been far too tired to think of riding home that
night, was not in the least sleepy, and, moreover, she was profoundly
interested in what Sir Arnold had to say, while he was much too witty
to say anything which should not interest her. He talked of the court,
and of the fashions, and of great people whom he knew intimately and
whom the Lady Goda longed to know; and from time to time he managed to
convey to her the idea that the beauties of King Stephen's court would
stand in a poor comparison with her, if her husband could be induced to
give up his old-fashioned prejudices and his allegiance to the Empress
Maud. Lady Goda had once been presented to the Empress, who had paid
very little attention to her, compared with the interest she showed in
Sir Raymond himself. At the feast which had followed the formal
audience, she had been placed between a stout German widow lady and an
Italian abbot from Normandy, who had talked to each other across her,
in dog-Latin, in a way which had seemed to her very unmannerly; and the
German lady had eaten pieces of game-pie with her knife, instead of
using her fingers, as a lady should, before forks were invented. On the
following morning the Lady Goda had been taken away again by her
husband, and her experiences of court life had been brought to an
abrupt close. If the great Earl Robert of Gloucester had deigned to
bestow a word upon her, instead of looking through her with his
beautiful calm blue eyes at an imaginary landscape beyond, her
impressions of life at the Empress's court might have been very
different, and she might ever afterwards have approved her husband's
loyalty. But although she had bestowed unusual pains upon the
arrangement of her splendid golden hair, and had boxed the ears of a
clumsy tirewoman with so much vivacity that her own hand ached
perceptibly three hours afterwards, yet the great earl paid no more
attention to her than if she had been a Saxon dairy-maid. These things,
combined with the fact that she unexpectedly found the ladies of the
Empress's court wearing pocket sleeves, shaped like overgrown
mandolins, and almost dragging on the rushes as they walked, whereas
her own were of the old-fashioned open cut, had filled her soul with
bitterness against the legitimate heir to King Henry's throne and had
made the one-sided barrier between herself and her husband--which she
could see so plainly, but which was quite invisible to him--finally and
utterly impassable. He not only bored her himself, but he had given her
over to be bored by others, and from that day no such thing as even the
mildest affection for him was to be thought of on her side.

It was no wonder that she listened with breathless interest to all Sir
Arnold told her, and watched with delight the changing expression of
his smooth face, contrasted at every point with the bold, grave
features of the Lord of Stoke, solemnly asleep beside her. And Curboil,
on his side, was not only flattered, as every man is when a beautiful
woman listens to him long and intently, but he saw also that her beauty
was of an unusual and very striking kind. Too straight, too cold, too
much like marble, yet with hair almost too golden and a mouth like a
small red wound; too much of every quality to be natural, and yet
without fault or flaw, and too vivid not to delight the tired taste of
the man of pleasure of that day, who had seen the world from London to
Rome and from Rome to the imperial court of Henry the Fifth.

And she, on her side, saw in him the type to which she would naturally
have been attracted had she been perfectly free to make her choice of a
husband. Contrasted with the man of action, of few words, of few
feelings and strong ones, she saw the many-sided man of the world,
whose mere versatility was a charm, and the thought of whose manifold
experiences had in it a sort of mysterious fascination. Arnold de
Curboil was above all a man of tact and light touch, accustomed to the
society of women and skilled in the art of appealing to that
unsatisfied vanity which is the basis of most imperfect feminine
characters. There was nothing weak about him, and he was at least as
brave as most men, besides being more skilful than the majority in the
use of weapons. His small, well-shaped, olive-tinted hand could drive a
sword with a quicker thrust than Raymond Warde's, and with as sure an
aim, though there might not be the same massive strength behind it. In
the saddle he had not the terrible grip of the knee which could make a
strong horse shrink and quiver and groan aloud; but few riders of his
day were more profoundly skilled in the art of showing a poor mount to
good advantage, and of teaching a good one to use his own powers to the
utmost. When Warde had ridden a horse six months, the beast was
generally gone in the fore quarters, and broken-winded, if not dead
outright; but in the same time Curboil would have ridden the same horse
twice as far, and would have doubled his value. And so in many other
ways, with equal chances, the one seemed to squander where the other
turned everything to his own advantage. Standing Sir Arnold was
scarcely of medium height, but seated, he was not noticeably small;
and, like many men of short stature, he bestowed a constant and
thoughtful care upon his person and appearance, which resulted in a
sort of permanent compensation. His dark beard was cut to a point, and
so carefully trimmed as to remind one of those smoothly clipped trees
representing peacocks and dragons, which have been the delight of the
Italian gardener ever since the days of Pliny. He wore his hair neither
long nor short, but the silky locks were carefully parted in the middle
and smoothed back in rich dark waves. There was something almost
irritating in their unnatural smoothness, in the perfect transparency
of the man's healthy olive complexion, in the mouselike sleekness of
his long arching eyebrows, and in the perfect self-satisfaction and
confidence of his rather insolent reddish-brown eyes. His straight
round throat, well proportioned, well set upon his shoulders, and
transparently smooth as his own forehead, was thrown into relief by the
exquisite gold embroidery that edged the shirt of finest Flemish linen.
He wore a close-fitting tunic of fine scarlet cloth, with tight sleeves
slightly turned back to display his shapely wrists; it was gathered to
his waist by a splendid sword-belt, made of linked and enamelled plates
of silver, the work of a skilled Byzantine artist, each plate
representing in rich colours a little scene from the life and passion
of Christ. The straight cross-hilted sword stood leaning against the
wall near the great chimney-piece, but the dagger was still at the
belt, a marvel of workmanship, a wonder of temper, a triumph of Eastern
art, when almost all art was Eastern. The hilt of solid gold,
eight-sided and notched, was cross-chiselled in a delicate but deep
design, picked out with rough gems, set with cunning irregularity; the
guard, a hollowed disk of steel, graven and inlaid in gold with Kufic
characters; the blade, as long as a man's arm from the elbow to the
wrist-joint, forged of steel and silver by a smith of Damascus, well
balanced, slender, with deep blood-channels scored on each side to
within four fingers of the thrice-hardened point, that could prick as
delicately as a needle or pierce fine mail like a spike driven by a
sledge-hammer. The tunic fell in folds to the knee, and the
close-fitted cloth hose were of a rich dark brown. Sir Arnold wore
short riding-boots of dark purple leather, having the tops worked round
with a fine scarlet lacing; but the spur-leathers were of the same
colour as the boot and the spurs themselves of steel, small, sharp,
unornamented, and workmanlike.

Six years had passed since that evening, and still, when the Lady Goda
closed her eyes and thought of Sir Arnold, she saw him as she had seen
him then, with every line of his expression, every detail of his dress,
sitting beside her in the warm firelight, leaning forward a little in
his chair, and talking to her in a tone of voice that was meant to be
monotonous to the sleeper's ear, but not by any means to her own.
Between Warde and Curboil the acquaintance had matured--had been in a
measure forced in its growth by circumstances and mutual obligations;
but it had never ripened into the confidence of friendship on Warde's
side, while on Sir Arnold's it had been but a well-played comedy to
hide his rising hatred for the Lady Goda's husband. And she, on her
side, played her part as well. An alliance in which ambition had held
the place of heart could not remain an alliance at all when ambition
had been altogether disappointed. She hated her husband for having
disappointed her; she despised him for having made nothing of his many
gifts and chances, for clinging to an old cause, for being
old-fashioned, for having seen much and taken nothing--which makes
'rich eyes and poor hands'--for being slow, good-natured, kind-hearted,
and a prey to all who wished to get anything from him. She reflected
with bitterness that for a matter of seven or eight years of waiting,
and a turn of chance which would have meant happiness instead of
misery, she might have had the widowed Sir Arnold for a husband and
have been the Archbishop of Canterbury's cousin, high in favour with
the winning side in the civil war and united to a man who would have
known how to flatter her cold nature into a fiction of feeling, instead
of wasting on her the almost exaggerated respect with which a noble
passion envelops its object, but which, to most women, becomes in the
end unspeakably wearisome.

Many a time during those six years had she and Sir Arnold met and
talked as on the first night. Once, when the Empress Maud had taken
King Stephen prisoner, and things looked ill for his followers, Warde
had insisted that his neighbour should come over to Stoke Regis, as
being a safer place than his own castle; and once again, when Stephen
had the upper hand, and Sir Raymond was fighting desperately under
Gloucester, his wife had taken her son, and the priest, and some of her
women, and had ridden over to ask protection of Sir Arnold, leaving the
manor to take care of itself.

At first Curboil had constantly professed admiration for Warde's mental
and physical gifts; but little by little, tactfully feeling his
distance, he had made the lady meet his real intention half way by
confiding to him all that she suffered, or fancied that she
suffered--which with some women is the same thing--in being bound for
life to a man who had failed to give her what her ambition craved.
Then, one day, the key-word had been spoken. After that, they never
ceased to hope that Raymond Warde might come to an untimely end.

During these years Gilbert had grown from a boy to a man, unsuspicious,
worshipping his mother as a kind of superior being, but loving his
father with all that profound instinct of mutual understanding which
makes both love and hatred terrible within the closer degrees of
consanguinity. As time went by and the little Beatrix grew tall and
straight and pale, Gilbert loved her quite naturally, as she loved
him--two young people of one class, without other companions, and very
often brought together for days at a time in the isolated existence of
mediaeval castles. Perhaps Gilbert never realized just how much of his
affection for his mother was the result of her willingness to let him
fall in love with Beatrix. But the possibility of discussing the
marriage was another excuse for those long conversations with Sir
Arnold, which had now become a necessary part of Goda's life, and it
made the frequent visits and meetings in the hawking season seem quite
natural to the unsuspecting Sir Raymond. In hunting with Sir Arnold, he
had more than one narrow escape. Once, when almost at close quarters
with an old boar, he was stooping down to meet the tusker with a low
thrust. His wife and Sir Arnold were some twenty paces behind him, and
all three had become separated from the huntsmen. Seeing the position
and the solitude, the Lady Goda turned her meaning eyes to her
companion. An instant later Sir Arnold's boar-spear flew like a
cloth-yard arrow, straight at Sir Raymond's back. But in that very
instant, too, as the boar rushed upon him, Warde sprang to one side,
and, almost dropping to his knee, ran the wild beast through with his
hunting sword. The spear flew harmless over his head, unseen and
unheard, and lost itself in the dead leaves twenty yards beyond him. On
another day, Raymond, riding along, hawk on wrist, ten lengths before
the others, as was his wont, did not notice that they gradually fell
behind, until he halted in a narrow path of the forest, looked round,
and found himself alone. He turned his horse's head and rode back a few
yards, when suddenly three masked men, whom he took for robbers, sprang
up in his path and fell upon him with long knives. But they had
misreckoned their distance by a single yard, and their time by one
second, and when they were near enough to strike, his sword was already
in his hand. The first man fell dead; the second turned and fled, with
a deep flesh wound in his shoulder; the third followed without striking
a blow; and Sir Raymond rode on unhurt, meditating upon the uncertainty
of the times. When he rejoined his wife and friend, he found them
dismounted and sitting side by side on a fallen tree, talking low and
earnestly, while the footmen and falconers were gathered together in a
little knot at some distance. As they heard his voice, Goda started
with a little cry, and Arnold's dark face turned white; but by the time
he was beside them, they were calm again, and smiled, and they asked
him whether he had lost his way. Raymond said nothing of what had
happened to him, fearing to startle the delicate nerves of his lady;
but late on the following night, when Sir Arnold was alone in his
bedchamber, a man ghastly white from loss of blood lifted the heavy
curtain and told his story in a low voice.



CHAPTER II


Now Raymond and his son had gone over into Berkshire, to the building
of the great castle at Faringdon, as has been said; and for a while Sir
Arnold remained in his hold, and very often he rode over alone to
Stoke, and spent many hours with the Lady Goda, both in the hall and in
the small garden by the moat. The priest, and the steward, and the
men-at-arms, and the porter, were all used to see him there often
enough, when Sir Raymond was at home, and they thought no evil because
he came now to bear the lonely lady company; for the manners of those
days were simple.

But on a morning at the end of April, there came a messenger from King
Stephen, bidding all earls, barons, bannerets, and knights, upon their
oath of fealty, join him with their fighting men in Oxford. For form's
sake, the messenger came to Stoke Regis, as not admitting that any
Norman knight should not be on the king's side; and the drawbridge
being down, he rode under the gateway, and when the trumpeter who was
with him had blown three blasts, he delivered his message. Then the
steward, bowing deeply, answered that his lord was absent on a journey;
and the messenger turned and rode away, without bite or sup. But,
riding on to Stortford Castle, he found Sir Arnold, and delivered the
king's bidding with more effect, and was hospitably treated with meat
and drink. Sir Arnold armed himself slowly in full mail, saving his
head, for the weather was strangely warm, and he would ride in his hat
rather than wear the heavy steel cap with the broad nose-guard. Before
an hour had passed he was mounted, with his men, and his footmen were
marching before and behind him on the broad Hertford road. But he had
sent a messenger secretly to the Lady Goda, to tell her that he was
gone; and after that she heard nothing for many days.

In the morning, and after dinner, and before sunset, she came every day
to the little garden under the west wall of the manor, and looked long
toward the road--not that she wished Sir Raymond back, nor that she
cared when Gilbert came, but she well knew that the return of either
would mean that the fighting was over, and that Sir Arnold, too, would
be at leisure to go home.

On that fifth of May, as the sun was going down, she stood still and
looked out toward the road for the tenth time since Curboil had gone to
join the king. The sun sank lower, and still she saw nothing; and she
felt the chill of the damp evening air, and would have turned to go in,
but something held her. Far up the road, on the brow of the rising
ground, she saw a tiny spark, a little dancing flame like the
corpse-candles that run along the graves on a summer's night--first
one, then all at once three, then, as it seemed to her, a score at
least, swaying a little above a compact dark mass against the red sky.
The lights were like little stars rising and falling on the horizon,
and always just above a low, black cloud. A moment more, and the
evening breeze out of the west brought a long-drawn harmony of chanting
to the Lady Goda's ear, the high sweet notes of youthful voices
sustained by the rich counterpoint of many grown men's tones. She
started, and held her breath, shivered a little, and snatched at the
rose bush beside her, so that the thorns struck through the soft green
gauntlet and pricked her, though she felt nothing. There was death in
the air; there was death in the moving lights; there was death in the
minor wail of the monks' voices. In the first moment of imperfect
understanding, it was Arnold whom they were bringing home to her, slain
in battle by her lawful husband, or by Gilbert, her son; it was Arnold
whom they were bringing back to her who loved him, that she might wash
his wounds with her tears, and dry his damp brow with her glorious
hair. Wide-eyed and silent, as the train came near, she moved along by
the moat to meet the procession at the drawbridge, not understanding
yet, but not letting one movement of the men, one flicker of the
lights, one quaver of the deep chant, escape her reeling senses. Then
all at once she was aware that Gilbert walked bareheaded before the
bier, half wrapped in a long black cloak that swept the greensward
behind him. As she turned the last bastion before reaching the
drawbridge, the funeral was moving along by the outer edge of the moat,
and between the procession and her there was only the broad water,
reflecting the lights of the moving tapers, the dark cowls of the
monks, the white surplices of the song-boys. They moved slowly, and
she, as in a dream, followed them on the other side with little steps,
wondering, fearing, starting now with a wild thrill of liberty at last,
now struggling with a half conventional, half hysterical sob that rose
in her throat at the thought of death so near. She had lived with him,
she had played the long comedy of love with him, she had loathed him in
her heart, she had smiled at him with well-trained eyes; and now she
was free to choose, free to love, free to be Arnold's wife. And yet she
had lived with the dead man; and in the far-off past there were little
tender lights of happiness, half real, half played, but never
forgotten, upon which she had once taught her thoughts to dwell
tenderly and sadly. She had loved the dead man in the first days of
marriage, as well as her cold and unawakened nature could love at
all--if not for himself, at least for the hopes of vanity built on his
name. She had hated him in secret, but she could not have hated him so
heartily had there not once been a little love to turn so fiercely
sour. She could not have trained her eyes to smile at him so gently had
she not once smiled for his own sake. And so, when they brought him
dead to the gate of his own house, his wife had still some shreds of
memories for weeds to eke out a show of sorrow.

She passed through the postern in the small round tower beside the
gateway, knowing that when she came out under the portcullis, the
funeral train would be just reaching the other end of the bridge. The
little vaulted room in the lower story of the tower was not four steps
in width across, from door to door; but it was almost dark, and there
the Lady Goda stopped one moment before she went out to meet the
mourners. Standing still in the dimness, she pressed her gloved hands
to her eyes with all her might, as though to concentrate her thoughts
and her strength. Then she threw back her arms, and looked up through
the gloom, and almost laughed; and she felt something just below her
heart that stifled her like a great joy. Then all at once she was calm,
and touched her eyes again with her gloved hands, but gently now, as
though smoothing them and preparing them to look upon what they must
see presently. She opened the little door, and was suddenly standing in
the midst of the frightened herd of retainers and servants, while the
last strains of the dirge came echoing under the deep archway. At that
instant another sound startled the air--the deep bell-note of the great
bloodhounds, chained in the courtyard from sunrise to sunset; and it
sank to a wail, and the wail broke to a howl, dismal, ear-rending,
wild. Before it had died away, one of the Saxon bondwomen shrieked
aloud, and the next took up the cry, and then another, as a likewake
dirge, till every stone in the shadowy manor seemed to have a voice,
and every voice was weeping for the dead lord. And many of the women
fell upon their knees, and some of the men, too, while others drew up
their hoods, and stood with bent heads and folded hands against the
rough walls.

Slowly and solemnly they bore him in and set the bier down under the
mid-arch. Then Gilbert Warde looked up and faced his mother; but he
stood aside, that she might see her husband; and the monks and
song-boys stood back also, with their wax torches, which cast a dancing
glare through the dim twilight. Gilbert's face was white and stern; but
the Lady Goda was pale, too, and her heart fluttered, for she had to
play the last act of her married life before many who would watch her
narrowly. For one moment she hesitated whether to scream or to faint in
honour of her dead husband. Then, with the instinct of the born and
perfect actress, she looked wildly from her son's face to the straight,
still length that lay beneath the pall. She raised one hand to her
forehead, pressing back her golden hair with a gesture half mad, half
dazed, then seemed to stagger forward two steps, and fell upon the
body, in a storm of tears.

Gilbert went to the bier, and lifted one of his mother's gloved hands
from the covered face, and it dropped from his fingers as if lifeless.
He lifted the black cloth pall, and turned it back as far as he could
without disturbing the woman's prostrate figure; and there lay the Lord
of Stoke, in his mail, as he had fallen in fight, in his peaked steel
helmet, the straight, fine, ring-mail close-drawn round his face and
chin, the silky brown hair looking terribly alive against the dead
face. But across the eyes and the forehead below the helmet there was
laid a straight black band, and upon his breast the great mailed hands
clasped the cross-hilted sword that lay lengthwise with his body.
Gilbert, bareheaded and unarmed, gazed down into his father's face for
a while, then suddenly looked up and spoke to all the people who
thronged the gateway.

"Men of Stoke," he said, "here lies the body of Sir Raymond Warde, your
liege lord, my father. He fell in the fight before Faringdon Castle,
and this is the third day since he was slain; for the way was long, and
we were not suffered to pass unmolested. The castle was but half built,
and we were encamped about it with the Earl of Gloucester, when the
king came suddenly from Oxford with a great host; and they fell upon us
unawares at early morning, when we had but just heard the mass and most
of us were but half armed, or not at all. So we fought as we could, and
many fell, and not a few we killed with our hands. And I, with a helmet
on my head and a gambison but half buckled upon my body, and my hands
bare, was fighting with a full-armed Frenchman and was hard pressed.
But I smote him in the neck, so that he fell upon one knee and reeled.
And even in that moment I saw this sight. A score of paces from me, my
father and Sir Arnold de Curboil met face to face, suddenly and without
warning, their swords lifted in the act to strike; but when my father
saw his friend before him, he dropped his sword-arm and smiled, and
would have turned away to fight another; but Sir Arnold smiled also,
and lowered not his hand, but smote my father by the point, unguarded,
and thrust his sword through head and hood of mail at one stroke,
treacherously. And so my father, your liege lord, fell dead unshriven,
by his friend's hand; and may the curse of man and the damnation of
Almighty God be upon his murderer's head, now and after I shall have
killed him. For, as I would have sprung forward, the Frenchman, who was
but stunned, sprang to his feet and grappled with me; and by the time
he had no breath left, and the light broke in his eyes, Sir Arnold was
gone, and our fight was lost. So we made a truce to bury our dead, and
brought them away, each his own."

When he had spoken there was silence for many moments, broken only by
the Lady Goda's unceasing sobs. In the court within, and on the bridge
without, the air grew purple, and dark, and misty; for the sun had long
gone down, and the light from the wax torches, leaping, flaming and
flickering in the evening breeze, grew stronger and yellower under the
gateway than the twilight without. The dark-robed monks looked gravely
on, waiting till they should be told to pass into the chapel--men of
all ages and looks, red and pale, thin and stout, dark and fair, but
all having that something in their faces that marks the churchman from
century to century. Between them and the dead knight, Gilbert stood
still with bent head and downcast eyes, with pale face and set lips,
looking at his mother's bright hair, and at her clutching hands, and
listening to the painfully drawn breath, broken continually by her
agonized weeping. Suddenly the bloodhounds' bay broke out again, fierce
and deep; and on the instant a high young voice rang from the court
through the deep arch.

"Burn the murderer! To Stortford, and burn him out!"

Gilbert looked up quickly, peering into the gloom whence the voice had
spoken. He did not see how, at the words, his mother started back from
the corpse, steadied herself with one hand, and fixed her eyes in the
same direction; but before he could answer, the cry was taken up by a
hundred throats.

"Burn the traitor! burn the murderer! To Stortford! Fagots! Fagots and
pitch!"

High, low, hoarse, clear, the words followed one another in savage
yells; and here and there among the rough men there were eyes that
gleamed in the dark like a dog's.

Then through the din came a rattling of bolts and a creaking of hinges,
as the grooms tore open the stable doors to bring out the horses and
saddle them for the raid; and one called for a light and another warned
men from his horse's heels. The Lady Goda was on her feet, her hands
stretched out imploringly to her son, turning to him instinctively and
for the first time, as to the head of the house. She spoke to him, too;
but he neither heard nor saw, for in his own heart a new horror had
possession, beside which what had gone before was as nothing. He
thought of Beatrix.

"Hold!" he cried. "Let no man stir, for no man shall pass out who would
burn Stortford. Sir Arnold de Curboil is the king's man, and the king
has the power in England; so that if we should burn down Stortford
Castle to-night, he would burn Stoke Manor to-morrow over my mother's
head. Between Arnold de Curboil and me there is death. To-morrow I
shall ride out to find him, and kill him in fair fight. But let there
be no raiding, no harrying, and no burning, as if we were Stephen's
French robbers, or King David's red-haired Scots. Take up the bier; and
you," he said, turning to the monks and song-men, "take up your chant,
that we may lay him in the chapel and say prayers for his unshriven
soul."

The Lady Goda's left hand had been pressed to her heart as though she
were in fear and pain; but as her son spoke, it fell by her side, and
her face grew calm before she remembered that it should grow sad. Until
to-day her son had been in her eyes but a child, subject to his father,
subject to herself, subject to the old manor-priest who had taught him
the little he knew. Now, on a sudden, he was full-grown and strong;
more than that, he was master in his father's place, and at a word from
him, men-at-arms and bondsmen would have gone forth on the instant to
slay the man she loved, and to burn and to harry all that was his. She
was grateful to him for not having spoken that word; and since Gilbert
meant to meet Curboil in a single combat, she felt no fear for her
lover, the most skilled man at fence in all Essex and Hertfordshire,
and she felt sure, likewise, that for his reputation as a knight he
would not kill a youth but half his age.

While she was thinking of these things, the monks had begun to chant
again; the confusion was ended in the courtyard; the squires took up
the bier, and the procession moved slowly across the broad paved space
to the chapel opposite the main gate.

An hour later Sir Raymond's dead body lay before the altar, whereon
burned many waxen tapers. Alone, upon the lowest step, Gilbert was
kneeling, with joined hands and uplifted eyes, motionless as a statue.
He had taken the long sword from the dead man's breast, and had set it
up against the altar, straight and bare. It was hacked at the edges,
and there were dark stains upon it from its master's last day's work.
In the simple faith of a bloody age, Gilbert Warde was vowing, by all
that he and his held sacred, before God's altar, upon God's Sacred
Body, upon his father's unburied corpse, that before the blade should
be polished again, it should be black with the blood of his father's
murderer.

And as he knelt there, his lady mother, now clad all in black, entered
the chapel and moved slowly towards the altar-steps. She meant to kneel
beside her son; but when she was yet three paces from him, a great
terror at her own falseness descended into her heart, and she sank upon
her knees in the aisle.



CHAPTER III


Very early in the morning, Gilbert Warde was riding along the straight
road between Sheering Abbey and Stortford Castle. He rode in his tunic
and hose and russet boots, with his father's sword by his side; for he
meant not to do murder, but to fight his enemy to death, in all the
honour of even chance. He judged that Sir Arnold must have returned
from Faringdon; and if Gilbert met him now, riding over his own lands
in the May morning, he would be unmailed and unsuspecting of attack.
And should they not meet, Gilbert meant to ride up to the castle gate,
and ask for the baron, and courteously propose to him that they should
ride together into the wood. And, indeed, Gilbert hoped that it might
turn out so; for, once under the gateway, he might hope to see Beatrix
for a moment; and two weeks had passed, and terrible things had
happened, since he had last set eyes upon her face.

He met no one in the road; but in the meadow before the castle half a
dozen Saxon grooms, in loose hose and short homespun tunics, were
exercising some of Curboil's great Normandy horses. The baron himself
was not in sight, and the grooms told Gilbert that he was within. The
drawbridge was down, and Gilbert halted just before entering the gate,
calling loudly for the porter. But instead of the latter, Sir Arnold
himself appeared at that moment within the courtyard, feeding a brace
of huge mastiffs with gobbets of red raw meat from a wooden bowl,
carried by a bare-legged stable-boy with a shock of almost colourless
flaxen hair, and a round, red face, pierced by two little round blue
eyes. Gilbert called again, and the knight instantly turned and came
towards him, beating down with his hands the huge dogs that sprang up
at him in play and seemed trying to drive him back. Sir Arnold was
smooth, spotless and carefully dressed as ever, and came forward with a
well-composed smile in which hospitality was skilfully blended with
sympathy and concern. Gilbert, who was as thorough a Norman in every
instinct and thought as any whose fathers had held lands from the
Conqueror, did his best to be suave and courteous on his side.
Dismounting, he said quietly that he desired to speak with Sir Arnold
alone upon a matter of weight, and as the day was fair, he proposed
that they should ride together for a little way into the greenwood. Sir
Arnold barely showed a slight surprise, and readily assented. Gilbert,
intent upon his purpose, noticed that the knight had no weapon.

"It were as well that you took your sword with you, Sir Arnold," he
said, somewhat emphatically. "No one is safe from highwaymen in these
times."

The knight met Gilbert's eyes, and the two looked at each other
steadily for a moment; then Curboil sent the stable-boy to fetch his
sword from the hall, and himself went out upon the drawbridge and
called to one of the grooms to bring in a horse. In less than half an
hour from the time when Gilbert had reached the castle, he and his
enemy were riding quietly side by side in a little glade in Stortford
wood. Gilbert drew rein and walked his horse, and Sir Arnold instantly
did the same. Then Gilbert spoke.

"Sir Arnold de Curboil, it is now full three days since I saw you
treacherously kill my father."

Sir Arnold started and turned half round in the saddle, his olive skin
suddenly white with anger; but the soft fresh colour in Gilbert's cheek
never changed.

"Treacherously!" cried the knight, with indignation and with a
questioning tone.

"Foully," answered Gilbert, with perfect calm. "I was not twenty paces
from you when you met, and had I not been hampered by a Frenchman of
your side, who was unreasonably slow in dying, I should have either
saved my father's life or ended yours, as I mean to now."

Thereupon Gilbert brought his horse to a stand and prepared to
dismount, for the sward was smooth and hard and there was room enough
to fight. Sir Arnold laughed aloud as he sat still in the saddle,
watching the younger man.

"So you have brought me here to kill me!" he said as his mirth subsided.

Gilbert's foot was already on the ground, but he paused in the act of
dismounting.

"If you do not like the spot," he answered coolly, "we can ride
farther."

"No, I am satisfied," answered the knight; but before he had spoken the
last word he broke into a laugh again.

They tied up their horses to trees at a little distance, out of reach
of one another, and Gilbert was the first to return to the ring of open
ground. As he walked, he drew his father's sword from its sheath,
slipped the scabbard from the belt, and threw it to the edge of the
grass. Sir Arnold was before him a moment later; but his left hand only
rested on the pommel of his sheathed weapon, and he was still smiling
as he stopped before his young adversary.

"I should by no means object to fighting you," he said, "if I had
killed your father in treachery. But I did not. I saw you as well as
you saw me. Your Frenchman, as you call him, hindered your sight. Your
father was either beside himself with rage, or did not know me in my
mail. He dropped his point one instant, and then flew at me like a
bloodhound, so that I barely saved myself by slaying him against my
will. I will not fight you unless you force me to it; and you had
better not, for if you do, I shall lay you by the heels in two passes."

"Bragging and lying are well coupled," answered Gilbert, falling into
guard. "Draw before I shall have counted three, or I will skewer you
like a trussed fowl. One--two--"

Before the next word could pass his lips, Sir Arnold's sword was out,
keen and bright as if it had just left the armourer's hands, clashing
upon Gilbert's hacked and blood-rusted blade.

Sir Arnold was a brave man, but he was also cautious. He expected to
find in Gilbert a beginner of small skill and reckless bravery, who
would expose himself for the sake of bringing in a sweeping blow in
carte, or attempting a desperate thrust. Consequently he did not
attempt to put his bragging threat into practice, for Gilbert was
taller than he, stronger, and more than twenty years younger. Unmailed,
as he stood in his tunic and hose, one vigorous sword-stroke of the
furious boy might break down his guard and cut him half in two. But in
one respect Curboil was mistaken. Gilbert, though young, was one of
those naturally gifted fencers in whom the movements of wrist and arm
are absolutely simultaneous with the perception of the eye, and not
divided by any act of reasoning or thought. In less than half a minute
Sir Arnold knew that he was fighting for his life; the full minute had
not passed before he felt Gilbert's jagged blade deep in the big
muscles of his sword arm, and his own weapon, running past his
adversary, fell from his powerless hand.

In those days it was no shame to strike a disarmed foe, in a duel to
the death. As Sir Arnold felt the rough steel wrenched from the
flesh-wound, he knew that the next stroke would kill him. Quick as
light, his left hand snatched the long dagger from its sheath at his
left side, and Gilbert, raising his blade to strike, felt as if an
icicle had pierced his breast; his arm trembled in the air, and lost
its hold upon the hilt; a scarlet veil descended before his eyes, and
the bright blood gushed from his mouth as he fell straight backward
upon the green turf.

Sir Arnold stepped back and stood looking at the fallen figure
curiously, drawing his lids down, as some short-sighted men do. Then,
as the sobbing breast ceased to heave and the white hands lay quite
still upon the sward, he shrugged his shoulders, and began to take care
of his own wound by twisting a leathern thong from Gilbert's saddle
very tight upon his upper arm, using a stout oak twig for a lever. Then
he plucked a handful of grass with his left hand and tried to hold his
dagger in his right in order to clean the reddened steel. But his right
hand was useless; so he knelt on one knee beside the body, and ran the
poniard two or three times through the skirt of Gilbert's dark tunic,
and returned it to its sheath. He picked up his sword, too, and
succeeded in sheathing it. He mounted his horse, leaving Gilbert's
tethered to the tree, cast one more glance at the motionless figure on
the grass, and rode away towards Stortford Castle.



CHAPTER IV


Two months after Sir Arnold de Curboil had left Gilbert Warde in the
forest, believing him to be dead, the ghostly figure of a tall,
wafer-thin youth, leaning on the shoulders of two grey brothers, was
led out into the warm shadows of the cloister in Sheering Abbey. One of
the friars carried a brown leathern cushion, the other a piece of stiff
parchment for a fan, and when they reached the first stone seat, they
installed the sick man as comfortably as they could.

Three travelling monks, tramping homeward by the short forest path from
Harlow to Sheering, had found Gilbert lying in his blood, not ten
minutes after the knight had ridden away. Not knowing who he was, they
had brought him to the abbey, where he was at once recognized by the
monks who had formed the funeral procession on the previous evening,
and by others who had seen him. The brother whose duty it was to tend
the sick, an old soldier with the scars of a dozen deep wounds in him,
and by no means a despicable surgeon, pronounced Gilbert's condition
almost hopeless, and assured the abbot that it would be certain death
to the young Lord of Stoke to send him back to his home. He was
therefore laid upon a new bed in an upper chamber that had fair arched
windows to the west, and there the brothers expected that Gilbert Warde
would before long breathe his last and end his race and name. The abbot
sent a messenger to Stoke Regis to inform the Lady Goda of her son's
condition, and on the following day she came to see him, but he did not
know her, for he was in a fever; and three days passed, and she came
again, but he was asleep, and the nursing brother would not disturb
him. After that she sent messengers to inquire about his state, but she
herself did not come again, whereat the abbot and many of the monks
marvelled for a while, but afterwards they understood.

Gilbert lived, and the desperate wound slowly healed, for he was strong
and young, and his blood was untainted; but when at last he was allowed
to stand upon his feet, he seemed to be little more than a fine-drawn
shadow. They dressed him first in a novice's frock, because it was
easier for him to wear, and at last he was well enough to be carried
down from his room, and to sit for an hour upon the stone bench in the
cloister. One of the brothers sat down beside him and slowly fanned his
face with a stiff sheet of yellow parchment, such as the monks used for
binding their books; the other went away to his work. Gilbert leaned
back and closed his eyes, drinking in the sun-sweetened air and the
scent of the flowers that grew in the cloister garden; and the
indescribable sense of peace descended upon his body and soul which
comes to men wrested from death, when danger is passed and their
strength is slowly growing again within them.

It is impossible for any young man of sensitive and believing mind to
spend two months in a great religious institution of his own faith
without feeling himself drawn to the religious life. Lying in his room,
alone for many hours of the day, alone in waking watches of the night,
though a brother was always within call, Gilbert had followed with a
sick man's second sight the lives of the two hundred monks who dwelt in
Sheering Abbey. By asking questions, he knew how they rose at dawn, and
trooped into the dim abbey church to early mass, and went to their
daily work, the lay-brethren and novices in the field, the learned
fathers in the library and the writing-room. He could follow their
daily round of prayer and work, and his heart was with them in both.
Bloodless and emaciated as he lay there, the life of love and war which
had once seemed to him the only one worth living, faded away into the
dimness of an undesired impossibility. He had failed, too, in his first
great deed of arms; his father's murderer was alive, and he himself had
most narrowly escaped death. It seemed to him that his thin white
hands, which could hardly pull the blanket to his chin when he felt
cold, could never again have strength to grasp sword-hilt or hold
bridle, and in the blank collapse of his physical existence the image
of himself as a monk, young, ascetic and holy in his life, presented
itself with a marvellous and luring attraction. He made the nursing
brother teach him prayers from the offices of the night and day, and he
repeated them at the right hours, feeling that he was taking a real
part in the monastic existence. Gradually, too, as he caught the spirit
of the place, the gospel of forgiveness, ever the stumbling-block of
fighting men, appeared to him as something that could be practised
without dishonour, and the determination to kill Sir Arnold gave way to
a sort of attempt at repentance for having even wished to be revenged
upon him.

One thing troubled him constantly and was altogether beyond his
comprehension. His mother seemed to have forgotten his very existence,
and he had not consciously seen her since he had been wounded. He asked
questions every day, and begged the abbot himself to send word to the
Lady Goda asking her to ride over to the abbey. The abbot smiled,
nodded, and seemed to promise; but if the message was ever sent, it
elicited no answer, and after a time, as Gilbert grew steadily better,
not even a messenger came from Stoke Regis to ask about him. Now
Gilbert had worshipped his mother as a sort of superior being, and,
like his father, had deceived himself with the belief that she was
devoted to him; so that, as time went on, and he was utterly neglected
by her, the conviction was forced upon him that something terrible and
unforeseen had happened. Yet the abbot would tell him nothing, nor the
brothers who tended him; to the best of their knowledge, they said, the
Lady of Stoke was well.

"Before long," Gilbert would answer, "I shall be able to go home and
see for myself."

And at this the abbot smiled and nodded, and began to talk of the
weather, which was hot.

But to-day, since he had been allowed to leave his room, Gilbert was
determined to force an explanation. It lacked yet an hour of midday and
dinner-time when the abbot came sauntering along the cloister, followed
at a respectful distance by a couple of monks, who walked side by side
with downcast eyes and hands hidden in their sleeves, their cord
girdles bobbing and swinging rhythmically as they walked. As he came up
to Gilbert, the nursing brother rose and hid his hands in his grey
woollen sleeves.

Gilbert opened his eyes at the sound of the abbot's footsteps, and made
a movement as though he would have risen to greet the lordly churchman,
who had so often visited him in his room, and for whom he felt a
natural sympathy, as for a man of his own race and breeding; for
Lambert, Abbot of Sheering, came of the great Norman house of Clare,
which had taken Stephen's side in the Civil War, a fact which did not
prevent the aristocratic abbot from talking with gentle satire and
occasional bitter sarcasm about the emptiness of Stephen's claims.

He laid his hand on Gilbert's sleeve to make him keep his seat, and sat
down beside him on the bench. He waved the monks away, and they retired
to the other end of the cloister, where they all three sat down
together in silence. The abbot, a delicately made man, with high Norman
features, a colourless beard, once fair, and very bright blue eyes,
laid one of his beautiful hands kindly upon Gilbert's.

"You are saved," he said cheerfully. "We have done our part; youth and
sunshine will do the rest; you will grow strong very quickly, now, and
in a week you will be asking for your horse. They found him beside you,
and he has been well cared for."

"Next week, then," said Gilbert, "I will ride over to Stoke and see my
mother. But I think I shall come back and stay with you again--if you
will have me."

Gilbert smiled as he spoke the last words; but the abbot's face was
grave and his brows were drawn together, as though he were in some
trouble.

"Better stay with us altogether," he said, shaking his head and looking
away.

Gilbert sat motionless for a few seconds, as if the remark had made no
impression upon him; then, realizing that the words contained some
special meaning, he started slightly and turned his hollow eyes to the
speaker's face.

"And not go to see my mother?" His voice expressed the utmost surprise.

"Not--not at present," answered the abbot, taken off his guard by the
directness of the question.

Weak as he was, Gilbert half rose from his seat, and his thin fingers
nervously grasped his companion's arm. He would have spoken, but a sort
of confusion came over him, as if he could not decide which of many
questions to ask first, and before words could form themselves, the
abbot was speaking to him with gentle authority.

"Listen to me," he said; "sit quietly beside me and hear what I have to
say, for you are a man, now, and it is better that you should know it
all at once, and from me, than get it distorted, in miserable morsels,
from the gossip of the brothers within the next day or two."

He paused a moment, holding the young man's hand soothingly while
keeping him in his seat and making him feel that he must stay there.

"What is it?" asked Gilbert, nervously, with half closed eyes. "Tell me
quickly."

"An evil thing," answered the churchman, "--a sad thing, and one of
those that change men's lives."

Again Gilbert started in his seat, more violently this time than
before, and there was the broken ring of genuine fear in his voice.

"My mother is dead!" he cried.

"No, not that. She is in no danger. She is well. She is more than well;
she is happy."

Gilbert was staring almost stupidly at his companion, not in the least
understanding that there could be any evil news about his mother if all
these things were true.

And yet it seemed strange that the abbot should lay stress upon the
Lady Goda's happiness, when Gilbert had been at death's door for many
weeks, and when, as he well knew, she was without news of him.

"Happy!" he echoed, half dazed.

"Too happy," answered the prelate. "Your mother was married when you
had been scarcely a month here with us."

Gilbert stared into the older man's face for one moment after he had
ceased speaking, and then sank back against the wall behind him with
something between a groan and a sigh. One word had struck the ground
from under his feet; the next was to pierce his soul.

"Who is her husband?" he asked under his breath.

Before the abbot answered, his grasp tightened upon Gilbert's hands
with a friendly grip that was meant to inspire courage.

"Your mother has married Sir Arnold de Curboil."

Gilbert sprang to his feet, as though he had been struck in the face by
an enemy. A moment earlier he could not have risen without help; a
moment later he fell backward into the abbot's arms.

Nothing that he had felt in his whole short life--not all the joys and
fears of childhood, which, after all, contains the greatest joys and
fears in life, compounded with the clash of his first fighting day and
the shock of seeing his father killed before his eyes--not all these
together could be compared with what he felt at that plain statement of
the dishonour done upon his house and upon his father's memory. Yet he
was not unconscious.

"Now, by the Sacred Blood--"

Before he could pronounce the solemn vow of revenge that was on his
lips, the abbot's delicate hand was almost crushing his mouth with open
palm to stop the words.

"Arnold de Curboil, perjured to God, false to his king, the murderer of
his friend, the seducer of his friend's wife, is fit for my prayers,"
said the abbot, "not for your steel. Swear no great oaths that you will
kill him; still less swear that you will be avenged upon your mother;
but if you must needs swear something, vow rather that you will leave
them to their fate and never willingly cross their path again. And
indeed, whether you promise that or not, you must needs keep away from
them until you can claim your own with the chance of getting it back."

"My own!" exclaimed Gilbert. "Is Stoke not mine? Am I not my father's
son?"

"Curboil has got Stoke Regis by treachery, as he got your mother. As
soon as he had married her he took her with him to London, and they two
did homage to King Stephen, and the Lady Goda made apology before the
king's court because her former husband had been faithful to the
Empress Maud; and she besought the king to bestow the lordship of Stoke
Regis, with the manor house and all things thereto appertaining, upon
their present lord, Sir Arnold de Curboil, disinheriting you, her son,
both because you are true to the Empress, and because, as she did
swear, you tried to slay Sir Arnold by stealth in Stortford woods. So
you have neither kith nor kin, nor lands nor goods, beyond your horse
and your sword; wherefore I say, it were as well for you to stay with
us altogether."

Gilbert was silent for some time after the abbot had ceased speaking.
He seemed to be utterly overcome by the news that he was disinherited,
and his hands lay upon his knees, loosely weak and expressive of utter
hopelessness. Very slowly he raised his face at last and turned his
eyes upon the only friend that seemed left to him in his destitution.

"So I am an outcast," he said, "an exile, a beggar--"

"Or a monk," suggested the churchman, with a smile.

"Or an adventurer," said Gilbert, smiling also, but more bitterly.

"Most of our ancestors were that," retorted the abbot, "and they have
picked up a fair living by it," he added. "Let me see: Normandy, Maine,
Aquitaine, Gascony--and England. Not a bad inheritance for a handful of
pirates matched against the world."

"Yes, but the handful of pirates were Normans," said Gilbert, as if
that statement alone should have explained the conquest of the
universe. "But the world is half won," he concluded, with a rather
hopeless sigh.

"There is enough to fight for yet," answered the abbot, gravely. "The
Holy Land is not half conquered, and until all Palestine and Syria
shall be one Christian kingdom under one Christian king, there is earth
for Norman feet to tread, and flesh for Norman swords to hack."

Gilbert's expression changed a little, and a light came into his eyes.

"The Holy Land--Jerusalem!" The words came slowly, each with its dream.
"But the times are too old. Who should preach another crusade in our
day?"

"The man whose word is a lash, a sword, and a crown--the man who rules
the world to-day."

"And who is that?" asked Gilbert.

"A Frenchman," answered the abbot--"Bernard of Clairvaux, the greatest
man, the greatest thinker, the greatest preacher, and the greatest
saint of these late days."

"I have heard of him," Gilbert answered, with a sick man's
disappointment at not learning anything new. Then he smiled faintly.
"If he is a miracle-worker, he might find me a good subject."

"You have a home here, Gilbert Warde, and friends," said the abbot,
gravely. "Stay while you will, and when you are ready for the world
again you shall not lack for a coat of mail, a spare mount, and a purse
of gold with which to begin your life."

"I thank you," said Gilbert, feebly, but very gratefully. "I feel as if
my life were not beginning, but ending. I have lost my inheritance, my
home, and my mother in one hour. It is enough, for it is all, and with
it is taken love also."

"Love?" The abbot seemed surprised.

"Can a man marry his mother's husband's child?" asked Gilbert bitterly,
almost contemptuously.

"No," answered the abbot; "that would be within the forbidden degrees
of affinity."

For a long time Gilbert sat still in mournful silence. Then, seeing
that he was very tired, the abbot beckoned to the brothers, who came
and led him back to the stairs, and carried him up to his room. But,
when he was gone, the Abbot of Sheering walked thoughtfully up and down
the cloister for a long time, even until the refectory bell began to
ring for dinner, and he could hear the shuffling steps of the two
hundred hungry monks hurrying to their food, through the distant
staircases and corridors.



CHAPTER V


An autumn morning at dawn, the beach at Dover, the tide at flood, and a
hundred half naked sailors launching a long, black Norman sea-boat bows
on, over chocks through the low surf to the grey swell beyond. The
little vessel had been beached by the stern, with a slack chain hooked
to her sides at the water-line, and a long hawser rove through a rough
fiddle-block of enormous size, and leading to a capstan set far above
high-water mark and made fast by the bight of a chain to an anchor
buried in the sand up to the heavy wooden stock. And now a big old man
with streaming grey beard, and a skin like a salted ox-hide, was
slacking the turns of the hawser from the capstan-drum as the boat
moved slowly down over the well-greased chocks, stopping short now and
then of her own accord, and refusing to move on till twenty stout
sailors on each side, their legs half buried in the sand, their broad
shoulders flattened under the planking, their thick brown hands planted
upon their thighs, like so many Atlases, each bearing a world, had
succeeded, by alternately straining and yielding, in making the little
vessel rock on her keel, and start again toward the water's edge. On
board, the master stood at the stern, ready to ship the long rudder as
soon as she had taken the water. Two men in the bows took in the slack
of the cable, by which the anchor had been dropped some fifty yards
out, so as to keep her head straight when she should leave the
temporary ways. By the mast, for the vessel had but one, stood Gilbert
Warde, watching all that was done, with the profoundly ignorant
interest which landsmen always show in nautical matters. It seemed very
slow to him, and he wondered why the man with the long beard, far up
the beach, did not let go, so that the boat might launch herself. And
while he was trying to solve the problem, something happened which he
could not understand: a chorus of wild yells went up from the sailors
under the sides, the master in the stern threw up one hand and shouted,
the old man let go and yelled back an answer, Gilbert heard a rattling
of chains, and then all at once the boat gathered way, and shot like an
arrow through the low curling surf, far out upon the heaving grey water
beyond, while the two men in the bows got in the slack of the cable,
hand over hand, like madmen, panting audibly, till at last the vessel
swung off by her head and rode quietly at her anchor. An hour later,
with twenty sweeps swinging rhythmically in the tholes, and a fair
southwesterly breeze, the sharp-cut boat was far out in the English
Channel, and before night, the wind holding fair and freshening, the
master dropped anchor almost under the shadow of the Count of Flanders'
castle at Calais. So Gilbert Warde left England, a wanderer,
disinherited of all that should have been his, owing all that he had to
Lambert de Clare, Abbot of Sheering, in the shape of mail and other
armour, with such fine clothes as a young nobleman should have with him
on a journey, two horses, and a purse of which the contents should last
him several months on his travels. For attendants he had with him a
fair-haired Saxon lad who had run away from Stoke to Sheering, and had
refused to leave Gilbert, whom he looked upon as his lawful master; and
there was with him, too, a dark-skinned youth of his own age, a
foundling, christened Dunstan by the monks after a saint of their
order, brought up and taught at the abbey, who seemed to know neither
whose child he was nor whence he came, but could by no means be induced
to enter the novitiate so long as the world had room for wanderers and
adventurers. He was a gifted fellow, quick to learn and tenacious to
remember, speaking Latin and Norman French and English Saxon as well as
any monk in the abbey, quick of hand and light of foot, with daring
black eyes in which the pupils could hardly be found, while the whites
were of a cold, blue grey and often bloodshot; and he had short,
straight black hair, and a face that made one think of a young falcon.
He had begged so hard to be allowed to go with Gilbert, and it was so
evident that he was not born to wear out a church pavement with his
knees, that the abbot had given his consent. During the last weeks
before Gilbert's departure, when he was hourly gaining strength and
could no longer bear to be shut up within the walls of the convent, he
had made a companion of Dunstan, walking and riding with him, for the
fellow could ride, and sometimes entering into long arguments with him
about matters of belief and conscience and honour, and the two had
become attached to each other by their unlikeness; not precisely as
friends and equals, yet by no means as master and man; it was rather
the sort of relation which often existed between knight and squire,
though the two were of the same age, and though Gilbert had no
immediate prospect of winning knightly spurs.

It would have been hard, however, to admit that Dunstan could ever
develop into a knight himself. There were strange little blanks in his
ideas of chivalry, curious, unfeeling spots in his moral organization,
which indicated another race, another inheritance of thought, the
traditions of a world older and less simple than the one in which
Gilbert had been brought up.

For Gilbert was the type of noble youth in the days when the light of
chivalry had dawned upon an age of violence, but was not yet fully
risen. God, honour, woman--these made up the simple trinity of a
knight's belief and reverence, from the moment when the Church began to
make an order of fighting men, with ceremonies and obligations of their
own, thereby forever binding together the great conceptions of true
Christianity and true nobility.

In the absence of anything like real learning among the laymen of those
days, education in its simplest and most original sense played a very
large part in life, and Gilbert had acquired that sort of culture in
its highest and best form. The object of mere instruction is to impart
learning for some distinct purpose, but most chiefly, perhaps, in order
that it may be a means of earning a livelihood. The object of education
is to make men, to produce the character of the man of honour, to give
men the inward grace of the gentleman, which cannot manifest itself
outwardly save in good manners, modesty of bearing, and fearlessness;
and such things in earlier days were profoundly associated in the minds
of men with the inward principles and the outward rites of
Christianity. It was the perfect simplicity, and in a measure the ample
harmony, of beliefs, principles, and rules of action that made life
possible at all at a time when the modern art of government was in its
earliest infancy, when the idea of a constitution had been lost in the
chaos of the dark ages, and when the direction of kingdoms,
principalities, and societies was a purely personal matter, wholly
dependent upon individual talent or caprice, virtue or vice, charity or
greed. Without some such foundation in the character of the times,
society, the world, and the Church must have fallen a prey to the
devouring ambitions of that most horrible of human monsters, the
princely unbeliever of the middle ages, who flourished again and again,
sporadically, from England to Constantinople, from Paris to Rome, but
who almost invariably ended in disastrous failure, overcome and trodden
down by the steadily advancing morality of mankind. Such men were John
the Twelfth, of the evil race of Theodora in Rome, and the Jewish
Pierleone who lived a hundred years later, and King John of England,
and last and greatest of all, perhaps, as he was most certainly the
worst, Caesar Borgia.

To be a gentleman when Henry Plantagenet was a boy of twelve, and
Gilbert Warde was going to the Duke of Normandy's court, implied not
many gifts, few principles, and two or three accomplishments at most;
but it meant the possession of those simple requirements in their very
best accepted form, and that species of thoroughness in a few matters
which has been at the root of social superiority in all ages. We have
heard of amateur artists, amateur soldiers, amateur statesmen; but no
one has ever heard of an amateur gentleman. Gilbert Warde knew little
Latin beyond the few prayers taught him by the manor priest at Stoke;
but in the efficacy of those prayers he believed with all his heart and
soul. The Norman French language of the nobles in England was no longer
that of their more refined cousins over the water; but though his
tongue betrayed him for an Englishman, Gilbert had the something which
was of more worth among his equals than a French accent--the grace, the
unaffected ease, the straightforward courtesy, which are bred in bone
and blood, like talent or genius, but which reach perfection only in
the atmosphere to which they belong, and among men and women who have
them in the same degree. Possessing belief and good manners, the third
essential was skill in arms, and, as has been seen, Gilbert was a match
for a swordsman of considerable reputation. The only absolutely
necessary accomplishment for a gentleman in his day was a thorough
knowledge of the chase as a fine art in all its branches, from falconry
to boar-hunting, and in this respect Gilbert was at least the equal of
the average young noble. In spite of his youth, he was therefore
thoroughly equipped for the world; and besides the advantages here set
forth, he had the very great one of feeling that, although he might be
going among strangers, he was going to meet men all brought up to act
and think like himself, in the belief that their ways of acting and
thinking were very much better than those of other people.

But as he rode along the dunes, he was not reflecting upon his own
gifts or prospects. His life was strange to him by its sudden and
complete change, from an existence of more or less peaceful enjoyment,
in which the certainty of fortune, local dignity, and unthwarted love
made the idea of ambition look empty and foolish, to the state of
possessing only a pair of good horses, good weapons, and a little ready
money, with which to lay siege to the universe. Yet even that wide
difference of conditions was insignificant beside the deeper and sadder
misfortunes upon which the young man brooded as he rode, and which had
already embittered his young existence by the destruction of his
highest and most beautiful illusion and of his dearest and happiest
hope.

In the fall of his mother's image from the altar upon which he had set
it, there was the absolute destruction of his own past childhood as it
had always appeared to him. In the fearful illumination of her true
nature, in the broad glare of evil, the little good there might have
been had faded to nothing. It was not possible that she who had married
her husband's murderer within the month could ever have felt one
sincere impulse of love for Raymond Warde, nor that she could ever have
known the slightest real affection for the son whom she had first left
to his fate, and then treacherously cheated of his birthright. The
temple where she had been was still in his heart and mourned her in
emptiness. For nothing else had taken the place of her there; she was
not transformed, she was gone, and had taken with her a lifetime of
tender and gentle memories. When his inward eyes sought her they found
nothing, and their light was quenched in her darkness. She was not as
his father was, dead in fact, but dead in honour. There he lay, as
Gilbert had last looked upon his white face and stiff, mailed form,
himself still, himself as he had been in life and as he was thereafter,
in that place of peace and refreshment where brave men rest. In the
quiet features was reflected forever the truth whereby his life had
been lived; in the crossed hands upon the breast was the last outward
symbol and sign of the simple faith that had been life's guide; in the
strong, straight outlines of a strength splendid in death was the
record of strong deeds well done. Alive, he had been to his son the man
of all others; dead, he was still the man of men, without peer and
without like. It mattered not that he was silent, for he had spoken the
truth; that he was as motionless as a stone, for the cold hand had been
swift to thrust and smite, and had dealt unforgotten blows in a good
cause; that he was deaf, for he had heard the cry of the weak, and had
forborne; that he was blind, for his eyes had seen the light of victory
and had looked unflinching upon an honourable death. Loyal, true,
brave, strong, he lay in his son's heart, still at all points himself.
And Gilbert turned his mind's eyes to the darkness on the other side,
and many a time, as the unwept tears burned in his brain, he wished
that his mother were lying there too, beside his father, dead in the
body but alive forever to him in that which is undying in woman; to be
cherished still, still honoured; to be loved, and still obeyed in the
memory of precept and teaching; to be his mother always, and he to be
in thought her child, even until the grey years should be upon him, and
the Bridge of Fear in sight.

Instead, as his thoughts went back to his home, the woman herself faced
him, not as he had always seen her, but as she had been sometimes seen
by others. The deed she had done--the greatest, the worst, the most
irrevocable--was in her face, and Gilbert's unconscious memory brought
back the details his love of her had once rejected. The cold face was
as hard as flint, the deep blue eyes were untrue and unbelieving, the
small red lips were scornfully parted to show the cruel little teeth,
and there were dashes of flame in the russet hair. Better she had been
dead, better a thousand times that she had come to the sharp end before
her time, than that such a face should be her son's only memory of his
mother.

The lines of the image had been etched in the weak places of his heart
with the keen point of his first grief, and the biting acid of a new
and unnatural hate was eating them deeper day by day. And when, in
spite of himself, his mind dwelt upon her and understood that he was
cursing her who had borne him, he turned back in sheer despair to the
thought of a religious life.

But though it drew him and appealed to all in his nature which had been
uppermost when death had almost tripped him into his grave, it spoke
but half a language now, and was less than half convincing. He could
understand well enough that the monastery might hold the only life for
men who had fought through many failures, from light to darkness, from
happiness to sorrow--men who loved nothing, hoped nothing, hated
nothing any longer, in the great democracy of despair. They sought
peace as the only earthly good they might enjoy, and there was peace in
the cloister. Hope being dead in life, they tasted refreshment in the
hope of a life to come. The convent was good enough for the bankrupt of
love and war. But there must be another rule for those in whom youth
was wounded but not dead, whose hearts were offended but not slain,
whose blood was still strong and hot for good and evil, for men whose
battles were before them still. There must be a remedy against fate
which should not be an offence to God, a struggle against God's will
which should not be a revolt, a life in which virtue should not mean a
prison for soul and body, nor the hope of salvation a friar's cell.

Like many enthusiasts, knowing nothing of the world save by guesswork,
and full of an inborn belief in the existence of perfection, Gilbert
dreamed of realizing the harmony of two opposites--the religious life
and the life of the world. Such dreams seemed not so wild in those
days, when the very idea of knighthood was based upon them, and when
many brave and true men came near to making them seem anything but
fanciful, and practised virtue in a rough-and-ready fashion which would
not pass muster in modern society, though it might in heaven. The
religious idea had taken hold of Gilbert strongly, and before he had
left the abbey he had fallen into the habit of attending most of the
offices in the choir, still wearing the novice's frock which had been
at first but an invalid's robe. And now that he was out in the world to
seek his fortunes, tunic and hose, spur and glove, seemed strange to
him, and he would have felt more at home in a friar's hood. So he felt
that in his life he should never again quite lose the monastic
instinct, and that it was well for him that he could not. He stood on
that perilous thin ridge between past and future to which almost every
man of heart is sooner or later led by fate, where every step may mean
a fall, and where to fall is almost to be lost. The things he had lived
for, the things he had hoped, the things he had loved, had been taken
from him violently, and all at once. There was neither clue, nor guide,
nor hope, and on each side of him yawned the hideous attraction of
despair. Even the recollections of a first love were veiled by what he
understood to be the irrevocable interdiction of the Church, and, in
his strongly spiritual mood, to think of Beatrix appeared to him like a
temptation to mortal sin.

In leaving England, without any definite aim, but with a vague
intention of making his way to Jerusalem, he had obeyed the Abbot of
Sheering rather than followed friendly advice, and his obedience had
savoured strongly of the monastic rule. Lambert de Clare, a man of the
world before he had become a churchman, and a man of heart before he
was a ruler of monks, had understood Gilbert's state well enough, and
had forced the best remedy upon him. The cure for a broken heart, if
there be any, is not in solitude and prayer, but in facing the wounds
and stings of the world's life; and the abbot had almost forcibly
thrust his young friend out to live like other men of his order, while
suggesting a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a means of satisfying his
religious cravings. As for the material help which Gilbert had
received, it was no shame, in an age not sordid, for a penniless
gentleman to accept both gifts and money from a rich and powerful
person like the Abbot of Sheering, in the certainty of carving out such
fortune with his own hands as should enable him amply to repay the
loan. So far as his immediate destination was concerned, the abbot, who
considered his house to be vastly superior to political dissension, and
secretly laughed at his cousins for supporting King Stephen's upstart
cause, had advised Gilbert to make his way directly to the court of
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy, and Grand Seneschal of France,
the husband of the Empress Maud, rightful Queen of England. Thither he
was riding, therefore, with Dunstan on his left hand, mounted upon his
second horse, while Alric, the sturdy little Saxon groom and archer,
rode behind them on a stout mule laden with Gilbert's possessions.



CHAPTER VI


Those were the early days of Geoffrey's lordship in Normandy. Twice and
three times he came up from Anjou with his men-at-arms and his footmen
to take possession of his wife's lawful inheritance. Again and again he
was repulsed and driven back to his own dominions, but at the last he
prevailed, and the iron will of the man whose royal race was to give
England fourteen kings, forced Normandy to submission, and thereafter
he ruled in peace. Yet he was not so strongly established but that he
desired sound friendships and strong alliances to support him, and at
the same time he was anxious to obtain help for his wife in her
prolonged struggle for the English crown. In his office of Grand
Seneschal of France he generally caused himself to be represented by a
deputy; but he had lately determined to make a journey to Paris, in the
hope of winning over the young King Louis, and perhaps the beautiful
Queen Eleanor, who was feudal sovereign, in her own right, of Guienne,
Poitou and Aquitaine, and in reality a more powerful personage than the
King himself.

So it fell out that before Gilbert reached his destination he met a
great and splendid train riding toward him on the highroad, two hundred
horse, at the very least, and as many footmen, followed by a long line
of sumpter mules. The road was narrow at that place, so that Gilbert,
with his two men, saw that it would be impossible to pass, and though
it was not natural to him to cede the right of way to any one, he
understood that, in the face of what was a little army, it would be the
part of wisdom to draw aside. A thick growth of thorn bushes made a
natural hedge at that part of the road, and Gilbert and his companions
were obliged almost to back into the briers, as four handsomely dressed
outriders trotted past abreast, not without a glance of rather
supercilious inquiry, for they did not fail to see that Gilbert was a
stranger in their country; and, for a traveller, his retinue was
anything but imposing. He, however, barely glanced at them as they
passed him, for his eyes were fixed upon the advancing cavalcade, a
river of rich and splendid colour flowing toward him between soft green
banks. They were men who rode in peace; for though a standard rose in
the middle rank, it was furled and cased in leather, and the horsemen
who surrounded it were dressed in tunic and hose--crimson, green, rich
dark brown, with the glint of gold, the sheen of silver, the lightning
of steel, relieving the deep hues of dark cloth and velvet here and
there.

A length behind the furled flag rode a man and a boy, side by side, and
the next riders followed two or three lengths behind them. The man,
mounted on a huge white Norman weight-carrier, kept the off side of the
road, his great beast trotting leisurely with a long pounding step, and
an occasional lazy shake of the big white head with the iron-grey
forelock and the well-combed mane. The rider sat square and upright in
the saddle, the plain leathern bridle neither too short nor too long in
the light strong hand, that just moved perceptibly with the horse's
step. He was a man evidently of good height, but not over tall, of
surpassing beauty of form, young in figure, but past middle age if one
judged by his hard features and already furrowed brow; his deep grey
eyes looked steadily ahead from beneath black eyebrows which contrasted
oddly with hair that was already iron-grey. There was something
immovable and fateful about the clean-shaven jaw, the broad flat chin,
the wide strong mouth--something strangely durable that contrasted with
the rich softness of his splendid dress, as though the man, and what
the man meant, were to outlive the fashions of the world.

The boy who rode by his near side, a lad of little more than twelve
years, was both like him and unlike. Sturdy, broad, short-legged,
square beyond his age, any one could see that he was never to inherit
his father's beauty of proportion and grace of bearing; but there was
something in his face that promised all his father's strength and an
even greater independence. The grey eyes were the same, but nearer
together, and almost sinister in their gaze, even at that age; the nose
was already long and rather flat than sharp, and the large straight
lips, even and close set, would have seemed strong even in a grown
man's face. The boy sat upon his small grey Andalusian horse as if he
had lived a lifetime in the saddle, but his twelve-year-old hand was
heavier on the bridle than ever his father's had been.

There was something in the bearing of the two, father and son, so
kingly and high that Gilbert, who had been brought up in Norman
courtesy, involuntarily rose in the saddle as much as his long stirrups
would allow, and lifted his cap from his head, supposing, as was
natural, that he was saluting the lord of the lands through which he
was travelling. The other returned the salutation with a wave of the
hand, looked sharply at Gilbert, and then, to the latter's surprise,
drew rein, the lad beside him ranging back half a length so as not to
be in the way between the other two. For a few seconds neither said a
word. Then the elder man, as though expecting something of which the
younger was not aware, smiled kindly and spoke. His voice was strong
and manly, but clear and sweet.

"You are strange here, sir," he said, with something more like an
assertion than a question in his turn.

"From England, sir," answered Gilbert, bowing slightly in the saddle.

The elder man looked hard at him and knit his brows. Few English
gentlemen had refused allegiance to King Stephen.

"From England? And what may you be doing in Normandy, young sir?
Stephen's friends find little friendship here."

"I am not of them, sir," answered Gilbert, drawing himself up somewhat
haughtily. "I am rather of those who would shorten Stephen's reign by
the length of his life, and his body by a head."

The broad, handsome face of the man with whom he was speaking relaxed
into a smile, and his son, who had at first eyed Gilbert with distrust,
threw back his head and laughed.

"Then I suppose that you are for the Empress," said the man. "But if
you are, why are you not in Gloucester?"

"Sir," answered Gilbert, "being made homeless and landless by Stephen,
I chose rather to cut a fortune out of the world than to beg one of the
Queen, who has none left to give."

"You could fight for her," suggested the other.

"Ay, sir; and I have, and will again, if such gentlemen of Normandy as
you will cross the water and fight also. But as the matter stands
to-day, whosoever shall break the truce shall break his own neck,
without serving the Empress. And meanwhile I ride to the Duke of
Normandy's court, and if I may serve him, I will, but if not, I shall
go farther."

"And who are you, sir, that seek the Duke?"

"I am Gilbert Warde, and my fathers held Stoke Regis in Hertfordshire
from Duke William. But Stephen took it when I was lying ill of a wound
in Sheering Abbey and bestowed it upon another. And you, sir? I crave
your name."

"Geoffrey Plantagenet," answered the Duke, quietly. "And this is my son
Henry, who by the grace of God shall yet be King of England."

Gilbert started at the name, and then noticed for the first time that
both father and son wore in their velvet caps a short dry sprig of the
broom-plant. He sprang to the ground and came forward on foot,
bareheaded, and stood beside the Duke's near stirrup.

"Your pardon, my lord," he said; "I should have known you."

"That might have been hard," answered Geoffrey, "since you had never
seen me. But as you were on your way to find me and wished to serve me,
mount again and ride with us to Paris, whither we go."

So Gilbert mounted, and would have fallen back in the train among the
young squires, behind the five ranks of knights who rode after the
Duke. But Geoffrey would not let him take his place at once, for he was
glad to have news of the long struggle in England, the end of which was
to set a Plantagenet upon the throne; and he asked many questions which
the young man answered as well as he could, though some of them were
not easy; and the boy Henry listened with grave face and unwinking eyes
to all that was said.

"If I had been in my mother's place," he said at last, in a pause, "I
would have cut off Stephen's head in Bristol Castle."

"And let your uncle Gloucester be put to death by Stephen's wife?"
Geoffrey looked at his son curiously.

"She would not have done it," answered Henry. "There could have been no
more war, with Stephen dead. But if she had killed my uncle, well, what
of that? The crown of England is worth one life, at least!"

Gilbert heard and wondered at the boy's hardness, but held his peace.
He was surprised also that the Duke should say nothing, and the speech
of the one and the silence of the other clearly foreshadowed the
kingdom for one or both. But the boy's words seemed heartless and not
altogether knightly to Warde, who was himself before all things a man
of heart; and the first impression made on him by the precocious lad
was more or less a wrong one, since Henry afterwards turned out a just
and kind man, though often stern and unforgetful of offence. And
Gilbert was very far from guessing that the young prince was suddenly
attracted to him in the strongest possible way, and that in the first
meeting he had unconsciously laid the foundations of a real friendship.

After a time, as the Duke asked no more questions, Gilbert took it for
granted that he was no longer wanted, and fell back to his proper place
among the riders. The young squires received him with cordiality and
not without a certain respect for one who, though not even a knight,
had been so much honoured by their sovereign. And Gilbert himself,
though he felt at home amongst them at first, as a man feels with his
own kind, yet felt that he was divided from them by the depth of his
own misfortunes. One of them spoke of his home at Bayeux, and of his
father, and Gilbert's face grew grave; another told how his mother had
herself embroidered in gold the fine linen collar that showed above his
low-cut tunic. Gilbert bit his lips, and looked away at the rolling
green country. And one, again, asked Gilbert where his home might be.

"Here," answered Warde, striking the pommel of his saddle with his
right hand and laughing rather harshly.

He was older than most of them, for they ranged from fourteen to
eighteen years, and were chiefly beardless boys who had never seen
fight, whose fathers had fought Geoffrey Plantagenet until they had
recognized that he was the master, as the great Duke William had been
in his day, and then, being beaten, had submitted whole-heartedly and
all at once, as brave men do, and had forthwith sent their sons to
learn arms and manners at Geoffrey's court. So none of these youths had
slain a man with his own hand, as Gilbert had at Faringdon, nor had any
of them faced an enemy with plain steel in a quarrel, as Gilbert had
faced Sir Arnold de Curboil. Though Gilbert told little of his story
and less of his deeds, they saw that he was older than they, they felt
that he had seen more than they had, and they guessed that his hand was
harder and heavier than theirs.

As the day wore, and they rode, and halted, and dined together in the
vast outer hall of a monastery which they reached soon after midday,
the young men who sat beside Gilbert noticed that he could repeat the
Latin words of the long grace as well as any monk, and one laughed and
asked where he had got so much scholarship.

"I lay two months in an abbey," answered Gilbert, "healing of a wound,
and the nursing brother taught me the monks' ways."

"And how came you by such a wound?" asked the young squire.

"By steel," answered Gilbert, and smiled, but he would say no more.

And after that, two or three asked questions of Gilbert's man Dunstan,
and he, being proud of his master, told all he knew, so that his
hearers marvelled that such a fighter had not yet obtained knighthood,
and they foretold that if Long Gilbert, as they named him for his
height, would stay in the Duke's service, he should not be a squire
many weeks.

And on the next day and the days following it was clear to them all
that Gilbert was in the way of fortune by the hand of favour; for as
the company rode along in the early morning by dewy lanes, where
Michaelmas daisies were blooming, a groom came riding back to say that
the young Henry--the Count, as they began to call him about that
time--wished the company of Master Warde, to tell him more of England.
So Gilbert cantered forward and took his place beside the young prince,
and for more than an hour answered questions of all sorts about English
men, English trees, English cattle, and English dogs.

"It will all be mine before long," said the boy, laughing, "but as I
have never seen it, I want your eyes."

And every day thereafter, in the morning and afternoon, Gilbert was
sent for to tell the lad stories about England; and he talked as if he
were speaking to a grown man and said many things about his own country
which had long been in his heart, in the strong, good language of a man
in earnest. Henry listened, and asked questions, and listened again,
and remembered what he heard, not for a day only, nor a week, but for a
lifetime, and in the boy the king was growing hour by hour.

Sometimes, while they talked, the Duke listened and said a few words
himself, but more often he rode on out of the train alone, in deep
thought, or called one of the older knights to his side; and when
Gilbert's quick ear caught fragments of their conversation, they were
generally talking of country matters--crops, horse-breeding, or the
price of grain.

So they rode, and in due time they came to fields of mud left by a
subsiding river, and here and there green hillocks rose out of the
dreary expanse, and on them were built castles of grey stone. But in
the flats there were mud hovels of brickmakers and of people living
miserably by the river; and then all at once the ground rose a little
to the bank, with a street, and houses of brick and stone; and between
these, upon an island, Gilbert, rising in his stirrups to see over the
heads of his companions, descried the castle of the King of France,
with its towers and battlements, its great drawbridge, and its solid
grey walls, in those days one of the strongest holds in all the world.

Then they all halted, and the Duke's herald rode forward to the gate,
and the King's herald was seen within, and there was a great blowing of
horns and a sound of loud, high voices reciting formal speeches in a
monotone. After that there was a silence, and horns again, and more
recitation, and a final blast, after which the Duke's herald came back,
and the King's herald came out upon the drawbridge, followed by men in
rich clothes of white cloth, embroidered with gold lilies that shone in
the autumn sun, like little tongues of flame; and the Duke's standard
was unfurled to the river breeze, and the goodly train rode slowly over
the drawbridge at the end of the solid wooden causeway which spanned
the main width of the stream, and so, by the main gate, into the great
court of honour. And Gilbert rode close behind young Henry, who called
him his chancellor in jest, and would not let him ride out of his sight.

Within the court were great buildings reared against the outer walls;
but in the midst was the King's hall and dwelling, and in the porch at
the head of the steps which led to the main door, the King and Queen
were waiting in state, in their robes of ceremony, with all their
household about them, to receive their Grand Seneschal and brother
sovereign, Geoffrey Plantagenet. But Gilbert, looking boldly before
him, saw that the King of France was a fair, pale man with a yellow
beard, strong and knightly, but with dull and lifeless blue eyes; and
Gilbert looked at the lady who sat beside him, and he saw that the
Queen of France was the most beautiful woman in the world; and when his
eyes had seen her it was long before he looked away.

He saw a being so unlike all he had known before, that his idea of
woman changed from that hour for his whole life--a most perfect
triplicity of beauty, grace and elastic strength. Some have doubtless
possessed each separate perfection, but the names of those who had all
three are as unforgotten as those of conquerors and supreme poets.
Gilbert's eyes fixed themselves, and for a moment he was in a sort of
waking trance, during which he could not for his life have described
one feature of the Queen's face; but when she spoke to him, his heart
leapt and his eyelids quivered, and her image was fixed upon his memory
forever. Young though he was, it would have been contrary to his grave
and rather melancholy disposition to lose his heart at first sight to
any woman, and it was neither love, nor love's forerunner, that
overcame him as he gazed at the Queen. It was a purely visual
impression, like that of being dazzled by a bright light, or made giddy
by sudden motion.

She was as tall as the King, but whereas he was heavily and awkwardly
built, her faultless proportion made an ungraceful movement an
impossibility, and the rhythmic ease of her slightest gesture expressed
an unfaltering bodily energy which no sudden fatigue nor stress of long
weariness could bring down. When she moved, Gilbert wished that he
might never see her in repose, yet as soon as the motion ceased, it
seemed a crime upon beauty to disturb her rest.

Her face and her throat, uncovered to the strong morning light, were of
a texture as richly clear as the tinted leaves of young orange-blossoms
in May; and like the flowers themselves, it seemed to rejoice in air
and sun, in dew and rain, perfected, not marred, by the touch of heat
and cold. The straight white throat rose like a column from the neck to
the delicate lobe of the faultless ear, and a generously modelled line
sprang in a clean curve of beauty to the sudden rounding of the ivory
chin, cleft in the midst by nature's supreme touch. Low on her forehead
the heavy waves of her hair were drawn back to each side under the
apple-green silk coverchief that was kept in place by the crown of
state. But she wore no wimple, and the broad waves flowed down upon her
shoulders and hung behind her like a heavy mantle. And they were of
that marvellous living hue, that the westering sun casts through oak
leaves upon an ancient wall in autumn. All in her face was of light,
from her hair to her white forehead; from her forehead to her radiant
eyes, deeper than sapphires, brighter than mountain springs; from the
peach-blossom bloom of her cheeks to the living coral of her lips.

She wore a close-fitting upper garment of fine green cloth, embroidered
with a small design in silver thread, in which the heraldic cross of
Aquitaine alternated with a conventional flower. The girdle of fine
green leather, richly embroidered in gold, followed exactly the lower
line of this close garment round the hips, and the long end fell
straight from the knot almost to the ground. The silken skirt in many
folds was of the same colour as the rest, but without embroidery. The
mantle of state, of a figured cloth of gold lined with straw-coloured
silk, hung in wide folds from her shoulders, her hair falling over it,
and it was loosely held in place by a twisted cord of gold thread
across her breast. Contrary to the fashion of the day, her sleeves were
tight and closed at the wrists, and green gloves encased her hands, and
were embroidered on the back with the cross of Aquitaine.

Gilbert was standing two steps behind young Henry, who was on his
father's left, and was consequently directly opposite to the Queen, as
the boy bent one knee, and taking her gloved hand, touched the
embroidery with his lips. Gilbert was hardly aware that she was looking
into his eyes, while his own were riveted on her face, and when she
spoke, he started in surprise.

"And who is this?" she asked, smiling, as she saw what an effect her
beauty produced upon the young man.

Henry turned half round, with a step backward, and took Gilbert's hand.

"This is my friend," he said, dragging him forward; "and if you like
me, you shall please to like him, too, and tell the King to knight him
at once."

"You have a strong recommendation to grace, sir," said the Queen.

She looked down at the imperious boy's square face and laughed; but
looking up and meeting Gilbert's eyes again, the ring of her laugh
changed oddly and died away in a short silence. It was long since she
had looked upon so goodly a man; she was weary of her monkish husband,
and she was the grand-daughter of William of Aquitaine, giant,
troubadour, and lover. It was no wonder that there was light in her
eyes, and life in every fibre of her beautiful body.

"I think I shall like your friend," she said, speaking to Henry, but
still looking at the man.

And so Gilbert first met the Queen; and as she held out her hand to him
and he took it, kneeling on one knee, she unconsciously drew young
Henry close to her, and her arm was round his neck, and her hand
pressed his shoulder in a very gentle way, so that he looked up into
her face. But if any one had told her then that she should love the man
in vain, that she should be divided from the fair-haired King beside
her and become the wife of the broad-faced, rough-fisted little boy
whose curly head barely reached her shoulder, the prophet might have
fared ill, as readers of the future often do.

But meanwhile the King stood talking quietly with Duke Geoffrey, who
presently crossed to salute the Queen, not dreaming what strange
spirits had taken possession of the hearts of three persons in one
moment. For the third was Henry himself. When the Queen gave her right
hand to his father her other was still on the boy's shoulder, and when
she would have withdrawn it he caught it with both his own and held it
there; and suddenly the blood sprang up in his cheeks even to the roots
of his hair, and for the first and last time in his life Henry
Plantagenet was almost ridiculous, and wished that he might hide his
head. Yet he would not loose his hold on the Queen's hand.



CHAPTER VII


While Duke Geoffrey tarried in Paris, receiving much honour at the
King's court, but obtaining very little encouragement in his hope of
help against Stephen, the time was heavy on the hands of some of his
followers; but others of them, seeing that they had little service and
much leisure, made up their minds to do not only what was good in their
own eyes, but sometimes also that which was evil, as a certain
chronicler once said of the English knights. For the wine of Gascony
was good, but some said that the vintage of Burgundy was better, and a
matter of such weight was evidently not to be left undecided; yet the
more often it came to judgment, the more evidence and testimony were
required in the case, so that the court sat night and day without
agreeing upon a verdict.

But Gilbert had never learned to sit for hours over a cup, slowly
addling his wits and marking the hour when the room should begin to
swing upon the pivot of his head; and Henry kept him constantly by his
side, saying that he was the only sober man in his father's court,
knight or squire; nor would the boy let him go, excepting when he
himself could pass his time with the Queen, and then he was more than
anxious that Gilbert should disappear. At first Eleanor was amused by
the lad's childish passion, but as she herself greatly preferred
Gilbert's society to that of Henry, she soon grew weary of the rather
tame sport which consisted in making a boy of twelve years fall
desperately in love with her.

Moreover, Henry was precocious and keen-sighted beyond his years, and
was not long in discovering his idol's predilection for his friend. His
chief consolation was that Gilbert himself seemed indifferent, and came
and went at the Queen's bidding as though he were obeying an order
rather than an impulse.

One lazy autumn afternoon, when the air was as hot as summer, and the
flies were swarming about the open doors of the great stables, and
before the deep archway that led into the main kitchen, and about the
open windows of the knights' and squires' quarters,--when the air was
still and lazy, and not a sound was heard in the vast enclosure of the
castle-yard,--Henry and Gilbert came out to play at tennis in a shady
corner behind the church, where there was a penthouse that would serve.

In half a dozen strokes Henry had scored high to Gilbert's nothing, and
the boy dropped the ball at his feet to tighten the network he had made
on his hand by winding a bowstring in and out between his fingers and
across the palm, as men did before rackets were thought of. Suddenly he
turned half round and faced Gilbert, planting himself with his sturdy
legs apart and crossing his arms, which were bare to the elbow; for he
had taken off his cloth tunic, and his embroidered shirt, girdled at
the waist by a leathern belt, hung over his scarlet hose, and was wide
at the neck and turned back above his elbows. He was hatless, ruddy,
and hot.

"Will you answer a fair question fairly, Master Gilbert?" he asked,
looking his friend in the eyes.

Gilbert had fallen into the habit of treating him like a man, as most
people did, excepting the Queen, and gravely nodded an answer.

"Do you not think that the Queen of France is the most beautiful woman
in the world?"

"Yes," answered Gilbert, without a smile, and without the slightest
hesitation.

The boy's eyes, that were so near together, gleamed and fixed
themselves in rising anger, while a dark red flush mounted from his
bare throat to his cheeks, and from his cheeks to his forehead.

"Then you love her?" he asked fiercely, and the words were thick on his
lips.

Gilbert was not easily surprised, but the conclusion was so sudden and
unexpected that he stared for a moment in blank amazement before he
smiled.

"I?" he exclaimed. "I love the Queen? I should as soon think of
coveting the King's crown!"

Henry looked into Gilbert's face a moment longer, and the blood slowly
subsided from his own.

"I can see that you are in earnest," he said, picking up the ball at
his feet, "though I cannot see why a man should not covet a king's
crown as well as a king's wife." He struck the ball.

"You are young," said Gilbert, "to ride atilt through all the Ten
Commandments at once."

"Young!" exclaimed the boy, keeping the ball up. "So was David when he
killed the giant! So was Hercules when he strangled the serpents, as
you told me the other day. Young!" he cried a second time, with
forcibly concentrated contempt. "You should know, Master Gilbert, that
a Plantagenet of thirteen years is the match of any other man of
twenty. As I can beat you at tennis, though you are six years older
than I, so I can beat you in other matters, and with the Queen herself,
even though she is half in love with you already, as all the court is
saying; and she shall belong to me some day, though I have to slay that
dish-faced prayer-master of a king to get her."

Gilbert was no more morally timid than he was physically a coward, but
he looked round with some anxiety as the boy uttered his outrageous
boast.

The place they had chosen for their game was the deep and shady corner
where the church made a right angle with the royal palace. The grass
was cropped during several hours every morning by a dozen sheep and
lambs kept in a stable at the other end of the castle-yard during the
rest of the day. The springing turf was kept fresh even in summer's
drought by the deep shadows. The church wall, built of well-hewn blocks
of stone, was flat and smooth, and was strengthened at regular
intervals by buttresses springing straight up from the sloping
penthouse of masonry, some two yards high. The interval between the
last buttress and the wall of the palace made an admirable court, and,
indeed, the tennis-courts of later days all seem to have been modelled
upon just such corners of old church architecture. The wall of the
palace was also smooth and almost without windows on that side. There
was one on the lower floor, at a considerable distance from the corner,
but the other was at least four or five yards from the ground, just
above the point where Gilbert and Henry were playing, and was made in
Norman fashion of two round arches springing from the rough-hewn
capital of a small stone column between them. Gilbert had often noticed
this window, though it was above an ordinary side glance, as he played
the ball at the other wall; and even as he turned now, he looked
instinctively behind him and towards the distant lower window.

A sweet low laugh rang out into the summer air just above his head. He
looked up to meet the sound, and young Henry missed the ball and turned
his eyes in the same direction. His bluff, boyish face blushed scarlet,
but Gilbert turned slowly pale, stepped back, and took his round
pointed cap from his fair hair in acknowledgment of the Queen's
presence.

"You were listening, Madam," cried the boy, red in his anger. "But I am
glad you did, since you have heard the truth."

The Queen laughed again, and drew back her head as if to see whether
there were any one in the room behind her, her white hand lying over
the stone sill, meanwhile, as if to show that she was not going away.
Gilbert even thought that the slender fingers tapped the stone ledge in
a reassuring way. Then she looked out again. A few late flowers and
sweet herbs grew in an earthenware trough in one division of the
window. There was sweet basil and rosemary, and a bit of ivy that tried
to find a hold upon the slender column, and, partly missing it, hung
down over the window-ledge. A single monthly rose made a point of
colour among the sweet green things.

The Queen was still smiling as she rested her elbows upon the sill and
her chin on her folded hands. She was near enough to the tennis-players
to be heard by them if she spoke in a low tone.

"Are you angry because Master Gilbert is frightened?" she asked,
looking at Henry. "Or are you frightened because his lordship, the
Count of Anjou, is angry?" she inquired, turning her eyes to Gilbert.

He smiled at her way of opening the conversation, but Henry thought
that she was laughing at him and grew redder than ever. Not deigning to
answer, he picked up the ball and served it over the penthouse to
himself, striking it back cleverly enough. The Queen laughed again as
he kept his face resolutely turned from her.

"Will you teach me to play, if I come down to you?" she asked, looking
at the back of his head.

"It is no game for women," answered the boy, rudely, and still keeping
the ball up.

"Will you give me a lesson, Master Gilbert?"

The laughing eyes were suddenly grave as they turned to the young
Englishman, the smiling lips grew tender, and the voice was gentle.
Without turning round, Henry felt the change and knew that she was
looking at his friend; he served the ball with a vicious stroke that
brought it back too high for him. Without turning his head to see where
it had rolled, the angry boy walked off, picked up his tunic, which lay
on the turf at a little distance, threw it over his arm, jammed his
pointed cap upon his head with his other hand, and departed in offended
dignity.

The Queen smiled as she looked after him, but did not laugh again.

"Will you teach me to play tennis?" she asked of Gilbert, who was
hesitating as to what he should do. "You have not answered me yet."

"I shall at all times do your Grace's bidding," answered Gilbert,
inclining his head a little and making a gesture with the hand that
held his cap as if to put himself at her disposal.

"At all times?" she asked quietly.

Gilbert looked up quickly, fearing lest he might be tricked into a
promise he did not understand, and he did not answer at once. But she
would not repeat the question.

"Wait," she said, before he spoke. "I am coming down."

With an almost imperceptible gesture, like a greeting, she disappeared.
Gilbert began to walk up and down, his hands behind him, his eyes on
the ground, and he did not see the tennis-ball which Henry had lost
until he almost stumbled over it. The boy's words had roused an
entirely new train of ideas in his mind. Perhaps no man could be so
free from vanity as not to be pleased, even against his will, with the
thought that the most beautiful living woman, and she a queen, was in
love with him. But whatever satisfaction of that sort Gilbert may have
felt was traversed in an opposite direction by the cool sense of his
own indifference. And besides, that was a simple age in which sins were
called by their own names and were regarded with a sort of
semi-religious, respectful abhorrence by most honest gentlemen; and
what was only the general expression of a narrow but high morality had
been branded upon Gilbert's soul during the past months in letters that
were wounds by the ever-present memory of his own mother's shame.

The confusion of his reflections was simplified by the appearance of
Queen Eleanor. At the window of the lower story, which opened to the
ground, she stepped out, looked up and down the deserted yard, and then
came towards him. Gilbert had been long enough in Paris to understand
that Queen Eleanor had not the slightest regard for the set rules,
formal prejudices, and staid traditions of her husband's court; and
when King Louis gravely protested against her dressing herself in man's
mail, bestriding his own favourite charger, and tilting at the Saracen
quintain in the yard, she hinted with more or less good or ill nature,
according to her mood, that her possessions were considerably more
extensive than the kingdom of France, and that what she had been taught
to do by William of Aquitaine was necessarily right, and beyond the
criticism of Louis Capet, who was descended from a Paris butcher.
Nevertheless, the Englishman had some reasonable doubts and misgivings
at finding himself, a humble squire, alone in that quiet corner with
the most beautiful and most powerful of reigning queens. But she, whose
quick intuition was a gift almost beyond nature, knew what he felt
before she had reached his side. She spoke quite naturally and as if
such a meeting were an everyday occurrence.

[Illustration: "PERHAPS THAT IS ONE REASON WHY I LIKE YOU"]

"You did not know that the window was mine?" she said quietly. "I saw
how surprised you were when I looked out. It is a window of a little
hall behind my room. There is a staircase leading down. I often come
that way, but I hardly ever look out. To-day as I was passing I heard
that silly child's angry voice, and when I saw his face and heard what
he said, I could not help laughing."

"The young Count is in earnest," said Gilbert, quietly, for it would
have seemed disloyal to him to join in the Queen's laughter.

"In earnest! Children are always in earnest!"

"They deserve the more respect," retorted the Englishman.

"I never heard of respecting children," laughed the Queen.

"You never read Juvenal," answered Gilbert.

"You often say things which I never heard before," answered the Queen.
"Perhaps that is one reason why I like you."

She stopped and leaned against the penthouse, for they had reached the
corner of the court, and she thoughtfully bit a sprig of rosemary which
she had picked from her window in passing. Gilbert could not help
watching the small white teeth that severed the little curling grey
leaves like ivory knives, but the Queen's eyes were turned from him and
were very thoughtful.

Gilbert deemed it necessary to say something.

"Your Grace is very kind." He bowed respectfully.

"What makes you so sad?" she asked suddenly, after a short pause, and
turning her eyes full upon him. "Is Paris so dull? Is our court so
grave? Is my Gascony wine sour, that you will not be merry like the
rest, or"--she laughed a little--"or are you not treated with the
respect and consideration due to your rank?"

Gilbert drew himself up a little as if not pleased by the jest.

"You know well that I have no rank, Madam," he said; "and though it
should please you to command of me some worthy deed, and I should, by
the grace of God, deserve knighthood, yet I would not have it save of
my lawful sovereign."

"Such as teaching me to play tennis?" she asked, seeming not to hear
the end of his speech. "You should as well be knighted for that as for
any other thing hard to do."

"Your Grace is never in earnest."

"Sometimes I am." Her eyelids drooped a little as she looked at him.
"Not often enough, you think? And you--too often. Always, indeed."

"If I were Queen of France, I could be light-hearted, too," said
Gilbert. "But if your Grace were Gilbert Warde, you should be perhaps a
sadder man than I."

And he also laughed a little, but bitterly. Eleanor raised her smooth
brows and spoke with a touch of irony.

"Are you so young, and have you already such desperate sorrows?"

But as she looked, his face changed, with that look of real and cruel
suffering which none can counterfeit. He leaned back against the
penthouse, looking straight before him. Then she, seeing that she had
touched the nerve in an unhealed wound, glanced sidelong at him, bit
upon her sprig of rosemary again, turned, and with half-bent head
walked slowly along to the next buttress; she turned again there, and
coming back stood close before him, laying one hand upon his folded arm
and looking up to his eyes, that gazed persistently over her head.

"I would not hurt you for the world," she said very gravely. "I mean to
be your friend, your best friend--do you understand?"

Gilbert looked down and saw her upturned face. It should have moved him
even then, he thought, and perhaps he did not himself know that between
her and him there was the freezing shadow of a faint likeness to his
mother.

"You are kind, Madam," he said, somewhat formally. "A poor squire
without home or fortune can hardly be the friend of the Queen of
France."

She drew back from him half a step, but her outstretched hand still
rested on his arm.

"What have lands and fortune to do with friendship--or with love?" she
asked. "Friendship's home is in the hearts of men and women;
friendship's fortune is friendship's faith."

"Ay, Madam, so it should be," answered Gilbert, his voice warming in a
fuller tone.

"Then be my friend," she said, and her hand turned itself palm upward,
asking for his.

He took it and raised it to his lips in the act of bending one knee.
But she hindered him; her fingers closed on his with a strength greater
than he had supposed that any woman could possess, and she held him and
made him stand upright again, so that he would have had to use force to
kneel before her.

"Leave that for the court," she said; "when we are alone let us enjoy
our freedom and be simply human beings, man and woman, friend and
friend."

Gilbert still held her hand, and saw nothing but truth in the mask of
open-hearted friendship in which she disguised her growing love. He was
young and thought himself almost friendless; a generous warmth was
suddenly at his heart, with something compounded of real present
gratitude and of the most chivalrous and unselfish devotion for the
future.

She felt that she had gained a point, and she forthwith claimed the
privilege of friendship.

"And being friends," she said, still holding his hand as he stood
beside her, "will you not trust me and tell me what it is that seems to
break your heart? It may be that I can help you."

Gilbert hesitated, and she saw the uncertainty in his face, and pressed
his hand softly as if persuading him to speak.

"Tell me!" she said. "Tell me about yourself!"

Gilbert looked at her doubtfully, looked away, and then turned to her
again. Her voice had a persuasion of its own that appealed to him as
her beauty could not. Almost before he knew what he was doing he was
walking slowly by her left side, in the shade of the church, telling
her his story; and she listened, silently interested, always turning
her face a little toward his, and sometimes meeting his eyes with eyes
of sympathy. He could not have told his tale to a man; he would not
have told it to a woman he loved; but Eleanor represented to him a new
and untried relation, and the sweet, impersonal light of friendship
waked the dark places of his heart to undreamt confidence.

He told her what had befallen him, from first to last, but the sound of
his own words was strange to him; for he found himself telling her what
he had seen two and three years ago, in the light of what he had known
but a few months, yet almost as if he had known it from the first. More
than once he hesitated in his speech, being suddenly struck by the
horror of what he was telling, and almost doubting the witness of his
own soul to the truth. One thing only he did not tell--he never spoke
of Beatrix, nor hinted that there had been any love in his life.

They turned, and turned again many times, and he was hardly aware that
at the end the Queen had linked one hand in his right arm and gently
pressed it from time to time in sign of sympathy. And when he had
finished, with a quaver in his deep voice as he told how he had come
out into the world to seek his fortune, she stopped him, and they both
stood still.

"Poor boy!" she exclaimed softly. "Poor Gilbert!"--and her tone
lingered on the name,--"the world owes you a desperate debt--but the
world shall pay it!"

She smiled as she spoke the last words, pressing his arm more suddenly
and quickly than before; and he smiled, too, but incredulously. Then
she looked down at her own hand upon his sleeve.

"But that is not all," she continued thoughtfully; "was there no
woman--no love--no one that was dearer than all you lost?"

A faint and almost boyish blush rose in Gilbert's cheek, and
disappeared again instantly.

"They took her from me, too," he said in a low, hard voice. "She was
Arnold de Curboil's daughter--when he married my mother he made his
child my sister. You know the Church's law!"

Eleanor was on the point of saying something impulsively, but her
eyelids suddenly drooped and she checked herself. If Gilbert Warde did
not know that the Church granted dispensations in such cases, she saw
no good reason for telling him.

"Besides," he added, "I could not have her now, unless I could take her
from her father by force."

"No," said the Queen, thoughtfully. "Is she fair?"

"Very dark," said Gilbert.

"I meant, is she beautiful?"

"To me, yes: the most beautiful in the world. But how should I know? I
have never heard others speak of her; she is not beautiful as your
Grace is,--not radiantly, supremely, magnificently perfect,--yet to my
eyes she is very lovely."

"I should like to see her," said the Queen.

In the silence that followed they began to walk up and down again side
by side, but Eleanor's hand no longer rested on Gilbert's arm. She
could see that his eyes were fixed upon a face that was far away, and
that his hand longed for a touch not hers; and a painful little thrill
of disappointment ran through her, for she was not used to any sort of
opposition, in great things or small. The handsome Englishman attracted
her strangely, and not by his outward personality only. From the first
a sort of mystery had hung over him, and she had felt, when she was
with him, the inexplicable fascination of a curiosity which she should
be sure to satisfy sooner or later. And now, having learned something
of his life, and liking him the more for what she knew, she was
suddenly filled with an irresistible longing to see the girl who had
made the first mark on Gilbert's life. She tried to conjure up the
young face, and the dark hue he had spoken of brought the vision of a
fateful shadow. Her mind dwelt upon the girl, and she started visibly
when Gilbert spoke to her.

"And has your Grace no deed for me to do?" he asked. "Is there nothing
whereby I may prove my thanks?"

"Nothing, save that you be indeed my friend--a friend I can trust, a
friend to whom I may speak safely as to my own soul, a friend whom I
may tell how heartily I hate this life I lead!"

She uttered the last words with a sudden rising accent of unruly
discontent, as genuine as every other outward showing of her vital
nature.

"How can your life be hateful?" asked Gilbert, in profound
astonishment, for he did not know her half as well as she already knew
him.

"How can it be anything else?" she asked, "How should life not be
hateful, when every natural thing that makes life worth living is
choked as soon as it is awake? Oh, I often wish I were a man!"

"Men do not wish you were," answered Gilbert, with a smile.

Suddenly, while they were speaking, a sound of voices filled the air
with loud chanting of Latin words. Instinctively the Queen laid her
hand on Gilbert's sleeve and drew him into the shadow of a buttress,
and he yielded, scarcely knowing what he did. The chanting swelled on
the air, and a moment later the procession began to appear beyond the
corner of the church. Two and two, led by one who bore a cross, the
song-boys in scarlet and white came first, then Benedictine monks in
black, then priests of the cathedral in violet cloth with fine white
linen surplices and bearing wax candles. And they all chanted as they
walked, loudly, fervently, as if a life and a soul depended on every
note. Then, as the Queen and Gilbert looked on from the shade where
they stood, they saw the canopy of cloth of gold borne on its six
gilded staves by slim young men in white, and beneath it walked the
venerable bishop, half hidden under the vast embroidered cope from
which the golden monstrance emerged, grasped by his closely wrapped
hands; and his colourless eyes were fixed devoutly upon the Sacred
Host, while his lips moved in silent prayer.

Just as the canopy was in sight the procession halted for some time. In
the shadow of the buttress Eleanor knelt upon the turf, looking towards
the Sacred Host, and Gilbert dropped upon one knee at her side, very
reverently bending his head.

Eleanor looked straight before her with more curiosity than religious
fervour, but in her ear she heard Gilbert's deep voice softly chanting
with the monks the psalms he had so often sung at Sheering Abbey. The
Queen turned her head at the sound, in surprise, and watched the young
man's grave face for a moment without attracting his attention.
Apparently she was not pleased, for her brows were very slightly drawn
together, the corners of her eyes drooped, and the deep bright blue was
darkened. At that moment the canopy swayed a little, the ancient bishop
moved his shoulders under the heavy cope in the effort of starting
again, and the procession began to move onward.

Next after the bishop, from behind the end of the church, the King came
into sight, walking, monk-like, with folded hands, moving lips and
downcast eyes, the long embroidered bliaut reaching almost to his feet,
while the scarlet mantle, lined with blue and bordered with ermine,
fell straight from his shoulders and touched the turf as he walked. He
was bareheaded, and as Eleanor noticed what was evidently intended for
another act of humility, the serene curve of her closed lips was
sharpened in scorn. And suddenly, as she gazed at her husband's cold,
white features in contempt, she heard Gilbert's voice at her elbow
again, chanting the Latin words musically and distinctly, and she
turned almost with a movement of anger to see the bold young face
saddened and softened by the essence of a profound belief.

"Was I born to love monks!" she sighed half audibly; but as she looked
back at the procession she started and uttered a low exclamation.

Beside her husband, but a little after him as the pageant turned, a
straight, thin figure came into sight, clad in a monk's frock scarcely
less dazzling white than the marvellous upturned face. At Eleanor's
exclamation Gilbert also had raised his eyes from the ground, and they
fixed themselves on the wonderful features of the greatest man of the
age, while his voice forgot to chant and his lips remained parted in
wonder. Upon the bright green grass against the background of hewn
stone walls, in the glorious autumn sunshine, Bernard of Clairvaux
moved like the supernal vision of a heavenly dream. His head thrown
back, the delicate silver-fair beard scarcely shadowing the spiritual
outlines of an almost divine face, his soft blue eyes looked upward,
filled with a light not earthly. The transparent brow and the almost
emaciated cheeks were luminously pale, and seemed to shed a radiance of
their own.

But it would have been impossible to say what it was in the man's form
or face that made him so utterly different and distinct from other men.
It was not alone the Christlike brow, nor the noble features inherited
from a line of heroes; it was not the ascetic air, the look of bodily
suffering, nor the fine-drawn lines of pain which, as it were, etched a
shadowy background of sorrow upon which the spiritual supremacy blazed
like a rising star: it was something beyond all these, above name and
out of definition, the halo of saintship, the glory of genius, the
crown of heroism. Of such a man, one's eyes might be filled, and one
might say, 'Let him not speak, lest some harsh tone or imperfect speech
should pierce the vision with sharp discord, as a rude and sudden sound
ends a soft dream.' Yet he was a man who, when he raised his hand to
lead, led millions like children; who, when he opened his lips to
speak, spoke with the tongue of men and of angels such words as none
had spoken before him--words which were the truth made light; one who,
when he took pen in hand to write to the world's masters, wrote without
fear or fault, as being the scribe of God, but who could pen messages
of tenderest love and gentlest counsel to the broken-hearted and the
heavy-laden.

Gilbert's eyes followed the still, white glory of the monk's face, till
the procession turned in a wide sweep behind the wing of the palace,
and even then the tension of his look did not relax. He was still
kneeling with fixed gaze when the Queen was standing beside him. The
scorn was gone from her lips and had given place to a sort of tender
pity. She touched the young man's shoulder twice before he started,
looked up, and then sprang to his feet.

"Who is that man?" he asked earnestly.

"Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux," answered the Queen, looking far away. "I
almost worshipped him once, when I was a child,--it is the will of
Heaven that I should lose my heart to monks!"

She laughed, as she had laughed from the window.

"Monks?" Gilbert repeated the word with curiosity. "Are you one of
those persons for whom it is necessary to explain everything?" asked
Eleanor, still smiling and looking at him intently. "I think you must
be half a monk yourself, for I heard you singing the psalms as sweetly
as any convent scholar."

"Even if I were not half a monk, but one altogether, I should not
wholly understand your Grace's speech;" Gilbert smiled, too, for he was
immeasurably far from guessing what was in her mind.

"So I have thought, in all these weeks and days while we have been
together."

Her eyes darkened as she looked at him, but his were clear and calm.

"Do you understand this?" she asked, and she laid her two hands upon
his shoulders.

"What?" he asked in surprise.

"This," she said, very softly, drawing herself near to him by her hands.

Then he knew, and he would have straightened himself, but her hands
sprang to meet each other round his neck, and her face was close to
his. But the vision of his own sinful mother rose in her eyes to meet
him.

She held him fast, and three times she kissed him before she would let
him go.



CHAPTER VIII


Gilbert had reached Paris in the train of Duke Geoffrey in September;
the Christmas bells were ringing when he first caught sight of the
walls and towers of Rome. As he drew rein on the crest of a low hill,
the desolate brown waste of the Campagna stretched behind him mile upon
mile to northward, toward the impenetrable forests of Viterbo, and Rome
was at last before him. Before him rose the huge half-ruined walls of
Aurelian, battered by Goth and Saracen and imperial Greek; before him
towered the fortress of Hadrian's tomb, vast, impregnable, ferocious.
Here and there above the broken crenellation of the city's battlements
rose dark and slender towers, square and round, marking the places
where strong robbers had fortified themselves within the city. But from
the point where Gilbert halted, Rome seemed but a long brown ruin, with
portions standing whole, as brown as the rest under the bright depths
of vaulted blue, unflecked by the least fleece of cloud, in the
matchless clearness of the winter's morning. Profound disappointment
came upon him as he looked. With little knowledge and hardly any
information from others who had journeyed by the same road, he had
built himself an imaginary city of unspeakable beauty, wherein graceful
churches rose out of sunlit streets and fair open places planted with
lordly avenues of trees. There, in his thoughts, walked companies of
men with faces like the face of the great Bernard, splendid with
innocence, radiant with the hope of life. Thither, in his fancy, came
the true knights of the earth, purified of sin by vigils in the holy
places of the East, to renew unbroken vows of chastity and charity and
faith. There, in his dream, dwelt the venerable Father of Bishops, the
Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter, the Servant of the servants of
God, the spotless head of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
There, in his heart, he had made the dwelling of whatsoever things are
upright and just and perfect in heaven, and pure and beautiful on
earth. That was the city of God, of which his soul was the architect,
and in which he was to be a dweller, in peace that should pass
understanding.

He had left behind him in Paris another vision and one that might well
have dazzled him--such favour as falls to few; such hopes as few can
plant in their lives and still fewer can rear to maturity; such love as
few indeed could hope for--the love of supreme and royal beauty.

When he had ridden out of the castle on the island, older by some
months, richer by such gifts as it was no shame for him to take of Duke
Geoffrey and young Henry Plantagenet, he had believed himself wiser,
too, by half a lifetime.

He was confident in his own strength, in his own wisdom, in his own
endurance; he fancied that he had fought against a great temptation,
where he had in truth been chilled and terrified by the haunting vision
of another's evil; he imagined that the little sharp regret, which
stung his heart with longing for the sweetness of a sin that might have
been, was the evil remnant of a passion not wholly quenched, whereas it
was but the craving of a natural vanity that had not been strong enough
to overcome a repugnance which he himself only half understood.

He seemed in his own eyes to have made the sacrifice of his worldly
future for the sake of his knightly ideal; but in truth, to a man
without ambition, the renunciation had been easy and had been made in
acquiescence with his real desires, rather than in opposition to them.

And now he looked upon the city of his hope, and it crumbled to a dusty
ruin under his very hand; he stood on ground made reverent by the march
of history and sanctified by the blood of Christians, and it was but
one great wilderness, of which he himself was the centre. His heart
sank suddenly within him, and his fingers clutched at the breast of his
tunic under his surcoat, as though the pain were bodily and real. Long
he sat in silence, bending a little in the saddle, as if worn out with
fatigue, though he had ridden only three hours since daybreak.

"Sir," said his man Dunstan, interrupting his master's meditations,
"here is an inn, and we may find water for our horses."

Gilbert looked up indifferently, and then, as there was no near
building in sight, he turned inquiringly to his man. A sardonic smile
played on Dunstan's lean dark face as he pointed to what Gilbert had
taken for three haystacks. They were, indeed, nothing but conical straw
huts standing a few steps aside from the road, thirty yards down the
hill. The entrance to each was low and dark, and from the one issued
wreaths of blue smoke, slowly rising in the still, cold air. At the
same entrance a withered bough proclaimed that wine was to be had. A
ditch beyond the furthest hut was full of water, and at some distance
from it a rude shed of boughs had been set up to afford the horses of
travellers some shelter from winter rain or summer sun. As Gilbert
looked, a man came out, bowing himself almost double to pass under the
low aperture. He wore long goatskin breeches and a brown homespun
tunic, like a monk's frock, cut short above the knees, and girdled with
a twisted thong. Shaggy black hair thatched his square head, and a thin
black beard framed the yellow face, which had the fever-stricken look
of the dwellers in the Campagna.

Though this was the first halting-place of the kind to which Gilbert
had come in the Roman plain, he was no longer easily surprised by
anything, and he did not even smile as he rode forward and dismounted.

Besides his own men he had with him the muleteer who acted as guide and
interpreter, and without whom it was impossible for a foreigner to
travel in Italy. The peasant bowed to the ground, and led Gilbert to
the entrance of the hut where he usually served his customers with food
and drink, and in the gloom within Gilbert saw a rough-hewn table and
two benches standing upon the well-swept floor of beaten earth. But the
Englishman made signs that he would sit outside, and the scanty
furniture was brought out into the open air. The third hut was a refuge
and a sleeping-place for travellers overtaken at nightfall on their way
to the city.

"The monk is asleep," said the peasant host, lifting his finger to his
lips because Gilbert's men were talking loud near the entrance.

Gilbert understood as much as that without his interpreter; for in
those days the Provencal tongue was an accomplishment of all well-born
persons, and it was not unlike certain dialects of Italy.

"A monk?" repeated Gilbert, indifferently.

"He calls himself one, and he wears a grey frock," answered the other.
"But we are glad when he comes, for he brings us good fortune. And you
may see that I speak the truth, since he came late in the night, and
your lordship is the first guest at the huts this morning."

"Then you know him well?"

"Every one knows him," answered the man.

He turned, and Gilbert saw him lift up a hurdle of branches and
disappear underground. His cellar was deep and cool, one of the many
caverns which communicate with the catacombs and riddle the Campagna
from Rome to the hills. Gilbert seated himself upon the smaller of the
two benches at the end of the table; his three men took the other, and
laid aside their caps out of respect for their master. The horses were
tethered under the shed of boughs till they should be cool enough to be
watered. The southern side of the hut was sunny and warm, and the place
smelled of dry grass, of clean straw, and, faintly, of smouldering fire.

Gilbert was hardly conscious that he was thinking of anything as he
stared out at the rolling waste, folding his hands together upon the
hilt of his long sword. Just then a man emerged from the third hut,
drew himself up facing the sun, and rubbed his eyes before he looked
toward the party at the other table. When he saw them, he hesitated for
a moment, and then came up to Gilbert with the apparent intention of
addressing him.

Above the height of average men, the figure looked unnaturally tall by
its gauntness, and the heavy folds of the grey woollen frock fell
together below the breast as if they covered a shadow. Long, bony
hands, that seemed woven of sinews and leather, but which were not
without a certain nervous refinement, hung from loose-jointed brown
wrists left bare by sleeves that were too short. The head was so
roughly angular that even the thick masses of dark brown hair which
fell to the shoulders could not make the angles seem like curves, and
the face displayed the fervent features of a fanatic--dark, hollow
cheeks, deep-sunk, blazing eyes, the vast lines of an ascetic mouth, a
great jaw scarcely fringed by the scant black beard. Gilbert saw before
him a face and figure that might have belonged to a hermit of Egypt, an
ascetic of the Syrian desert, a John the Baptist, an Anthony of Thebes.
The man wore a broad leathern girdle; a blackened rosary, with beads as
large as walnuts, hung from his side and ended in a rough cross of
wrought iron.

Gilbert half rose from his seat, moved to one end of the short bench,
and invited the stranger to sit beside him. The monk bent his head
slightly, but not a feature moved as he took the proffered place in
silence. He folded his great hands on the edge of the rough-hewn board
and stared at the ruinous brown city to southward.

"You are a stranger," he said in Provencal, after a long pause and in a
singularly musical voice, but without turning his eyes to Gilbert.

"I have never seen Rome before," answered Gilbert.

"Rome!" There was a sort of almost heartbroken pity in the tone of the
single syllable that fell from the lips of the wandering monk.

"You have never seen Rome before? There it lies, all that is left of
it--the naked bones of the most splendid, the most beautiful, the most
powerful city in the world, murdered by power, done to death by popes
and emperors, by prefects and barons, sapped of life by the evil canker
of empire, and left there like a dead dog in the Campagna, to be a prey
to carrion beasts and a horror to living men."

The gaunt stranger set his elbows upon the table and bit his nails
savagely, while his burning eyes fixed themselves on the distant towers
of Rome. Then Gilbert saw that this man was no common wandering friar,
begging a meal for his frock's sake, but one who had thoughts of his
own, and with whom to think was to suffer.

"It is true," said Gilbert, "that Rome is less fair to see than I had
supposed."

"And you are deceived of your hopes before you have entered her gate,"
returned the other. "Are you the first? Are you the last? Has Rome made
an end of deceiving, and found the termination of disappointment? Rome
has deceived and disappointed the world. Rome has robbed the world of
its wealth, and devoured it, and grown gaunt to the bone. Rome has
robbed men of their bodies and of their lives, and has torn them limb
from limb wantonly, as a spoiled hawk tears a pheasant and scatters the
bright feathers on the ground. Rome has robbed men of their souls and
has fed hell with them to its surfeit. And now, in her turn, her
grasping hands have withered at the wrists, her insatiable lips are
cracking upon her loosening teeth, and the mistress of the world is the
sport of Jews and usurers."

"You speak bitterly," said Gilbert, looking curiously at his new
acquaintance.

The monk sighed, and his eyes softened wonderfully as he turned to the
young man. He had been speaking in a tone that slowly rose to
shrillness, like a cry of bodily pain. When he spoke again his voice
was low and sweet.

"Bitterly, but for her sake, not for mine," he said. "If I have given
my life for her, she will not give me hers. Though I have laid at her
feet all that I had, she shall put nothing into my hand nor give me
anything but a ditch and a handful of earth for my bones, unless some
emperor or pope shall leave them upon a gallows. But I have asked of
her, for herself and her own sake, that she should do by herself
honourably, and draw her neck from the yoke and shake off the burdens
under which she has stumbled and fallen. I have asked of her to stand
upright again, to refuse to eat from the hand that has wounded her, and
not to hearken to the voice of violence and cursing. I have asked that
Rome should cast out the Stranger Emperor, and cast down the churchman
from the king's throne, and take from him the king's mask. I have asked
Rome to face her high robbers whom she calls barons, her corruption,
her secret weakness, as a brave man faces his sins and confesses them
and steadfastly purposes to offend God no more, All this I have asked,
and in part she has heard; and I have paid the price of my asking, for
I am an outcast of many kingdoms and a man excommunicated under the
Major Interdiction."

A gentle smile, that might have been half indifference, half pity,
wreathed the ascetic lips as he spoke the last words. They were not
empty words in those days, and unawares Gilbert shrank a little from
his companion.

"I see that you are a devout person," said the friar, quietly. "Let my
presence not offend you at your meal. I go my way."

But as he began to rise, Gilbert's hand went out, and his fingers met
round the skeleton arm in the loose grey sleeve.

"Stay, sir," he said, "and break your fast with us. I am not such a one
as you think."

"You shrank from me," said the stranger, hesitating to resume his seat.

"I meant no discourtesy," answered Gilbert. "Be seated, sir. You call
yourself an outcast. I am but little better than a wanderer,
disinherited of his own."

"And come you hither for the Pope's justice?" asked the friar,
scornfully. "There is no Pope in Rome. Our last was killed at the head
of a band of fighting men, on the slope of the Capitol, last year, and
he who is Pope now is as much a wanderer as you and I. And in Rome we
have a Republic and a Senate, and justice of a kind, but only for
Romans, and claiming no dominion over mankind; for to be free means to
set free, to live means to let live."

"I shall see what this freedom of yours is like," said Gilbert,
thoughtfully. "For my part I am not used to such thoughts, and though I
have read some history of Rome, I could never understand the Roman
Republic. With us the strongest is master by natural law. Why should
the strong man share with the weak what he may keep for himself? Or if
he must, in your ideal, then why should not the strong nation share her
strength and wealth with her weak neighbour? Is it not enough that the
strong should not wantonly bruise the weak nor deal unfairly by him?
The Normans can see no more harm or injustice in holding than we see in
taking what we can; and so we shall never understand your republics and
your senates."

"Are you a Norman, sir?" asked the friar. "Are you a kinsman of
Guiscard and of them that last burnt Rome? I do not wonder that the
civilization of a republic should seem strange to you!"

Gilbert was listening, but his eyes had wandered from the friar's face
in the direction of the dusty road that led to Rome, and between his
companion's words his quick ear had caught the sound of hoofs, although
no horses were yet in sight but his own. Just as the friar ceased
speaking, however, a troop of seven riders appeared at the turn of the
road. They were rough-looking men in long brown cloaks that were in
tatters at the edge; they wore round caps of mail on their heads, with
a broad leathern strap under the chin; their faces were dark, their
beards black and unkempt, and they rode small, ragged horses, as ill
cared for as themselves.

Gilbert sprang up almost as soon as he saw them, for he knew that, not
being travellers, they could hardly be anything but highwaymen. His own
men were on their feet as soon as he, while the muleteer guide
disappeared round the hut quietly and swiftly, like a mouse when a cat
is in sight. Gilbert made straight for his horses, followed by Dunstan
and the groom; but before he could reach them, two of the riders had
jumped the ditch from the road and intercepted him, while the others
rode on toward the shed to carry off his horses. His sword was out in a
flash, his men were beside him, their weapons in their hands, and the
grimy riders drew theirs also; it was like a little storm of steel in
the bright air. The Englishman's long blade whirled half a circle above
his head; the blow would beat down the horseman's guard and draw blood,
too.

But in mid-air his wrist was seized in the sudden grasp of sinewy
fingers, and the friar was already between him and his adversary,
warning the other off with his outstretched hand. The loose sleeve had
slipped back from his wrist, baring a brown, emaciated arm and elbow
upon which the swollen veins seemed to twist and climb like leafless
vines upon a withered tree. His lips were white, his eyes blazed, and
his voice was suddenly harsh and commanding.

"Back!" he cried, almost savagely.

To Gilbert's very great astonishment, the single word produced an
instantaneous and wonderful effect. The riders lowered their weapons,
looked at one another, and then sheathed them; the others, who were
loosing Gilbert's horses and mules, suddenly desisted at the sound of
the friar's voice. Then the one nearest to Gilbert, who was a shade
less grimy than the rest, and who wore in his cap a feather from a
pheasant's tail, slipped to the ground, and bending low under his
tattered brown cloak, took the hem of the monk's frock in his right
hand and kissed it fervently. Gilbert stood aside, leaning upon his
unsheathed sword, and his wonder grew as he looked on.

"We ask your pardon, Fra Arnoldo," cried the chief, still kneeling.
"How could we guess that you were breakfasting out here this morning?
We thought you far in the north."

"And therefore thought yourselves free to rob strangers and steal
cattle, and cut one anothers' throats?"

"This is probably a part of the civilization of a republic," observed
Gilbert, with a smile.

But the highwaymen, all dismounted now, came crowding to the feet of
Arnold of Brescia in profound, if not lasting, contrition, and they
begged a blessing of the excommunicated monk.



CHAPTER IX


Gilbert lodged at the sign of the Lion, over against the tower of Nona,
by the bridge of Sant' Angelo. The inn was as old as the times of
Charlemagne, when it had been named in honour of Pope Leo, who had
crowned him emperor. But the quarter was at that time in the hands of
the great Jewish race of Pierleoni, whose first antipope, Anacletus,
had not been dead many years, and who, though they still held the
castle and many towers and fortresses in Rome, had not succeeded in
imposing the antipope Victor upon the Roman people, against the will of
Bernard of Clairvaux.

Rome lay along the river, in those days, like wreckage and scum thrown
up on the shore of a wintry sea. Some twenty thousand human beings were
huddled together in smoky huts, most of which were built against the
outer walls and towers of the nobles' strongholds--a miserable
population, living squalidly in terrible times, starving while the
nobles fought with one another, rising now and then like a vision of
famine and sword to take back by force the right of life which force
had almost taken from them. Gilbert wandered through the crooked,
unpaved streets, in and out of gloomy courts and over desolate wastes
and open places, the haunts of ravenous dogs and homeless cats that
kept themselves alive on the choice pickings of the city's garbage. He
went armed and followed by his men, as he saw that other gentlemen of
his condition did, and when he knelt in a church to hear mass or to say
a prayer, he was careful to kneel with his back to the wall or to a
pillar, lest some light-handed worshipper should set a razor to his
wallet strings or his sword-belt.

At his inn, too, he lived in a state of armed defence against every
one, including the host and the other guests; and the weekly settlement
was a weekly battle between Dunstan, who paid his master's scores, the
little Tuscan interpreter, and Ser Clemente, the innkeeper, in which
the Tuscan had the most uncomfortable position, finding himself placed
buffer-like between the honest man and the thief, and exposed to
equally hard hitting from both. Rome was poor and dirty and a den of
thieves, murderers, and all malefactors, dominated alternately by a
family of half-converted Jews, who terrorized the city from strong
points of vantage, and then, on other days, by the mob that followed
Arnold of Brescia when he appeared in the city, and who would have torn
down stone walls with their bare hands at his merest words, as they
would have faced the barons' steel with naked breast. At such times men
left their tasks--the shoemaker his last, the smith his anvil, the
crooked tailor his bench--to follow the northern monk to the Capitol,
or to some church where he was to speak to them; and after the men came
the women, and after the women the children, all drawn along by the
mysterious attraction which they could neither understand nor resist.
The tramping of many feet made a dull bass to the sound of many human
voices, high and low, crying out lustily for 'Arnold, a Senate, and the
Roman Republic'; and then taking up the song of the day, which was a
ballad of liberty, in a long minor chant that broke into a jubilant
major in the burden--the sort of song the Romans have always made in
time of change, the kind of ballad that goes before the end of a
kingdom, like a warning voice of fate.

On such days, when the mob went howling and singing after its idol,
southwards to the Capitol or even to the far Lateran where Marcus
Aurelius sat upon his bronze horse watching the ages go by, then
Gilbert loved to wander in the opposite direction, across the castle
bridge and under the haunted battlements of Sant' Angelo, where evil
Theodora's ghost walked on autumn nights when the south wind blew, and
through the long wreck of the fair portico that had once extended from
the bridge to the basilica, till he came to the broad flight of steps
leading to the walled garden-court of old Saint Peter's. There he loved
to sit musing among the cypresses, wondering at the vast bronze
pine-cone and the great brass peacocks which Symmachus had brought
thither from the ruins of Agrippa's baths, wherein the terrible
Crescenzi had fortified themselves during more than a hundred years.
Sitting there alone, while Dunstan puzzled his uncertain learning over
deep-cut inscriptions of long ago, and Alric, the groom, threw his
dagger at a mark on one of the cypress trees, hundreds of times in
succession, and rarely missing his aim, Gilbert felt, in the silence he
loved, that the soul of Rome had taken hold of his soul, and that in
Rome it was good to live for the sake of dreaming, and that dreaming
itself was life. The past, with his mother's sins, his own sorrows, the
friendship of the boy Henry, the love of Queen Eleanor, were all
infinitely far removed and dim. The future, once the magic mirror in
which he had seen displayed the glory of knightly deeds which he was to
do, was taken up like a departing vision into the blue Roman sky. Only
the present remained, the idle, thoughtful, half-narcotic present, with
a mazy charm no man could explain, since so far as any bodily good was
concerned there was less comfort to be got for money, more fever to be
taken for nothing, and a larger element of danger in everyday life in
Rome than in any city Gilbert had traversed in his wanderings. Yet he
lingered and loved it rather for what it denied him than for what it
gave him, for the thoughts it called up rather than for the sights it
offered, for that in it which was unknown, and therefore dear to dwell
upon, rather than for the sadness and the darkness and the evil that
all men might feel.

But through all he felt, and in all he saw, welding and joining the
whole together, there was the still fervour of that something which he
had at first known in Sheering Abbey--something to which every fibre of
his nature responded, and which, indeed, was the mainspring of the
world in that age. For devotion was then more needful than bread, and
it profited a man more to fight against unbelievers for his soul's sake
than to wear hollows in altar-steps with his knees, or to forget his
own name and put off his own proper character and being, as a nameless
unit in a great religious order.

At first the enormous disappointment of Rome had saddened and hurt him.
He had fancied that where there was no head there could be no house,
that where the leader was gone the army must scatter and be hewn in
pieces. But as he stayed on, from week to week and from month to month,
he learned to understand that the Church had never been more alive,
more growing, and more militant than at that very time when the true
and rightful pontiffs were made outcasts one after the other, while
their places, earthly and spiritual, were given to instruments of feud
and party. For the Church was the world, while Rome meant seven or
eight thousand half-starved and turbulent ruffians, with their wives
and children, eager always for change, because it seemed that no change
could be for the worse.

But in the ancient basilica of Saint Peter there was peace; there the
white-haired priests solemnly officiated in the morning and at noon,
and toward evening more than a hundred rich voices of boys and men sang
the vesper psalms in the Gregorian tones; there slim youths in violet
and white swung silver censers before the high altar, and the incense
floated in rich clouds upon the sunbeams that fell slanting to the
ancient floor; there, as in many a minster and cloister of the world,
the Church was still herself, as she was, and is, and always will be;
there words were spoken and solemn prayers intoned which had been
familiar to the lips of the Apostles, which are familiar to our lips
and ears to-day, and of which we are sure that lips unborn will repeat
them to centuries of generations. Gilbert, type of Christian layman,
kneeled in the old cathedral, and chanted softly after the choir, and
breathed the incense-laden air that seemed as natural to him as ever
the hay-scented breeze of summer had been, and he was infinitely
refreshed in soul and body. But then again, alone in his room at the
Lion Inn, late in the night, when he had been poring over the
beautifully written copy of Boethius, given him by the Abbot of
Sheering, he often opened wide the wooden shutters of his window and
looked out at the castle and at the flowing river that eddied and
gleamed in the moonlight. Then life rose before him in a mystery for
him to solve by deeds, and he knew that he was not to dream out his
years in the shadowy city, and the strong old instinct of his race bade
him go forth and cut his fortune out of the world's flank alive. Then
his blood rose in his throat, and his hands hardened one upon the
other, as he leaned over the stone sill and drew the night air sharply
between his closed teeth; and he resolved then to leave Rome and to go
on in search of strange lands and masterful deeds. On such nights, when
the wind blew down the river in the spring, it brought to him all the
hosts of fancy, spirit armies, ghostly knights, and fairy maidens, and
the forecast shadows of things to come. There was a tragic note, also;
for on his right, as he looked, there rose the dark tower of Nona, and
from the highest turret he could clearly see in the moonlight how the
long rain-bleached rope hung down and swayed in the breeze, and the
noose at the end of it softly knocked upon the tower wall; more than
once, also, when he had looked out in the morning, he had seen a corpse
hanging there by the neck, stiff and staring and wet with dew.

But when the spring day dawned and the birds sang at his window, and
when, looking out, he felt the breath of the sweet south and saw that
Rome smiled again, then his resolutions failed, and instead of bidding
Dunstan pack his armour and his fine clothes for a journey, he made his
men mount and ride with him to the far regions of the city. Often he
loitered away the afternoon in the desolate regions of the Aventine,
riding slowly from one lonely church to another, and sometimes spending
an hour in conversation with a solitary priest who, by living much
alone and among inscriptions and old carvings, had gathered a little
more learning than was common among the unlettered Romans.

He met with no adventures; for though the highways in the country
swarmed with robbers always on the watch for a merchant's train or for
a rich traveller, yet within the city's limits, small as was the
authority of the Senate and of the Prefect, thieves dared not band
together in numbers, and no two or three of them would have cared to
come to blows with Gilbert and his men.

Nor did he make friends in Rome. His first intention had been to
present himself to the principal baron in the city, as a traveller of
good birth, and to request the advantages of friendship and protection;
and so he would have done in any other European city. But he had soon
learned that Rome was far behind the rest of the world in the social
practices of chivalry, and that in placing himself under a Roman
baron's protection he would, to all intents and purposes, be taking
service instead of accepting hospitality. Even so, he might have been
willing to take such a position for the sake of adventure; yet he could
by no means make up his mind to a choice between the half-Jewish
Pierleoni and the rough-mannered Frangipani. To the red-handed
Crescenzi he would not go; the Colonna of that time were established on
the heights of Tusculum, and the Orsini, friends to the Pope, had
withdrawn to distant Galera, in the fever-haunted marsh northwest of
Rome.

But here and there he made the acquaintance of a priest or a monk whose
learned conversation harmonized with his thoughts and helped the grave
illusion in which--perhaps out of sheer idleness--he loved to think
himself back in the abbey in England. And so he led a life unlike the
lives around him, and many of the people in the quarter learned to know
him by sight, and called him and his men 'the English'; and as most of
the people of Rome were very much occupied with their own affairs,
chiefly evil, Gilbert was allowed to live as he pleased. But for the
fact that even his well-filled purse must in the course of time be
exhausted, he might have spent the remainder of his life in the Lion
Inn, by the bridge, carelessly meditative and simply happy. But other
forces were at work to guide his life into other channels, and he had
reckoned ill when he had fancied, being himself unmoved, that the love
of such a woman as Queen Eleanor was a mere incident without
consequence, forgotten like a flower of last year's blossoming.

Several times during the winter and in the spring that followed, the
friar Arnold came to see him in his lodgings and talked of the great
things that were coming, of the redemption of man from man by the
tearing down of all sovereign power, whether of pope or emperor, or
king or prince, to make way for the millennium of a universal republic.
Then the fanatic's burning eyes flashed like beacons, his long arms
made sudden and wild gestures, his soft brown hair stood from his head
as though lifted by a passing breeze, and his whole being was
transfigured in the flash of his own eloquence. When he spoke to the
Romans with that voice and with that look, they rose quickly to a
tumult, as the sea under a gale, and he could guide them in their
storming to ends of destruction and terror. But there was no drop of
southern blood in Gilbert's veins nor anything to which the passionate
Italian's eloquence appealed. Instead of catching fire, he argued;
instead of joining Arnold in his attempt to turn the world into a
republic, he was more and more persuaded of the excellence of all he
had left behind him in the north. He incarnated that aristocratic
temper which has in all times, since Duke William crossed the water,
leavened the strong mass of the Anglo-Saxon character, balancing its
rude democratic strength with the keenness of a higher physical
organization and the nobility of a more disinterested daring, and again
and again rousing the English-speaking races to life and conquest, when
they were sunk deep in the sordid interests of trade and money-making.
So when Arnold talked of laws and institutions which should again make
Rome the mistress of the world, Gilbert answered him by talking of men
who had the strength to take the world and to be its masters and make
it obey whatsoever laws they saw fit to impose. Between the two there
was the everlasting difference between theory and action; and though it
chanced that just then Arnold, the dreamer, was in the lead of change
and revolution, while Gilbert, the fighter, was idling away weeks and
months in a dream, yet the fact was the same, and in manly strength and
inward simplicity of thought Gilbert Warde, the Norman, was far nearer
to the man who made Rome imperial than was the eloquent Italian who
built the mistress city of his thoughts out of ideas and theories,
carved and hewn into shapes of beauty by the tremendous tools of his
wit and his words. At the root of the great difference between the two
there was on the one side the Norman's centralization of the world in
himself, as being for himself, and on the other the Latin's power and
readiness to forget himself in the imaginations of an ideal state.

"Men are talking of a second Crusade," said Arnold, one day, when he
and Gilbert had chanced to meet in the garden court of Saint Peter's.

Gilbert was standing with his back against one of the cypress trees,
watching the fiery monk with thoughtful eyes.

"They talk of Crusades," said Arnold, stopping to face the young man.
"They talk of sending hundreds of thousands of Christian men to die
every death under God's sun in Palestine--for what? To save men? To
lift up a race? To plant good, that good may grow? They go for none of
those things. The sign on their breasts is the cross; the word on their
lips is Christ; the thought in their hearts is the thought of all your
ruthless race--to take from others and add to your own stores; to take
land, wealth, humanity, life, everything that can be taken from
conquered man before he is left naked to die."

Gilbert did not smile, for he was wondering whether there were not some
truth in the monk's accusation.

"Do you say this because Norman men hold half of your Italy?" he asked
gravely. "Have they held it well or ill?"

"Ill," answered Arnold, fixing his eyes sharply on Gilbert's face. "But
that is not the matter; some of them have helped me, too. There are
good men and bad among Normans, as among Saracens."

"I thank you," said Gilbert, smiling now, in spite of himself.

"The devils also believe and tremble," retorted Arnold, grimly quoting.
"The taking of the South proves my words; it is not half my meaning.
Men take the cross and give their lives for a name, a tradition, the
sacred memories of a holy place. They will not give a week of their
lives, a drop of their blood, for their fellow-men, nor for the beliefs
that alone can save the world."

"And what are those beliefs?" asked Gilbert.

Arnold paused before he replied, and then as he lifted his face, it was
full of light.

"Faith, Hope, Charity," he answered, and then, as his head drooped with
a sudden look of hopelessness, he turned away with slow steps toward
the great gate.

Gilbert did not change his position as he looked after him rather
sadly. The man's perfect simplicity, his eagerness for the most lofty
ideals, the spotless purity of his life, commanded Gilbert's most true
admiration. And yet to the Norman, Arnold of Brescia was but a dreamer,
a visionary, and a madman. Gilbert could listen to him for a while, but
then the terrible tension of the friar's thought and speech wearied
him. Just now he was almost glad that his companion should depart so
suddenly; but as he watched him he saw him stop, as if he had forgotten
something, and then turn back, searching for some object in the bosom
of his frock.

"I had forgotten what brought me here," said the friar, producing a
small roll of parchment tied and bound together with thin leathern
laces, and tied again with a string of scarlet silk to which was
fastened a heavy leaden seal. "I have here a letter for you."

"A letter!" Gilbert showed a not unnatural surprise. He had never
received a letter in his life, and in those days persons of ordinary
importance rarely sent or received messages except by word of mouth.

"I went to your lodging," replied the monk, handing Gilbert the
parchment. "I guessed that I might find you here, where we have met
before."

"I thank you," said Gilbert, turning the roll over in his hands as if
hardly knowing what to do. "How came you by this?"

"Last night there arrived messengers from France," answered Arnold,
"bringing letters for the Senate and for me, and with them was this,
which the messenger said had been delivered into his hand by the Queen
of France, who had commanded him to find out the person to whom it was
addressed, and had promised him a reward if he should succeed. I
therefore told him that I would give it to you."

Gilbert was looking at the seal. The heavy disk of lead through which
the silken strings had been drawn was as large as the bottom of a
drinking-cup and was stamped with the device of Aquitaine; doubtless
the very one used by Duke William, for it bore the figures of Saint
George and the Dragon, which Eleanor was afterwards to hand down to
English kings to this day. Gilbert tried to pull the silk cord through
the lead, but the blow that had struck the die had crushed and jammed
them firmly.

"Cut it," suggested the friar, and his ascetic face relaxed in a smile.

Gilbert drew his dagger, which was a serviceable blade, half an ell
long, and as broad as a man's three fingers under the straight
cross-hilt, and as sharp as a razor on both edges, for Dunstan was a
master at whetting. Gilbert cut the string and then the laces, and
slipped the seal into his wallet, unrolling the stiff sheet till he
found a short writing, some six or eight lines, not covering half the
page, and signed, 'Eleanora R.'

But when he had opened the letter he saw that it was not to be read
easily. Nevertheless, his eye lighted almost at once upon the name
which of all others he should not hare expected to find there,
'Beatrix.' There was no mistaking the letters, and presently he found
them once again, and soon after that the sense was clear to him.

'If this reach you,' it said, in moderately fair Latin, 'greeting. I
will that you make haste and come again to our castle in Paris, both
because you shall at all times be welcome, and more especially now, and
quickly, because the noble maiden Beatrix de Curboil is now at this
court among my ladies, and is in great hope of seeing you, since she
has left her father to be under my protection. Moreover, Bernard, the
abbot, is preaching the Cross in Chartres and other places, and is
coming here before long, and to Vezelay. Beatrix greets you.'

"Can you tell me where I can find the messenger who brought you this?"
asked Gilbert, looking up when he had at last deciphered every word.

But Arnold was gone. The idea that an acquaintance whom he had been
endeavouring to convert to republican doctrines should be in
correspondence with one of those sovereigns against whom he so bitterly
inveighed had finally disgusted him, and he had gone his way, if not in
wrath, at least in displeasure. Seeing himself alone, Gilbert shrugged
his shoulders indifferently, and began to walk up and down, reading the
letter over and over. It was very short, but yet it contained so much
information that he found some difficulty in adjusting his thoughts to
what was an entirely new situation, and one which no amount of thinking
could fully explain. He was far too simple to suppose that Eleanor had
called Beatrix to her court solely for the sake of bringing him back to
Paris. He therefore imagined the most complicated and absurd reasons
for Queen Eleanor's letter.

He told himself that he must have been mistaken from beginning to end;
that the Queen had never felt anything except friendship for him, but a
friendship far deeper and more sincere than he had realized; and he was
suddenly immensely grateful to her for her wish to build up happiness
in his life. But then, again, she knew as well as he--or as well as he
thought he knew--that the Church would not easily consent to his union
with Beatrix, and as he closed his eyes and recalled scenes of which
the memories were still vivid and clear, the shadow that had chilled
his heart in Paris rose again between him and Eleanor's face, and he
distrusted her, and her kiss and her letter, and her motives. Then,
too, it seemed very strange to him that Beatrix should have left her
father's house; for Arnold de Curboil had always loved her, and it did
not occur to Gilbert that his own mother had made the girl's life
intolerable. He was to learn that later, and when he knew it, he tasted
the last and bitterest dregs of all. Nevertheless, he could not
reasonably doubt the Queen's word; he was positively certain that he
should find Beatrix at the French court, and from the first he had not
really hesitated about leaving at once. It seemed to be the only
possible course, though it was diametrically opposed to all the good
resolutions which had of late flitted through his dreams like summer
moths.

On the next day but one, early in the spring morning, Gilbert and his
men rode slowly down the desolate Via Lata, and under Aurelian's arch,
past the gloomy tomb of Augustus on the left, held by the Count of
Tusculum, and out at last upon the rolling Campagna, northward, by the
old Flaminian Way.



CHAPTER X


June was upon Italy, as a gossamer veil and a garland on the brow of a
girl bride. The first sweet hay was drying in Tuscan valleys; the fig
leaves were spreading, and shadowing the watery fruit that begins to
grow upon the crooked twigs before the leaves themselves, and which the
people call "fig-blossoms," because the real figs come later; the fresh
and silvery olive shoots had shed a snow-flurry of small white stars;
the yellow holy thorn still blossomed in the rough places of the hills,
and the blending of many wild flowers was like a maiden blush on the
earth's soft bosom.

At early morning Gilbert rode along the crest of a low and grassy hill
that was still sheltered from the sun by the high mountains to
eastward, and he drank in the cool and scented air as if it had been
water of paradise, and he a man saved out of death to life by the
draught. There was much peace in his heart, and a still security that
he had not felt yet since he had seen his father lying dead before him.
He knew not how it was, but he was suddenly sure that Beatrix loved him
and had escaped to the court of France in the hope of finding him, and
was waiting for him day by day. And he was also sure that the Church
would not cut him off from her in the end, let the churchmen say what
they would. Was not the Queen of France his friend? She would plead his
case, and the Pope would understand and take away the bar. He thought
of these things, and he felt his hopes rising bright, like the steady
sun.

He reached the end of the crest and drew rein before descending, and he
looked down into the broad valley and the river winding in and out
among trees, gleaming like silver out there in the sun beyond the
narrowing shadow, then dark blue, and then, in places, as black as ink.
The white road, broad and dusty, winding on to Florence, followed the
changing river. Gilbert took his cap from his head and felt the
coolness of the morning on his forehead and the gentle breath of the
early summer in his fair hair; and then, sitting there in the deep
silence, bareheaded, it seemed to him that he was in the very holy
place of God's cathedral.

"The peace of God, which passeth all understanding," he repeated softly
and almost involuntarily.

"Now the God of peace be with you all, amen," answered Dunstan.

But there was a tone in his voice that made Gilbert look at him, and he
saw in the man's face a quiet smile, as if something amused him, while
the black eyes were fixed on a sight far away. Dunstan was pointing to
what he saw; so Gilbert looked, too, and he perceived a gleaming, very
far off, that moved slowly on the white road beside the shining river.

"They are expecting a fight to-day," said Gilbert, "for they are in
mail and their mule-train is behind them."

"Shall we turn aside and ride up the mountain, to let them pass?" asked
Dunstan, who could fight like a wildcat, but had also the cat's
instinctive caution.

"It would be a pity not to see the fight," answered Gilbert, and he
began to ride forward down the descent.

The track was worn down to the depth of a man's height by the hoofs of
the beasts that had trodden it for ages; and in places it was very
narrow, so that two laden mules could hardly pass each other. Young
chestnut shoots of three or four years' growth sprang up in thick green
masses from the top of the bank on each side, and now and then the
branches of nut trees almost joined their broad leaves across the way,
making a deep shade that was cool and smelt of fresh mould and green
things. A little way down the hill a spring of water trickled into a
little pool hollowed out by travellers, and the water overflowed and
made thick black mud of the earth churned up with last year's dead
leaves.

Gilbert let his horse stop to drink, and his men waited in single file
to take their turn.

"Psst!" The peculiar hiss which Italians make to attract attention came
sharp and distinct from the low growth of the chestnut shoots.

Gilbert turned his head quickly in the direction of the sound. A
swarthy face appeared, framed in a close leathern cap on which small
rings of rusty iron were sewn strongly, but not very regularly. Then a
long left arm, clad in the same sort of mail, pushed the lower boughs
aside and made a gesture in the direction whence Gilbert had come,
which was meant to warn him back--a gesture of the flat hand, held
across the breast with thumb hidden, just moving a little up and down.

"Why should I go back?" asked Gilbert, in his natural voice.

"Because yes," answered the dark man, in the common Italian idiom, and
in a low tone. "Because we are waiting for the Florentines, certain of
us of Pistoja, and we want no travellers in the way. And then--because,
if you will not--"

The right arm suddenly appeared, and in the hand was a spear, and the
act was a threat to run Gilbert through, unmailed as he was, and just
below his adversary. But as Gilbert laid his hand upon his sword,
looking straight at the man's eye, he very suddenly saw a strange
sight; for there was a long arrow sticking through the head, the point
out on one side and the feather on the other; and for a moment the man
still looked at him with eyes wide open. Then, standing as he was, his
body slowly bent forward upon itself as if curling up, and with a crash
of steel it rolled down the bank into the pool of water, where the
lance snapped under it.

For little Alric, the Saxon groom, had quietly slipped to the ground
and had strung his bow, suspecting trouble, and had laid an arrow to
the string, waiting; and little Alric's aim was very sure; it was also
the first time that he had shot a man, and he came of men who had been
bowmen since Alfred's day, and before that, and had killed many, for
generations, so that it was an instinct with them to slay with the bow.

"Well done, boy!" cried Gilbert.

But his horse reared back, as the dead body fell splashing into the
pool, and Alric quietly unstrung his bow again and remounted to be
ready. Then Gilbert would have ridden on, but Dunstan hindered him.

"This fellow was but a sentinel," he said. "A little further on you
will find these woods filled with armed men waiting to surprise the
riders we saw from above. Surely, I will die with you, sir; but we need
not die like rats in a corn-bin. Let us ride up a little way again, and
then skirt the woods and take the road where it joins the river, down
in the valley."

"And warn those men of Florence that they are riding into an ambush,"
added Gilbert, turning his horse.

So they rode up the hill; and scarcely were they out of sight of the
spring when a very old woman and a ragged little boy crept out of the
bushes, with knives, and began to rob the dead man of his rusty mail
and his poor clothes.

Gilbert reached the road a long stone's-throw beyond the last chestnut
shoots, and galloped forward to meet the advancing knights and
men-at-arms. He drew rein suddenly, a dozen lengths before them, and
threw up his open right hand. They were riding leisurely, but all in
mail, some having surcoats with devices embroidered thereon, and most
of them with their heads uncovered, their steel caps and hoods of mail
hanging at their saddle-bows.

"Sirs," cried Gilbert, in a loud, clear voice, "you ride to an ambush!
The chestnut woods are full of the men of Pistoja."

A knight who rode in front, and was the leader, came close to Gilbert.
He was a man not young, with a dark, smooth face, as finely cut as a
relief carved upon a shell, and his hair was short and iron-grey.

Gilbert told him what had happened in the woods, and the elderly knight
listened quietly and thoughtfully, while examining Gilbert's face with
half-unconscious keenness.

"If you please," said the young man, "I will lead you by the way I have
ridden, and you may enter the bushes from above, and fight at better
advantage."

But the Florentine smiled at such simple tactics. To feel the breeze,
he held up his right hand, which issued from a slit in the wrist of his
mail, so that the iron mitten hung loose; and the wind was blowing
toward the woods. He called to his squire.

"Take ten men, light torches, and set fire to those young trees."

The men got a cook's earthenware pot of coals, fed all day long with
charcoal on the march, lest there should be no fire for the camp at
night; and they lit torches of pitched hemp-rope, and presently there
was a great smoke and a crackling of green branches. But the leader of
the Florentines put on his steel cap and drew the mail hood down over
his shoulders, while all the others who were bareheaded did the same.

"Sir," said the knight to Gilbert, "you should withdraw behind us, now
that you have done us this great service. For presently there will be
fighting here, and you are unmailed."

"The weather is overwarm for an iron coat," answered Gilbert, with a
laugh. "But if I shall not trespass upon the courtesies of your country
by thrusting my company upon you, I will ride at your left hand, that
you may the more safely slay with your right."

"Sir," answered the other, "you are a very courteous man. Of what
country may you be?"

"An Englishman, sir, and of Norman blood." He also told his name.

"Gino Buondelmonte, at your service," replied the knight, naming
himself.

"Nay, sir," laughed Gilbert, "a knight cannot serve a simple squire!"

"It is never shame for gentle-born to serve gentle-born," answered the
other.

But now the smoke was driving the men of Pistoja out of the wood, and
the hillside down which Gilbert had ridden was covered with men in
mail, on horseback, and with footmen in leather and such poor armour as
had been worn by the dead sentinel. Buondelmonte thrust his feet home
in his wide stirrups, settled himself in the saddle, shortened his
reins, and drew his sword, while watching all the time the movements of
the enemy. Gilbert sat quietly watching them, too. As yet he had never
ridden at a foe, though he had fought on foot, and he unconsciously
smiled with pleasure at the prospect, trying to pick out the man likely
to fall by his sword. In England, or in France, he would certainly have
put on the good mail which was packed on the sumpter mule's back; but
here in the sweet Italian spring, in the morning breeze full of the
scent of wild flowers, and the humming of bees and the twittering of
little birds, even fighting had a look of harmless play, and he felt as
secure in his cloth tunic as if it had been of woven steel.

The position of the Florentines was the better, for they had the broad
homeward road behind them, in case of defeat; but the men of Pistoja,
driven from the woods by the thick smoke and the burning of the
undergrowth, were obliged to scramble down a descent so steep that many
of them were forced to dismount, and they then found themselves huddled
together in a narrow strip of irregular meadow between the road and the
foot of the stony hill. Buondelmonte saw his advantage. His sword shot
up at arm's length over his head, and his high, clear voice rang out in
a single word of command.

In a moment the peace of nature was rent by the scream of war. Hoofs
thundered, swords flashed, men yelled, and arrows shot through the
great cloud of dust that rose suddenly as from an explosion. In the
front of the charge the Italian and the Norman rode side by side, the
inscrutable black eyes and the calm olive features beside the Norman's
terrible young figure, with its white glowing face and fair hair
streaming on the wind, and wide, deep eyes like blue steel, and the
quivering nostrils of the man born for fight.

Short was the strife and sharp, as the Florentines spread to right and
left of their leader and pressed the foe back against the steep hill in
the narrow meadow. Then Buondelmonte thrust out straight and sure, in
the Italian fashion, and once the mortal wound was in the face, and
once in the throat, and many times men felt it in their breasts through
mail and gambison and bone. But Gilbert's great strokes flashed like
lightnings from his pliant wrist, and behind the wrist was the Norman
arm, and behind the arm the relentless pale face and the even lips,
that just tightened upon each other as the deathblows went out, one by
one, each to its place in a life. The Italian destroyed men skilfully
and quickly, yet as if it were distasteful to him. The Norman slew like
a bright destroying angel, breathing the swift and silent wrath of God
upon mankind.

Blow upon blow, with clash of steel, thrust after thrust as the darting
of serpents, till the dead lay in heaps, and the horses' hoofs churned
blood and grass to a green-red foam, till the sword-arm waited high and
then sank slowly, because there was none for the sword to strike, and
the point rested among the close-sewn rings of mail on Buondelmonte's
foot, and the thin streams of blood trickled quietly down the dimmed
blade.

"Sir," said Buondelmonte, courteously, "you are a marvellous fine
swordsman, though you fence not in our manner, with the point. I am
your debtor for the safety of my left side. Are you hurt, sir?"

"Not I!" laughed Gilbert, wiping his broad blade slowly on his horse's
mane for lack of anything better.

Then Buondelmonte looked at him again and smiled.

"You have won yourself a fair crest," he laughed, as he glanced at
Gilbert's cap.

"A crest?" Gilbert put up his hand, and uttered an exclamation as it
struck against a sharp steel point.

A half-spent arrow had pierced the top of his red cloth cap and was
sticking there, like a woman's long hairpin. He thought that if it had
struck two inches lower, with a little more force, he should have
looked as the man in the woods did, whom Alric had killed. He plucked
the shaft from the stiff cloth with some difficulty, and, barely
glancing at it, tossed it away. But little Alric, who had left the
guide to take care of the mules and had followed the charge on foot,
picked up the arrow, marked it with his knife and put it carefully into
his leathern quiver, which he filled with arrows he picked up on the
grass till it would hold no more. Dunstan, who had ridden in the press
with the rest, was looking among the dead for a good sword to take, his
own being broken.

"Florence owes you a debt, sir," said Buondelmonte, an hour later, when
they were riding back from the pursuit. "But for your warning, many of
us would be lying dead in that wood. I pray you, take from the spoil,
such as it is, whatsoever you desire. And if it please you to stay with
us, the archbishop shall make a knight of you, for you have won
knighthood to-day."

But Gilbert shook his head, smiling gravely.

"Praised be God, I need nothing, sir," he answered. "I thank you for
your courteous hospitality, but I cannot stay, seeing that I ride upon
a lady's bidding. And as for a debt, sir, Florence has paid hers
largely in giving me your acquaintance."

"My friendship, sir," replied Buondelmonte, not yielding in compliment
to the knightly youth.

So they broke bread together and drank a draught, and parted. But
Buondelmonte gave Dunstan a small purse of gold and a handful of silver
to little Alric and the muleteer, and Gilbert rode away with his men,
and all were well pleased.

Yet when he was alone in the evening, a sadness and a horror of what he
had done came over him; for he had taken life that day as a man mows
down grass, in swaths, and he could not tell why he had slain, for he
knew not the men who fought on the two sides, nor their difference. He
had charged because he saw men charging, he had struck for the love of
strife, and had killed because it was of his nature to kill. But now
that the blood was shed, and the sun which had risen on life was going
down on death, Gilbert Warde was sorry for what he had done, and his
brave charge seemed but a senseless deed of slaughter, for which he
should rather have done penance than received knighthood.

"I am no better than a wild beast," he said, when he had told Dunstan
what he felt. "Go and find out a priest to pray for those I have killed
to-day."

He covered his brow with his hand as he sat at the supper table.

"I go," answered the young man. "Yet it is a pleasant sight to see the
lion weeping for pity over the calf he has killed."

"The lion kills that he may eat and himself live," answered Gilbert.
"And the men who fought to-day fought for a cause. But I smote for the
wanton love of smiting that is in all our blood, and I am ashamed. Bid
the priest pray for me also."



CHAPTER XI


The court of France was at Vezelay--the King, the Queen, the great
vassals of the kingdom at the King's command, and those of Aquitaine
and Guienne and Poitou in the train of Eleanor, whose state outshone
and dwarfed her husband's. And there was Bernard, the holy man of
Clairvaux, to preach the Cross, where old men remembered the voice of
Peter the Hermit and the shout of men now long dead in far Palestine,
crying, "God's will! God's will!"

Because the church of Saint Mary Magdalen was too small to hold the
multitude, they were gathered together in a wide grassy hollow without
the little town, and there a raised floor of wood had been built for
the King and Queen and the great nobles; but the rest of the knights
and Eleanor's three hundred ladies stood upon the grass-grown slope,
and were crowded together by the vast concourse of the people.

The sun was already behind the hill, and the hot July air had cooled a
little; but it was still hot, and the breathing of the multitude could
be heard in the silence. Gilbert had come but just in time; he had left
his men to find him a lodging if they could, and now he pressed forward
as well as he might, to see and hear, but most of all to find out, if
he could, the face of Beatrix among the three hundred.

There sat the Queen, in scarlet and gold, wearing the crown upon her
russet hair, and the King in gold and blue beside her, square, grave,
and pale as ever; and when Gilbert had searched the three hundred fair
young faces in vain, his eyes came back to the most beautiful woman in
the world. He saw that she was fairer than even his memory of her, and
he felt pride that she should call herself his friend.

Then suddenly there was a stir among the knights behind the throne, and
though they were standing closely, shoulder to shoulder, and pressed
one against another, yet they divided to let the preacher go through.
He came alone, with quiet eyes, thanking the knights to right and left
because they made way for him, and he passed between them quickly like
a white shadow. So thought pierces matter and the spiritual being
penetrates the terrestrial being and is unchanged.

But when Bernard had ascended the white wooden stage and stood near the
King and Queen, then the hushed stillness became a dead silence, and
the eyes of all that multitude were fastened upon his face and form, as
each could see him. For a moment every man held his breath as if an
angel had come down from heaven, bringing on his lips the word of God
and in his look the evidence of eternal light. He was the holy man of
the world even while he lived, and neither before him nor after him,
since the days of the Apostles, has any one person so stood in the eyes
of all mankind.

The gentle voice began to speak, without effort to be heard, yet as
distinct and clear as if it spoke to each several ear, pleading for the
cause of the Cross of Christ, and for the suffering men who held the
holy places in the East with ever-weakening hands, but still with
undaunted, desperate courage.

"Is there any man among you who has loved his mother, and has received
her dying breath with her last blessing, and has laid her to rest in
peace, in a place holy to him for her sake, and who would suffer that
her grave should be defiled and defaced by her enemies, so long as he,
her son, has in his body blood of hers to shed? Is there any among you
who would not fight, while he had breath, to save his father's dead
bones from dishonour? Do you not daily boast that you will lay down
your lives in a quarrel for the good name of your ladies, as you would
for your own daughters' fair fame and your own wives' faithfulness?

"And now, I say, is not the Church of God your mother, and are not her
temples your most holy places? You boast that you are ready to die for
an honourable cause: yet Christ gave His life for us, not because of
our honour, but because of our dishonour, and our sins which are many
and grievous; and having atoned for us in His Holy Passion, He was laid
at rest after the manner of men. And the place where He rested is
sacred, for the Lord from Heaven lay therein when He had washed away
our iniquity with His holy blood, when He had healed us by His stripes,
when He had given His life that we might live, when He had endured the
bondage of this dying flesh that we might be raised undying in the
spirit, by Him, and through Him, and in Him.

"Shall the earth that drank that blood be as other earth? Shall the
place that echoed the seven words of agony be as other places? Is the
tomb where God rested Him of His crucified manhood to be given up to
forgetfulness and defilement? Or are we sinless, that we need not even
the memory of the sacrifice, and so pure that we need no purification?
I would that we were. The world is evil, the hour is late, the Judge is
at hand, and we are lacking of good and eaten of evil, so that there is
no whole part in us.

"And yet we move not to save ourselves, though Christ gave His life to
save us if we would stir ever so little, if we would but stretch out
our hands to the hand that waits for ours. He bids us not be crucified,
as He was for us. He bids us only take up our cross and follow Him, as
He took it up Himself, and bore it to the place of death."

Thus Bernard began to speak, gently at first, as one who rouses a
friend from sleep to warn him of danger, and fears to be rough, yet
cannot be silent; but by and by, in the breathing stillness, the sweet
voice was strengthened and rang like the first clarion at dawn on the
day of battle, far off and clear, heart-stirring and true. And with the
rising tone came also the stronger word, and at last the spirit that
moves more than word or voice.

"Lay the Cross to your hearts as you wear it on your breasts. Bear it
with you on the long day marches, and in the watches of night bow
before it inwardly, and pray that you may have grace to bear it to the
end. So shall your footsteps profit you, and your way shall be the way
of the Cross, till you stand in the holy place. But if so be that God
ask blood of you, blessed shall they be among you who shall give life
freely, to die for the Cross of our Lord Christ; and they shall stand
in the place that is holy indeed, before the Throne of God.

"Yet beware of one thing. I would not that you should go out to fight
for the Sepulchre as some of our fathers did, boasting in the Cross,
yet in heart each for his own soul and none for the glory of Christ,
counting the weariness, and the hurts, and the drops of blood as a sure
reckoning to be repaid to you in heaven, as if you had lent God a piece
of money which He must pay again. The Lord Jesus gave not His life at
an account, nor His blood at usury; He counted not the pain, nor was
His suffering set down in a book; but He gave all freely, of His love
for men. Shall men therefore ask of God a return, saying: 'We have
given Thee so much, as it were a wound, or it may be a life, or else a
prayer, and a day of fasting, see that Thou pay us what is just'? That
were not giving to God what is a man's own; it were rather lending or
selling to God what is His. See that you do not thus, but if you have
anything to give, let it be given freely; or else give not at all, for
it is written that from him that hath not faith shall be taken even
such things as he hath.

"But if you take the Cross, and arm yourselves to fight for it, and go
your way to Palestine to help your brethren in their sore need, go not
for yourselves, suffer not for yourselves, fight not for yourselves.
For as God is greater than man, so is the glory of God greater than the
glory of self and more worthy that you should die for it. Think not
therefore of earning a reward, but of honouring the Lord Christ in the
holy place where He died for you.

"March not as it were to do penance for your old sins, hoping for
forgiveness, as a trader that brings merchandise looks for a profit!
Strike not as slaves, who fight lest they be beaten with rods, neither
as men in fear of everlasting fire and the torments of hell! Neither go
out as thieves, seeking to steal the earth for yourselves, and striving
not with the unbeliever, but with the rich man for his riches, and with
the great man for his possessions! I say, go forth and do battle for
God's sake and His glory! March ye for Christ and to bring the people
to Him out of darkness! Take with you the Cross to set it in the hearts
of men, and the seed of the tree of life to plant among desolate
nations!

"Ye kings, that are anointed leaders, lead ye the armies of Heaven! Ye
knights, that are sworn to honour, draw your unsullied swords for the
honour of God! Men and youths, that bear arms by allegiance, be ye
soldiers of Christ and allegiant to the Cross! Be ye all first for
honour, first for France, first for God Most High!"

[Illustration: "CROSSES! GIVE US CROSSES!"]

With those words the white-sleeved arm was high above his head, holding
up the plain white wooden cross, and there was silence for a moment.
But when the people saw that he had finished speaking, they drew deep
breath, and the air thundered with the great cry that came.

"Crosses! Give us crosses!"

And they pressed upon one another to get nearer. The King had risen,
and the Queen with him, and he came forward and knelt at Bernard's
feet, with bent head and folded hands. The great abbot took pieces of
scarlet cloth from a page who held them ready in a basket, and he
fastened them upon the King's left shoulder and then raised his right
hand in blessing. The people were silent again and looked on, and many
thought that the King, in his great mantle and high crown, was like a
bishop wearing a cope, for he had a churchman's face. He rose to his
feet and stepped back but he was scarcely risen when the Queen stood in
his place, radiant, the evening light in her hair.

"I also will go," she said in a clear, imperious voice. "Give me the
Cross!"

She knelt and placed her hands together, as in prayer, and there was a
fair light in her eyes as she looked up to Bernard's face. He hesitated
a moment, then took a cross and laid it upon her mantle, and she smiled.

A great cry went up from all the knights, and then from the people,
strong and triumphant, echoing, falling, and rising again.

"God save the Queen!--the Queen that wears the Cross!"

And suddenly every man held up his sword by the sheath, and the great
cross-hilts made forests of crosses in the glowing air. But the Queen's
three hundred ladies pressed upon her.

"We will not leave you!" they cried. "We will take the Cross with you!"

And they thronged upon Bernard like a flight of doves, holding out
white hands for crosses, and more crosses, while he gave as best he
could. Also the people and the knights began to tear pieces from their
own garments to make the sign, and one great lord took his white mantle
and made strips of the fine cloth for his liege vassals and his squires
and men; but another took Bernard's white cape from his shoulders and
with a sharp dagger made many little crosses of it for the people, who
kissed them as holy things when they received them.

In the throng, Gilbert pressed forward to the edge of the platform
where the Queen was standing, for he was strong and tall. He touched
her mantle softly, and she looked down, and he saw how her face turned
white and gentle when she knew him. Being too far below her to take her
hand, he took the rich border of her cloak and kissed it, whereat she
smiled; but she made a sign to him that he should not try to talk with
her in the confusion. Then looking down again, she saw that he had yet
no cross. She took one from one of her ladies, and, bending low, tried
to fasten it upon his shoulder.

"I thank your Grace," said Gilbert, very gratefully. "Is Beatrix here?"
he asked in a low tone.

But, to his wonder, the Queen's brow darkened, and her eyes were
suddenly hard; she almost dropped the cross in her hurry to stand
upright, nor would she again turn her eyes to look at him.



CHAPTER XII


In the late dusk of summer Bernard went his way from the place where he
had preached, to the presbytery of Saint Mary Magdalen, where he was to
lodge that night. The King and Queen walked beside him, their horses
led after them by grooms in the royal liveries of white and gold; and
all the long procession of knights and nobles, priests and laymen,
gentlefolk and churls, men, women, and children, streamed in a motley
procession up the road to the village. As they went, the King talked
gravely with the holy man, interlarding and lining his sententious
speeches with copious though not always correct quotations from the
Vulgate. On Bernard's other side Eleanor walked with head erect, one
hand upon her belt, one hanging down, her brows slightly drawn
together, her face clear white, her burning eyes fixed angrily upon the
bright vision cast by her thoughts into the empty air before her.

She had used the only means, and the strongest means, of bringing
Gilbert back to France; she had foredreamt his coming, she had
foreknown that from the first he would ask for Beatrix; but she had
neither known nor dreamt of what she should feel when he, standing at
her feet below the platform, looked up to her offering eyes with a
hunger in his face which she could not satisfy, and a desire which she
could not fulfil. His very asking for the other had been a refusal of
herself, and to be refused is a shame which no loving woman will accept
while love is living, and an insult which no strong woman forgives when
love is dead.

But neither the King nor the abbot heeded her as they walked along,
talking in Latin mixed with Norman French. The monk, not tall, slender,
spiritualized even in the remnant of his flesh, the incarnation of
believing thought and word, the exposition of matter's servitude to
mind, was the master; the King, heavy, strong, pale, obedient, was the
pupil, proving the existence of the greater force by his blind
submission to its laws. Beside them the Queen imaged the independence
of youthful life, believing without realizing, strong with blood, rich
with colour, fearing regret more than remorse, thoughtlessly cruel and
cruelly thoughtless, yet able to be very generous and brave.

The bell of Saint Mary's tolled three strokes, then four, then five,
then one, thirteen in all, and then rang backward for the ending day.
The sun had set a full half-hour and the dusk had almost drunk the
dregs of the red west. Bernard stood still, bareheaded in the way, with
folded hands, and began the Angelus Domini; the King from habit raised
his hand to take his cap from his head, and touched the golden crown
instead. Instantly a little colour of embarrassment rose in his pale
cheeks, and he stumbled over the familiar response as he clasped his
hands with downcast eyes, for in some ways he was a timid man. The
Queen stood still and spoke the words also, but neither the attitude of
her head nor the look in her eyes was changed, nor did she take her
hand from her belt to clasp it upon the other. The air was very soft
and warm, there was the musical, low sound of many voices speaking in
the monotone of prayer, and now and then, on whirring wings, a droning
beetle hummed his way from one field to another, just above the heads
of the great multitude.

The prayer said, they all moved onward, past the first houses of the
village and past the open smithy with its shelter of twisted chestnut
boughs, beneath which the horses were protected from the sun while they
were being shod. But the smith had not been to the preaching, because
Alric, the Saxon groom, had brought him Gilbert's horse to shoe just
when he was going, and had forced him to stay and do the work with the
threat of an evil spell learned in Italy. And now, peering through the
twilight, he stood watching the long procession as it came up to his
door. He was a dark man, with red eyes and hairy hands, and his shirt
was open on his chest almost to his belt. He stood quite still at
first, gazing on Bernard's face, that was luminous in the dusk; but as
he looked, something moved him that he could not understand, and he
came forward in his leathern apron and his blackened hose, and knelt at
the abbot's feet.

"Give me also the Cross," he cried.

"I give thee the sign, my son," answered Bernard, raising his hand to
bless the hairy man. "The crosses we had are all given. But thou shalt
have one to-morrow."

But as the smith looked up to the inspired face the light came into his
own eyes, and something he could not see took hold of him suddenly and
hard.

"Nay, my lord," he answered, "I will have it to-day and of my own."

Then he sprang up and ran to his smithy, and came back holding in his
hand a bar of iron that had been heating in the coals to make a shoe.
The end of it was glowing red.

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!" he
cried in a loud voice.

And as he spoke the words, he had laid the red-hot point to his breast
and had drawn it down and crosswise; and a little line of thin, white
smoke followed the hissing iron along the seared flesh. He threw the
bar down upon the threshold of his door and came to join the throng,
the strange smile on his rough face and the light of another world in
his fire-reddened eyes. But though the multitude sent up a great cry of
praise and wonder, yet Bernard shook his head gravely and walked on,
for he loved not any madness, not even a madness for good deeds, and
the light by which he saw was as steady and clear and true as a
life-long day.

Moreover, even while he had been speaking he had felt that fanatic
deeds were not far off, and a deep sadness had fallen upon him, because
he knew that true belief is the fulness of true wisdom and by no means
akin to any folly.

Therefore, when he was alone that night, he was very heavy-hearted, and
sat a long time by his square oak table in the light of the
three-cornered brazen lamp which, stood at his elbow. The principal
chamber of the presbytery was cross-vaulted and divided into two by a
low round arch supported on slender double columns with capitals
fantastically carved. The smaller portion of the room beyond the arch
made an alcove for sleeping, which could be completely shut off by a
heavy curtain; the larger part was paved with stone, and in one corner
a low wooden platform, on which stood a heavy table before a carved
bench fastened to the wall, was set apart for writing and study. On the
table, besides the lamp, there stood a reading-desk, and above the
bench a strong shelf carried a number of objects, including several
large bottles of ink, a pot of glue for fastening leaves of parchment,
and two or three jars of blue and white earthenware. On nails there
hung a brush of half dried broom, a broad-brimmed rush hat, and a
blackened rosary. On the other side of the table, and by the window,
there was a small holy-water basin with a little besom. On the walls
were hung pieces of coarse linen roughly embroidered with small crosses
flory, worked in dark red silk. The vault was blank and white, and
rushes were strewn on the stone pavement. In the deep embrasures of the
windows there were dark window-seats worn black with age.

The abbot had begun a letter, but the pen lay beside the unfinished
writing, his elbow rested on the parchment, and he shaded his eyes from
the light. The brilliancy was gone from his face and was succeeded by
an almost earthy pallor, while his attitude expressed both lassitude
and dejection. He had done what had been required of him, he had fired
the passion of the hour, and one hour had shown him how completely it
was to be beyond his control. He remembered how Peter the Hermit had
led the vast advance-guard of the First Crusade to sudden and miserable
destruction before the main force could be organized; he had seen
enough on that afternoon to prove to him that the air was laden with
such disaster, of which the responsibility would surely be heaped upon
himself. He regretted not the thoughts he had preached, but the fact of
having yielded to preach at all to such men and at such a time. He had
begun to set forth all this and much more in a letter to Pope Eugenius,
but before he had written a dozen lines the pen had fallen from his
hand, and he had begun to reflect upon the impossibility of stemming
the tide since it had turned to flood.

A soft step sounded in the outer hall beyond the curtained doorway, but
Bernard, absorbed in his meditations, heard nothing. A jewelled hand
pushed aside the thick folds of the hanging, and the most beautiful
eyes in the world gazed curiously upon the unheeding abbot.

"Are you alone?" asked the Queen's voice.

Without waiting for an answer she came forward into the room and paused
beside the low platform, laying one hand upon the table in a gesture
half friendly, half deprecating, as if she still feared that she had
disturbed the holy man. His transparent fingers fell from his eyes, and
he looked up to her, hardly realizing who she was, and quite unable to
guess why she had come. A dark brown mantle completely covered her
gown, and only a little of her scarlet sleeve showed as her hand lay on
the table. Her russet-golden hair hung in broad waves and lightened in
the rays of the oil lamp. Her eyes, that looked at Bernard intently and
inquiringly, were the eyes of old Duke William, whom the Abbot of
Clairvaux had brought to confession and penance long ago, and who had
gone from the altar of his grand-daughter's marriage straight to
solitary hermitage and lonely death in the Spanish hills; they were
eyes in which all thoughts were fearless and in which tenderness was
beautiful, but in which kindness was often out of sight behind the
blaze of vitality and the burning love of life that proceeded from her
and surrounded her as an atmosphere of her own.

"You do not welcome me," she said, looking into his face. "Are you too
deeply occupied to talk with me awhile? It is long since we have met."

Bernard passed his hand over his eyes as if to brush away some material
veil.

"I am at your Grace's service," he said gently, and he rose from his
seat as he spoke.

"I ask no service for myself," she answered, setting her foot upon the
platform and coming to his side. "Yet I ask something which you may do
for others."

Bernard hesitated, and then looked down.

"Silver and gold have I none," he said, quoting, "but such as I have I
give unto thee."

"I have both gold and silver, and lands, and a crown," answered the
Queen, smiling carelessly, and yet in earnest. "I lack faith. And so,
though my people have swords and armour, and have taken upon them the
Cross to succour their brethren in the Holy Land, yet they have no
leader."

"They have the King, your husband," answered Bernard, gravely.

Eleanor laughed, not very cruelly, nor altogether scornfully, but as a
man might laugh who was misunderstood, and to whom, asking for his
sword, a servant should bring his pen.

"The King!" she cried, still smiling. "The King! Are you so great in
mind and so poor in sense as to think that he could lead men and win?
The King is no leader. He is your acolyte--I like to see him swinging a
censer in time to your prayers and flattening his flat face upon the
altar-steps beatified by your footsteps!"

The Queen laughed, for she had moods in which she feared neither God,
nor saint, nor man. But Bernard looked grave at first, then hurt, and
then there was pity in his eyes. He pointed to the window-seat beside
the table, and he himself sat down upon his carved bench. Eleanor,
being seated, rested her elbows on the table, clasped her beautiful
hands together, and slowly rubbed her cheek against them, meditating
what she should say next. She had had no fixed purpose in coming to the
abbot's lodging, but she had always liked to talk with him when he was
at leisure and to see the look of puzzled and pained surprise that came
into his face when she said anything more than usually shocking to his
delicate sensibilities. With impulses of tremendous force, there was at
the root of her character a youthful and almost childlike indifference
to consequences.

"You misjudge your husband," said the abbot, at last, drumming on the
table nervously and absently with the tips of his white fingers. "They
who do their own will only are quick to condemn those who hope to
accomplish the will of Heaven."

"If you regard the King as the instrument of Divine Providence,"
answered Eleanor, with curling lip, "there is nothing to be said.
Providence, for instance, was angered with the people of Vitry.
Providence selected the King of France to be the representative of its
wrath. The King, obedient as ever, set fire to the church, and burned
several priests and two thousand more or less innocent persons at their
prayers. Nothing could be better. Providence was appeased--"

"Hush, Madam!" exclaimed Bernard, lifting a thin hand in deprecation.
"That was the devil's work."

"You told me that I was condemning one who is accomplishing the will of
Heaven."

"In leading the Crusade, yes--"

"Then my husband works for both parties. Today he serves God; to-morrow
he serves Mammon." Eleanor raised her finely pencilled eyebrows. "I
believe there is a parable that teaches us what is to become of those
that serve two masters."

"It applies to those who try to serve them at the same time," answered
the abbot, meeting her contemptuous look with the quiet boldness of a
man sure of power. "You know as well as I that the King took oath to
lead a Crusade out of repentance for what he did at Vitry."

"A bargain, then, of the very kind against which you preached to-day."
The Queen still smiled, but less scornfully, for she fancied herself as
good as Bernard in an argument.

"It is a very easy thing to fence with words," Bernard said. "It is one
thing to argue, it is quite another to convince your hearers."

"I do not desire to convince you of anything," answered Eleanor, with a
little laugh. "I would rather be convinced."

She looked at him a moment and then turned away with a weary little
sigh of discontent.

"Was it without conviction that you took the Cross from my hands
to-day?" asked Bernard, sadly.

"It was in the hope of conviction."

Bernard understood. Before him, within reach of his hand, that great
problem was present which, of all others, Paganism most easily and
clearly solved, but with which Christianity grapples at a disadvantage,
finding its foothold narrow, and its danger constant and great. It is
the problem of the conversion of great and vital natures, brave, gifted
and sure of self, to the condition of the humble and poor in spirit. It
is easy to convince the cripple that peace is among the virtues; the
sick man and the weak are soon persuaded that the world is a sensuous
illusion of Satan, in which the pure and perfect have no part nor
share; it is another, a greater and a harder matter, to prove the
strong man a sinner by his strength, and to make woman's passion
ridiculous in comparison of heaven. The clear flame of the spirit burns
ill under the breath of this dying body, and for the fleeting touch of
a loving hand the majesty of God is darkened in a man's heart.

Bernard saw before him the incarnate strength and youth and beauty of
her from whom a line of kings was to descend, and in whom were all the
greatest and least qualities, virtues and failings of her unborn
children--the Lion Heart of Richard, the heartless selfishness of John,
the second Edward's grasping hold, Henry the Third's broad justice and
wisdom; the doubt of one, the decision of another, the passions of them
all in one, coursing in the blood of a young and kingly race.

"You wish not to convince others, but to be convinced," Bernard said,
"and yet it is not in your nature to yield yourself to any conviction.
What would you of me? I can preach to them that will hear me, not to
those that come to watch me and to smile at my sayings as if I were a
player in a booth at a fair. Why do you come here to-night? Can I give
you faith as a salve, wherewith to anoint your blind eyes? Can I
furnish you the girdle of honesty for the virtue you have not? Shall I
promise repentance for you to God, while you smile on your next lover?
Why have you sought me out?"

"If I had known that you had no leisure, and the Church no room for any
but the altogether perfect, I would not have come."

She leaned back in the window-seat and folded her arms, drawing the
thin dark stuff of her cloak into severe straight lines and shadows, in
vivid contrast with the radiant beauty of her face. Her straight and
clear-cut brows lowered over her deep eyes, and her lips were as hard
as polished coral.

Bernard looked at her again long and earnestly, understanding in part,
and in part guessing, that she had suffered a secret disappointment on
that day and had come to him rather in the hope of some kind of mental
excitement than with any idea of obtaining consolation. To him, filled
as he was with the lofty thoughts inspired by the mission thrust upon
him, there was something horrible in the woman's frivolity--or
cynicism. To him the Cross meant the Passion of Christ, the shedding of
God's blood, the Redemption of mankind. To her it was a badge, an
ornament, the excuse for a luxurious pilgrimage of fair women living
delicately in silken tents, and clothed in fine garments of a fanciful
fashion. The contrast was too strong, too painful. Eleanor and her girl
knights would be too wholly out of place, with their fancies and their
whims, in an army of devoted men fighting for a faith, for a faith's
high principle as between race and race, and for all which that faith
had made sacred in its most holy places. It was too much. In
profoundest disappointment and sadness Bernard's head sank upon his
breast, and he raised his hands a little, to let them fall again upon
his knees, as if he were almost ready to give up the struggle.

Eleanor felt the wicked little thrill of triumph in his apparent
despair which compensates schoolboys for unimaginable labour in
mischief, when they at last succeed in hurting the feelings of a
long-suffering teacher. There had been nothing but an almost childish
desire to tease at the root of all that she had said; for before all
things she was young and gay, and her surroundings tended in every way
to repress both gayety and youth.

"You must not take everything I say in earnest," she said suddenly,
with a laugh that jarred on the delicate nerves of the overwrought man.

He turned his head from her as if the sight of her face would have been
disagreeable just then.

"Jest with life if you can," he said. "Jest with death if you are brave
enough; yet at least be earnest in this great matter. If you are fixed
in purpose to go with the King, you and your ladies, then go with the
purpose to do good, to bind up men's wounds, to tend the sick, to cheer
the weak, and by your presence to make the coward ashamed."

"And why not to fight?" asked the Queen, the light of an untried
emotion brightening in her eyes. "Do you think I cannot bear the weight
of mail, or sit a horse, or handle a sword as well as many a boy of
twenty who will be there in the thick of battle? And if I and my court
ladies can bear the weariness as well as even the weakest man in the
King's army, and risk a life as bravely, and perhaps strike a clean
blow or drive a straight thrust for the Holy Sepulchre, shall our souls
have no good of it, because we are women?"

As she spoke, her arm lay across the table, and her small strong hand
moved energetically with her speech, touching the monk's sleeve. The
fighting blood of the old Duke was in her veins, and there was battle
in her voice. Bernard looked up.

"If you were always what you are at this moment," he said, "and if you
had a thousand such women as yourself to ride with you, the King would
need no other army, for you could face the Seljuks alone.

"But you think that by the time I have to face them my courage will
have cooled to woman's tears, like hot vapour on a glass."

She smiled, but gently now, for she was pleased by what he had said.

"You need not fear," she continued, before he had time to answer her.
"We shall not bear ourselves worse than men, and there will be grown
men there who shall be afraid before we are. But if there were with us
a leader of men, I should have no fear. Men will fight for the King,
they will shed their blood for Eleanor of Guienne, but they would die
ten deaths at the bidding of--"

She paused, and fixed her eyes on Bernard's face.

"Of whom?" he asked, unsuspecting.

"Of Bernard of Clairvaux."

There was a short silence. Then in a clear far-off voice, as if in a
dream, the abbot repeated his own name.

"Bernard of Clairvaux--a leader of men? A soldier? A general?" He
paused as if consulting himself. "Madam," he said at last, "I am
neither general, nor leader, nor soldier. I am a monk, and a churchman
as the Hermit was, but not like him in this--I know the limitation of
my strength. I can urge men to fight for a good cause, but I will not
lead them to death and ruin, as Peter did, while there are men living
who have been trained to the sword as I to the pen."

"I do not ask that you should plan battles, lead forlorn charges, nor
sit down in your tent to study the destruction of walled towns. You can
be our leader without all that, for he who leads men's souls commands
men's bodies and lives in men's hearts. Therefore, I bid you to come
with us and help us, for although a sword is better at need than a
hundred words, yet there are men at whose single word a thousand swords
are drawn like one."

"No, Madam," said the abbot, his even lips closing after the words,
with a look of final decision, "I will not go with you. First, because
I am unfit to be a leader of armies, and secondly, because such life as
there is left in me can be better used at home than in following a
camp. Lastly, I would that this good fight might be fought soberly and
in earnest, neither in the fever of a fanatical fury nor, on the other
hand, lightly, as an amusement and a play, nor selfishly and meanly in
the hope of gain. My words are neither deep, nor learned, nor well
chosen, for I speak as my thoughts rise and overflow. But thanks be to
Heaven, what I say rouses men to act rather than moves them to think.
Yet it is not well that they be over-roused or stirred when a long war
is before them, lest their heat be consumed in a flash of fire, and
their strength in a single blow. You need not a preacher, but a
captain; not words but deeds. You go to make history, not to hear a
prophecy."

"Nevertheless," said the Queen, "you must go with us, for if the spirit
you have called up sinks from men's memories, our actions will be worse
than spiritless. You must go."

"I cannot."

"Cannot? But I say you must."

"No, Madam--I say no."

For a long time the two sat in silence facing each other, the Queen
confident, vital, fully roused to the expression of her will; Bernard,
on the other hand, as fully determined to oppose her with all the
fervent conviction which he brought to every question of judgment or
policy.

"If we fall out among ourselves," said Eleanor, at last, "who shall
unite us? If men lose faith in the cause before them and grow greedy of
the things that lie in their way, who shall set them right?"

The abbot shook his head sorrowfully and would not meet her eyes, for
in this he knew that she was right.

"When an army has lost faith," he said, "it is already beaten. When
Atalanta stooped to pick up the golden apples, her race was lost."

"As when love dies, contempt and hatred take its place," said Eleanor,
as if in comment.

"Suck love is of hell," said Bernard, looking suddenly into her face,
so that she faintly blushed.

"Yes," she retorted scornfully, "for it is the love of man and wife."

The holy man watched her sadly and yet keenly, for he knew what she
meant, and he foresaw the end.

"Lucifer rebelled against law," he said.

"I do not wonder," said the Queen, with a sharp laugh. "He would have
rebelled against marriage. Love is the true faith--marriage is the
dogma." She laughed again.

Bernard shrank a little as if he felt actual pain. He had known her
since she had been a little child, yet he had never become used to her
cruelties of expression. He was a man more easily disgusted in his
aesthetic sensibilities than shocked by the wickedness of a world he
knew. To him, God was not only great, but beautiful; Nature, as some
theologians maintain, was cruel, evil, hurtful, but she was never
coarse, nor foul in his conception, and her beauty appealed to him
against his will. So also in his eyes a woman could be sinful, and her
sins might seem terrible to him, and yet she herself was to him a woman
still, a being delicate, refined, tender even in her wickedness; but a
woman who could speak at once keenly and brutally of her marriage
reacted upon him as a very ugly or painful sight, or as a very harsh
and discordant sound that jars every nerve in the body.

"Madam," he said in a low voice, but very quietly and coldly, "I think
not that you are in such state of grace as to bear the Cross to your
good."

Eleanor raised her head and looked at him haughtily, with lids half
drooped as her eyes grew hard and keen.

"You are not my confessor, sir," she retorted. "For all you know, he
may have enjoined upon me a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is a common
penance." For the third time she laughed.

"A common penance!" cried the abbot, in a tone of despair. "That is
what it has come to in these days. A man kills his neighbour in a
quarrel and goes to Jerusalem to purge him of blood, as he would take a
physician's draught to cure him of the least of little aches. A
pilgrimage is a remedy, as a prayer is a medicine. To repeat the act of
contrition so and so often, or to run through a dozen rosaries of an
afternoon, is a potion for the sick soul."

"Well, what then?" asked the Queen.

"What then?" repeated the abbot. "Then there is no faith left in the
true meaning of the Crusade--"

"That is what I fear," answered Eleanor. "That is why I am begging you
to come with us. That is why the King will be unable to command men
without you. And yet you will not go."

"No," he replied, "I will not."

"You have always disappointed me," said the Queen, rising, and
employing a weapon to which women usually resort last. "You stand in
the front and will not lead, you rouse men to deeds you will not do,
you give men ideals in which you do not believe, and then you go back
to the peace of your abbey of Clairvaux, and leave men to shift for
themselves in danger and need. And if, perhaps, some trusting woman
comes to you with overladen heart, you tell her that she is not in a
state of grace. It must be easy to be a great man in that way."

She turned as she spoke the last words and stepped from the platform to
the stone pavement. At the enormous injustice of her judgment,
Bernard's face grew cold and stern; but he would not answer what she
said, for he knew how useless it would be. In her, and perhaps in her
only, of all men and women he had known, there was the something to
which he could not speak, the element that was out of harmony with his
own being, and when he had talked with her it was as if he had eaten
sand. He could understand that she, too, was in contradiction with her
natural feelings in her marriage with such a man as the King; he could
be sorry for her, he could pity her, he could forgive her, he could
pray for her--but he could not speak to her as he could to others.

A dozen times before she reached the door he wished to call her back,
and he sought in the archive of his brain and in the treasury of his
heart the words that might touch her. But he sought in vain. So long as
she was before his eyes, a chilled air, dull and unresonant, divided
his soul from hers. Her hand was on the curtain to go out when she
turned and looked at him again.

"You will not go with us," she said. "If we fail, we shall count the
fault yours; if we quarrel and turn our swords upon one another, the
sin is yours; if our armies lose heart, and are scattered and hewn in
pieces, their blood will be on your head. But if we win," she said at
the last, drawing herself to her height, "the honour of our deeds shall
be ours alone, not yours."

She had raised the curtain, and it fell behind her as she spoke the
last word, leaving the abbot no possibility of a retort. But she had
missed her intention, for he was not a man to be threatened from the
right he had planned. When she was gone, his face grew sad, and calm,
and weary again, and presently, musing, he took up the pen that lay
beside the half-written page.

But she went on through the outer hall to the vestibule, drawing her
thin dark mantle about her, her lips set and her eyes cruel, for she
had been disappointed. Beneath the idle wish to hear Bernard speak,
behind the strong conviction that he must follow the army to the East
if it was to be victorious, there had been the unconscious longing for
a return of that brave emotion under which, in the afternoon, she had
taken the Cross with her ladies. And a woman disappointed of strong
feeling, hoped for and desired, is less kind than a strong man defeated
of expectation.

She was alone. Of all women, she hated most to be followed by
attendants and watched by inferiors when she chose solitude. Reliant on
herself and unaffectedly courageous, she often wondered whether it were
not a more pleasant thing to be a man than to be even the fairest of
womankind, as she was. She stood still a moment in the vestibule,
drawing the hood of her cloak over her head and half across her face.
The outer door was half open; the single lamp, filled with olive-oil
and hanging from the middle of the vault, cast its ray out into the
night. As Eleanor stood arranging her headdress and almost
unconsciously looking toward the darkness, a gleam of colour and steel
flashed softly in the gloom. It disappeared and flashed again, for a
man was waiting without and slowly walking up and down before the door.
The Queen had chosen to come alone, but had no reason for concealing
herself; she made two steps to the threshold and looked out, opening
wide one half of the door.

The man stood still and turned his head without haste as the fuller
light fell upon him. It was Gilbert, and as his eyes turned to the
Queen's face, dark against the brightness within, she started a little,
as if she would have drawn back, and she spoke nervously, in a low
voice, hardly knowing what she said.

"What is it?" she asked. "Why did you come here?"

"Because I knew your Grace was here," he answered quietly.

"You knew that I was here? How?"

"I saw you--I followed."

Under her hood, the Queen felt the warm blood in her cheeks. Gilbert
was very good to see as he stood just outside the door, in the bright
lamplight. He was pale, but not wan like Bernard; he was thin with the
leanness of vigorous youth, not with fasting and vigils; he was grave,
not sad; energetic, not inspired; and his face was handsome rather than
beautiful. Eleanor looked at him for a few moments before she spoke
again.

"You followed me. Why?"

"To beg a word of your Grace's favour."

"The question you asked today?"

"Yes."

"Is it so urgent?" The Queen laughed a little, and Gilbert started in
surprise.

"Your Grace wrote urgently," he said.

"Then you are zealous only to obey me? I like that. You shall be
rewarded! But I have changed my mind. If the letter were to be written
again, I would not write it."

"It was the letter of a friend. Would you take it back?"

Gilbert's face showed the coming disappointment. In his anxiety he
pressed nearer to her, resting his hand on the doorpost. The Queen drew
back and smiled.

"Was it so very friendly?" she asked. "I do not remember--but I did not
mean it so."

"Madam, what did you mean?" His voice was steady and rather cold.

"Oh--I have quite forgotten!" She almost laughed again, shaking her
hooded head.

"If your Grace had need of me, I might understand. Beatrix is not here.
I looked at each of your ladies to-day, through all their ranks--she
was not among them. I asked where she was, but you would not answer and
were angry--"

"I? Angry? You are dreaming!"

"I thought you were angry, because you changed colour and would not
speak again--"

"You were wrong. Only a fool can be angry with ignorance."

"Why do you call me ignorant? These are all riddles."

"And you are not good at guessing. Come! To show you that I was not
angry, I will have you walk with me down through the village. It is
growing late."

"Your Grace is alone?"

"Since you followed me, you know it. Come."

She almost pushed him aside to pass out, and a moment later they were
crossing the dark open space before the church. Gilbert was not easily
surprised, but when he reflected that he was walking late at night
through a small French village with one of the most powerful sovereigns
in Europe, who was at the same time the most beautiful of living women,
he realized that his destiny was not leading him by common paths. He
remembered his own surprise when, an hour earlier, he had seen the
Queen's unmistakable figure pass the open window of his lodging. And
yet should any one see her now, abroad at such an hour, in the company
of a young Englishman, there would be much more matter for
astonishment. Half boyishly he wished that he were not himself, or else
that the Queen were Beatrix. As for his actual position in the Queen's
good graces, he had not the slightest understanding of it, a fact which
just then amused Eleanor almost as much as it irritated her. The road
was uneven and steep beyond the little square. For some moments they
walked side by side in silence. From far away came the sound of many
rough voices singing a drinking-chorus.

"Give me your arm," said Eleanor, suddenly.

As she spoke, she put out her hand, as if she feared to stumble. Doing
as she begged him, Gilbert suited his steps to hers, and they were very
close together as they went on. He had never walked arm in arm in that
way before, nor perhaps had he ever been so close to any other woman.
An indescribable sensation took possession of him; he felt that his
step was less steady, and that his head was growing hot and his hands
cold; and somehow he knew that whereas the idea of love was altogether
beyond and out of the question, yet he was spellbound in the charm of a
new and mysterious attraction. With it there was the instantaneous
certainty that it was evil, with the equally sure knowledge that if it
grew upon him but a few moments longer he should not be able to resist
it.

Eleanor would not have been a woman had she not understood.

"What is the matter?" she asked gently, and under her hood she was
smiling.

"The matter?" Gilbert spoke nervously. "There is nothing the matter;
why do you ask?"

"Your arm trembled," answered the Queen.

"I suppose I was afraid that you were going to fall."

At this the Queen laughed aloud.

"Are you so anxious for my safety as that?" she inquired.

Gilbert did not answer at once.

"It seems so strange," he said at last, "that your Grace should choose
to be abroad alone so late at night."

"I am not alone," she answered.

At that moment her foot seemed to slip, and her hand tightened suddenly
upon Gilbert's arm. But as he thought her in danger of falling, he
caught her round the waist and held her up; and, as he almost clasped
her to him, the mysterious influence strengthened his hold in a most
unnecessary manner.

"I never slip," said Eleanor, by way of explaining the fact that she
had just stumbled.

"No," answered Gilbert. "Of course not."

And he continued to hold her fast. She made a little movement vaguely
indicating that she wished him to let her go, and her free right hand
pretended to loosen his from her waist. He felt infinitesimal lines of
fire running from his head to his feet, and he saw lights where there
were none.

"Let me go," she said, almost under her breath; and accentuating her
words with little efforts of hand and body, it accidentally happened
that her head was against his breast for a moment.

The fire grew hotter, the lights brighter, and, with the consciousness
of doing something at once terrible yet surpassingly sweet to do, he
allowed his lips to touch the dark stuff that hid her russet hair. But
she was quite unaware of this desperate deed. A moment later she seemed
to hear something, for she turned her head quickly, as if listening,
and spoke in an anxious half-whisper.

"Take care! There is somebody--"

Instantly Gilbert's hand dropped to his side and he assumed the
attitude of a respectful protector. The Queen continued to stare into
the darkness a moment longer, and then began to walk on.

"It was nothing," she said carelessly.

"I hear men singing," said Gilbert.

"I dare say," answered Eleanor, with perfect indifference. "I have
heard them for some time."

One voice rose higher and louder than the rest as the singers
approached, and the other voices joined in the rough chorus of a
Burgundy drinking-song. Near the outskirts of the village, lights were
flashing and moving unsteadily in the road as those who carried them
staggered along. To reach the monastery which was the headquarters of
the court, the Queen and Gilbert would have to walk a hundred yards
down the street before turning to the right. Gilbert saw at a glance
that it would be impossible for them to reach the turning before
meeting the drunken crowd.

"It would be better to go back by another way," he said, slackening his
pace.

But the Queen walked quietly on without answering him. It was clear
that she intended to make the people stand aside to let her pass, for
she continued to walk in the middle of the street. But Gilbert gently
drew her aside, and she suffered him to lead her to a doorway, raised
two steps above the street, and darkened by an overhanging balcony.
There they stood and waited. A dense throng of grooms, archers and
men-at-arms came roaring up the steep way toward them. A huge man in a
dirty scarlet tunic and dusty russet hose, with soft boots that were
slipping down in folds about his ankles, staggered along in front of
the rest. His face was on fire with wine, his little red eyes glared
dully from under swollen lids, and as he bawled his song with mouth
wide open, one might have tossed an apple between his wolfish teeth. In
his right hand he held an earthen jug in which there was still a little
wine; with his left he brandished a banner that had been made by sewing
a broad red cross upon a towel tied to one of those long wands with
which farmers' boys drive geese to feed. Half dancing, half marching,
and reeling at every step, he came along, followed closely by a dozen
companions one degree less burly than himself, but at least quite as
drunk; and each had upon his breast or shoulder the cross he had
received that day. Behind them more and more, closer and closer, the
others came stumbling, rolling, jostling each other, howling the chorus
of the song. And every now and then the leader, swinging his banner and
his wine jug, sent a shower of red drops into the faces of his
followers, some of whom laughed, and some swore loudly in curses that
made themselves felt through the roaring din. But loudest, highest,
clearest of all, from within the heart of the drunken crowd, came one
of those voices that are made to be heard in storm and battle. In a
tune of its own, regardless of the singing of all the rest, it was
chanting the Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Long-drawn, sustained, and
of brazen quality, it calmly defied all other din, and as the crowd
drew nearer Gilbert saw through the torchlight the thin white face of a
very tall man in the midst, with half-closed eyes and lips that wore a
look of pain as he sang--the face, the look, the voice of a man who in
the madness of liquor was still a fanatic.

The hot close breath of the ribald crew went before it in the warm
summer night, the torches threw a moving yellow glare upon faces red as
flame, or ghastly white, and here and there the small crosses of
scarlet cloth fastened to the men's tunics caught the light like
splashes of fresh blood.

Eleanor drew back as far as she could under the doorway, offended in
her sovereign pride and disgusted as gentlewomen are at the sight of
drunkenness. By her side, Gilbert drew himself up as if protesting
against a sacrilege and against the desecration of his holiest
thoughts. He knew that such men would often be as riotous again before
they reached Jerusalem, and that it would be absurd to expect anything
else. But meanwhile he realized what a little more of disgust would be
enough to make him hate what was before him. For a moment he forgot the
Queen's presence at his side, and he closed his eyes so as not to see
what was passing before them.

A little angry sound, that was neither of pain nor of fear, roused him
to the present. A man with a bad face and a shock head of red hair had
fallen out of the march and stood unsteadily before the Queen, plucking
at her mantle in the hope of seeing all her face. He seemed not to see
Gilbert, and there was a wicked light in his winy eyes. The Queen drew
back, and used her hands to keep her mantle and hood close about her;
but the riot pressed onward and forced the man from his feet, so that
he almost fell against her. Gilbert caught him by the neck with his
hand; and when he had torn the cross from his shoulder, he struck him
one blow that flattened his face for life. Then he threw him down into
the drunken crowd, a bruised and senseless thing, as island men throw a
dead horse from the cliff into the sea.

In a moment the confusion and din were ten times greater than before.
While some marched on, still yelling the tipsy chorus, others stumbled
across the body of their unconscious fellow as it lay in the way; two
had been struck by it as it fell, and were half stunned; others turned
back to see the cause of the trouble; many were forced to the ground,
impotently furious with drink, and not a few were trampled upon, and
hurt, and burnt by their own torches.

Eleanor looked down upon a writhing mass of miserable human beings who
were blind with wine and stupid with rage against the unknown thing
that had made them fall. She shrank to Gilbert's side, almost clinging
to him.

"We cannot stay here," she said. "You must not let me be recognized by
these brutes."

"Keep between me and the wall, then," he answered authoritatively.

His sword was in his hand as he descended the two steps to the level of
the street and began to force his way along between the houses and the
crowd. It was not easy at first. One sprang at him blindly to stop him,
but he thrust him aside; another drew his dagger, but Gilbert struck
him on temple and jaw with his flat blade so that he fell in a heap;
and presently the man who was sober was feared by the drunken men, and
they made little resistance. But many saw by the torchlight that the
hooded figure of a woman was gliding along beside him, and foul jests
were screamed out, with howls and catcalls, so that the clean Norman
blood longed to turn and face the whole throng together with edge and
thrust, to be avenged of insult. Yet Gilbert remembered that if he did
that, he might be slain, leaving Eleanor to the mercy of ruffians who
would not believe that she was the Queen. So he resigned himself and
went steadily on along the wall, forcing his opponents out of his way,
striking them, stunning them, knocking them down mercilessly, but
killing none.

The time had been short from the beginning of the trouble till Gilbert
reached the turning for which he was making. And all the while the
high, brazen voice was chanting the words of the Canticle, above the
roaring confusion. When Eleanor, safe at last, slipped into the shadows
beyond the corner, the voice was singing, "He hath visited and redeemed
his people," and far up the street the red-cross banner was waving
furiously in the glare of the torchlight.

As Gilbert sheathed his sword, Eleanor laid her hand on his.

"You please me," she said; and though there was no light, he knew by
her tone that she was smiling. "Thank you," she added softly. "Ask what
you will, it is yours."

In the dark he bent down and kissed the hand that held him.

"Madam," he said, "I thank Heaven that I have been allowed to serve a
woman in need."

"And you ask nothing of me?" There was an odd little chill in her voice
as she spoke.

Gilbert did not answer at once, for he was uncertain whether to press
her with a question about Beatrix, or to ask nothing.

"If I asked anything," he said at last, "I should ask that I might
understand your Grace, and why you bade me come in haste to one who is
not even with you."

They were within a few steps of the abbey, and the Queen separated a
little from him and walked nearer to the wall. Then she stopped short.

"Good-night," she said abruptly.

Gilbert came close to her and stood still in silence.

"Well?" She uttered the single word with a somewhat cold interrogation.

"Madam," said Gilbert, suddenly determined to know the truth, "is
Beatrix here with you or not? I have a right to know."

"A right?" There was no mistaking the tone now, but Gilbert was not
awed by it.

"Yes," he answered; "you know I have."

Without a word Eleanor left him and walked along the wall in the deep
shadow. A moment later Gilbert saw two forms of women beside the taller
figure of the Queen. He made a step forward, but instantly stopped
again, realizing that he could not press the question in the presence
of her ladies. She had doubtless placed them there when she had come
out, to wait until she should return.

When he could no longer see her in the gloom, he turned and retraced
his steps. The drunken soldiers were gone on their way to join others
in some tavern beyond the church, and the street was deserted. The
moon, long past the full, was just rising above the hills to eastward,
and shed a melancholy light upon the straggling village. Resentful of
the Queen's mysterious silence, and profoundly sad from the impression
made upon him by the drunken throng through which he had forced his
way, Gilbert slowly climbed the hill and went back to his lodging near
the church.

He spent a restless night, and the early summer dawn brought him to his
open window with that desire which every man feels, after a troubled
day and broken rest, to see the world fresh and clean again, as if
nothing had happened--as the writing is smoothed from the wax of the
tablet before a new message can be written. Gilbert listened to the
morning sounds,--the crowing of the cocks, the barking of the dogs, the
calls of peasants greeting one another,--and he breathed the cool dawn
air gratefully, without trying to understand what the Queen wanted of
him.



CHAPTER XIII


The Crusade became a fact on that day when the sovereigns of France and
Guienne together took the scarlet cross from Bernard's hand. But all
was not ready yet. Men were roused, and the times were ripe, but not
until the Abbot of Clairvaux had given Europe the final impulse could
the armies of the King and of the Queen, and of Conrad, who was never
to be crowned Emperor in Rome, begin the march of desperate toil and
weariness that lay between their homes and their death. From Vezelay
the master preacher and inspirer of mankind went straight to Conrad's
court, doing the will of others in faith and without misgiving of
conscience, to the greater glory of God, yet haunted in sleep and
waking by the dim ghosts of ruin and defeat. He prophesied not, and he
saw no visions, but he who was almost the world's physician in his day
felt fever in its pulse and heard distraction in the piercing note of
its rallying-cry.

There were multitudes without order, there were kings without
authority, there were leaders more fit to follow than to head the van.
And always, when he had preached and breathed fire through the dry
stubble of men's parched hopes, till the flame was broad and high and
resistless, there came to him, in the solitude wherein he found no
rest, the deadly memory of the Hermit's blasted host, overtaken,
overcome, crushed to a heap of bones in one wild battle with the Seljuk
horde.

Many a time he told himself that Peter had been no soldier, that
stronger and wiser men had won what he had failed even to see, and that
the memories of Godfrey's fearful wrath, of Raymond's brave wisdom, and
of Tancred's knightly deeds were more than half another victory gained.
Yet always, too, in his deep intuition of men's limits, he felt that
the soldiers of his day were not those great knights who had humbled
the Emperor of the East and taught a lesson of fear to Kilidj Arslan,
and who had grasped the flowers of Syria and Palestine with iron hands.
It was indeed God's will that a great host should go forth again, but
neither Bernard nor any other man could surely tell that in the will of
Heaven there was victory too. The first to win or die must always and
ever be the first alone; those who come after them imitate them, profit
by them, or find ruin sown in the ravaged track of conquest; do what
they may, believe as they can, be their faith ever so high and pure,
they can never feel the splendid exultation of the soul that has found
out some godlike and untried deed to do.

The times had changed in forty years. The modern world is turned by the
interests of the many, but the world of old revolved about the
ambitions of the few, and the transition began in Bernard's day after
the furnace of the eleventh century had poured its molten material out
upon the world to settle and cool again in the castings of nations,
separate and individual. There was less impulse, more rigidity; here
and there, there was more strength, but everywhere there was less fire;
and as interests grew in opposite directions and solidified apart, the
chances of any universal rising or joint battle for belief grew less.
Mankind moves westward with the sun; men's thoughts turn back to the
bright East, the source of every faith that moves humanity; at first,
for faith's sake, men may retrace their migration to its source and
give their own blood for their holy places; and after them a generation
will give its money for the honour of its God; but at the last, and
surely, comes the time of memory's fading, the winter of belief, the
night of faith's day, wherein a delicately nurtured and greedy race
will give neither gold nor blood, but only a prayer or a smile for the
hope of a life to come.

Gilbert Warde began the great march, as some others did, in earnest
trust and belief. He had struck blows in self-defence, and for
vengeance; he had fought once in Italy for sheer love of fighting and
the animal joy of the strong northerner in cut and thrust, and lately,
at Vezelay, he had fought a herd of drunken brutes for a woman's
safety; but he had not known the false and fierce delight of killing
men to please God. That was still before him, and he looked forward to
it with that half-deadly, half-voluptuous longing for bloodshed
sanctioned and sanctified by justice or religion, which is at the main
root of every soldier's nature, let men say what they will.

When the Crusade began its pilgrimage of arms, Gilbert had not yet seen
Beatrix, nor had he any distinct proof, even by the Queen's word, that
she was really in France. Eleanor herself had kept him at a distance
during the months that elapsed between Bernard's preaching at Vezelay
and the departure of the host; and he had been much alone, being more
knight than squire, and yet not having knighthood, because he would not
ask it of the Queen, since that would have seemed like begging for a
reward, and she did not offer it freely, while the King, of course,
knew nothing of what had taken place. One night, as he sat alone in his
chamber, a man entered, cloaked and hooded, and laid before him
something heavy wrapped in a silk kerchief that might have been a
woman's; and the man went out quickly before Gilbert had thought of
asking a question. In the kerchief there was a purse of gold, which
indeed he sorely needed, and yet after the man was gone he sat stupidly
staring at the contents for a long time. At first it seemed to him
almost certain that the money came from the Queen; but as he remembered
her coldness ever since the riot at Vezelay, and recollected how many
times he had of late tried to attract her attention without success,
the conviction lost ground, and he began to believe it possible, if not
certain, that the gift had proceeded from another source. As men did in
those days, and as many would do now, he might have taken thankfully
such fortune as he found in his path, not inquiring too closely whether
he had deserved it or not. But yet he hesitated, and then, turning the
thing over, he saw on the seal the device of the Abbot of Sheering, and
he thanked Heaven for such a friend. And again, as living much alone
made him more prone to self-questioning, he asked himself whether he
had ever loved Beatrix at all. He heard men talk of love, he heard men
sing the love-songs of a passionate and earnest age, and it seemed to
him that he could nowhere find in his heart or soul the chords that
should answer directly to that music. In him the memory was a treasure
rather than a power; and while he loved to dream himself again through
the pleasant passages of youth, calling up the kind and girlish face
that was always near him in shadow-land, and although the image came,
and he heard the voice and could almost fancy that he touched the
little hand, yet it was all soft rather than vivid, it was full of
tenderness rather than of a cruel and insatiate longing, it was a
satisfaction rather than a desire. And therefore, though the mere name
of Beatrix had been enough to bring him back from Rome, and though he
had asked many questions in the hope of seeing her, he attempted
nothing daring in order to be assured of the truth.

Then came the final preparations, the testing of armour, the providing
of small things necessary on the march, the renewal of saddle and
bridle, and all the hundred details which every knight and soldier in
those days understood and cared for himself. Then the first march
eastward through a changing country which Gilbert had not yet seen, the
encampment upon the heights about Metz, the days spent in roaming over
the old city, long ago a fortress of the Romans--and during all that
time Gilbert scarcely caught a glimpse of the Queen, though he saw the
King often at religious functions in the lately built church of Saint
Vincent; for as yet the great cathedral was not even begun. Last of
all, on the morning of the final departure the royal armies assembled
before dawn at the church, the court and the greater knights within,
the vast concourse of men-at-arms and footmen and followers in the open
air outside. But Gilbert passed boldly in among the high nobles of
France and Guienne, and knelt with them in the dim nave, where little
oil-lamps hung under the high vaults, and many candles burned upon the
altars in the side-chapels, shedding a soft light on dark faces and
mailed breasts and rich mantles. Out of the dusky choir rang the high
plain-chant of monks and singing-boys, from the altar the bishop's
voice alone intoned the Preface of the Holy Cross, and presently, in
the deep silence, the Sacred Host was lifted high, and then the golden
chalice.

The King and Queen knelt side by side to receive the holy bread, and
after them the nobles and the knights in turn went up to communicate,
in long procession, while the day dawned through the clerestory windows
high overhead, and the King and Queen knelt all the time with folded
hands till the mass was over. Then at last the standard of the cross
was brought forth, with the great standards of France and of
Guienne--the banner of Saint George and the Dragon, which Eleanor was
to hand down to her sons and sons' sons, kings of England, for
generations; and the choir began to sing "Vexilla regis prodeunt" ("The
standards of the king go forth"). So all that great and noble host went
out in state, chanting the lofty hymn that rang with tones of victory,
while among cypress groves on far Asian hillsides the ravens waited for
the coming feast of Christian flesh, and the circling kite scanned the
broad earth and dancing water for the living things that were to feed
him full of death.

At last the worst of the fearful march was over, and the Crusaders lay
before Constantinople, travel-stained, half-starved and wan, but at
rest. The great open space of undulating ground before the wall that
joined the Golden Horn with the Sea of Marmara was their
camping-ground, and countless tents were pitched in uneven lines as far
as one could see. The King, and Queen Eleanor, and a few of the greater
nobles had entered the city and were lodged in its palaces about the
Emperor's gardens, but all the rest remained without. For the German
hosts had been first to reach the Bosphorus, and where they had passed
they had left a broad track of dust and ashes and a great terror upon
all living things. Even in Constantinople itself, where the Emperor had
received them as guests, they had robbed and ravaged and burned as if
they had been in an enemy's country; and when at last he had persuaded
them to cross over to Asia, they had left the great city half sacked
behind them, so that the Emperor's heart was resentfully hardened
against every man who bore the cross.

And indeed he had been long-suffering, for many in his place would have
borne less; and if he persuaded the Crusaders on false pretences to
leave his capital and push on into Asia, he did so as the only means of
saving his own people from robbery and violence.

Though the King and the court only were lodged within the walls, while
the main force of fighting men was encamped without, yet the guard at
the gates was not over-strictly kept, and many knights went in with
their squires to see the great sights and, if possible, to get a
glimpse of the Emperor himself. Gilbert did like the rest and gave the
captain of the Second Military Gate a piece of silver to go in.

At the first glance he saw that there was little safety for any
stranger who should chance to wander from the chief streets.
Safe-conduct and security had been proclaimed for every soldier who
wore a cross, and the fear of a cruel death was enough to enforce the
imperial edict wherever watchmen or soldiers were present to remind men
of it; but there was no rigorous counter-rule on the Crusaders' side,
and if the rough Burgundian men-at-arms and the wild riders of Gascony
who were in Eleanor's train had been admitted in numbers, they would
hardly have withheld their hands from such desirable things as they
chanced to find in their way. The Greeks stood watching in their
doorways and their women sat huddled together in the small low
balconies above, or at narrow windows whence they could see the street.
Whenever a party of knights appeared, the men withdrew within their
houses, the women were out of sight in a moment, and within the windows
the curtains were closely drawn. Looking to right and left for the sign
of a friendly tavern or the more desirable attraction of henna-dyed
hair and painted cheeks and darkened eyes, the strangers saw nothing on
each side of the street but blank houses and closed doors. But when
they had passed, the curtains were parted, the doors were ajar again,
and curious eyes looked after the big mailed figures, the gaudy cloaks,
and the enormous cross-hilted swords of the Frenchmen. Of the poorer
people in the streets and those whose business kept them abroad on that
day, the men scowled resentfully at the intruders and the women drew
their veils closely across their faces. For although the French were
gentler and less uncouth to see than the rough Germans who had wrecked
the city a few weeks earlier, the Greeks were past trusting any one,
and looked upon all strangers with like fear and ever-increasing
distrust.

When he was within the gate, Gilbert saw three broad roads before him,
stretching downward from the higher land on which the city wall was
built. Vast and magnificent, Constantinople lay at his feet, a rich
disorder of palaces and churches and towers. On the left, the quiet
waters of the Golden Horn made a broad, blue path to meet the Bosphorus
in the hazy distance before him; on the right, the Sea of Marmara was
dazzling white under the morning sun, where its mirror-like reflections
could be seen between the towers of the sea-wall. The air was full of
light and colour, and the smell of late roses and autumn fruits and the
enchantment of sights altogether new took hold of the young man's
senses. Far before him and, as it seemed, near the end of the central
street, a dome rose above the level of the surrounding city, raising
its golden cross to the deep sky. Without hesitation Gilbert chose that
road and followed it nearly a full hour before he stood at the gate of
Saint Sophia's church.

He stood still and looked up, he had heard much of the great cathedral
and had wished to see it and the treasures it contained; but now, by an
impulse which he followed without attempting to understand it, instead
of going in he turned on his heel and went away. He said to himself
that there would be plenty of time for visiting the church, and
possibly the idea of leaving the beautiful daylight for the dark aisles
and chapels of an ancient cathedral was distasteful. In his change of
intention there seemed not to be that little element of chance that
makes a man turn to the right rather than to the left when there is no
choice of ways. He went on skirting the buttresses and outbuildings and
following the steep descent by the northwest side of the cathedral.
Here, to his surprise, he found the life of the city going on as usual,
and as yet none of the Crusaders had found their way thither. The tide
of business at that hour set toward the great markets and warehouses,
to the north of which one of the Emperor's smaller palaces was built
amid shady gardens that ran down to the water's edge. Gilbert was
carried along by the stream of hurrying men, who, seeing that he was a
stranger and alone, jostled him with little ceremony. He had too much
wit and perhaps too much self-respect, to rouse a street brawl on his
own behalf, and when any one ran against him with unnecessary roughness
he contented himself with stiffening his back and holding his own in
passive resistance. He had reached his full strength and was a match
for many little Greeks, yet the annoyance was distasteful to him, and
he was glad to find himself pushed into a narrow lane between high
walls and crossed by a low covered bridge; and at the end, under
overhanging branches, he saw the blue light of the sea. He followed the
byway down to the water, supposing that there must be some beach or
open space there, where he might be alone. But, to his surprise, both
walls were built out on little piers into the sea, shutting off the
view on each side. Looking straight before him, he saw the trees and
white houses of distant Chalcedon, within the Sea of Marmara, but
Chrysopolis was hidden on the left. The lane ended in a little beach,
some six feet wide, and a skiff lay there with a pair of oars, half out
of water, and made fast by a chain to a ring in the masonry. A cool
breeze drew in through the narrow entrance, and the clear salt water
lapped the clean sand softly, and splashed under the stern and along
the wales of the half-beached boat.

Gilbert rested one hand against the wall and looked out, breathing the
bright sea air with a sort of voluptuous enjoyment, and letting his
thoughts wander as they would. The march had been long and full of
hardships, mingled often with real bodily suffering, and those who had
escaped without disease were reckoned fortunate. The war was still
before them, but no imaginable combat with men could be compared with
the long struggle for existence through which the Crusaders had won
their way to Constantinople. It seemed as if the worst were altogether
past and as if rest-time had come already.

In the cool and shady retreat from the crowd to which Gilbert's
footsteps had led him, an Italian might have lain dreaming half the
day, and an Oriental would have sat down to withdraw himself from the
material tedium of life in the superior atmosphere of kef. But Gilbert
was chilled to a different temper by the colder and harder life of the
North, and the springs of his nature could not be so easily and wholly
relaxed. In a few moments he grew restless, stood upright and began to
look about him, letting his hand fall by his side from its hold on the
wall. The walls were solid from end to end of the narrow lane, and not
less than three times a man's height. The stones of the masonry were
damp for six or seven feet above the ground, showing that the earth was
at a higher level behind them than in the lane, and the trees of which
the branches overhung the way were of the sort found in Eastern
gardens, a cedar of Lebanon on the one side, a sycamore on the other;
and with the light breeze there came to Gilbert's nostrils the aromatic
scent of young oranges still green on the trees. It flashed upon him
that the lane divided the imperial gardens and that the walls were
built out into the water in order to prevent intrusion. One end of the
boat's chain was shackled to a ring-bolt in the bows, and the other was
made fast to the ring in the wall by one of those rude iron padlocks
which had been used in Asia since the times of Alexander. Gilbert had
heard wonderful tales of the gardens at Constantinople, and he resented
the idea of being so near them and yet so effectually excluded. He
tried to wrench the boat's chain from the bows, and, failing, he tried
to force the lock, but the iron was solid and the lock was good;
moreover, the chain was too short to allow the skiff to float to the
end of the wall, if he had launched it. The idea of seeing into the
garden became a determination as soon as he found that there were
serious obstacles in the way, and by the time he had persuaded himself
that the boat could not help him he would have readily risked life and
limb for his fancy. A few moments' reflection showed him, however, that
there need be no great danger in the undertaking, for the defence had a
weak point. The foundations on which the walls stood were above water
by several inches and were wide enough to give him a foothold if he
could only keep himself upright against the flat surface. The latter
difficulty could easily be overcome by using one of the oars from the
boat, and he began to attempt the passage at once, cautiously putting
one foot before the other and steadying himself with the oar against
the opposite wall. It did not occur to him that to get into the
Emperor's gardens by stealth might be looked upon as a serious matter.
In a few moments he had reached the end and was getting back to the
land on the other side.

From the water's edge three little terraces led up like steps to the
level of the garden, where the trees grew thick and dark; and, although
it was early autumn, each terrace was covered with flowers of a
different hue--pink and soft yellow and pale blue. Gilbert had never
seen anything made to grow in such orderly profusion, and when he
reached the top by narrow steps built against the wall, he found
himself treading on a fine white gravel surface on which not even a
single dead leaf had been allowed to lie, and which extended some
thirty yards inwards under the trees to a straight bank of moss that
had a sheen like green velvet where the sun fell upon it through the
parted leaves overhead. Very far away between the trunks of the trees
there was the gleam of white marble walls.

Gilbert hesitated a little, and then walked slowly forward toward the
bank. As yet he had seen no trace of any living thing in the garden,
but as he advanced and changed his position, he noticed a small dash of
colour, like the corner of a dark blue cloak, beside the trunk of one
of the larger trees. Some one was sitting on the other side, and he
moved cautiously and almost noiselessly till he saw that the person was
a lady, seated on the ground and absorbed in a book. He did not
remember to have seen more than two or three women reading in all his
life, and one of them was Queen Eleanor; another was Beatrix, who, as a
lonely child in the solitude of her father's castle, had acquired some
learning from the chaplain, and delighted in spelling out the few
manuscripts in her father's possession.

Gilbert Warde was as much a born sportsman as he was a fighter, and he
had stalked the fallow-deer in Stortford woods since he had been old
enough to draw an arrow's head to his finger.

Step by step, from tree to tree, with cat-like tread, he came nearer,
amused by an almost boyish pleasure in his own skill. Once the lady
moved, but she looked in the opposite direction, and then at last, when
he was within a dozen yards of her, half-sheltered by a slender stem,
she looked straight across toward him, and the light fell upon her
face. He knew that she saw him, but he could not have moved from the
spot if it had been to save his life, for the lady was Beatrix herself.
In spite of a separation that had lasted two years, in spite of her
final growth out of early girlhood, he knew that he was not mistaken,
and her dark eyes were looking straight into his, telling him that she
knew him, too. There was no fear in them, and she showed no surprise,
but as she looked, a very lovely smile came into her sad face. He was
so glad to see her that he thought little or not at all of her looks.
But she was not beautiful in any common sense, and, saving the
expression in her face, she could hardly have passed for pretty in the
presence of Queen Eleanor and of most of her three hundred ladies. Her
forehead was round and full rather than classic, and the thick dark
eyebrows were somewhat rough and irregular, turning slightly upwards as
they approached each other, a peculiarity which gave an almost pathetic
expression to the eyes themselves; the small and by no means perfectly
shaped nose was sensitively drawn at the nostrils, but had also an odd
look of independence and inquiry; and the wide and shapely lips were
more apt to smile with a half-humorous sadness than to part with
laughter. Small and well-modelled ears were half covered by dark brown
hair that had been almost black in childhood, and which fell to her
shoulders in broad waves, in the fashion used by the Queen. While
Gilbert looked and remained motionless, the girl rose lightly to her
feet, and he saw that she was shorter than he had expected, but slight
and delicately made. With one hand he could have lifted her from the
ground, with two he could have held her in the air like a child. She
was not the Beatrix he remembered, though he had known her instantly;
she was not the solemn, black-eyed maiden of whom he sometimes dreamed;
she was a being full of individual life and thought, quick, sensitive,
perhaps capricious, and charming, if she could charm at all, by a spell
that was quite her own.

Half-frightened at last by his motionless attitude and his silence, she
called him by name.

"Gilbert! What is the matter?"

He shook his broad shoulders as if waking to consciousness, and the
smile in her face was reflected in his own.

The voice, at least, had not changed, and the first tones called up the
long-cherished record of childish years; for scent and sound can span
the wastes of years and the deserts of separation, when sight is dull
and even touch is unresponsive.

Gilbert came forward, holding out both hands; and Beatrix took them
when he was close to her, and held them in hers. The little tears had
started in her eyes, that were glad as flowers at dewfall, and in her
very clear, pale cheeks the colour lightened like the dawn.

The man's face was quiet, and his heart was in no haste, though he was
so glad. He drew her toward him, as he had often done, and she seemed
light and little in his hands. But when he would have kissed her cheek
as in other times, she turned in his hold like a bow that is bent but
not strung, and straightened herself again quickly; and something
tingled in him suddenly, and he tried hard to kiss her; yet when he saw
that he must hurt her, he let her go, and laughed oddly. Her blush
deepened to red and then faded all at once, and she turned her face
away.

"How is it that I have never found you before now?" Gilbert asked
softly. "Were you with the Queen at Vezelay? Have you been with her on
all the march?"

"Yes."

"And did you not know that I was with the army?"

"Yes; but I could not send you any word. She would not let me." The
girl looked round quickly in sudden apprehension. "If she should find
you here, it would be ill for you," she added, with a gesture of
pushing him away.

But he showed that he would not go away.

"The Queen has always been kind to me," he said. "I am not afraid."

Beatrix would not turn to him, and was silent. He was not timid, but
words did not come easily just then; therefore, manlike, he tried to
draw her to him again. But she put away his hand somewhat impatiently
and shook her head, whereat he felt the tingling warmth in his blood
again. Then he remembered how he had felt the same thing on that night
in Vezelay, when the Queen had pressed his arm unexpectedly, and once
before, when she had kissed him in the tennis-court, and he was angry
with himself.

"Come," she said, "let us sit down and talk. There are two years
between us."

She led the way back in the direction whence he had come, and when they
had reached the bank of moss she seated herself and looked out under
the trees, at the blue water. He stood still a moment as though
hesitating, and then sat down beside her, but not quite close to her,
as he would have done in earlier years.

"Yes," he said thoughtfully, "there are two years between us. We must
bridge them."

"And between what we were and what we are there is something more than
time," she answered, still looking far away.

"Yes."

He was silent, and he thought of his mother, and he knew that Beatrix
was thinking of her too, and of her own father. It had not occurred to
him that Beatrix could resent the marriage as bitterly as he, nor that
she could in any way be as great a loser by it as he was.

"Tell me why you left England," he said at last.

"And you? Why did you leave your home?"

She turned to him, and the little melancholy smile that was
characteristic of her was in her face.

"I had no home left," he answered gravely.

"And had I? How could I live with them? No--how could I have lived with
them, knowing what I did, even had they been ever so kind?"

"Were they unkind to you?"

Gilbert's deep eyes grew suddenly pale as they turned to hers, and his
words came slowly and distinctly, like the first drops of a thunder
shower.

"Not at first. They came to the castle where I had been left all alone
after they were married, and my father told me that I must call the
Lady Goda my mother. She kissed me as if she were fond of me for his
sake."

Gilbert started a little, and his teeth set together, while he clasped
his hands over one knee and waited to hear more. Beatrix understood his
look, and knew that she had unintentionally hurt him. She laid her hand
softly upon his arm.

"Forgive me," she said. "I should not talk about it."

"No," he said harshly, "go on! I feel nothing; I am past feeling there.
They were kind to you at first, you said."

"Yes," she continued, looking at him sideways. "They were kind when
they remembered to be, but they often forgot. And then, it was hard to
treat her with respect when I came to know how she had got your
inheritance for my father, and how she had let you leave England to
wander about the world. And then, last year, it seemed to me all at
once that I was a woman and could not bear it any longer, for I saw
that she hated me. And when a son was born to them, my father turned
against me and threatened that he would send me to a nunnery. So I
fled, one day when my father had ridden to Stoke and the Lady Goda was
sleeping in her chamber. A groom and my handmaid helped me and went
with me, for my father would have hanged them if they had stayed
behind; so I took refuge with the Empress Maud at Oxford, and soon
there came a letter from the Queen of France to the Empress, asking
that I might be sent to the French court if I would. And something of
the reason for the Queen's wish I can guess. But not all."

She ceased, and for some moments Gilbert sat silent beside her, but not
as if he had nothing to say. He seemed rather to be checking himself
lest he should say too much.

"So you were at Vezelay," he said at last; "yet I sought your face
everywhere, and I could not see you."

"How did you know?" asked Beatrix.

"The Queen had written to me," he answered; "so I came back from Rome."

"I understand," said the young girl, quietly.

"What is it that you understand?"

"I understand why she has prevented me from seeing you, when you have
been near me for almost a year."

She checked a little sigh, and then looked out at the water again.

"I wish I did," Gilbert answered, with a short laugh.

Beatrix laughed too, but in a different tone.

"How dull you are!" she cried. Gilbert looked at her quickly, for no
man likes to be told that he is dull, by any woman, old or young.

"Am I? It seems to me that you do not put things very clearly."

Beatrix was evidently not persuaded that he was in earnest, for she
looked at him long and gravely.

"We have not met for so long," she said, "that I am not quite sure of
you."

She threw her head back and scrutinized his face with half-closed lids;
and about her lips there was an attempt to smile, that came and went
fitfully.

"Besides," she added, as she turned away at last, "you could not
possibly be so simple as that."

"By 'simple,' do you mean foolish, or do you mean plain?"

"Neither," she answered without looking at him. "I mean innocent."

"Oh!"

Gilbert uttered the ejaculation in a tone expressive rather of
bewilderment than of surprise. He did not in the least understand what
she meant. Seeing that she did not enlighten him, and feeling
uncomfortable, it was quite natural that he should attack her on
different ground.

"You have changed," he said coldly. "I suppose you have grown up, as
you call it."

For a moment Beatrix said nothing, but her lips trembled as if she were
trying not to smile at what he said; and suddenly she could resist no
longer, and laughed at him outright.

"I cannot say the same for you," she retorted presently; "you are
certainly not grown up yet!"

This pleased Gilbert even less than what she had said before, for he
was still young enough to wish himself older. He therefore answered her
laughter with a look of grave contempt. She was woman enough to see
that the time had come to take him by surprise, with a view of
ascertaining the truth.

"How long has the Queen loved you?" she asked suddenly; and while she
seemed not to be looking at him, she was watching every line in his
face, and would have noticed the movement of an eyelash if there had
been nothing else to note. But Gilbert was really surprised.

"The Queen! The Queen love me! Are you beside yourself?"

"Not at all," answered the young girl, quietly; "it is the talk of the
court. They say that the King is jealous of you."

She laughed--gayly, this time, for she saw that he really had had no
idea of the truth. Then she grew grave all at once, for it occurred to
her that she had perhaps made a mistake in putting the idea into his
head.

"At least," she said, as if correcting herself, "that is what they used
to say last year."

"You are quite mad," he said, without a smile. "I cannot imagine how
such an absurd idea could have suggested itself to you. In the first
place, the Queen would never look at a poor Englishman like me--"

"I defy any woman not to look at you," said Beatrix.

"Why?" he asked, with, curiosity.

"Is this more simplicity, or is it more dulness?"

"Both, I suppose," answered Gilbert, in a hurt tone. "You are very
witty."

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "Wit is quite another thing."

Then her tone changed and her face softened wonderfully as she took his
hand.

"I am glad that you do not believe it," she said; "and I am glad that
you do not care to be thought handsome. But I think it is true that the
Queen loves you, and if she sent to England for me, that was merely in
order to bring you back to France. Of course she could not know--"

She checked herself, and he, of course, asked what she had meant to
say, and insisted upon knowing.

"The Queen could not know," she said at last, "that we should seem so
strange to each other when we met."

"Do I seem so strange to you?" he asked, in a sorrowful tone.

"No," she answered, "it is the other way. I can see that you expected
me to be very different."

"Indeed, I did not," answered Gilbert, with some indignation. "At
least," he added hastily, "if I thought anything about it, I did not
expect that you would be half so pretty, or half--"

"If you thought anything about it," laughed Beatrix, interrupting him.

"You know what I mean," he said, justly annoyed by his own lack of tact.

"Oh, yes; of course I do--that is the trouble."

"If we are going to do nothing but quarrel," he said, "I am almost
sorry that I came here."

Again her tone changed, but this time she did not touch his hand.
Hearing her voice, he expected that she would, and he was oddly
disappointed that she did not.

"Nothing could make me sorry that you found me," she answered. "You do
not know how hard I have tried to see you all through this last year!"

Her tone was tender and earnest, and though they had been long parted,
she was nearer to him than he knew. His hand closed upon hers, and in
the little thrill that he felt he forgot his disappointment.

"Could you not send me any word?" he asked.

"I am a prisoner," she answered, more than half in earnest. "It would
be ill for you if the Queen found you here; but there is no danger, for
they are all gone to the high mass in the cathedral."

"And why are you left behind?" he asked.

"They always say that I am not strong," she replied, "especially when
there might be a possibility of your seeing me. She has never allowed
me to be with all the others when the court is together, since I was
brought over from England."

"That is why I did not see you at Vezelay," he said, suddenly
understanding.

And with him to understand was to act. He might have had some
difficulty in persuading himself at leisure that he was seriously in
love with Beatrix, but being taken suddenly and unawares, he had not
the slightest doubt as to what he ought to do. Before she could answer
his last words, he had risen to his feet and was drawing her by the
hand.

"Come," he cried. "I can easily take you by the way I came. It is only
a step, and in five minutes you shall be as free as I am!"

But, to his great surprise, Beatrix seemed inclined to laugh at him.

"Where should we go?" she asked, refusing to leave her seat. "We should
be caught before we reached the city gates, and it would be the worse
for us."

"And who should dare touch us?" asked Gilbert, indignantly. "Who should
dare to lay a hand on you?"

"You are strong and brave," answered Beatrix, "but you are not an army,
and the Queen--but you will not believe what I say."

"If the Queen even cared to see my face, she could send for me. It is
three weeks since I caught a glimpse of her, five hundred yards away."

"She is angry with you," answered the young girl, "and she thinks that
you will wish to be with her, and will find some way of seeing her."

"But," argued Gilbert, "if she only meant to use your name in order to
bring me from Rome, it would have been quite enough to have written
that letter without having brought you at all."

"And how could she tell that I did not know where you were, or that I
could not send you a message which might contradict hers?"

"That is true," Gilbert admitted. "But what does it matter, after all,
since we have met at last?"

"Yes; what does it matter?"

They asked the answerless question of each other almost unconsciously,
for they were finding each other again. There are plants which may be
plucked up half-grown, before their roots have spread in the earth or
their buds ripened to blossoming, and they may lie long in dry places
till they seem withered and dead; but there is life in their fibres
still, and the power to grow is in the shrivelled stem and in the dusty
leaf, so that if they be planted again and tended they come at last to
their due maturity. Gilbert and Beatrix might have lived out their
lives apart, and in the course of years they would have been the merest
memories to each other; but having met in the slow weaving of fate's
threads, they became destined to win or lose together.

Their conversation needed but the slightest direction to take them back
to the recollections of other times, and one of the first elements of
lasting love is a common past, though that past may have covered but a
few days. To that memory lovers go back as to the starting-point of
life's journey, and though they may not speak of it often, yet its
existence is the narrow ledge on which they have reared their
stronghold in the perilous pass. And the English boy and girl had
really lived a joint life, in their sympathies and surroundings, for
years before a joint misfortune had overtaken them. In their meeting
after a long separation they felt at the same time the rare delight of
friendship renewed, and the still rarer charm of finding new
acquaintances in old friends; but besides the well-remembered bond of
habit, and the strong attraction of newly awakened interest, there was
the masterful, nameless something upon which man's world has spun for
all ages, as the material earth turns on its poles toward the
sun--always to hope beyond failure, always to life beyond death, always
and forever to love beyond life. It is the spark from heaven, the
stolen fire, the mask of divinity with which the poorest of mankind may
play himself a god. It has all powers, and it brings all gifts--the
gift of tongues, for it is above words; the gift of prophecy, for it
has foreknowledge of its own sadness; the gift of life, for it is
itself that elixir in which mankind boasts of eternal youth.

The two sat side by side and talked, and were silent, and talked again,
understanding each other and happy in finding more to understand. The
sun rose high and fell through the rustling leaves in fanciful warm
tracery of light; down from the Bosphorus the sweet northerly breeze
came over the rippling water, laden with the scent of orange-blossoms
from the Asian shore and with the perfume of late roses from far
Therapia. Between the trees they could see the white sails of little
vessels beating to windward up the narrow channel, and now and then the
dyed canvas of a fisherman's craft set a strangely disquieting note of
colour upon the sea. There seemed to be no time, for all life was
theirs, and it was all before them; an hour had passed, and they had
not told each other half; another came and went, and what there was to
tell still gained upon them.

[Illustration: BEATRIX AND GILBERT]

They talked of the Crusade, and of how the Queen had given her ladies
no choice, commanding them to follow her, as a noble would order his
vassals to rise with him to the king's war. Three hundred ladies were
to wear mail and lead the van of battle, the fairest ladies of France
and Aquitaine, of Gascony, of Burgundy, and of Provence. So far, a few
had ridden, and many had been carried in closed litters slung between
mules or borne on the broad shoulders of Swiss porters; and each lady
had her serving-maid, and her servants and mules heavy laden with the
furniture of beauty, with laces and silks and velvets, jewellery and
scented waters, and salves for the face, of great virtue against cold
and heat. It was a little army in itself, recruited of the women, and
in which beauty was rank, and rank was power; and in order that the
three hundred might ride with Queen Eleanor in the most marvellous
masquerade of all time, a host of some two thousand servants and
porters crossed Europe on foot and on horseback from the Rhine to the
Bosphorus. The mere idea was so vastly absurd that Gilbert had laughed
at it many a time by himself; and yet there was at the root of it an
impulse which was rather sublime than ridiculous. Between its
conception and its execution the time was too long, and the hot blood
of daring romance already felt the fatal chill of coming failure.

Gilbert looked at the delicate features and the slight figure beside
him, and he resented the mere thought that Beatrix should ever be
exposed to weariness and hardship. But she laughed.

"I am always left behind on great occasions," she said. "You need not
fear for me, for I shall certainly not be seen on the Queen's left hand
when she overcomes the Seljuks without your help. I shall be told to
wait quietly in my tent until it is all over. What can I do?"

"You can at least let me know where you are," answered Gilbert.

"What satisfaction shall you get from that? You cannot see me; you
cannot come to me in the ladies' camp."

"Indeed I can, and will," answered Gilbert, without the least
hesitation.

"At the risk of the Queen's displeasure?"

"At any risk."

"How strange it is!" exclaimed Beatrix, raising her eyebrows a little,
but smiling happily. "This morning you would not have risked anything
especial for the sake of finding me, but now that we have met by chance
you are ready to do anything and everything to see me again."

"Of some things," answered her companion, "one does not know how much
one wants them till they are within reach."

"And there are others which one longs for till one has them, and which
one despises as soon as they are one's own."

"What things may those be?" asked Gilbert.

"I have heard Queen Eleanor say that a husband is one of them,"
answered Beatrix, demurely, "but I dare say that she is not always
right."

Side by side the two sat in the autumn noonday, each forgetful of all
but the other, in the perfect unconsciousness of the difference their
meeting was to make in their lives from that day onward. Yet after the
first few words they did not speak again of Beatrix's father nor of
Gilbert's mother. By a common instinct they tried to lose both, in the
happiness of again finding one another.

Then, at last, a cloud passed over the sun, and Beatrix felt a little
chill that was like the breath of a coming evil while Gilbert became
suddenly very grave and thoughtful.

Beatrix looked round, more in fear than in suspicion, as a child does
at night, when it has been frightened by a tale of goblins; and,
turning, she caught sight of something and turned farther, and then
started with a scared cry and half rose, with her hand on Gilbert's
arm. Anxious for her, he sprang up to his height at the sound of her
voice, and at the same moment he saw what she saw, and uttered an
exclamation of surprise. It was not a cloud that had passed between
them and the sun. The Queen stood there, as she had come from the
Office in the church, a veil embroidered with gold pinned upon her head
in a fashion altogether her own. Her clear eyes were very bright and
hard, and her beautiful lips had a frozen look.

"It is very long since I have seen you," she said to Gilbert, "and I
had not thought to see you here--of all places--unbidden."

"Nor I to be here, Madam," answered the Englishman.

"Did you come here in your sleep?" asked the Queen, coldly.

"For aught that I can tell how I got here, it may be as your Grace
says. I came by such a way as I may not find again."

"I care not how soon you find another, sir, so that it be a way out."

Gilbert had never seen the Queen gravely displeased, and as yet she had
been very kind to him when he had been in her presence. Against her
anger he drew himself up, for he neither loved her nor feared her, and
as he looked at her now he saw in her eyes that haunting memory of his
own mother which had disturbed him more than once.

"I ask your Grace's pardon," he said slowly, "for having entered
uninvited. Yet I am glad that I did, since I have found what was kept
from me so long."

"I fancied your idol so changed that you might not care to find it
after all!"

Beatrix hardly understood what the words meant, but she knew that they
were intended to hurt both her and Gilbert, and she saw by his face
what he felt. Knowing as she did that the Queen was very strongly
attracted by him, she would not have been human if she had not felt in
her throat the pulse of triumph, as she stood beside the most beautiful
woman in the world, pale, slight, sad-eyed, but preferred before the
other's supreme beauty by the one man whose preference meant anything
at all. But a moment later she forgot herself and feared for him.

"Madam," he said very slowly and distinctly, "I trust that I may not
fail in courtesy, either toward your Grace, or toward any other woman,
high or low; and none but the blind man would deny that, of all women,
you are fairest, wherefore you may cast it in the face of other ladies
of your court that you are fairer than they. But since your Grace would
wear a man's armour and draw a knight's sword, and ride for the Cross,
shoulder to shoulder with the gentlemen of Normandy and Gascony and
France, I shall tell you without fear of discourtesy, as one man would
tell another, that your words and your deeds are less gentle than your
royal blood."

He finished speaking and looked her quietly in the face, his arms
folded, his brow calm, his eyes still and clear. Beatrix fell back a
step and drew anxious breath, for it was no small thing to cross words
boldly with the sovereign next in power to the Emperor himself. And at
the first, the seething blood hissed in the Queen's ears, and her
lovely face grew ashy pale, and her wrath rose in her eyes with the red
shadow of coming revenge. But no manlike impulse moved her hand nor her
foot, and she stood motionless, with half her mantle gathered round
her. In the fierce silence, the two faced each other, while Beatrix
looked on, half sick with fear. Neither moved an eyelash, nor did the
glance of either flinch, till it seemed as if a spell had bound them
there forever, motionless, under the changing shadows of the leaves,
only their hair stirring in the cool wind. Eleanor knew that no man had
ever thus faced her before. For a few moments she felt the absolute
confidence in herself which had never failed her yet; the certainty of
strength which drove the King to take refuge from her behind a barrier
of devotion and prayer; the insolence of wit and force against which
the holy man of Clairvaux had never found a weapon of thought or
speech. And still the hard Norman eyes were colder and angrier than her
own, and still the man's head was high, and his face like a mask. At
last she felt her lids tremble, and her lips quiver; his face moved
strangely in her sight, his cold resistance hurt her as if she were
thrusting herself uselessly against a rock; she knew that he was
stronger than she, and that she loved him. The struggle was over; her
face softened, and her eyes looked down. Beatrix could not understand,
for she had expected that the Queen would command Gilbert to leave
them, and that before long her vengeance would most certainly overtake
him. But instead, it was the young soldier without fame or fortune, the
boy with whom she had many a time played children's games, before whom
Eleanor, Duchess of Guienne and Queen of France, lost courage and
confidence.

A moment later she looked up again, and not a trace of her anger was
left to see. Simply and quietly she came to Gilbert's side and laid her
hand upon his sleeve.

"You make me say things I do not mean," she said.

If she had actually asked his forgiveness in words, she could not have
expressed a real regret more plainly, nor perhaps could she have done
anything so sure to produce a strong impression upon the two who heard
her. Gilbert's face relaxed instantly, and Beatrix forgot to be afraid.

"I crave your Grace's pardon," said the young man. "If I spoke rudely
let my excuse be that it was not for myself. We were children
together," he added, looking at Beatrix, "we grew up together, and
after long parting we have met by chance. There is much left of what
there was. I pray that without concealment I may see the Lady Beatrix
again."

The Queen turned slowly from them and stood for a few moments looking
toward the sea. Then she turned again and smiled at Gilbert, not
unkindly; but she said no word, and presently, as they stood there, she
left them, and walked slowly away with bent head, toward the palace.



CHAPTER XIV


Three weeks the French armies lay encamped without the walls of
Constantinople, while the Emperor of the Greeks used every art and
every means to rid himself of the unwelcome host, without giving
overmuch offence to his royal guests. The army of Conrad, he said, had
gained a great victory in Asia Minor. Travel-stained messengers arrived
in Chrysopolis, and were brought across the Bosphorus to appear before
the King and Queen of France, with tales of great and marvellous deeds
of arms against the infidels. Fifty thousand Seljuks had been drowned
in their own blood; three times that number had fled from the field,
and were scattered fainting and wounded in the Eastern hills; vast
spoils of gold and silver had fallen to the Christians, and if the
Frenchmen craved a share in the victories of the Cross, or hoped for
some part or parcel of the splendid booty, it was high time that they
should be marching to join the Germans in the field.

Yet Louis would have tarried longer to complete the full month of
devotions and thanksgiving for the march accomplished, and many of his
followers would cheerfully have spent the remainder of their days on
the pleasant shores of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn; but the Queen
was weary of the long preface to her unwritten history of arms, and
grew impatient, and took the Greek Emperor's side, believing all the
messages which he provided for her imagination. And so at last the
great multitude was brought over to Asia by boat, and marched by quick
stages to the plain of Nicaea. There they pitched their camp by the
Lake of Ascanius, and waited for news of the Germans; for the
messengers had brought information that the German Emperor desired to
make Nicaea the trysting-place. But the messengers had all been Greeks,
and the French waited many days in vain, spoiling the country of all
they could take, though it was in the dominion of Christians, and no
man dared raise a hand to defend his own against the Crusaders.

Among the French, there were many, both of the great lords and of the
simple knights, and of poor men-at-arms, who would have counted it
mortal sin to take anything from a stranger without payment, who had
come for faith's sake, to fight for faith, and who looked for faith's
reward. Yet as there can be in logic nothing good excepting by its own
comparison with things evil, so in that great pilgrimage of arms the
worst followed the best in a greedy throng, as the jackal and the raven
cross the desert in the lion's track. And the roads by which they had
marched, and the lands wherein they had camped, lay waste as lie the
wheat-fields of Palestine in June, when the plague of locusts has eaten
its way from east to west.

When they came to a resting-place after many days' march, mud-stained
or white with dust, weary and footsore, their horses lame, their mules
overladen with the burdens of those that had died by the way, beards
half grown, hair unkempt, faces grimy, clothes worn shapeless, they
were more like a multitude of barbarians wandering upon the plains of
Asia than like nobles of France and high-born Crusaders. At first, when
they reached the halting-place by stream or river or lake, there was a
struggle for drinking and a strife for the watering of horses and
beasts of burden, so that sometimes men and mules were trampled down
and hurt, and some were killed; but it mattered little in so great a
host, and a spade's depth of earth was ample burial for a man, and if a
priest could be found to bless his body on the spot where he lay it was
enough, since he had died on the road to Jerusalem; but the jackals and
wild dogs followed the march and lay in wait for dead beasts. Then when
the first confusion was over, when hunger and thirst were satisfied,
the tents were unpacked with their poles, and the sound of the great
wooden mallets striking upon the tent-pegs was like the irregular
pounding stroke of the fullers' hammers as the water-wheel makes them
rise and fall; and though the army had crossed Europe and had encamped
in many places, the colours of the tents were bright still, and the
pennants floated in streaks of vivid colour against the sky. Soon, when
the first work was over and the little villages of red and green and
purple and white canvas were built up in their long irregular lines,
the smoke of camp-fires rose in curling wreaths, and bag and baggage,
pack and parcel, were opened and the contents spread out. As if for
some great festival, men and women chose their gayest clothes and
richest ornaments, so that when they met again before the open tents
which were set up for chapels, one for each little band of
fellow-townsmen and neighbours at home, and afterwards when they ate
and drank together according to their rank, under wide awnings at
noontide, or beneath the clear sky in the cool of the evening, it was a
goodly sight, and every man's heart was lightened and his courage
returned as he felt that he himself had his share and part of the
glorious whole. For it was as it always is and always must be, where
power and wealth are masters of the scene, and there is no acting room
for misery or sorrow or such poor strolling players as sickness and
death. The things which please not the eye are quick to offend souls
nursed in a faultless taste, and the charnel-house of failure receives
whatsoever things have not the power of pleasing.

Now when they came to Nicaea, hope was high, and the light of victory
to come seemed to be shining in every man's eyes. There for the first
time Queen Eleanor led out her three hundred ladies in battle array,
clad in bright mail, with skirts of silk and cloth of gold, and long
white mantles, each with the scarlet cross upon the shoulder; and on
their heads they wore light caps of steel ornamented with chiselled
gold and silver, and here and there with a metal crest or a bird's
wing, beaten out of thin silver plate.

It was at noonday under the fair autumn sun. A broad meadow, green
still in patches, where the grass had not been burned brown by the
early summer heat, stretched toward the Lake of Ascanius, where the
ground rose in hillocks, to end abruptly in a sheer fall of thirty or
forty feet to the water's edge. There were places where there was no
grass at all, and where the dry gravel lay bare and dusty, yet on the
whole it was a fair field for a great assembly of men on horseback and
on foot. To southward the meadow rose, rolling away to the distant
hills, whither the German host was already gone. The great lords, with
their men-at-arms and squires, riding each in the midst of his vassal
knights, went out thither to see such a sight as none had seen before,
and ranged themselves by ranks around the field, so that there was room
for all. And thither Gilbert went also with his man Dunstan, in the
King's train, for he owed no service nor allegiance to any man there.
But they waited long for the Queen.

She came at last, leading her company and mounted on a beautiful white
Arab mare, the gift of the Greek Emperor, as gentle a creature as ever
obeyed voice and hand, and as swift as the swiftest of the breed of
Nejd. She rode alone, ten lengths before the rest, tall and straight in
the saddle as any man, a lance in her right hand, while her left held
the bridle low and lightly; and at the very first glance every soldier
in that great field knew that there was none like her in the troop. Yet
her fair ladies made a good showing and rode not badly as they cantered
by, brilliant and changing as a shower of blossoms, with black eyes,
and blue, and brown, fair cheeks and dark, and laughing lips not made
to talk of rough deeds save to praise them in husband or lover.

Next to the Queen and before the following ranks rode one who bore the
standard of Eleanor's ancient house, Saint George and the Dragon,
displayed on a white ground and now for the first time quartered in a
cross. The Lady Anne of Auch was very dark, and her black hair streamed
like a shadow in the air behind her, while her dark eyes looked upward
and onward. Splendidly handsome she was, and doubtless Eleanor had
chosen her for her beauty to be standard bearer of the troop, well
knowing that no living face could be compared with her own, and willing
to outshine a rival whose features and form were the honour and boast
of the South.

They rode in a sort of order, in squadrons of fifty each, but not in
serried ranks, for they had not the skill to keep in line, though they
rode well and boldly. And before each squadron rode a lady who for her
beauty or her rank, or for both, was captain, and wore upon her steel
cap a gilded crest. Each squadron had a colour of its own, scarlet and
green and violet, and the tender shade of anemones in spring, and their
mantles had been dyed with each hue in the dyeing-vats of Venice, and
were lined with delicately tinted silks from the East, brought to the
harbours of France by Italian traders. For the merchants of Amalfi
filled the Mediterranean with their busy commerce and had quarters of
their own in every Eastern city, and had then but lately founded the
saintly order of the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem,
whence grew the noble community of the Knights of Malta, which was to
live through many centuries even to our day.

Nor could the Queen's ladies have worn mail and steel and wielded sword
and lance, so that at a long stone's throw they might almost have
passed for men, but that cunning jewellers and artificers of Italy, and
Moorish smiths from Spain, had been brought at great pains and cost to
France to make such armour and weapons as had never been wrought
before. The mail was of finest rings of steel sewn upon soft doeskin,
fitted so closely that there was no room for gambison or jerkin; and
though it might have stopped a broad arrow or turned the edge of a
blade, a sharp dagger could have made a wound beneath it, and against a
blow it afforded less protection than a woollen cloak. Many had little
rings of gold sewn regularly in the rows of steel ones, that caught the
light with a warmer sparkle, and the clasps of their mantles were of
chiselled gold and silver. The trappings of each horse were matched in
colour with the ladies' mantles, and the captains of the squadrons wore
golden spurs.

They dropped the points of their lances as they passed the King where
he sat on his horse, a stone's throw from the high shore of the lake,
in the midst of his chief barons, his pale face expressing neither
interest nor pleasure in what he saw, and his eyes distrustful, as
always, of his Queen and her many caprices. She, when she had saluted
him with a smile that was almost a laugh, rode on a little way, and
then, with a sharply uttered word of command, she wheeled by the left,
crossed half the broad field, and led her ladies back straight toward
the King. Within five lengths of him she halted suddenly, almost
bringing her horse's haunches to the ground, and keeping her seat in a
way that would have done credit to a man brought up in the saddle. To
tell the truth, very few of her ladies were able to perform such a feat
with any ease or assurance, and in the sudden halt there was more than
a little disorder, accompanied by all sorts of exclamations of
annoyance and ejaculations of surprise; yet, in spite of difficulty,
the whole troop came to a standstill; moreover, a hundred thousand or
more of knights and soldiers on horseback and on foot were so much more
interested in the looks of the riders than in their horsemanship, and
the whole effect of the gay confusion, with its many colours, its
gleams of gold and glint of silver, was so pretty and altogether novel,
that a great cry of enthusiasm and delight rang in the sunny air. A
faint flush of pleasure rose in the Queen's cheeks, and her eyes
sparkled with triumph at the long applause which was on her side
against the King's disapproval. She dropped the point of her lance
until it almost touched the ground, and spoke to her husband in a high
clear voice that was heard by many.

"I present to your Grace this troop of brave knights," she said. "In
strength the advantage is yours, in numbers, you far outdo us, in age
you are older, in experience there are those with you who have lived a
lifetime in arms. Yet we have some skill also, and those who are old in
battles know that the victory belongs to the spirit and the heart,
before it is the work of the hand; and in these my knights are not
behind yours."

The men who heard her words and saw the lovely light in her wondrous
face threw up their right hands and shouted great cheers for her and
her three hundred riders, but the King spoke no word of praise, and his
face was still and sour. Again the Queen's cheek flushed.

"Your Grace leads the army of France," she said, "an army of brave men.
My knights are many, and brave too, the troops of Guienne and of Poitou
and of Gascony and of more than half of all the duchies that speak our
tongue and owe me allegiance. But of them all, and before them all, to
ride in van of this Holy War, I choose these three hundred ladies. My
Lord King, and you, lords, barons, knights, and men, who have taken
upon you the sign of the Cross, you, the flower of French chivalry and
manhood, your comrades in arms are these, the flowers of France! Long
live the King!"

She threw up her lance and caught it easily in her right hand as she
uttered the cry, laughing in the King's face, and well knowing her
power compared with his; and as the high young voices behind her took
up the shout, the great multitude that bordered the meadow took it up
also; but one word was changed, and a hundred thousand throats shouted,
"Long live the Queen!"

When there was silence at last, the King looked awkwardly to his right
and left as if seeking advice; but the nobles about him were watching
the fair ladies, and had perhaps no counsel to offer. In the great
stillness the Queen waited, still smiling triumphantly, and still he
could find nothing to say, so that a soft titter ran through the
ladies' ranks, whereat the King looked more sour than ever.

"Madam," he began at last. And after that he seemed to be speaking, but
no one heard what he said.

Apparently with the intention of showing that he had nothing more to
say,--and indeed it was of very little importance whether he had or
not,--he waved his hand with a rather awkward gesture and slightly
bowed his head.

"Long live the monk!" said Eleanor, audibly, as she wheeled to the
right to lead her troop away.

Gilbert Warde sat on his horse in the front line of the spectators,
some fifty yards from the King, and near the edge of the lake. As the
Queen cantered along the line, gathering her harvest of admiration in
men's faces, her eyes met the young Englishman's and recognized him. On
his great Norman horse he sat half a head taller than the men on each
side of him, motionless as a statue. Yet his look expressed something
which she had never seen in his face till then; for, being freed from
her immediate influence and at liberty to look on her merely as the
loveliest sight in the world, more strangely beautiful than ever in her
gleaming armour, he had not thought of concealing the pleasure he felt
in watching her.

Not all the cheering of the great army, not all the light in the
thousands of eyes that followed her, could have done more than bring a
faint colour to her face, nor could any man in all that host have found
a word to make her heart beat faster. But when she saw Gilbert the
blood sank suddenly and her eyes grew darker. They lingered on him as
she rode by, and turned back to him a little with drooping lids, and a
slight bend of the head that had in it a grace beyond her own knowledge
or intention. He, like those beside him, threw up his hand and cheered
again, arid she did not see that almost before she had passed him he
was looking along the ranks for another face.

The three hundred cantered slowly round half the meadow, and the cheer
followed them as they went, like the moving cry of birds on the wing;
and first they rode along the line of the King's men, but presently
they came to the knights and soldiers of Eleanor's great vassalage, and
all at once there were flowers in the air, wild flowers from the fields
and autumn roses from the gardens of Nicaea, plucked early by young
squires and boys, and tied into nosegays and carefully shielded from
the sun, that they might be still fresh when the time came to throw
them. The light blossoms scattered in the air, and the leaves were
blown into the faces of the fair women as they passed. Moreover, some
of the knights had silken scarfs of red and white, and waved them above
their heads while they cheered and shouted. And so the troop rode round
three sides of the great meadow.

But at the last side there was a change that fell like a chill upon the
whole multitude of men and women, and a cry came ringing down the air
that struck a discord through the triumphant notes, long, harsh, bad to
hear as the howl of wild beasts when the fire licks up the grass of the
wilderness behind them. At the sound, men turned their heads and looked
in the direction whence it came, and many, by old instinct, slipped
their left hands to the hilts of sword and dagger, and felt that each
blade was loose in its sheath. As she galloped along, Queen Eleanor's
white mare threw up her head sideways with a snort and swerved, almost
wrenching the bridle from the Queen's hold, and at the same moment the
lusty cheering broke high in the air and died fitfully away. The
instinct of fear and the foreknowledge of great evil were present,
unseen and terrible, and of the three hundred ladies who reined in
their horses as the Queen halted, nine out of ten felt that they
changed colour, scarcely knowing why. With one common impulse all
turned their eyes towards the rising ground to southward.

There were strange figures upon the low hillocks, riding out of the
woods at furious speed towards the meadow, and already the deep lines
began to open and part to make way for the rush. There were men
bareheaded, with rags of mantles streaming on the wind, spurring lame
and jaded horses to the speed of a charge, and crying out strange words
in tones of terror. But only one word was understood by some of those
who heard.

"The Seljuks! The Seljuks!"

Down the gentle slope they came spurring like madmen. As they drew
nearer, one could see that there was blood on their armour, blood on
the rags of their cloaks, blood on their faces and on their hands; some
were wounded in the head, and the clotted gore made streaks upon their
necks; some had bandages upon them made of strips of torn-up
clothes--and one man who rode in the front, when his horse sprang a
ditch at the foot of the hill, threw up an arm that was without a hand.

No man of all the throng who had ever seen war doubted the truth for
one moment after the first of the wild riders was in sight, and the
older and more experienced men instinctively looked into each other's
faces and came forward together. But even had they been warned in time,
they could have done nothing against the fright that seized the younger
men and the women at the throat like a bodily enemy, choking out hope
and strength and youth in the dreadful premonition of untimely death.
The squires pressed upon the knights, the boys and young men-at-arms
and the followers of the camp forced their weight inward next, and the
inner circle yielded and allowed itself to be crushed in upon the troop
of ladies, whose horses began to plunge and rear with their riders'
fright; and still, on one side, the crowd tried to part before the
coming fugitives. The first came tearing down, his horse's nostrils
streaming with blood, himself wild-eyed, with foam-flecked lips that
howled the words of terror. "The Seljuks! The Seljuks!"

A dozen lengths before the terror-stricken wall of human beings that
could not make way to let him in, without warning, without a
death-gasp, the horse doubled his head under himself as he galloped his
last stride, and falling in a round heap rolled over and over forwards
with frightful violence, till he suddenly lay stiff and stark with
twisted neck and outstretched heels, within a yard of the shrinking
crowd, his rider crushed to death on the grass behind him. And still
the others came tearing down the hill, more and more, faster and
faster, as if no earthly power could stop their rush. First a score and
then a hundred, and then the torn remnants of a vanquished host, blown,
as it were like fallen leaves by the whirlwind of the death they had
but just escaped. Many of them, not knowing and not caring what they
did, and remembering only the wrath from which they fled, did not even
try to rein in their horses, and the beasts themselves, mad with fright
and pain, charged right at the ranks of people on foot and reared their
full height at the last bound rather than override a living man; and
many were crushed in the press, and many fell from their jaded mounts,
too weary to rise and too much exhausted to utter any words save a cry
for water.

Nevertheless, two or three who had more life in them than the rest were
able to stand, and were presently led round the close-packed crowd to
the edge of the lake, where the King was quietly waiting with his
courtiers until the confusion should end itself, saying a prayer or two
for the welfare of every one concerned, but making not the slightest
attempt to restrain the panic nor to restore order. But the Queen and
her ladies were in danger of being crushed to death in the very midst
of the seething, bruising, stifling mass of humanity.

Gilbert was near the King, and sitting high on his great horse he saw
farther than most men above the wild confusion. It was as if some
frightful, unseen monster were gathering a hundred thousand men in iron
coils, always inward, as great snakes crush their prey, thousands upon
thousands, the bodies of horses and men upon men and horses, with
resistless force, till the human beings could struggle no longer, and
the beasts themselves could neither kick nor plunge, but only trample
all that was near them, while they moved slowly towards the centre. In
thousands and thousands again, on an almost even level, the small round
caps of many colours were pressed together, till it seemed impossible
that there could be room for the bodies that belonged to them. As when,
in vintage time, the gathered fruit is brought home to the vats in the
sweating panniers of wood, pressed down and level to the brim, and the
red and white and blue and green grapes lie closely touching each other
almost floating in the juice, rocking and bobbing all at once with
every step of the laden mule--so, as Gilbert looked out before him, the
bright-hued, close-fitting caps moved restlessly and without ceasing
all round a central turmoil of splendid colour, shaded by tender tones
of violet and olive, and shot by the glare of sunlit gold, and the
sheen of silver, and the cold light of polished steel.

But there in the heart of the press there was danger, and from far away
Gilbert saw clearly enough, through the cloud of light and colour, the
lifeless tones that are like nothing else of nature, the deadly
unreflecting paleness of frightened faces, and the cries of women hurt
and in terror came rising over the heads of the multitude. He sat still
and looked before him as if his sight could distinguish the features of
one or another at that distance, and he felt icy cold when he thought
of what might happen, and that all those fair young girls and women, in
their beauty and in their youth, in their fanciful dresses, might be
crushed and trampled and kicked to death before thousands who would
have died to save them. His first instinct was to charge the crowd
before him, to force the way, even by the sword, and to bring the Queen
and her ladies safely back; but a moment's thought showed him how
utterly futile any such attempt must be, and that even if the whole
throng had felt as he felt himself, and had wished to make way for any
one, it would have had no power to do so. There was but one chance of
saving the women, and that evidently lay in leading off the crowd by
some excitement counter to its present fear.

The instant the difficulty and the danger flashed upon him Gilbert
began to look about him for some means of safety for those in peril,
and in his distress of mind every lost minute was monstrously
lengthened as it passed. Beside him, his man Dunstan stood in silence,
apparently indifferent to all that was taking place, his quiet dark
face a trifle more drawn and keen than usual; and though a very slight
contraction of the curved nostrils expressed some inward excitement, it
was scarcely perceptible. Gilbert knew that his own face showed his
extreme anxiety, and as he in vain attempted to find some expedient,
the man's excessive coolness began to irritate him.

"You stand there," said Gilbert, rather coldly, "as if you did not care
that three hundred ladies of France are being crushed to death and that
we Englishmen can do nothing to help them."

Dunstan raised his lids and looked up at his master without lifting his
head.

"I am not so indifferent as the King, sir," he answered, barely raising
a finger in the direction of the knot of courtiers, in the midst of
whom, some fifty yards away, the cold, pale face of the King was just
then distinctly visible. "France might be burned before his eyes, yet
he would pray for his own soul rather than lift a hand for the lives of
others."

"We are as bad as he," retorted Gilbert, almost angrily, and moving
uneasily in his saddle as he felt himself powerless.

Dunstan did not answer at once, and he bit one side of his lower lip
nervously with his pointed teeth. Suddenly he stooped down and picked
up something against which his foot had struck as he moved. Gilbert
paid no attention to what he did.

"Do you wish to draw away the crowd so as to make room for the Queen?"
he asked.

"Of course I do!" Gilbert looked at his man inquiringly, though his
tone was harsh and almost angry. "We cannot cut a way for them through
the crowd," he added, looking before him again.

Dunstan laughed quietly.

"I will lay my life against a new tunic that I can make this multitude
spin on itself like a whipped top," he said. "But I admit that you
could not, sir."

"Why not?" asked Gilbert, instantly bending down in order to hear
better. "What can you do that I cannot?"

"What gentle blood could never do," replied the man, with a shade of
bitterness. "Shall I have the new tunic if I save the Lady Beatrix--and
the Queen of France?"

"Twenty! Anything you ask for! But be quick--"

Dunstan stooped again, and again picked up something from under his
foot.

"I am only a churl," he said as he stood upright again, "but I can risk
my life like you for a lady, and if I win, I would rather win a sword
than a bit of finery."

"You shall win more than that," Gilbert answered, his tone changing.
"But if you know of anything to do, in the name of God do it quickly,
for it is time."

"Good-by, sir."

Gilbert heard the two words, and while they were still in his ears,
half understood, Dunstan had slipped away among the squires and knights
around them, and was lost to sight.

One minute had not passed when a wild yell rent the air, with fierce
words, high and clear, which thousands must have heard at the very
first, even had they not been repeated again and again.

"The King has betrayed us! The King is a traitor to the Cross!"

At the very instant a stone flew straight from Dunstan's unerring hand,
and struck the King's horse fairly between the eyes, upon the rich
frontlet, heavy with gold embroidery. The charger reared up violently
to his height, and before he had got his head down to plunge, Dunstan's
furious scream split the air again, and the second stone struck the
King himself full on the breast, and rolled to the saddle and then to
the ground.

"The King has betrayed us all! Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!"

There never yet was a feverish, terror-struck throng of men, suddenly
disheartened by the unanswerable evidence of a great defeat by which
they themselves might be lost, that would not take up the cry of
"Traitor!" against their leaders. Before he raised his voice, Dunstan
had got among men who knew him neither by sight nor by name, and the
second stone had not sped home before he was gone again in a new
direction, silent now, with compressed lips, his inscrutable dark eyes
looking sharply about him. He had done his work, and he knew what might
happen to him if he were afterwards recognized. But none heeded him.
The uproar went surging towards the King with a rising fury, like the
turn of the tide in a winter storm, roaring up to the breaking pitch,
and many would have stoned him and torn him to pieces; but there were
many also, older and cooler men, who pressed round him, shoulder to
shoulder, with swords drawn and flashing in the sunlight, and faces set
to defend their liege lord and sovereign. In an instant the flying
Germans were forgotten; and the Emperor and his army, and the meaning
of the Holy War and of the Cross itself, were gone from men's minds in
the fury of riot on the one side, in the stern determination of defence
on the other. The vast weight of men rolled forward, pushed by those
behind, forcing the King and those who stood by him to higher ground.
In dire distress, and almost hopeless of extricating her gentle troop
from destruction, the Queen heard the new tumult far away, and felt the
close press yielding on one side. The word 'traitor' ran along like a
quick echo from mouth to mouth, repeated again and again, sometimes
angrily, sometimes in tones of unbelief, but always repeated, until
there was scarcely one man in a hundred thousand whose lips had not
formed the syllables. Eleanor saw her husband and his companions with
their drawn swords moving in the air, on the knoll; she heard the
stinging word, and a hard and scornful look lingered in her face a
moment. She knew that the accusation was false, that it was too utterly
empty to have meaning for honest men; yet she despised her husband
merely because a madman could cast such a word at him; and in the
security of power and dominions far greater than his, as well as of a
popularity to which he could never attain, she looked upon him in her
heart as a contemptible kinglet, to marry whom had been her most
foolish mistake. And it had become the object of her life to put him
away if she could.

For a few moments she looked on across the sea of heads that had
already begun to move away. Her mare was quieter now in the larger
space, being a docile creature, but many of the other ladies' horses
were still plunging and kicking, though so crowded that they could do
each other little hurt. She saw how the knights were forcing their way
to the King's side, and how the great herd of footmen resisted them,
while the word of shame rose louder in their yells; and though she
despised the King, the fierce instinct of the great noble against the
rabble ran through her like a painful shock, and her face turned pale
as she felt her anger in her throat.

There was room now, for the great throng was rushing from her,
spreading like a river, and dividing at the hillock where it met the
knights' swords, and flowing to right and left along the edge of the
lake. The Queen looked behind her, to see what ladies were nearest to
her, and she saw her standard bearer, Anne of Auch, fighting her
rearing charger; and next to her, quiet and pale, on a vicious
Hungarian gelding a great deal too big for her, but which she seemed to
manage with extraordinary ease, sat Beatrix de Curboil, a small, slim
figure in a delicate mail that looked no stronger than a silver
fishing-net, her shape half hidden by her flowing mantle of soft
olive-green with its scarlet cross on the shoulder, and wearing a
silver dove's wing on her light steel cap.

Her eyes met Eleanor's and lightened in sympathy of thought, so that
the other understood in a flash. The Queen's right hand went up,
lifting the lance high in air; half wheeling to the left, and turning
her head still farther, she called out to those behind her:--

"Ladies of France! The rabble is at the King--Forward!"

An instant later, the fleet Arab mare was galloping straight for the
crowd, and Eleanor did not look behind her again, but held her lance
before her and a little raised, so that it was just ready to fall into
rest. Directly behind her rode the Lady Anne, the shaft of the standard
in the socket of her stirrup, her arm run through the thong, so that
she had both hands free; she sat erect in the saddle, her horse already
at a racing gallop, neck out, eyes up, red nostrils wide, delighting in
being free from restraint; and Beatrix was there, too, like a feather
on her big brown Hungarian, that thundered along like a storm, his
wicked ears laid straight back, and his yellowish young teeth showing
under his quivering lip. But of all the three hundred ladies none
followed them. The others had not understood the Queen's command, or
had not heard, or could not manage their horses, or were afraid. And
the three women rode at the mob, that was now four hundred yards away.

Straight they rode, heedless and unaware that they were alone, nor
counting how little three women could do against thousands. But the
people heard the hammering hoofs of the two big horses, and the Arab's
light footfall resounded quickly and steadily, as the fingers of a
dancer striking the tambourine. Hundreds glanced back to see who rode
so fast, and thousands turned their heads to know why the others
looked; and all, seeing the Queen, pressed back to right and left,
making way, partly in respect for her and much in fear for themselves.
Far up the rising ground, the riot ceased as suddenly as it had begun;
the men-at-arms drew back in shame, and many tried to hide their faces,
lest they should be known again. The tide of human beings divided
before the swiftly riding women, as the cloud-bank splits before the
northwest wind in winter, and the white mare sped like a ray of light
between long wavering lines of rough faces and gleaming arms.

The Queen glanced scornfully to each side as she passed in a gale, and
the dear sense of power soothed her stirred pride. Still the line
opened, and still she rode on, scarcely rising and sinking with the
mare's wonderful stride. But the way that was made for her was not
straight to the King now; the throng was more dense there, and the
people parted as they could, so that the three ladies had to follow the
only open passage. Suddenly, before them, there was an end, where the
rolling ground broke away sharply in a fall of forty feet to the edge
of the lake below. The heads of the last of the crowd who stood at the
brink were clear and distinct against the pale sky. The Queen could not
see the water, but she felt that there was death in the leap. Her two
companions looked beyond her and saw also.

Eleanor dropped her lance quietly to the right, so that it should not
make her followers fall, and with hands low and weight thrown back in
the deep saddle she pulled with all her might. Her favourite black
horse, broken to her own hand, would have obeyed her; she might have
been able to stop Beatrix's great Hungarian, for her white hands were
as strong as a man's; but the Arab mare was trained only to the touch
of an Arab halter and the deep caress of an Arab voice, and at the
first strain of the cruel French bit she threw up her head, swerved,
caught the steel in her teeth, and shot forward again at twice her
speed. Eleanor tried in vain to wrench the mare's head to one side,
into the shrinking crowd.

The Queen's face turned grey, but her lips were set and her eyes
steady, as she looked death in the face. Behind her, Beatrix's little
gloved hands were like white moths on her steadily jerking bridle, the
Hungarian's terrific stride threw up the sods behind her, and there was
a hopeless, far-away look in her face, almost like a death-smile. Only
the strong dark woman of the South seemed still to have control over
her horse, and he slowly slackened his speed, and fell a little behind
the other two.

In the fearful danger the crowd was silent and breathless, and many men
turned pale as they saw. But none moved.

One second, two seconds, three seconds, and to every second two
strides; the end of three women's lives was counted by the wild
hoof-strokes. The race might last while one could count ten more.

Gilbert Warde had at first tried to press nearer to the King, but he
saw that it was useless, because the latter was already shoulder to
shoulder with the nobles and knights. So he had turned back to face the
crowd with those about him, and with the flat of his blade he had
beaten down some few swords which men had dared to draw; but he had
wounded no one, for he knew that it was a madness which must pass and
must be forgiven.

Then he found himself with his horse on the very edge of the open track
made by the dividing people, and he looked and saw the Queen, and
Beatrix three or four lengths behind her, as the matchless Arab gained
ground in the race. He had been above the deep fall and understood.
Instantly he was on his feet on the turf, a step out in the perilous
way; and he wished that he had the strength of Lancelot in his hands,
with the leap of a wild beast in his feet, but his heart did not fail
him.

In one second he lived an hour. His life was nothing, but he could only
give it once, to save one woman, and she must be Beatrix, let such
chance befall Eleanor as might. Yet Eleanor was the Queen, and she had
been kind to him, and in the fateful instant of doom his eyes were on
her face; he would try to save the other, but unconsciously he made one
step forward again and stood waiting in midway. One second for a
lifetime's thought, one for the step he made, and the next was the
last. He could hear the rush of the wind, and Eleanor was looking at
him.

In that supreme moment her face changed, and the desperate calm in her
eyes became desperate fear for him she loved even better than she knew.

"Back!" she cried, and the cry was a woman's agonized scream, not for
herself.

With all her might, but utterly in vain, she wrenched sideways at the
mare's mouth and she closed her eyes lest she should see the man die.
He had meant to let her pass to her death, for the girl was dearer to
him, and he had gathered his strength like a bent spring to serve him.
But he saw her eyes and heard her cry, and in the flash of instinct he
knew she loved him, and that she wished him to save himself rather than
her; and thereby is real love proved on the touchstone of fear.

[Illustration: "HE... HELD, WHILE EARTH AND SKY WHIRLED WITH HIM."]

As he sprang, he knew that he had no choice, though he did not love
her. The fall of her mare, if his grip held, might stop the rest. He
sprang; he saw only the Arab's bony head and the gold on the bridle, as
both his hands grasped it. Then he saw nothing, but yet he held, and,
dead, he would have held still, as the steel jaws of the hunter's trap
hold upon the wolf's leg-bone. He knew that he was thrown down,
dragged, pounded, bruised, twisted like a rope till his joints cracked.
But he held, and felt no pain, while earth and sky whirled with him. It
was not a second; it was an hour, a year, a lifetime; yet he could not
have loosed his hands, had he wished to let go, for there were in him
the blood and the soul of the race that never yielded its grip on
whatsoever it held.

It lasted a breathing-space, while the mare plunged wildly and
staggered, and her head almost touched the ground and dragged the man's
hands on the turf; then as his weight wrenched her neck back, her
violent speed threw her hind quarters round, as a vane is blown from
the gale. At the same instant the great Hungarian horse was upon her,
tried to leap her in his stride, struck her empty saddle with his brown
chest, and fell against her and upon her with all his enormous weight,
and the two rolled over each other, frantically kicking. The standard
bearer's horse, less mad than the others and some lengths behind,
checked himself cleverly, and after two or three short, violent
strides, that almost unseated his rider, planted his fore feet in the
turf and stood stock-still, heaving and trembling. The race was over.

With the strength and instinct of the born rider, Eleanor had slipped
her feet from the stirrups and had let herself be thrown, lifting
herself with her hands on the high pommel and vaulting clear away. She
fell, but was on her feet before any man of the dazed throng could help
her. She saw Gilbert lying his full length on his side, his body
passive, but his arms stretched beyond his head, while his gloved hands
still clenched upon the bridle and were pulled from side to side by the
mare's faintly struggling head. His eyes were half open toward the
Queen, but they were pale and saw nothing. The Hungarian had rolled
half upon his back, little hurt, and the pommels of the saddle under
him kept him from turning completely over.

Beatrix lay like one dead. She had been thrown over the Arab's back,
striking her head on the turf, and the mare in her final struggle had
rolled upon her feet. The light steel cap had been forced down over her
forehead in spite of its cushioned lining, and the chiselled rim had
cut into the flesh so that a little line of dark blood was slowly
running across the white skin; and her white gloved hands were lying
palm upward, half open and motionless. The Queen scarcely glanced at
her.

Many men sprang forward when the danger was past, and they dragged
Beatrix out and began to get her horse upon his feet. Eleanor knelt by
Gilbert and tried to take his fingers from the bridle, but could not,
so that she had to loose the buckle from the long bars of the bit. Her
hands chafed his temples softly, and she bent lower and blew upon his
face, that her cool breath might wake him. There were drops of blood on
his forehead and on his chin, his cloth tunic was torn in many places,
and the white linen showed at the rents; but Eleanor saw only the look
in his face, serene and strong even in his unconsciousness, while in
the dream of his swoon he saved her life again.

In that moment, knowing that he could not see her, she thought not of
her own face as she gazed upon his, nor of hiding what she felt; and
the thing she felt was evil, and it was sweet. But suddenly there was
life in his look, with a gentle smile, and the strained fingers were
loosed with a sigh, and a long-unused word came from his lips.

"Mother!"

Eleanor shook her beautiful head slowly. Then Gilbert's face darkened
with understanding and the old pain clutched at his heart sharply, even
before the keen bodily hurt awoke in his wrung limbs. All at once
thought came, and he knew how, in a quick fall of his heart, he had
forgotten Beatrix and had almost given his life to save the Queen. As
if he had been stung, he started and raised himself on one hand, though
it was as if he forced his body among hot knives.

"She is dead!" he cried, with twisting lips.

"No--you saved us both."

The words came soft and clear, as Eleanor laid her hand upon his
shoulder to quiet him, and watched the change as the agony in his eyes
faded to relief and brightened to peace.

"Thank God!"

He sank upon her arm, for he was much bruised. But her face changed,
too, and she suffered new things, because in her there was good as well
as evil; for as she loved him more than before he had saved her, so she
would give him more, if she might, even to forgetting herself.

And so, for a few moments, she knelt and watched him, heedless of the
people about her, and scarcely seeing a dark man whom she had never
noticed before, and who bent so low that she could not see his face,
quietly loosening his master's collar and then feeling along his arms
and legs for any bone hurt there might be.

"Who are you?" asked the Queen, at last, gently, as to one who was
helping him she loved.

"His man," answered Dunstan, laconically, without looking up.

"Take care of him and bring me word of him," she answered, and from a
wallet she gave him gold, which he took, silently bending his head
still lower in thanks.

He, too, had saved her that day, and knew it, though she did not.

She stood up at last, gathering her mantle round her. Less than ten
minutes had passed since she had thrown up her hand and called to her
ladies to follow her. Since then the world had been in herself and on
fire, leaving no room for other thoughts; but now the crowd had parted
wide, and the King was coming towards her, slow and late, to know
whether she were hurt, for he had seen her ride.

"Madam," he said, when he had dismounted, "I thank the mercy of Heaven,
which deigned to hear the prayers I was continually offering up for
your safety while your life was threatened by that dangerous animal. We
will render thanks in divine services during ten days before proceeding
farther, or during a fortnight if you prefer it."

"Your Grace," said Eleanor, coldly, "is at liberty to praise Heaven by
the month if it seems good to you. But for that poor Englishman, who
lies there in a swoon, and who caught my horse's bridle at the risk of
his life, you might have been ordering masses for my soul instead of
for my bodily preservation. They would have been much needed had I been
killed just then."

The King crossed himself devoutly, half closed his eyes, bent himself a
little, and whispered a short prayer.

"It would be better," observed the Queen, "to move on at once and
support the Emperor."

"It has pleased God that the army of the Emperor should be totally
destroyed," answered the King, calmly. "The Emperor himself will be
here in a few hours, unless he has perished with the rest of his
knights, slain by the Seljuk horsemen who are pursuing the fugitives."

"The more reason why we should save those who are still alive. My army
shall march to-morrow at daybreak--your Grace may stay behind and pray
for us."

She turned from him scornfully. Dunstan and some foot-soldiers had made
stretchers with lances and pikes and were just beginning to carry
Beatrix and Gilbert away, northward, in the direction of the camp.



CHAPTER XV


When Gilbert learned from his man that Beatrix was badly hurt and
suffering great pain, he turned his face away and bit hard on the
saddle-bag that served him for a pillow. It was late in the afternoon,
and Dunstan had just come back from making inquiries in the ladies'
lines, half a mile away.

Nothing could have been simpler than his round tent, which had a single
pole and covered a circle four or five paces in diameter. The dry
ground had been sprinkled with water and beaten with mallets so as to
harden it as much as possible. Gilbert and his two men slept on
smoke-cured hides over which heavy woollen blankets were spread, almost
as thick as carpets, hand-woven in rough designs of vivid blue and red,
the coarse work of shepherds of Auvergne, but highly valued.

Against the pole the saddles were piled one upon another, Gilbert's own
on top, with its curved pommels; Dunstan's, covered with plaited lines
for binding on rolled blankets and all sorts of light packages and
saddle-bags before and behind the rider's seat; and the mule's
pack-saddle, on which little Alric rode, perched upon the close-bound
bundles, when the road was fair. During most of the journey the sturdy
Saxon had trudged along on foot, as Dunstan did also, but it was not
seemly that a man of gentle blood should be seen walking on the march,
except of great necessity.

Above the saddles Gilbert's mail hung by the neck, with a stout staff
run through both arms to stretch it out, lest dampness should rust it;
also his other armour and his sword were fastened up like an ancient
trophy, with bridles and leathern bottles and other gear. Beside the
saddles, on the ground, the shining copper kettle held three bright
brass bowls, well-scoured wooden trenchers, a long wooden ladle, an
iron skewer, and three brass spoons, the simple necessities for cooking
and eating. Forks had not been thought of in those days.

Gilbert lay on his back and turned his face away from his man. He was
bruised and scratched, and his head ached from being struck on the
ground when the mare had dragged him; but he was whole and sound in
limb, and Dunstan had stretched his joints and pressed his bruises with
a wise touch that had in it something of Oriental skill. He lay wrapped
in a long robe of coarse white linen, as thick as wool--a sensible
Greek garment which he had got in Constantinople. The afternoon was
warm, and though the flap of the tent was raised and stretched out like
an awning, there was little air, and the place smelt of the leathern
trappings and of hot canvas; and through the side to which he turned
his face Gilbert could see little dazzling sparks of rays where the sun
was beating full upon the outside.

He wished that in the mad rush of the Arab the life might have been
pounded out of him, and that he might never have waked to know what he
had done; for although in his sober senses he did not love the Queen,
it seemed to him that he had loved her in the moment when he sprang to
save her life, and that he could never again forget the look of fear
for him in her eyes and her cry of terror for his sake. All that
Beatrix had said to him in the garden at Constantinople came back to
him now; until now, he had disbelieved it all, as a wild and foolish
impossibility, for he was over-modest and diffident of himself in such
matters.

Beatrix would certainly have been killed but for the chance which had
thrown the mare across the narrow way, and he had risked his life to
save another woman. It mattered not that the other was the Queen; that
was not the reason why he had leapt upon the bridle. He had done it for
a glance of her eyes, for the tone of her voice, as it were in an
instant of temptation, when he had stepped out of the rank to face
destruction for a dearer sake. It seemed like a crime, and it proved
against his own belief that he loved what he loved not. Had he let the
Queen pass, and had he stopped Beatrix's horse instead, she might have
been unhurt, and one other brave man might have saved Eleanor at the
brink. Indeed, he thought of the sad face with its pathetic little
smile, drawn with pain and hot upon the pillow, by his fault; and he
thought with greater fear of the danger that some deep hurt might leave
the slender frame bent and crippled for life.

But meanwhile the news had spread quickly that it was the silent
Englishman, neither knight nor squire, who had saved the Queen, and
outside the tent men stopped and talked of the deed, and asked
questions of Alric, who had picked up enough Norman-French to give
tolerably intelligible answers. At first came soldiers, passing as they
went to fetch water from the lake, and again as they came back with
copper vessels filled to the brim and dripping upon their shoulders,
they set down their burdens and talked together. Presently came a great
knight, the Count of Montferrat, brother to the Count of Savoy, who had
been at Vezelay, where Gilbert had talked with him. He walked with slow
strides, his bright eyes seeming to cut a way for him, his long mantle
trailing, his soft red leather boots pushed down in close creases about
his ankles, his gloved hand pressing down the cross-hilt of his sword,
so that the sheath lifted his mantle behind him. On each side of him
walked his favourite knights, and their squires with them, all on their
way to the King's quarters, where a council of war was to be held,
since it was known how the great German host had been routed, and that
the Emperor himself might follow Duke Frederick of Suabia. This Duke
had already reached the camp, after beating off the Seljuk skirmishers
who had harassed his retreat and driven in the first fright-struck
Germans.

The soldiers and grooms made way for the noble, but he asked which
might be the tent of Gilbert Warde, the Englishman; so they pointed to
the raised flap, where Alric stood with his sturdy legs apart, under
the shadow of Gilbert's long shield, which was hanging from a lance
stuck in the ground. The shield was blank, though many gentlemen
already painted devices on theirs, and sovereign lords displayed the
heraldic emblems of their houses long before their vassals began to use
their coats-of-arms on their shields in war. But Gilbert would bear
neither emblem nor device till some great deed should make him famous.

The Count of Montferrat glanced at the blank shield thoughtfully, and
asked little Alric of what family his master was; and when he heard
that his forefathers had been with Robert the Devil when he died, and
with William at Hastings, and with Godfrey at Jerusalem, and that his
father had died fighting for Maud against the usurper, but that Gilbert
had not knighthood for all that, he wondered gravely. Yet knowing that
he was hurt and ill at ease, the Count would not go in, but gave Alric
a piece of gold and bade him greet the young Lord of Stoke and tell him
that the Count of Montferrat craved better acquaintance with him when
he should be recovered.

He went on his way, and was not gone far when the Count of Savoy and
the lord of fated Coucy came strolling side by side, with their trains
of knights and squires, on their way to the council. And having seen
Montferrat stop at the tent, they did likewise, and asked the same
questions, giving Alric money out of respect for his master's brave
deed and good name, according to custom. Many others came after them,
great and small, and the great gave the groom money, and the poor
men-at-arms asked him to drink with them after supper; so that his flat
leathern wallet, which was cracking in its creases from having been
long empty, was puffed out and hard, and weighed heavily at his belt,
and as for the wine promised him, he might have floated a boat in it.

There was one of the Greek guides who stood near the tent, playing with
a string of thick beads, and keeping behind Alric; and when there was a
crowd around him this Greek slipped nearer, with his razor in the palm
of his hand, and stealthily tried to cut the thongs by which the wallet
was fastened. So the Saxon turned quickly and smote him between the
eyes with his fist, and it was an hour before the Greek came to himself
and crawled away, for nobody would lift him. But Alric laughed often as
he sucked the trickling blood from his knuckles, and though he was a
little man and young, the soldiers looked at him with respect, and many
more of them asked him to drink.

So on that afternoon Gilbert's reputation grew suddenly, as a bright
lily that has been long in bud under a wet sky breaks out like a flame
in the first sunshine; and the days were over when he must trudge along
unnoticed in the vast throng of nobles, with his two men and his modest
baggage.

Meanwhile the council was held in the King's tent of state, within
which three hundred nobles sat at ease after the King himself had taken
his place on the throne, with the Queen on his right hand. There the
red-bearded Frederick of Suabia, nephew to Conrad and famous afterward
as the Emperor Barbarossa, stood up and told his tale: how the wild
German knights had truly forced their leaders to take the mountain road
and fight the Seljuks at a disadvantage; how the Seljuks appeared and
disappeared again from hour to hour, falling upon their prey at every
turn, reddening every pass with blood, and leaving half-killed men
among the slain to wonder whence the swift smiters had come and whither
they were gone. He himself had wounds not healed, and he told how, day
by day, the mad bravery of the Germans, and the fury of his Black
Forest men-at-arms, had risen again and again to very desperation, to
sink before evening in a new defeat; until, at last, as the Seljuk
swords still killed and killed, a terror had fallen upon the host in
the passes, and men had thrown away their armour and fled like rats
from a burning granary, so that their leaders could not hold them. He,
with a few strong helpers, had covered his flying troops, and the brave
Emperor Conrad, giant in strength, the greatest swordsman of the world,
was even now fighting at the hindmost rear of the army to save whom he
could.

It had been madness, he told them all, to try the mountain ways. To
Palestine there were two roads, and they might choose between them,
either following the long coast round Asia Minor to the Gulf of Cyprus,
or else, going down to the Propontis, they might get ships from
Constantinople and sail to the ports of Syria. The short way was death,
and though death were nothing, it meant failure and destruction to the
Christian power in Jerusalem and Antioch.

Thus he spoke, and the King and Queen and all the great nobles heard
him in silence. There were the great Counts of Flanders and Toulouse,
of Savoy, of Montferrat and Dreux and Blois, and the lords of Lusignan,
of Coucy, of Courtenay, and of Bourbon, and the Bishops of Toul and
Metz, and all the great knights of Gascony and Poitou, with many others
of high name and good blood, who heard the red-bearded Duke speak. But
when he had finished, none answered him, and the French King sat on his
throne, repeating the prayers for the dead in a low voice. But
Eleanor's eyes flashed fire and her gloved hand strained impatiently
upon the carved arm of the chair of state.

"Requiem eternam dona eis," muttered the King.

"Amen!" responded Eleanor, in a clear, contemptuous voice. "And now
that prayers are over, let us do deeds. Let us mount and ride forth at
dawn to meet the Emperor, and help him in his need at the last. Let us
ride in even order, sending out scouts and skirmishers before us, and
keeping good watch, armed and ready at all moments. Then, when all are
safe who are alive, we will return here, that the Germans may rest
themselves by this good lake; and afterward we will set forth again by
the safest road, cautiously, not wasting upon skirmishes the strength
we shall need hereafter for a great victory."

"The Emperor will surely be here to-morrow, without our help," said the
King, in manifest discontent. "It is of no use to go and meet him."

"If he is so near, let us mount to-night, this very hour, rather than
have on us the shame of lying idly here while men who wear the cross
are in need of us."

The King said nothing, but at Eleanor's words a low murmur of assent
ran through the assembly of brave men, from those at her feet to those
farthest from her; and the impatient touch of each hand on sword or
dagger, at the thought of fight, made a sound of softly moving steel
and leather and buckle, which one may only hear among soldiers.

Eleanor stood up, untired by her terrible ride, unshaken by her fall,
her eyes full of the brightness of pride. It was her daily food and her
perpetual necessity to have the better of the King in the eyes of men,
whether the matter were great or small. She stood up to her height, as
if to show all her beauty and strength to the world, and the low sun
streamed through the wide entrance to the tent and fell full upon her
face and her unblinking eyes.

"My lords and barons, gentlemen of Guienne and France, our journey is
over to-day, our battles begin to-morrow! Our brothers are in danger,
the enemy is in sight! Men of the Cross, to arms!"

"To arms!" rang the reply in many voices, both high and deep, like a
major chord sounding from the heart.

As she rose, the nobles had risen, too, and only the King kept his
seat, his pale face bent, his hands folded upon the hilt of the sword
that stood between his knees. The Queen said no more, and, without
glancing at her husband, as if she alone were sovereign, she descended
the two steps from the throne to the floor of the tent. Three knights,
one of Gascony, one of Poitou, and one of her own Guienne, who were her
guard of honour, followed her as she passed out, smiling to the great
nobles on her right and left. And many showed that they desired to
speak with her--first among them the Count of Montferrat.

"Madam," he said, when he had bowed low before her, "I praise God and
the Holy Trinity that your Grace is alive to-day. I pray that you will
deign to accept the homage and felicitations of Montferrat!"

"Of Bourbon, Madam!" cried a voice beside her.

"Of Savoy, your Grace!" said another.

"Of Coucy, of Courtenay, of Metz--" the voices all rang at once, as the
lords pressed round her, for she had not been seen since she had left
the field after her fall.

"I thank you," she answered, with a careless smile. "But you should
thank also the man who saved my life, if you love me."

"Madam, we have," replied Montferrat. "And if your Grace will but let
me have the man, I will do him much honour for your Highness's sake."

"He is no vassal of mine," Eleanor said. "He is a poor English
gentleman, cheated of his lands, a friend of young Henry Plantagenet."

"The friend of a boy!" The Count laughed lightly.

But Eleanor grew thoughtful on a sudden, for beyond her rare beauty and
her splendid youth, and within her world of impatient passion, there
were wisdom and knowledge of men.

"A boy? Yes, he may be fourteen years old, not more. But there are boys
who are not children, even in their cradles, and there are men who are
nothing else--their swaddling-clothes outgrown, and their milk teeth
cast, but not their whimpering and fretting."

The nobles were silent, for she spoke over-boldly and meant the King,
as they knew.

"As for this Englishman," she continued after an instant's pause, "he
is not mine to give you, my lord Count. And as for doing him honour for
his brave deed, though I would gladly please you, I should be loth to
let you do my duty for your pleasure."

She smiled again very graciously, for she was glad that men should
praise Gilbert Warde to her; and it was strangely pleasant to think
that no one guessed half of what she would give him if he would take
it. For among the nobles there were great lords, goodly men and young,
who dreamed of her fair face, but would not have dared to lift up their
eyes to her.

So she passed out, with her knights behind her, and most of the lords
and barons followed her at a distance, leaving the King within.

When she was gone he rose slowly, and giving his sword to the
chamberlain who stood waiting, he went to his chapel tent, with
downcast eyes and clasped hands, as if walking in a solemn procession.
A little bell rang, the sun was low, and it was the hour of the
Benediction. The King knelt down before the rich altar, and when he had
prayed earnestly for strength and courage, and for wisdom to win the
war of the Cross, he prayed from the bottom of his unhappy heart that,
if it were the will of Heaven, he might by some means be delivered from
the woman of Belial who marred his life and burdened his soul.



CHAPTER XVI


To the south side of the camp the Germans came by thousands, all that
day and far into the night, weary, half starved, on jaded beasts that
could hardly set one foot before the other, or on foot themselves,
reeling like men drunk, and almost blind with exhaustion. But the panic
had not lasted long, for the few score of Seljuk riders who had fallen
upon the van of the retreating column for the last time had been
finally scattered by the Duke of Suabia, so that the remainder of the
army came in with a show of order, bringing the greater part of the
baggage. The Seljuks had not attempted to carry away plunder, which
would have hampered them in their dashing charges and instant retreats.

Last of all, before daybreak, came the Emperor himself, covering the
rear of his army with chosen men, untired, though his great horse was
staggering under him, alert and strong as if he had not been in the
saddle the better part of four days and nights. He seemed a man of
iron; and few could ride with him, or watch with him, or fight with him.

When the sun rose, the great standard of the Holy Roman Empire waved
before the imperial tent, and though he had not rested, Conrad knelt
beside King Louis at early mass. Far to southward the German tents rose
in long lines by the shore of the lake, where Eleanor had displayed her
troop on the previous day, and countless little squads of men with
mules came and went between the camp and the distant walled city of
Nicaea. In the French lines, where the first preparations had been made
for marching, men were again unpacking their belongings; for word had
gone round at midnight that the Emperor was safe, and needed no help,
and would be in the camp in the morning.

Then there was secret rejoicing among the ladies, and those who had no
bruise nor scratch from yesterday's accidents called their tirewomen
and spent happy hours, holding up their little silver mirrors to their
hair, and holding them down to see the clasp at the throat, and trying
some of the silks and embroideries which they had received as gifts
from the Greek Emperor. It was almost a miracle that none but Beatrix
should have been gravely hurt, but many were a little bruised and much
tired, and altogether inclined to ask sympathy of the rest, receiving
visits in their tents and discussing the chances of the war and the
beauty of Constantinople, until they began to discuss one another,
after which the war was not spoken of again on that day.

Then came the Queen with her attendants, from her tent in the midst of
the ladies' lines, pitched as far as possible from the King's; and
leaving outside those who were with her, she went in and sat down by
Beatrix's bedside.

The girl was very pale and lay propped up by pillows, her eyelids half
shut against the light, though there was little enough under the thick
double canvas and a brazier of glowing woodcoals made the tent almost
too warm. A great Norman woman with yellow hair crouched beside her,
slowly fanning her face with a Greek fan of feathers. The Queen stood
still a moment, for she had entered softly, and Beatrix had not opened
her eyes, nor had the woman known her in the dimness. But when she
recognized the Queen, the maid's jaw dropped and her hand ceased to
move. Eleanor took the fan from her, and with a gesture bade her make
way, and then sat down in her place to do her duty.

Hearing the rustle of skirts and feeling that another hand fanned her,
the sick girl moved a little, but did not open her eyes, for her head
hurt her, so that she feared the light.

"Who is it?" she asked in the voice of pain.

"Eleanor," answered the Queen, softly.

Still fanning, she took the beautiful little white hand that lay
nearest to her on the edge of the bed. Beatrix opened her eyes in
wonder, for though the Queen was kind, she was not familiar with her
ladies. The girl started, as if she would have tried to rise.

"No," said Eleanor, quieting her like a child, "no, no! You must not
move, my dear. I have come to see how you are--there, there! I did not
mean to startle you!"

She smoothed the soft brown hair, and then, with a sudden impulse,
kissed the pale forehead, and fanned it, and kissed it again, as if
Beatrix had been one of her own little daughters instead of being a
grown woman not very far from her own age.

"I thank your Grace," said Beatrix, faintly.

"We are nearer than thanks since yesterday. Or if there were to be
thanking, it should be from me to you who followed me with one other,
when three hundred stayed behind. And we are closer than that, for one
man saved us both."

She stopped and looked round. The Norman woman was standing
respectfully near the door of the tent, with eyes cast down and hands
hidden under the folds of her skirt, which were drawn through her
girdle in the servants' fashion.

"Go," said Eleanor, quietly. "I will take care of your mistress for a
while. And do not stay at the door of the tent, but go away."

The woman bent her head low and disappeared.

"Yes," Beatrix said, when they were alone, "I saw Gilbert Warde stop
your horse, and yours stopped mine. He saved us both."

There was silence, and the fan moved softly in the Queen's hand.

"You have loved him long," she said presently, in a tone that
questioned.

Beatrix did not answer at once, and on her smooth young forehead two
straight lines made straight shadows that ended between her half-closed
eyes. At last she spoke, with an effort.

"Madam, as you have a soul, do not take him from me!"

She sighed and withdrew her hand from Eleanor's, as if by instinct. The
Queen did not start, but for an instant her eyes gathered light into
themselves and her mouth hardened. She glanced at the weak girl, broken
and suffering, and looking so small beside her, and she was angry that
Gilbert should have chosen anything so pitiful against her own lofty
beauty. But presently her anger ceased, not because it was unopposed,
but because she was too large-hearted for any meanness.

"Forget that I am the Queen," she said at last. "Only remember that I
am a woman and that we two love one man."

Beatrix shivered and moved uneasily on her pillow, pressing her hand to
her throat as if something choked her.

"You are cruel!" Her voice would not serve her for more just then, and
she stared at the roof of the tent.

"Love is cruel," answered Eleanor, in a low voice, and suddenly the
hand that held the fan dropped upon her knee, and her eyes looked at it
thoughtfully.

But Beatrix roused herself. There was more courage and latent energy in
the slight girl than any one dreamed. Her words came clearly.

"Yours is--not mine! For his sake you call yourself a woman like me,
but for his sake only. Is your face nothing, is your power nothing, is
it nothing that you can hide me from him at your pleasure, or let me
see him as you will? What is any one to you, who can toss a king aside
like a broken toy when he thwarts you, who can make war upon empires
with no man's help, if you choose? Is Gilbert a god that he should not
yield to you? Is he above men that he should not forget me, and go to
you, the most beautiful woman in the world, and the most daring, and
the most powerful--to you, Eleanor of Guienne, Queen of France? You
have all; you want that one thing more which is all I have! You are
right--love is cruel!"

The Queen listened in silence, too generous still to smile at the girl,
too much in earnest to be hurt.

"A man has a right to choose for himself," she answered when Beatrix
paused at last.

"Yes, but you take that right from him. You thrust a choice upon
him--that is your cruelty."

"How?"

"Look at me and look at yourself. Would any man think twice in
choosing? And yet--" a faint smile flickered in the mask of pain--"in
Constantinople--in the garden--"

She stopped, happy for a moment in the memory of his defence of her.
The Queen was silent and faintly blushed for her cruel speech on that
day. She could have done worse deeds and been less ashamed before
herself. But Beatrix went on.

"Besides," she said, turning her suffering eyes to Eleanor's face,
"your love is sinful, mine is not."

The Queen's look darkened suddenly. This was different ground.

"Leave priests' talk to priests," she answered curtly.

"It will soon be the talk of other men besides priests," reproved
Beatrix.

"For that matter, are you better?" retorted the Queen. "Have you not
told me that your father has married his mother? You are far within the
forbidden degrees of affinity. You cannot marry Gilbert Warde any more
than I can. Where is the difference?"

"You know it as well as I." The young girl turned her face away. "You
know as well as I that the Church can pass over what is a mere legal
regulation to hinder marriages made only for fortune's sake. I am not
so ignorant as you think. And you know what your love for Gilbert Warde
is, before God and man!"

The blood rose in her white face as she spoke. After that there was
silence for some time; but presently the Queen began to fan Beatrix
again, and mechanically smoothed the coverlet. There are certain things
which a womanly woman would do for her worst enemy almost
unconsciously, and Eleanor was far from hating her rival. Strong and
unthwarted from her childhood, and disappointed in her marriage, she
had grown to look upon herself as a being above laws of heaven or
earth, and answerable to no one for her deeds. Feminine in heart and
passion, she was manlike in mind and in her indifference to opinion.
Save for Gilbert, she liked Beatrix; yet, as matters stood, she both
looked upon her as an obstacle and was sorry for her at the same time.
Not being in any way confident of Gilbert's love herself, the girl she
pitied and half liked was as much her rival as the most beautiful woman
in Europe could have been. She was made up of strong
contrasts--generous yet often unforgiving; strong as a man yet
capricious as a child; tender as a woman, and then in turn sudden,
fierce, and dangerous as a tigress.

Beatrix made a feeble gesture as if she would not be fanned by the hand
that was against her, but the Queen paid no attention to the refusal.
The silence lasted long, and then she spoke quietly and thoughtfully.

"You have a right to say what you will," she began, "for I sat down
beside you, as one woman by another, and you have taken me at my word.
Love is the very blood of equality. You blame me, and I do not blame
you, though I brought up the Church's rule against your love. You are
right in all you say, and I am sinful. I grant you that freely, and I
will grant also that if I had my due I should be doing penance on my
knees instead of defending my sins to you if indeed I am defending
them. But do you think that our bad deeds are weighed only against the
unattainable perfection of saints' and martyrs' lives, and never at all
against the splendid temptations that are the royal garments of sin?
God is just, and justice weaves a fair judgment. It is not an
unchangeable standard. A learned Greek in Constantinople was telling me
he other day a story of one Procrustes, a terrible highway robber. He
had a bed which he offered to those he took captive, on condition that
they should exactly fit its length; and if a man was too long, the
robber hewed off his feet by so much, but if he was too short, he
stretched him on a rack until he was tall enough. If God were to judge
me as He judges you, by a ruled length of virtue, alike for all and
without allowance for our moral height, God would not be God, but
Procrustes, a robber of souls and a murderer of them."

"You speak very blasphemously," said Beatrix, in a low voice.

"No; I speak justly. You and I both love one man. In you, love is
virtue, in me it is sin. You blame me with right, but you blame me too
much. You tell me that I am beautiful, powerful, the Queen of France,
and it is true. But even you do not tell me that I am happy, for you
know that I am not."

"And therefore you would rob me of all I have, to make your happiness,
when you have so much that I have not! Is that your justice?"

"No," answered Eleanor, almost sadly, "it is not justice. It is my
excuse to God and man, before whom you say I am condemned."

The girl roused herself again, and though it was sharp pain to move,
she raised her weight upon her elbow and looked straight into the
Queen's eyes.

"You argue and you make excuses," she said boldly. "I ask for none. I
ask only that you should not take the one happiness I have out of my
life. You say that we are speaking as woman to woman. What right have
you to the man I love? No, do not answer me with another dissertation
on the soul. Woman to woman, tell me what right you have?"

"If he loves me, is that no right?"

"If he loves you? Oh, no! He does not love you yet!"

"He saved me yesterday--not you," answered the Queen, cruelly, and she
remembered his eyes. "Does a man risk his life desperately, as he did,
for the woman he loves, or for another, when both are in like danger?"

"It was not you, it was the Queen he saved. It is right that a loyal
man should save his sovereign first. I do not blame him. I should not
have blamed him had I been more hurt than I am."

"I am not his sovereign, and he is no vassal of mine." Eleanor smiled
coldly. "He is an Englishman."

"You play with words," answered Beatrix, as she would have spoken to an
equal.

"Take care!"

They faced each other, and on the instant the fierce pride of royalty
sprang up, as at an insult. But Beatrix was brave--a sick girl against
the Queen of France.

"If you are not his sovereign, you are not mine," she said. "And were
you ten times my Queen, there can be no fence of royalty between you
and me from this hour, or if there is, you are doubly playing with the
meaning of what your lips say. Are you to be a woman to me, a woman, at
one moment, and a sovereign to me, a subject, at the next? Which is it
to be?"

"A woman, then, if nothing more. And as a woman, I tell you that I will
have Gilbert Warde for myself, body and soul."

The girl's eyes lightened suddenly. Men said that in her mother's veins
there had run some of the Conqueror's blood, and his great oath sprang
to her lips as she answered:--

"And by the splendour of God, I tell you that you shall not!"

"Then it is a duel between us," the Queen said, and she turned to go.

"To death," answered the girl, as her head sank back upon the pillows,
pitifully weak and tired in her aching body, but dauntless in spirit.

Eleanor crossed the carpeted floor of the tent slowly toward the door.
She had not made four steps when she stood still, looking before her. A
great shame of herself came upon her for what she had said--the loyal,
generous shame of the strong who in anger has been overbearing with the
weak. She stood still, and she felt as an honest man does who has
struck a fallen enemy in unreasoning rage. It was the second time that
she had fallen so low in her own eyes, and her own scorn of herself was
more than she could bear.

Quickly she came back to Beatrix's side. The girl lay quite still, with
parted lips and closed eyes that had great black shadows under them.
Her small white hands twitched now and then spasmodically, but she
seemed hardly to breathe. Eleanor knelt beside her and propped her up
higher, thrusting one arm under the pillow while she fanned her with
the other hand.

"Beatrix!" she called softly.

She thought that the girl's eyelids quivered, and she called her again;
but there was no answer, nor any movement of the hand this time, and
the face was so white and deathly that any one might have believed life
gone, but for the faintly perceptible breath that stirred the feathers
of the Greek fan when the Queen held it close to the lips. She grew
anxious and thought of calling the Norman serving-woman and of sending
for her own physician. But, in the first place, she thought that
Beatrix might have only fainted, to revive at any moment, in which case
she had things to say which were not for other ears; and as for her
physician, it suddenly occurred to her that, although he had been in
her train five years, she had never under any circumstances had
occasion to consult him, and that he was probably what he looked, a
solemn fool and an ignorant drencher, whereas there were younger men
with wise heads who had followed the army and made a fat living by
concocting draughts for those who overcloyed themselves with Greek
sweetmeats, physicians who could make salves for bruises, who knew the
cunning Italian trick of opening a vein in the instep instead of in the
arm, and who, on occasion, could cast a judicial figure of the heavens
and interpret the horoscope of the day and hour.

But while she hesitated, Eleanor brought water from a bright brass ewer
and dashed drops upon the girl's face; she found also a cup with Greek
wine in it, that smelt of fine resin, and she set it to the pale lips
and held it there. Presently Beatrix opened her eyes a little, and
suddenly she shuddered when she saw Eleanor and heard her voice in the
deep stillness.

"As one woman to another--I ask your forgiveness."



CHAPTER XVII


Gilbert sat in the door of his tent at noon, the sun shining down upon
him and warming him pleasantly, for the day was chilly, and he was
still aching. As he idly watched the soldiers going and coming, and
cooking their midday meal at the camp-fires, while Dunstan and Alric
were preparing his own, he was thinking that this was the third day
since he had saved the Queen's life, and that although many courtiers
had asked of his condition, and had talked with him as if he had done a
great deed, yet he had received not so much as a message of thanks from
Eleanor nor from the King, and it seemed as if he had been forgotten
altogether. But of Beatrix, Dunstan told him that she was in a fever
and wandering, and the Norman woman had said that she talked of her
home. Gilbert hated himself because he could do nothing for her, but
most bitterly because he had yielded to the Queen's eyes and to her
voice in the instant of balanced life and death.

The great nobles passed on their way to their tents from the King's
quarters, where the council met daily to trace the march. And still
Gilbert's shield hung blank and white on his lance, and he sat alone,
without so much as a new mantle upon him, nor a sword-belt, nor any
gift to show that the royal favour had descended upon him as had been
expected. So some of the nobles only saluted him with a grave gesture
in which there was neither friendship nor familiarity, and some took no
notice of him, turning their faces away, for they thought that they had
made a mistake, and that the Englishman had given some grave offence
for which even his brave action was not a sufficient atonement. But he
cared little, for his nature was not a courtier's, and even then the
English Normans were colder and graver men than those of France, and
more overbearing in arms, but less self-seeking, one against another,
in court.

Dunstan came from behind the tent, where the fire was, bringing food in
two polished brass bowls, and Gilbert went in to eat his dinner. Coarse
fare enough it was, a soup of vegetables and bread, with pieces of meat
in it, and little crumbs of cheese, scraped off with a sharp knife, and
floating on the thick liquid; and then, in the other bowl, small
gobbets of roasted beef run by sixes on wooden skewers that were
blackened at the ends by the fire. And it all tasted of smoke, for the
wood was yet green on the hillsides. But Gilbert ate and said nothing,
neither praising nor blaming, for very often on the long march he had
eaten the dried bread of the German peasants and the unleavened
wheat-cakes of the wild Hungarians, with a draught of water, and had
been glad even of that. Also on Fridays and Saturdays, and on the
vigils of feast days, and on most days in Lent, he had eaten only bread
and boiled vegetables, such as could be found, and the fasting reminded
him of the old days in Sheering Abbey.

For in his nature there was the belief of that age in something far
above common desires and passions, dwelling in a temple of the soul
that must be reached by steps of pain; there was the spirit of men who
starved and scourged their bodies almost to death that their souls
might live unspotted; and the terribly primitive conception of every
passional sin as equal in importance to murder, and only less deadly
than an infamous crime in the semi-worldly view of knightly honour,
which admitted private vengeance as a sort of necessity of human nature.

The mere thought that he could love the Queen, or could have believed
that he loved her for one instant, seemed ten thousand times worse than
his boyish love of Beatrix had once seemed, when he had supposed that
there was no means of setting aside the bar of affinity; and it was
right that he should think so. But though temptation is not sin, he
made it that, and accused himself; for it was manifest that the merest
passing thrill of the blood, such as he had felt on that night in
Vezelay, and now again, must be an evil thing, since it had brought
about such a great result in a dangerous moment.

These were small things, and nice distinctions, that a strong man
should dwell on them and bruise his heart for its wickedness. But they
were not small if to neglect them meant the eternity of torture that
awaited him who looked upon his neighbour's wife to covet her. There
were among the nobles who had taken the Cross not a few to whom the law
seemed less rigid and perdition less sure, and Eleanor herself gave her
sins gentle names; but the Englishman was old-fashioned, and even the
good Abbot of Sheering had been struck by his literal way of accepting
all beliefs, in the manner of a past time when the world had trembled
at the near certainty of the Last Judgment, expiating its misdeeds by
barefooted pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and its venial faults by cruel
macerations of the flesh.

Gilbert, therefore, looked upon all bodily weariness and suffering and
privation which he chanced to encounter on the march as so much penance
to be borne cheerfully because it should profit his soul; and while the
young blood coursed in his veins, and youth's bright lights danced in
his eyes, the cold spirit of the ascetic fought against the warm life
toward an end which the man felt rather than saw, and of which the
profound melancholy would have appalled him, could he have realized it.

As month followed month, though his strength increased upon him under
much labour, and though his cheeks were tanned by sunshine and weather,
the broad forehead grew whiter under his cap, and more thoughtful, and
his eyes were saddened and his features more spiritual; also, while he
longed daily to draw his sword and strike great blows at unbelievers
for faith's sake and to the honouring of the Holy Cross, the rough
fighting instinct of his people, that craved to see blood for its
redness and to take the world for love of holding it, no longer awoke
suddenly in him, like hunger or thirst, at the wayward call of
opportunity. He could not now have plucked out steel to hew down men,
as he had done on that spring morning among the flowers of the Tuscan
valley, only because it was good to see the dazzling red line follow
the long quick sword-stroke, and to ride weight at weight to overthrow
it, swinging the death-scythe through the field of life. He wanted the
cause and the end now, where once he had desired only the deed, and he
had risen another step above the self that had been.

He knew it, and nevertheless, as he sat still after he had eaten his
midday meal, he saw that his years had been very sad since his first
great sorrow; and each time when he thought he had gone forward some
strong thing had driven him back, or some great grief had fallen upon
him, and he himself had almost been forced down. He had been proud of
his arms and his boyish skill at Faringdon, and before his eyes his
father had been foully slain; he had faced the murderer in the cause of
right, and he himself had been half killed; he had believed in his
mother as in heaven, and she had defiled his father's memory and robbed
her son of his inheritance; he had sought peace in Rome, and had found
madness and strife; he had desired to do knightly deeds and had killed
men for nothing; he loved a maiden with a maiden heart, and at the
touch of a faithless woman his blood rose in his throat, and for a look
of hers and a tone of her voice he had put forth his hands to grapple
with sudden death, forgetting the other, the better, the dearer.

So he was thinking, and the door of his tent was darkened for a moment,
so that he looked up. There stood one of Queen Eleanor's attendant
knights, in tunic and hose, one hand on his sword-hilt, the other
holding his round cap in the act of salutation. He was a Gascon, of
middle height, spare and elastic as a steel blade, dark as a Moor, with
fiery eyes and thin black mustaches that stuck up like a cat's
whiskers. His manner was exaggerated, and he made great gestures, but
he was a true man and brave. Gilbert rose to meet him, and saw behind
him a soldier carrying something small and heavy on one shoulder,
steadying it with his hand.

"The Lord of Stoke?" the knight began in a tone of inquiry.

"If I had my own, sir," answered the Englishman, "but I have not. My
name is Gilbert Warde."

"Sir Gilbert--" began the Gascon, bowing again and waving the hand that
held his cap in a tremendous gesture, which ended on his heart as if to
express thanks for the information.

"No, sir," interrupted the other. "Of those who would have given me
knighthood I would not have it, and they of whom I would take it have
not offered it."

"Sir," answered the knight, courteously, "those of whom you speak
cannot have known you. I come from her Grace the Duchess of Gascony."

"The Duchess of, Gascony?" asked Gilbert, unaccustomed to the title.

The knight drew himself up till he seemed to be standing on his toes,
and his hand left his sword-hilt to give his mustache a fierce upward
twist.

"The Duchess of Gascony, sir," he repeated. "There are a few persons
who call her Highness the Queen of France, doubtless without meaning to
give offence."

Gilbert smiled in spite of himself, but the knight's eyes took fire
instantly.

"Do you laugh at me, sir?" he asked, his hand going back to his sword,
and his right foot advancing a little as if he meant to draw.

"No, sir. I crave your pardon if I smiled, admiring your Gascon
loyalty."

The other was instantly pacified, smiled too, and waved his long arm
several times.

"I come, then, from her Grace the Duchess," he said, insisting on the
title, "to express to you her sovereign thanks for the service you did
her the other day. Her Grace has been much busied by the councils, else
she would have sent me sooner."

"I am most respectfully grateful for the message," answered Gilbert,
rather coldly, "and I beg you, sir, to accept my appreciation of the
pains you have taken to bring it to me."

"Sir, I am most wholly at your service," replied the knight, again
laying his hand upon his heart. "But besides words the Duchess sends
you, by my hand, a more substantial evidence of her gratitude."

He turned and took the heavy leather bag from his attendant soldier,
and offered it to Gilbert, holding it out in his two hands, and coming
nearer. Gilbert stepped back when he saw what it was. The money was for
a deed which might have cost Beatrix her life. He felt sick at the
sight of it, as if it had been as the price of blood which Judas took.
His face turned very pale under his tan, and he clasped his hands
together nervously.

"No," he said quickly, "no, I pray you! Not money--thanks are enough!"

The knight looked at him in surprise at first, and then incredulously,
supposing that it was only a first refusal, for the sake of ceremony.

"Indeed," he answered, "it is the Duchess's command that I should
present you with this gift in most grateful acknowledgment of your
service."

"And I beg you, by your knighthood, to thank her Grace with all
possible respect for what I cannot receive." Gilbert's voice grew hard.
"She is not my sovereign, sir, that I should look to her for my support
in this war. It pleased God that I should save a lady's life, but I
shall not take a lady's gold. I mean no discourtesy to her Grace, nor
to you, sir."

Seeing that he was in earnest, the Gascon's expression changed, and a
bright smile came into his sallow face, for he had found a man after
his own heart. He threw the heavy bag toward the soldier, and it fell
chinking to the floor before the man could reach it; and turning to
Gilbert again, he held out his hand with less ceremony and more
cordiality than he had hitherto shown.

"With a little accent," he said, "you might pass for a Gascon."

Gilbert smiled as he shook hands, for it was clear that the knight
meant to bestow upon him the highest compliment he could put into words.

"Sir," answered the Englishman, "I see that we think alike in this
matter. I pray you, let not the Queen be offended by the answer you
shall give her from me; but I shall leave it to your courtesy and skill
to choose such words as you think best, for I am a poor speaker of
compliments."

"The Duchess of Gascony shall think only the better of you when she has
heard me, sir."

Thereupon, with a great gesture and a bow to which Gilbert gravely
responded, the knight took his leave and went to the door; but then,
suddenly forgetting all his manner, and with a genuine impulse, he
turned, came back and seized Gilbert's hand once more.

"A little accent, my friend! If you only had a little accent!"

His wiry figure disappeared through the door a moment later, and
Gilbert was alone. He asked himself whether the Queen had meant to
insult him, and he could not believe it. But presently, as he
remembered all that had happened, it occurred to him that she might be
ashamed of having shown him her heart in a moment of great danger, and
now, as if to cover herself, she meant him to understand that he was
nothing to her but a brave man who ought to be substantially and richly
rewarded for having risked his life on her behalf.

Strangely enough, the thought pleased him now, as much as the brutal
offer of the gold had outraged his honourable feeling. It was far
better, he reflected, that the Queen should act thus and help him to
look upon her as a being altogether beyond his sphere, as she really
was. After this, he thought, it would be impossible and out of the
question that any look or touch of hers could send a thrill through
him, like little rivers of fire, from his head to his heels. The hand
that had been held out to pay him money for its own life, must be as
cold as a stone and as unfeeling. She was helping him to be true.

He shook himself and stretched his long arms as if awaking from sleep
and dreaming. The motion hurt him, and he felt all his bruises at once,
but there was a sort of pleasure in the pain, that accorded with his
strange state of heart, and he did it a second time in order to feel
the pain once more.



CHAPTER XVIII


The knight, whose name was Gaston de Castignac, faithfully fulfilled
Gilbert's wishes, using certain ornate flourishes of language which the
Englishman could certainly not have invented, and altogether expressing
an absolute refusal in the most complimentary manner imaginable. The
Queen bade him return the gold to her seneschal without breaking the
leaden seal that pinched the ends of the knotted strings together. When
she was alone, her women being together in the outer part of the tent,
she hid her face in her white hands, as she sat, and bending forward,
she remained in that attitude a long time, without moving.

It was as Gilbert had thought. In the generous impulse that had
prompted her to ask Beatrix's forgiveness she had done what was hardest
for her to do, in a sort of wild hope that, by insulting the man who
had such strong attraction for her, she might send him away out of her
sight forever. Had he accepted the money, she would assuredly have
despised him, and contempt must kill all thoughts of love; but since he
refused it, he must be angry with her, and he would either leave her
army, and join himself to the Germans during the rest of the campaign,
or, at the very least, he would avoid her.

But now that it was done and he had sent back the money in scorn, as
she clearly understood in spite of her knight's flowery speeches, she
felt the shame of having treated a poor gentleman like a poor servant,
and then the certainty that he must believe her ungrateful began to
torment her, so that she thought of his face, and longed to see him
with all her heart. For Beatrix's sake and her own honour she would not
send for him; but she called one of her women and sent for the Lady
Anne of Auch, who bore the standard of the ladies' troop, the same who
had stopped her horse without a fall. In her the Queen had great faith
for her wisdom, for she had a man's thoughts with a woman's heart.

She came presently, tall and grave as a stately cypress among silver
birches and shimmering white poplar trees.

"I have sent for you to ask you a question," the Queen began, "or,
perhaps, to ask your advice."

The Lady Anne bowed her head, and when Eleanor pointed to a
folding-stool beside her, she sat down and waited, fixing her black
eyes on a distant part of the tent.

"You saw that young Englishman who stopped my horse," the Queen began.
"I wish to reward him. I have sent him five hundred pieces of gold, and
he has refused to receive the gift."

The black eyes turned steadily to the Queen's face, gazed at her for a
moment, and then looked away again, while not a feature moved. There
was silence, for Anne of Auch said nothing while Eleanor waited.

"What shall I do now?" Eleanor asked after a long pause.

"Madam," answered the dark lady, smiling thoughtfully, "I think that,
since you have offered him gold first, he would refuse a kingdom if you
should press it upon him now, for he is a brave man."

"Do you know him?" asked Eleanor, almost sharply, and her eyes hardened.

"I have seen him many times, but I have never spoken with him. We talk
of him now and then, because he is unlike the other knights, mixing
little with them in the camp and riding often alone on the march. They
say he is very poor, and he is surely brave."

"What does Beatrix de Curboil say of him?" The Queen's voice was still
sharp.

"Beatrix? She is my friend, poor girl. I never heard her speak of this
gentleman."

"She is very silent, is she not?"

"Oh, no! She is sometimes sad, and she has told me how her father took
a second wife who was unkind to her, and she speaks of her own
childhood as if she were the daughter of a great house. But that is
all."

"And she never told you her stepmother's name, and never mentioned this
Englishman?"

"Never, Madam, I am quite sure. But she is often very gay and quick of
wit, and makes us laugh, even when we are tired and hot after a day's
march and are waiting for our women; and sometimes she sings strange
old Norman songs of Duke William's day, very sweetly, and little Saxon
slave songs which we cannot understand."

"I have never heard her laugh nor sing, I think," said Eleanor,
thoughtfully.

"She is very grave before your Grace. I have noticed it. That may be
the English manner."

"I think it is." The Queen thought of Gilbert, and wondered whether he
were ever gay. "But the question," she continued, "is what am I to do
for the man?"

She spoke coldly and indifferently, but her eyes were watching the Lady
Anne's face.

"What should you do yourself?" she asked, as the noble woman made no
answer.

"I should not have sent him gold first," replied Anne of Auch. "But
since that cannot be undone, your Grace can only offer him some high
honour, which may be an honour only, and not wealth."

"He is not even a knight!"

"Then give him knighthood and honour too. Your Grace has made
knights,--there is Gaston de Castignac,--and the fashion of receiving
knighthood from the Church only, is past."

"I have heard him say that he would have it from his own liege
sovereign, or not at all. He will not even set a device in his shield,
as many are beginning to do, to show in the field that they are of good
stock."

"Give him one, then--a device that shall be a perpetual honour to his
house and a memory of a brave deed well done for a Queen's sake."

"And then? Shall that be all?"

"And then, if he be the man he seems, single him out for some great
thing, and bid him risk his life again in doing it for the Holy Cross,
and for your Grace's sake."

"That is good. Your counsel was always good. What thing shall I give
him to attempt?"

"Madam, the Germans have been betrayed by the Greek Emperor's Greek
guides, and we ourselves have no others, so that we in turn shall be
led to slaughter if we follow them. If it please your Grace, let this
Englishman choose such men as he trusts, and go ever before our march,
till we reach Syria, sending tidings back to us, and receiving them,
and bearing the brunt of danger for us."

"That would be indeed an honourable part," said the Queen,
thoughtfully, and she turned slowly pale, careless of her lady's
straight gaze. "He can never live to the end of it," she added, in a
low voice.

"It is better to die for the Cross than to die or live for any woman's
love," said Anne of Auch, and there was the music of faith in her soft
tones.

The Queen glanced at her, wondering how much she guessed, and suddenly
conscious that she herself had changed colour.

"And what device shall I set in this man's shield?" she asked, going
back to the beginning, in order to avoid what touched her too closely.

"A cross," answered Anne. "Let me see--why not your Grace's own? The
Cross of Aquitaine?"

But the Queen did not hear, for she was dreaming, and she saw Gilbert,
in her thoughts, riding to sure death with a handful of brave men,
riding into an ambush of the terrible Seljuks, pierced by their
arrows--one in his white throat as he reeled back in the saddle, his
eyes breaking in death. She shuddered, and then started as if waking.

"What did you say?" she asked. "I was thinking of something else."

"I said that your Grace might give him the Cross of Aquitaine for a
device," answered the Lady of Auch.

Her quiet black eyes watched the Queen, not in suspicion, but with a
sort of deep and womanly sympathy; for she herself had loved well, and
on the eighth day after she had wedded her husband, he had gone out
with others against the Moors in the southern mountains; and they had
brought him home on his shield, wrapped in salted hides, and she had
seen his face. Therefore she had taken the Cross, not as many ladies
had taken it, in lightness of heart, but earnestly, seeking a fair
death on the field of honour for the hope of the life to come.

"Yes," said the Queen, "he shall have the Cross of Aquitaine. Fetch me
some gentleman or squire skilled with colours, and send for the
Englishman's shield."

"Madam," said Anne of Auch, "I myself can use a brush, and by your
leave I will paint the device under your eyes."

It was no uncommon thing in that day for a lady of France to understand
such arts better than men, and Eleanor was glad, and ordered that the
shield should be brought quickly, by two of the elder pages who were
soon to be squires.

But Alric, the groom, who lay in the shade outside Gilbert's tent,
chewing blades of grass and wishing himself in England, would not let
the messengers take the shield from the lance without authority, and he
called Dunstan, who went and asked Gilbert what he should do. So
Gilbert came and stood in the door of his tent, and spoke to the young
men.

"We know nothing, sir, save that we are bidden to bring your shield to
the Queen."

"Take it. And you shall tell her Grace from me that I crave excuse if
the shield be of an old fashion, with rounded shoulders, for it was my
father's; and you shall say also that she has power to take it, but
that I will not sell it, nor take anything in return for it."

The two young men looked at him strangely, as if doubting whether he
were in his right mind. But as they went away together, the one who
bore the shield said to the other that they should not give the
message, for it was discourteous and might do harm to themselves. But
the other was for telling the truth, since they could call Gilbert's
men to witness of the words.

"And if we are caught in a lie," he said, "we shall be well beaten."

For they were young and were pages, not yet squires, and still under
education.

"Also we shall be beaten if we say things un-courtly to the Queen,"
retorted the first.

"This air smells of sticks," said the other, as he sniffed, and laughed
at his jest, but somewhat nervously.

"You shall speak for us," concluded his companion, "for you are the
truth-teller."

So they came to the Queen, and laid the blank shield at her feet, and
neither would say anything.

"Saw you the gentleman to whom it belongs?" she asked.

"Yes, Madam!" they answered in one breath.

"And said he anything? Have you no message?"

"He said, Madam--" said one, and stopped short.

"Yes, Madam, he said that we should tell your Grace--"

But the page's courage failed him, and he stopped.

"What said he?" asked Eleanor, bending her brows. "Speak out!"

"May it please your Grace, the gentleman said that it was his father's
shield."

"And that he craved excuse if it were of an old fashion," added the
other.

"And that he would not sell it," concluded the one who was the bolder
of the two.

Then he shrank back, and his companion too, and they seemed trying to
get behind each other; for the Queen's eyes flashed wrath, and her
beautiful lips parted a little over her gleaming teeth, that were
tightly closed. But in an instant she was calm again, and she took
money from her wallet and gave each page a piece of gold, and spoke
quietly.

"You are brave boys to give me such a message," she said. "But if I
chance to find out that you have changed it on the way, you shall each
have as many blows as there are French deniers in a Greek bezant--and I
doubt whether any one knows how many there may be."

"We speak truth, Madam," said the two, in a breath, "and we humbly
thank your Grace."

She sent them away, and sat looking at the shield at her feet, while
Anne of Auch waited in silence.

Eleanor's eyes burned in her head, and her hands were cold, and would
have shaken a little if she had not held them tightly clasped together.

"It was unknightly of him to say that," she cried at last, as if it
hurt her.

But her lady was still silent, and the Queen turned her hot eyes to her.

"You say nothing. Was it not unknightly of him?"

"Madam," answered Anne of Auch, "since you wished to pay him for your
life, it is little wonder if he thinks you may offer to buy his arms."

They said no more for a long time, and from the outer tent the sweet
subdued voices of many women, talking and laughing softly together,
floated into the silence like the song of birds at dawn. At last the
Queen spoke, but it was to herself.

"He had the right," she said bitterly, and bent her head a little, and
sighed. "Paint me the shield, Lady Anne," she added, a moment later,
looking up calmly once more. "On a field azure, for the faith he keeps,
gild him the cross flory of Aquitaine--for me!"

She rose and began to walk slowly up and down the tent, glancing at
Anne from time to time. The lady had sent for her colours, ground on a
piece of white marble, and a small chafing-dish with burning coals, in
which a little copper pot of melted wax mixed with resin stood on an
iron tripod. She warmed her brush in the wax, and took up the costly
blue on it, and spread it very dexterously over all the long shield.
When it was cool, the resin made it very hard, and with rule and
dividers she measured out the cross with its equal arms, all flowered,
and drew it skilfully, while the Queen watched her deft fingers. And
last of all she moistened the cross with Arabian gum, a little at a
time, and laid strong gold-leaf upon it with a sharp steel instrument,
blowing hard upon each leaf as soon as it was laid, to press it down,
and smoothing it with a hare's-foot. When it was all covered and dry,
she took a piece of soft leather wrapped about her forefinger, and
carefully went round the outline, taking off the superfluous leaf that
spread beyond the gummed part. She had learned these things from an
Italian who had come to Auch to adorn the chapel of her father's house.

The Queen had sat down long before it was finished, but her eyes
followed the Lady Anne's brush and her fingers, while neither of the
women spoke.

"It is a fair shield," said Eleanor, when it was done. "Lady Anne,
shall I send it to him, or shall he come here? Were you in my place,
which should you do?"

"Madam, I would send for the Englishman. From your Grace's hands he
cannot refuse honour."

Eleanor did not answer, but after a moment she rose and turned away.

"Nor death," she said in a low voice, as to herself, and stood still,
and pressed her hand to her forehead. "Send for him, and leave me alone
till he comes, but stay when he is here," she added, in clear tones;
and still not looking at the Lady Anne, she bent her head and went out.

The tall, old-fashioned shield stood on its point, leaning against the
table. Eleanor looked at it, and her features were moved, now that she
was alone, and her eyes were veiled. She lifted it in both her hands,
wondering at its weight, and she pushed aside an inner curtain and set
the shield upon an altar that was there, hidden from the rest of the
tent for a little oratory, as in many royal chambers. Then she knelt
down at the kneeling-stool and folded her hands.

She was not ungenerous, she was not at heart unjust; she deserved some
gentleness of judgment, for she was doing her best to fight her love,
for her royal honour's sake and for the sick girl who seemed so poor a
rival, but who loved Gilbert Warde as well as she and less selfishly.
As she knelt there, she believed that she was in the great struggle of
her life, and that at once and forever she could make the sacrifice,
though it had grown to be a great one.

She meant to send him before the army, and the wager for his death was
as a hundred to one. Let him die--that was the consecration of the
sacrifice. Dead in glory, dead for Christ's sake, dead in the spotless
purity of his young knighthood, she could love him fearlessly
thereafter, and speak very gentle words upon his grave. It was not
cruel to send him to die thus, if his days were numbered, and he
himself would gratefully thank her for preferring him before others to
lead the van of peril; for the way of the Cross leads heavenwards. But
if he should come alive through the storm of swords, he must win great
honour for all his life.

Thereupon she prayed for him alone, and she dedicated his great shield
on her own altar, in her own words, with all her passionate heart,
wherein beat the blood of her grandsire, dead in a hermit's cell after
much love and war, and the blood of the son she was to bear long after,
whom men were to call the Lion-Hearted.

And she prayed thus, with a pale face:--

"Almighty God, most just, who art the truth, and who orderest good
against evil, with pain, that men may be saved by overcoming, help me
to give up what is most dear in my life. Hear me, O God, a sinful
woman, and have mercy upon me! Hear me, O God, and though I perish, let
this man's soul be saved!

"Lord Jesus Christ, most pitiful and kind, to Thee I bring my sin, and
I steadfastly purpose to be faithful, and to renounce and abhor my evil
desires and thoughts. Hear me, O Christ, a sinful woman! To Thy service
and to the honour of Thy most sacred Cross, I dedicate this true man.
Bless Thou this shield of his, that it may be between him and his
enemies, and his arms, also, that he may go before our host, and save
many, and lead us to Thy holy place in Jerusalem! Endue him with grace,
fill him with strength, enlighten his heart. Hear me and help me, O
Christ, a sinful, loving woman!

"Holy Spirit of God, Most High, Creator, Comforter, let Thy pure gifts
descend upon this clean-hearted man, that his courage fail not in life,
nor in the hour of death. Hear me, a sinful woman, Thou who, with the
Father and the Son, livest and reignest in glory forever!"

When she had prayed, she knelt a little while longer, with bowed head
pressing against her clasped hands on the praying-stool till they hurt
her. And that was the hardest, for it had been her meaning to make a
solemn promise, and she saw between her and her love the barrier of her
faith to be kept to God, and of her respect of her own plighted honour.

Rising at last, she took the shield again, and kissed it once between
the arms of the cross; and her lips made a small mark on the fresh
gold-leaf.

"He will never know what it is," she said to herself, as she looked at
the place, "but I think that no arrow shall strike through it there,
nor any lance."

Suddenly she longed to kiss the shield again, and many times, to
thousands, as if her lips could give it tenfold virtue to defend. But
she thought of her prayer and would not, and she brought the shield
back into the tent, out of the oratory, and set it upright against the
table.

Then, after a time, Anne of Auch lifted the curtain to let Gilbert in,
standing by the entrance when he had passed her.

He bent his head courteously but not humbly, and then stood upright,
pale from what he had suffered, his eyes fixed as if he were making an
inward effort. The Queen spoke, coldly and clearly.

"Gilbert Warde, you saved my life, and you have sent back a gift from
me. I have called you to give you two things. You may scorn the one,
but the other you cannot refuse."

[Illustration: THE KNIGHTING OF GILBERT.]

He looked at her, and within her outward coldness he saw something he
had never seen before--something divinely womanly, unguessed in his
life, which touched him more than her own touch had ever done. He felt
that she drew him to her, though it were now against her better will.
Therefore he was afraid, and angry with himself.

"Madam," he said, with a sort of fierce coldness, "I need no gifts to
poison your good thanks."

"Sir," answered Eleanor, "there is no venom in the honour I mean for
you. I borrowed your shield,--your father's honourable shield,--and I
give it back to you with a device that was never shamed, that you and
yours may bear my cross of Aquitaine in memory of what you did."

She took the shield and held it out to him with a look almost stern,
and as her eyes fell upon it they dwelt on the spot she had kissed.
Gilbert's face changed, for he was moved. He knelt on one knee to
receive the shield, and his voice shook.

"Madam, I will bear this device ever for your Grace's sake and memory,
and I pray that I may bear it honourably, and my sons' sons after me."

Eleanor waited a breathing-space before she spoke again.

"You may not bear it long, sir," she said, and her voice was less hard
and clear, "for I desire of you a great service, which is also an
honour before other men."

"What I may do, I will do."

"Take, then, at your choice two or three score lances, gentlemen and
men-at-arms who are well mounted, and ride ever a day's march before
the army, spying out the enemy and sending messengers constantly to us,
as we shall send to you; for I trust not the Greek guides we have. So
you shall save us all from the destruction that overtook the German
Emperor in the mountains. Will you do this?"

Again Gilbert's face lightened, for he knew the danger and the honour.

"I will do it faithfully, so help me God."

Then he would have risen, but the Queen spoke again.

"Lady Anne," she said, "give me the sword of Aquitaine."

Anne of Auch brought the great blade, in its velvet scabbard, with its
cross-hilt bound with twisted wire of gold for the old Duke's grip. The
Queen drew it slowly and gave back the sheath.

"Sir," she said, "I will give you knighthood, that you may have
authority among men."

Gilbert was taken unawares. He bowed his head in silence, and knelt
upon both knees instead of on one only, placing his open hands
together. The Queen stood with her left hand on the hilt of the great
sword, and she made the sign of the cross with her right. Gilbert also
crossed himself, and so did the Lady Anne, and she knelt at the Queen's
left, for it was a very solemn rite. Then Eleanor spoke.

"Gilbert Warde, inasmuch as you are about to receive the holy order of
knighthood at my hands without preparation, consider first whether you
are in any mortal sin, lest that be an impediment."

"On the honour of my word, I have no mortal sin upon my soul," answered
Gilbert.

"Make, then, the promises of knighthood. Promise before Almighty God
that you will lead an honest and a clean life."

"I will so live, God helping me."

"Promise that to the best of your strength you will defend the
Christian faith against unbelievers, and that you will suffer death,
and a cruel death, but not deny the Lord Jesus Christ."

"I will be faithful to death, so God help me."

"Promise that you will honour women, and protect them, and shield the
weak, and at all times be merciful to the poor, preferring before
yourself all those who are in trouble and need."

"I will, by God's grace."

"Promise that you will be true and allegiant to your liege sovereign."

"I promise that I will be true and allegiant to my liege Queen and
Lady, Maud of England, and to her son and Prince, Henry Plantagenet,
and thereof your Grace is witness."

"And between my hands, as your liege sovereign's proxy, lay your hands."

Gilbert held out his joined hands to the Queen, and she took them
between her palms, while Anne of Auch held the great sword, still
kneeling.

"I put my hands between the hands of my Lady, Queen Maud of England,
and I am her man," said Gilbert Warde.

But Eleanor's touch was like ice, and she trembled a little.

Then she took the sword of Aquitaine and held it up in her right hand,
though it was heavy, and she spoke holy words.

"Gilbert Warde, be a true knight in life and death! 'Whatsoever things
are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any
praise, think on these things'--and do them, and for them live and die."

When she had spoken, she laid the sword flat upon his left shoulder,
and let it linger a moment, and then lifted it and touched him twice
again, and sheathed the long blade.

"Sir Gilbert, rise!"

He stood before her, and he knew what remained to be done, according to
the rite, and it was not fire that ran through him, but a chill of
fear. The Queen's face was marble pale and as beautiful as death. One
step toward him she made with outstretched arms, her right above his
left, her left under his right as he met her. Then she coldly kissed
the man she loved on the cheek, once only, in the royal fashion, and he
kissed her.

She drew back, and their eyes met. Remembering many things, he thought
that he should see in her face the evil shadow of his mother, as he had
seen it before; but he saw a face he did not know, for it was that of a
suffering woman, coldly brave to the best of her strength.

"Go, Sir Gilbert!" she said. "Go out and fight, and die if need be,
that others may live to win battles for the Cross of Christ."

He was gone, and Anne of Auch stood beside her.

"Lady Anne," said the Queen, "I thank you. I would be alone."

She turned and went into the little oratory, and knelt down before the
altar, looking at the place where the shield had stood.



CHAPTER XIX


So Gilbert Warde was made a knight, and to this day the Wards bear the
cross flory in their shield, which was given to their forefathers by
Eleanor of Aquitaine before she was English Queen. And so, also, Sir
Gilbert promised to ride a day's march before the rest, with a handful
of men whom he chose among his acquaintance; and many envied him his
honour, but there were more who warmed themselves by the camp-fire at
night most comfortably, and were glad that they had not been chosen to
live hardly, half starving on their half-starved horses, with a cloak
and a blanket on the ground for a bed, watching in turns by night, and
waking each morning to wonder whether they should live till sunset.

In truth there was less of danger than of hardship at first, and more
trouble than either; for though Gilbert was sent on with the best of
the Greek guides to choose the way, and had full power of life and
death over them, so that they feared him more than Satan and dared not
hide the truth from him, yet when he had chosen the line of the march
and had sent word by a messenger to the army, the answer often came
back that the King and the Emperor were of another mind, because they
had listened to some lying Greek; and since the Emperor and the King
and Queen had agreed that any one of them must always yield to the
opinion of the other two, Eleanor's advice, which was Gilbert's and
founded on real knowledge, was often overridden by the others, and she
was forced to give way or make an open breach. Then Gilbert ground his
teeth silently and did the best he could, retracing his steps over many
miles, exploring a new road, and choking down the humiliation bravely,
because he had given his word.

But little by little that humiliation turned to honour, even among the
men who were with him; for most of them were taken from the Queen's
army, and besides, they saw every day that Gilbert was right, so that
they trusted him and would have followed him through storm and fire.
Also in the Queen's army it began to be known, and it spread to the
other French, and to the Germans, and to the Poles and the Bohemians,
that when the troops followed the march chosen by Gilbert, all went
well, and they found water and forage for their horses, and food and a
good camping-ground; but often, when the King and the Emperor had their
way, there was hunger and cold and lack of water.

The men began to say to each other, when they knew, "This is Sir
Gilbert's road, and to-day is a feast-day;" and then, "This is the
King's road, and to-day is Friday." And on Gilbert's days they sang as
they marched, and trudged along cheerfully, and his name ran like a
sound of gladness along the endless lines. He grew, therefore, to be
beloved by many who had never seen him in the great host, and at last
even by the most of the soldiers.

So they came to Ephesus at last, very weary, and with some sick persons
among them. Conrad the Emperor was in ill case, though he was of the
strongest, and at Ephesus messengers met him who had come by sea from
the Emperor of the Greeks, begging that he and all his men would sail
back to Constantinople and spend the rest of the winter there, and
afterwards go by sea again to Syria. And they did so, for the brave
Germans were much broken and worn because of their marches and defeats
before they had gone back to Nicaea, and the armies of the King and
Queen went on without them, to a great meadow by the Maeander, where
they encamped to keep the Christmas feast with great thanksgiving for
their preservation thus far.

On Christmas eve Gilbert came into camp with his companions, and when
they were seen, a great cry arose throughout the army, and men left
their fires and their mending of arms and clothes, and ran out to meet
him, a gaunt man in rusty armour, on a gaunt horse, followed by others
in no better plight. His mantle was all stained with rain and mud, and
was rent in many places, and his mail was brown, save where it had been
chafed bright by his moving; his great Norman horse was rough with his
winter coat and seemed all joints and bones, and Dunstan and Alric rode
in rags with the men-at-arms. His face was haggard with weariness and
lack of food, but stern and high, and the first who saw him ceased
shouting and looked up at him with awe; but then he smiled so gently
and kindly that the cheer broke out again and rang across the camp, far
and wide.

Presently those who cheered began to follow the little train of
horsemen, first by twos and tens and twenties, till thousands were
drawn into the stream and pressed round him, so that he was obliged to
move slowly. For many weeks they had heard his name, knowing that it
meant safety for them, and wonderful tales had been told over the
camp-fires of his endurance and courage. So his coming back was his
first triumph, and the day was memorable in his life. While the army
rested there was no work for him, and he had returned in order to rest
himself; but he had nothing of immediate importance to report to the
leaders, and he bade his men find out his baggage among the heaps of
packs that had been unloaded from the general train of mules, and to
pitch his tent near those of his old comrades on the march.

While Dunstan and Alric were obeying his orders, he sat on his saddle
on the ground, with his weary horse standing beside him, his nose
plunged into a canvas bag half full of oats. Gilbert looked on in a
sort of mournfully indifferent silence. Everything he saw was familiar,
and yet it all seemed very far away and divided from him by weeks of
danger and hard riding. The vast crowd that had followed him had begun
to disperse as soon as it was known that he was not going before the
King, and only three or four hundred of the more curious stood and
moved in groups around the open space where the tent was being pitched.
Many of his acquaintance came and spoke to him, and he rose and shook
their hands and spoke a few words to each; but none of the greater
nobles who had sought him out after he had saved the Queen took any
pains to find him now, though they and their followers owed him much.
The praise of the multitude and their ringing cheers had been pleasant
enough to hear, but he had expected something else, and a cold
disappointment took possession of his heart as he sat in his tent some
hours later, considering, with Dunstan, the miserable condition and
poor appearance of his arms and the impossibility of procuring anything
better. He was as lonely and unnoticed as if he had not been devoting
every energy he possessed to the safe guidance of a great army during
the past two months.

"There is nothing to complain of, sir," said Dunstan, in answer to a
disconsolate ejaculation of Gilbert's. "Your body is whole, you have
received back your belongings with nothing stolen, which is more than I
expected of the Greek muleteers, you have a new tunic and hose to wear,
and bean soup for supper. The world is not so bad as it looks."

"On the other hand," answered Gilbert, with a sour smile, "my bones
ache, my armour is rusty, and my purse is empty. Make what good cheer
you can of that."

He rose, and leaving Dunstan to set to work upon the injured coat of
mail, he took his cap and strolled out alone to breathe the afternoon
air. It was Christmas-time, and the day had been bright and clear; but
he wore no mantle, for the overwhelmingly good reason that he possessed
only one, which was in rags; and, indeed, he had been so much exposed
to bad weather of late that he was hardened to every sort of
discomfort--a little more or less was not worth counting.

Dunstan was quite right of course, and Gilbert had no reasonable cause
for complaint. The Queen would doubtless send for him on the morrow,
and had he chosen to present himself before her at once he would have
been received with honour. But he was in an ill humour with himself and
the world, and being still very young, it seemed quite natural to yield
to it rather than to reason himself into a better temper. He got out of
the camp as soon as he could, and walked by the green banks of the
still Maeander. It was winter, but the grass was as fresh as it might
have been in spring, and a salt breeze floated up from the not distant
sea. He knew the country, for he himself had chosen the spot as a
camping-place for the army, and had advanced still farther when
messengers had brought him word to come back. To northward rolled away
the gentle hills beyond Ephesus, while to the south and east the
mountains of the Cadmus and Taurns rose rugged and sharp against the
pale sky--the range through which the army must next make its way to
Attalia. The time lacked an hour of sunset, and the clear air had taken
the first tinge of evening. Here and there in the plain the evergreen
ilex trees grew in little clumps, black against the sunlight, but dark
green, with glistening points among their shadows, where the afternoon
sun struck full upon them.

Gilbert had hoped to be alone, but there were parties of idlers along
the river-bank as far as he could see, and among them were many who
bore evergreen boughs and young cypress shoots of three and four years'
growth, which they were carrying back to the camp for the Christmas
festival. For there were many Normans in the army, and Franks from
Lorraine, and Northern men from Poland and Bohemia, and all the men of
the North would have their Yule trees before their tents, as their
heathen forefathers had done before them in the days of the old faith.

There were ladies of Eleanor's troop also, riding for pleasure, in rich
gowns and flowing mantles, and knights with them, all unarmed save for
a sword or dagger; and there were many dark-eyed Greeks, too, both men
and women, who had come out from Ephesus in holiday clothes to see the
great camp. It was all calm, and bright, and good to see, but out of
harmony with Gilbert's gloomy thoughts. At the bend of the stream the
ground rose a little, somewhat away from the bank, and the rocks stuck
up rough and jagged out of the green grass, a sort of little wilderness
in the midst of the fertile plain. Almost instinctively, Gilbert turned
aside and climbed in and out among the stones until he reached the
highest ledge, on which he seated himself in profound satisfaction at
having got away from his fellow-creatures. The place where he had
perched was about sixty feet above the river-bank, and though he could
not distinctly hear the conversation of the passing groups he could see
the expression of every face clearly, and he found himself wondering
how often the look of each matched the words and the unspoken thoughts.

The sun sank lower, and he had no idea how long he had sat still, when
he became conscious that he was intently watching a party of riders who
were coming toward him. They were still half a mile away, but he saw a
white horse in the front rank, and even at that distance something in
the easy pace of the creature made him feel sure that it was the
Queen's Arab mare. They came on at a canter, and in two or three
minutes he could make out the figures of those best known to
him--Eleanor herself, Anne of Auch, Castignac, and the other two
attendant knights who were always in the Queen's train, and a score of
others riding behind by twos and threes. Gilbert sat motionless and
watched them, nor did it occur to him that he himself, sitting on the
highest boulder and dressed in a tunic of dark red, was a striking
object in the glow of the setting sun. But before she was near enough
to recognize him, Eleanor had seen him, and her curiosity was roused; a
few minutes more, and she knew his face. Then their eyes met.

She drew rein and walked her horse, still looking up, and wondering why
he gazed at her so fixedly, without so much as lifting his cap from his
head; and then, to her infinite surprise, she saw him spring to his
feet and disappear from view among the rocks. She was so much
astonished that she stopped her horse altogether and sat several
seconds staring at the ledge on which he had sat, while all her
attendants looked in the same direction, expecting Gilbert to appear
again; for several of them had recognized him, and supposed that he
would hasten down to salute the Queen.

But when he did not come, she moved on, and though her face did not
change, she did not speak again till the camp was reached, nor did any
of her party dare to break the silence.

Had she looked back, she might have caught sight of Gilbert's figure
walking steadily with bent head across the plain, away from the river
and from the camp, out to the broad solitude beyond. He had acted under
an impulse, foolishly, almost unconsciously, being guided by something
he did not attempt to understand.

Two months had passed, and more, since he had seen her, and in his life
of excitement and anxiety her face had disappeared from his dreams.
While he had been away from her, she had not existed for him, save as
the only leader of the three to whom he looked for approbation and
support; the woman had been lost in the person of the sovereign, and
had ceased to torment him by the perpetual opposition of that which all
men coveted to that which he truly loved. But now, at the very first
sight of her face, it seemed as if the Queen were gone again, leaving
only the woman to his sight, and at the instant in which he realized it
he had turned and fled, hardly knowing what he did.

He walked steadily on, more than two miles, and all at once he cast no
shadow, for the sun had gone down, and the pale east before him turned
to a cool purple in the reflection. The air was very chilly, for the
night wind came down suddenly from the mountains as the sea breeze died
away, and the solitary man felt cold; for he had no cloak, and exposure
and fighting had used his blood, while within him there was nothing to
cheer his heart.

It had seemed to him for two years that he was always just about to do
the high deed, to make the great decision of life, to find out his
destiny, and he had done bravely and well all that he had found in his
way. The chance came, he seized it, he did his best, and the cheers of
the soldiers had told him a few hours ago that he was no longer the
obscure English wanderer who had met Geoffrey Plantagenet on the road
to Paris. Thousands repeated his name in honour and looked to him for
their safety on the march, cursing those who led them astray against
his warning. In his place on that day, most men would have gone to the
Queen, expecting a great reward, if not claiming it outright. But he
was wandering alone at nightfall in the great plain, discontented with
all things, and most of all with himself. Everything he had done rose
up against him and accused him, instead of praising him and flattering
his vanity; every good deed had a base motive in his eyes, or was
poisoned by the thought that it had not been done for itself, but for
an uncertain something which came over him when the Queen spoke to him
or touched his hand. It is not only inactive men who grow morbid and
fault-finding with themselves; for the wide breach between the ideal
good and the poor accomplishment holds as much that can disappoint the
heart as the mean little ditch between thought and deed, wherein so
many weak good men lie stuck in the mud of self-examination. He who
stands at the edge of the limit, with a lifetime of good struggles
behind him, may be as sad and hopeless as he who sits down and weeps
before the mountain of untried beginnings. The joy of the earthly
future is for the very great and the very little. For as charity leads
mankind by faith to the hope of the life to come, so, on the mind's
side, by faith in its own strength, the work of genius in the past is
its own surety for like work to come.

Gilbert Warde was not of that great mould, but more human and less sure
of himself; and suddenly, as the sun went down, a strong desire of
death came upon him, and he wished that he were dead and buried under
the grass whereon he stood, for very discontent with himself. It would
be so simple, and none would mourn him much, except his men, perhaps,
and they would part his few possessions and serve another. He was a
burden to the earth, since he could do nothing well; he was a coward,
because he was afraid of a woman's eyes and had fled from their gaze
like a boy; he was a sinner deserving eternal fire since a touch of a
fair woman's hand could make him unfaithful for an instant to the one
woman he loved best. He had meant to tread the way of the Cross in true
faith, with unswerving feet, and his heart was the toy of women; he had
sworn the promises of knighthood, and he was already breaking them in
his thoughts; he was his evil mother's son, and he had not the strength
to be unlike her.

It was folly and madness, and Castignac, the Gascon knight, would have
laughed at him, or else would have believed that he was demented. But
to the Englishman it was real, for he was under that strange melancholy
which only Northmen know, and which is the most real suffering in all
the world. It is a dim sadness that gathers like a cloud about strong
men's souls, and they fear it, and sometimes kill themselves to escape
from it into the outer darkness beyond; but sometimes it drives them to
bad deeds and the shedding of innocent blood, and now and then the
better sort of such men turn from the world and hide themselves in the
abodes of sorrow and pain and prayer. The signs of it are that when it
has no cause it seizes upon trifles to make them its reasons, and more
often it torments young men than the old; and no woman nor southern
person has ever known it, nor can even understand it. But it follows
the northern blood from generation to generation, like retribution for
an evil without a name done long ago by the northern race.

It was dark night when Gilbert found his way back to his tent, more by
the instinct of one used to living in camps among soldiers than by any
precise recollection of the way, and he sat down to warm himself before
the brazier of red coals which Alric shovelled out of the camp-fire
that burned outside. His men gave him a pottage of beans, with bread
and wine, as it was Christmas Eve and a fast-day, and there was nothing
else, for all the fish brought up from the sea had been bought early in
the day for the great nobles, long before Gilbert had come into the
lines. But he neither knew nor cared, and he ate mechanically what they
gave him, being in a black humour. Then he sat a long time by the light
of the earthenware lamp which Dunstan occasionally tended with an iron
pin, lest the charring wick should slip into the half-melted fat and go
out altogether. When he was not watching the wick, the man's eyes fixed
themselves upon his master's grave face.

"Sir," he said at last, "you are sad. This is the Holy Eve, and all the
army will watch till midnight, when the first masses begin. If it
please you, let us walk through the camp and see what we may. The tents
of the great lords are all lighted up by this time and the soldiers are
singing the Christmas hymns."

Gilbert shook his head indifferently, but said nothing.

"Sir," insisted the man, "I pray you, let us go, for you shall be
cheered, and there are good sights. Before midnight the King and Queen
and all the court go in procession to the great chapel tent, and it is
meet that you should be there with them."

Dunstan brought a garment and gently urged him to rise. Gilbert stood
up, not looking.

"Why should I go?" he asked. "I am better alone, for I am in a sad
humour. And, besides, it is very cold."

"Your cloak shall keep you warm, sir."

"I cannot walk among the court people in rags," answered Gilbert, "and
I have nothing that is whole but this one thin tunic."

But even as he spoke, Dunstan held up the surcoat for him to put on
over his head, the skirts caught up in his hands, which also held the
collar open.

"What is this?" asked Gilbert, in surprise.

"It is a knight's surcoat, sir," answered the man. "It is of very good
stuff, and is wadded with down. I pray you, put it on."

"This is a gift," said Gilbert, suspiciously, and drawing back. "Who
sends me such presents?"

"The King of France, sir."

"You mean the Queen." He frowned and would not touch the coat.

"The things were brought by the King's men, and one of the King's
knights came also with them, and delivered a very courteous message,
and a purse of Greek bezants, very heavy."

Gilbert began to walk up and down, in hesitation. He was very poor, but
if the gifts were from the Queen, he was resolved not to keep them.

"Sir," said Dunstan, "the knight said most expressly that the King sent
you these poor presents as a token that he desires to see you to-morrow
and to thank you for all you have done. I thought to please you by
bringing them out suddenly."

Then Gilbert smiled kindly, for the man loved him, and he put his head
and arms into the knightly garment with its wide sleeves, and Dunstan
laced it up the back, so that it fitted closely to the body, while the
skirt hung down below the knees. It was of a rich dark silk, woven in
the East, and much like the velvet of later days. Then Dunstan girded
his master with a new sword-belt made of heavy silver plates, finely
chased and sewn on leather, and he thrust the great old sword with its
sheath through the flattened ring that hung to the belt by short silver
chains. Lastly he put upon Gilbert's shoulders a mantle of very dark
red cloth, lined with fine fur and clasped at the neck with silver; for
it was not seemly to wear a surcoat without a cloak.

"It is very noble," said Dunstan, moving back a step or two to see the
effect.

Indeed, the young English knight looked well in the dress of his
station, which he wore for the first time; for he was very tall and
broad of shoulder, and a lean man, well-bred; his face was clear and
pale, and his fair hair fell thick and long behind his cap.

"But you, Dunstan, you cannot be seen--"

Gilbert stopped, for he noticed suddenly that both his men were clad in
new clothes of good cloth and leather.

"The servants are honoured with their lord," said Dunstan. "The King
sent gifts for us, too."

"That was a man's thought, not a woman's," said Gilbert, almost to
himself.

He went out, and Dunstan walked by his left, but half a step behind his
stride, as was proper.

The camp was lit up with fires and torches as far as one could see, and
all men were out of doors, either walking up and down, arm in arm, or
sitting before their tents on folding-stools, or on their saddles, or
on packs of baggage. The hundreds and thousands of little Christmas
trees, stuck into the earth amid circles of torches before the newly
whitened tents, made a great garden of boughs and evergreens, and the
yellow glare shone everywhere through lacing branches, and fell on rich
colours and gleaming arms, well polished for the holiday, and lost
itself suddenly in the cold starlight overhead. The air smelt of
evergreen and the aromatic smoke of burning resin.

The night rang with song also, and in some places as many as a hundred
had gathered in company to sing the long Christmas hymns they had
learned as little children far away at home--endless canticles with
endless repetitions, telling the story of the Christ-Child's birth at
Bethlehem, of the adoration of the shepherds, and of the coming of the
Eastern kings.

In one part of the camp the rough Burgundians were drinking the strong
Asian wine in deep draughts, roaring their great choruses between, with
more energy than unction. But for the most part the northern men were
sober and in earnest, praying as they sang and looking upward as if the
Star of the East were presently to shed its soft light in the sky; and
they tended the torches and lights around the trees devoutly, not
guessing that their fathers had done the same long ago, in bleak
Denmark and snowy Norway, in worship of Odin and in honour of
Yggdrasil, the tree of life.

The Gascons and all the men of the South, on their side, had made
little altars between two trees, decked with white cloths and adorned
with tinsel ornaments and little crosses and small carved images
carefully brought, like household gods, from the far home, and
treasured only next to their arms. The thin, dark faces of the men were
fervent with southern faith, and their wild black eyes were deep and
still.

There were also Alsatians and Lorrainers in lines by themselves, quiet,
fair-haired men. They had little German dolls of wood, and toys
brightly painted, and by their trees they set out the scene of
Bethlehem, with the manger and the Christ-Child, and the oxen crouching
down, and the Blessed Mary and Saint Joseph, and also the shepherds and
the wise kings; and the men sat down before these things with happy
faces and sang their songs. So it was through the whole camp, the
soldiers doing everywhere according to their customs.

As for the nobles and knights, Gilbert saw some of them walking about
like himself, and some were sitting before their tents. Here and there,
as he passed, when a tent was open, he saw knights kneeling in prayer,
and could hear them reciting the litanies. But it was not always so,
for some were spending the night in feasting, their tents being closed,
though one could hear plainly the revelry. There was more than one
great tent in the French lines, of which the curtain was raised a
little, and there Gilbert saw men and women drinking together, under
bright lights, and he saw that the women were Greeks and that their
cheeks were painted and their eyelids blackened; and he turned away
from the sight, in disgust that such things should be done on the Holy
Eve of Christmas.

Further on, some very poor soldiers, in sheepskin doublets and leathern
hose, were kneeling together before a sort of rough screen, on which
were hung images painted in the manner of Greek eikons. These men had
long and silky beards, and their smooth brown hair hung out over their
shoulders in well-combed waves, and some of them had beautiful faces.
One, who was a priest of their own, stood upright and recited prayers
in a low chant, and from time to time, at the refrain, the soldiers all
bowed themselves till their foreheads touched the ground.

"The Lord Jesus Christ be praised," sang the priest.

"To all ages. Amen," responded the soldiers.

Though they sang in the Bohemian language, and Gilbert could not
understand, he saw that they believed and were of an earnest mind.

So he walked about for more than an hour, looking and listening, and
his own sad humour was lightened a little as he forgot to think of
himself only. For it seemed a great thing to have been chosen to lead
so many through a wilderness full of danger, and to know that more than
a hundred thousand lives had been in his keeping, as it were, for two
months, and were to be in his hand again, till he should lead them
safely into Syria, or perish himself and leave his task to another. It
was a task worth accomplishing and a trust worth his life.

Then, at midnight, he was walking in a great procession after the King
and Queen. Modestly he joined the ranks, and his man walked beside him
carrying a torch, so that the light fell full upon his face. Some one
knew him, and spoke to his neighbour.

"That is Sir Gilbert Warde, who is our guide," he said.

In an instant word ran along the line that he was there; and in a few
minutes a messenger came breathless, asking for him, and then the
herald of France, Montjoye Saint Denis, came after, bidding him to a
foremost place, in the name of the King and Queen. So he followed the
herald, whose runner walked before him, as had been bidden by Eleanor
herself.

"Make way for the Guide of Aquitaine!" cried the squire, in a loud
voice.

Knights and men-at-arms stood aside to let him pass, and the tall
Englishman went between them, courteously bending his head to thank
those who moved out of his way, and deprecating the high honour that
was done him. He heard his name repeated, both by men whose faces he
could see in the light around him, when the torches blazed and flamed,
and also from the darkness beyond.

"Well done, Sir Gilbert!" cried some. "God bless the Guide of
Aquitaine!" cried many others. And all the voices praised him, so that
his heart warmed.

Following the herald, he came to his place in the procession, in the
front rank of the great vassals of the two kingdoms, and just after the
sovereign lords; and as he was somewhat taller than other men, he could
look over their heads, and he saw the King and Queen in their furs,
walking together, and before them the bishops and priests. At the stir
made by his coming Eleanor turned and looked back, and her eyes met
Gilbert's through the smoky glare, gazing at him sadly, as if she would
have made him understand something she could not say.

But he would not have spoken if he could, for his thoughts were on
other things. The procession went on toward the royal altar, set up
under an open tent in a wide space, so that the multitude could kneel
on the grass and both see and hear the celebration. So they all knelt
down, the great barons and chief vassals having small hassocks for
their knees, while the King and Queen and the sovereign lords of Savoy
and Alsatia and Lorraine, and of Bohemia and of Poland, had rich
praying-stools set out for them in a row, next to the King and Queen.

The torches were stuck into the ground to burn down as they might, and
the great wax candles shone quietly on the white altar, for the night
was now very still and clear. There all the great nobles and many
thousands of other men heard the Christmas mass, just after midnight,
knowing that many of them should never hear it again on earth. There
they all sang together, in a mighty melody of older times, the 'Glory
to God in the highest,' which was first sung on the Holy Eve; and
there, when the Bishop of Metz was about to lift up the consecrated
bread, the royal trumpets rang out a great call to the multitude, so
that all men might bow themselves together. Then the silence was very
deep, while the Lord passed by; nor ever again in his life did Sir
Gilbert Warde know such a stillness as that was, save once, and it
seemed to him that in the Way of the Cross he had reached a place of
refreshment and rest.



CHAPTER XX


Gilbert rose from his knees with the rest, and then he saw that the
King and Queen placed themselves side by side and standing, and the
nobles began to go up to them according to their rank, to kiss their
hands. As Gilbert stood still, not knowing what to do, he watched the
procession of the barons from a distance. Suddenly he felt that his
eyes were wide open, and that he was gazing at a face which he knew,
hardly believing that he saw it in the flesh; and his back stiffened,
and his teeth ground on one another.

Ten paces from him, waiting and looking on, like himself, stood a
graceful man of middle height, of a clear olive complexion, with a
well-clipped beard of somewhat pointed cut, grey at the sides, as was
also the smooth, dark hair. Years had passed, and the last time he had
seen that face had been in the changing light of the greenwood, where
the sunshine played among the leaves; and as he had seen it last, he
had felt steel in his side and had fallen asleep, and after that his
life had changed. For Arnold de Curboil was before him, looking at him,
but not recognizing him. Still Gilbert stood rooted to the spot, trying
not to believe his senses, for he could not understand how his
stepfather could suddenly be among the Crusaders; but the divine peace
that had descended upon him that night was shivered as a mirror by a
stone, and his heart grew cold and hard.

The man also was changed since Gilbert had seen him. The face was
handsome still, but it was thin and sharp, and the eyes were haggard
and weary, as if they had seen a great evil long and had sickened of it
at last, and were haunted by it. Gilbert looked at him who had murdered
his father and had brought shame to his mother, and who had robbed him
of his fair birthright, and he saw that something of the score had been
paid. Gradually, too, as Sir Arnold gazed, a look of something like
despair settled in his face, a sort of horror that was not fear,--for
he was no coward,--but was rather a dread of himself. He made a step
forward, and Gilbert waited, and heard how Dunstan, who stood behind
him, loosened his dagger in its brass sheath.

At that moment came the King's herald again as before, bidding him go
up to the presence of the King and Queen.

"Room for the Guide of Aquitaine!"

The cry rang loud and clear, and Gilbert saw Sir Arnold start in
surprise at the high-sounding title. Then he followed the herald; but
in his heart there was already a triumph that the man who had left him
for dead in the English woods should find him again thus preferred
before other men.

The Queen's face grew paler as he came toward her and knelt down on one
knee, and through her embroidered glove of state his own hand, that was
cold, felt that hers was colder. But it did not tremble, and her voice
was steady and clear, so that all could hear it.

"Sir Gilbert Warde," she said, "you have done well. Guienne thanks you,
and France also--" She paused and looked toward the King, who was
watching her closely.

Louis bent his great pale face solemnly toward the Englishman.

"We thank you, Sir Gilbert," he said, with cold condescension.

"A hundred thousand men thank you," added Eleanor, in a ringing voice
that was to make up for her husband's ungrateful indifference.

There was a moment's silence, and then the voice of Gaston de
Castignac, high and full, sent up a cheer that was heard far out in the
clear night.

"God bless the Guide of Aquitaine!"

The cheer was taken up in the deep shout of strong men in earnest; for
it was known how Gilbert cared not for himself, nor for rewards, but
only for honour; and the thirty men who had been with him had told far
and wide how often he had watched that they might sleep, and how he
would always give the best to others, and how gently and courteously he
treated those he commanded.

But in the loud cheering, Eleanor took his hand in both hers and bent
down to speak to him, unheard by the rest; and her voice was low and
trembled a little.

"God bless you!" she said fervently. "God bless you and keep you, for
as I am a living woman, you are dearer to me than the whole world."

Gilbert understood how she loved him, as he had not understood before.
And yet her touch had no evil power to move him now, and the shadow of
his mother no longer haunted him in her eyes as he looked up. There,
beside the Christmas altar, in the Holy Night, she was trying to
complete the sacrifice of herself and her love. Gilbert answered her
earnestly.

"Madam," he said, "I shall try to do your will with all my heart, even
to death."

Thereafter he kept his word. But now he rose to his feet, and after
bending his knee again, he looked into the Queen's sad eyes, and passed
on to make way for the others, while the cheers that were for him still
rang in the air.

Then he began to walk to his tent. Dunstan had lighted a fresh torch
and was waiting for him. But the great barons, who had gone up to the
King and Queen before him, pressed round him and shook his hand, one
after another, and bade him to their feasting on the morrow; nor was
there jealousy of him, as there had been when he had saved the Queen's
life at Nicaea, for now that they saw him they felt that he was no
courtier, and desired only the safety of the army, with his own honour.

As they thronged about him, there came Sir Arnold de Curboil, pressing
his way among them, and when he was before Gilbert he also held out his
hand.

"Gilbert Warde," he asked, "do you not know me?"

"I know you, sir," answered the young knight, in a clear voice that all
could hear, "but I will not take your hand."

There was silence, and the great nobles looked on, not understanding,
while Dunstan held his torch so that the light fell full upon Sir
Arnold's pale features.

"Then take my glove!"

He plucked off his loose leathern gauntlet and tossed it lightly at
Gilbert's face. But Dunstan's quick left hand caught it in the air,
while the torch scarcely wavered in his right.

Gilbert was paler than his enemy, but he would not let his hand go to
his sword, and he folded his arms under his mantle, lest they should
move against his will.

"Sir," he said, "I will not fight you again at this time, though you
killed my father treacherously. Though you have stolen my birthright, I
will not fight you now, for I have taken the Cross, and I will keep the
vow of the Cross, come what may."

"Coward!" cried Sir Arnold, contemptuously, and he would have turned on
his heel.

But Gilbert stepped forward and caught him by his arms and held him
quietly, without hurting him, but so that he could not easily move and
must hear.

"You have called me a coward, Sir Arnold de Curboil. How should I fear
you, since I can wring you to death in my hands if I will? But I will
let you go, and these good lords here shall judge whether I am a coward
or not because I will not fight you until I have fulfilled my vows."

"Well said," cried the old Count of Bourbon.

"Well said, well done," cried many others.

Moreover, the Count of Savoy, of whose race none was ever born that
knew fear, even to this day, spoke to his younger brother of Montferrat.

"I have not seen a braver man than this English knight, nor a better
man of his hands, nor one more gentle, and he has the face of a leader."

Then Gilbert loosed his hold and Sir Arnold looked angrily to the right
and left, and passed out of the crowd, all men making way for him as if
they would not touch him. Some of them turned to Gilbert again, and
asked him questions about the strange knight.

"My lords," he answered, "he is Sir Arnold de Curboil, my stepfather;
for when he had killed my father, he married my mother and stole my
lands. I fought him when I was but a boy, and he left me for dead in
the forest; and now I think that he is come from England to seek
occasion against me; but if I live I shall get back my inheritance. And
now, if I seem to you to have dealt justly by him, I crave my leave of
you, and thank your lordships for your good will and courtesy."

So they bade him good-night, and he went away, leaving many who felt
that he had done well, but that, in his place, they could not have done
as much. They did not know how dear it cost him, but dimly they guessed
that he was braver than they, though they were of the bravest.

He was very tired, and had not slept in a good bed under his own tent
for two months; yet he was sleepless, and awoke after two hours, and
could not sleep again till within an hour of the winter dawn; for he
feared some evil for Beatrix if her father should claim her of the
Queen and take her back from Ephesus by sea, as he must have come.

At daylight, warming themselves at a fire, Dunstan told Alric all that
happened in the night. The Saxon's stolid face did not change, but he
was thoughtful and silent for some time, remembering how the Lady Goda
had once had him beaten, long ago, because he had not held Sir Arnold's
horse in the right way when the knight was mounting.

Presently Beatrix's Norman tirewoman came to the two men, wrapped in a
brown cloak with a hood that covered half her face. She told them that
her lady knew of Sir Arnold's coming, and begged of Sir Gilbert that
for her sake he would walk by the river at noon, when every one would
be at dinner in the camp, and she would try and meet him there.



CHAPTER XXI


Gilbert waited long, for he went down early to the river, and he sat on
a big stone sunning himself, for the air was keen, and there was a
north wind. At last he saw two veiled women coming along the bank. The
shorter one was a little lame and leaned upon the other's arm, and the
wind blew their cloaks before them as they came. When he saw that
Beatrix limped, knowing that she had not quite recovered from her fall,
and remembering that she might have been killed, his heart sank with a
sickening faintness.

He took her by the hand very gently, for she looked so slight and ill
that he almost feared to touch her, and yet he did not wish to let her
fingers go, nor she to take them away. The tirewoman went down to the
river-bank, at some distance, and they sat upon the big stone, hand in
hand like two children, and looked at each other. Suddenly the girl's
face lightened, as if she had just found out that she was glad; her
eyes laughed, and her voice was as happy as a bird's at sunrise.

Gilbert had not seen her for a long time. To such a man, all women, and
even one chosen woman, might easily become an ideal, too far from the
material to have a real hold upon his manhood, and so high above earth
as to have no spiritual realization. Even in that age many a knight
made a divinity of his lady and a religion of his devotion to her, so
that the very meaning of love was forgotten in the ascetic impulse to
seek the soul's salvation in all things, even in the contempt of all
earthly longings; and those men demanded as much in return, expecting
it even after their own death. There were also women, like Anne of
Auch, who gave such devotion freely. Nevertheless, it was not
altogether in this way between Beatrix and Gilbert, and if it might
have been, so far as he was concerned, she would not have had it so,
and her words proved it.

"I am so proud of you!" she cried. "And I am so very glad to see you."

"Proud of me?" he asked, smiling sadly. "I am not proud of myself. For
all I have done, you might be dead at Nicaea."

"But I am alive," she answered happily, "and by your doing, though I
cannot yet walk quite well."

"I ought to have let the Queen pass on. I ought to have thought only of
you."

He found a satisfaction in saying aloud at last what had been so long
in his heart against himself, and in saying it to Beatrix herself. But
she would not hear it.

"That would have been very unknightly and disloyal," she said. "I would
not have had you do it, for you would have been blamed by men. And then
I should never have heard what I heard yesterday and last night, the
very best words I ever heard in all my life--the cry of a great army
blessing one man for a good work well done."

"I have done nothing," answered Gilbert, stolidly determined to
depreciate himself in her eyes.

But she smiled and laid her gloved hand quickly upon his lips.

"I would not have another laugh at you, as I do!" she cried.

He looked at her, and the mask of grave melancholy which was fast
becoming his natural expression began to soften, as if it could not
last forever.

"I have often thought of you and wondered whether you would think well
of my deeds," he said.

"You see!" she laughed. "And now because I am proud of you, you pretend
that you have done nothing! That is poor praise of my good sight and
judgment."

He laughed, too. Since the dawn of time, women have retorted thus upon
brave men too modest of their doings; and since the first woman found
the trick, it has never failed to please man. But love needs not
novelty, for he himself is always young; the stars of night are not
less fair in our eyes because men knew the 'sweet influence of the
Pleiades' in Job's day, nor is the scent of new-mown hay less delicate
because all men love it. The old is the best, even in love, which is
young.

"Say what you will," answered Gilbert, presently, "we are together
to-day."

"And nothing else matters," said Beatrix. "Not even that it is two
months since I have seen you, and that I have been ill, or, at least,
half crippled, by that fall. It is all forgotten."

He looked at her, not quite understanding, for as she spoke her
eyebrows were raised a little, with her own expression, half sad, half
laughing at herself.

"I wish I could see you more often," answered Gilbert.

Her little birdlike laugh disconcerted him.

"Indeed, I am in earnest," he said.

"And yet when you are in earnest, you do much harder things," answered
Beatrix, and at once the sadness had the better of the laughter in her
face. "Oh, Gilbert, I wish we were back in England in the old days."

"So do I!"

"Oh, no! You do not. You say so to please me, but you cannot make it
sound true. You are a great man now. You are Sir Gilbert Warde, the
Guide of Aquitaine. It is you, and you only, who are leading the army,
and you will have all the honour of it. Would you go back to the old
times when we were boy and girl? Would you, if you could?"

"I would if I could."

He spoke so gravely that she understood where his thoughts were, and
that they were not all for her. For a few moments she looked down in
silence, pulling at the fingers of her glove, and once she sighed;
then, without looking up, she spoke, in her sweet, low voice.

"Gilbert, what are we to each other? Brother and sister?"

He started, again not understanding, and fancying that she was setting
up the Church's canon between them, which he now knew to be no
unremovable impediment.

"You are no more my sister than your tirewoman there can be," he
answered, more warmly than he had spoken yet.

"I did not mean that," she said sadly.

"I do not understand, then."

"If you do not, how can I tell you what I mean?" She glanced at him and
then looked away quickly, for she was blushing, and was ashamed of her
boldness.

"Do you mean that I love you as I might a sister?" asked Gilbert, with
the grave tactlessness of a thoroughly honest man.

The blush deepened in her cheek, and she nodded slowly, still looking
away.

"Beatrix!"

"Well?" She would not turn to him.

"What have I done that you should say such a thing?"

"That is it!" she answered regretfully. "You have done great things,
but they were not for me."

"Have I not told you how I have thought of you day after day, hoping
that you might think well of my deeds?"

"Yes. But you might have done one thing more. That would have made all
the difference."

"What?" He bent anxiously towards her for the answer.

"You might have tried to see me."

"But I was never in the camp. I was always a day's march in the lead of
the army."

"But not always fighting. There were days, or nights, when you could
have ridden back. I would have met you anywhere--I would have ridden
hours to see you. But you never tried. And at last it is I who send for
you and beg you to come and talk with me here. And you do not even seem
glad to be with me."

"I did not think that I had a right to leave my post and come back,
even for you."

"You could not have helped it--if you had cared." She spoke very low.

Gilbert looked at her long, and the lines deepened in his face, for he
was hurt.

"Do you really believe that I do not love you?" he asked, but his voice
was cold because he tried to control it, and succeeded too well.

"You have never told me so," Beatrix answered. "You have done little to
make me think so, since we were children together. You have never tried
to see me when it would have cost you anything. You are not glad to see
me now."

Her voice could be cold, too; but there was a tremor in some of the
syllables. He was utterly surprised and taken unawares, and he slowly
repeated the substance of what she said.

"I never told you so? Never made you think so? Oh, Beatrix!"

He remembered the sleepless nights he had passed, accusing himself of
letting even one thought of the Queen come between him and the girl who
was denying his love--the restless, melancholy hours of
self-accusation, the cruel self-torment--how could she know?

She was in earnest, now, though she had begun half playfully; for if
the man's heart had not changed, he had gone away from her in his
active life, and in the habit of hiding all real feeling which comes
from living long alone or with strangers. It was true that outwardly he
had hardly seemed glad to see her, and all the ring of happiness had
died away out of her voice before they had exchanged many words. He
felt her mood, and it grew clear to him that he had made some great
mistake which it would be very hard to set right. And she was thinking
how boldly she had striven with the Queen for his love, and that now it
seemed to be no love at all.

But he, whose impulse was ever to act when there was danger, however
much he might weary his soul with inward examination at other times,
grew desperate, and gave up thinking of a way out of the difficulty.
What he loved was slipping from him, and though he loved it in his own
way, it was indeed all he loved, and he would not let it go.

Thoughtless at last, and sudden, he took her into his arms, and his
face was close to hers, and his eyes were in hers, and their lips
breathed the same breath. She was not frightened, but her lids drooped,
and she turned quite white. Then he kissed her, not once, but many
times, and as if he would never let her go, on her pale mouth, on her
dark eyelids, on her waving hair.

"If I kill you, you shall know that I love you," he said, and he kissed
her again, so that it hurt her, but it was good to be hurt.

After that she lay in his arms, very still, and she looked up slowly,
and their eyes met; and it was as if the veil had fallen from between
them. When he kissed her again, his kisses were gentle and altogether
tender.

"I had almost lost you," he said, breathing the words to her ear.

The Norman tirewoman sat motionless by the river's edge, waiting till
she should be called. After a time they began to talk again, and their
voices were in tune, like their hearts. Then Gilbert spoke of what had
happened in the night, but Beatrix already knew that her father had
come.

"He has come to take me away," she said, "and we have talked together.
Gilbert--a dreadful thing has happened; did he tell you?"

"He told me nothing--excepting that I was a coward!" He laughed
scornfully.

"I think he is half mad with sorrow." She paused and laid her hand on
Gilbert's. "His wife is dead,--your mother is dead,--with the child she
bore him."

Gilbert's eyes alone changed, but under her palm Beatrix felt the
sinews of his hand leap and the veins swell.

"Tell me quickly," he said.

"She was burned," continued Beatrix, in a tone of awe. "She made my
father grind his people till they turned, and she made him hang the
leader who spoke for them. Then all the yeomen and the bondmen rose,
and they burned the castle, and your mother died with the child. But my
father escaped alive. Now I am again his only child, and he wants me
again."

Gilbert's head fell forward, as if he had received a blow, but he said
nothing for a time, for he saw his mother's face; and he saw her not as
when they had parted, but as he remembered her before that, when he had
loved her above all things, not knowing what she was. In spite of all
that had gone between, she came back to him as she had been, and the
pain and the pity were real and great. But then he felt Beatrix's hand
pressing his in sympathy, and it brought him again to the evil truth.
He raised his head.

"She is better dead," he said bitterly. "Let us not speak of her any
more. She was my mother."

He stared long at the river, and the sadness of his homeless and lonely
state in the world began to come upon him, as it came often. Then a
soft voice broke the spell, and the words answered his thoughts.

"We are not alone, you and I," it said, and the two small hands crept
up shyly and clasped his neck, and the loving, pathetic face looked up
to his. "Do not let him take me away!" she begged.

His hand pressed her head to his breast, and once more he kissed her
hair.

"He shall not take you," he said. "No one shall take you from me; no
one shall come between you and me."

Beatrix's eyes seemed to drink out of his the meaning of the words he
spoke.

"Promise me that," she said, knowing that he would promise her the
world.

"I promise it with all my heart."

"On your knightly faith?" She smiled as she insisted.

"On my honour and faith."

"And on the faith of love, too?" She almost laughed, out of sheer
happiness.

"On the very truth of true love," he answered.

"Then I am quite safe," she said, and she hid her face against his
surcoat. "I am glad I came to you, I am glad that I was so bold as to
send for you this day, for it is the best day of my whole life. And,
Gilbert, you will not wait till I send for you another time? You will
try and see me--of your own accord?"

She was altogether in anxiety again, and there was a look of fear and
sadness in her eyes.

"I will try--indeed I will," he said earnestly.

"Whenever you do, you shall succeed," she answered, nestling to him. "I
wish I might shut my eyes and rest here--now that I know."

"Rest, sweet, rest!"

A moment, and then, from far away, a clarion call rang on the still
air. With the instinct of the soldier, Gilbert started, and listened,
holding his breath, but still pressing the girl close to him.

"What is it?" she asked, half frightened.

It came again, joyous and clear.

"It is nothing," he said. "It is the Christmas banquet, and perhaps the
King drinks the Queen's health--and she his."

"And perhaps, though no one knows it, she--" But Beatrix stopped and
laughed. "I will not say it! Why should I care?"

She was thinking that if the Queen drank a health it might be meant, in
her heart, for the Guide of Aquitaine, and she nestled closer to him in
the sunshine.



CHAPTER XXII


A week the army stayed in camp by the pleasant waters of the Maeander,
and daily at noon Gilbert and Beatrix met at the same place. She told
him that she had not seen her father again, and believed that he had
left the camp. The Queen knew that the lovers met, but she would not
hinder them, though it was cruel pain to think of their happiness. Many
have spoken and written evil things of Eleanor, for she was a haughty
woman and overbearing, and she feared neither God nor man, nor Satan
either; but she had a strong and generous heart, and, having promised,
she kept her word as well as she could. She would not send for Gilbert,
nor see him alone, lest she should fail of resolution when her eyes
looked on him too closely. Beatrix knew this and took heart, and the
veil of estrangement was lifted between her and Gilbert.

On the last day but one of the year he went before the King, who bade
him mount again with his men and ride before the army through the
passes of the Cadmus towards Attalia, seeking out the safest way and
giving timely warning of the enemy. Also, because it was known that the
danger must be greater now than before, the King gave him leave to
choose knights and men-at-arms to the number of a hundred, to be under
him, and made him rich presents of fine armour, and caused his shield
to be painted afresh by a skilled Greek. While he talked with Gilbert
he watched the Queen, who sat apart somewhat pale, reading in a Book of
Hours, for he was suspicious of her; but she never looked at the
Englishman until he was taking his leave. Then she beckoned him to her,
before he went out, and gave him her ungloved hand, which he kissed,
and she looked into his face a moment, very sadly, not knowing whether
she should see him again. So he went out, to bid Beatrix farewell.

She met him at the accustomed place by the river, and for a while they
were together; but they could not talk much, being both very sad. She
took a golden ring from her hand, and would have put it upon his
finger, but it was too small.

"I had hoped that you could wear it," she said, disappointed, "for it
was my mother's."

Gilbert took it in his hand. It was of very pure gold and thin, so he
cut it open with the point of his dagger and bent it back and clasped
it round his fourth finger, tightly.

"It is our troth," he said.

It was hard to let him go, for she also knew the peril, as the Queen
knew it.

"I shall pray for you," she said, clinging to him. "God is good--you
may come back to me."

They sat a long time together, saying nothing. When it was time for him
to lead his men out, as he judged by the sun, he kissed her, lifting
her up to him.

"Good-by," he said.

"Not yet!" she pleaded, between his kisses. "Oh, Gilbert, not so very
soon!"

But she knew that he must go, and he set her gently upon her feet, for
it was the last moment. When he was gone, she sat down upon the stone,
and the Norman woman came and put one arm round her, holding her, for
she seemed fainting. Still her eyes followed him as he strode along the
river, till he reached the turning. There he stopped and looked back,
and kissed the ring she had given him, and waved his hand to her; and
she pressed both her hands to her lips and threw them out to him, as if
she would have thrown him her heart and her soul with it.

When he was gone, the sky turned black before her eyes and time stood
still, and she knew what death meant. But she did not faint, and she
had no tears. Only, when she went back after some time, she walked
unsteadily and her woman helped her.

So Gilbert rode out to seek the way, taking well-mounted messengers
with him as before, and on the first day of the New Year the whole army
began the march again, crossing the river the first time at a ford. The
Queen would perforce be in the van, with her ladies, so that the speed
of their riding became the speed of the whole army, whereby the whole
host was kept together. The first messenger who came back told that Sir
Gilbert had reached the hills, and led the Queen by the way he had
followed, saying that so far he had met no enemies.

But on the morrow, as they drew near to the mountains and rode up the
rising ground, they saw afar off a man standing by one who lay stark on
the ground, and driving off a vulture and a score of ravens with a long
staff. The Queen's heart stood still when she saw this sight, and she
spurred her Arab mare forward before all the army till she stopped
beside the dead body and saw that the face was not Gilbert's. The
squire who was guarding the dead told her how, very early in the
morning, some fifty Seljuk horsemen had come down from the hills and
had shot arrows at Gilbert and his men from a distance, wheeling
quickly and galloping away out of sight before the Christians could
mount; and this one knight had been killed, and his squire had stayed
by him till the army should come up, while the rest rode on, and took
both the horses with them in case they should lose any of their own.

There they buried the body deep, when the Queen's chaplain had blessed
it, and they marched on till noon, and encamped. From that time the
Queen made her ladies ride in the centre of the great host, protected
on all sides; but she herself, with the Lady Anne of Auch, still kept
the van, for in this way she was nearer to Gilbert. She also sent out
parties of scouts to the right and left, to give warning of the
Seljuks; and the King guarded the rear, where there was also great
danger.

Meanwhile Gilbert went farther up into the mountains, searching out the
best way to the pass, distrusting the Greek guides, who nevertheless
feared him and told him the truth, though it was the secret wish of the
Greek Emperor that the army should all be destroyed, because he desired
no increase of the western power in Asia. But Gilbert told the guides
severally and all together that he would cut off the head of the first
one who should even seem to be false; and he kept them under his own
eye, and his long sword was always loose in the sheath.

He went very cautiously now, setting sentinels at night and sleeping
little himself, so that he might often go alone from post to post and
see that all was well. But the Seljuks never came in the darkness, for
as yet there were not many of them, and they trusted to their bows by
day, when they could see; but they feared to come to close quarters
with the picked swordsmen of the French army. Since they had first
shown themselves, the Christians all rode fully armed in mail and hood,
knights and men-at-arms and young squires alike, with the half-dozen
pack-horses and a few spare mounts in the midst; and good mail was
proof against arrows, but Gilbert wished that he had brought fifty
archers with him, such marksmen as little Alric, his groom.

There was some fighting every day, when he was able to overtake the
swift Seljuks in some narrow place. They fled when they could, but when
they were brought to bay they turned savagely and fought like panthers,
yelling their war-cry: "Hurr! Hurr!" which in the Tartar tongue
signifies: "Kill! Kill!"

But more often the Christians killed them, being stronger men and
better armed, and Gilbert was ever the first to strike; and one day, as
the fiercest of a band of Seljuks rode at him, whirling a crooked sword
and shouting the cry, Gilbert cut off his arm at one stroke and it fell
to the ground with the fist still grasping the scimitar; whereat
Gilbert laughed fiercely and mocked the unbeliever's cry.

"Hurrah! Hurrah!" he shouted, as he rode on.

Then his followers took the cry from him, jeering at their enemies, and
on that morning they let not one escape, but slew them all, saving one
man only, and took the horses that were alive. But from that time, the
Christians began to cry, "Hurrah!" And when men shout to-day, "Hurrah
for the king," they know not that they are crying, "Kill for the king."

But Gilbert saw that the place where this happened was a very dangerous
one, though the entrance to it was broad and pleasant, through a high
valley where there were certain huts in which shepherds dwelt, and
grass and water. Therefore he turned back quickly when the killing was
over, and he took the chief of the guides by the throat, holding his
head down upon the pommel of his saddle, and bade him show a better way
if he would keep his head on his shoulders.

"My lord, there is no other way," cried the man, fright-struck.

"Very well," answered Gilbert, drawing his red sword again. "If there
is no other way, I shall not need you any more, my man."

When the fellow heard the sheath sucking the wet steel, he screamed for
terror, crying out that there was another way. So they rode back to the
entrance of the valley, and the man began to lead them up a steep track
among trees; and above the trees they came to a desolate, stony ridge;
but still they could ride, though it was a very toilsome way.

When they had reached the top, after three hours, Gilbert saw that he
was at the true pass, broad and straight, opening down to grassy slopes
beyond, between crags that would not give a foothold to a goat. He rode
on a little way farther, and there was a very steep path, turning back,
round the highest peak, and presently he looked down into a small, high
valley, below which the narrow way led down to the pleasant place
through which he had first ridden, and he saw that a great army could
easily be destroyed there by a small one lying in ambush. He could see
quite plainly the dead Seljuks lying as they had fallen, and from far
and near the great vultures and the kites were sailing down from the
crags, while the ravens and crows that followed his killing day by day
were flying, and settling, and hopping along the ground, and flying
again to the places of death.

He rode back to his men, driving the guide before him; and the man
feared for his life continually, and reeled in the saddle as if he were
drunk. But Gilbert knew that a man well frightened was a man gained for
what he wanted, so when he had threatened to cut off his hands and put
out his eyes and leave him to die among the rocks if he tried to
misguide the army again, he let him live. Then he sent ten men back to
lead the host on the following day, and he remained in the pass to keep
it until the vanguard should be in sight. He bade his messengers tell
the King that for his life he must not go into the broad valley, though
it looked so fair and open.

Now the Seljuks whom he had met were all dead but one young man; but
there were many of them, some five thousand, encamped in a great
hiding-place surrounded by rocks, on the other side of the pass. And
the one who had escaped went to them, and told them what had happened,
and that the whole French army would surely come up that way on the
next day or the day after that. Therefore the Seljuks mounted, and came
and lay in ambush, and two hundred of them rode down into the valley
and hid themselves among the trees where the steep way began which was
the right way. For they knew the mountains, and feared lest at the last
moment the White Fiend, as they called Gilbert, might find out his
mistake and choose that path to the pass, and save all; whereas on the
steep ridge, under cover of trees, two hundred chosen bowmen, each with
a great sheaf of arrows, might turn back a host. So the night passed,
and Gilbert was undisturbed; but great evil was prepared for the army,
though his messengers reached the camp and repeated his words to the
King before nightfall.

It lacked two hours of noon when Sir Gaston de Castignac and a dozen
other knights, and Gilbert's ten men, turned the spur of the mountain
where the broad green valley opened, having on their right the wooded
ridge where the two hundred Seljuks were hidden. A moment later the
Queen herself came up, with Anne of Auch and a hundred knights, and she
supposed that they should have ridden through the valley; but Castignac
stopped her and told her what the men said, and that they must all
begin the ascent from that point. The valley was inviting, with its
pleasant water and its broad meadow, and some of the knights murmured;
but when Eleanor heard that Gilbert had chosen the steeper way, she had
no doubt, and bade them all be silent; yet as there was much space on
the grass, and as the men said that the ascent was long, it seemed
better to halt awhile before beginning to climb. Meanwhile the whole
van of the army came up, many thousands of men-at-arms and knights, and
footmen, and after them the gorgeous train of ladies, careless and gay,
feeling themselves safe among so many armed men, and desiring a sight
of the enemy rather than fearing it. There was little order in the
march, and hitherto there had been little danger; for the Seljuks meant
to destroy them in the mountains, and would never have tried battle in
the open with such a great host.

Still the troop came on, filling the valley from side to side, and
pressing up by sheer numbers toward the pass; and the King came at
last, and with him certain Greek guides to whom he listened, and who
began to make a great outcry, saying that Sir Gilbert was a madman and
that no horses could climb the ridge. Thereat Gilbert's men swore that
they had climbed it on the preceding day, and that even a woman could
ride up it. And one of the Greeks began to laugh at them, saying that
they lied; so Sir Gaston de Castignac smote him on the mouth with his
mailed hand, breaking all his teeth, and there was a turmoil, and the
people began to take opposite sides, for many of the King's men had
come up, and he himself was for the easy way up the valley.

Then Eleanor was very angry, and she mounted again, calling Gilbert's
men to her side, and her own knights who rode in the van, and she told
the King to his face that the Guide of Aquitaine had ever led them
safely, but that whenever the army had followed the King's guides, evil
had befallen. But the King would not be browbeaten before the great
lords and barons, and he swore a great oath that he would go by the
valley, come what might. Thereupon Eleanor turned her back on him,
wheeling her horse short round; and she bade her knights ride up the
hill to the trees with her, and gave orders that her army should follow
her, and leave the King to take his men by any way he chose. On this
the confusion became greater than ever, for in the host there were
thousands of men, half pilgrims, half soldiers, who had come of their
own accord, as free men, bound neither to the King nor the Queen; there
were also the Poles and Bohemians, who were independent. All these
began to discuss and quarrel among themselves.

Meanwhile the Queen and Anne of Auch rode slowly up the hill, straight
toward the trees, with Castignac and Gilbert's men before them, and the
knights of Guienne following closely after; but none of them expected
evil, for the place looked peaceful in the high sunshine. Eleanor and
the Lady Anne rode fearlessly in their skirts and mantles, but the men
were fully armed in their mail and steel caps.

The foremost were half a dozen spears' lengths from the brushwood when
the sharp twang of a bowstring broke the stillness, and an arrow that
was meant for the Queen's face flew just between her and the Lady Anne.
The fair woman flushed suddenly at the danger; on the dark one's
forehead a vein stood out, straight from the parting of the hair,
downward between the eyes. The men spurred their horses instantly, and
dashed into the wood before the Queen could stop them, Castignac first
by a length, with his sword out. The flight of arrows that followed the
first shot struck horses and men together, and three or four horses
went down with their riders; but the mail was proof, and the men were
on their feet in an instant and running among the trees, whence came
the sound of great blows, and the sharp twanging of many bowstrings,
and the yell of the Seljuks. Now and again an arrow flew from among the
trees at random, and while Eleanor sat on her horse, looking down the
hill and crying to her knights to come on quickly and join in the
fight, she did not know that Anne of Auch covered her with her body
from the danger of a stray shaft, facing the danger with a light heart,
in the hope of the blessed death for which she looked.

Of those who went in under the trees, none came back, while the din of
the fight rose louder and wilder, by which Eleanor guessed that the
enemy were very few and were being driven up the hill, overpowered by
numbers; and lest her own men should hamper each other, she stopped
them and would not allow any more to go up.

Meanwhile the King looked on from below, saying prayers; for he was in
mortal dread of wishing that the Queen might be killed, since that
would have been as great a sin as if he had slain her with his own
hand; so that whereas when there was no present danger he constantly
prayed that by some means he might be delivered from the woman of
Belial, he now prayed as fervently that she might be preserved. As soon
as he saw her forbidding a further advance, he took it for granted that
she intended to come back and go up the valley, and he gave the signal
to his own knights and men to advance in that direction, away from the
place where the Seljuks were fighting. Indeed, there were always many
who were ready to turn their backs on danger, especially of the poorer
sort, who were ill-armed; and immediately, with great confusion and
much shouting and pressing, the main body began to move on quickly,
spreading out as they went, and completely filling up the valley; but
then they were crowded again, as they went higher, where the valley
narrowed to the pass, and at last they were so squeezed and jammed
together that the horses could hardly move at all.

The Queen's ladies, with their great throng of attendants and servants,
had drawn aside at the beginning of the valley, protected by two or
three thousand men-at-arms, to wait the end of the fighting, but she
herself was still on the spur of the hill before the woods. Before long
came Sir Gaston de Castignac, on foot and covered with blood, his mail
hacked in many places by the crooked Seljuk swords, and his
three-cornered shield dinted and battered. He came to the Queen's side
and made a grand bow, waving his right hand towards the trees, and he
spoke in a loud voice.

"The Duchess's highway is clear," he said. "The way is open and the
road is swept. But the broom--"

He turned livid and reeled.

"The broom is broken!" he cried, as he fell at full length almost under
the Arab mare's feet.

He had been shot through the middle with an arrow, but had lived to
tell of victory. In an instant the Queen knelt beside him, trying to
raise his head; and he smiled when he knew her, and died. But there
were gentle tears in her eyes as she rose to her feet and bade them
bury the Gascon deep, while she herself laid his shield upon his knees,
and crossed his hands upon his breast.

Many others died there, and were buried quickly; but the bodies of the
Seljuks were dragged aside, out of the line of the march; and it was
high noon, for all that had happened had taken place in about two
hours. Yet as the way was long to the summit of the pass, those of
Gilbert's men who had not been killed urged the Queen to march on at
once, in order that the camp might be pitched by daylight where Gilbert
was waiting. So Eleanor commanded that all her people should follow her
in the best order they could keep, and she began to ride up the steep
way. But in the valley the King's army was pressing on and up toward
the place where Gilbert had fought yesterday, where the bones of the
slain Seljuks were already white, and the gorged vultures perched
sleeping in the noonday sun.

Two hours passed, and because the guides knew the way well, it being
now the third time of their passing there, and because the Queen and
her vanguard were on sure-footed horses, they reached the top in that
time, and saw Gilbert and the eighty men he still had with him sitting
on the rocks in their armour, waiting, and their horses tethered near
by, but saddled and bridled. Then Gilbert stood out before the rest and
waited for the Queen, who cantered forward and halted beside him. She
began to speak somewhat hurriedly, and she constantly looked about her,
rather than into his face, telling him how they had fought in the wood,
and how the King and many of the host had gone round by the valley.
Thereat Gilbert became very anxious.

"The ladies are following me," said Eleanor, gently, for she knew why
he was pale.

As she spoke, a cry came on the air, wild, distinct as the scream of
the hungry falcon, but it was the cry of thousands.

"Hurr! Hurr! Hurr!"

"The Seljuks are upon them," said Gilbert, "for that cry is from the
pass above the valley. God have mercy on the souls of Christian men!"

Dunstan, who knew him well, brought his horse at the first alarm.

"By your Grace's leave," said Gilbert, taking the bridle to mount, "I
will take my men and do what I can to help them. I have explored the
way round this mountain, and every man who follows me may kill ten
Seljuks at an advantage, from above, just as the Seljuks are now
slaying the King's men, below them."

"Hurr! Hurr! Kill! Kill!"

Ear-piercing, wild, the cry of slaughter came up from the valley again
and again, and worse sounds came now on the clear air, the howls of men
pressed together and powerless, slain in hundreds with arrows and
stones, and the unearthly shrieks of horses wounded to death.

"They are in thousands," said Gilbert, listening. "I must have more
men."

"I give you my army," said Eleanor. "Command all, and do your best."

For one moment Gilbert looked hard at her, scarcely believing that she
meant the words. But she raised herself in her saddle, and called out
in a loud voice to the hundreds of nobles and knights who had already
come up.

"Sir Gilbert Warde commands the army!" she cried. "Follow the Guide of
Aquitaine!"

There was light in his face as he silently bowed his head and mounted.

"Sirs," he said, when he was in the saddle, "the way by which I shall
lead you to rescue the King is narrow; therefore follow me in good
order, two and two, all those who have sure-footed horses. But beyond
the defile as many as a thousand may fight without hindering each
other. The rest encamp here and protect the Queen and her ladies.
Forward!"

He saluted Eleanor and rode away, leaving her there. She hesitated and
looked longingly after him, but Anne of Auch laid a hand upon her
bridle.

"Madam," she said, "your place is here, where there is no one to
command. And here also there may be danger before long."

All the time, the dreadful din of fight came up from below, louder and
louder. The Seljuks had waited until not less than five thousand men,
with the King himself, had passed through the narrow channel from the
lower valley and choked the upper gorge, pushed on by those behind; and
then, from their hiding-places among the rocks and trees, they had
sprung up in their thousands to kill those taken in the trap like mice.
First came the thick flight of their arrows, straight and deadly, going
down with flashes into the sea of men; and then great stones rolled
from the heights, boulders that crushed the life out of horse and man
and rolled straight through the mass of human bodies, leaving a track
of blood behind; and then more arrows, darting hither and thither in
the sunlight like rock-swallows; and again stones and boulders, till
the confusion and the panic were at their height, and the wild Seljuks
sprang down the sides of the gorge, yelling for death, swinging their
scimitars, to kill more surely by hand, lest they should waste arrows
on dead men.

The blood was ankle-deep in the pass, through which more and more of
the Christians were driven up to the slaughter by those who followed
them. The King was forcing his way through his own men, and with them,
toward the side where there were most enemies. His sluggish blood was
roused at last, and his sword was out. Nor was it long before he was
able to fight hand to hand; but many of those around him were slain,
because their arms were hampered in the close press. The Seljuks made
room by killing, and climbed upon the slain towards the living. In the
vast and screaming din, no one could have heard a voice of command, and
the air was darkening with the steam and reek of battle.

A full hour the Seljuks slew and slew, almost unharmed, and the
Christians were dead in thousands under their feet. The King, with a
hundred followers, was at bay by the roots of a huge oak tree, fighting
as best he might, and killing a man now and then, though wounded in the
face and shoulder, and sorely spent. But he saw that it was a desperate
case and that all was lost, and no more of his army were coming up to
the rescue, because the narrow pass was choked with dead. So he began
to sing the penitential psalms in time with the swinging of his sword.

It was towards evening, for the days were short, and the westering sun
suddenly poured its light straight into the gorge and upon the rising
ground above. Some of the Christians looked up out of the carnage, and
the King turned his eyes that way when he could spare a glance, and
suddenly the sun flashed back from the height, as from golden and
silver mirrors quickly moving, and foremost was an azure shield with a
golden cross flory, and the Christians knew it well. Then a feeble
shout went up from the few who lived.

"The Guide of Aquitaine!" they cried.

But they were not heard, for suddenly there was a louder cry from the
Seljuks, and it was not their war-yell, but something like a howl of
fear.

"The Wrath of God! The White Fiend!"

For they were caught in their own trap, and death rose in their eyes.
On the low heights above the gorge a thousand Christians had formed in
ranks quickly, with lance lowered and sword loose in sheath. A moment
later, and a steel cap went whirling through the air, glancing and
gleaming in the sun, till it fell among the enemy below, and then came
the sharp command, the leader's single word:

"Charge!"

The Seljuks heard the terrible, quick clanking of armour as the great
troop began to move, and the Guide of Aquitaine swept down in a storm
of steel, bareheaded, his fair hair streaming on the wind, his eyes on
fire in the setting sun, his great sword high in air, the smile of
destruction on his even lips.

"The White Fiend! The Wrath of God!" screamed the Seljuks.

They tried to fly, but there was no way out, for the pass was choked
with dead below, and they must win or die, every living soul of their
host. So they turned at bay, joining their strength, and standing as
they could on heaps of dead bodies.

There, where they had slain, Gilbert slew them, and a thousand blades
flashed red in the red sunlight, in time with his; and there was a low,
sure sound of killing as steel went through flesh and bone and was
wrenched back to strike again. The Seljuks fought like madmen and like
wild beasts while they could; but in Gilbert's eyes there was the awful
light of victory, and his arm tired not, while rank upon rank the enemy
went down, and the Christians who still lived began to smite them from
behind. Then the pass was filled fuller than before, and a small red
river leaped down from stone to stone, following the channel to the
broad valley beyond, where nearly fifty thousand powerless men watched
it flowing among them. But they listened, too, and the Seljuk yell grew
fainter, because few were left, and there were few to cry out.

The shout of triumphant Christian men came ringing down the evening air
instead, and fear gave way to rejoicing and gladness; for though there
were many dead in the upper valley, and many strong knights and
men-at-arms, young and old, great and small, lay under the dead Seljuks
who had killed them, yet the great body of the army was alive, the
strength of the enemy was broken, and Gilbert had saved the King. In
truth, he had found him in an evil case, with his back against the oak
tree, and his knights dead around him; three of the last Seljuks who
lived were still hacking at him with their crooked swords, while he
sang his "De profundis," for his soul's good, and used his best fence
for his body's safety, hewing away like a strong man and brave, as he
was, notwithstanding his faults; and he was sore spent.

"Sir," he said, taking Gilbert's hand, "ask what you will of me, and if
it be no sin, you shall have it, for you have saved the army of the
Cross."

But the Englishman smiled and would ask nothing, for he had honour
enough that day. Yet he knew not that on the cliff whence he had
descended to the valley, there sat two women who dearly loved him,
watching him from first to last,--the Queen and Beatrix.

There they sat, unconsciously clasping hand in hand, and their eyes
were wide with fear for him, and yet bright with pride of him as they
saw the splendour of his deeds, how his fair streaming hair went ever
forward through the Seljuk ranks, and how his track was deep and red
for others to follow, till it seemed not possible that one man could
slay so many and be unhurt, and a sort of awe came over them, as if he
were a being beyond nature.

Neither spoke, nor did either hand loosen on the other; but when it was
done, and they saw him dismount, and stand a little apart from other
men, resting on his sword, with the glory of the sunset in his face as
he looked down the valley, then Beatrix turned to the Queen, and the
tears of joy sprang to her eyes as she buried her girl's face in
Eleanor's bosom, and she was glad of the kind arms that held her,
seeming to understand all her joy. But the Queen's eyes were dry, her
face was white, and her beautiful coral lips were parched as in a fever.



CHAPTER XXIII


In this way it came about that Gilbert, of whom the historians say that
nothing else is known, was placed in command of the whole army of
Crusaders, to lead them through the enemy's country down into Syria;
and so he did, well and bravely. After the great battle in the valley
there was much fighting still to be done, day by day; for the Seljuks
retreated foot by foot, filling the mountains and sweeping down like
storm-clouds, to disappear as quickly, leaving blood behind them. But
Gilbert led the van, and held the whole pilgrimage together, commanding
where the camp should be each night, and ordering the march. Men
wondered at his wisdom, and at his strength to endure hardship; for all
were very tired, and provision was scarce, and the Greek hill people
sold at a tenfold value the little they had to sell, so that the
soldiers dined not every day, and a dish of boiled goat's flesh was a
feast. So the pilgrimage went on in fighting and suffering, and as time
passed the people were the more in earnest with themselves and with one
another, looking forward to the promised forgiveness of sins when they
should have accomplished their vows in the holy places.

They came down at last from the mountains to the sea, to a place called
Attalia. Thence Gilbert would have led them still by land into Syria;
but the King was weary, and the Queen also had seen the great mistake
she had made in bringing her ladies into the pilgrimage; for few had
the strength of the hardy Anne of Auch, or the spirit of Beatrix, to
endure without murmuring, like men, and like very brave men. The
ladies' train had become a company of complainers, murmuring against
everything, longing for the good things of France, and often crying out
bitterly, even with tears, that they had been brought out to waste
their youth and freshness, or even their lives, in a wilderness.
Therefore Eleanor consented at last to the King's desire, which was to
take ship from Attalia to Saint Simeon's Harbour, which is close to
Antioch. In Antioch also reigned her uncle, Count Raymond, a man of her
own blood, and thinking as she thought; him she now desired to see and
consult with, because he knew the world, and was an honourable man, and
of good counsel. Yet there was danger there, too, for the King had once
believed that this Count Raymond loved her, when he had been at the
court, and the King was ever very jealous and sour.

He would have brought the whole army to Antioch with him, but a great
outcry arose; for, whereas all the great barons and knights were for
the safer journey, the poorer sort of pilgrims feared the sea more than
they feared the Seljuks, and they would not take ship. So at last the
King let them go, and they, not knowing whither they went, boasted that
they should reach Antioch first. He gave them money and certain guides
whom he trusted.

Then Gilbert, seeing that there was a choice of two ways, sat down at
night and debated what he should do. He desired to follow Beatrix with
the ships, for he had not seen Sir Arnold de Curboil since Christmas
Eve, and he believed that he had gone back to Ephesus to sail for
Syria, so that at the present time he could not suddenly surprise his
daughter and carry her away, to force her to a marriage of which heirs
might be born to his great possessions in England. Gilbert knew also
that his command over the whole army was ended, that the enemy's
country was now passed, and that all were to join forces with Count
Raymond to win back Edessa in the spring. He should therefore have more
time and leisure to protect Beatrix if needful; and this was a strong
thing to move him, for he had seen her many times of late, and he loved
her with all his heart.

But on the other hand, when he saw how many thousands of the poorer
people, who had taken the Cross in simple faith that God would provide
for the journey, were about to go up into the passes again, to fight
their own way through, without King or Queen or army, his charity bade
him stay with them and lead them, as he only could, to live or die with
them, rather than to go safely by water. So it was hard to decide which
he should do, and he would not see Beatrix, lest she should persuade
him; nor would he let himself think too much of the people, nor mix
with them, for they knew him, and honoured him greatly, and would have
carried him on their shoulders to make him their leader if he would.
Therefore his debating with himself came to nothing, and he slept ill.

In the early morning, as he was walking by the seashore, he met the
Lady Anne of Auch, with two women behind her, coming back from the
mass, and they stood and talked together. As he looked into her face he
saw friendship there, and suddenly, though he was often slow of
impulse, he began to tell her his trouble, walking beside her.

"Sir Gilbert," she said quietly, "I loved a good man, who was my
husband, and he loved me; but he was killed, and they brought him home
to me dead. I tell you, Sir Gilbert, that the true love of man and
woman is the greatest and best thing in all the world; but when two
love one another, if their love be not the greatest thing save honour,
then it is not true, nor worthy to be reckoned in account. Think well
whether you love this lady truly, as I mean, or not, and if you do,
there can be no more doubt."

"Lady Anne," said Gilbert, when he had thought a little while, "you are
a very honourable woman, and your counsel is good."

After they had talked, they parted, and Gilbert went back to his
lodging, being determined to go to Antioch by sea with the King and
Queen; but still he was sorry for the poor pilgrims who were to be left
behind to fight a way through for themselves.

The great ships that had been hired for the voyage were heavy and
unwieldy vessels to see, but yet swift through the water, whether the
vast lateen sails drew full with a fair wind or were close-reefed in a
gale, till they seemed mere jibs bent to the long yards, or even when
in a flat calm the vessels were sent along by a hundred sweeps, fifty
on each side; and they were partly Greek galleys and partly they were
of Amalfi, whose citizens had all the commerce of the East, and their
own quarter in every town and harbour, from the Piraeus round by
Constantinople and all Asia Minor and Egypt, as far as Tunis itself.

A clear northwest wind began to blow on the very day fixed for
departure, and the big galleys swept out one by one, close upon each
other, till they were outside and hoisted their sails, the sea being
very smooth under the land; and when they had run out two or three
miles, with the wind aft, they wore ship, one after another, coming to
a little, to get their sheets in, and then holding off to jibe the
great sails for the port tack, with much creaking of yards and flapping
of canvas. Then, as they ran free along the coast to the eastward, the
wind quartering, they got out great booms to windward, guyed fore and
aft, and down to the forward beaching-hooks at the water's edge, at the
first streak under the wales; and they set light sails, hauling the
tacks well out and making the sheet fast after the southern fashion,
and then swaying away at the halyards, till the white canvas was up to
the mast-head, bellying full, and as steady as the upper half of a
half-moon.

Before many days they came to Saint Simeon's Harbour, which was the
port of Antioch, and saw the mighty walls and towers on the heights a
dozen miles inshore; and when Gilbert looked from the deck of his ship,
he was glad that the army was not to besiege that great and strong
fortress, since it belonged to Count Raymond, the Queen's uncle. But if
he had known what things were to happen to him there, rather than have
ridden up to the walled city he would have gone barefoot to Jerusalem,
to fulfil his vow as he might.

Count Raymond, with his broad shoulders and bronzed face and dark hair
just turning gray at the temples, came down to meet the army at the
shore; and first he embraced the King, according to custom, and then he
kissed the Queen, his niece, not once, but four or five times, and she
kissed him, for they were very glad to see each other; but it is not
true, as some have said in their chronicles, that there were thoughts
of love between them. Queen Eleanor had many bitter enemies, and her
sins were almost as many as her good deeds, but love for Count Raymond
was not among them.

Nevertheless, King Louis was very jealous as soon as he saw the two
embracing, for he had always believed that there was more than he knew.
But he said nothing, for he feared his Queen. So there were great
rejoicings in Antioch, when all the ladies and the barons and other
nobles were installed there to keep Easter together; and though they
had still some days of fasting during Holy Week, they were so glad to
be in the great city, and so much lightened of trouble by having left
the poorer pilgrims to shift for themselves, that it would have been
easy for them to live on bread and water, instead of eating the dainty
dishes of good fish, and the imitations of eggs made with flour and
saffron and blanched almonds, and the delicate sweetmeats, and all the
many good things which Count Raymond's fifty cooks knew how to prepare
for Lent. For the Count lived luxuriously, though he was a good fighter
at need.

Most of all, he was a keen man, with few scruples, and the Queen began
to ask him to help her in getting her marriage annulled, because she
could no longer bear to be the wife of a spoon-faced monk, as she
called the King; whereat Count Raymond laughed. Then he thought awhile
and bent his broad brows; but soon his face cleared, for he had found a
remedy. The King, he said, was surely Eleanor's cousin and within the
prohibited degrees of consanguinity, so that the marriage was null and
void; and the Pope would be obliged against his will to adhere to the
rule of the Church and pronounce it so. They were cousins in the
seventh degree, he said, because the King was descended from Eleanor's
great-great-great-great-grandfather, William Towhead, Duke of Guienne,
whose daughter, Adelaide of Poitiers, married Hugh Capet, King of
France; and the seventh degree of consanguinity was still prohibited,
and no dispensation had been given, nor even asked for.

At first the Queen laughed, but presently she sent for the Bishop of
Metz, and asked him; and he said that Count Raymond spoke truly, but
that he would have nothing to do with the matter, since it had never
been the intention of the Church that her rules should be misused. Yet
it is said that he was afterwards of the Council which declared that
there had been no marriage.

So, being sure, the Queen went to the King and told him to his face
that she had meant to marry a king, and not a monk as he was, and that
she had now found out that her marriage was no marriage, wherefore he
was living in mortal sin; and if he would save his soul he must
repudiate her as soon as they should have returned to France. At this
the King was overcome with grief and wept bitterly, not because he was
to be delivered from the woman of Belial, as he had prayed, but because
he had unwittingly lived in such great sin so many years. She laughed
and went away, leaving him weeping.

From that time she spent her days and her evenings in consultation with
Count Raymond, and they were continually closeted together in her
apartment, which was in one of the western towers of the palace and
looked out over the city walls towards the sea. It was early spring,
and the air smelt of Syrian flowers and was tender to breathe.

Although the King was now sure that Eleanor was not his wife, he
continued to be very jealous of her, because he had once loved her in
his dull fashion, and she was very beautiful. Therefore, when he was
not praying, he was watching and spying, to see whether she were alone
with Count Raymond. Certain writers have spoken of the great Saladin at
this time, saying that she met him secretly, for the deliverance of her
kinsman Sandebeuil de Sanzay, who had been taken prisoner, and that she
loved Saladin for his generosity, and that the King was jealous of him;
which things are lies, because Saladin was at that time but seven years
old.

Daily, as he watched, the King grew very sure that Raymond loved
Eleanor, and he swore by his hope of salvation that such things should
not be. In this way the feast of Easter passed, and there were great
rejoicings, and feastings, and all manner of delight. Also during this
time Gilbert saw Beatrix freely, so that their love grew more and more;
but he seldom spoke with the Queen, and then briefly.

Now Eleanor lived in the western tower, and only one staircase led up
to the vestibule of her apartments, by which way Count Raymond came,
and the great nobles when she summoned them, and the guards also. But
beyond her inner chamber there was a door opening into the long wing of
the palace where all her ladies were lodged, and by that door she went
to them and they came to her. Often the Lady Anne came in, and Beatrix,
and some of the others who were more especially her familiars, and they
found the Queen and Count Raymond sitting in chairs, and talking
without constraint, and sometimes playing at chess by the open window
which looked out on the west balcony. They thought no evil, for they
knew that he had become her counsellor in the matter of the
repudiation; and Beatrix cared not, for she knew well that the Queen
loved Gilbert, and she never saw him there.

On an evening in the week after Easter the King determined that he
would see the Queen himself and tell her his mind. He therefore took
two nobles for an escort, with torchbearers and a few guards; and when
he had descended into the main court, he walked across to the west side
and went up into Eleanor's tower; for he would not go through the
ladies' wing, lest his eyes should see some fair and noble maiden, or
some young dame of great beauty, whereby his pious thoughts might be
disturbed ever so little.

Having come to the vestibule, he demanded admittance to the Queen's
chamber; and the young Lord of Sanzay, who was in waiting, begged him
to wait while he himself inquired if the Queen were at leisure. Then
the King was angry, and said that he waited for no one, and he went
forward to go in. But Sanzay stood before the door and bade the Gascon
guards form in rank and keep it till he should come back. The King saw
that he had small chance of forcing a way, and he stood still,
repeating some prayers the while, lest he should draw his sword and
fight, out of sheer anger. Then Sanzay came back.

"My lord King," he said in a clear voice, "her Grace bids me say that
she has no leisure now, and that when she has need of a monk she will
send for him."

At the great insult, swords were out as soon as the words, and the
broken reflections of steel flashed red under the high lamps and in the
torchlight; for the King drew to strike down Sanzay where he stood, and
his nobles and guards drew with him, while the Gascons were as quick as
they. But Sanzay would not draw his sword, for he had once saved the
King's life in battle, and he thought it not knightly. Then some blows
were exchanged and blood was shed; but presently, being at a
disadvantage, the King stepped back and lowered his point.

"Sirs," he said, "it is not seemly that we of the Cross should kill one
another. Let us go."

When Sanzay heard this, he called his guards back, and the King went
away discomfited. In the courtyard he turned aside and sat down upon a
great stone seat.

"Fetch me Sir Gilbert Warde," he said, "and let him come quickly."

He waited silently till the knight came and stood before him in his
surcoat and mantle, with only his dagger in his belt; and the King bade
all his attendants go away to a distance, leaving a torch stuck in the
ring in the wall.

He desired of Gilbert that he should take a force of trusted men who
would obey him, and go up the west tower to bring the Queen out a
prisoner; for he would not stay in Antioch another night, nor leave her
behind, and he meant to ride down to the harbour and take ship for
Ptolemais, leaving the army to follow him on the morrow. But for a
space Gilbert answered nothing.

At first it seemed to him impossible to do such a deed, and but for
courtesy he would have turned on his heel and left the King sitting
there. But as he stood thinking, it seemed to him that he had better
seem to obey, and go and warn the Queen of her danger.

[Illustration: "FOR A SPACE GILBERT ANSWERED NOTHING"]

"My lord," he answered at last, "I will go."

Though he said not what he would do, the King was satisfied, and rose
and went toward his own apartments, to order his departure.

Then Gilbert went and sought out ten knights whom he knew, and each of
them called ten of their men-at-arms, and they took their swords with
them, and torches; but Gilbert had only his dagger, for those he had
chosen were all of them Queen's men and would have died for her. So
they went together up the broad steps of the tower, and the Gascons
heard the hundred footfalls in fear and much trembling, supposing that
the King had come back with a great force to slay them and go in. Then
Sanzay drew his sword and stood at the head of the stairs, bidding his
men keep the narrow way till they should all be dead for the Queen's
sake. They were Gascons, and were ready to die, but they held their
breath as they listened to the steady tramping on the stone steps below.

In the torchlight they saw Gilbert's face, and the faces of Queen's
men, and that there were no swords out; nevertheless, they kept theirs
drawn and stood in the doorway, and on the landing Gilbert stood still,
for they did not make way for him.

"Sir Gilbert," said Sanzay, "I am here to keep the Queen's door, and
though we be friends, I shall not let you pass while I live, if you
mean her any violence."

"Sir," answered Gilbert, "I come unarmed, as you see, and by no means
to fight with you. I pray you, sir, go in and tell the Queen that I am
without, and have her men with me, and would speak with her for her
safety."

Then Sanzay bade his men stand back, and the knights and men-at-arms
crowded the vestibule, while he went in; and immediately he came out
again, with a clear face.

"The Queen is alone, and bids the Guide of Aquitaine pass," he said.

All stood aside, and he, taller than they, and grave and keen of face,
went in; and the door was closed behind him, and within that there was
a heavy Eastern curtain, so that no voices could be heard from one side
to the other.

Eleanor sat under the warm lamplight, near the open window, for the
night was warm. Her head was uncovered, her russet-golden hair fell in
great waves upon her shoulders and to the ground behind her chair, and
she wore no mantle, but only a close-fitting gown of cream-white silk
with deep embroideries of silver and pearls. She was very beautiful,
but very pale, and her eyes were veiled. Gilbert came and stood before
her, but she did not hold out her hand, as he had expected.

"Why have you come to me?" she asked after a time, looking out at the
balcony, and not at him.

"The King, Madam, has bidden me take you a prisoner to him, in order
that he may carry you away by sea to Ptolemais and to Jerusalem."

While he was speaking, she slowly turned her face to him, and stared at
his coldly.

"And you are come to do as you are bidden, getting admittance to me
stealthily, with men of my own who have betrayed me?"

Gilbert turned white, and then he smiled as he answered her.

"No. I am come to warn your Grace and to defend you against all
violence, with my life."

Eleanor's face changed and softened, and again she looked out at the
balcony.

"Why should you defend me?" she asked sadly, after a pause. "What am I
to you, that you should fight for me? I sent you out to die--why should
you wish me to be safe?"

"You have been the best friend to me, and the kindest, that ever woman
was to man."

"A friend? No. I was never your friend. I sent you out to death,
because I loved you, and trusted that I might see you never again, and
that you might die honourably for the Cross and your vows. Instead, you
won glory, and saved us all--all but me! You owe me no thanks for such
friendship."

She looked at him long, and he was silent.

"Oh, what a man you are!" she cried suddenly. "What a man!"

He blushed like a girl at the praise, for her soul was in the words,
and her great love for him, the only thing in all her life that had
ever been above herself.

"What a man you are!" she said again, more softly. "Eleanor of
Aquitaine, the Queen, the fairest woman in the world, would give you
her soul and her body and the hope of her life to come--and you are
faithful to a poor girl whom you loved when you were a boy! A hundred
thousand brave men stand by to see me die, and you alone take death by
the throat and strangle him off, as you would strangle a bloodhound,
with those hands of yours! I send you out--oh, how selfishly!--that you
may at least die bravely for your vow and leave me at sad peace with
your memory, and you fight through a hell of foes and save the King and
me and all, and come back to me in glory--my Guide of Aquitaine!"

She had risen and stood before him, her face dead white with passion,
and her eyes deep-fired by a love that was beyond any telling. And
though she would not move, her arms went out toward him.

"How can any woman help loving you!" she cried passionately.

She sank into her chair again, and covered her face with her hands. He
stood still a moment, and then came and knelt on one knee beside her,
resting his hand upon the carved arm of her chair.

"I cannot love you, but in so far as I may be faithful to another I
give you my whole life," he said very gently.

As he spoke the last words, the curtain of the inner apartments was
softly raised, and Beatrix stood there; for she had thought that the
Queen was alone. But she heard not the beginning of the speech, and she
grew quite cold, and could not speak nor go away.

Eleanor's hands left her face and fell together upon Gilbert's right.

"I have not mine to give," she answered in a low voice. "It is yours
already--and I would that you were not English, that I might be your
sovereign and make you great among men--or that I were England's
Queen--and that may come to pass, and you shall see what I will do for
love of you--I would marry that boy of the Plantagenets, if it could
serve you!"

"Madam," said Gilbert, "think of your own present safety--the King is
very angry--"

"Did I think of your safety when I sent you out to lead us? Now if you
are here, am I not safe? Gilbert--"

She let her voice caress his name, and her lips lingered with it, and
she laid her hands upon his shoulders. As he knelt beside her--she bent
to his face.

"Best and bravest living man"--it was a whisper now--"love of my
life--heart of my heart--this last time--this only once--and then
good-by."

She kissed him on the forehead, and leapt from her seat in horror, for
there was another voice in the room, with a hurt cry.

"Oh, Gilbert! Gilbert!"

Beatrix was reeling on her feet, and caught the curtain, lest she fall,
and her face of agony was still turned toward the two, as they stood
together. Gilbert sprang forward, when he understood, and caught the
girl in his arms and brought her to the light, trembling like a falling
leaf. Then she started in his arms and struggled wildly to be free, and
twisted her neck lest he should kiss her; but he held her fast.

"Beatrix! You do not understand--you did not hear!" He tried to make
her listen to him.

"I heard!" she cried, still struggling. "I saw! I know! Let me go--oh,
for God's sake, let me go!"

Gilbert's arms relaxed, and she sprang back from him two paces, and
faced the Queen.

"You have won!" she cried, in a breaking voice. "You have him body and
soul, as you swore you would! But do not say that I have not
understood!"

"I have given him to you, soul and body," answered Eleanor, sadly.
"Might I not even bid him good-by, as a friend might?"

"You are false--falser each than the other," answered Beatrix, in white
anger. "You have played with me, tricked me, made me your toy--"

"Did you hear this man say that he did not love me, before I bade him
good-by?" asked Eleanor, gravely, almost sternly.

"He has said it to me, but not to you, never to you--never to the woman
he loves!"

"I never loved the Queen," said Gilbert. "On my soul--on the Holy
Cross--"

"Never loved her? And you saved her life before mine--"

"And you said that I did well--"

"It was all a lie--a cruel lie--" The girl's voice almost broke, but
she choked down the terrible tears, and got words again. "It would have
been braver to have told me long ago--I should not have died then, for
I loved you less."

Eleanor came a step nearer and spoke very quietly and kindly.

"You are wrong," she said. "Sir Gilbert is sent by the King to take me
as a prisoner, that I may be carried away to Jerusalem this very night.
Come, you shall hear the voices of the soldiers who are waiting for me."

She led Beatrix to the door and lifted the curtain, so that through the
wooden panels the girl could hear the talking of many voices, and the
clank of steel. Then Eleanor brought her back.

"But he would not take me," she said, "and he warned me of my danger."

"No wonder--he loves you!"

"He does not love me, though I love him, and he has said so to-night.
And I know that he loves you and is faithful to you--"

Beatrix laughed wildly.

"Faithful! He? There is no faith in his greatest oath, nor in his
smallest word!"

"You are mad, child; he never lied in all his life to me or you--he
could not lie."

"Then he has deceived you, too--Queen, Duchess; you are only a woman,
after all, and he has made sport of you, as he has of me!" Again she
laughed, half furiously.

"If he has deceived me he has indeed deceived you," answered Eleanor,
"for he has told me very plainly that he loves you. And now I will not
stand between you and him, even in the mistake you made. I love him,
yes. I have loved him enough to give him up, because he loves you. I
love him so well that I will not take his warning and save myself from
the King's anger, and I know not what he and his monks will do to me.
Good-by, Sir Gilbert Warde--Beatrix, good-by."

"This is some comedy," answered the girl, exasperated.

"No--by the living truth, it is no comedy," answered the Queen.

She looked once more into Gilbert's face, and then turned away, stately
and sad. With one movement she drew aside the great curtain, and with
the next she opened wide the door, and the loud clamour of the knights
and men-at-arms came in like a wave. Then it ceased suddenly, as
Eleanor spoke to them in clear tones.

"I am the King's prisoner. Take me to him!"

There was silence for a moment, and then the Gascons who had fought
with the King and his men cried out fiercely.

"We will not let you go! We will not let our Duchess go!"

They feared some evil for her, and were loyal men to her, hating the
King. But Eleanor raised her hand to motion them back, for their faces
were fierce, and their hands were on their swords.

"Make way for me, if you will not take me to him," she said proudly.

Then Sanzay, her kinsman, stepped before the rest, and spoke.

"Madam," he said, "the Duchess of Gascony cannot be prisoner to the
King of France, while there are Gascons. If your Grace will go to the
King, we will go also, and we shall see who is to be a prisoner."

At this there was a great shout that rang up to the vault of the lofty
vestibule, and down the stone steps and out into the courtyard. Eleanor
smiled serenely, for she knew her men.

"Go with me, then," she said, "and see that no bodily harm comes to me.
But in this matter I shall do the King's will."

In the room behind, the words echoed clearly, and Beatrix turned to
Gilbert.

"You see," she said, "it is but a play that you have thought of between
you, and nothing more."

"Can you not believe us?" he asked reproachfully.

"I shall believe you when I know that you love me," she answered, and
turned away, towards the door of the inner apartments.

Gilbert followed her.

"Beatrix!" he cried. "Beatrix! Hear me!"

She turned once more, with a face like stone.

"I have heard you, I have heard her, and I do not believe you," she
answered.

Without another word she left him and went out. He stood looking after
her for a moment, while his calm face darkened slowly; and his anger
was slow and lasting, as the heating of a furnace for the smelting. He
stooped and picked up his cap, which had fallen to the floor, and then
he, too, followed the Queen, through the vestibule and stairs and
courtyard, to the King's presence.



CHAPTER XXIV


That night they left hastily and went down to the sea with torches; but
it was dawn when they were on board one of the great ships, and the
hawsers were cast off, and the crew began to heave up the anchor. In
his anger, Gilbert had called his men, and had gone on board also, and
many hours passed before he realized what he had done. Then he began to
torment himself.

His angry manhood told him that he was just and that he should not bear
a girl's unbelief when he was manifestly in the right; and his love
answered that he had left Beatrix without protection and perhaps at the
mercy of her father, since he might come by sea at any moment and claim
her from Count Raymond, who would give her up without opposition. He
wondered also why Sir Arnold had not appeared, and whether, having
sailed from Ephesus, he had been shipwrecked. But his thoughts soon
turned back to his work, and he sat on the low rail by the
main-rigging, looking down at the blue water as the ship ran smoothly
along. What was there in Beatrix to hold him, after all? It was nothing
but a boyish memory, revived by a mistaken idea of faith.

But suddenly he felt within him the aching hollow and the grinding
hunger of heart that the loved woman leaves behind her, and he knew
well that his anger was playing a comedy with him, as Beatrix had
accused him and the Queen of playing a play in the past night.

It was hard that she should not have believed him; and yet when one has
seen and heard, it is harder still to believe against sight and
hearing. If she had loved him, he said to himself, she could not have
doubted him. He would never have doubted her, no matter what he might
have seen her do. But at this he began to realize and understand; for
in order to persuade himself, he pictured her sitting as the Queen had
sat, and a man bending over her and kissing her and calling her the
love of his life and heart, and he felt another sort of anger rising
fiercely in him, because the imagined sight was vivid and bad to see.
Thereupon he grew calmer, seeing that she was not wholly wrong, and he
began to curse his evil fate and to wish that he had not followed the
Queen, but had stayed behind at Antioch.

But it was too late now, for Antioch was gone in the purple distance,
and it was towards evening.

The day dawned again, and darkened, and days after that, while he
perpetually blamed himself more and more and began to find a fault in
every doing of his life, and the gloom of the northern temper settled
upon him and oppressed him heavily, so that his companions wondered
what had happened to him.

During all that time the Queen never showed herself, but remained in
her cabin with the Lady Anne, who had come with her and would not be
denied. For Eleanor hated to see the King, and she was afraid to see
Gilbert, whom she knew to be in the ship's company, and she was very
sad, also, and cared not for the daylight nor for men's voices. It made
it worse that she had tried to sacrifice herself for the woman Gilbert
loved, since it had been in vain, and she had not been believed, and
since he had after all come with her, she knew not why. As for the
King, he sat all day long on the quarter-deck under an awning, telling
beads, and praying fervently that the presence of the woman of Belial
might not distract his thoughts when he should at last come to the holy
places; for before anything else he considered his own soul as of great
importance.

So they came to Ptolemais, which some called Acre, and they rode a
weary way to Jerusalem, till the young King Baldwin of Jerusalem, the
third of that name, came out to meet them with a very rich train. Then
Gilbert lagged behind, for he had no heart in any rejoicing or
feasting, seeing that he should not have been there at all, and had
left Beatrix in anger. But Eleanor had come out of the ship to the
shore, more beautiful than ever, and serenely scornful of the King,
since he had not even dared to use the power she had put into his
hands, in order to tell her his mind, and speak out his reproaches; and
he was more ridiculous than ever in her eyes. From that time she paid
no more attention to him than if he had not existed, for she despised a
man who would not use the power he had.

As for Gilbert, though he was in such melancholy mood, when he saw the
walls and towers of Jerusalem at last, a hope of peace sprang up in
him, and a certainty of satisfaction not like anything which he had
known before; and it seemed to him that if he could but be alone in the
holy places he should find rest for his soul. Therefore he rode in the
rear of the train, though he was a man of consequence, and many young
knights and squires looked up to him and kept him company, so that he
could not escape altogether to an outward solitude.

His eyes looked up before him, and he saw the holiest city in the
world, like a vision against the pale sky, as the day sank; and his
whole being went out to be there, floating before him in a prayer
learnt long ago. Therein, as when he had been a child in his English
home, he heard the voice of a guardian angel praying with him--praying
for the good against the evil, for the light against the darkness, for
the clean against the unclean, for the good self against the bad; and
his heart made echoes in heaven.

He heard not the sounds that came back from the royal train, the high
talking and glad laughter; for that would have jarred on him and set
his teeth on edge, and he had shut the doors of the body upon himself
to be alone within. It mattered not that young Baldwin was riding by
the Queen, already half in love, and making soft speeches within sight
of the hill whereon Christ died, nor that he took a boy's mischievous
pleasure in interrupting the King's droning litany, recited in verse
and response with the priest at his side; nor that some of the knights
were chattering of what lodging they should find, and the young
squires, in undertones, of black-eyed Jewish girls, and the grooms of
Syrian wine. They were as nothing, all these, as nothing but the
shadows of the world cast by its own ancient evil at the foot of the
Cross, and he only was real and alive, and the Cross only was true and
high in the pure light.

And in this he was not quite dreaming, for the train that rode up from
Acre was not all of those true Crusaders of whom many had been with the
army, both rich and poor, but of whom the rich had stayed behind in
Antioch and the poor had perished miserably by the swords of the
Seljuks or by the wiles of the Greeks, when they had tried to come on
by land; and many of them had been sold into slavery, and not one
reached Jerusalem alive, out of so many thousands. Of the forty or
fifty who were first in sight of the City, scarcely three were in
heartfelt earnest, and they were the Lady Anne of Auch, and Gilbert
Warde, and the King himself. But with the King all faith took a
material shape, which was his own, and the buying of his own salvation
had turned his soul into a place of spiritual usury.

The Lady Anne was calm and silent, and when young Baldwin spoke to her
she hardly heard him, and answered in few words, little to the point.
She had trusted that she might never see Jerusalem, for she had hoped
to die of wound or sickness by the way, and so end in heaven, with him
she had lost, the pilgrimage begun on earth. For she was a most
faithful woman, and of the most faithful there is often least to tell,
because they have but one thought, one hope, one prayer. And seeing
that she had come through alive, she neither rejoiced nor complained,
knowing that there was more to bear before the end, and trusting to
bear it all bravely for the dear sake of her dead love. It may be,
also, that she was the most earnest of all those who had taken the
Cross, because all earthly things that had made her life happy had been
taken from her.

Yet of all men, Gilbert Warde had fought best and most, and in so far
as bodily peril was counted, none had lived through so much as he; for
many of his companions had been killed beside him, and others had taken
their place, and even his man Dunstan had been wounded twice, and
little Alric once, and many horses had been killed under him, but he
himself was untouched, even after the great battle in the valley; and
there were honours for him whenever he was seen. In this, too, he was
high-hearted and thoughtless of himself, that when he saw the Holy City
before him, he forgot the many risks of life and limb, and the hunger
and cold and weariness through which he had passed, and forgot that he
had won reward well and fairly, thinking only that the peace he felt
came as a gift from Heaven.

That evening, when there was a feast in Baldwin's palace, the Lady Anne
was not there; and when the King of France called for the Guide of
Aquitaine to present him to the King of Jerusalem, he was not in the
hall nor within the walls; and by and by the Queen herself rose and
went out, leaving the two Kings at table.

For Gilbert had gone fasting to the Holy Sepulchre, with Dunstan
bearing his shield, and with a man to lead them. Then he went into the
vast church which the crusaders had built to enclose all the sacred
ground, and little lights broke the darkness here and there, without
dispelling it, but the poor Christian who led Gilbert had a taper in
his hand. The knight came first to the deep-red stone whereon Nicodemus
and Joseph of Arimathea anointed the body of the Lord for burial, and
there kneeling down, he set his shield and sword before him and prayed
that he might yet use them well. Then the man took him to the Golgotha,
and he laid down his arms before him and stood trembling, as if he were
afraid, and the drops of sweat stood out upon his forehead, and his low
voice shook like a little child's when he prayed in the place where God
died for man. Afterwards he knelt and touched the stones with his face,
and spread out his arms crosswise, not knowing what he did. But when he
had lain thus some time he rose and took up his shield and sword, and
the man led him farther through the darkness to other places. So at
last they brought him to the Tomb, and he sent away the man who had
guided him, and bade Dunstan go back also; but he would not.

"I also have fought for the Cross, though I be but a churl," said the
dark-faced man.

"You are no churl," answered Gilbert, gravely. "Kneel beside me and
watch."

"I will watch with you," said Dunstan, and he took his own sword and
laid it next to Gilbert's.

But he knelt one step behind his master, on his left side. More than
forty burning lamps hung above the stone of the Tomb, and around the
stone itself stood a grating of well-wrought iron having a wicket with
a lock of pure gold.

Then Gilbert raised his eyes, and looking through the iron fence, he
saw that on the other side some one was kneeling also, and it was the
Lady Anne of Auch, robed all in black, with a black hood half thrown
back; but her face was white, with dark shadows, and her two white
hands clasped two of the iron stanchions, while her sad eyes looked
upwards fixedly, seeing a vision, and not seeing men. Gilbert was glad
that she was there.

So they knelt an hour, and another hour, and no sound broke the
stillness, nor did they feel any weariness at all, for their hearts
were lifted up, and for a time the world fell away from them. Then a
soft sound of footsteps was in the church, ceasing at some distance
from the Tomb, which was not then shut off within walls of its own. But
none of the three turned to see who was there, and there was silence
again.

Eleanor had come alone to the Sepulchre, and stood gazing at the three,
not willing to come nearer. As she looked, her sins rose in her eyes
and passed before her, many and great, and where her good deeds were
hidden in her soul there was darkness, and she despaired of
forgiveness, for she knew her own pride, that it could never be broken
in her. She looked on that most faithful woman, and on that maiden
knight whom she so dearly loved, sinning daily in her heart for him,
and yet for his sake fighting her loving thoughts; and she would not
have dared to go forward and kneel beside the pure in heart, in the
holy light. All alone she drew back, and when she was so far that they
could not have seen her, had they looked, she knelt down by a pillar,
and drew her dark veil over her face, folding her hands in the hope of
forgiveness and peace, and in great loneliness.

Some comfort she found in this, that for the great love of her life,
the like of which she had not known nor was to know again, though she
had wished evil and dreamed of sweetest sins, she had done a little
good at the last, and that the man who knelt there praying had grown
stronger and greater and of higher honour by her means. Yet the comfort
was not of much worth in her loneliness, since she had given him to
another, and none could take his place. Then she said prayers she knew,
but they had no meaning, and she gazed from beneath her veil at the
place where the Lord had lain; but she felt nothing, and her heart was
as stone, believing what she saw, but finding no light of faith for her
in the divine beyond.

At last she rose softly, as she had knelt, and leaning against the
pillar, she looked long at the man she loved, and at the shield with
the cross of Aquitaine, and, in it, at the spot she had once so
fervently kissed. Her hand went to her heart, where it hurt her, and
with the hurt came the great pure longing that, come what might to
herself, all might be well with him; and her lips moved silently, while
her eyes would have given him the world and its glory.

"God, let me perish, but keep him what he is!"

Shall any one say that such true prayers are not heard, because they
are spoken by lips that have sinned? If not, God is not good, nor did
Christ die to save men.

The daughter of princes, the wife of two kings, as she was to be, and
the mother of two kings, and of many more in line after them, she drew
down her veil that none might see her face under the dim lights, and
she went out thence, very lonely and sad, into the streets of Jerusalem.

At midnight came a priest of the church to trim the lights at the tomb;
yet the three did not move, and he prayed awhile and went away. But
when the watchmen cried the dawning, and their voices came faintly in
by the doorway, floating through the dark church, Gilbert rose to his
feet, and Dunstan with him, and they took their arms with them, and
went away, leaving the Lady Anne the last of them all, her white hands
still clasping the iron bars, her sad black eyes still turned to heaven.

Faint streaks were in the eastern sky, but it was still almost dark as
the two men turned to the left to follow the way by which they had
come. Three steps from the door, Dunstan stumbled against something
neither hard nor soft, and in many fights he had learned what that
thing was.

"There is a dead man here," he said, and Gilbert had stopped also.

They stooped down, trying to see, and Dunstan felt along the body,
touching the mantle, till he found something sharp, which was the point
of a dagger out of its sheath.

"He is a knight," said Dunstan, "for he wears his surcoat and
sword-belt under his mantle."

But Gilbert was gazing into the face, trying to see, while the dust
under the head grew slowly grey in the dawn, and the waxen features
seemed to rise up out of the earth before him. But then he started,
for, as he looked down, his own eyes were but a hand-breadth from an
arrow-head that stuck straight up out of the dead forehead, and the
broken shaft with its feathers darkly soiled lay half under the body.
Dunstan also looked, and a low sound of gladness came from his fierce
lips.

"It is Arnold de Curboil!" exclaimed Gilbert, in measureless surprise.

"And this is Alric's arrow," answered Dunstan, looking at the point,
and then handling the piece of the broken shaft. "This is the arrow
that was sticking in your cap on that day when we fought for sport in
Tuscany, and Alric picked it up and kept it. And often in battle he had
but that one left, and would not shoot, saying that it was only to be
shot to save his master's life. So now it has done its work, for though
the knight was shot from behind, he has his dagger in his dead hand
under his cloak, and he must have followed you to the door of the
church to kill you in the dark within. Well done, little Alric!"

Then Dunstan spat in the face of the dead man and cursed him; but
Gilbert took his man by the collar and pulled him aside roughly.

"It is unmanly to insult the dead," he said, in disgust.

But Dunstan laughed savagely.

"Why?" he asked. "He was only my father!"

Gilbert's hand relaxed and fell to his side, then he lifted it again
and laid it gently on Dunstan's shoulder.

"Poor Dunstan!" he said.

But Dunstan smiled bitterly and said nothing, for he thought himself
poor indeed, since if the dead man had given him a tenth of his due, he
should have had land enough for a knight.

"We cannot leave him here," said Gilbert, at last.

"Why not? There are dogs."

Dunstan took up his master's shield and without more waiting turned his
back on his father's body. But Gilbert stood where he was, and gazed
down into the face of the man who had done him so much harm; and he
remembered Faringdon and the swift stroke that had killed his father,
and Stortford woods, where he himself had lain for dead. He still saw
in dreams how Curboil snatched his dagger left-handed from its sheath,
and now, by strong association, he wished to see whether it were still
the same one, a masterpiece of Eastern art, and he stooped down in the
dawn to pull back the cloak and take the weapon. It was the same, fair
and keen, with the chiselled hilt. He stuck it into his own belt, for a
memory, for it had once been sheathed in his own side; then he drew the
cloak over the dead face and went his way, just as the hushed city
began to stir, following Dunstan to his lodging, musing on the strange
chances of his life, and glad that, since his enemy was to die, it had
not been his ill chance to soil the blade consecrated to the Cross with
blood so vile, and to slay with his own hand the father of the woman he
loved.

Now also, as he thought calmly, he guessed that Beatrix must be in
Jerusalem, and that Curboil, having taken her from Antioch, and meaning
to kill his enemy before he sailed back to England, had brought his
daughter with him, fearing lest she should escape him again and find
refuge against him.

He found little Alric sitting on the low doorstep of the house where he
lodged, his stolid Saxon face pink and white in the fresh dawn, and his
thick hands hanging idly over his knees, while the round blue eyes
stared at the street. He got up when Gilbert came near, and pulled off
his woollen cap.

"Well done, Alric," said Gilbert. "That is the second time you have
saved my life."

"It was a good arrow," answered Alric, thoughtfully. "I carried it two
years and made it very sharp. It is a pity the man broke the shaft with
his head when he fell, and I would have cut off the steel point to use
it again, but I heard footsteps and ran away, lest I should be taken
for a thief."

"It was well shot," said Gilbert, and he went in.



CHAPTER XXV


It had been early dawn when they had found Sir Arnold dead; it was
toward evening when Gilbert and Dunstan followed a young Jew to the
door of a Syrian house in a garden of the old quarter of the city,
toward the Zion gate. All day they had searched Jerusalem, up and down,
through the narrow streets of whitened houses, inquiring everywhere for
a knight who had lately come with his one daughter, and no one could
tell them anything; for Sir Arnold had paid well to find a retired
house, where Beatrix might be safely guarded while he went out to seek
Gilbert and kill him, and where he himself could hide if there were any
pursuit. So they asked in vain, till at last they saw a boy sitting by
the wayside on the hill of the Temple, weeping and lamenting in the
Eastern fashion. The guide, who was also a Jew, asked him what had
chanced, and he said that his father was gone on a journey, leaving
him, his young son, in the house with his mother. And there had come a
Christian knight with a daughter and her woman and certain servants,
desiring to hire the house for a time because it was in a pleasant
place; and they had let him have it, he promising by an interpreter to
pay a great price; but he had not yet paid it. In the morning the young
man had seen Christians carrying away the body of this knight to bury
it; and he had been to the house, but the knight's servants would not
let him in, and did not understand his speech, and threatened to beat
him; and now he was afraid lest his father should come home unawares
and take him and his mother to account for letting strangers use the
house without even paying for it beforehand.

When Gilbert saw that he had found what he sought, he first gave money
to the boy, to encourage him, and bade the interpreter tell him to lead
them all to the house, saying that Gilbert himself would enter, in
spite of the servants. The boy took the money, and when he had measured
Gilbert with his eye, he understood, and went before them with no more
weeping; and the knight's step was light and quick with hope, for he
had begun to doubt whether Beatrix were really in the city after all.

The house was low and white, and stood at the end of a small garden in
which there were palms, and spring flowers growing in straight lines
between small hewn stones, laid so as to leave little trenches of earth
between them. There was a hard path, newly swept, leading to the square
door of the house, and on the doorpost were clearly written certain
characters in Hebrew.

Gilbert knocked on the door, not loudly, with the hilt of his dagger,
but no one answered; and again louder, but there was no sound from
within. Then he shook the door, trying whether it would open of itself
by a push; but it was fast, and the two windows of the house that
looked out on each side of the door were barred also.

"They think that some great force is with us, and are afraid," said the
Jewish boy. "Speak to them, sir, for they do not understand my tongue."
And the interpreter explained what he said. Then Gilbert spoke in
English, for he supposed that Curboil's men must be Englishmen, but the
Jewish boy knew that the words should sound otherwise.

"In Greek, sir! Speak to them in Greek, for they are all Greeks. That
is why they are afraid. All Greeks are afraid."

The interpreter began to speak in Greek, clear and loud, but no sound
came. Yet when Gilbert put his ear to the door he thought that he heard
something like a child's moaning. It had a sound of pain in it, and his
blood rose at the thought that some weak creature was being hurt. So he
took little Alric's leathern belt, such as grooms wear, and bound it
round his hand to guard the flesh, and he struck the door where the
leaves joined in the middle, once and twice and three times, and it
began to open inward, so that they could see the iron bolt bent half
double. Then with his shoulder he forced it in, so that the bolt
slipped from the socket, and the leaves flew open.

There was a little court within, around which the house was built, with
a well for rain-water in the middle, after the fashion that was half
Roman and half Eastern. Gilbert went in, and bade all be silent that he
might hear whence the moaning came; for it was more distinct now, and
it seemed to come from the well, with a little splashing of water; so
he went and looked down, and when he saw what was there he cried aloud
for fear.

For there he saw an upturned face, half dead, with a white thing bound
across the mouth, and hands tied together, and struggling to strike the
water, but heavily weighted and it was the face of Beatrix, two fathoms
below him. There were holes opposite each other, in the two sides of
the well, for a man's hands and feet, for climbing down into the
cistern; and Gilbert lost no moment, but began to descend at once yet
long before he had got the bound hands together in his own, stooping
and himself in peril of falling, the face had sunk below the bubbling
water.

With his feet firmly planted in the holes, and standing as it might be
astride of the well, he lifted the girl up and though she was so
slight, it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do, for her
clothes were full of water, and he was at a disadvantage; nor could his
men help him till he had raised her so high that he could rest her
weight on his right knee and against his own body. Then the others
climbed down and slipped their belts under her arms, and she was taken
out in safety and laid upon the pavement of the little court. And then
the Jewish boy went to call his mother from the house of her sister,
where they two had gone to live, for Beatrix had need of a woman.

Gilbert knelt down and laid her head upon Dunstan's coat folded
together, and covered her with his own mantle, gazing into the
unconscious face, small and pale and pitiful, and he remembered how he
had seen it last in Antioch, full of anger and unbelief, so that he had
turned and left what he loved just when evil was at hands and his heart
stood still, and then smote him in his breast, and stood still again,
as the smith's hammer is poised in the air between the strokes.

Beatrix did not move and seemed not to breathe, lying as one dead, and
suddenly Gilbert believed that there was no life left in her. He tried
to speak to Dunstan, but he could make no sound, for his tongue and his
throat were suddenly parched and paralyzed, so that he was dumb in his
grief; but he took the small white hands, with the wrists all cut by
the cords, and folded them upon the breast, and he took his
cross-hilted dagger with its sheath, and laid it between the hands for
a cross, and gently tried to close the half-opened eyes.

Then, when Dunstan saw what his master meant, he touched him on the
shoulder and spoke to him.

"She is not dead," he said.

Gilbert started and looked up at him, and saw that he was in earnest;
but the man's lean face was drawn with anxiety.

"Sir," said Dunstan, "will you let me touch the Lady Beatrix?"

The knight's brow darkened, for that a churl's hands should touch a
high-born lady's face seemed to him something monstrous and against
nature; but in the moment he had forgotten something.

"She is quite dead," he tried to say.

Then Dunstan spoke sadly, kneeling down beside her.

"This lady is half my sister," he said. "I have some skill with
half-drowned persons. Let me save her, sir, unless we are to let her
die before our eyes. A gipsy taught me what to do."

The cloud passed from Gilbert's face, but still he did not believe.

"In heaven's name, do what you can, try what you know, and quickly!" he
said.

"Help me, then," said Dunstan.

So he did as all skilled persons know how to do with half-drowned
people, though only the gipsies knew it then. They turned her body
gently so that the clear water ran from her parted lips, and laying her
down again, they took her arms and drew them over her head, stretched
them out, and brought them down to her sides, again and again, so as to
make her breathe, and the breath was drawn in and breathed out again
with a delicate foam that clung to her lips.

Still Sir Gilbert did not believe, and though he helped his man, in the
despair of the instant, and in the horror of losing the least chance of
life, it all seemed to him a desecration of the most dear dead, and
more than once he would have let the poor little arm rest, rather than
make it limply follow the motion Dunstan gave to the other.

"She is quite, quite dead," he said again.

"She is alive," answered Dunstan; "stop not now one moment, or we shall
lose her."

His dark face glowed, and his unwinking eyes watched her face for the
least sign of life. Ten minutes, a quarter of an hour, passed, and time
seemed facing death--the swift against the immovable and eternal.
Gilbert, the strong and masterful in fight, humbly and anxiously
watched his man's looks for the signs of hope, as if Dunstan had been
the wisest physician of all mankind; and indeed in that day there were
few physicians who knew how to do what the man was doing. And at last
the glow in his face began to fade, and Gilbert's heart sank, and the
horror of so disturbing the dead came upon him tenfold, so that he let
the slender arm rest on the stones, and sighed. But Dunstan cried out
fiercely to him.

"For your life, go on! She is alive! See! See!"

And even as Gilbert sadly shook his head in the last collapse of
belief, the long lashes quivered a little with the lids and were still,
and quivered again, and then again, and the eyes opened wide and
staring, but broad awake; and then the delicate body shook and was half
convulsed by the miracle of life restored, and the slight arms
quickened with nervous strength, resisting the men's strong hands, and
a choking cough brought the bright colour to the pale cheeks.

Then Gilbert lifted her from the pavement to the stone rim of the well,
that she might breathe better, and presently the choking ceased, so
that she lay quite still with her head against his breast, and her
weight in his arms. But still she did not speak, and the man's heart
beat furiously with joy, and then stood still in fear, lest the worst
should come again, whereof there was no danger; but he did not know,
and Dunstan and Alric were suddenly gone, seeking wine in the house.
Just when the girl seemed to be sinking into a swoon they brought a
short draught of Syrian wine in an earthen cup; for little Alric was
not wise, but he would have found wine in the sandy desert, and he had
gone straight to a corner where a leathern bottle with a wooden plug
was hung up in a cool place.

Beatrix drank, and revived again, and looked up to Gilbert.

"I knew you would come," she said faintly, and she smiled, but Gilbert
could not speak.

By this time the Jewish boy had brought his mother, and they carried
the girl into a room, and the woman took care of her kindly, fearing
lest a Christian should die in her husband's house, and also lest she
should not be paid the value of the rent, but with womanly gentleness
also, wrapping her in dry clothes of her own before she laid her to
rest.

For Arnold de Curboil's servants had been all Greeks, and when they had
learned that their master had been killed in the night, they had bolted
and barred the house, and had bound Beatrix and her Norman tirewoman
hand and foot and gagged their mouths with cloths, in order that they
might carry off the rich plunder, but at first they had not meant to
kill the women. Only when they were just about to slip away, one at a
time, so as to escape notice, they held a council, and the most of them
said that it would be better to throw the women into the well, lest
either of them should help the other, and getting loose, escape from
the house and cause a pursuit. So they threw the Norman woman down
first, and when they saw that she sank the third time, being drowned,
they threw Beatrix after her. But the well was not so deep as they had
thought, and was narrow, so that Beatrix had kept her head above the
water a long time, her feet just touching the body of her drowned
servant. And in this way the faithful woman had saved her mistress
after she was dead. When this was known, they took her from the well
and bore her to burial without the city, while Beatrix was asleep.

That night Gilbert and Dunstan lay on their cloaks within the
half-broken door of the house, which could not be bolted, for they were
tired, having watched by the Sepulchre all the night before that; and
little Alric kept watch in the courtyard, walking up and down lest he
should sleep, for the Syrian wine might have made him drowsy, and he
had the whole bottle to himself. But he drank slowly and thoughtfully,
and when he felt that his head was not clear, he let the wine alone,
and walked up and down a long time talking to himself and warning
himself to keep sober. This being accomplished, he swallowed another
draught, wisely sipping it by half mouthfuls, and then walked again;
and so all night, and in the dawn he was as fresh and rosy and sober as
ever, but the big leathern bottle lay quite flat and disconsolate on
the pavement; for he came of the old English archers, who were good men
at a bowl, and steady on their legs.

In the morning Gilbert awoke and sat up, on the pavement, and as Alric
came near he made a sign that he should not wake Dunstan, but let him
rest. He looked at the sleeper's face, and thought how much this
servant of his had suffered, being quite half as gentle by birth as he
himself; and he remembered how the man had fought ever bravely, and had
shed his blood, and had never taken gifts of money from his master,
save for great necessity, and had asked for a sword rather than for a
tunic when he had raised the riot to save Beatrix and the Queen in
Nicaea; and Gilbert was ashamed that such a man, who was in truth the
eldest born of a great house, should be a starving servant. So when
Dunstan opened his eyes and started up at seeing his master awake,
Gilbert spoke to him.

"You have fought with me," he said, "you have endured with me, we have
fasted together on the march, and we have drunk of the same spring in
battle while the arrows fell about us, and now, God willing, we are to
be brothers, when I wed the Lady Beatrix, and but for you I should be
mourning by her grave to-day. It is not meet that we should be any
longer master and man, for you have gentle blood in you, of a great
house."

"Sir Gilbert," murmured Dunstan, flushing darkly, "you are very kind to
me, but I will not have gentlehood of a father who was a murderer and a
thief."

"You prove yourself gentle by that speech," answered Gilbert. "Had he
no other blood to give you than his own? Then the Lady Beatrix is also
the daughter of a thief and a murderer."

"And of a lady of great lineage. That is different. I am no peer of my
lady sister. But if so be that I may have a name, and be called gentle,
then, sir, I pray you, beg of our sovereign in England that I may be
called by a new name of my own, that my ill birth may be forgotten."

"And so I will," said Gilbert, "for it is better thus."

Afterwards he kept his word, and when she had her own again, Beatrix
gave him a third share of her broad lands, to hold in fief to Gilbert
Warde, though he had no rightful claim; and because he had saved her
life, he was called Dunstan Le Sauveur, because he had saved her and
many; and he had favour of King Henry and fought bravely, and was made
a knight, and raised up an honourable race.

But on that morning in Jerusalem, in the little court, Beatrix came
out, still weak and weary, and sat beside Gilbert in the shade of the
wall, with her hand between his, and the light in her face.

"Gilbert," she said, when she had told him what had happened to her
until then, "when I was angry and unbelieving in the Queen's chamber in
Antioch, why did you turn and leave me, seeing that I was in the wrong?"

"I was angry, too," he answered simply.

But womanlike, she answered him again.

"That was foolish. You should have taken me roughly in your arms and
kissed me, as you did by the river long ago. Then I should have
believed you, as I do now."

"But you would not believe my words, nor the Queen's," he said, "nor
even when she gave herself up to the King, to prove herself true, would
you believe her."

"If men only knew!" Beatrix laughed softly her little bird laugh that
had the music of a spring day.

"If men knew--what?"

"If men knew--" She paused, and blushed, and laughed again. "If men
knew how women love sweet words when they are happy, and sharp deeds
when they are angry! That is what I mean. I would have given my blood
and the Queen's kingdom for a kiss when you left me standing there."

"I wish I had known!" exclaimed Gilbert, happy but half perplexed.

"You ought to have known," answered the girl.

Her eyebrows were raised a little with the half-pathetic look he loved,
while her mouth smiled.

"I shall never understand," he said, but he began to laugh too.

"I will tell you. In the first place, I shall never be angry with you
again--never! Do you believe me, Gilbert?"

"Of course I do," he answered, having nothing else to say.

"Very well. But if I ever should be--"

"But you just said that you never would be!"

"I know; but if I should--just once--then take me in your arms, and say
nothing, but kiss me as you did that day by the river."

"I understand," he said. "Are you angry now?" But he was laughing.

"Almost," she answered, glancing sideways in a smile.

"Not quite?"

"Yes, quite!" And her eyes darkened under the drooping lids.

Then he held her so close to him that she was half breathless, and
kissed her till it hurt, and she turned pale again, and her eyes were
closed.

[Illustration: THE WAY OF THE CROSS]

"You see," she said very faintly, "I believe you now!"

Here ends the story of Gilbert Warde's crusading; for he had reached
the end of his Via Crucis in the Holy City, and had at last found peace
for his soul, and light and rest for his heart, after many troubles and
temptations, and after much brave fighting for the good cause of the
Faith against unbelievers.

After that he fought again with the army at Damascus, and saw how the
princes betrayed one another, when the Emperor Conrad had come again,
so that the siege of the strong town came to naught, and the armies
were scattered among the rich gardens to gather fruit and drink strong
wine, while their leaders wrangled. Also at Ascalon he drew sword
again, and again he saw failure hanging over all, like an evil shadow,
and chilling the courage in men, so that there was murmuring, and
clamouring for the homeward path. There he saw how the great armies
went to ruin and fell to pieces, because, as the holy Bernard had
known, there was not the faith of other days, and also because there
was no great leader, as Eleanor had told the abbot himself at Vezelay;
and it was a sad sight, and one to sicken the souls of good men.

But though he fought with all his might when swords were out, there was
no sadness in him for all these things, for life and hope were bright
before him. Little by little, too, he had heard how all the poor
pilgrims left at Attalia had perished; but he knew that if he had led
them, Beatrix would have died there in the court of the little house in
Jerusalem, and he held her life more dear than the lives of many, whom
his own could hardly have saved.

Moreover, and last of all, he had learned and understood that the cause
of God lies not buried among stones in any city, not even in the most
holy city of all; for the place of Christ's suffering is in men's
sinful hearts, and the glory of his resurrection is the saving of a
soul from death to everlasting life, in refreshment and light and peace.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Via Crucis: A Romance of the Second Crusade" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home