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Title: Philip Augustus - or The Brothers in Arms
Author: James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainsford)
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 "Philip Augustus - or The Brothers in Arms" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source: Google Books
        Philip Augustus, or, The brothers in arms
        James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainsford), 1801?-1860
        Published 1837
        Publisher London: R. Bentley; Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute
        Web Archive: https://archive.org/details/philipaugustusor00jame
     2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



STANDARD

NOVELS.

No. LIX.



"No kind of literature is so generally attractive as Fiction. Pictures
of life and manners, and Stories of adventure, are more eagerly
received by the many than graver productions, however important these
latter maybe. APULEIUS is better remembered by his fable of Cupid and
Psyche than by his abstruser Platonic writings; and the Decameron of
BOCCACCIO has outlived the Latin Treatises, and other learned works of
that author."



-----------------------

PHILIP AUGUSTUS.

COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.

-----------------------



LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET;
BELL AND BRADFUTE, EDINBURGH;
J. CUMMING, DUBLIN.
1837.



London:
Printed by A. Spottiswoode,
New-Street-Square.



[Illustration: Philip Augustus]


[Illustration: Death of Gallon the Jester]



PHILIP AUGUSTUS;

OR,

THE BROTHERS IN ARMS.


-------------------
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."--Henry IV.
-------------------



BY THE AUTHOR OF
"DARNLEY," "ATTILA," &c.


REVISED, CORRECTED, AND ILLUSTRATED WITH NOTES, ETC.
BY THE AUTHOR.



-------------------



LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET;
BELL AND BRADFUTE. EDINBURGH;
J. CUMMING, DUBLIN.
1837.



TO
ROBERT SOUTHEY, ESQ. LL.D.



MY DEAR SIR,

Were this book even a great deal better than an author's partiality
for his literary offspring can make me believe, I should still have
some hesitation in dedicating it to you, if the fact of your allowing
me to do so implied any thing but your own kindness of heart. I think
now, on reading it again, as I thought twelve months ago when I wrote
it, that it is the best thing that I have yet composed; but were it a
thousand times better in every respect than any thing I ever have or
ever shall produce, it would still, I am conscious, be very unworthy
of your acceptance, and very inferior to what I could wish to offer.

Notwithstanding all your present fame, I am convinced that future
years, by adding hourly to the reputation you have already acquired,
will justify my feelings towards your works, and that your writings
will be amongst the few--the very few--which each age in dying
bequeaths to the thousand ages to come.

However, it is with no view of giving a borrowed lustre to my book
that I distinguish this page by placing in it your name. Regard,
esteem, and admiration, are surely sufficient motives for seeking to
offer you some tribute, and sufficient apology, though that tribute be
very inferior to the wishes of,

                                   My dear Sir,
                             Your very faithful Servant,

                                       G. P. R. JAMES.

Maxpoffle, near Melrose, Roxburghshire,
            May 25, 1831.



ADVERTISEMENT
TO THE
NEW EDITION IN THE STANDARD NOVELS.
---------------


I have little to say regarding this work, which has been received by
the public with so much favour, as to dispense with the necessity of
any apology on the part of the author for the faults that it contains.
Some persons, indeed, have objected to that part of the dedication to
the first edition, in which I stated my belief that Philip Augustus
was the best romance I had at that time written. I cannot, however,
see any presumption in comparing my own works amongst themselves, when
I neither make any reference to those of others, nor seek to bow
public taste to my individual opinion. I am perfectly sensible that
Philip Augustus has many errors; the chief of which, perhaps, is the
slender connection between the two stories which run through the book.
This I have found it utterly impossible to remedy, and I have,
therefore, in this edition, confined my alterations to some verbal
corrections, to the addition of some notes, and to the cutting out of
some heavy poetry which had nothing to do with the story.

Fair Oak Lodge,
  Aug. 15, 1837.



ADVERTISEMENT
TO
THE FIRST EDITION.
---------------


Very few words of preface are necessary to the following work. In
regard to the character of Philip Augustus himself, I have not been
guided by any desire of making him appear greater, or better, or wiser
than he really was. Rigord his physician, William the Breton, his
chaplain, who was present at the battle of Bovines, and various other
annalists comprised in the excellent collection of memoirs published
by Monsieur Guizot, have been my authorities. A different view has
been taken of his life by several writers, inimical to him, either
from belonging to some of the factions of those times, or to hostile
countries; but it is certain, that all who came in close contact with
Philip loved the man, and admired the monarch. All the principal
events here narrated, in regard to that monarch and his queen, are
historical facts, though brought within a shorter space of time than
that which they really occupied. The sketch of King John, and the
scenes in which he was unavoidably introduced, I have made as brief as
possible, under the apprehension of putting my writings in comparison
with something inimitably superior. The picture of the mischievous
idiot, Gallon the Fool, was taken from a character which fell under my
notice for some time in the South of France.



PHILIP AUGUSTUS.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION.


Although there is something chilling in that sad, inevitable word,
_the past_--although in looking through the thronged rolls of history,
and reading of all the dead passions, the fruitless anxieties, the
vain, unproductive yearnings of beings that were once as full of
thrilling life and feeling as ourselves, and now are nothing, we gain
but the cold moral of our own littleness--still the very
indistinctness of the distance softens and beautifies the objects of a
former epoch that we thus look back upon; and in the far retrospect of
the days gone by, a thousand bright and glistening spots stand out,
and catch the last most brilliant rays of a sun that has long set to
the multitude of smaller things around them.

To none of these bright points does the light of history lend a more
dazzling lustre than to the twelfth century, when the most brilliant
(if it was not the most perfect) institution of modern Europe, the
feudal system, rose to its highest pitch of splendour; when it
incorporated with itself the noblest Order that ever the enthusiasm of
man (if not his wisdom) conceived--the Order of Chivalry: and when it
undertook an enterprise which, though fanatic in design, faulty in
execution, and encumbered with all the multitude of frailties that
enchain human endeavour, was in itself magnificent and heroic,
and in its consequences grand, useful, and impulsive to the whole of
Europe--the Crusades.

The vast expenses, however, which the crusades required--expenses not
only of that yellow dross, the unprofitable representative of earths
real riches, but also expenses of invaluable time, of blood, of
energy, of talent--exhausted and enfeebled every christian realm, and
left, in each, the nerves of internal policy unstrung and weak, with a
lassitude like that which, in the human frame, succeeds to any great
and unaccustomed excitement.

Although through all Europe, in that day, the relationships of lord,
vassal, and serf, were the grand divisions of society, yet it was in
France that the feudal system existed in its most perfect form, rising
in gradual progression:--first, serfs, or villains; then vavassors, or
vassals holding of a vassal; then vassals holding of a suzerain, yet
possessing the right of high justice; then suzerains, great
feudatories, holding of the king; and, lastly, the king himself, with
smaller domains than many of his own vassals, but with a general
though limited right and jurisdiction over them all. In a kingdom so
constituted, the crusade, a true feudal enterprise, was, of course,
followed with enthusiasm amounting to madness; and the effects were
the more dreadful, as the absence of each lord implied in general the
absence of all government in his domains.

Unnumbered forests then covered the face of France; or, rather, the
whole country presented nothing but one great forest; scattered
through which, occasional patches of cultivated land, rudely tilled by
the serfs of glebe, sufficed for the support of a thin and diminished
population. General police was unthought of; and, though every feudal
chief, within his own territory, exercised that sort of justice which
to him seemed good, too little distinction existed between the
character of robber and judge, for us to suppose that the public
benefited much by the tribunals of the barons. The forests, the
mountains, and the moors, swarmed with plunderers of every
description; and besides the nobles themselves, who very frequently
were professed robbers on the highway, three distinct classes of
banditti existed in France, who, though different in origin, in
manners, and in object, yet agreed wonderfully in the general
principle of pillaging all who were unable to protect themselves.

These three classes, the Brabançois, the Cotereaux, and the Routiers,
have, from this general assimilating link, been very often confounded;
and, indeed, on many occasions they are found to have changed name and
profession when occasion served, the same band having been at one
moment Brabançois, and the next Cotereaux, wherever any advantage was
to be gained by the difference of denomination; and also we find that
they ever acted together as friends and allies, where any general
danger threatened their whole community. The Brabançois, however, were
originally very distinct from the Cotereaux, having sprung up from the
various free companies, which the necessities of the time obliged the
monarchs of Europe to employ in their wars. Each vassal, by the feudal
tenure, owed his sovereign but a short period of military service,
and, if personal interest or regard would sometimes lead them to
prolong it, anger or jealousy would as often make them withdraw their
aid at the moment it was most needful. Monarchs found that they must
have men they could command, and the bands of adventurous soldiers,
known by the name of Brabançois[1], were always found useful
auxiliaries in any time of danger. As long as they were well paid,
they were in general brave, orderly, and obedient; the moment their
pay ceased, they dispersed under their several leaders, ravaged,
pillaged, and consumed, levying on the country in general, that pay
which the limited finances of the sovereign always prevented him from
continuing, except in time of absolute warfare.[2] Still, however,
even in their character of plunderers, they had the dignity of rank
and chivalry, were often led by knights and nobles; and though in the
army they joined the qualities of the mercenary and the robber to
those of the soldier, in the forest and on the moor they often added
somewhat of the frank generosity of the soldier to the rapacity of the
freebooter.


--------------------

[Footnote 1: Generally and rationally supposed to have been derived
from the country which poured forth the first numerous bands of these
adventurers; i.e. Brabant. See Ducange, La Chenaye du Bois, &c. Philip
Augustus in the end destroyed them for a time.]

[Footnote 2: The great companies of the fourteenth century had their
type in the Brabançois, and various other bodies of freebooters, which
appeared previous to that period. The chief characteristic of all of
these bands was, the having degenerated from soldiers to plunderers,
while they maintained a certain degree of discipline and
subordination, but cast off every other tie.]

--------------------


The Cotereaux were different in origin--at least, if we may trust
Ducange--springing at first from fugitive serfs, and the scattered
remains of those various bands of revolted peasantry, which, from time
to time, had struggled ineffectually to shake off the oppressive
tyranny of their feudal lords.

These joined together in troops of very uncertain numbers, from tens
to thousands, and levied a continual war upon the community they had
abandoned, though, probably, they acted upon no general system, nor
were influenced by any one universal feeling, but the love of plunder,
and the absolute necessity of self-defence.

The Routier was the common robber, who either played his single stake,
and hazarded life for life with any one he met, or banded with others,
and shared the trade of the Coterel, with whom he was frequently
confounded, and from whom, indeed, he hardly differed except in
origin.

While the forests and wilds of France were thus tenanted by men who
preyed upon their fellows, the castles and the cities were inhabited
by two races, united for the time as lord and serf, but both advancing
rapidly to a point of separation; the lord at the very acme of his
power, with no prospect on any side but decline; the burgher
struggling already for freedom, and growing strong by association.

Tyrants ever, and often simple robbers, the feudal chieftains had
lately received a touch of refinement, by their incorporation with the
order of chivalry. Courtesy was joined to valour. Song burst forth,
and gave a voice to fame. The lay of the troubadour bore the tidings
of great actions from clime to clime, and was at once the knight's
ambition and his reward; while the bitter satire of the sirvente, or
the playful apologue of the fabliau, scourged all that was base and
ungenerous, and held up the disloyal and uncourteous to the
all-powerful corrective of public opinion.

Something still remains to be said upon the institution of chivalry,
and I can give no better sketch of its history than in the eloquent
words of the commentator on St Palaye.[3]


--------------------

[Footnote 3: M. Charles Nodier.]

--------------------


"Towards the middle of the tenth century, some poor nobles, united by
the necessity of legitimate defence, and startled by the excesses
certain to follow the multiplicity of sovereign powers, took pity on
the tears and misery of the people. Invoking God and St. George, they
gave each other their hand, plighted themselves to the defence of the
oppressed, and placed the weak under the protection of their sword.
Simple in their dress, austere in their morals, humble after victory,
and firm in misfortune, in a short time they won for themselves
immense renown.

"Popular gratitude, in its simple and credulous joy, fed itself with
marvellous tales of their deeds of arms, exalted their valour, and
united in its prayers its generous liberators with even the powers of
Heaven. So natural is it for misfortune to deify those who bring it
consolation.

"In those old times, as power was a right, courage was of course a
virtue. These men, to whom was given, in the end, the name of Knights,
carried this virtue to the highest degree. Cowardice was punished
amongst them as an unpardonable crime; falsehood they held in horror;
perfidy and breach of promise they branded with infamy; nor have the
most celebrated legislators of antiquity any thing comparable to their
statutes.

"This league of warriors maintained itself for more than a century in
all its pristine simplicity, because the circumstances amidst which it
rose changed but slowly; but when a great political and religious
movement announced the revolution about to take place in the minds of
men, then chivalry took a legal form, and a rank amidst authorised
institutions.

"The crusades, and the emancipation of the cities which marked the
apogee of the feudal government, are the two events which most
contributed to the destruction of chivalry. True it is, that then also
it found its greatest splendour; but it lost its virtuous independence
and its simplicity of manners.

"Kings soon found all the benefit they might derive from an armed
association which should hold a middle place between the crown and
those too powerful vassals who usurped all its prerogatives. From that
time, kings created knights, and bound them to the throne by all the
forms used in feudal investiture. But the particular character of
those distant times was the pride of privileges; and the crown could
not devise any, without the nobility arrogating to itself the same.
Thus the possessors of the greater feofs hastened to imitate their
monarch. Not only did they create knights, but this title, dear in a
nation's gratitude, became their hereditary privilege. This invasion
stopped not there, lesser chiefs imitated their sovereigns, and
chivalry, losing its ancient unity, became no more than an honourable
distinction, the principles of which, however, had for long a happy
influence upon the fate of the people."

Such then was the position of France towards the end of the twelfth
century. A monarch, with limited revenues and curtailed privileges; a
multitude of petty sovereigns, each despotic in his own territories; a
chivalrous and ardent nobility; a population of serfs, just learning
to dream of liberty; a soil rich, but overgrown with forests, and
almost abandoned to itself; an immense body of the inhabitants living
by rapine, and a total want of police and of civil government.

The crusade against Saladin was over.--Richard C[oe]ur de Lion was
dead, and Constantinople had just fallen into the hands of a body of
French knights at the time this tale begins. At the same period, John
Lackland held the sceptre of the English kings with a feeble hand, and
a poor and dastardly spirit; while Philip Augustus, with grand views,
but a limited power, sat firmly on the throne of France; and by the
vigorous impulse of a great, though a passionate and irregular mind,
hurried forward his kingdom, and Europe along with it, towards days of
greatness and civilisation, still remote.



CHAPTER II.


Seven hundred years ago, the same bright summer sun was shining in his
glory, that now rolls past before my eyes in all the beneficent
majesty of light. It was the month of May, and every thing in nature
seemed to breathe of the fresh buoyancy of youth. There was a light
breeze in the sky, that carried many a swift shadow over mountain,
plain, and wood. There was a springy vigour in the atmosphere, as if
the wind itself were young. The earth was full of flowers, and the
woods full of voice; and song and perfume shared the air between them.

Such was the morning when a party of travellers took their way slowly
up the south-eastern side of the famous Monts d'Or in Auvergne. The
road, winding in and out through the immense forest which covered
the base of the hills, now showed, now concealed, the abrupt
mountain-peaks starting out from their thick vesture of wood, and
opposing their cold blue summits to the full blaze of the morning sun.
Sometimes, turning round a sharp angle of the rock, the trees would
break away and leave the eye full room to roam, past the forest
hanging thick upon the edge of the slope, over valleys and hills, and
plains beyond, to the far wanderings of the Allier through the distant
country. Nor did the view end here; for the plains themselves, lying
like a map spread out below, stretched away to the very sky: and even
there, a few faint blue shadows, piled up in the form of peaks and
cones, left the mind uncertain whether the Alps themselves did not
there bound the view, or whether some fantastic clouds did not combine
with that bright deceiver, fancy, to cheat the eye.

At other times, the road seemed to plunge into the deepest recesses of
the mountains, passing through the midst of black detached rocks and
tall columns of grey basalt, broken fragments of which lay scattered
on either side; while a thousand shrubs and flowers twined, as in
mockery, over them; and the protruding roots of the large ancient
trees grasped the fallen prisms of the volcanic pillars, as if
vaunting the pride of even vegetable life over the cold, dull,
inanimate stone.

Here and there, too, would often rise up on each side high masses of
the mountain, casting all in shadow between them; while the bright
yellow lights which streamed amidst the trees above, spangling the
foliage as if with liquid gold, and the shining of the clear blue sky
overhead, were the only signs of summer that reached the bottom of
the ravine. Then again, breaking out upon a wide green slope, the path
would emerge into the sunshine, or, passing even through the very dew
of the cataract, would partake of the thousand colours of the sunbow
that hung above its fall.

It was a scene and a morning like one of those days of unmixed
happiness that sometimes shine in upon the path of youth--so few, and
yet so beautiful. Its very wildness was lovely; and the party of
travellers who wound up the path added to the interest of the scene by
redeeming it from perfect solitude, and linking it to social
existence.

The manner of their advance, too, which partook of the forms of a
military procession, made the group in itself picturesque. A single
squire, mounted on a strong bony horse, led the way at about fifty
yards' distance from the rest of the party. He was a tall, powerful
man, of a dark complexion and high features; and from beneath his
thick, arched eyebrow gazed out a full, brilliant, black eye, which
roved incessantly over the scene, and seemed to notice the smallest
object around. He was armed with cuirass and steel cap, sword and
dagger; and yet the different form and rude finishing of his arms did
not admit of their being confounded with those of a knight. The two
who next followed were evidently of a different grade; and, though
both young men, both wore a large cross pendant from their neck, and a
small branch of palm in the bonnet. The one who rode on the right hand
was armed at all points, except his head and arms, in plate armour,
curiously inlaid with gold in a thousand elegant and fanciful
arabesques, the art of perfecting which is said to have been first
discovered at Damascus. The want of his gauntlets and brassards showed
his arms covered with a quilted jacket of crimson silk, called a
gambesoon, and large gloves of thick buff leather. The place of his
casque was supplied by a large brown hood, cut into a long peak
behind, which fell almost to his horse's back; while the folds in
front were drawn round a face which, without being strikingly
handsome, was nevertheless noble and dignified in its expression,
though clouded by a shade of melancholy which had channelled his cheek
with many a deep line, and drawn his brow into a fixed but not a
bitter frown.

In form he was, to all appearance, broad made and powerful; but the
steel plates in which he was clothed, of course greatly concealed the
exact proportions of his figure; though withal there was a sort of
easy grace in his carriage, which, almost approaching to negligence,
was but the more conspicuous from the very stiffness of his armour.
His features were aquiline, and had something in them that seemed to
betoken quick and violent passions; and yet such a supposition was at
once contradicted by the calm, still, melancholy of his large dark
eyes.

The horse on which the knight rode was a tall, powerful German
stallion, jet black in colour; and though not near so strong as one
which a squire led at a little distance behind, yet, being
unencumbered with panoply itself, it was fully equal to the weight of
its rider, armed as he was.

The crusader's companion--for the palm and cross betokened that they
both returned from the Holy Land--formed as strong a contrast as can
well be conceived to the horseman we have just described. He was a
fair, handsome man, round whose broad, high forehead curled a
profusion of rich chestnut hair, which behind, having been suffered to
grow to an extraordinary length, fell down in thick masses upon his
shoulders. His eye was one of those long, full, grey eyes, which, when
fringed with very dark lashes, give a more thoughtful expression to
the countenance than even those of a deeper hue; and such would have
been the case with his, had not its clear powerful glance been
continually at variance with a light, playful turn of his lip, that
seemed full of sportive mockery.

His age might be four or five and twenty--perhaps more; for he was of
that complexion that retains long the look of youth, and on which even
cares and toils seem for years to spend themselves in vain:--and yet
it was evident, from the bronzed ruddiness of what was originally a
very fair complexion, that he had suffered long exposure to a burning
sun; while a deep scar on one of his cheeks, though it did not
disfigure him, told that he did not spare his person in the
battle-field.

No age or land is, of course, without its foppery; and however
inconsistent such a thing may appear, joined with the ideas of cold
steel and mortal conflicts, no small touch of it was visible in the
apparel of the younger horseman. His person, from the shoulders down
to the middle of his thigh, was covered with a bright haubert, or
shirt of steel rings, which, polished like glass, and lying flat upon
each other, glittered and flashed in the sunshine as if they were
formed of diamonds. On his head he wore a green velvet cap, which
corresponded in colour with the border of his gambesoon, the puckered
silk of which rose above the edge of the shirt of mail, and prevented
the rings from chafing upon his neck. Over this hung a long mantle of
fine cloth of a deep green hue, on the shoulder of which was
embroidered a broad red cross, distinguishing the French crusader. The
hood, which was long and pointed, like his companion's, was thrown
back from his face, and exposed a lining of miniver.

The horse he rode was a slight, beautiful Arabian, as white as snow in
every part of his body, except where round his nostrils, and on the
tendons of his pastern and hoof, the white mellowed into a fine pale
pink. To look at his slender limbs, and the bending pliancy of every
step, one would have judged him scarcely able to bear so tall and
powerful a man as his rider, loaded with a covering of steel; but the
proud toss of his head, the snort of his wide nostril, and the
flashing fire of his clear crystal eye, spoke worlds of unexhausted
strength and spirit; though the thick dust, with which the whole party
were covered, evinced that their day's journey had already been long.
Behind each knight, except where the narrowness of the road obliged
them to change the order of their march, one of their squires led a
battle-horse in his right hand; and several others followed, bearing
the various pieces of their offensive and defensive armour.

This, however, was to be remarked, that the arms of the
first-mentioned horseman were distributed amongst a great many
persons; one carrying the casque upright on the pommel of the saddle,
another bearing his shield and lance, another his brassards and
gauntlets; while the servants of the second knight, more scanty in
number, were fain to take each upon himself a heavier load.

To these immediate attendants succeeded a party of simple grooms
leading various other horses, amongst which were one or two Arabians,
and the whole cavalcade was terminated by a small body of archers.

For long, the two knights proceeded silently on their way, sometimes
side by side, sometimes one preceding the other, as the road widened
or diminished in its long tortuous way up the acclivity of the
mountains, but still without exchanging a single word. The one
whom--though there was probably little difference of age--we shall
call the elder, seemed, indeed, too deeply absorbed in his own
thoughts, to desire, or even permit of conversation, and kept his eyes
bent pensively forward on the road before, without even giving a
glance to his companion, whose gaze roamed enchanted over all the
exquisite scenery around, and whose mind seemed fully occupied in
noting all the lovely objects he beheld. From time to time, indeed,
his eye glanced to his brother knight, and a sort of sympathetic shade
came over his brow, as he saw the deep gloom in which he was involved.
Occasionally, too, a sort of movement of impatience seemed to agitate
him, as if there was something that he fain would speak. But then
again the cold unexpecting fixedness of his companion's features
appeared to repel it, and, returning to the view, he more than once
apparently suppressed what was rising to his lips, or only gave it
vent in humming a few lines of some lay, or some sirvente, the words
of which, however, were inaudible. At length what was labouring within
seemed to break through all restraint, and, drawing his rein, he made
his horse pause for an instant, while he exclaimed--

"Is it possible. _Beau Sire_ d'Auvergne, that the sight of your own
fair land cannot draw from you a word or a glance?" while, as he
spoke, he made his horse bound forward again, and throwing his left
hand over the whole splendid scene that the opening of the trees
exposed to the sight, he seemed to bid it appeal to the heart of his
companion, and upbraid him with his indifference.

The Count d'Auvergne raised his eyes, and let them rest for an instant
on the view to which his companion pointed; then dropped them to his
friend's face, and replied calmly--

"Had any one told me, five years ago, that such would be the case, Guy
de Coucy, I would have given him the lie."

Guy de Coucy answered nothing directly, but took up his song again,
saying--


    "He who tells his sorrow, may find
     That he sows but the seed of the empty wind;
     But he who keeps it within his breast,
     Nurses a serpent to gnaw his rest."


"You sing truly, De Coucy, as I have proved too bitterly," replied the
Count d'Auvergne; "but since we have kept companionship together, I
have ever found you gay and happy. Why should I trouble your repose
with sorrows not your own?"

"Good faith! fair count, I understand you well," replied the other,
laughing. "You would say that you have ever held me more merry than
wise; more fit to enliven a dull table than listen to a sad tale; a
better companion in brawls or merrymaking than in sorrows or
solemnities; and 'faith you are right, I love them not; and,
therefore, is it not the greatest proof of my friendship, when hating
sorrows as much as man well may, I ask you to impart me yours?"

"In truth, it is," answered the Count d'Auvergne; "but yet I will not
load your friendship so, De Coucy. Mine are heavy sorrows, which I
would put upon no man's light heart. However, I have this day given
way to them more than I should do; but it is the very sight of my
native land, beautiful and beloved as it is, which, waking in my
breast the memory of hopes and joys passed away for ever, has made me
less master of myself than I am wont."

"Fie now, fie!" cried his friend; "Thibalt d'Auvergne, wouldst thou
make me think the heart of a bold knight as fragile as the egg of a
chaffinch, on which if but a cat sets her paw, it is broken never to
be mended again? Nay, nay! there is consolation even in the heart of
all evils; like the honey that the good knight, Sir Samson, found in
the jaws of the lion which he killed when he was out hunting with the
king of the Saracens."

"You mean, when he was going down to the Philistines," said his friend
with a slight smile; though such mistakes were no way rare in those
days; and De Coucy spoke it in somewhat of a jesting tone, as if
laughing himself at the ignorance he assumed.

"Be it so, be it so!" proceeded the other. "'Tis all the same. But, as
I said, there is consolation in every evil. Hast thou lost thy dearest
friend in the battle-field? Thank God! that he died knightly in his
harness! Hast thou pawned thy estate to the Jew? Thank God! that thou
may'st curse him to thy heart's content in this world, and feel sure
of his damnation hereafter!" The count smiled; and his friend
proceeded, glad to see that he had won him even for a time from
himself:--"Has thy falcon strayed? Say, 'twas a vile bird and a foul
feeder, and call it a good loss. Has thy lady proved cold? Has thy
mistress betrayed thee. Seek a warmer or a truer, and be happily
deceived again."

The colour came and went in the cheek of the Count d'Auvergne; and for
an instant his eyes flashed fire; but reading perfect unconsciousness
of all offence in the clear open countenance of De Coucy, he bit his
lip till his teeth left a deep white dent therein, but remained
silent.

"Fie, fie! D'Auvergne!" continued De Coucy, not noticing the emotion
his words had produced. "Thou, a knight who hast laid more Saracen
heads low than there are bells on your horse's poitral, not able to
unhorse so black a miscreant as Melancholy! Thou, who hast knelt at
the holy sepulchre," he added in a more dignified tone, "not to find
hope in faith, and comfort in the blessed Saviour, for whose cross
you've fought!"

The count turned round, in some surprise at the unwonted vein which
the last part of his companion's speech indicated; but De Coucy kept
to it but for a moment, and then, darting off, he proceeded in the
same light way with which he had begun the conversation. "Melancholy!"
he cried in a loud voice, at the same time taking off his glove, as if
he would have cast it down as a gage of battle--"Melancholy and all
that do abet him. Love, Jealousy, Hatred, Fear, Poverty, and the like,
I do pronounce ye false miscreants, and defy you all! There lays my
glove!" and he made a show of throwing it on the ground.

"Ah, De Coucy!" said D'Auvergne, with a melancholy smile, "your light
heart never knew what love is; and may it never know!"

"By the rood! you do me wrong," cried De Coucy--"bitter wrong,
D'Auvergne! I defy you, in the whole lists of Europe's chivalry, to
find a man who has been so often in love as I have--ay, and though you
smile--with all the signs of true and profound love to boot. When I
was in love with the Princess of Suabia, did not I sigh three times
every morning, and sometimes sneeze as often? for it was winter
weather, and I used to pass half my nights under her window. When I
was in love with the daughter of Tancred of Sicily, did I not run
seven courses for her with all the best champions of England and
France, in my silk gambesoon, with no arms but my lance in my hand,
and my buckler on my arm? When I was in love with the pretty
Marchioness of Syracuse, did not I ride a mare one whole day,[4]
without ever knowing it, from pure absence of mind and profound
love?--and when I was in love with all the ladies of Cyprus, did not I
sing lays and write sirventes for them all?"


--------------------

[Footnote 4: To ride a mare was reckoned in those days unworthy of
anyone but a juggler, a charlatan, or a serf.]

--------------------


"Your fighting in your hoqueton," replied D'Auvergne, "showed that you
were utterly fearless; and your riding on a mare showed that you were
utterly whimsical; but neither one nor the other showed you were in
love, my dear De Coucy. But look, De Coucy! the road bends downwards
into that valley. Either I have strangely forgotten my native land, or
your surly squire has led us wrong, and we are turning away from the
Puy to the valleys of Dome.--Ho, sirrah!" he continued, elevating his
voice and addressing the squire, who rode first, "Are you sure you are
right?"

"Neither Cotereaux, nor Brabançois, nor Routiers, nor living creatures
of any kind, see I, to the right or left, _Beau Sire_," replied the
squire, in a measured man-at-arms-like tone, without either turning
his head or slackening his pace in the least degree.

"But art thou leading us on the right road? I ask thee," repeated the
count.

"I know not. Beau Sire," replied the squire. "I was thrown out, to
guard against danger,--I had no commands to seek the right road." And
he continued to ride on the wrong way as calmly as if no question
existed in respect to its direction.

"Halt!" cried De Coucy. The man-at-arms stood still; and a short
council was held between the two knights in regard to their farther
proceedings, when it was determined that, although they were evidently
wrong, they should still continue for some way on the same road,
rather than turn back after so long a journey. "We must come to some
château or some habitation soon," said De Coucy; "or, at the worst,
find some of your country shepherds to guide us on towards the chapel.
But, methinks, Hugo de Barre, you might have told us sooner, that you
did not know the way!"

"Now, good sir knight," replied the squire, speaking more freely when
addressed by his own lord, "none knew better than yourself, that I had
never been in Auvergne in all my days before. Did you ever hear of my
quitting my cot and my glebe, except to follow my good lord the baron,
your late father, for a forty days' _chevauchée_ against the enemy,
before I took the blessed cross, and went a fool's errand to the Holy
Land?"

"How now, sir!" cried De Coucy. "Do you call the holy crusade a fool's
errand? Be silent, Hugo, and lead on. Thou art a good scout and a good
soldier, and that is all thou art fit for."

The squire replied nothing; but rode on in silence, instantly resuming
his habit of glancing his eye rapidly over every object that
surrounded him, with a scrupulous accuracy that left scarce a
possibility of ambuscade. The knights and their train followed; and
turning round a projecting part of the mountain, they found that the
road, instead of descending, as they had imagined, continued to climb
the steep, which at every step gained some new feature of grandeur and
singularity, till the sublime became almost the terrific. The verdure
gradually ceased, and the rocks approached so close on each side as to
leave no more space than just sufficient for the road, and a narrow
deep ravine by its side, at the bottom of which, wherever the thick
bushes permitted the eye to reach it, the mountain torrent was seen
dashing and roaring over enormous blocks of black lava, which it had
channelled into all strange shapes and appearances. High above the
heads of the travellers, also, rose on either hand a range of enormous
basaltic columns, fringed at the top by some dark old pines that,
hanging seventy or eighty feet in the air, seemed to form a frieze to
the gigantic colonnade through which they passed.

De Coucy looked up with a smile, not unmixed with awe. "Could you not
fancy, D'Auvergne," he said, "that we were entering the portico of a
temple built by some bad enchanter to the Evil Spirit? By the holy
rood! it is a grand and awful scene! I did not think thy Auvergne was
so magnificent."

As he spoke, the squire, who preceded them, suddenly stopped, and,
turning round--

"The road ends here. _Beau Sire_," he cried. "The bridge is broken,
and there is no farther passage."

"Light of my eyes!" cried De Coucy; "this is unfortunate! But let us
see, at all events, before we turn back:" and, riding forward, he
approached the spot where his squire stood.

It was even as he had said, however. All farther progress in a direct
line was stopped by an immense mass of lava, which had probably lain
there for immemorial centuries. Certainly when the road was made,
which was probably in the days of the Romans, the same obstruction had
existed; for, instead of attempting to continue the way along the side
of the hill any farther in that direction, a single arch had been
thrown over the narrow ravine, and the road carried on through a wide
breach in the rocks on the other side. This opening, however, offered
nothing to the eye of De Coucy and his companions but a vacant space,
backed by the clear blue sky. The travellers paused, and gazed upon
the broken bridge and the road beyond for a minute or two, before
turning back, with that sort of silent pause which generally
precedes the act of yielding to some disagreeable necessity. However,
after a moment, the younger knight beckoned to one of his squires,
crying--"Give me my casque and sword!"

"Now, in the name of Heaven! what Orlando trick are you going to put
in practice, De Coucy?" cried the Count d'Auvergne, watching his
companion take his helmet from the squire, and buckle on his long,
straight sword by his side. "Are you going to cleave that rock of
lava, or bridge over the ravine, with your shield?"

"Neither," replied the knight, with a smile; "but I hear voices,
brought by the wind through that cleft on the other side, and I am
going over to ask the way."

"De Coucy, you are mad!" cried the count. "Your courage is insanity.
Neither man nor horse can take that leap!"

"Pshaw! you know not what Zerbilin can do!" said De Coucy, calmly
patting the arching neck of his slight Arabian horse: "and yet you
have yourself seen him take greater leaps than that!"

"But see you not the road slopes upwards," urged the count. "There is
no hold for his feet. The horse is weary."

"Weary!" exclaimed De Coucy: "nonsense! Give me space--give me space!"

And, in spite of all remonstrance, he reined his horse back, and then
spurred him on to the leap. The obedient animal galloped onward to the
brink, shot forward like an arrow, and reached the other side.[5] But
what the Count d'Auvergne had said was just. The road beyond sloped
upwards from the very edge, and was composed of loose volcanic scoria,
which afforded no firm footing; so that the horse, though he
accomplished the leap, slipped backwards the moment he had reached the
opposite side, and rolled with his rider down into the ravine below!


--------------------

[Footnote 5: Although this act of rashness certainly breathes the
spirit of romance, yet such things have been done, and even in our own
day.]

--------------------


"Jesu Maria!" cried the count, springing to the ground, and advancing
to the edge of the ravine. "De Coucy, De Coucy!" cried he, "are you in
life?"

"Yes, yes!" answered a faint voice from below: "and Zerbilin is not
hurt!"

"But yourself, De Coucy!" cried his friend,--"speak of yourself!"

A groan was the only reply.



CHAPTER III.


It was in vain that the Count d'Auvergne gazed down into the ravine,
endeavouring to gain a sight of his rash friend. A mass of shrubs
overhung the shelving edge of the rock and totally intercepted his
view. In the meanwhile, however, Hugo de Barre, the squire who had led
the cavalcade, had sprung to the ground, and was already half-way over
the brink, attempting to descend to his lord's assistance, when a deep
voice from the bottom of the dell exclaimed, "Hold! hold above! Try
not to come down there. You will bring the rocks and loose stones upon
our heads, and kill us all."

"Who is it speaks?" cried the Count d'Auvergne.

"One of the hermits of Our Lady's chapel of the Mont d'Or," replied
the voice. "If ye be this knight's friends, go back for a thousand
paces, and ye will find a path down to the left, which leads to the
road by the stream. But if ye be his enemies, who have driven him to
the dreadful leap he has taken, get ye hence, for he is even now at
the foot of the cross."

The Count d'Auvergne, without staying to reply, rode back as the
hermit directed, and easily found the path which they had before
passed, but which, as it apparently led in a direction different from
that in which they wished to proceed, they had hardly noticed at the
time. Following this path, they soon reached the bottom of the ravine,
where they found a good road, jammed in, as it were, between the rocks
over which they had passed, and the small mountain-stream they had
observed from above. For some way the windings of the dell and the
various projections of the crags, prevented them from seeing for any
distance in advance; but at length they came suddenly upon a group of
several persons, mounted and dismounted, both male and female,
gathered round De Coucy's beautiful Arabian, Zerbilin, who stood in
the midst soiled and scratched indeed, and trembling with the fright
and exertion of his fall, but almost totally uninjured, and filling
the air with his long wild neighings. The group by which he was
surrounded consisted entirely of the attendants of some persons not
present, squires and varlets in very gay attire; and female servants
and waiting women, not a bit behind hand in flutter and finery. A
beautiful brown Spanish jennet, such as any fair lady might love to
ride, stood near, held by one of those old squires who, in that age,
cruelly monopolised the privilege of assisting their lady to mount and
dismount, much to the disappointment of many a young page and gallant
gentleman, who would willing have relieved them of the task,
especially when the lady in question was young and fair. Not far off
was placed a strong but ancient horse, waiting for some other person,
who was absent with the lady of the jennet.

Above the heads of this group, half-way up the face of the rock, stood
a large cross elevated on a projecting mass of stone, and behind it
appeared the mouth of a cavern, or rather of an excavation, from which
the blocks of lava had been drawn, in order to form the bridge we have
mentioned, now fallen from its "high estate," and encumbering the bed
of the river. It was easy to perceive the figures of several persons
moving to and fro in the cave, and concluding at once that it was
thither his unfortunate friend had been borne, the Count d'Auvergne
sprang to the ground, and passing through the group of pages and
waiting-women, who gazed upon him and his archers with some alarm, he
made his way up the little path that led to the mouth of the cave.
Here he found De Coucy stretched upon a bed of dry rushes, while a
tall, emaciated old man, covered with a brown frock, and ornamented
with a long white beard, stood by his side, holding his hand. Between
his fingers the hermit held a lancet; and from the strong muscular arm
of the knight, a stream of blood was just beginning to flow into a
small wooden bowl held by a page.

Several other persons, however, filled the hermit's cave, of whom two
are worthy of more particular notice. The first was a short, stout,
old man, with a complexion that argued florid health and vigour, and a
small, keen, grey eye, the quick movement of which, with a sudden curl
of the lip and contraction of the brow on every slight occasion of
contradiction, might well bespeak a quick and impatient disposition.
The second was a young lady of perhaps nineteen or twenty, slight in
figure, but yet with every limb rounded in the full and swelling
contour of woman's most lovely age. Her features were small, delicate,
and nowhere sharp, yet cut with that square exactness of outline so
beautiful in the efforts of the Grecian chisel. Her eyes were long,
and full, and dark; and the black lashes that fringed them, as she
gazed earnestly on the figure of De Coucy, swept downward and lay upon
her cheek. The hair, that fell in a profusion of thick curls round her
face, was as black as jet; and yet her skin, though of that peculiar
tint almost inseparable from dark hair and eyes, was strikingly fair,
and as smooth as alabaster; while a faint but very beautiful colour
spread over each cheek, and died away into the clear pure white of her
temples.

In days when love was a duty, and coldness a dishonour, on the part of
all who enjoyed or aspired to chivalry, no false delicacies, no fear
of compromising herself, none of the mighty considerations of small
proprieties that now-a-days hamper all the feelings, and enchain all
the frankness, of the female heart, weighed on the lady of the
thirteenth century. It was her duty to feel and to express an interest
in every good knight in danger and misfortune; and the fair being we
have just described, before the eyes of her father, who looked upon
her with honourable pride, knelt by the side of De Coucy; and while
the hermit held the arm from which the blood was just beginning to
flow, she kept the small fingers of her soft white hand upon the other
sinewy wrist of the insensible knight, and anxiously watched the
returning animation.

While the Count d'Auvergne entered the cave in silence, and placed
himself beside the hermit, De Coucy's squire, Hugo de Barre, with one
of the pages, both devotedly attached to their young lord, had climbed
up also, and stood at the mouth of the cavern.

"God's life! Hugo," cried the page, "let them not take my lord's
blood. We have got amongst traitors. They are killing him."

"Peace, fool!" answered Hugo; "'tis a part of leech-craft. Did you
never see Fulk, the barber, bleed the old baron? Why, he had it done
every week. The De Coucys have more blood than other men."

The page was silent for a moment, and then replied in an under-tone,
for there was a sort of contagious stillness round the hurt knight.
"You had better look to it, Hugo. They are bleeding my lord too much.
That hermit means him harm. See, how he stares at the great carbuncle
in Sir Guy's thumb-ring! He's murdering my lord to steal it. Shall I
put my dagger in him?"

"Hold thy silly prate, Ermold de Marcy!" replied the squire: "think
you, the good count would stand by and see his sworn brother in arms
bled, without it was for his good? See you now, Sir Guy wakes!--God's
benison on you, Sir Hermit!"

De Coucy did indeed open his eyes, and looked round, though but
faintly. "D'Auvergne," said he, the moment after, while the playful
smile fluttered again round his lips, "by the rood! I had nearly
leaped farther than I intended, and taken Zerbilin with me into
Paradise. Thanks, hermit!--thanks, gentle lady!--I can rise now. Ho!
Hugo, lend me thine arm."

But the hermit gently put his hand upon the knight's breast, saying,
in a tone more resembling cynical bitterness than Christian mildness,
"Hold, my son! This world is not the sweetest of dwelling-places; but
if thou wouldst not change it for a small, cold, comfortable grave,
lie still. You shall be carried up to the chapel of Our Lady, by the
lake, where there is more space than in this cave; and there I will
find means to heal your bruises in two days, if your quick spirit may
be quiet for so long."

As he spoke, he stopped the bleeding, and bound up the arm of the
knight, who, finding probably even by the slight exertion he had made
that he was in no fit state to act for himself, submitted quietly,
merely giving a glance to the Count d'Auvergne, half rueful, half
smiling, as if he would fain have laughed at himself and his own
helplessness, if the pain of his bruises would have let him.

"I prithee, holy father hermit, tell me," said the Count d'Auvergne,
"is the hurt of this good knight dangerous? for if it be, we will send
to Mont Ferrand for some skilful leech from my uncle's castle--and
instantly."

"His body is sufficiently bruised, my son," replied the hermit, "to
give him, I hope, a sounder mind for the future, than to leap his
horse down a precipice: and as for the leech, let him stay at Mont
Ferrand. The knight is bad enough without his help, if he come to make
him worse; and if he come to cure him, I can do that without his aid.
Leech-craft is as much worse than ignorance, as killing is worse than
letting die."

"By my faith and my knighthood," cried the old gentleman, who stood at
De Coucy's feet, and who, during the count's question and the hermit's
somewhat ungracious reply, had been gazing at d'Auvergne with various
looks of recognition--"by my faith and my knighthood! I believe it is
the Count Thibalt--though my eyes are none of the clearest, and it is
long since--but, yes! it is surely--Count Thibalt d'Auvergne."

"The same, _Beau Sire_," replied D'Auvergne; "my memory is less true
than yours, or I see my father's old arm's fellow, Count Julian of the
Mount."

"E'en so, fair sir!--e'en so!" replied the old man: "I and my daughter
Isadore are even now upon our way to Vic le Comte to pass some short
space with the good count, your father. A long and weary journey have
we had hither, all the way from Flanders; and for our safe arrival we
go to offer at the chapel of Our Lady of St. Pavin of the Mount D'Or,
ere we proceed to taste your castle's hospitality. Good faith! you may
well judge 'tis matter of deep import brings me so far. Affairs of
policy, young sir--affairs of policy," he added in a low and
consequential voice. "Doubtless your father may have hinted--"

"For five long years, fair sir, I have not seen my father's face,"
replied D'Auvergne. "By the cross I bear, you may see where I have
sojourned; and De Coucy and myself were but now going to lay our palms
upon the altar of Our Lady of St. Pavin (according to a holy vow we
made at Rome), prior to turning our steps towards our castle also. Let
us all on together then--I see the holy hermit has commanded the
varlets to make a litter for my hurt friend; and after having paid our
vows, we will back to Vic le Comte, and honour your arrival with wine
and music."

While this conversation passed between D'Auvergne and the old knight,
De Coucy's eyes had sought out more particularly the fair girl who had
been kneeling by his side, and he addressed to her much and manifold
thanks for her gentle tending--in so low a tone, however, that it
obliged her to stoop over him in order to hear what he said. De Coucy,
as he had before professed to the Count d'Auvergne, had often tasted
love, such as it was; and had ever been a bold wooer; but in the
present instance, though he felt very sure and intimately convinced,
that the eyes which now looked upon him were brighter than ever he had
seen, and the lips that spoke to him were fuller, and softer, and
sweeter, than ever had moved in his eyesight before, yet his stock of
gallant speeches failed him strangely, and he found some difficulty
even in thanking the lady as he could have wished. At all events, so
lame he thought the expression of those thanks, that he endeavoured to
make up for it by reiteration--and repeated them so often, that at
length the lady gently imposed silence upon him, lest his much
speaking might retard his cure.

The secrets of a lady's breast are a sort of forbidden fruit, which we
shall not be bold enough to touch; and therefore, whatever the fair
Isadore might think of De Coucy--whatever touch of tenderness might
mingle with her pity--whatever noble and knightly qualities she might
see, or fancy, on his broad, clear brow, and bland, full lip--we shall
not even stretch our hand towards the tree of knowledge, far less
offer the fruit thereof to any one else. Overt acts, however, of all
kinds are common property; and therefore it is no violation of
confidence, or of any thing else, to say that something in the tone
and manner of the young knight made the soft crimson grow a shade
deeper in the cheek of Isadore of the Mount; and, when the litter was
prepared, and De Coucy placed thereon, though she proceeded with every
appearance of indifference to mount her light jennet, and follow the
cavalcade, she twice turned round to give a quick and anxious look
towards the litter, as it was borne down the narrow and slippery path
from the cave.

Although that alone which passed between De Coucy and the lady has
been particularly mentioned here, it is not to be thence inferred that
all the other personages who were present stood idly looking on--that
the Count d'Auvergne took no heed of his hurt friend--that Sir Julian
of the Mount forgot his daughter, or that the attendants of the young
knight were unmindful of their master. Some busied themselves in
preparing the litter of boughs and bucklers--some spread cloaks and
furred aumuces upon it to make it soft--and some took care that the
haubert, head-piece, and sword, of which De Coucy had been divested,
should not be left behind in the cave.

In the mean while. Sir Julian of the Mount pointed out his daughter to
the Count Thibalt d'Auvergne, boasted her skill in leech-craft, and
her many other estimable qualities, and assured him that he might
safely intrust the care of De Coucy's recovery to her.

The Count d'Auvergne's eye fell coldly upon her, and ran over every
exquisite line of loveliness, as she stood by the young knight,
unconscious of his gaze, without evincing one spark of that gallant
enthusiasm which the sight of beauty generally called up in the
chivalrous bosoms of the thirteenth century. It was a cold, steady,
melancholy look--and yet it ended with a sigh. The only compliment he
could force his lips to form, went to express that his friend was
happy in having fallen into such fair and skilful hands; and, this
said, he proceeded to the side of the litter, which, borne by six of
the attendants, was now carried down to the bank of the stream, and
thence along the road that, winding onward through the narrow gorge,
passed under the broken bridge, and gradually climbed to the higher
parts of the mountain.

The general cavalcade followed as they might; for the scantiness of
the path, which grew less and less as it proceeded, prevented the
possibility of any regularity in their march. At length, however, the
gorge widened out into a small basin of about five hundred yards in
diameter, round which the hills sloped up on every side, taking the
shape of a funnel. Over one edge thereof poured a small but beautiful
cascade, starting from mass to mass of volcanic rock, whose
decomposition offered a thousand bright and singular hues, amidst
which the white and flashing waters of the stream agitated themselves
with a strange but picturesque effect.

At the bottom of the cascade was a group of shepherds' huts; and as it
was impossible for the horses to proceed farther, it was determined to
leave the principal part of the attendants also there, to wait the
return of the party from the chapel, which was, of course, to take
place as soon as De Coucy had recovered from his bruises.

Some difficulty occurred in carrying the litter over the steeper part
of the mountain, but at length it was accomplished; and, skirting
round part of a large ancient forest, the pilgrims came suddenly on
the banks of that most beautiful and extraordinary effort of nature,
the _Lac Pavin_. Before their eyes extended a vast sheet of water, the
crystal pureness of which mocks all description, enclosed within a
basin of verdure, whose sides, nearly a hundred and fifty feet in
height, rise from the banks of the lake with so precipitous an
elevation, that no footing, however firm, can there keep its hold. For
the space of a league and a half, which the lake occupies, this
beautiful green border, with very little variation in its height, may
still be seen following the limpid line of the water, into which it
dips itself, clear, and at once, without rush or ooze, or water plant
of any description, to break the union of the soft turf and the pure
wave.

Towards the south and east, however, extends, even now, an immense
mass of dark and sombre wood, which, skirting down the precipitous
bank, seems to contemplate its own majesty in the clear mirror of the
lake. At the same time, all around, rise up a giant family of mountain
peaks, which, each standing out abrupt and single in the sunny air,
seem frowning on the traveller that invades their solitude.

Here, in the days of Philip Augustus, stood a small chapel dedicated
to the Virgin, called Our Lady of St. Pavin; and many a miraculous
cure is said to have been operated by the holy relics of the shrine,
which caused Our Lady of St. Pavin to be the favourite saint of many
of the chief families in France. By the side of the chapel was placed
a congregation of small huts or cells, both for the accommodation of
the various pilgrims who came to visit the shrine, and for the
dwelling of three holy hermits, one of whom served the altar as a
priest, while the other two retained the more amphibious character of
_simple recluse_, bound by no vows but such as they chose to impose
upon themselves.

At these huts the travellers now paused; and after De Coucy had been
carried into one of them, the hermit, who had guided the travellers
thither, demanded of the Count d'Auvergne, whether any of his train
could draw a good bow, and wing a shaft well home.

"They are all archers, good hermit," replied D'Auvergne; "see you not
their bows and quivers?"

"Many a man wears a sword that cannot use it," replied the hermit in
the cynical tone which seemed natural to him. "Here, your very friend,
whom God himself has armed with eyes and ears, and even understanding,
such as it is, does he make use of any when he gallops down a
precipice, where he would surely have been killed, had it not been for
the aid and protection of a merciful Heaven, and a few stunted hazels?
Your archers may make as good use of their bows as he does of his
brains--and then what serves their archery? But, however, choose out
the best marksman; bid him go up to yonder peak, and take two
well-feathered arrows with him: he will shoot no more! Then send all
the rest to beat the valley to the right, with loud cries; the izzards
will instantly take to the heights. Let your archer choose as they
pass, and deliver me his arrows into the two fattest; (though God
knows! 'tis a crying sin to slay two wise beasts to save one foolish
man;) but let your vassal stay to make no _curée_, but bring the
beasts down here while the life-heat is still in them. Your friend,
wrapped in the fresh-flayed hides, shall be to-morrow as whole as if
he had never played the fool!"

"I have seen it done at Byzantium," replied D'Auvergne, "when a good
knight of Flanders was hurled down from the south tower. It had a
marvellous effect:--we will about it instantly."

Accordingly, two of the izzards, which were then common in Auvergne,
were soon slain in the manner the hermit directed; and De Coucy,
notwithstanding no small dislike to the remedy, was stripped, and
wrapped in the reeking hides[6]; after which, stretched upon a bed of
dry moss belonging to one of the hermits, he endeavoured to amuse
himself with thoughts of love and battles, while the rest went to pay
their vows at the shrine of Our Lady of St. Pavin.


--------------------

[Footnote 6: This is no fantastic remedy, but one of the most
effectual the author of this work has ever seen employed. The skin of
a sheep, however, is not a whit less potent in its effects than the
skin of an izzard.]

--------------------


De Coucy's mind soon wandered through all the battles, and
tournaments, and passes of arms that could possibly be fought; and
then his fancy, by what was in those days a very natural digression,
turned to love--and he thought of all the thousand ladies he had loved
in his life; and, upon recollecting all the separate charms of each,
he found that they were all very beautiful: he could not deny it. But
yet certainly, beyond all doubt, the fair Isadore of the Mount, with
her dark, dark eyes, and her clear, bland brow, and her mouth such as
angels smile with, was far more beautiful than any of them.

But still De Coucy asked himself, why he could not tell her so? He had
never found it difficult to tell any one they were beautiful before;
or to declare that he loved them; or to ask them for a glove, or a
bracelet, or a token to fix on his helm, and be his second in the
battle: but now, he felt sure that he had stammered like a schoolboy,
and spoken below his voice, like a young squire to an old knight. So
De Coucy concluded, from all these symptoms, that he could not be in
love; and fully convinced thereof, he very naturally fell asleep.



CHAPTER IV.

We must now change the scene, and, leaving wilds and mountains, come
to a more busy though still a rural view. From the small, narrow
windows of the ancient château of Compiègne might be seen, on the one
side, the forest with its ocean of green and waving boughs; and on the
other, a lively little town on the banks of the Oise, the windings of
which river could be traced from the higher towers, far beyond its
junction with the Aisne, into the distant country. Yet,
notwithstanding that it was a town, Compiègne scarcely detracted from
the rural aspect of the picture. It had, even in those days, its
gardens and its fruit-trees, which gave it an air of verdure, and
blended it, as it were, insensibly with the forest, that waved against
its very walls. The green thatches, too, of its houses, in which slate
or tile was unknown, covered with moss, and lichens, and flowering
houseleek, offered not the cold, stiff uniformity of modern roofs; and
the eye that looked down upon those constructions of art in its
earliest and rudest form found all the picturesque irregularity of
nature.

Gazing from one of the narrow windows of a large square chamber, in
the keep of the château, were two beings, who seemed to be enjoying,
to the full, those bright hours of early affection, which are well
called "the summer days of existence," yielding flowers, and warmth,
and sunshine, and splendour;--hours that are so seldom known;--hours
that so often pass away like dreams;--hours which are such strangers
in courts, that, when they do intrude with their warm rays into the
cold precincts of a palace, history marks their coming as a
phenomenon, too often followed by a storm.

Alone, in the solitude of that large chamber, those two beings were as
if in a world by themselves. The fair girl, seemingly scarce nineteen
years of age, with her light hair floating upon her shoulders in large
masses of shining curls, leaned her cheek upon her hand, and gazing
with her full, soft, blue eyes over the far extended landscape,
appeared lost in thought; while her other hand, fondly clasped in that
of her companion, pointed out, as it were, how nearly linked he was to
her seemingly abstracted thoughts.

The other tenant of that chamber was a man of thirty-two or
thirty-three years of age, tall, well-formed, handsome, of the same
fair complexion as his companion, but bronzed by the manly florid hue
of robust health, exposure, and exercise. His nose was slightly
aquiline, his chin rounded and rather prominent, and his blue eyes
would have been fine and expressive, had they not been rather nearer
together than the just proportion, and stained, as it were on the very
iris, by some hazel spots in the midst of the blue. The effect,
however, of the whole was pleasing; and the very defect of the eyes,
by its singularity, gave something fine and distinguished to the
countenance; while their nearness, joined with the fire that shone out
in their glance, seemed to speak that keen and quick sagacity, which
sees and determines at once, in the midst of thick dangers and
perplexity.

The expression, however, of those eyes was now calm and soft, while
sometimes holding her hand in his, sometimes playing with a crown of
wild roses he had put on his companion's head, he mingled one rich
curl after another with the green leaves and the blushing flowers;
and, leaning with his left arm against the embrasure of the window,
high above her head, as she sat gazing out upon the landscape, he
looked down upon the beautiful creature, through the mazes of whose
hair his other hand was straying, with a smile strangely mingled of
affection for her, and mockery of his own light employment.

There was grace, and repose, and dignity, in his whole figure, and the
simple green hunting tunic which he wore, without robe, or hood, or
ornament whatever, served better to show its easy majesty, than would
the robes of a king--and yet this was Philip Augustus.

"So pensive, sweet Agnes!" said he, after a moment's silence, thus
waking from her reverie the lovely Agnes de Meranie, whom he had
married shortly after the sycophant bishops of France had pronounced
the nullity of his unconsummated marriage with Ingerburge,[7] for whom
he had conceived the most inexplicable aversion:--"So pensive," he
said. "Where did those sweet thoughts wander?"


--------------------

[Footnote 7: Philip Augustus, after the death of his first wife, being
still a very young man, married Ingerburge, sister of Canute, King of
Denmark; but on her arrival in France, he was seized with so strong a
personal dislike to her, that he instantly convoked a synod of the
clergy of France, who, on pretence of kindred in the prohibited
degrees, annulled the marriage. Philip afterwards married the
beautiful Agnes, or Mary, as she is called by some, daughter of the
Duke of Istria and Meranie, a district it would now be difficult to
define, but which comprehended the Tyrol and its dependencies, down to
the Adriatic.--See Rigord Gud. Brit. Lit. Innoc. III. Cart Philip II.
&c.]

--------------------


"Far, far, my Philip!" replied the queen, leaning back her head upon
his arm, and gazing up in his face with a look of that profound,
unutterable affection, which _sometimes_ dwells in woman's heart for
her first and only love:--"far from this castle, and this court;--far
from Philip's splendid chivalry, and his broad realms, and his fair
cities; and yet with Philip still. I thought of my own father, and all
his tenderness and love for me; and of my own sweet Istria! and I
thought how hard was the fate of princes, that some duty always
separated them from some of those they love, and----"

"And doubtless you wished to quit your Philip for those that you love
better," interrupted the king, with a smile at the very charge which
he well knew would soon be contradicted.

"Oh, no! no!" replied Agnes; "but, as I looked out yonder, and thought
it was the way to Istria, I wished that my Philip was but a simple
knight, and I a humble demoiselle. Then should he mount his horse, and
I would spring upon my palfrey; and we would ride gaily back to my
native land, and see my father once again, and live happily with those
we loved."

"But tell me, Agnes," said Philip, with a tone of melancholy that
struck her, "if you were told, that you might to-morrow quit me, and
return to your father, and your own fair land, would you not go?"

"Would I quit you?" cried Agnes, starting up, and placing her two
hands upon her husband's arm, while she gazed in his face with a look
of surprise that had no small touch of fear in it:--"would I quit you?
Never! And if you drove me forth, I would come back and be your
servant--your slave; or would watch in the corridors but to have a
glance as you passed by;--or else I would die," she added, after a
moment's pause, for she had spoken with all the rapid energy of
alarmed affection. "But tell me, tell me, Philip, what did you mean?
For all your smiling, you spoke gravely. Nay, kisses are no answers."

"I did but jest, my Agnes," replied Philip, holding her to his heart
with a fond pressure. "Part with you! I would sooner part with life!"

As he spoke, the door of the chamber suddenly opened, the hangings
were pushed aside, and an attendant appeared.

"How now," cried the king, unclasping his arms from the slight,
beautiful form round which they were thrown. "How now, villain! Must
my privacy be broken at every moment? How dare you enter my chamber
without my call?" And his flashing eye and reddened cheek spoke that
quick impatient spirit which never possessed any man's breast more
strongly than that of Philip Augustus. And yet, strange to say, the
powers of his mind were such, that every page of his history affords a
proof of his having made even his most impetuous passions subservient
to his policy;--not by conquering them, but by giving vent to them in
such direction as suited best the exigency of the times, and the
interest of his kingdom.

"Sire," replied the attendant with a profound reverence, "the good
knight Sir Stephen Guerin has just arrived from Paris, and prays an
audience."

"Admit him," said Philip; and his features, which had expanded like an
unstrung bow while in the gentler moments of domestic happiness, and
had flashed with the broad blaze of the lightning under the effect of
sudden irritation, gradually contracted into a look of grave thought
as his famous and excellent friend and minister Guerin approached.

He was a tall, thin man, with strong marked features, and was dressed
in the black robe and eight-limbed cross of the order of Hospitallers,
which habit he retained even long after his having been elected bishop
of Senlis. He pushed back his hood, and bowed low in sign of reverence
as he approached the king; but Philip advanced to meet, and welcomed
him with the affectionate embrace of an equal, "Ha! fair brother!"
said the king. "What gives us the good chance of seeing you, from our
town of Paris? We left you full of weighty matters."

"Matters of still greater weight, beau sire," replied the Hospitaller,
"claiming your immediate attention, have made me bold to intrude upon
your privacy. An epistle from the good pope Celestin came yesterday by
a special messenger, charging your highness----"

"Hold!" cried Philip, raising his finger as a sign to keep silence.
"Come to my closet, brother; we will hear the good bishop's letter in
private.--Tarry, sweet Agnes! I have vowed thee three whole days,
without the weight of royalty bearing down our hearts; and this shall
not detain me long."

"I would not, my lord, for worlds," replied the queen, "that men
should say my Philip neglected his kingdom, or his people's happiness,
for a woman's smile. I will wait here for your return, be your
business long as it may, and think the time well spent.--Rest you
well, fair brother," she added, as it were in reply to a beaming smile
that for a moment lighted up the harsh features of the hospitaller;
"cut not short your tale for me."

The minister bowed low, and Philip, after having pressed his lips on
the fair forehead of his wife, led the way through a long passage with
windows on either side, to a small closet in one of the angular
turrets of the castle. It was well contrived for the cabinet of a
statesman, for, placed as it was, a sort of excrescence from one of
the larger towers, it was cut off from all other buildings, so that no
human ear could catch one word of any conversation which passed
therein. The monarch entered; and, making a sign to his minister to
close the door, he threw himself on a seat, and stretched forth his
hand, as if for the pontiff's letter. "Not a word before the queen!"
said he, taking the vellum from the hospitaller,--"not a word before
the queen, of all the idle cavilling of the Roman church. I would not,
for all the crowns of Charlemagne, that Agnes should dream of a flaw
in my divorce from Ingerburge--though that flaw be no greater a matter
than a moat in the sore eyes of the church of Rome.--But let me see!
What says Celestin?"

"He threatens you, royal sir," replied the minister, "with
excommunication, and anathema, and interdict."

"Pshaw!" cried Philip, with a contemptuous smile; "he has not vigour
enough to anathematise a flea! 'Tis a good mild priest; somewhat
tenacious of his church's rights,--for, let me tell thee, Stephen, had
I but craved my divorce from Rome, instead of from my bishops of
France, I should have heard no word of anathema or interdict. It was a
fault of policy, so far as my personal quiet is concerned; and there
might be somewhat of hasty passion in it too; but yet, good knight,
'twas not without forethought. The grasping church of Rome is
stretching out her thousand hands into all the kingdoms round about
her, and snatching, one by one, the prerogatives of the throne. The
time will come,--I see it well,--when the prelate's foot shall tread
upon the prince's crown; but I will take no step to put mine beneath
the scandal of St. Peter. No! though the everlasting buzzing of all
the crimson flies in the conclave should deafen me outright.--But let
me read."

The hospitaller bowed, and silently studied the countenance of the
sovereign, while he perused the letter of the pontiff. Philip's
features, however, underwent no change of expression. His brow knit
slightly from the first; but no more than so far as to show attention
to what he was reading. His lip, too, maintained its contemptuous
curl; but that neither increased nor diminished; and when he had done,
he threw the packet lightly on the table, exclaiming--"Stingless!
stingless! The good prelate will hurt no one!"

"Too true, sire," replied the impassable Guerin; "he will now hurt no
one, for he is dead."

"St. Denis to boot!" cried the king. "Dead! Why told you it not
before!--Dead! When did he die?--Has the conclave met?--Have they gone
to election?--Whom have they adored.[8]--Who is the pope? Speak,
hospitaller! Speak!"


--------------------

[Footnote 8: One of the four methods of electing a Pope is called by
_adoration_, which takes place when the first Cardinal who speaks
instantly (as is supposed by the movement of the Holy Ghost) does
reverence to the person he names, proclaiming him Pope, to which must
be added the instant suffrage of two-thirds of the assembled
conclave.]

--------------------


"The holy conclave have elected the cardinal Lothaire, sire," replied
the knight. "Your highness has seen him here in France, as well as at
Rome: a man of a great and capacious mind."

"Too great!--too great!" replied Philip thoughtfully. "He is no
Celistin. We shall soon hear more!" and, rising from his seat, he
paced the narrow space of his cabinet backwards and forwards for
several minutes; then paused, and placing one hand on his counsellor's
shoulder, he laid the forefinger of the other on his breast--"If I
could rely on my barons," said he emphatically,--"if I could rely on
my barons;--not that I do not reverence the church, Guerin,--God
knows! I would defend it from heathens and heretics, and miscreants,
with my best blood. Witness my journey to the Holy Land!--witness the
punishment of Amaury!--witness the expulsion of the Jews! But this
Lothaire----"

"Now Innocent the Third!" said the minister, taking advantage of a
pause in the king's speech. "Why he is a great man, sire--a man of a
vast and powerful mind: firm in his resolves, as he is bold in his
undertakings--powerful--beloved. I would have my royal lord think what
must be his conduct, if Innocent should take the same view of the
affairs of France as was taken by Celestin."

Philip paused, and, with his eyes bent upon the ground, remained for
several minutes in deep thought. Gradually the colour mounted in his
cheek, and some strong emotion seemed struggling in his bosom, for his
eye flashed, and his lip quivered; and, suddenly catching the arm of
the hospitaller, he shook the clenched fist of his other hand in the
air, exclaiming--"He will not! He shall not! He dare not!--Oh, Guerin,
if I may but rely upon my barons!"

"Sire, you cannot do so," replied the knight firmly. "They are
turbulent and discontented; and the internal peace of your kingdom has
more to fear from their disloyal practices, than even your domestic
peace has from the ambitious intermeddling of pope Innocent. You must
not count upon your barons, sire, to support you in opposition to the
church. Even now. Sir Julian of the Mount, the sworn friend of the
Counts of Boulogne and Flanders, has undertaken a journey to Auvergne,
which bodes a new coalition against you, sire. Sir Julian is
discontented, because you refused him the feof of Beaumetz, which was
held by his sister's husband, dead without heirs. The Count de
Boulogne you know to be a traitor. The count of Flanders was ever a
dealer in rebellion. The old Count d'Auvergne, though no rebel, loves
you not."

"They will raise a lion!" cried the king, stamping with his foot--"ay,
they will raise a lion! Let Sir Julian of the Mount beware! The
citizens of Albert demand a charter. Sir Julian claims some ancient
rights. See that the charter be sealed to-morrow, Guerin, giving them
right of watch and ward, and wall--rendering them an untailleable and
free commune. Thus shall we punish good Sir Julian of the Mount, and
flank his fair lands with a free city, which shall be his annoyance,
and give us a sure post upon the very confines of Flanders. See it be
done! As to the rest, come what may, my private happiness I will
subject to no man's will; nor shall it be my hands that stoop the
royal sceptre of France to the bidding of any prelate for whom the
earth finds room.--Silence, my friend!" he added sharply; "the king's
resolve is taken; and, above all, let not a doubt of the sureness of
her marriage reach the ears of the queen. _I_, Philip of France, say
the divorce _shall_ stand!--and who is there shall give me the lie in
my own land?" Thus saying, the king turned, and led the way back to
the apartment where he had left the queen.

His first step upon the rushes of the room in which she sat woke Agnes
de Meraine from her reverie; and though her husband's absence had been
but short, her whole countenance beamed with pleasure at his return;
while, laying on his arm the small white hand, which even monks and
hermits have celebrated, she gazed up in his face, as if to see
whether the tidings he had heard had stolen any thing from the
happiness they were before enjoying. Philip's eyes rested on her, full
of tenderness and love; and then turned to his minister with an
appealing, and almost reproachful look. Guerin felt, himself, how
difficult, how agonising it would be to part with a being so lovely
and so beloved; and with a deep sigh, and a low inclination to the
queen, he quitted the apartment.



CHAPTER V.


In Auvergne, but in a different part of it from that where we left our
party of pilgrims, rode onward a personage who seemed to think, with
Jacques, that motley is the only wear. Not that he was precisely
habited in the piebald garments of the professed fool; but yet his
dress was as many coloured as the jacket of my ancient friend
harlequin; and so totally differed from the vestments of that age,
that it seemed as if he had taken a jump of two or three centuries,
and stolen some gay habit from the court of Charles the Seventh. He
wore long tight silk breeches, of a bright flame-colour; a sky-blue
cassock of cloth girt round his waist by a yellow girdle, below which
it did not extend above three inches, forming a sort of frill about
his middle; while, at the same time, this sort of surcoat being
without sleeves, his arms appeared from beneath covered with a jacket
of green silk, cut close to his shape, and buttoned tight at the
wrists. On his head he wore a black cap, not unlike the famous
Phrygian bonnet; and he was mounted on a strong grey mare, then
considered a ridiculous and disgraceful equipage.

This strange personage's figure no way corresponded with his absurd
dress; for, had one desired a model of active strength, it could
nowhere have been found better than in his straight and muscular
limbs. His face, however, was more in accordance with the extravagance
of his habiliments; for, certainly, never did a more curious
physiognomy come from the cunning and various hand of Nature. His nose
was long, and was seemingly boneless; for, ever and anon, whether from
some natural convulsive motion, or from a voluntary and laudable
desire to improve upon the singular hideousness of his countenance,
this long, sausage-like contrivance in the midst of his face would
wriggle from side to side, with a very portentous and uneasy movement.
His eyes were large and grey, and did not in the least discredit the
nose in whose company they were placed, though they had in themselves
a manifest tendency to separate, never having any fixed and determined
direction, but wandering about apparently independent of each
other,--sometimes far asunder,--sometimes, like Pyramus and Thisbe,
wooing each other across the wall of his nose with a most portentous
squint. Besides this obliquity, they were endowed with a cold,
leadenness of stare, which would have rendered the whole face as
meaningless as a mask, had not, every now and then, a still, keen,
sharp glance stolen out of them for a moment, like the sudden kindling
up of a fire where all seems cold and dead. His mouth was guarded with
large thick lips, which extended far and wide through a black and
bushy beard; and, when he yawned, which was more than once the case,
as he rode through the fertile valleys of Limagne, a great chasm
seemed to open in his countenance, exposing, to the very back, two
ranges of very white, broad teeth, with their accompanying gums.

For some way, the traveller rode on in quiet, seeming to exercise
himself in giving additional ugliness to his features, by screwing
them into every sort of form, till he became aware that he was watched
by a party of men, whose appearance had nothing in it very consolatory
to the journeyer of those days.

The road through the valley was narrow; the hills, rising rapidly on
each side, were steep and rugged; and the party which we have
mentioned was stationed at some two or three hundred yards before him,
consisting of about ten or twelve archers, who, lurking behind a mass
of stones and bushes, seemed prepared to impose a toll upon the
highway through the valley.

The traveller, however, pursued his journey, though he very well
comprehended their aim and object, nor did he exhibit any sign of fear
or alarm beyond the repeated wriggling of his nose, till such time as
he beheld one of the foremost of the group begin to fit an arrow to
his bowstring, and take a clear step beyond the bushes. Then, suddenly
reversing his position on the horse, which was proceeding at an easy
canter, he placed his head on the saddle, and his feet in the air; and
in this position advanced quietly on his way, not at all unlike one of
those smart and active gentlemen who may be seen nightly in the
spring-time circumambulating the area of Astley's Amphitheatre.

The feat which he performed, however simple and legitimate at present,
was quite sufficiently extraordinary in those days, to gain him the
reputation of a close intimacy with Satan, even if it did not make him
pass for Satan himself.

The thunderstruck archer dropped his arrow, exclaiming, "'Tis the
devil!" to which conclusion most of his companions readily assented.
Nevertheless, one less ceremonious than the rest started forward and
bent his own bow for the shot. "If he be the devil," cried he, "the
more reason to give him an arrow in his liver: what matters it to us
whether he be devil or saint, so he have a purse?" As he spoke, he
drew his bow to the full extent of his arm, and raised the arrow to
his eye. But at the very moment the missile twanged away from the
string, the strange horseman we have described let himself fall
suddenly across his mare, much after the fashion of a sack of wheat,
and the arrow whistled idly over him. Then, swinging himself up again
into his natural position, he turned his frightful countenance to the
_routiers_, and burst into a loud horse-laugh that had something in
its ringing coppery tone truly unearthly.

"Fools!" cried he, riding close up to the astonished plunderers. "Do
you think to hurt me? Why, I am your patron saint, the Devil. Do not
you know your lord and master? But, poor fools, I will give you a
morsel. Lay ye a strong band between Vic le Comte and the lake Pavin,
and watch there till ye see a fine band of pilgrims coming down. Skin
them! skin them, if ye be true thieves. Leave them not a besant to
bless themselves!"

Here one of the thieves, moved partly by a qualm of conscience, partly
by bodily fear at holding a conversation with a person he most
devoutly believed to be the Prince of Darkness, signed himself with
the cross,--an action, not at all unusual amongst the plunderers of
that age, who, so far from casting off the bonds of religion at the
same time that they threw off all the other ties of civil society,
were often but the more superstitious and credulous from the very
circumstances of their unlawful trade. However, no sooner did the
horseman see the sign, than he affected to start. "Ha!" cried he. "You
drive me away; but we shall meet again, good friends--we shall meet
again, and trust me, I will give you a warm reception. Haw, haw, haw,
haw!" and, contorting his face into a most horrible grin, he poured
forth one of his fiendlike laughs, and galloped off at full speed.

"Jesu Maria!" cried one of the routiers, "it is the fiend certainly--I
will give him an arrow, for heaven's benison!" But whether it was that
the bowman's hand trembled, or that the horseman was too far distant,
certain it is, he rode on in safety, and did not even know that he had
been again shot at.

"I will give the half of the first booty I make to our lady of Mount
Ferrand," cried one of the robbers, thinking to appease Heaven and
guard against Satan, by sharing the proceeds of his next breach of the
decalogue with the priest of his favourite saint.

"And I will lay out six sous of Paris on a general absolution!" cried
another, whose faith was great in the potency of papal authority.

But, leaving these gentry to arrange their affairs with Heaven as they
thought fit, we must follow for a time the person they mistook for
their spiritual enemy, and must also endeavour to develope what was
passing in his mind, which really did in some degree find utterance;
he being one of those people whose lips--those ever unfaithful
guardians of the treasures of the heart--are peculiarly apt to murmur
forth unconsciously, that on which the mind is busy. His thoughts
burst from him in broken murmured sentences, somewhat to the following
effect:--"What matters it to me who is killed!--Say the villains kill
the men-at-arms.--Haw, haw! haw, haw! 'Twill be rare sport!--And then
we will strip them, and I shall have gold, gold, gold! But the
men-at-arms will kill the villains. I care not! I will help to kill
them:--then I shall get gold too.--Haw, haw, haw! The villains
plundered some rich merchants yesterday, and I will plunder them
to-morrow. Oh, rare! Then, that Thibalt of Auvergne may be killed in
the _melée_, with his cold look and his sneer.--Oh! how I shall like
to see that lip, that called me _De Coucy's fool juggler_,--how I
shall like to see it grinning with death! I will have one of his white
fore-teeth for a mouth-piece to my reed flute, and one of his arm
bones polished, to whip tops withal.--Haw, haw, haw! De Coucy's fool
juggler!--Haw, haw! haw, haw! Ay, and my good Lord de Coucy!--the
beggarly miscreant. He struck me, when I had got hold of a lord's
daughter at the storming of Constantinople, and forbade me to show her
violence.--Haw, haw! I paid him for meddling with my plunder, by
stealing his; and, because I dared not carry it about, buried it in a
field at Naples:--but I owe him the blow yet. It shall be paid!--Haw,
haw, haw! Shall I tell him now the truth of what he sent me to
Burgundy for? No, no, no! for then he'll sit at home at ease, and be a
fine lord; and I shall be thrust into the kitchen, and called for, to
amuse the noble knights and dames.--Haw, haw! No, no! he shall wander
yet awhile; but I must make up my tale." And the profundity of thought
into which he now fell, put a stop to his solitary loquacity; though
ever and anon, as the various fragments of roguery, and villany, and
folly, which formed the strange chaos of his mind, seemed, as it were,
to knock against each other in the course of his cogitations, he would
leer about, with a glance in which shrewdness certainly predominated
over idiotcy, or would loll his tongue forth from his mouth, and,
shutting one of his eyes, would make the other take the whole circuit
of the earth and sky around him, as if he were mocking the universe
itself; and then, at last, burst out into a long, shrill, ringing
laugh, by the tone of which it was difficult to tell whether it
proceeded from pain or from mirth.



CHAPTER VI.


The hermit was as good as his word; and in two days De Coucy, though
certainly unable to forget that he had had a severe fall, was yet
perfectly capable of mounting on horseback; and felt that, in the
field or at the tournament, he could still have charged a good lance,
or wielded a heavy mace. The night before, had arrived at the chapel
the strange personage, some of whose cogitations we have recorded in
the preceding chapter; and who, having been ransomed by the young
knight in the holy land, had become in some sort his bondsman.

On a mistaken idea of his folly, De Coucy had built a still more
mistaken idea of his honesty, attributing his faults to madness, and
in the carelessness of his nature, looking upon many of his madnesses
as virtues. That his intellect was greatly impaired, or rather warped,
there can be no doubt; but it seemed, at the same time, that all the
sense which he had left, had concentrated itself into an unfathomable
fund of villany and malice, often equally uncalled for by others, and
unserviceable to himself.

Originally one of the jugglers who had accompanied the second crusade
to the Holy Land, he had been made prisoner by the infidels; and,
after several years' bondage, had been redeemed by De Coucy, who, from
mere compassion, treated him with the greater favour and kindness,
because he was universally hated and avoided by every one; though, to
say the truth, _Gallon the fool_, as he was called, was perfectly
equal to hold his own part, being vigorous in no ordinary degree,
expert at all weapons, and joining all the thousand tricks and arts of
his ancient profession, to the sly cunning which so often supplies the
place of judgment.

When brought into his lord's presence at the chapel of the Lake, and
informed of the accident which had happened to him, without expressing
any concern, he burst into one of his wild laughs, exclaiming, "Haw,
haw, haw!--Oh, rare!"

"How now. Sir Gallon the fool!" cried De Coucy. "Do you laugh at your
lord's misfortune?"

"Nay! I laugh to think him nearly as nimble as I am," replied the
juggler, "and to find he can roll down a rock of twenty fathom,
without dashing his brains out. Why, thou art nearly good enough for a
minstrel's fool. Sire de Coucy!--Haw, haw, haw! How I should like to
see thee tumbling before a _cour plenière!_"

The knight shook his fist at him, and bade him tell the success of his
errand, feeling more galled by the jongleur's jest before the fair
Isadore of the Mount, than he had ever felt upon a similar occasion.

"The success of my errand is very unsuccessful," replied the jongleur,
wagging his nose, and shutting one of his eyes, while he fixed the
other on De Coucy's face. "Your uncle, Count Gaston of Tankerville,
will not send you a livre."

"What! is he pinched with avarice?" cried De Coucy. "Have ten years
had power to change a free and noble spirit to the miser's griping
slavery? My curse upon time! for he not only saps our castles, and
unbends out sinews, but he casts down the bulwarks of the mind, and
plunders all the better feelings of our hearts. What say you, lady, is
he not a true coterel--that old man with his scythe and hour-glass?"

"He is a bitter enemy, but a true one," replied Isadore of the Mount.
"He comes not upon us without warning.--But your man seems impatient
to tell out his tale, sir knight; at least, so I read the faces he
makes."

"Bless your sweet lips!" cried the jongleur; "you are the first, that
ever saw my face, that called me man. _Devil_ or _fool_ are the best
names that I get. Prithee, marry my master, and then I shall be _your_
man."

De Coucy's heart beat thick at the associations which the juggler's
words called up; and the tell-tale blood stole over the fair face of
Isadore of the Mount; while old Sir Julian laughed loud, and called it
a marvellous good jest.

"Come!" cried De Coucy, "leave thy grimaces, and tell me, what said my
uncle? Why would he not send the sums I asked?"

"He said nothing," replied the juggler. "Haw, haw haw!--He said
nothing, because he is dead, and----"

"Hold! hold!" cried De Coucy;--"Dead! God help me, and I taxed him
with avarice. Fool, thou hast made me sin against his memory. How did
he die?--when--where?"

"Nobody knows when--nobody knows where--nobody knows how!" replied the
juggler with a grin which he could not suppress at his master's grief.
"All they know is, that he is as dead as the saints at Jerusalem; and
the king and the Duke of Burgundy are quarrelling about his broad
lands, which the two fools call moveables! He is dead!--quite
dead!--Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw!"

"Laughest thou, villain!" cried De Coucy, starting up, and striking
him a buffet which made him reel to the other side of the hut. "Let
that teach thee not to laugh where other men weep!--By my life," he
added, taking his seat again, "he was as noble a gentlemen, and as
true a knight, as ever buckled on spurs. He promised that I should be
his heir, and doubtless he has kept his word; but, for all the fine
lands he has left me--nay, nor for broad France itself, would I have
heard the news that have reached me but now!"

"Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw, haw!" echoed from the other side of the hut.

"Why laughest thou, fool?" cried De Coucy. "Wilt thou never cease thy
idiot merriment?--Why laughest thou, I say?"

"Because," replied the jongleur, "if the fair lands thou wouldst not
have, the fair lands thou shalt not have. The good Count of
Tankerville left neither will nor charter; so that, God willing! the
king, or the Duke of Burgundy, shall have the lands, whichever has the
longest arm to take, and the strongest to keep. So the Vidame of
Besançon bade me say."

"But how is it, my son," said the hermit, who was present, "that you
are not heir direct to your uncle's feof, if there be no other heirs."

"Why, good hermit," replied De Coucy, "uncle and nephew were but names
of courtesy between us, because we loved each other. The Count de
Tankerville married my father's sister, who died childless; and his
affection seemed to settle all in me, then just an orphan. I left him
some ten years ago, when but a squire, to take the holy cross; and
though I have often heard of him by letter and by message sent across
the wide seas, which showed that I was not forgotten, I now return and
find him dead, and his lands gone to others. Well! let them go: 'tis
not for them I mourn; 'tis that I have lost the best good friend I
had."

"You wrong my regard, De Coucy," said the Count d'Auvergne. "None is or
was more deeply your friend than Thibalt d'Auvergne; and as to lands
and gold, good knight, is not one half of all I have due to the man
who has three times saved my life?--in the shipwreck, in the
battle-field, and in the mortal plague; even were he not my sworn
brother in arms?"

"Nay, nay! D'Auvergne, De Coucy's poor," replied the knight; "but he
has enough. He is proud too, and, as you know, no Vavassour; and,
though his lands be small, he is lord of the soil, holding from no
one, owing homage and man-service to none--no, not to the king, though
you smile, fair Sir Julian. My land is the last _terre libre_ in
France."

"Send away your fool juggler, De Coucy," said the Count d'Auvergne: "I
would speak to you without his goodly presence."

De Coucy made a sign to his strange attendant, who quitted the hut;
and the count proceeded. "De Coucy," said he, "was it wise to send
that creature upon an errand of such import? Can you rely upon his
tale? You know him to be a crackbrained knave. I am sure he has much
malice; and though little understanding, yet infinite cunning. Take my
advice! Either go thither yourself, or send some more trusty messenger
to ascertain the truth."

"Not I!" cried De Coucy,--"not I! I will neither go nor send, to make
the good folks scoff, at the poor De Coucy hankering after estates he
cannot have; like a beggar standing by a rich man's kitchen, and
snuffing the dishes as they pass him by. Besides, you do Gallon wrong.
He is brave as a lion, and grateful for kindness. He would not injure
me; and if he would, he has not wit to frame a tale like that. He knew
not that I was not my uncle's lawful heir. Oh, no, 'tis true! 'tis
true! So let it rest. What care I? I have my lance, and my sword, and
knightly spurs; and surely I may thus go through the world, in spite
of fortune."

D'Auvergne saw that his friend was determined, and urged his point no
farther. His own determination, however, was taken, on the very first
opportunity to go himself privately, either to Besançon or Dijon,
between which places the estates in question lay, and to make those
inquiries for his friend which De Coucy was not inclined to do
himself. Nothing more occurred that night worthy of notice; and the
next morning the whole party descended to the shepherd's hut, where
their horses had been left, mounted, and proceeded towards Vic le
Comte, the dwelling of the Counts of Auvergne.

The hermit, whose skill had been so serviceable to De Coucy, mounted
on a strong mule, accompanied them on their way.

"I will crave your escort, gentle knights," he said, as they were
about to depart. "I am called back against my will, to meddle with the
affairs of men--affairs which their own wilful obstinacy, their vile
passions, or their gross follies, ever so entangle, that it needs the
manifest hand of Heaven to lead them even through one short life. I
thought to have done with them; but the king calls for me, and, next
to Heaven, my duty is to him."

"What! do we see the famous hermit of the forest of Vincennes?"[9]
demanded old sir Julian of the Mount, "by whose sage counsels 'tis
hoped that Philip may yet be saved from driving his poor vassals to
resistance."


--------------------

[Footnote 9: For a fuller account of this singular person, and the
effect his counsels had upon the conduct of Philip Augustus, see
Rigord.]

--------------------


"Famous, and a hermit!" exclaimed the recluse. "Good, my son! if you
sought fame as little as I do, you would not have come from the
borders of Flanders to the heart of Auvergne. I left Vincennes to rid
myself of the fame they put on me;--you quitted your castle and your
peasants, to meddle in affairs you are not fit for. Would you follow
my counsel, you would forget your evil errand. See your friend--but as
a friend; and, returning to your hall, sit down in peace and charity
with all mankind!"

"Ha! what! how?" cried the obstinate old man angrily, all his
complaisant feelings towards the hermit turned into acrimony by this
unlucky speech. "Shall I be turned from my purpose by an old
enthusiast? I tell thee, hermit, that were it but because thou bidst
me not, I would go on to the death! Heaven's life! What I have said,
that I will do, is as immoveable as the centre!"

The Count d'Auvergne here interposed; and, promising the hermit safe
escort, at least through his father's territories, he led Sir Julian
to the front of the cavalcade, and engaged him in a detail of all the
important measures which Philip Augustus, during the last five years,
had undertaken, and successfully carried through by the advice of that
very hermit who followed in their train--measures with which this
history has nothing to do, but which may be found faithfully recorded
by Rigord, Wilham the Briton, and William of Nangis, as well as many
other veracious historians of that age and country.

Sir Julian and the count were followed by the fair Isadore, with De
Coucy by her side, in even a more gay and lively mood than ordinary,
notwithstanding the sad news he had heard the night before. Indeed, to
judge from his conduct then, it would have seemed that his mind was
one of those which, deeply depressed by any of those heavy weights
that time is always letting drop upon the human heart, rise up the
next moment with that sort of elastic rebound, which instantly casts
off the load of care, and spring higher than before. Such, however,
was not the case. De Coucy was perplexed with new sensations towards
Isadore, the nature of which he did not well understand; and, rather
than show his embarrassment, he spoke lightly of every thing, making
himself appear to the least advantage, where, in truth, he wished the
most to please.

Isadore's answers were brief, and he felt that he was not at all in
the right road to her favour: and yet he was going on, when something
accidentally turned the conversation to the friend he had lost in the
Count de Tankerville. Happily for Isadore's prepossession in the young
knight's favour, it did so; for then, all the deeper, all the finer
feelings of his heart awoke, and he spoke of high qualities and
generous virtues, as one who knew them from possessing them himself.
Isadore's answers grew longer: the chain seemed taken off her
thoughts,--and then, first, that quick and confident communication of
feelings and ideas began between her and De Coucy, which, sweet
itself, generally ends in something sweeter still. They were soon
entirely occupied with each other, and might have continued so, Heaven
knows how long! had not De Coucy's squire, Hugo de Barre, who, as
before, preceded the cavalcade, suddenly stopped, and, pointing to a
confused mass of bushes which, climbing the side of the hill, hid the
farther progress of the road, exclaimed--

"I see those bushes, move the contrary way to the wind!"

"Haw, haw, haw!" cried a voice from behind,--"haw, haw, haw!"

All was now hurry, for the signs and symptoms which the squire
descried, were only attributable to one of those plundering
ambuscades, which were any thing but rare in those good old times; and
the narrowness of road, together with the obstruction of the bushes,
totally prevented the knights from estimating the number or quality of
their enemies. All then was hurry. The squires hastened forward to
give the knights their heavy-armed horses, and to clasp their casques;
and the knights vociferated loudly for the archers and varlets to
advance, and for Isadore and her women to retire to the rear: but
before this could be done, a flight of arrows began to drop amongst
them, and one would have certainly struck the lady, or at least her
jennet, had it not been for the shield of De Coucy, raised above her
head.

De Coucy paused. "Take my shield," he cried, "Gallon the fool, and
hold it over the lady! Guard my lance too! There is no tilting against
those bushes!--St. Michael! St. Michael!" he shouted, snatching his
ponderous battle-axe from the saddle-bow, and flourishing it round his
head, as if it had been a willow-wand. "A Coucy! A Coucy! St. Michael!
St. Michael!" and while the archers of Auvergne shot a close sharp
flight of arrows into the bushes, De Coucy spurred on his horse after
the Count d'Auvergne, who had advanced with Sir Julian of the Mount,
and some of the light armed squires.

His barbed horse thundered over the ground, and in an instant he was
by their side, at a spot where the marauders had drawn a heavy iron
chain across the road, from behind which they numbered with their
arrows every seemingly feeble spot in the count's armour.

To leap the chain was impossible; and though Count Thibalt spurred his
heavy horse against it, to bear it down, all his efforts were
ineffectual. One blow of De Coucy's axe, however, and the chain flew
sharp asunder with a ringing sound. His horse bounded forward; and his
next blow lighted on the head of one of the chief marauders, cleaving
through steel cap, and skull, and brain, as if nothing had been
opposed to the axe's edge.

It was then one might see how were performed those marvellous feats of
chivalry, which astonish our latter age. The pikes, the short swords,
and the arrows of the cotereaux, turned from the armour of the
knights, as waves from a rock; while De Coucy, animated with the
thought that Isadore's eyes looked upon his deeds, out-acted all his
former prowess;--not a blow fell from his arm, but the object of it
lay prostrate in the dust. The cotereaux scattered before him, like
chaff before the wind. The Count d'Auvergne followed on his track,
and, with the squires, drove the whole body of marauders, which had
occupied the road, down into the valley; while the archers picked off
those who had stationed themselves on the hill.

For an instant, the cotereaux endeavoured to rally behind some bushes,
which rendered the movements of the horses both dangerous and
difficult; but at that moment a loud ringing "Haw, haw, haw! haw,
haw!" burst forth from behind them; and Gallon the fool, mounted on
his mare, armed with De Coucy's lance and shield, and a face whose
frightfulness was worth a host, pricked in amongst them; and, to use
the phrase of the times, enacted prodigies of valour, shouting between
each stroke, "Haw, haw! haw, haw!" with such a tone of fiendish
exultation, that De Coucy himself could hardly help thinking him akin
to Satan. As to the cotereaux, the generality of them believed in his
diabolical nature with the most implicit faith; and, shouting "The
devil!--The devil!" as soon as they saw him, fled in every direction,
by the rocks, the woods, and the mountains. One only stayed to aim an
arrow at him, exclaiming, "Devil! he's no devil, but a false traitor
who has brought us to the slaughter, and I will have his heart's blood
ere I die." But Gallon, by one of his strange and unaccountable
twists, avoided the shaft; and the coterel was fain to save himself by
springing up a steep rock with all the agility of fear.

No sooner was this done, than Gallon the fool, with that avaricious
propensity, to which persons in a state of intellectual weakness are
often subject, sprang from his mare, and very irreverently casting
down De Coucy's lance and shield, began plundering the bodies of two
of the dead cotereaux, leaving them not a rag which he could
appropriate to himself.

Seeing him in this employment, and the disrespectful treatment which
he showed his arms, De Coucy spurred up to him, and raised his
tremendous axe above his head: "Gallon!" cried he, in a voice of
thunder.

The jongleur looked up with a grin, "Haw, haw! haw, haw!" cried he,
seeing the battle-axe swinging above his head, as if in the very act
of descending. "You cannot make me wink.--Haw, haw!" And he applied
himself again to strip the dead bodies with most indefatigable
perseverance.

"If it were not for your folly, I would cleave your skull, for daring
to use my lance and shield!" cried De Coucy. "But, get up! get up!" he
added, striking him a pretty severe blow with the back of the axe.
"Lay not there, like a red-legged crow, picking the dead bodies. Where
is the lady? Why did you leave her, when I told you to stay?"

"I left the lady, with her maidens, in a snug hole in the rock,"
replied the juggler, rising unwillingly from his prey; "and seeing you
at work with the cotereaux, I came to help the strongest."

There might be more truth in this reply than De Coucy suspected; but,
taken as a jest, it turned away his anger; and bidding Hugo de Barre,
who had approached, bring his spear and shield, he rode back to the
spot where the combat first began. Gallon the fool had, indeed, as he
said, safely bestowed Isadore and her women in one of the caves with
which the mountains of Auvergne are pierced in every direction; and
here De Coucy found her, together with her father. Sir Julian, who was
babbling of an arrow which had passed through his tunic without
hurting him.

The Count d'Auvergne had gone, in the mean time, to ascertain that the
road was entirely cleared of the banditti; and, during his absence,
the lady and her attendants applied themselves to bind up the wounds
of one or two of the archers who had been hurt in the affray--a purely
female task, according to the customs of the times. The hermit
returned with the Count d'Auvergne; and, though he spoke not of it, it
was remarked that an arrow had grazed his brow; and two rents in his
brown robe seemed to indicate that, though he had taken no active part
in the struggle, he had not shunned its dangers.

Such skirmishes were so common in those days, that the one we speak of
would have been scarcely worth recording, had it not been for two
circumstances: in the first place, the effect produced upon the
robbers by the strange appearance and gestures of Gallon the fool; and
in the next, the new link which it brought between the hearts of
Isadore and De Coucy. In regard to the first, it must be remembered
that the appearance of all sorts of evil spirits in an incarnate form
was so very frequent in the times whereof we speak, that Rigord cites
at least twenty instances thereof, and Guillaume de Nangis brings a
whole troop of them into the very choir of the church. It is not to be
wondered at, then, that a band of superstitious marauders, whose very
trade would of course render them more liable to such diabolical
visitations, should suspect so very ugly a personage as Gallon of
being the Evil One himself: especially when to his various
unaccountable contortions he added the very devil-like act of leading
them into a scrape, and then triumphing in their defeat.

But to return to the more respectable persons of my cavalcade. The
whole party set out again, retaining, as if by common consent, the
same order of march which they had formerly preserved. Nor did
Isadore, though as timid and feminine as any of her sex in that day,
show greater signs of fear than a hasty glance, every now and then, to
the mountains. A slight shudder, too, shook her frame, as she passed
on the road three cold, inanimate forms, lying unlike the living, and
bearing ghastly marks of De Coucy's battle-axe; but the very sight
made her draw her rein towards him, as if from some undefined
combination in her mind of her own weakness and his strength; and from
the tacit admiration which courage and power command in all ages, but
which, in those times, suffered no diminution on the score of
humanity.

No lady, of the rank of Isadore of the Mount, ever travelled, in the
days we speak of, without a bevy of maidens following her; and as the
squires and pages of De Coucy and D'Auvergne were fresh from
Palestine, where women were hot-house plants, not exposed to common
eyes, it may be supposed that we could easily join to our principal
history many a rare and racy episode of love-making that went on in
the second rank of our pilgrims; but we shall have enough to do with
the personages already before us, ere we lay down our pen, and
therefore shall not meddle or make with the manners of the inferior
classes, except where they are absolutely forced on our notice.

Winding down through numerous sunny valleys and rich and beautiful
scenery, the cavalcade soon began to descend upon the fertile plains
of Limagne, then covered with the blossoms of a thousand trees, and
bathed in a flood of loveliness. The ferry over the Allier soon landed
them in the sweet valley of Vic le Comte; and Thibalt d'Auvergne,
gazing round him, forgot in the view all the agonies of existence;
while stretching forth his arms, as if to embrace it, he
exclaimed--"My native land!"

He had seen the south of Auvergne; he had seen, the mountains of D'Or,
and the Puy de Dome,--all equally his own; but they spoke but
generally to his heart, and could not for a moment wipe out his
griefs. But when the scenes of his childhood broke upon his sight;
when he beheld every thing mingled in memory with the first, sweetest
impressions in being--every thing he had known and joyed in, before
existence had a cloud, it seemed as if the last five years had been
blotted out of the Book of Fate, and that he was again in the
brightness of his youth--the youth of the heart and of the soul, ere
it is worn by sorrow, or hardened by treachery, or broken by
disappointment.

The valley of Vic is formed by two branches of the mountains of the
Forez, which bound it to the east; and in the centre of the rich plain
land thus enclosed, stands the fair city of Vic le Comte. It was then
as sweet a town as any in the realm of France; and, gathered together
upon a gentle slope, with the old castle on a high mound behind, it
formed a dark pyramid in the midst of the sunshiny valley, being cast
into temporary shadow by a passing cloud at the moment the cavalcade
approached; while the bright light of the summer evening poured over
all the rest of the scene; and the blue mountains, rising high beyond,
offered a soft and airy background to the whole. Avoiding the town.
Count Thibalt led the way round by a road to the right, and, in a few
minutes, they were opposite to the castle, at the distance of about
half a mile.

It was a large, heavy building, consisting of an infinite number of
towers, of various sizes, and of different forms--some round, some
square, all gathered together, without any apparent order, on the top
of an eminence which commanded the town. The platform of each tower,
whether square or round, was battlemented, and every angle which
admitted of such a contrivance was ornamented with a small turret or
watch-tower, which generally rose somewhat higher than the larger one
to which it was attached. Near the centre of the building, however,
rose two masses of masonry, distinguished from all the others,--the
one by its size, being a heavy, square tower, or keep, four times as
large as any of the rest; and the other by its height, rising, thin
and tall, far above every surrounding object. This was called the
beffroy, or belfry, and therein stood a watchman night and day, ready,
on the slightest alarm, to sound his horn, or ring the immense bell,
called _ban cloque_, which was suspended above his head.

From the gate of the castle to the walls of the town extended a gentle
green slope, which, now covered with tents and booths, resembled
precisely an English fair; and from the spot where D'Auvergne and his
companions stood, multitudes of busy beings could be seen moving
there, in various garbs and colours, some on horseback, some on foot,
giving great liveliness to the scene; while the unutterable multitude
of weathercocks, with which every pinnacle of the castle was adorned,
fluttered, in addition, with a thousand flags, and banners, and
streamers, in gay and sparkling confusion.

Before the cavalcade had made a hundred steps beyond the angle of the
town, which had concealed them from the castle, the eyes of the warder
fell upon them; and, in an instant, a loud and clamorous blast of the
trumpet issued from the belfry. It was instantly taken up by a whole
band in the castle court-yard.

D'Auvergne knew his welcome home, and raised his horn to his lips in
reply. At the same instant, every archer in his train, by an
irresistible impulse, followed their lord's example. Each man's home
was before him, and they blew together, in perfect unison, the famous
_Bienvenu Auvergnat_, till the walls, and the towers, and the hills
echoed to the sound.

At that moment the gates of the castle were thrown open, and a gallant
train of horsemen issued forth, and galloped down towards our
pilgrims. At their head was an old man richly dressed in crimson and
gold. The fire of his eye was unquenched, the rose of his cheek
unpaled, and the only effect of seventy summers to be seen upon him
was the snowy whiteness of his hair. D'Auvergne's horse flew like the
wind to meet him. The old man and the young one sprang to the ground
together. The father clasped his child to his heart, and weeping on
his iron shoulder, exclaimed, "My son! my son!"



CHAPTER VII.


Let us suppose the welcome given to all, and the guests within the
castle of the Count d'Auvergne, who, warned by messengers of his son's
approach, had called his _cour plenière_ to welcome the return.

It was one of those gay and lively scenes now seldom met with, where
pageant, and splendour, and show were unfettered by cold form and
ceremony. The rigid etiquette, which in two centuries after enchained
every movement of the French court, was then unknown. Titles of honour
rose no higher than Beau Sire, or Monseigneur, and these even were
applied more as a mark of reverence for great deeds and splendid
virtues, than for wealth and hereditary rank. All was gay and free,
and though respect was shown to age and station, it was the respect of
an early and unsophisticated age, before the free-will offering of the
heart to real dignity and worth had been regulated by the cold
rigidity of a law. Yet each person in that day felt his own station,
struggled for none that was not his due, and willingly paid the
tribute of respect to the grade above his own.

Through the thousand chambers and the ten thousand passages of the
château of Vic le Comte, ran backwards and forwards pages, and
varlets, and squires, in proportion to the multitude of guests. Each
of these attendants, though performing what would be now considered
the menial offices of personal service, to the various knightly and
noble visiters, was himself of noble birth, and aspirant to the
honours of chivalry. Nor was this the case alone at the courts of
sovereign princes like the Count D'Auvergne. Parents of the highest
rank were in that age happy to place their sons in the service of the
poorest knight, provided that his own exploits gave warranty that he
would breed them up to deeds of honour and glory. It was a sort of
apprenticeship to chivalry.

All these choice attendants, for the half-hour after Count Thibalt's
return, hurried, as we have said, from chamber to chamber, offering
their services, and aiding the knights who had come to welcome their
young lord, to unbuckle their heavy armour, without the defence of
which, the act of travelling, especially in Auvergne, was rash and
dangerous. Multitudes of fresh guests were also arriving every
moment--fair dames and gallant knights, vassals and vavassours;--some
followed by a gay train; some bearing nothing but lance and sword;
some carrying themselves their lyre, without which, if known as
troubadours, they never journeyed; and some accompanied by whole
troops of minstrels, jugglers, fools, rope-dancers, and mimics, whom
they brought along with them out of compliment to their feudal chief,
towards whose _cour plenière_ they took their way.

Numbers of these buffoons also were scattered amongst the tents and
booths, which we have mentioned, on the outside of the castle-gate;
and here, too, were merchants and pedlars of all kinds, who had
hurried to Vic le Comte with inconceivable speed, on the very first
rumour of a _cour plenière_. In one booth might be seen cloth of gold
and silver, velvets, silks, cendals, and every kind of fine stuffs; in
another, ermines, miniver, and all sorts of furs. Others, again,
displayed silver cups and vessels, with golden ornaments for clasping
the mantles of the knights and ladies, called _fermailles_; and again,
others exhibited cutlery and armour of all kinds; Danish battle-axes,
casques of Poitiers, Cologne swords, and Rouen hauberts. Neither was
noise wanting. The laugh, the shout, the call, within and without the
castle walls, was mingled with the sound of a thousand instruments,
from the flute to the hurdy-gurdy; while, at the same time, every
point of the scene was fluttering and alive, whether with gay dresses
and moving figures, or pennons, flags, and banners on the walls and
pinnacles of the château.

Precisely at the hour of four, a band of minstrels, richly clothed,
placed themselves before the great gate of the castle, and performed
what was called _corner à l'eau_, which gave notice to every one that
the banquet was about to be placed upon the table. At that sound, all
the knights and ladies left the chambers to which they had first been
marshalled, and assembled in one of the vast halls of the castle,
where the pages offered to each a silver basin and napkin, to wash
their hands previous to the meal.

At this part of the ceremony De Coucy, Heaven knows how! found himself
placed by the side of Isadore of the Mount; and he would willingly
have given a buffet to the gay young page who poured the water over
her fair hands, and who looked up in her face with so saucy and
page-like a grin, that Isadora could not but smile, while she thanked
him for his service.

The old Count d'Auvergne stood speaking with his son; and, while he
welcomed the various guests as they passed before him with word and
glance, he still resumed his conversation with Count Thibalt. Nor did
that conversation seem of the most pleasing character; for his brow
appeared to catch the sadness of his son's, from which the light of
joy, that his return had kindled up, had now again passed away.

"If your knightly word be pledged, my son," said the old count, as the
horns again sounded to table, "no fears of mine shall stay you; but I
had rather you had sworn to beard the Soldan on his throne, than that
which you have undertaken." The conversation ended with a sigh, and
the guests were ushered to the banquet-hall.

It was one of those vast chambers, of which few remain to the present
day. One, however, may still be seen at La Brède, the château of the
famous Montesquieu, of somewhat the same dimensions. It was eighty
feet in length, by fifty in breadth; and the roof, of plain dark oak,
rose from walls near thirty feet high, and met in the form of a
pointed arch in the centre. Neither columns nor pilasters ornamented
the sides; but thirty complete suits of mail, with sword, and spear,
and shield, battle-axe, mace, and dagger, hung against each wall; and
over every suit projected a banner, either belonging to the house of
Auvergne, or won by some of its members in the battle-field. The floor
was strewed thickly with green leaves; and on each space left vacant
on the wall by the suits of armour was hung a large branch of oak,
covered with its foliage. From such simple decorations, bestowed upon
the hall itself, no one would have expected to behold a board laid out
with as much splendour and delicacy as the most scrupulous gourmand of
the present day could require to give savour to his repast.

The table, which extended the whole length of the hall, was covered
with fine damask linen--a manufacture the invention of which, though
generally attributed to the seventeenth century, is of infinitely
older date. Long benches, covered with tapestry, extended on each side
of the table; and the place of every guest was marked, even as in the
present times, by a small round loaf of bread, covered with a fine
napkin, embroidered with gold. By the side of the bread lay a knife,
though the common girdle dagger often saved the lord of the mansion
the necessity of providing his guests with such implements. To this
was added a spoon, of silver; but forks there were none, their first
mention in history being in the days of Charles the Fifth of France.

A row of silver cups also ornamented both sides of the board; the
first five on either hand being what were called _hanaps_, which
differed from the others in being raised upon a high stem, after the
fashion of the chalice. Various vases of water and of wine, some of
silver, some of crystal, were distributed in different parts of the
table, fashioned for the most part in strange and fanciful forms,
representing dragons, castles, ships, and even men, and an immense
mass of silver and gold, in the different shapes of plates and
goblets, blazed upon two buffets, or _dressoirs_, as they are called
by Helenor de Poitiers, placed at the higher part of the hall, near
the seat of the count himself.

Thus far, the arrangements differed but little from those of our own
times. What was to follow, however, was somewhat more in opposition to
the ideas of the present day. The doors of the hall were thrown open,
and the splendid train of knights and ladies, which the _cour
plenière_ had assembled, entered to the banquet. The Count d'Auvergne
first took his place in a chair with _dossier_ and _dais_, as it was
particularised in those days, or, in other words, high raised back and
canopy. He then proceeded to arrange what was called the _assiette_ of
the table; namely, that very difficult task of placing those persons
together whose minds and qualities were best calculated to assimilate:
a task, on the due execution of which the pleasure of such meetings
must ever depend, but which will appear doubly delicate, when we
remember that then each knight and lady, placed side by side, ate from
the same plate, and drank from the same cup.

That sort of quick perception of proprieties, which we now call
_tact_, belongs to no age; and the Count d'Auvergne, in the thirteenth
century, possessed it in a high degree. All his guests were satisfied,
and De Coucy drank out of the same cup as Isadora of the Mount.

They were deliriating draughts he drank, and he now began to feel that
he had never loved before. The glance of her bright eye, the touch of
her small hand, the sound of her soft voice, seemed something new, and
strange, and beautiful to him; and he could hardly fancy that he had
known any thing like it ere then. The scene was gay and lovely; and
there were all those objects and sounds around which excite the
imagination and make the heart beat high,--glitter, and splendour, and
wine, and music, and smiles, and beauty, and contagious happiness. The
gay light laugh, the ready jest, the beaming look, the glowing cheek,
the animated speech, the joyous tale, were there; and ever and anon,
through the open doors, burst a wild swelling strain of horns and
flutes--rose for a moment over every other sound, and then died away
again into silence.

What words De Coucy said, and how those words were said; and what
Isadore felt, and how she spoke it not, we will leave to the
imagination of those who may have been somewhat similarly situated.
Nor will we farther prolong the description of the banquet--a
description perhaps too far extended already--by detailing all the
various yellow soups and green, the storks, the peacocks, and the
boars; the castles that poured forth wine, and the pyramids of fifty
capons, which from time to time covered the table. We have already
shown all the remarkable differences between a banquet of that age and
one given in our own, and also some of the still more remarkable
similarities.

At last, when the rays of the sun, which had hitherto poured through
the high windows on the splendid banquet-table, so far declined as no
longer to reach it, the old Count d'Auvergne filled his cup with wine,
and raised his hand as a sign to the minstrels behind his chair, when
suddenly they blew a long loud flourish on their trumpets, and then
all was silent. "Fair knights and ladies!" said the count, "before we
go to hear our troubadours beneath our ancient oaks, I once more bid
you welcome all; and though here be none but true and valiant knights,
to each of whom I could well wish to drink, yet there is one present
to whom Auvergne owes much, and whom I--old as I am in arms--pronounce
the best knight in France. Victor of Ascalon and Jaffa; five times
conqueror of the infidel, in ranged battle; best lance at Zara, and
first planter of a banner on the imperial walls of Byzantium--but more
to me than all--saviour of my son's life--Sir Guy de Coucy, good
knight and true, I drink to your fair honour!--do me justice in my
cup:" and the count, after having raised his golden _hanap_ to his
lips, sent it round by a page to De Coucy.

De Coucy took the cup from the page, and with a graceful abnegation of
the praises bestowed upon him, pledged the father of his friend. But
the most remarkable circumstance of the ceremony was, that it was
Isadore's cheek that flushed, and Isadore's lip that trembled, at the
great and public honour shown to De Coucy, as if the whole
embarrassment thereof had fallen upon herself.

The guests now rose, and, led by the Count d'Auvergne, proceeded to
the forest behind the château, where, under the great feudal oak, at
whose foot all the treaties and alliances of Auvergne were signed,
they listened to the songs of the various troubadours, many of whom
were found amongst the most noble of the knights present.

We are so accustomed to look upon all the details of the age of
chivalry as fabulous, that we can scarcely figure to ourselves men
whose breasts were the mark and aim of every danger, whose hands were
familiar with the lance and sword, and whose best part of life was
spent in battle and bloodshed, suddenly casting off their armour, and
seated under the shadow of an oak, singing lays of love and tenderness
in one of the softest and most musical languages of the world. Yet so
it was, and however difficult it may be to transport our mind to such
a scene, and call up the objects as distinct and real, yet history
leaves no doubt of the fact, that the most daring warriors of
Auvergne--and Auvergne was celebrated for bold and hardy spirits--were
no less famous as troubadours than knights; and, as they sat round the
count, they, one after another, took the citharn, or the rote, and
sung with a slight monotonous accompaniment one of the sweet lays of
their country.

There is only one, however, whom we shall particularise. He was a
slight fair youth, of a handsome but somewhat feminine aspect.
Nevertheless, he wore the belt and spurs of a knight; and by the
richness of his dress, which glittered with gold and crimson, appeared
at least endowed with the gifts of fortune. During the banquet, he had
gazed upon Isadore of the Mount far more than either the lady beside
whom he sat, or De Coucy, admired; and there was a languid and almost
melancholy softness in his eye, which Isadore's lover did not at all
like. When called upon to sing, by the name of the Count de la Roche
Guyon, he took his harp from a page, and sweeping it with a careless
but a confident hand, again fixed his eyes upon Isadore, and sang with
a sweet, full, mellow voice, in the Provençal or Langue d'oc, though
his name seemed to bespeak a more northern extraction.

TROUBADOUR'S SONG.

    "My love, my love, my lady love!
       What can with her compare;
     The orbs of heaven she's far above,
       No flower is half so fair.

     Her cheeks are like the summer sky,
       Before the sun goes down--
     Faint roses, like the hues that lie
       Beneath night's tresses brown.

     Her eye itself is like that star,
       Which, sparkling through the sky,
     Lifts up its diamond look afar,
       Just as day's blushes die.

     Her lip alone, the new born rose;
       Her breath, the breath of spring;
     Her voice is sweet as even those
       Of angels when they sing.

     A thousand congregated sweets
       Deck her beyond compare;
     And fancy's self no image meets
       So wonderfully fair.

     I'd give my barony to be
       Beloved for a day:
     But, oh! her heart is not for me!
       Her smile is given away."

"By my faith! she must be a hard-hearted damsel, then!" said old Sir
Julian of the Mount, "if she resist so fair a troubadour.--But, Sir
Guy de Coucy, let not the Langue d'oc carry it off entirely from us of
the Langue d'oyl. So gallant a knight must love the lyre. I pray thee!
sing something, for the honour of our Trouvères."

De Coucy would have declined, but the Count Thibalt pressed him to the
task, and named the siege of Constantinople as his theme. At the same
time the young troubadour who had just sung offered him his harp,
saying, "I pray you, beau sire, for the honour of your lady!"

De Coucy bowed his head, and took the instrument, over the strings of
which he threw his hand, in a bold but not unskilful manner; and then,
joining his voice, sung the taking of Zara and first siege of
Constantinople; after which he detailed the delights of Greece, and
showed how difficult it was for the knights and soldiers to keep
themselves from sinking into the effeminacy of the Greeks, while
encamped in the neighbourhood of Byzantium, waiting the execution of
their treaty with the Emperor Isaac and his son Alexis. He then spoke
of the assassination of Alexis, the usurpation of Murzuphlis, and the
preparation of the Francs to punish the usurper. His eye flashed; his
tone became more elevated, and drawing his accompaniment from the
lower tones of the instrument, he poured forth an animated description
of the last day of the empire of the Greeks.

De Coucy then went on to describe the shining but effeminate display
of the Greek warriors on the walls, and the attack of the city by sea
and land. In glowing language he depicted both the great actions of
the assault and of the defence; the effect of the hell-invented Greek
fire; of the catapults, the mangonels, the darts of flame shot from
the walls; as well as the repeated repulses of the Francs, and the
determined and unconquerable valour with which they pursued their
purpose of punishing the Greeks. Abridging his lay as he went on, he
left out the names of many of the champions, and touched but slightly
on the deeds of others.

But with increasing energy at every line, he proceeded to sing the
mixed fight upon the battlements, after the Francs had once succeeded
in scaling them, till the Greeks gave way, and he concluded by
painting the complete triumph of the Francs.

All eyes were bent on De Coucy;--all ears listened to his lay. The
language, or rather dialect, in which he sang, the Langue d'oyl, was
not so sweet and harmonious as the Langue d'oc, or Provençal, it is
true, but it had more strength and energy. The subject, also, was more
dignified; and as the young knight proceeded to record the deeds in
which he had himself been a principal actor, his whole soul seemed to
be cast into his song:--his fine features assumed a look between the
animation of the combatant and the inspiration of the poet. It seemed
as if he forgot every thing around, in the deep personal interest
which he felt in the very incidents he recited: his utterance became
more rapid; his hand swept like lightning over the harp; and when he
ended his song, and laid down the instrument, it was as if he did so
but in order to lay his hand upon his sword.

A pause of deep silence succeeded for a moment, and then came a
general murmur of applause; for, in singing the deeds of the Francs at
Constantinople, De Coucy touched, in the breast of each person
present, that fine chord called national vanity, by which we attach a
part of every sort of glory, gained by our countrymen, to our own
persons, however much we may recognise that we are incompetent to
perform the actions by which it was acquired.



CHAPTER VIII.


The existence of a monarch, without his lot be cast amidst very
halcyon days indeed, is much like the life of a seaman, borne up upon
uncertain and turbulent waves. Exposed to a thousand storms, from
which a peasant's cot would be sufficient shelter, his whole being is
spent in watching for the tempest, and his whole course is at the
mercy of the wind.

It was with bitterness of heart, and agony of spirit, that Philip
Augustus saw gathering on the political horizon around many a dark
cloud that threatened him with a renewal of all those fatigues,
anxieties, and pains, from which he had hoped, at least, for some
short respite. He saw it with a wrung and burning bosom, but he saw it
without dismay; for, strong in the resources of a mind above his age,
he resolved to wreak great and signal vengeance on the heads of those
who should trouble his repose; and, knowing that the sorrow must come,
he prepared, as ever with him, to make his revenge a handmaid to his
policy, and, by the punishment of his rebellious vassals, not only to
augment his own domains as a feudal sovereign, but to extend the
general force and prerogative of the crown, and form a large basis of
power on which his successors might build a fabric of much greatness.

However clearly he might see the approach of danger, and however
vigorously he might prepare to repel it, Philip was not of that frame
of mind which suffers remote evil long to interfere with present
enjoyment. For a short space he contemplated them painfully, though
firmly; but soon the pain was forgotten, and like a veteran soldier
who knows he may be attacked during the night, and sleeps with his
arms beside him, but still sleeps tranquilly, Philip saw the murmured
threatening of his greater feudatories, and took every means of
preparation against what he clearly perceived would follow: but this
once done, he gave himself up to pleasures and amusements; seeming
anxious to crowd into the short space of tranquillity that was left
him, all the gaieties and enjoyments which might otherwise have been
scattered through many years of peace. Fêtes, and pageants, and
tournaments succeeded each other rapidly; and Philip of France, with
his fair queen, seemed to look upon earth as a garden of smiles, and
life as a long chain of unbroken delights.

Yet, even in his pleasures, Philip was politic. He had returned to
Paris, though the summer heat had now completely set in, and June was
far advanced; and sitting in the old palace on the island, he was
placed near one of the windows, through which poured the free air of
the river, while he arranged with his beloved Agnes the ceremonies of
a banquet. Philip was famous for his taste in every sort of pageant;
and now he was giving directions himself to various attendants who
stood round, repeating with the most scrupulous exactness every
particular of his commands, as if the very safety of his kingdom had
depended on their correct execution.

While thus employed, his minister Guerin, now elected bishop of
Senlis, though he still, as I have said, retained the garments of the
knights of St. John, entered the apartment, and stood by the side of
the king, while he gave his last orders, and sent the attendants away.

"Another banquet, sire!" said the bishop, with that freedom of speech
which in those days was admitted between king and subject; and
speaking in the grave and melancholy tone which converts an
observation into a reproach.

"Ay, good brother!" replied Philip, looking up smilingly; "another
banquet in the great _salle du palais_; and on the tenth of July a
tournament at Champeaux. Sweet Agnes! laugh at his grave face!
Wouldest thou not say, dear lady mine, that I spake to the good bishop
of a defeat and a funeral, instead of a feast and a _passe d'armes_?"

"The defeat of your finances, sire, and the burial of your treasury,"
replied Guerin coldly.

"I have other finances that you know not of, bishop," replied the
king, still keeping his good humour. "Ay, and a private treasury too,
where gold will not be wanting."

"Indeed, my liege!" replied the bishop. "May I crave where?" Philip
touched the hilt of his sword. "Here is an unfailing measure of
finance!" said he; "and as for my treasury, 'tis in the purses of
revolted barons, Guerin!"

"If you make use of that treasury, sire," answered the bishop, "for
the good of your state, and the welfare of your people, 'tis indeed
one that may serve you well; but if you spend it----." The bishop
paused, as if afraid of proceeding, and Philip took up the word.

"If I spend it, you would say, in feasting and revelry," said the
king, "I shall make the people murmur, and my best friends quit me.
But," continued he in a gayer tone, "let us quit all sad thoughts, and
talk of the feast,--the gay and splendid feast,--where you shall
smile, Guerin, and make the guests believe you the gentlest counsellor
that ever king was blest withal. Nay, I will have it so, by my faith!
As to the guests, they are all choice and gay companions, whom I have
chosen for their merriment. Thou shalt laugh heartily when placed
between Philip of Champagne, late my sworn enemy, but who now becomes
my good friend and humble vassal, and brings his nephew and ward, the
young Thibalt, count of all Champagne, to grace his suzerain's
feast--when placed between him, I say, and Pierre de Courtenay, whose
allegiance is not very sure, and whose brother, the Count of Namur, is
in plain rebellion. There shalt thou see also Bartholemi de Roye, and
the Count de Perche, both somewhat doubtful in their love to Philip,
but who, before that feast is over, shall be his humblest creatures.
Fie, fie, Guerin!" he added, in a more reproachful tone, "will you
never think that I have a deeper motive for my actions than lies upon
the surface? As to the tournament, too, think you I do not propose to
try men's hearts as well as their corslets, and see if their loyalty
hold as firm a seat as they do themselves?"

"I never doubt, sire," replied the bishop, "that you have good and
sufficient motives for all your actions; but, this morning, a sad
account has been laid before me of the royal domains; and when I came
to hear of banquets and tournaments, it pained me to think what you,
sire, would feel, when you saw the clear statement."

"How so?" cried Philip Augustus. "It cannot be so very bad!--Let me
see it, Guerin!--let me see it. 'Tis best to front such things at
once.--Let me see it, man, I say!"

"I have it not here, sire," answered the bishop; "but I will send it
by the clerk who drew it up; and who can give you farther accounts,
should it be necessary."

"Quick then!" cried the king,--"quick, good bishop!" And walking up
and down the hall, with an unquiet and somewhat irritated air, he
repeated, "It cannot be so bad! The last time I made the calculation,
'twas somewhere near a hundred thousand livres. Bad enough, in
truth--but I have known that long! Now, sir clerk," he continued, as a
secretary entered, "read me the account, if it be as I see on wax. Was
no parchment to be had, that you must draw the charter on wax[10] to
blind me? Read, read!"


--------------------

[Footnote 10: Later instances exist of wax having been used in the
accounts of the royal treasury of France.]

--------------------


The king spoke in the hasty manner of one whose brighter hopes and
wishes--for Imagination is always a great helpmate of Ambition, and as
well as its first prompter, is its indefatigable ally--in the manner
of one whose brighter hopes and wishes had been cut across by cold
realities; and the clerk replied in the dull and snuffling tone
peculiar to clerks, and monstrously irritating to every hasty man.

"Accounts of the Prévôt de Soissons, sire," said the clerk: "Receipts:
six hundred livres, seven sous, two deniers. Expenses: eighteen
livres, to arm three cross-bowmen; twenty livres to the holy clerk;
seventy livres for clothing and arming twenty serjeants on foot.
Accounts of the sénéchal of Pontoise," continued the clerk, in the
same slow and solemn manner: "Receipts: five hundred livres,
_Parisis_. Expenses: thirty-three livres, for wax-tapers for the
church of the blessed St. Millon; twenty-eight sous for the carriage
to Paris of the two living lions, now at the kennel of the
wolf-hounds, without the walls; twenty livres, spent for the robes for
four judges; and baskets for twenty eels--for seventeen young wolves."

"Death to my soul!" cried the impatient king: "make an end, man!--come
to the sum total! How much remains?"

"Two hundred livres, six sous, one denier," replied the clerk.

"Villain, you lie!" cried the enraged monarch, striking him with his
clenched fist, and snatching the tablets from his hand. "What! am I a
beggar? 'Tis false, by the light of heaven!--It cannot be," he added,
as his eye ran over the sad statement of his exhausted finances,--"it
cannot surely be! Go, fellow! bid the bishop of Senlis come
hither! I am sorry that I struck thee. Forget it! Go, bid Guerin
hither,--quick!"

While this was passing, Agnes de Meranie had turned to one of the
windows, and was gazing out upon the river and the view beyond. She
would fain have made her escape from the hall, when first she found
the serious nature of the business that had arisen out of the
preparations for the fête; but Philip stood between her and either of
the doors, both while he was speaking with his minister, and while he
was receiving the statement from the clerk; and Agnes did not choose,
by crossing him, to call his attention from his graver occupation. As
soon, however, as the clerk was gone, Philip's eye fell upon her, as
she leaned against the casement, with her slight figure bending in as
graceful an attitude as the Pentelican marble was ever taught to show;
and there was something in her very presence reproved the monarch for
the unworthy passion into which he had been betrayed. When a man loves
deeply, he would fain be a god in the eyes of the woman that he loves,
lest the worship that he shows her should lessen him in his own.
Philip was mortified that she had been present; and lest any thing
equally mortal should escape him while speaking with his minister, he
approached and took her hand.

"Agnes," said he, "I have forgot myself; but this tablet has crossed
me sadly," pointing to the statement. "I shall be no longer able to
give festal orders. Go you, sweet! and, in the palace gardens, bid
your maidens strip all the fairest flowers to deck the tables and the
hall----"

"They shall spare enough for one crown, at least," replied Agnes, "to
hang on my royal Philip's casque on the tournament-day. But I will
speed, and arrange the flowers myself." Thus saying, she turned away,
with a gay smile, as if nothing had ruffled the current of the time;
and left the monarch expecting thoughtfully the bishop of Senlis's
return.

The minister did not make the monarch wait; but he found Philip
Augustus in a very different mood from that in which he left him.

"Guerin," said the king, with a grave and careful air, "you have been
my physician, and a wise one. The cup you have given me is bitter, but
'tis wholesome; and I have drunk it to the dregs."

"It is ever with the most profound sorrow," said the hospitaller, with
that tone of simple persuasive gravity that carries conviction of its
sincerity along with it, "that I steal one from the few scanty hours
of tranquillity that are allotted to you, sire, in this life. Would it
were compatible with your honour and your kingdom's welfare, that I
should bear all the more burthensome part of the task which royalty
imposes, and that you, sire, should know but its sweets! But that
cannot be; and I am often obliged, as you say, to offer my sovereign a
bitter cup that willingly I would have drunk myself."

"I believe you, good friend--from my soul, I believe you!" said the
king. "I have ever observed in you my brother, a self-denying zeal,
which is rare in this corrupted age; or used but as the means of
ambition. Raise not your glance as if you thought I suspected you.
Guerin, I do not! I have watched you well; and had I seen your fingers
itch to close upon the staff of power,--had you but stretched out your
hand towards it,--had you sought to have left me in idle ignorance of
my affairs,--ay! or even sought to weary me of them with eternal
reiteration, you never should have seen the secrets of my heart, as
now you shall--I would have used you Guerin, as an instrument, but you
never would have been my friend. Do you understand me, ha?

"I do, royal sir," replied the knight, "and God help me, as my wish
has ever been only to serve you truly!"

"Mark me, then, Guerin!" continued the king. "This banquet must go
forward--the tournament also--ay, and perhaps another. Not because I
love to feast my eyes with the grandeur of a king--no, Guerin,--but
because I would be a king indeed! I have often asked myself,"
proceeded the monarch, speaking slowly, and, as was sometimes his
wont, laying the finger of his right-hand on the sleeve of the
hospitaller's robe--"I have often asked myself whether a king would
never fill the throne of France, who should find time and occasion
fitting to carry royalty to that grand height where it was placed by
Charlemagne. Do not start! I propose not--I hope not--to be the man;
but I will pave the way, tread it who will hereafter. I speak not of
acting Charlemagne with this before my eyes;" and he laid his hand
upon the tablets, which showed the state of his finances, "But still I
may do much--nay, I have done much."

Philip paused, and thought for a moment, seeming to recall, one by
one, the great steps he had taken to change the character of the
feudal system; then raising his eyes, he continued:--"When the sceptre
fell into my grasp, I found that it was little more dignified than a
jester's bauble. France was not a kingdom,--'twas a republic of
nobles, of which the king could hardly be said to be the chief. He had
but one prerogative left,--that of demanding homage from his vassals;
and even that homage he was obliged to render himself to his own
vassals, for feofs held in their _mouvances_. At that abuse was aimed
my first blow."

"I remember it well, sire," replied the hospitaller, "and a great and
glorious blow it was; for, by that simple declaration, that the king
could not and ought not to be vassal to any man, and that any feof
returning to the crown by what means soever, was no longer a feof, but
became _domaine_ of the crown, you re-established at once the
distinction between the king and his great feudatories."

"'Twas but a step," replied the monarch; "the next was, Guerin, to
declare that all questions of feudal right were referable to our court
of peers. The proud Suzerains thought that there they would be their
own judges; but they found that I was there the king. But, to be
short,--Guerin _I_ have followed _willingly_ the steps that
_circumstances_ imposed upon my father. I have freed the commons,--I
have raised the clergy,--I have subjected my vassals to my court. So
have I broken the feudal hierarchy;--so have I reduced the power of my
greater feudatories; and so have I won both their fear and their
hatred. It is against that I must guard. The lesser barons love
me--the clergy--the burghers;--but that is not enough; I must have one
or two of the sovereigns. Then let the rest revolt if they dare! By
the Lord that liveth! if they do, I will leave the _domaines_ of the
crown to my son, tenfold multiplied from what I found them. But I must
have one or two of my princes. Philip of Champagne is one on whom
words and honours work more than real benefits. He must be feasted and
set on my right-hand. Pierre de Courtney is one whose heart and soul
is on chivalry; and he must be won by tournaments and lance-breakings.
Many, many others are alike; and while I crush the wasps in my
gauntlet, Guerin, I must not fail to spread out some honey to catch
the flies." So spake Philip Augustus, with feelings undoubtedly
composed of that grand selfishness called ambition; but, at the same
time, with those superior powers, both of conception and execution
that not only rose above the age, but carried the age along with him.

"I am not one, sire," said the minister, "to deem that great
enterprises may not be accomplished with small means; but, in the
present penury of the royal treasury, I know not what is to be done. I
will see, however, what may be effected amongst your good burghesses
of Paris."

"Do so, good bishop!" replied the king, "and in the mean time I will
ride forth to the hermit of Vincennes. He is one of those men, Guerin,
of whom earth bears so few, who have new thoughts. He seems to have
cast off all old ideas and feelings, when he threw from him the
corslet and the shield, and took the frock and sandal. Perhaps he may
aid us. But, ere I go, I must take good order that every point of
ceremony be observed in our banquet: I would not, for one half France,
that Philip of Champagne should see a fault or a flaw! I know him
well; and he must be my own, if but to oppose to Ferrand of Flanders,
who is the falsest vassal that ever king had!"

"I trust that the hermit may suggest the means!" replied Guerin, "and
I doubt little that he will; but I beseech you, sire, not to let your
blow fall on the heads of the Jews again. The hermit's advice was
wise, to punish them for their crimes, and at the same time to enrich
the crown of France; but having now returned by your royal permission,
and having ever since behaved well and faithfully, they should be
assured of protection."

"Fear not, fear not!" replied the king; "they are as safe as my honour
can make them." So saying, he turned to prepare for the expedition he
proposed.

Strange state of society! when one of the greatest monarchs that
France ever possessed was indebted, on many occasions, for the
re-establishment of his finances, and for some of his best measures of
policy, to an old man living in solitude and abstraction, removed from
the scenes and people over whose fate he exercised so extraordinary a
control, and evincing, on every occasion, his disinclination to mingle
with the affairs of the world.[11]


--------------------

[Footnote 11: The Chronicle of Alberic des Trois Fontaines gives some
curious particulars concerning this personage, and offers a singular
picture of the times.]

--------------------


But it is time we should speak more fully of a person whose history
and influence on the people amongst whom he lived, strongly developes
the character of the age.



CHAPTER IX.


King Philip rode out of Paris attended like the monarch of a great
nation; but, pausing at the tower of Vincennes, he left his
men-at-arms behind; and, after throwing a brown mantle over his
shoulders, and drawing the _aumuce_,[12] or furred hood, round his
face, he proceeded through the park on foot, followed only by a single
page to open the gate, which led out into the vast forest of St.
Mandé. When this task was performed, the attendant, by order of the
monarch, suffered him to proceed alone, and waited on the outside of
the postern, to admit the king on his return.


--------------------

[Footnote 12: The difference between the chaperon, or hood, and the
aumuce was, that the first was formed of cloth or silk, and the latter
of fur.--_Dic. des Franc_.]

--------------------


Philip Augustus took a small path that, wandering about amidst the old
trees, led on into the heart of the forest. All was in thick leaf; and
the branches, meeting above, cast a green and solemn shadow over the
way. It was occasionally crossed, however, with breaks of yellow
sunshine where the trees parted; and there the eye might wander down
the long, deep glades, in which sun and shade, and green leaves, and
broad stems, and boughs, were all seen mingled together in the dim
forest air, with an aspect of wild, original solitude, such as wood
scenery alone can display.

One might have fancied oneself the first tenant of the world, in the
sad loneliness of that dark, old wood; so that, as he passed along,
deep thoughts of a solemn, and even melancholy character came thick
about the heart of the monarch. The littleness of human grandeur--the
evanescence of enjoyment--the emptiness of fame--the grand and awful
lessons that solitude teaches, and the world wipes out, found their
moment then: and, oh! for that brief instant, how he hated strife, and
cursed ambition, and despised the world, and wished himself the
solitary anchorite he went to visit!

At about half a league from the tower of Vincennes stood in those days
an antique tomb. The name and fame of him whose memory it had been
intended to perpetuate, had long passed away; and it remained in the
midst of the forest of St. Mandé, with its broken tablets and effaced
inscription, a trophy to oblivion. Near it, Bernard the hermit had
built his hut; and when the monarch approached, he was seated on one
of the large fragments of stone which had once formed part of the
monument. His head rested on one hand; while the other, fallen by his
side, held an open book; and at his feet lay the fragments of an urn
in sculptured marble. Over his head, an old oak spread its wide
branches; but through a vacant space amidst the foliage, where either
age or the lightning had riven away one of the great limbs of the
forest giant, the sunshine poured through, and touching on the coarse
folds of the Hermit's garments, passed on, and shone bright upon the
ruined tomb.

As Philip approached, the hermit raised his eyes, but dropped them
again immediately. He was known to have, as it were, fits of this sort
of abstraction, the repeated interruption of which had so irritated
him, that, for a time, he retired to the mountains of Auvergne, and
only returned at the express and repeated request of the king. He was
now, if one might judge by the morose heaviness of his brow, buried in
one of those bitter and misanthropical reveries into which he often
fell; and the monarch, knowing his cynical disposition, took care not
to disturb the course of his ideas, by suddenly presenting any fresh
subject to his mind. Neither, to say the truth, were the thoughts of
the king very discordant with those which probably occupied the person
he came to see. Sitting down, therefore, on the stone beside him,
without giving or receiving any salutation, he remained in silence,
while the hermit continued gazing upon the tomb.

"Beautiful nature!" said the old man at last. "How exquisitely fine is
every line thou hast chiseled in yon green ivy that twines amongst
those stones!--Whose tomb was that, my son?"

"In truth, know not, good father!" replied the king; "and I do not
think that in all France there is a man wise enough to tell you."

"You mock me!" said the hermit. "Look at the laurel--the never-dying
leaf--the ever, ever-green bay, which some curious hand has carved all
over the stone, well knowing that the prince or warrior who sleeps
there should be remembered till the world is not! I pray thee, tell me
whose is that tomb?"

"Nay, indeed, it is unknown," replied the king. "Heaven forbid that I
should mock you! The inscription has been long effaced--the name for
centuries forgot; and the living in their busy cares have taken little
heed to preserve the memory of the dead."

"So shall it be with thee," said the old man--"so shall it be with
thee. Thou shalt do great deeds; thou shalt know great joys, and taste
great sorrows! Magnified in thy selfishness, thy littleness shall seem
great. Thou shalt strive and conquer, till thou thinkest thyself
immortal; then die, and be forgot! Thy very tomb shall be commented
upon by idle speculation, and men shall come and wonder for whom it
was constructed. Do not men call thee Augustus?"[13]


--------------------

[Footnote 13: The name of Augustus was given to Philip the Second,
even in the earlier part of his lifetime, although Mézerai mistakingly
attributes it to many centuries afterwards. Rigord, the historian and
physician, who died in the twenty-eighth year of Philip's reign, and
the forty-second of his age, styles him Augustus, in the very title of
his manuscript.]

--------------------


"I have heard so," replied the king. "But I know not whether such a
title be general in the mouths of men, or whether it be the flattery
of some needy sycophant."

"It matters not, my son," said the hermit--"it matters not. Think you,
that if Augustus had been written on that tablet, the letters of that
word would have proved more durable than those that time has long
effaced? Think you, that it would have given one hour of immortality?"

"Good father, you mistake!" said Philip, "and read me a homily on that
where least I sin. None feels more than I the emptiness of fame. Those
that least seek it, very often win; and those that struggle for it
with every effort of their soul, die unremembered. 'Tis not fame I
seek: I live in the present."

"What!" cried the hermit, "and bound your hopes to half-a-dozen
morrows? The present! What is the present? Take away the hours of
sleep--of bodily, of mental pain--of regrets for the past--of fears
for the future--of all sorts of cares. And what is the present? One
short moment of transitory joy--a point in the wide eternity of
thought!--a drop of water to a thirsty man, tasted and then forgot!"

"'Tis but too true!" replied the king; "and even now, as I came
onward, I dreamed of casting off the load of sovereignty, and seeking
peace."'

The hermit gazed at him for a moment, and seeing that he spoke
gravely--"It cannot be," he replied. "It must not be!"

"And why not?" demanded the king. "All your reasoning has tended but
to that. Why should I not take the moral to myself?"

"It cannot be," replied the hermit; "because the life of your
resolution would be but half an hour. It must not be, because the
world has need of you.--Monarch! I am not wont to flatter, and you
have many a gross and hideous fault about you; but, according to the
common specimens of human kind, you are worthy to be king. It matters
little to the world, whether you do good for its sake or your own. If
your ambition bring about your fellow-creatures' welfare, your
ambition is a virtue: nourish it. You have done good, O king! and you
will do good; and therefore you must be king, till Heaven shall give
you your dismissal. Nor did my reasoning tend, as you say, to make you
quit the cares of the world; but only to make you justly estimate its
joys, and look to a better immortality than that of earth--that empty
dream of human vanity! Still you must bear the load of sovereignty you
speak of; and, by freeing the people from the yoke of their thousand
tyrants, accomplish the work you have begun. See you not that I, who
have a better right to fly from the affairs of men, have come back
from Auvergne at your call?"

"My good father," answered the king, "I would fain, as you say, take
the yoke from the neck of the people; but I have not means. Even now,
my finances are totally exhausted; and I sit upon my throne a beggar."

"Ha!" said the hermit; "and therefore 'tis you seek me? I knew of this
before. But say, are your exigencies so great as to touch the present,
or only to menace the future?"

"'Tis present--too truly present, my want!" replied the king. "Said I
not, I am a beggar? Can a king say more?"

"This must be remedied!" replied the hermit.--"Come into my cell, good
son! Strange! that the ascetic's frock should prove richer than the
monarch's gown!--but 'tis so!"

Philip followed the hermit into the rude thatched hut, on the cold
earthen floor of which was laid the anchorite's bed of straw. It had
no other furniture whatever. The mud walls were bare and rough. The
window was but an opening to the free air of heaven; and the thatch
seemed scarcely sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather.
The king glanced his eye round the miserable dwelling, and then to the
ashy and withered cheek of the hermit! as if he would have asked, Is
it possible for humanity to bear such privation?

The anchorite remarked his look, and pointing to a crucifix of ebony
hanging against the wall, "There," cried he, "is my reward!--there is
the reward of fasting, and penitence, and prayer, and maceration, and
all that has made this body the withered and blighted thing it
is:--withered indeed! so that those who loved me best would not know a
line in my countenance. But there is the reward!" And casting himself
on his knees before the crucifix, he poured forth a long, wild,
rhapsodical prayer, which, indeed, well accorded with the character of
the times, but which was so very unlike the usual calm, rational, and
even bitter manner of the anchorite, that Philip gazed on him, in
doubt whether his judgment had not suddenly given way under the
severity of his ascetic discipline.

At length the hermit rose, and, without noting the king's look of
astonishment, turned abruptly from his address to heaven, to far more
mundane thoughts. Pushing back the straw and moss which formed his
bed, from the spot where it joined the wall, he discovered, to the
king's no small surprise, two large leathern sacks or bags, the
citizen-like rotundity of which evinced their fulness in some kind.

"In each of those bags," said the hermit, "is the sum of one thousand
marks of silver. One of them shall be yours, my son; the other is
destined for another purpose."

It would be looking too curiously into the human heart to ask whether
Philip, who, the moment before, would have thought one of the bags a
most blessed relief from his very unkingly distresses, did not, on the
sight of two, feel unsatisfied that one only was to be his portion.
However, he was really of too noble a disposition not to feel grateful
for the gift, even as it was; and he was proceeding gracefully to
thank the hermit, when the old man stopped him.

"Vanity, vanity! my son," cried he. "What need of thanks, for giving
you a thing that is valueless to me?--ay, more worthless than the moss
amongst which it lies. My vow forbids me either to buy or sell; and
though I may use gold, as the beast of burden bears it--but to
transfer it to another,--to me, it is more worthless than the dust of
the earth, for it neither bears the herbs that give me food, nor the
leaves that form my bed. Send for it, sir king, and it is yours.--But
now, to speak of the future. I heard by the way that the Count de
Tankerville is dead, and that the Duke of Burgundy claims all his
broad lands. Is it so?"

"Nay," replied the king, "not so. The Count de Tankerville is
wandering in the Holy Land. I have not heard of him since I went
thither myself some ten years since: but he is there. At least, no
tidings have reached me of his death. Even were he dead," continued
the King, "which is not likely,--for he went but as one of the
palmers, to whom, you know, the Soldan shows much favour; and he was a
strong and vigorous man, fitted to resist all climates:--but even were
he dead, the Duke of Burgundy has no claim upon his lands; for, before
he went, he drew a charter and stamped it with his ring, whereby, in
case of his death, he gives his whole and entire lands, with our royal
consent, to Guy de Coucy, then a page warring with the men I left to
Richard of England, but now a famous knight, who has done feats of
great prowess in all parts of the world. The charter is in our royal
treasury, sent by him to our safe keeping about ten years agone."

"Well, my son," replied the hermit, "the report goes that he is
dead.--Now, follow my counsel. Lay your hand upon those lands; call in
all the sums that for many years are due from all the count's prévôts
and sénéchals; employ the revenues in raising the dignity of your
crown, repressing the wars and plunderings of your barons, and----"

"But," interrupted the King, "my good father, will not what you advise
itself be plundering? Will it not be a notable injustice?"

"Are you one of those, sir king," asked the hermit, "who come for
advice, resolved to follow their own: and who hear the counsels of
others, but to strengthen their own determination? Do as I tell you,
and you shall prosper; and, by my faith in yon blessed emblem, I
pledge myself that, if the Count de Tankerville be alive, I will meet
his indignation; and he shall wreak his vengeance on my old head, if
he agree not that the necessity of the case compelled you. If he be a
good and loyal baron, he will not hesitate to say you did well, when
his revenues were lying unemployed, or only fattening his idle
servants. If he be dead, on the other hand, this mad-brained De Coucy,
who owes me his life, shall willingly acquit you of the sums you have
taken."

The temptation was too strong for the king to resist; and determining
inwardly, merely to employ the large revenues of the Count de
Tankerville for the exigencies of the state, and to repay them, if he
or de Coucy did not willingly acquiesce in the necessity of the
case,--without however remembering that repayment might not be in his
power,--Philip Augustus consented to what the hermit proposed. It was
also farther agreed between them, that in case of the young knight
presenting himself at court, the question of his rights should be
avoided, till such time as the death of the Count de Tankerville was
positively ascertained; while, as some compensation, Philip resolved
to give him, in case of war, the leading of all the knights and
soldiers furnished by the lands which would ultimately fall to him.

The hermit was arranging all these matters with Philip, with as much
worldly policy as if he never dreamed of nobler themes, when they were
startled by the sound of a horn, which, though at some distance, was
evidently in the forest. It seemed the blast of a huntsman; and a
flush of indignation came over the countenance of the king, at the
very thought of any one daring to hunt in one of the royal forests,
almost within sight of the walls of Paris.

The hermit saw the angry spot, and giving way to the cynicism which
mingled so strangely with many very opposite qualities in his
character--"O God!" cried he, "what strange creatures thou hast made
us! That a great, wise king should hold the right of slaughtering
unoffending beasts as one of the best privileges of his crown!--to be
sole and exclusive butcher of God's forests in France! I tell thee,
monarch, that when those velvet brutes, that fly panting at thy very
tread heard afar, come and lick my hand, because I feed them and hurt
them not, I hold my staff as much above thy sceptre, as doing good is
above doing evil! But hie thee away quick, and send thy men to search
the forest; for, hark! the saucy fool blows his horn again, and knows
not royal ears are listening to his tell-tale notes!"

Philip was offended: but the vast reputation for sanctity which the
hermit had acquired; the fasts, the vigils, and the privations, which
he himself knew to be unfeigned,--had, in that age of superstition, no
small effect even upon the mind of Philip Augustus:--he submitted,
therefore, to the anchorite's rebuke with seeming patience, but taking
care not to reply upon a subject whereon he knew himself to be
peculiarly susceptible, and which might urge him into anger, he took
leave of the hermit, fully resolved to follow his advice so far as to
send out some of his men-at-arms, to see who was bold enough to hunt
in the royal chase.

This trouble, however, was spared him; for, as he walked back with a
rapid pace, along the path that conducted to Vincennes, the sound of
the horn came nearer and nearer; and suddenly the king was startled by
an apparition in one of the glades, which was very difficult to
comprehend. It consisted of a strong grey mare, galloping at full
speed, with no apparent rider, but with two human legs, clothed in
crimson silk, sticking far out before, one on each side of the
animal's neck. As it approached, however, Philip began to perceive the
body of the horseman, lying flat on his back, with his head resting on
the saddle, and not at all discomposed by his strange position, nor
the quick pace of his steed, blowing all sorts of _mots_ upon his
horn, which was, in truth, the sound that had disturbed the monarch in
his conference with the hermit.

We must still remember, that the profound superstition of that age
held, as a part of the true faith, the existence and continual
appearance, in corporeal shape, of all sorts of spirits. It was also
the peculiar province of huntsmen, and other persons frequenting large
forests, to meet with these spirits; so that not a wood in France, of
any extent, but had its appropriate fiend; and never did a chase
terminate without some of the hunters separating from the rest, and
having some evil communication of the kind with the peculiar demon of
the place.

Now, though the reader may have before met with the personage who, in
the present case, approached the king at full gallop, yet as Philip
Augustus had never done so,--and as no mind, however strong, is ever
without some touch of the spirit of its age, it was not unnatural for
the monarch to lay his hand upon his sword, that being the most
infallible way he had ever found of exorcising all kinds of spirits
whatever. The mare, however, aware that she was in the presence of
something more awful than trees and rocks, suddenly stopped, and, in a
moment, our friend Gallon the fool sat bolt upright before the king,
with his long and extraordinary nose wriggling in all sorts of ways on
the blank flat of his countenance, as if it were the only part of his
face that was surprised.

"Who the devil are you?" exclaimed the monarch; "and what do you,
sounding your horn in this forest?"

"I, the devil, am nobody," replied the jongleur; "and if you ask what
I do here, I am losing my way as hard as I can--Haw, haw!"

"Nobody! How mean you?" demanded Philip. "You cannot be nobody."

"Yes, I am," answered the juggler. "I have often heard the sage Count
Thibalt d'Auvergne say to my master, the valiant Sir Guy de Coucy,
that the intellect is the man. Now, I lack intellect; and therefore am
I nobody.--Haw, haw! Haw, haw!"

"So thou art but a buffoon," said the king,

"No, not so either," replied Gallon. "I am, indeed. Sir Guy de Coucy's
tame juggler; running wild in this forest, for want of instruction."

"And where is now Sir Guy de Coucy," demanded the king, "and the Count
Thibalt d'Auvergne you speak of? They were both in the Holy Land when
last I heard of them."

"As for the Count d'Auvergne," replied Gallon the fool,--"he parted
from us three days since to go to Paris, to make love to the king's
wife, who, they say, has a pretty foot. God help me!"

"Ha, villain!" cried the king. "'Tis well the king hears you not, or
your ears would be slit!"

"So should his hearing spoil my hearing," cried the juggler; "but I
would keep my ears out of his way. I have practice enough, in saving
them from my Lord Sir Guy; but no man has reached them yet, and shall
not.--Haw, haw!"

"And where is Sir Guy?" demanded the king. "How happen you to have
parted from him?"

"He is but now sitting a mile hence, singing very doleful ballads
under an oak," replied the juggler. "All about the old man and his
daughter.--Haw, haw! Sir Julian of the Mount and the fair
Isadore.--Haw, haw, haw!--You know?"

"No, 'faith, fool! I know not," replied Philip. "What do you mean?"

"Why, have you not heard," said the juggler, "how my good lord and my
better self, and five or six varlets and squires, conducted old Sir
Julian and the young Lady Isadore all the way from Vic le Comte to
Senlis----and how we lost our way in this cursed forest--and how lord
sent me to seek it? Oh, 'tis a fine tale, and my lord will write it in
verse--Haw, haw, haw!--and sing it to an old rattling harp; and make
all the folks weep to hear how he has sworn treason against the king,
all for the sake of the Lady Isadore.--Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw!" And
placing his hand against his cheek, the juggler poured forth a mixture
of all sorts of noises, in which that of sharpening a saw was alone
predominant.

Philip called, and entreated, and commanded him to cease, and to tell
him more; but the malicious juggler only burst out into one of his
long shrill laughs, and throwing himself back on his horse, set it off
into a gallop, without at all asking his way; at the same time putting
the horn to his mouth, and blowing a blast quite sufficient to drown
all the monarch's objurgations.

Philip turned upon his heel, and pursued his way to Vincennes,
and--oh, strange human nature!--though he saw that his informant was a
fool--though he easily guessed him to be a malicious one, he repeated
again and again the words that Gallon had made use of--"Gone to make
love to the king's wife!--sworn treason against the king! But the
man's a fool--an idiot," added the monarch. "'Tis not worth a
thought;" and yet Philip thought of it.



CHAPTER X.


In the days we speak of, the city of Paris was just beginning to
venture beyond the island, and spread its streets and houses over the
country around. During the reign of Louis the Seventh, and especially
under the administration of Suger, abbot of St. Denis, the buildings
had extended far on the northern bank of the river; and there already
might be seen churches and covered market-places, and all that
indicates a wealthy and rising city; but in the midst of this suburb,
nearly on the spot where stand at present the Rue Neuve and the Rue
des Petits Champs, was a vast open space of ground, called the
Champeaux, or Little Fields; which, appertaining to the crown, had
been reserved for the chivalrous sports of the day. Part of it,
indeed, had been given to the halls of Paris, and part had been
enclosed as a cemetery; but a large vacant space still remained, and
here was appointed the tournament of July, to which Philip Augustus
had called all the chivalry of his realm.

It is not my intention here to describe a tournament, which has been
so often done--and so exquisitely well done in the beautiful romance
of Ivanhoe, that my relation would not only have the tediousness of a
twice-told tale, but the disadvantage of a comparison with something
far better; but I am unfortunately obliged to touch upon such a theme,
as the events that took place at the _passe d'armes_ of Champeaux
materially affect the course of my history.

On one side of the plain extended a battlemented building, erected by
the minister Guerin, and dedicated, as the term went, to the shelter
of the poor passengers. It looked more like a fortress, indeed, than a
house of hospitality, being composed entirely of towers and turrets;
and as it was the most prominent situation in the neighbourhood, it
was appointed for the display of the casques and shields of arms
belonging to the various knights who proposed to combat in the
approaching tournament. Nor was the effect unpleasant to the eye, for
every window on that side of the building which fronted the field had
the shield and banner of some particular knight, with all the same gay
colours wherewith we now decorate the panels of our carriages. In the
cloisters below, from morning unto night-fall, stood one of the
heralds in his glittering tabard, with his pursuivants and followers,
ready to receive and register complaints against any of the knights
whose arms were displayed above, and who, in case of any serious
charges, were either prevented from entering, or were driven with
ignominy from, the lists.

Side by side, on one of the most conspicuous spots of the building, as
knights of high fame and prowess, were placed the shields and banners
of Count Thibalt d'Auvergne and Guy de Coucy; and the officers of
arms, who, from time to time repeated the names of the various
knights, and their exploits and qualities, did not fail to pause long
upon the two brothers in arms; giving De Coucy the meed over all
others for valour and daring, and D'Auvergne for cool courage and
prudent skill.

All the arrangements of the field were as magnificent as if the royal
coffers had overflowed. The scaffoldings for the king, the ladies, and
the judges, were hung with crimson and gold; the tents and booths were
fluttering with streamers of all colours, and nothing was seen around
but pageant and splendour.

Such was the scene which presented itself on the evening before the
tournament, when De Coucy and his friend, the Count d'Auvergne, whom
he had rejoined by this time in Paris, set out, from a lodging which
they occupied near the tower of the châtelet, to visit the spot where
they were to display their skill the next day. A circumstance,
however, occurred by the way, which it may be well to record.

Passing through some of the more narrow and tortuous streets of Paris,
and their horses pressed on by the crowd of foot passengers, who were
coming from, or going to, the same gay scene as themselves, they could
only converse in broken observations to each other, as they for a
moment came side by side. And even these detached sentences were often
drowned in the various screaming invitations to spend their money,
which were in that day poured forth upon passengers of all
denominations.

"Methinks the king received us but coldly," said De Coucy, as he
gained D'Auvergne's ear for a moment, "after making us wait four days
too!--Methinks his hospitality runs dry."

"Wine, will you wine? Good strong wine, fit for knights and nobles,"
cried a loud voice at the door of one of the houses.

"Cresses!--fresh water-cresses!" shrieked a woman with a basket in her
hand.

"The king can scarce love me less than I love him," answered the count
in a low tone, as a movement of his horse brought him close to De
Coucy.

"And yet," said his friend, in some surprise, "you, principally,
determined your father to reject all overtures from the Count of
Flanders, brought by Sir Julian of the Mount!"

"Because I admire the king, though I love not the man," replied Count
Thibalt.

"Baths! baths! hot baths!" cried a man with a napkin over his arm, and
down whose face the perspiration was streaming. "Hot! hot! hot! upon
my honour!--Bathe, lords and knights! bathe! 'Tis dusty weather."

"Knight of Auvergne!" cried a voice close by. "Those that soar high,
fall farthest. Sir Guy de Coucy, the falcon was slain that checked at
the eagle, because he was the king of birds."

A flush came into the cheek of Count Thibalt; and De Coucy started and
turned round in his saddle, to see who spoke. No one, however, was
near, but a man engaged in that ancient and honourable occupation of
selling hot pies, and a woman chaffering for a pair of doves with
another of her own sex.

"By all the saints of France!" cried De Coucy, "some one named us.
What meant the fool by checking at the eagle? I see him not, or I
would check at him!"

Count Thibalt d'Auvergne asked no explanation of the quaint proverb
that had been addressed to him; but only inquired of De Coucy, whether
'twas not like the voice of his villain--Gallon the fool.

"No!" replied the knight.--"No! 'twas not so shrill. Besides, he is
gone, as he said, to inspect the lists some half-hour ago."

In truth, no sooner did they approach the booths, which had been
erected by various hucksters and jugglers, at the end of the cemetery
of the Innocents, a short distance from the lists, than they beheld
Gallon the fool, with his jerkin turned inside out, amusing a crowd of
men, women, and children, with various tricks of his old trade.

"Come to me!--come to me!" cried he, "all that want to learn
philosophy! I am the king of cats, and the patron of cock-sparrows.
Have any of you a dog that wants gloves, or a goat that lacks a
bonnet? Bring him me!--bring him me! and I will fit him to a
hair.--Haw, haw! haw, haw!"

His strange laugh, his still stranger face, and his great dexterity,
were giving much delight and astonishment to the people, when the
appearance of De Coucy, who, he well knew, would be angry at the
public exhibition of his powers, put a stop to his farther feats; and
shouting, "Haw, haw! haw, haw!" he scampered off, and was safely at
home before them.

The day of the tournament broke clear and bright; and long before the
hour appointed, the galleries were full, and the knights armed in
their tents. Nothing was waited for but the presence of the king; and
many was the impatient look of lady and of page, towards the street
which led to the side of the river.

At length the sound of trumpets announced his approach; and, winding
up towards Champeaux, were seen the leaders of his body-guard--that
first small seed from which sprung and branched out in a thousand
directions the great body of a standing army. The first institution of
these serjeants of arms, as they were called, took place during
Philip's crusade in the Holy Land, where, feigning, or believing, his
life to be in danger from the poniards of the assassins, he attached
to his own person a guard of twelve hundred men, whose sole duty was
to watch around the king's dwelling. In France, though the same excuse
no longer existed, Philip was too wise to dismiss the corps which he
had once established, and which not only offered a nucleus for larger
bodies in time of need, but which added that pomp and majesty to the
name of king, that neither the extent of the royal domains, nor the
prerogatives of sovereignty, limited as they were in those days, could
alone either require or enforce.

Slowly winding up through the streets towards the Champeaux, the
cavalcade of royalty seemed to delight in exhibiting itself to the
gaze of the people, who crowded the houses to the very tops; for, well
understanding the barbarous taste of the age in which he lived, no one
ever more feasted the public eye with splendour than Philip Augustus.

First came the heralds two and two, with their many-coloured tabards,
exhibiting on their breasts the arms of their provinces. Next followed
on horseback, Mountjoy king-at-arms, surrounded by a crowd of
marshals, pursuivants, and valets on foot. He was dressed in a
sleeveless tunic of crimson, which opening in front displayed a robe
of violet velvet, embroidered with _fleur de lis_. On his head was
placed his crown, and in his hand a sort of staff or sceptre. He was
indeed, as far as personal appearance went, a very kingly person; and
being a great favourite amongst the people, he was received with loud
shouts of Denis Mountjoy! Denis Mountjoy! Blessings on thee, Sire
François de Roussy!

Next appeared a party of the serjeants-at-arms, bearing their gilded
quivers and long bows; while each held in his right-hand the baton of
his immense brazen mace, the head or ball of which rested on his
shoulder. But then came a sight which obliterated all others. It was
the party of the king and queen. The monarch himself was mounted on a
_destrier_, or battle-horse, as black as night, whose every step
seemed full of the consciousness that he bore royalty. Armed
completely, except the casque, which was borne behind him by a page,
Philip Augustus moved the warrior, and looked the monarch; and the
same man, who had heard the hermit's rebuke with patience, ordered the
preparations of a banquet like a Lucullus; and played with the roses
in a woman's hair, now looked as if he could have crushed an empire
with a frown.

Beside him, on a palfrey--as if for the contrast's sake,
milk-white--rode the lovely Agnes de Meranie. All that is known of her
dress is, that it also was white; for it seems that no one who looked
on her could remark any thing but her radiant beauty. As she moved on,
managing with perfect ease a high-spirited horse, whose light
movements served but to call out a thousand graces in his rider, the
glitter, and the pageant, and the splendour seemed to pass away from
the eyes of the multitude, extinguished by something brighter still;
and, ever and anon, Philip Augustus himself let his glance drop to the
sweet countenance of his queen, with an expression that woke some
sympathetic feeling in the bosoms of the people; and a loud shout
proclaimed the participation of the crowd in the sensations of the
king.

Behind the king and queen rode a long train of barons and ladies, with
all the luxury of dress and equipage for which that age was
distinguished. Amongst the most conspicuous of that noble train were
Constance, Duchess of Brittany, and her son Arthur Plantagenet, of
whose character and fate we shall have more to speak hereafter. Each
great chieftain was accompanied by many a knight, and vassal, and
vavassour, with worlds of wealth bestowed upon their horses and their
persons. Following these again, came another large body of the King's
men-at-arms, closing the procession, which marched slowly on, and
entered the southern end of the lists; after which, traversing the
field amidst the shouts and gratulations of the multitude, the whole
party halted at the foot of a flight of steps leading to the splendid
gallery prepared for the king and queen. Here, surrounded by a crowd
of waving crests and glittering arms, Philip himself lifted Agnes from
her horse, and led her to her seat; while at the same time the
trumpets sounded for the various knights to make a tour round the
field, before proceeding to the sports of the day. Each, as he passed
by the royal gallery, saluted the king and queen by dropping the point
of his lance; and from time to time, Agnes demanded the name of the
different knights, whom either she did not know, or whose faces were
so concealed by the helmet as to render it difficult to distinguish
them.

"Who is he, Philip?" demanded she, as one of the knights passed, "he
with the wivern in his casque, and the red scarf,--who is he? He sits
his horse nobly."

"'Tis Charles de Tournon," replied the king; "a noble knight, called
the Comte Rouge. Here comes also Guillaume de Macon, my fair dame,"
added the king, smiling, "with a rose on his shield, all for your
love."

"Silly knight!" said Agnes. "He had better fix his love where he may
hope to win. But who is this next, with the shield sinople, bearing a
cross, gules, and three towers in chief?"

"That is the famous Guy de Coucy," replied the King; "a most renowned
knight. If report speaks true, we shall see all go down before his
lance. And this who follows, and is now coming up, is the no less
famous Thibalt Count d'Auvergne"--and the king fixed his eyes upon his
wife with a keen, inquiring glance.

Luckily, however, the countenance of Agnes showed nothing which could
alarm a mind like Philip's.

"Count Thibalt d'Auvergne!" cried she, with a frank, unembarrassed
smile. "Oh! I know him well. He spent many months at my father's court
in going to the Holy Land. From him I first heard the praises of my
Philip, long, long ere I ever entertained a hope of being his wife. I
was scarce more than a child then, not much above fifteen--and yet I
forgot not those praises. He was a dear friend too--that Count
d'Auvergne--of my poor brother Alberic, who died in Palestine." The
queen added, with a sigh--"Poor Alberic! he loved me well!"

"The fool lied!" said Philip internally: "all is frank and fair. The
fool lied!--and led me to slight a noble knight and powerful baron by
his falsehood!" and bending forward, as if to do away the coldness
with which he had at first treated the Count d'Auvergne, he answered
his salute with a marked and graceful inclination of the head.

"Is it possible?" cried Agnes, after the Count had passed. "In truth,
I should never have known him, Philip, he is so changed. Why, when he
was at the court of Istria, he was a fresh young man; and now he is as
deadly pale and worn as one sick of the plague. Oh, what a horrible
place must be that Holy Land!--Promise me, Philip, on all the
Evangelists, never to go there again, let who will preach new
crusades:--nay, promise me, my Lord!"

"I do! I do! sweet Agnes!" replied the king: "once in a life is quite
enough. I have other warfares now before me."

After the knights had all passed, a short space of time intervened for
the various arrangements of the field; and then, the barriers being
opened, the tournament really commenced. Into the particulars of the
feats performed, as I have already said, I shall not enter: suffice it
that, as the king had predicted, all went down before De Coucy's
lance; and that Count Thibalt d'Auvergne, though not hurried on by the
same quick spirit, was judged, by the old knights, no way inferior to
his friend, though his valour bore a different character. The second
course had taken place, and left the same result; and many of the fair
dames in the galleries began to regret that neither of the two
companions in arms had been decorated with their colours; and to
determine upon various little arts and wiles, to engage one or other
of the two crusaders to bear some mark of theirs in any subsequent
tournament.

Thus stood the day, when the voices of the heralds cried to pause,
much to the astonishment, not only of the combatants, but of the king
himself. The barriers opened, and, preceded by a stout priest bearing
a pontifical cross in silver, the cardinal of St. Mary, dressed as
_Legate à latere_, entered the lists, followed by a long train of
ecclesiastics.[14]


--------------------

[Footnote 14: It will be understood that this sudden appearance of the
legate is a historical fact.]

--------------------


A quick, angry flush mounted into the king's cheek, and his brow knit
into a frown, which sufficiently indicated that he expected no very
agreeable news from the visit of the legate. The cardinal, however,
without being moved by his frowns, advanced directly towards the
gallery in which he sat, and, placing himself before him, addressed
him thus:--

"Philip, King of France, I, the cardinal of St. Mary's, am charged,
and commanded, by our most holy father, the Pope Innocent, to speak to
you thus----"

"Hold, Sir Cardinal!" cried the King, "Let your communication be for
our private ear. We are not accustomed to receive either ambassadors
or legates in the listed field."

"I have been directed, Sir King," replied the legate, "by the superior
orders of his holiness, thus publicly to admonish you, wherever I
should find you, you having turned a deaf and contemptuous ear to the
frequent counsels and commands of the holy church. Know then, king
Philip, that with surprise and grief that a king of France should so
forget the hereditary piety of his race, his holiness perceives that
you still persist in abandoning your lawful wife, Ingerburge of
Denmark!"

"The man will drive me mad!" exclaimed the king, grasping his
truncheon, as if he would have hurled it at the daring churchman, who
thus insulted him before all the barons of his realm. "Will no one
stay him?"

Several of the knights and heralds advanced to interpose between the
legate and the king; but the cardinal waved them back; and, well
knowing that their superstitious veneration for his habit would
prevent them from silencing him by force, he proceeded boldly with his
speech.

"Perceiving also," continued he, "that, taking advantage of an
unlawful and annulled divorce, weakly pronounced by your bishops, you
have taken to your bed another woman, who is not, and cannot be, your
wife!"

A shriek from the women of the queen here interrupted the harangue of
the prelate, and all eyes instantly turned upon her.

Simple surprise and astonishment had been the first emotion of Agnes
de Meranie, at seeing any one bold enough to oppose a will that,
according to all her ideas, was resistless; but gradually, as she
began to comprehend the scope of the legate's discourse, terror and
distress took possession of her whole frame. Her eyes strained on him,
as on some bad angel come to cross her young happiness; her lip
quivered; the warm glow of her cheek waxed faint and pale, like the
sunshine fading away from the evening sky; and, at the last terrible
words that seemed to seal her fate for ever, she fell back senseless
into the arms of her women.

The scene of confusion that ensued is not to be described.

"By the light of heaven! old man!" exclaimed Philip, "were it not for
thy grey hairs, I would strike thee dead!--Away with him! Let him
speak no more!--Men-at-arms! put him forth from the lists! Away with
him!--Agnes, my beloved!" he cried, turning to the queen, and taking
her small hand in his, "awake, awake! Fear not, dear Agnes! Is your
Philip's love so light as to be shaken by the impotent words of any
churchman in Christendom?"

In the mean while the serjeants-at-arms hurried the prelate and his
followers from the lists, amidst many a bitter taunt from the
minstrels and trouvères, who feared not even then to attack with the
most daring satire the vices of the church of Rome. The ladies of
Agnes de Meranie pressed round their fair mistress, sprinkling her
with all kinds of essences and perfumed waters; some chattering, some
still screaming, and all abusing the daring legate, who had so pained
the heart of their lovely queen, and put a stop to the sports of the
day. The knights and barons all united in the cause of the princess by
every motive that had power in the days of chivalry:--youth, beauty,
innocence, and distress, shouted loudly, that they acknowledged her
for their sovereign, the queen of all queens, and the flower of all
ladies!

Philip Augustus, with royal indignation still upon his brow, caught
gladly at the enthusiasm of his chivalry; and, standing forward in the
front of the gallery, with the inanimate hand of his lovely wife in
his left, and pointing to her deathlike cheek with the other, he
exclaimed, in a voice that passed all over the field--"Knights and
nobles of fair France! shall I suffer my hearth to be invaded by the
caprice of any proud prelate? Shall I yield the lady of my love for
the menace of any pope on earth? You, good knights!--you only can
judge! and, by Heaven's throne! you only shall be the judges!"

"Life to the king!--life to the king! Denis Mountjoy!--Denis
Mountjoy!" shouted the barons, as if they were rallying round the
royal standard on the battle-field; and, at the same time, the waving
of a thousand scarfs, and handkerchiefs, and veils, from the galleries
around, announced how deep an interest the ladies of France took in a
question where the invaded rights of the queen came so home to the
bosoms of all.

"Break up the sports for to-day!" cried Philip, waving his warder.
"This has disturbed our happiness for the moment; but we trust our
fair queen will be able to thank her loyal knights by the hour of
four, when we invite all men of noble birth here present to sup with
us in our great hall of the palace. For those who come too late to
find a seat in the great hall, a banquet shall be prepared in the
tower of the Louvre. Till then, farewell!"

The fainting fit of Agnes de Meranie lasted so long, that it was found
necessary to carry her to the palace in a litter, followed, sadly and
in silence, by the same splendid train that had conducted her, as if
in triumph, to the tournament.

In the mean while, for a short time, the knights who had come to show
their prowess and skill, and those noble persons, both ladies and
barons, who had graced the lists as spectators, remained in groups,
scattered over the field, and through the galleries, canvassing
vehemently what had taken place; and not the most priest-ridden of
them all, did not, in the first excitement of the moment, declare that
the conduct of both pope and cardinal was daring and scandalous, and
that the divorce which had been pronounced between Philip and
Ingerburge by the bishops of France ought to hold good in the eyes of
all Frenchmen.

"Now, by the good Heaven!" cried De Coucy, raising his voice above all
the rest, "she is as fair a queen as ever my eyes rested on; and
though I cannot wear her colours, and proclaim her the star of my
love, because another vow withholds me, yet I will mortally defy any
man who says she is not lawfully queen of France.--Sound, trumpets,
sound! and you, heralds, cry--Here stands Guy de Coucy in arms, ready
to prove upon the bodies of any persons who do deny that Agnes
princess de Meranie is lawfully queen of France, and wife of Philip
the Magnanimous, that they are false and recreant, and to give them
the lie in their throat, wagering against them his body and arms in
battle, when and where they will appoint, on horseback or on foot, and
giving them the choice of arms!"

The trumpets sounded, and the heralds who remained on the field
proclaimed the challenge of the knight: while De Coucy cast his
gauntlet on the ground. A moment's profound silence succeeded, and
then a loud shout; and no one answering his call, De Coucy bade the
heralds take up the glove and nail it on some public place, with his
challenge written beneath; for payment of which service, he twisted
off three links of a massive gold chain round his neck, and cast it to
the herald who raised his glove; after which he turned, and, rejoining
the Count d'Auvergne, rode back to throw off his arms and prepare for
the banquet to which they had been invited.

"De Coucy," said D'Auvergne, as they passed onward, "I too would
willingly have joined in your challenge, had I thought that our lances
could ever establish Agnes de Meranie as queen of France; but I tell
you no, De Coucy! If the pope be firm, and firm he will be, as her
father too well knows, Philip will be forced to resign her, or to
trust to his barons for support against the church."

"Well!" cried De Coucy, "and his barons will support him. Saw you not
how, but now, they pledged themselves to his support?"

"The empty enthusiasm of a moment!" replied D'Auvergne bitterly; "a
flame which will be out as soon as kindled! Not one man in each
hundred there, I tell thee, De Coucy, has got one spark of such
enthusiasm as yours, which, like the Greek fire, flashes brightly, yet
burns for ever; and as few of them, the colder sort of determination,
which, like mine, burns without any flame, till all that fed it is
consumed."

De Coucy paused. For a moment the idea crossed his mind of proposing
to D'Auvergne a plan for binding all the barons present by a vow to
support Philip against the church of Rome, while the enthusiasm was
yet upon them; but though brave almost to madness where his own person
was alone concerned, he was prudent and cautious in no small degree,
where the life and happiness of others were involved; and, remembering
the strife to which such a proposal, even, might give rise, he paused,
and let it die in silence.



CHAPTER XI.


The banquet passed, like the scene which followed the tournament, in
enthusiastic assertions of the fair queen's rights, although she was
not present. In this instance, Philip Augustus, all clear-sighted as
he was, suffered himself to be deceived by his wishes; and believed
fully that his barons would aid him in the resistance he meditated to
the usurped authority of the pope.

The promises, however, which wine, and wassail, and festivity call
forth, are scarcely more lasting than the feast itself; and, without
we can take advantage of the enthusiasm before it dies, and render it
irrevocable by urging it into action, little can ever be gained from
any sudden emotion of a multitude. If Philip doubted its durability,
he did not suffer the shade of such a doubt to appear. The vaunt of
every young knight he thanked as a promise; and every expression of
admiration and sympathy, directed towards his queen, he affected to
look upon as a pledge to espouse her cause.

The Count Thibalt d'Auvergne was the only one that made neither boasts
nor promises; and yet the king--whether judging his mind of a more
stable fabric than the others, or wishing to counterbalance the
coldness he had shown him on his first appearance at the court,--now
loaded him with honours, placed him near him, spoke to him on all
those subjects on which he deemed the count was best calculated to
speak: and affecting to consider his advice and assistance of great
import, in arranging the relations to be established between the crown
of France and the new French colony, which had taken Constantinople,
he prayed him to accompany the court to Compiègne, for which place it
set out the next day.

The king's favour and notice fell upon the calm cold brow and dark
thoughtful eye of Thibalt d'Auvergne like sunshine in winter, melting
in no degree the frozen surface that it touched. The invitation,
however, he accepted; saying, in the same unmoved tone, that he was
anxious to see the queen, whom he had known in years long gone, and to
whom he could give fresh news from Istria, with many a loving greeting
from her father, whom he had seen as he returned from Palestine.

The queen, Philip replied, would be delighted to see him, and to hear
all that he had to tell; for she had never yet forgot her own fair
country--nay, nor let that canker-worm of affection, absence, eat the
least bit away of her regard for those she loved.

The very first, Count Thibalt took his leave and departed. De Coucy
rose, and was following; but the king detained him for a moment, to
thank him for the generous interest he had shown in his queen's
rights, which had not failed to reach his ears. He then asked, with a
slight shade of concern upon his brow, "Is your companion in arms,
beau sire, always so sad? It grieves me truly, to see him look so
possessed by sorrow! What is the cause thereof?"

"By my faith! my lord, 'tis love, I believe," replied De Coucy; "some
fair dame of Palestine--I wot not whether heathen or Christian,
rightly; but all I know is this:--Some five years ago, when he first
joined us, then warring near Tyre, he was as cheerful a knight as ever
unhorsed a Saracen; never very lively in his mirth, yet loving gaiety
in others, and smiling often: when suddenly, about two or three years
after, he lost all his cheerfulness, abandoned his smiles, grew wan
and thin, and has ever since been the man you see him."

The shade passed away from the king's brow; and saying, "'Tis a sad
pity! We will try to find some bright eyes in France that may cure
this evil love," he suffered De Coucy to depart.

All that passed, relative to the reception of the legate, was
faithfully transmitted to Pope Innocent III.; and the very enthusiasm
shown by the barons of France in the cause of their lovely queen made
the pontiff tremble for his authority. The immense increase of power
which the bishops of Rome had acquired by the victory their incessant
and indefatigable intrigues had won, even over the spirit of Frederick
Barbarossa, wanted yet the stability of antiquity; and it was on this
account that Innocent III. dreaded so much that Philip might
successfully resist the domination of the church even in one single
instance.

There were other motives, however, which, in the course, of the
contest about to be here recorded, mingled with his conduct a degree
of personal acrimony towards the king of France. Of an imperious and
jealous nature, the pontiff met with resistance first from Philip
Augustus, and his ambition came only in aid of his anger. The election
of the emperor of Germany was one cause of difference; Philip Augustus
supporting with all his power Philip of Suabia; and the pope not only
supporting, but crowning with his own hands, Otho, nephew of John,
king of England,--although great doubts existed in regard to his
legitimate election.

As keen and clear-sighted as he was ambitious, Innocent saw that in
Philip Augustus he had an adversary as intent upon increasing his own
authority, as he himself could be upon extending the power of the
church. He saw the exact point of opposition; he saw the powerful mind
and political strength of his antagonist; but he saw also that
Philip's power, when acting against his own, must greatly depend upon
the progress of the human mind towards a more enlightened state, which
advance must necessarily be slow and difficult; while the foundations
of his own power had been laid by ages of superstition, and were
strengthened by all those habits and ceremonies to which the heart of
man clings in every state, but more especially in a state of darkness.

Resolved at once to strike the blow, it happened favourably for the
views of the pope, that the first question where his authority was
really compromised, was one in which the strongest passions of his
adversary were engaged, while his own mind was free to direct its
energies by the calm rule of judgment. It is but justice also to say,
that though Innocent felt the rejection of his interference as an
insult, and beheld the authority of the church despised with no small
wrath, yet all his actions and his letters, though firm and decided,
were calm and temperate. Still, he menaced not without having resolved
to strike; and the only answer he returned to the request of the
cardinal of St. Mary's for farther instructions, was an order to call
a council of the bishops of France, for the purpose of excommunicating
Philip as rebel to the will of the church, and of fulminating an
interdict against the whole of the realm. So severe a sentence,
however, alarmed the bishops of France; and, at their intercession,
the legate delayed for a time its execution, in hopes that, by some
concession, Philip might turn away the wrath of the church.

In the meanwhile, as if the blow with which he was menaced but made
him cling more closely to the object for whose sake he exposed
himself, Philip devoted himself entirely to divert the mind of Agnes
de Meranie from contemplating the fatal truth which she had learned at
last. He now called to her remembrance the enthusiasm with which his
barons had espoused her cause; he pointed out to her that the whole
united bishops of France had solemnly pronounced the dissolution of
his incomplete marriage with the Princess of Denmark; and he assured
her, that were it but to protect the rights of his clergy and his
kingdom from the grasping ambition of the see of Rome, he would resist
its interference, and maintain his independence with the last drop of
his blood.

At other times he strove to win her away even from the recollection of
her situation; and he himself seemed almost to forget the monarch in
the husband. Sometimes it was in the forests of Compiègne, Senlis, or
Fontainbleau, chasing the stag or the boar, and listening to the music
of the hounds, the ringing horns, and the echoing woods. Sometimes it
was in the banquet and the pageant, the tournament or the _cour
plenière_, with all its crowd, and gaiety, and song. Sometimes it was
in solitude and tranquillity, straying together through lovely scenes,
where nature seemed but to shine back the sweet feelings of their
hearts; and every tone of all summer's gladness seemed to find an echo
in their bosoms.

Philip succeeded; and Agnes de Meranie, though her cheek still
remained a shade paler than it had been, and her soft eyes had
acquired a look of pensive languor, had--or seemed to have--forgotten
that there was a soul on earth who disputed her title to the heart of
her husband, and the crown of her realm. She would laugh, and
converse, and sing, and frame gay dreams of joy and happiness to come,
as had been ever her wont; but it was observed that she would start,
and turn pale, when any one came upon her suddenly, as if she still
feared evil news; and, if any thing diverted her thoughts from the gay
current in which she strove to guide them, she would fall into a long
reverie, from which it was difficult to wake her.

Thus had passed the time of Philip Augustus and Agnes de Meranie, from
their departure for Compiègne, the day after the tournament. The hours
of Count Thibalt d'Auvergne, however, had been spent in a very
different manner from that which he had anticipated. He had, it is
true, made up his mind to a painful duty; but it was a duty of another
kind he was called to perform. As his foot was in the stirrup to join
the royal cavalcade, for the purpose of proceeding to Compiègne,
according to the king's invitation, a messenger arrived from Auvergne,
bearing the sad news that his father had been suddenly seized with an
illness, from which no hope existed of his recovery; and D'Auvergne,
without loss of time, turned his steps towards Vic le Comte.

On his arrival, he found his parent still lingering on the confines
between those two strange worlds, the present and the future: the one
which we pass through, as in a dream, without knowing the realities of
any thing around us; the other, the dreadful inevitability of which we
are fond to clothe in a thousand splendid hopes, putting, as it were,
a crown of glory on the cold and grimly brow of Death.

'Twas a sad task to watch the flickering of life's lamp, till the
flame flew off for ever! The Count d'Auvergne, however, performed it
firmly; and having laid the ashes of his father in the earth, he
stayed but to receive the homage of his new vassals, and then turned
his steps once more towards Paris, leaving the government of Auvergne
to his uncle, the famous Count Guy, celebrated both for his jovial
humour and his predatory habits.



CHAPTER XII.


We must now once more go back a little in our history and return to
Sir Guy de Coucy, who, on the morning of his friend's departure for
Auvergne, stood at the door of their common dwelling to see him set
out. In the hurry of such a moment there had been no time for many of
those arrangements between the two friends, which the Count d'Auvergne
much wished to have made. However, as he embraced De Coucy at parting,
according to the custom of the day, he whispered in his ear: "The
besants we brought from the Holy Land are in my chamber. If you love
me, De Coucy, remember that we are brothers, and have all things in
common. I shall find you here at my return. If I come not soon I will
send you a messenger." De Coucy nodded his head with a smile, and,
leaning on his large two-handed sword, saw the Count d'Auvergne mount
his horse and depart.

"Farewell, D'Auvergne!" said he, as he turned to re-enter the
house,--"perhaps we may never meet again; but De Coucy forgets not thy
generous kindness, though he will not use it. Our fortunes are far too
unequal for us longer to hold a common purse."

Be it remarked, however, that the scruples which affected De Coucy on
this occasion were rather singular in the age in which he lived; for
the companionship of arms, which, in their romantic spirit, the
knights of even a much later period often vowed to each other, were
frequently of a stricter and more generous nature than any of our most
solid engagements of life at present; involving not only community of
fortune and of fate, but of friendships and of enmities, of pleasures
and pains, and sometimes of life or death.[15] When once two knights
had exchanged arms, as was often the case, it became their duty to
assist each other on every occasion, with body and goods, during the
expedition in which they were engaged; and sometimes, even for life,
to share all wealth between them, both present and to come; and in
case of one dying, while under an engagement to do battle, (or under a
wager of battle, as it was called,) his companion, or brother in arms,
was bound to fill his place, and maintain his honour in the duel.


--------------------

[Footnote 15: Ducange cites the following formula from a work I cannot
meet with. The passage refers to a fraternity of arms between Majon,
high admiral of Sicily, and the archbishop of Palermo.

"Dictum est præterea quod ii, juxta consuetudinem Siculorum, fraternæ
f[oe]dus societatis contraxerint, seseque invicem jurejurando
astrinxerunt ut alter alterum modis omnibus promoveret, et tam in
prosperis quàm in adversis unius essent animi, unius voluntatis atque
consilii; quisquis alterum læderet, amborura incurreret offensam."

The same learned author cites a declaration of Louis XI. where he
constitutes Charles, Duke of Burgundy, his sole brother in arms,
thereby seeming to imply that this adoption of a brother in arms was
restricted to one.--_Ducange_, Dissert. xxi.]

--------------------


While in the Holy Land, cut off from frequent supplies, and in
imminent and continual dangers, De Coucy had found no inequality
between himself and Count Thibalt de Auvergne; but now, placed amidst
the ruinous expense of tournaments and courts, he resolved to break
off at once an engagement, where no parity of means existed between
himself and his companion.

Slowly, and somewhat sadly, De Coucy returned to his own chamber,
feeling a touch of care that his light heart had not often known
before. "Hugo de Barre," said he, "give me a flask of wine; I have not
tasted my morning's cup, and I am melancholy."

"Shall I put some comfits in it, beau sire?" demanded the squire. "I
have often known your worship get over a bad fit of love, by a
ladle-full of comfits in a cup of Cyprus."

"As thou wilt, Hugo," answered the knight; "but 'tis not love I want
to cure, now-a-day."

"Marry! I thought, sire Guy," replied Hugo de Barre, "that it was all
for love of the Lady Isadore; but then, again, I fancied it was
strange, if you loved her, that you should leave her at Senlis, and
not go on with her to her own castle, and strive to win her!"

"Her father was going to lodge with the sire de Montmorency, my cousin
Enguerand's sworn foe," replied De Coucy; "and even after that, he
goes not home, but speeds to Rouen, to mouth it with John, king of
England.--By my faith!" he added, speaking to himself, "that old man
will turn out a rebel from simple folly. He must needs be meddling
with treason, but to make himself important. Yet D'Auvergne says he
was a good warrior in his day. I wish I could keep his fingers from
the fire, were it but for his daughter's love--sweet girl!"

Had De Coucy been alone, he would probably have thought what he now
said, yet would not have spoken it; but having begun by addressing his
attendant, he went on aloud, though the latter part of what he said
was, in reality, merely a part of his commune with himself. Hugo de
Barre, however, who had, on more than one occasion been thus made, as
it were, a speaking-block by his master, understood the process of De
Coucy's mind, and stood silent till his lord had done.

"Then you do love the lady, beau sire?" said he at last, venturing
more than he usually did upon such occasions.

"Well, well! Hugo, what is it to thee?" demanded De Coucy. "I will not
keep thee out all night, as when I courted the princess of Syracuse."

"Nay, but I love the Lady Isadore better than ever I did the princess
of Syracuse," replied the squire; "and I would stay out willingly many
a night for her sake, so she would be my lord's true lady. Look ye, my
lord! You have seen her wear this bracelet of cloth of gold," he
continued, drawing forth a piece of fine linen, in which was wrapped a
broad band of cloth of gold, not at all unlike the bracelets of gilded
wire, lately so much the mode amongst the fair dames of London and
Paris. "I asked one of her maidens to steal it for me."

"You did not, surely, Hugo!" cried De Coucy. "How dare you be so bold
with any noble lady, sirrah?"

"Nay, then, I will give it back," replied the squire. "I had intended
the theft to have profited your lordship; but I will give it back. The
Lady Isadore, it is true, knew that her damsel took it; but still it
was a theft; and I will give it back again. She knew, too, that it was
I who asked it; and doubtless guessed it was you, beau sire, would
have it; but I had better give it back."

"Nay, nay! good Hugo," replied De Coucy; "give it me. I knew not you
were so skilful in such matters. I knew you were a good scout, but not
in sir Cupid's army.--Give it me!"

"Nay, beau sire, I had better give it back," replied the Squire; "and
then I will fall into my duty again, and look for nothing but
routiers, cotereaux, and the like. But there is something more I
wished to tell you, sir: old Giles, the squire of the good Count
Julian, told me, that if his lord keep his mind of going to Rouen, he
must needs in three weeks' time pass within sight of our own--that is
to say, your own--castle. Now, would it not be fair sport, to lay an
ambush for the whole party, and take them prisoners, and bring them to
the castle?"

"By my faith! it would," replied the knight. "But how is this,
Hugo?--thou art a changed man. Ever since I have known thee, which is
since I was not higher than my dagger, thou hast shown thyself as
stiff and sturdy a piece of old iron, as any of the corslets that hang
by the wall; and now thou art craving bracelets, and laying ambushes
for fair ladies, as if thou hadst been bred up in the very palace of
Love. Methinks that same damsel, who stole the bracelet for thee, must
have woke up some new spirit in thy heart of stone, to make thine
outward man so pliable. Why, compared to what thou wert, Hugo, thou
art as a deer-skin coat to a steel plastron. Art thou not in love,
man? Answer me!"

"Something like it, I fear me, beau sire," replied the squire. "And as
it is arranged between me and Alixe, that if you win the lady, I am to
have the maid, we are resolved to set our wits to work to help your
lordship on."

"By my life! a hopeful plot," replied De Coucy: "and well do I know,
Hugo, that the maid's good word is often as much gained as the
mistress's smile. But go, order to saddle; leave the bracelet with me;
and as soon as the horses be ready, De Coucy will spur on for the home
of his fathers."

The squire delivered the bracelet to his lord, and left the apartment;
and no sooner was he gone, than De Coucy carried the bracelet to his
lips, to his forehead, and his heart, with as much fervour of
devotion, as ever monk showed for the most sacred relic of his church.

"She knew that her damsel took it!--she knew that it was for me!"
exclaimed he in an ecstasy of delight, which every one who can feel,
may have felt on discovering some such unlooked-for source of
happiness. Stretching out his hand, De Coucy then took up the rote,
which, as a true trouvère, he made his inseparable companion. It was
an age when poetry was a language--the real, not the figurative
language of love--when song was in the heart of every one, ready to
break forth the moment that passion or enthusiasm called for
aid;--and, in the acme of his gladness, the young knight sang to the
instrument a ballad, composed, indeed, long before; but the concluding
verse of which he altered to suit his feelings at the moment.


                                SONG.

                                  I.

         "I rode my battle-horse afar--
            A long, a long, and weary way;
          Fading I saw night's latest star,
            And morning's prime, and risen day,
              But still the desert around me lay.

                                 II.

          On, on, o'er burning sands I rode,
            Beneath a red and angry sky;
          Burning, the air around me glow'd;
            My tongue was parch'd, my lip was dry:--
          I would have given worlds for the west-wind's sigh.

                                 III.

          With fever'd blood, and fiery eye,
            And rent and aching brow, I go;
          When, oh the rapture to descry
           The palm-trees green, the fountain low,
              Where welling waters sweetly flow!

                                 IV.

          Through life, as o'er that Syrian plain,
            Alone I've wander'd from a child,
          Thirsting for love, yet all in vain,
            'Till now, when sweet and undefiled,
              I find Love's fountain in the wild."


De Coucy sang, and then again pressed the token which he had obtained
to his lips, and to his heart; when suddenly a loud "Haw, haw! haw,
haw!" startled him from his pleasing dreams, and he saw Gallon the
fool standing beside him.

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon; "my master's turned juggler, and is playing
with scraps of gold ribbon, and singing songs to them. By my
dexterity! I'll give up the trade: the mystery is no longer
honourable--every fool can do it."

"Take care that one fool does not get his ears slit," answered De
Coucy.--"Tell me, sir, and tell me truly,--for I know thee, Gallon,
and that thou art no more fool than may serve thy turn,--where hast
thou been since daybreak, this morning?"

"I went out on the road to Compiègne," replied Gallon gravely, "to see
how the wolf looked in the sheepfold; and whether the falcon comported
himself sociably in the dove's nest. Farther, I sought to behold how
the shepherd enjoyed the sight of sir wolf toying with the lamb; and
still farther----"

"Villain!" cried De Coucy, "what mean you? Speak me no more apologues,
or your skin shall suffer for it! What mean you, I say?" and De Coucy
suddenly seized the juggler by the arm, so as to prevent him from
escaping by his agility, which he frequently did, from the blow which
he menaced to bestow on him with his other hand.

"Well! well!" cried Gallon, ever willing to say any thing that he
thought might alarm, or mortify, or pain his hearers. "I went first,
beau sire, to inquire of a dear friend of mine, at the palace--who
fell in love with me, because, and on account of, the simple beauty
and grace of my snout--whether it be true, that Philip the Magnificent
had taken actual possession of the lands of your aunt's husband, the
Count de Tankerville; and I find he has, and called in all the
revenues to the royal treasury. Oh! 'tis a great king and an
expeditious!--Haw, haw, haw!" and though within reach of the young
knight's arm. Gallon the fool could not repress his glee at the sight
of a slight shade of natural mortification that came over his lord's
countenance.

"Let him," cried De Coucy,--"let him take them all! I would rather
that he had them than the duke of Burgundy. Better they should go to
strengthen a good king, than to nourish a fat and overgrown
vassal.--But you escape me not so, sir Gallon! You said you went on
the road to Compiègne to see how the wolf looked, in the sheepfold!
Translate, sir fool! Translate! What meant you?"

"Simply to see Count Thibalt d'Auvergne and Queen Agnes de Meranie,"
replied the jongleur.--"Haw, haw!--Is there any harm in that?"

De Coucy started, as if some one had struck him, experiencing that
sort of astonishment which one feels, when suddenly some fact, to
which we have long shut our eyes, breaks upon us at once, in all the
sharpness of self-evidency--if one may use the word. "'Tis
impossible!" cried he. "It cannot be! 'Tis not to be believed!"

"Haw, haw, haw!" cried Gallon the fool. "Not to be doubted, beau sire
De Coucy!--Did he not join your good knighthood as blithe and merry as
a lark, after having spent some three months at the court of Istria
and Moravia?--Did he not go on well and gaily, till the news came that
Philip of France had wedded Agnes de Meranie?--Then did he not, in
your own tent, turn paler than the canvass that covered him?--And did
he not thenceforth wax wan and lack-witted, sick and sorrowful?--Ha,
haw? Ha, haw!"

"Cease thy grinning, knave!" cried De Coucy sharply, "and know, that
even if he does love the queen, 'tis in all honour and honesty; as one
may dedicate one's heart and soul, one's lance and song, to the
greatest princess on all the earth, without dreaming aught to her
dishonour."

"Haw, haw, haw! haw, haw!" was all the answer of Gallon the fool; and
darting away from the relaxed grasp of De Coucy, on whose brow he saw
clearly a gathering storm, he rushed down, shouting "Haw, haw! haw,
haw!" with as keen an accent of triumph, as if he had gained a
victory.

"Is it possible?" said the knight to himself, "that I have been blind
for nearly two years to what has been discovered by an idiot on the
instant? God bless us all, and the holy saints!--D'Auvergne!
D'Auvergne! I pity thee, from my soul! for where thou hast loved, and
loved so fair a creature, there wilt thou still love, till the
death. Nor art thou a man to seek to quench thy love in thy lady's
dishonour--to learn to gratify thy passion and to despise its object,
as some men would. Here thy very nobleness, like plumes to the
ostrich, is thy bane and not thy help. And Philip too. If e'er a king
was born to be jealous, he is the man. I would not for a dukedom love
so hopelessly. However, D'Auvergne, I will be near thee--near to thy
dangers, though not to thy wealth."

At this point, the contemplations of De Coucy were interrupted by the
return of Hugo de Barre, his squire, informing him that the horses
were ready; and at the same time laying down on the table before his
lord a small leathern bag, apparently full of money.

"What is that?" demanded De Coucy.

"The ransom of the two knights' horses and armour, overthrown by your
lance in the yesterday's tournament," replied the squire.

"Well, then, pay the two hireling grooms," said De Coucy, "whom we
engaged to lead the two Arabians from Auvergne, since we discharged
the Lombards who brought them thither."

"They will not be paid, beau sire," replied the squire. "They both
pray you to employ the hire which is their due in furnishing them with
each a horse and arms, and then to let them serve under your banner."

"Well, be it so, good Hugo," replied the knight. "Where--God knows
where I shall find food to cram their mouths withal! 'Twill add too,
however, to my poor following. Then, with thee and the page, and my
own two varlets, we shall make seven:--eight with Gallon the fool. By
my faith! I forgot the juggler, who is as stout a man-at-arms as any
amongst us. But, as I said, get thee gone with the men to the Rue St.
Victor, where the Haubergers dwell. Give them each a sword, a shield,
a corslet, and a steel bonnet: but make them cast away those long
knives hanging by their thighs which I love not;--they always make me
think of that one wherewith the villain slave of Mahound ripped up my
good battle-horse Hero; and would have slain me with it too, if I had
not dashed him to atoms with my mace. Ride quick, and overtake me and
the rest on the road: we go at a foot-pace." So saying, Guy de Coucy
descended the narrow staircase of his dwelling; and, after having
spoken for a few moments with one of the attendants of the Count
d'Auvergne, who had remained behind, he mounted his horse, and rode
slowly out of the city of Paris.

There is no possible mode of progression, that I know of, more
engendering of melancholy than the foot-pace of a horse when one is
alone. It is so like the slow and retarded pace which, whether we will
or not, we are obliged to pursue on the high-road of life; and each
object, as it rises on our view, seems such a long age in its
approach, that one feels an almost irresistible desire, at every other
step, to give the whip or spur, and accelerate the heart's slow
beatings by some more rapid movement of the body. Did one wish to
cultivate their stupidity, let them ride their horse, at a walk, over
one of the long, straight roads of France.

The face of the country, however, was in those days very different
from what it is at present; and the narrow, earthy road over which De
Coucy travelled, wound in and out over hills and through forests: now
plunging into the deep wood; now emerging by the bright stream; now
passing, for a short space, through vineyards and fields, with a
hamlet or a village by the road-side; now losing itself in wilds and
solitudes, where one might well suppose that Adam's likeness had been
never seen.

The continual changing of the objects around relieved, of course, the
monotony of the slow pace at which De Coucy had condemned himself to
proceed, while expecting of his squire's return; and a calm sort of
melancholy was all he felt, as he revolved in his mind the various
points of his own situation and that of his friend the Count
d'Auvergne.

In regard to himself, new feelings had sprung up in his
bosom--feelings that he had heard of, but never known before. He
loved, and he fancied he was beloved; and dreams, and hopes, and
expectations, softer, calmer, more profound than ever had reached him
in camps or courts, flowed in upon his heart, like the stream of some
deep, pure river, and washed away all that was rude and light, or
unworthy in his bosom. Yet, at the same time, all the tormenting
contentions of hope and fear--the fine hair balancings of doubt and
anxiety--the soul torturings of that light and malicious imp, Love,
took possession of the heart of De Coucy; and he calculated, within
the hundred thousandth part of a line, how much chance there existed
of Isadore of the Mount not loving him,--and of her loving some one
else,--and of her father, who was rich, rejecting him, who was
poor,--and of his having promised her to some one else;--and so on to
infinity. At length, weary of his own reasonings thereupon, and
laughing at himself for combating the chimeras of his own imagination,
he endeavoured to turn his thoughts to other things, humming as he
went--


        "'The man's a fool--the man's a fool
          That lets Love use him for a tool:
          But is that man the gods above,
          Himself unused, who uses love.'

"--And so will I," continued De Coucy mentally. "It shall prompt me to
great deeds, and to mighty efforts. I will go to every court in
Europe, and challenge them all to do battle with me upon the question.
I will fight in every combat and every skirmish that can be met with,
till they cannot refuse her to me, out of pure shame."

Such were the determinations of De Coucy in the age of chivalry, and
he was one more likely than most men to keep such determinations.
They, however, like all resolutions, were of course modified by
circumstances; and in the mean while, his squire, Hugo, rejoined him
with the two varlets, who had been hired in Auvergne to lead his
horses, but who were now fitted to make a figure in the train of so
warlike a knight.

Still the prospect of his cold and vacant home, with no smile to give
him welcome, and, as he well knew, nothing but poverty for his
entertainment, sat somewhat heavily upon the young knight's heart. To
lodge upon the battle plain, under a covering that scarce excluded the
weather; to feed on the coarsest and most scanty food; to endure all
perils and privations, for chivalry's, religion's, or his country's
sake, was nothing to the bold and hardy soldier, whose task and pride
it was so to suffer: but, for the châtelain, De Coucy, to return to
the castle where his fathers had lived in splendour,--to the bowers
and halls where his infancy had been nursed with tenderness,--and to
find all empty and desolate; the wealth and magnificence wasted in the
thousand fruitless enterprises of the crusades, and the loved and
familiar laid low in the melancholy dwellings of the gone, was bitter,
sadly bitter, even for a young, light heart, and unquenchable spirit
like his.

One of his ancestors, who, in the reign of Henry the First, had
founded the younger branch of the De Coucy's, of which he was now the
sole representative, had done important services to the crown, and had
been rewarded by the hand of Aleonore de Magny, on the Seine, heiress
of the last _terre libre_, or free land, in France; and this his race
had maintained, in its original freedom, against all the surrounding
barons, and even against the repeated efforts of every successive
king, who, on all occasions, attempted to exact homage by force, or to
win it by policy. His father, indeed, before taking the cross, which
he did at the persuasion of Louis the Seventh, had put his lands under
the protection of the king, who, on his part, promised to guard its
inviolability against all and every one; and acknowledged by charter
under his hand and seal, that it was free and independent of the
crown.

The _manoir_, or _castel_, of every baron of the time, was always a
building of more or less strength; but it is to be supposed, of
course, that the château attached to lands in continual dispute, was
fortified with an additional degree of precaution and care. Nor was
this wanting in the château of De Coucy Magny, as it was called: wall,
and battlement, tower, turret, and bartizan, overhung every angle of
the hill on which it was placed, and rendered it almost impregnable,
according to the mode of warfare of those days.

When De Coucy had left it, with his father's men-at-arms, though age
had blackened it, not one stone was less in the castle-walls,--not a
weed was on the battlements; and even the green ivy, that true
parasite which sucks the vital strength of that which supports it, was
carefully removed from the masonry.

But, oh! how fast decay speeds on, even by the neglect of ten short
years! When De Coucy returned, the evening sun was setting behind the
hill on which the castle stood; and, as he led his scanty band of
horsemen up the winding and difficult path, he could see, by the
rough, uneven outline of the dark mass before him, what ravages time
had already made. High above the rest, the donjon, which used to seem
proud of its square regularity, now towered with one entire angle of
its battlements given way, and with many a bush and shrub waving its
long feathery foliage from window and from loophole; while the
neglected state of the road, and even the tameness of the wild animals
in the woods near the château; the hares and the deer, which stood and
gazed with their large round eyes for many moments at De Coucy and his
followers before they started away, told, with a sad moral, that man
was seldom seen there.

De Coucy sighed as he rode on; and, stopping at the gates of the
barbican, which, thickly plated and studded with iron, opposed all
entrance, wound a long blast upon his horn. A moment after, the noise
of bolts and bars was heard, as if the doors were about to be thrown
open; but then again came the sound of an old man's voice, exclaiming
in a tone of querulous anger--"Hold, hold! Villain Calord! Will you
give up the castle to the cotereaux? Hold, I say! or I will break thy
pate! I saw them from the beffroy. They are a band of cotereaux. Go
round to the serfs' sheds, and bid them come and take their bows to
the walls. Up you, and ring the bancloche, that we may have the
soldiers from Magny!"

"Onfroy! Onfroy!" shouted De Coucy. "Open your gates! 'Tis I, Guy de
Coucy!"

"Your voice I know not!" roared the old man in reply. "My young lord
had a soft, sweet voice; and yours is as deep as a bell. I know not
your voice, fair sir.--Man the walls, I say, Calord! 'Tis all a
trick," he continued, speaking to his companion. "Sound the
bancloche!"

"If you know not my voice," cried De Coucy, "surely you should know
the blast I have sounded on my horn!"

"Sound again, beau sire!--sound again!" cried the old man. "I will
know your blast among ten thousand, if you be a De Coucy; and if you
be my young lord, I will know it in all the world."

De Coucy put his horn to his lips and reiterated his blast, when
instantly the old man exclaimed--"'Tis he!--'tis he, Calord!--Open the
gates--open the gates, quick! lest I die of joy before I see his face
again! 'Tis he himself! The blessed Virgin, queen of heaven, be
praised for all things--Give me the keys--give me the keys, Calord!"
and no sooner were the doors pushed back, than casting himself on his
knees before his lord's horse, with the tears of joy coursing each
other rapidly down his withered face, the old seneschal exclaimed,
"Enter, noble châtelain! and take your own; and God be praised, my
dear boy! and the holy Virgin, and St. John, and St. Peter, but more
especially St. Martin of Tours! for having brought you safe back again
from the dangers of Palestine, where your noble father has left his
valiant bones! Here are the keys, which I offer into your hand, beau
sire," he continued, looking earnestly at De Coucy, and wiping the
salt rheum that obscured his sight. "And yet I can scarce believe," he
added, "that young Guy, the last of the three fair youths--he who was
not up to my shoulder when he went, whom I first taught to draw a bow,
or wheel a horse--that young Guy, the page--and a saucy stripling he
was too--my blessing on his waggish head!--that young Guy the page
should have grown into so tall and strong a man as you, beau
sire!--Are you not putting upon me? Was it truly you that blew that
blast?" and his eye ran over the persons who followed behind his
lord.--"But no!" he added, "it must be he! I know his blue eye, and
the curl of his lip; and I have heard how he is a great knight
now-a-days, and slays Saracens, and bears away the prizes at
tournays:--I have heard it all!"

De Coucy calmly let the old man finish his speech, without offering to
take the keys, which from time to time he proffered, as a sort of
interjection between the various parts of his disjointed discourse.
"It is even I, good Onfroy," replied he at last: "keep the keys!--keep
the keys, good old man!--they cannot be in worthier hands than yours.
But now let us in. I bring you, as you see, no great reinforcement;
but I hope your garrison is not so straitened for provisions, that you
cannot give us some supper, for we are hungry, though we be few."

"We will kill a hog--we will kill a hog, beau sire!" replied the old
man. "I have kept chiefly to the hogs, beau sire, since you were
gone, for they cost nothing to keep--the acorns of the forest serve
them--and they have increased wonderfully! Oh, we have plenty of hogs;
but as to cows, and sheep, and things of that kind, that eat much and
profit little, I was obliged to abandon them when I sent you the last
silver I could get, as you commanded."

De Coucy signified his perfect indifference as to whether his supper
consisted of mutton, beef, or pork; and riding through the barbican,
into the enclosure of the walls, he crossed the court and alighted at
the great gates of the hall, which were thrown open to receive him.

Calord, the servant or varlet of the seneschal, had run on before, to
light a torch; for the day was beginning to fail, and the immense
apartment was of its own nature dark and gloomy; but still, all within
was dim. The rays of the torch, though held high, and waved round and
round, scarcely served to show some dark lustreless suits of armour
hung against the walls; and the figures of some of the serfs, who had
stolen into the farther extremity of the hall, to catch a glimpse of
their returned lord, seemed like spirits moving about on the dark
confines of another world; while more than one bat, startled even by
the feeble light, took wing and fluttered amongst the old banners
overhead. At the same time, as if dreary sounds were wanting to
complete the gloominess of the young knight's return, the clanging of
his footsteps upon the pavement of the empty hall, awoke a long, wild
echo, which, prolonged through the open doors communicating with
untenanted halls and galleries beyond, seemed the very voice of
solitude bewailing her disturbed repose.

It all fell cold upon De Coucy's heart; and, laying his hand on the
old seneschal's shoulder, as he was about to begin one of his long
discourses:--"Do not speak to me just now, good Onfroy!" said the
young knight; "I am not in a vein to listen to any thing. But throw on
a fire in yon empty hearth; for, though it be July, this hall has a
touch of January. Thou hast the key of the books too:--bring them
all down, good Onfroy; I will seek some moral that may teach
contentment.--Set down my harp beside me, good page." And having given
these directions, De Coucy cast himself into the justice-chair of his
ancestors, and, covering his eyes with his hands, gave himself up to
no very sweet contemplations.



CHAPTER XIII.


It would seem a strange command in our day, were any one to order his
servant to bring down the library; and certainly would infer a much
more operose undertaking than fell to the lot of old Onfroy, the
seneschal, who, while Calord, his man, cast almost a whole tree in the
chimney, and the varlets of De Coucy unloaded his baggage-horses,
easily brought down a small wooden box, containing the whole
literature of the château. And yet, perhaps, had not the De Coucys,
from father to son, been distinguished trouvères, no such treasure of
letters would their castle have contained; for, to count the nobles of
the kingdom throughout, scarce one in a hundred could read and write.

De Coucy, however, had wasted--as it was then called--some of his
earlier years in the study of profane literature, till the death of
his two elder brothers had called him from such pursuits; from which
time his whole course of reading had been in the romances of the day,
where figured either Charlemagne with his peers and paladins, or the
heroes, writers, and philosophers of antiquity, all mingled together,
and habited as knights and magicians.

A manuscript, however, in those days, was of course much more precious
in the eyes of those who could read, than such a thing possibly can be
now; and De Coucy, hoping, as many have done since, to shelter himself
behind a book, from the sharp attacks of unpleasant thought, eagerly
opened the manifold bars and bucklings of the wooden case, and took
out the first vellum that his hand fell upon. This proved to be but a
collection of tensons, lais, and pastourelles,--all of which he knew
by heart, so that he was obliged to search farther. The next he came
to had nearly shared the same fate, being a copy of the Life of Louis
the Fat, written in Latin a few years before, by Suger, abbot of St.
Denis. The Latin, however, was easy, and De Coucy's erudition coining
to his aid, he read various passages from those various pages, wherein
the great minister who wrote it gives such animated pictures of all
that passed immediately previous to the very age and scenes amidst
which the young knight was then living. At length his eye rested on
the epigraph of the sixteenth chapter, "Concerning the treachery
committed at the Roche Guyon, by William, brother-in-law of the
king;--concerning, also, the death of Guy; and the speedy vengeance
that overtook William."

No title could have been more attractive in the eyes of De Coucy; and
skipping a very little of his text, where his remembrance of the
language failed him, he went on to read.

"Upon a promontory formed by the great river Seine, at a spot
difficult of access, is built an ignoble castle, of a frightful
aspect, called La Roche Guyon. On the surface of the promontory the
castle is invisible, being hollowed out of the bowels of the high
rock. The skilful hand of him who formed it has cut the high rock
itself on the side of the hill, and by a mean and narrow opening has
practised a subterranean habitation of immense extent.

     *             *              *              *              *

"This subterranean castle, not more hideous in the sight of men than
in the sight of God, had about this time for its lord, Guy de la Roche
Guyon,--a young man of gentle manners, a stranger to the wickedness of
his ancestors. He had indeed interrupted its course, and showed
himself resolved to lead a tranquil and honourable life, free from
their infamous and greedy rapacity.

"Surprised by the very position of his wretched castle, and massacred
by the treachery of his own father-in-law, the most wicked of the
wicked, he lost, by an unexpected blow, both his dwelling and his
life.

"William, his father-in-law, was by birth a Norman; and, unequalled in
treachery, he made himself appear the dearest friend of his daughter's
husband. This man, tormented by black envy, and brewing wicked
designs, unhappily found, on the evening of a certain Sunday, an
opportunity of executing his diabolical designs. He came then, with
his arms covered with a mantle, and accompanied by a handful of
assassins; and mingled himself, though with very different thoughts,
amongst a crowd of pious people hastening to a church, which
communicated by a passage in the rock with the subterranean castle of
Guy. For some time, while the rest gave themselves up to prayer, he
feigned to pray also; but, in truth, occupied himself in examining
attentively the passage communicating with the dwelling of his
son-in-law. At that moment, Guy entered the church; when, drawing his
sword, and seconded by his criminal associates, William, madly
yielding to the iniquity of his heart, cast himself into the doorway,
and struck down his son-in-law, who was already smiling a welcome upon
him, when he felt the edge of his sword. The noble bride of the
châtelain, stupefied at the sight, tore her hair and her cheeks, after
the manner of women in their anger, and running towards her husband,
without fearing the fate that menaced her, she cast herself upon him
to cover his body from the blows of the murderer, crying, while he
received a thousand wounds,--'Vile butchers! slay me rather than
him!--What has he done to merit death?'"

     *             *              *              *              *

"Seizing her by the hair, the assassins dragged her away from her
husband, who, crushed by their repeated blows, pierced by their
swords, and almost torn in pieces with his various wounds, soon
expired under their hands. Not contented yet, with a degree of cruelty
worthy of Herod, such of his unhappy children as they could find they
dashed mercilessly against the rock--"[16]


--------------------

[Footnote 16: This singular picture of the barbarism of the age
immediately preceding that of Philip Augustus is rendered as literally
as possible from the Life of Louis le Gros by Suger, Abbot of St.
Denis.]

--------------------


"Give me my lance!" cried De Coucy, starting up, with his blood
boiling at this picture of an age so near his own--"give me my lance,
ho! By all the saints of France----"

But at that moment remembering that the event which Suger recounted
must have taken place full fifty years before, and therefore that none
of the actors therein could be a fit object for the vengeance which he
had thought of inflicting with his own hand, he sat down again, and
read out the tale, running rapidly through the murderer's first
triumphant contemplation of the property he had obtained by the death
of his son-in-law, and even of his own daughter, but pausing with an
angry sort of gladness over the detail of the signal punishment
inflicted on him and his accomplices. Nor did he find the barbarous
aggravation of tearing his heart from his bosom, and casting his body,
attached to a plank, into the river Seine, to float to his native
place, in any degree too horrible an award for so horrible a villain.
On the contrary, starting from his chair, with all the circumstances
of his own fate forgotten, he was striding up and down the hall,
wishing that this same bloodthirsty Guillaume had been alive then to
meet him in fight; when suddenly, just as the old seneschal was
bustling in to lay out the table for his young lord's supper, the
long, loud blast of a horn sounded at the outer gates.

"Throw open the gates, and see who is there!" cried De Coucy. "By the
blessed rood! I have visiters early!"

"In the holy Virgin's name! beau sire, open not the gates to-night!"
cried the old seneschal. "You do not know what you do. All the
neighbouring barons have driven the cotereaux off their own lands on
to yours, because it is here a _terre libre_; and there are at least
two thousand in the woods round about. Be ruled. Sir Guy!--be ruled!"

"Ha, say you?" cried De Coucy. "But how is it, good Onfroy, that you
can then drive out the swine you speak of, to feed in the forest?"

"Because--because--because, beau sire," replied the old man,
hesitating as if he feared the effect of his answer,--"because I
agreed with their chief, that if he and his would never show
themselves within half a league of the castle, I would pay him a
tribute of two fat hogs monthly.

"A tribute!" thundered De Coucy, striking his clenched fist upon the
table--"a tribute!" Then suddenly lowering his voice, he added: "Oh,
my good Onfroy! what are the means of a De Coucy shrunk to, that his
castle, in his absence even, should pay a tribute to thieves and
pick-purses! How many able serfs have you within the walls? I know
your power was small. How many?"

"But nine good men, and three old ones," replied the seneschal,
shaking his head sadly; "and they are but serfs, you know, my lord--I
am but weakling, now-a-day; and Calord, though a freeman, has known no
service."

"And how many vassals bound to furnish a man?" demanded De
Coucy.--"Throw open the gates, I say!" he continued, turning fiercely
upon Calord, while the horn sounded again. "I would fain see the
coterel who should dare to take two steps in this hall with Guy de
Coucy standing by his own hearth. How many vassals, Onfroy?"

"But seven, beau sire," replied the old man, looking from time to time
towards the door of the hall, which led out into the court, and which
Calord had left open behind him,--"but seven, Sir Guy; and they are
only bound to a forty days' riding in the time of war."

"And now tell me, Onfroy," continued De Coucy, standing as calmly with
his back towards the door as if he had been surrounded by a host of
his friends. "If you have paid this tribute, why are you now afraid of
these thieves?"

"Because, Sir Guy," replied the seneschal, "the last month's hogs have
not been sent; there being soldiers of the king's down at the town,
within sound of the bancloche.--But see, Sir Guy! see! they are
pouring into the court! I told you how 'twould be!--See, see!--torches
and all! Well, one can die now as well as a week hence!"

De Coucy turned, and at first the number of horsemen that were filing
into the court, two at a time, as they mounted the steep and narrow
road, almost induced him to bid the gates be shut, that he might deal
with them with some equably: but a second glance changed his purpose,
for though here and there was to be seen a haubert or a plastron
glistening in the torch-light, by far the greater part of the horsemen
were in the garb of peace.

"These are no cotereaux, good Onfroy," said he, staying the old
seneschal, who was in the act of drawing down from the wall some rusty
monument of wars long gone. "These are peaceable guests, and must be
as well treated as we may. For the cotereaux, I will take order with
them before I be two days older; and they shall find the woods of De
Coucy Magny too hot a home for summer weather.--Who is it seeks De
Coucy?" he continued, advancing as he saw one of the cavalcade
dismounting at the hall door.

"Guillaume de la Roche Guyon," replied the stranger, walking forward
into the hall; while De Coucy, with his mind full of all he had just
been reading connected with that name, instinctively started back, and
laid his hand on his dagger; but, instantly remembering himself, he
advanced to meet the cavalier, and welcomed him to the château.

The stranger was a slight young man, without other arms than his
sword; but he wore knightly spurs and belt, and in the front of his
hat appeared the form of a grasshopper, beautifully modelled in gold.
His features had instantly struck De Coucy as being familiar to him,
but it was principally this little emblem, joined with a silk scarf
hanging from his neck, that fully recalled to his mind the young
troubadour he had seen at the château of Vic le Comte.

"I crave your hospitality, beau sire, for myself and train," said the
young stranger. "Hardly acquainted with this part of fair France, for
my greater feofs lie in sweet Provence, I have lost my way in these
forests--But methinks we have met before, noble châtelain;" and as he
recognised De Coucy, a slight degree of paleness spread over the
youth's face.

De Coucy, however, remarked it not: his was one of those generous
natures, from which resentments pass like clouds from the summer sun,
and he forgot entirely a slight feeling of jealousy which the young
troubadour had excited in his bosom while at Vic le Comte; and,
instead of wishing, as he had then done, to have him face to face in
deadly arms, he welcomed him to his château with every hospitable
greeting.

"'Tis but an hour since I arrived myself, good knight," said he; "and
after a ten years' absence my castle is scantily furnished for the
reception of such an honourable guest. But see thou servest us the
best of all we have, Onfroy, and speedily."

"Haw, haw! haw, haw!" cried Gallon the fool, with his head protruded
through one of the doors--"haw, haw! The lion feasted the fox, and the
fox got the best of the dinner."

"I will make thee juggle till thy limbs ache," said De Coucy, "and
this very night. Sir Gallon! So will I punish thine insolence,--'Tis a
juggler slave, beau sire," he continued, turning to Guillaume de la
Roche Guyon, who gazed with some astonishment at the juggler's
apparition. "I bought him of the Infidels, into whose power he had
fallen, several years ago. He must have been once a shrewd-witted
knave, and wants not sense now when he chooses to employ it; but for
some trick he played his miscreant master, the Saracen tied him by the
legs to his horse's tail one day, and dragged him a good league across
the sands to sell him at our camp, in time of truce. Poor Gallon
himself says his brain was then turned the wrong way, and has never
got right again since, so that he breaks his sour jests on every one."

The tables were soon spread, and the provisions, which indeed
consisted of little else than pork, or _bacon_, as it was then called
in France, with the addition of two unfortunate fowls, doomed to
suffer for their lord's return, were laid out in various trenchers all
the way down the middle of the board. De Coucy and his guest took
their places, side by side, at the top; and all the free men in the
train of either, were ranged along the sides. No fine _dressoir_,
covered with silver and with gold, ornamented the hall of the young
knight; all the plate which the crusades had left in his castle,
consisting of two large hanaps, or drinking cups, of silver, and a
saltcellar in the form of of a ship. Jugs of earthenware, and cups of
horn, lay ranged by platters of wood and pewter; and a momentary sting
of mortified pride passed through De Coucy's heart, as the poverty of
his house stood exposed to the eyes of the young troubadour.

For his part, however, Guillaume de la Roche seemed perfectly
contented with his fare and reception; praised the wine, which was
indeed excellent, and evinced a traveller's appetite towards the hot
steaks of pork, and the freshly slaughtered fowls.

Gradually De Coucy began to feel more at his ease, and, forgetting the
poverty of his household display, laughed and jested with his guest.
Pledging each other in many a cup, and at last adding thereto many a
song, the hours passed rapidly away. Gallon the fool was called; and a
stiff cord being stretched across the apartment, he performed feats
thereon, that would have broken the heart of any modern rope-dancer,
adding flavour and piquancy to the various contortions of his limbs,
by the rich and racy ugliness of his countenance.

"That cannot be his real nose?" observed the young Provençal, turning
with an inquiring look to De Coucy.

"By all the saints of heaven! it is," replied De Coucy; "at least, I
have seen him with no other."

"It cannot be!" said the troubadour, almost in the words of
Slawkenbergius, "There never was a nose like that! 'Tis surely a
sausage of Bijorre--both shape, and colour, and size. I will never
believe it to be a true nose!"

"Ho! Gallon," cried De Coucy. "Bring thy nose here, and convince this
fair knight that 'tis thine own lawful property."

Gallon obeyed; and jumping down from his rope, approached the place
where the two knights sat, swaying his proboscis up and down in such a
manner, as to show that it was almost preternaturally under the
command of his volition.

This, however, did not satisfy the young Provençal, who, as he came
nearer, was seized with an irresistible desire to meddle with the
strange appendix to the jongleur's face; and, giving way to this sort
of boyish whim, at the moment when Gallon was nearest, he seized his
nose between his finger and thumb, and gave it a tweak fully
sufficient to demonstrate its identity with the rest of his flesh.

Gallon's hand flew to his dagger; and it was already gleaming half out
of the sheath, when a loud "How now!" from De Coucy stayed him; and
affecting to take the matter as a joke, he threw a somerset backwards,
and bounded out of the hall.

"I could not have resisted, had he been an emperor!" said the young
man, laughing. "Oh, 'tis a wonderful appendage, and gives great
dignity to his countenance!"

"The dignity of ugliness," said De Coucy. "But take care that Gallon
the fool comes not across you with his dagger. He is as revengeful as
an ape."

"Oh, I will give him some gold," said the troubadour. "One touch of
such a nose as that is worth all the sheckles of Solomon's temple."

De Coucy laughed, and the evening passed on in uninterrupted glee and
harmony; but when the young knight found that his new companion was
the grandson of the unfortunate Guy de la Roche Guyon, the account of
whose assassination he had just read, his heart seemed to open to him
more than ever; and telling him, with a smile at the remembrance of
having called for his lance, how much the history had moved him, Guy
de Coucy poured forth his free and generous heart in professions of
interest and regard. The young stranger seemed to meet him as frankly;
but to a close observer perhaps, the very rounding of his phrases
would have betrayed more study than was consistent with the same
effusion of feeling which might be seen in all De Coucy's actions.

The châtelain, however, did not remark any defect; but after having
commanded a sleeping cup to be brought to the young Provençal's
bedroom, he led him thither himself. Here indeed his pride was
somewhat gratified to find that the old seneschal had preserved the
sleeping apartments with the most heedful care from the same decay
that had affected the rest of the castle, and that the rich tapestries
over the walls, the hangings of the bed, and its coverings of miniver
and sable, attested that the family of De Coucy Magny had once at
least known days of splendour.

The next morning, by sunrise, the whole party in the castle were
stirring; and Guillaume de la Roche Guyon gave orders to prepare his
horses. De Coucy pressed his stay, but could not prevail; and after
having adduced a thousand motives to induce his guest to prolong his
visit, he added one, which to his mind was irresistible. "I find,"
said he, "that during my absence, fighting for the recovery of
Christ's cross and sepulchre, a band of lawless routiers and cotereaux
have refuged themselves in my woods. Some two thousand, they are
called; but let us strike off one-half for exaggeration. Now, I
propose to drive them out with fire and sword, and doubt not to muster
fifty good men-at-arms. Your train amounts to nearly the same number,
and I shall be very happy to share the honour and pastime with so fair
a knight, if you be disposed to join me."

The young man coloured slightly, but declined. "Important business,"
he said, "which he was afraid must have suffered by the mishap of his
having lost his way the evening before, would utterly prevent him from
enjoying the great honour of fighting under Sir Guy de Coucy;--but he
should be most happy," he added, "to leave all the armed men of his
train, if they could be of assistance in expelling the banditti from
the territories of the Sire de Coucy. As for himself he no way feared
to pursue his journey with merely his unarmed servants."

De Coucy, however, declined--somewhat drily too; his favourable
opinion of the young stranger being greatly diminished by his
neglecting, on any account, so fair an opportunity of exercising his
prowess and gaining renown. He conducted him courteously to his horse,
notwithstanding, drank the stirrup cup with him at parting, and,
wishing him a fair and prosperous journey, returned into his castle.

Guillaume de la Roche Guyon rode on in silence at the head of his
troop, till he had descended to the very bottom of the hill on which
the château stood; then, turning to one of his favourite retainers, as
they entered the forest--"By the Lord! Philippeau," cried he, "saw ye
ever such beggarly fare? I slept not all night, half-choked as I was
with hog's flesh. And did you hear how he pressed me to my meat, as if
he would fain have choked me outright? The Lord deliver us from such
poor châtelains, and send them back to fight in Palestine.

"So say I, beau sire," replied the retainer: "if they will take ship
thither, we will pray for a fair wind."

"And the cups of horn, Philippeau," cried his lord, "and the wooden
platters--did you mark them? Oh, they were well worthy the viands they
contained!"

"So say I, beau sire," replied the living echo. "May they never
contain any thing better!--for château and châtelain, dinner and
dishes, were all of a piece."

"And think of his dreaming that I would go against the honest
cotereaux with him!" cried the youth--"risking my horse and my life,
and losing my time: all to rid his land of some scores of men as brave
as himself, I dare say, and a great deal richer. 'Twould have been a
rare folly, indeed!"

"So say I, beau sire," rejoined the inevitable Philippeau; "that
would have been turning his man before he had shown himself your
master.--Ha, ha, ha!"

"Haw, haw, haw!" shouted a voice in answer, whose possessor remained
for a moment invisible. The next instant, however, the legs of a man
appeared dangling from one of the trees, a few yards before them; then
down dropped his body at the extent of his arms; and, letting himself
fall like a piece of lead, Gallon the fool stood motionless in their
way.

"Ha!" cried Guillaume de la Roche, drawing forward what was called his
_aumonière_[17], a sort of pouch by his side, and taking out a couple
of pieces of gold, "Our good jongleur come for his guerdon!--Hold,
fellow!" and he cast the money to Gallon the fool, who caught each
piece before it fell to the ground.


--------------------

[Footnote 17: This part of the dress was a small pouch borne under the
arm, and called escarcelle, or pera, when carried by pilgrims to the
Holy Land. With the utmost reverence for the learning, talent, and
patience of Ducange, it appears to me that he was mistaken in his
interpretation of a passage of Cassian, relative to this part of the
pilgrim's dress. The sentence in Cassian is as follows: "Ultimus est
habitus eorum pellis caprina, quæ melotes, vel pera appellatur, et
baculus;" which Ducange affirms to mean, that they wore a dress of
goat-skins, a wallet, and a stick. Embarrassed by taking _habitus_ in
the limited sense of a garment, I should rather be inclined to think
that the author merely meant that the last part of their (the monks')
dress was what is called a pera, made of goat-skins, and a stick, and
not three distinct articles, as Ducange imagines.--See _Ducange_,
Dissert. xv.]

--------------------


"Haw, haw! haw, haw!" cried Gallon. "Gramercy, beau sire! gramercy!
Now will I tell thee a piece of news," he continued in his abrupt and
unconnected manner,--"a piece of news that never should you have heard
but for these two pieces of gold. Your lady love is at the castle of
the Sire de Montmorency. Speed thither fast, and you shall win her
yet.--Haw, haw! Do you understand? Win her old father first. Tell him
of your broad lands, and your rich castles; for old Sir Julian loves
gold, as if it paved the way to heaven.--Haw, haw, haw! When his love
is won, never fear but that his daughter's will come after; and then,
all because thou hast broad lands enough of thine own, thou shall have
all good Count Julian's to back them,--Haw, haw! haw, haw! Thus it is
we give to those that want not; and to those who want, we spit in
their face--a goodly gift!--Haw, haw! The world is mad, not I--'tis
but the mishap of being single in one's opinion!--Haw, haw, haw!" and
darting away into the forest without staying farther question, he was
soon lost to their sight.

No sooner, however, had Gallon the fool assured himself that he was
out of reach of pursuit, than suddenly stopping, he cast himself on
the ground, and rolled over and over two or three times, while he made
the wood ring with his laughter. "Now have I murdered him!--now have I
slaughtered him!--now have I given his throat to the butcher!" cried
he, "as sure as if I held his head under knock-me-down De Coucy's
battle-axe!--now will he go and buy the old fool Julian's consent and
promise, for gold and rich furniture.--Haw, haw, haw! Then will
Isadore refuse; and let the De Coucy know.--Haw, haw! Then will De
Coucy come with lance and shield, and provoke my gallant to the fight,
which for his knighthood he dare not refuse--then will my great
man-slayer, my iron-fisted singer of songs, crush me this tiny,
smoothed-faced, quaint apparelled imp of Provence, as I've seen a
great eater crunch a lark.--Haw, haw! haw, haw! And all for having
tweaked my nose, though none of them know any thing about it! He will
insult my countenance no more, I trow, when the velvet black moles are
digging through his cold heart with their white hands. Ah, cursed
countenance!" he cried as if seized with some sudden emotion of rage,
and striking his clenched fist hard upon his hideous face--"Ah, cursed
countenance! thou hast brought down upon me mock and mimicry, hatred
and contempt! Every thing is loved--every thing is sought--every thing
is admired, but I; and I am fled from by all that see me. I am hated,
and I hate myself--I am the devil--surely I am the devil!--and if so,
I will enjoy my reign.--Beware! beware! ye that mock me; for I will
live by gnawing your hearts--I will, I will!--Haw, haw!--that I will!"
and suddenly bounding up, he caught one of the large boughs above his
head, swung himself backward and forward for a minute in the air; and
then springing forward, with a loud screaming laugh, flew back to the
castle like an arrow shot from a bow.



CHAPTER XIV.


We must now return for a time to the château of Compiègne, in one of
the principal chambers of which, surrounded by a bevy of fair maids,
sat Agnes de Meranie, bending her graceful head over an embroidery
frame. As far as one might judge from the lively colours upon the
ground of white satin, she was engaged in working a coat of arms; and
she plied her small fingers busily as if in haste. Her maids also
were all fully engaged, each in some occupation which had in a degree
a reference to that of the queen. One richly embroidered a sword belt
with threads of gold; another wove a golden fringe for the coat of
arms; and a third was equally intent in tracing various symbols on a
banner.

From what internal emotion it is hard to say--for song is not always a
sign of joy--the queen, as she sat at her work, sang, from time to
time, some of the verses of one of the cançons of the day, in a sweet
low voice, and in that sort of indifferent tone, which seemed to show,
that while her hands were busy with the embroidery, and her voice was
as mechanically modulating the song, that nobler part of the mind,
which seems to dwell more in the heart than the brain, and whose
thoughts are feelings, was busy with very different matter.


                         THE SEEKER FOR LOVE

         "Oh where is Love?" the pilgrim said,
         "Is he pris'ner, dead, or fled?
           I've sought him far, with spear and lance.
                To meet him, seize and bind him.
           I've sought him in each tower of France,
                But never yet could find him--
                                           There,"--


"Should these flowers, in the treasure, be azure or gold, Blanche?"
demanded the queen.

"Gold, madam!--Oh, certainly gold!" replied the lady, and the queen
resumed her work and her song.


         "Oh where is Love?" he said again,
         "Let me not seek, and seek in vain!
           In the proud cities have I been,
                In cottages I've sought him,
           'Midst lords, 'midst shepherds on the green,
                But none of them have brought him--
                                               There."

         "He is banished," replied the knight,
         "By the cold looks of our ladies bright!"--
           "He is gone," said the lady fair,
                "To sport in Eden's arbours,
          As for men's hearts, his old repair,
                Treason alone now harbours--
                                               There."

         "I have found him," the pilgrim said;
         "In my heart he has laid his head.
           Though banish'd from knights and ladies rare,
                And even shepherds discard him,
          In my bosom shall be the god's lair.
                And with silken fetters I'll guard him--
                                               There."


"Was it not on Thursday the king went?" demanded the queen.

"No, madam," answered the lady who had spoken before. "He went on
Friday; and he cannot be back till the day after to-morrow, if he come
then; for that false, uncourteous king of England is as full of wiles
as of villanies, and will never give a clear reply; so that it always
costs my lord the king longer to deal with him than any of his other
vassals. Were I his brother, the Earl of Salisbury, who has been twice
at Paris, and is as good a knight as ever wore a lady's favour, I
would sweep his head off with my long sword, and restore the crown to
our little Arthur, who is the rightful king."

"Where is the young truant?" demanded the queen. "I would fain ask
him, whether he would have these straps on the shoulder of plain silk
or of gold. See forhim, good girl!"

But at that moment a part of the tapestry was suddenly pushed aside,
and a slight, graceful boy, of about fifteen, sprang into the room. He
was gaily dressed in a light tunic of sky-blue silk, and a jewelled
bonnet of the same colour, which showed well on his bright, fair skin,
and the falling curls of his sunny hair.

"Not so far off as you thought, fair cousin," said he, casting himself
on one knee beside the queen, and kissing one of the small delicate
hands that lay on the embroidery frame.

"Not eaves-dropping, I hope, Arthur," said Agnes de Meranie. "You, who
are so soon to become a knight, are too noble for that, I am sure."

"Oh, surely!" said the boy, looking up in her face with an ingenuous
blush. "I had but been to see my mother; and, as I came back, I
stopped at the window above the stairs to watch an eagle that was
towering over the forest so proudly, I could not help wishing I had
been an eagle, to rise up like it into the skies, and see all the
world stretched out beneath me. And then I heard you singing, and
there was no harm in staying to listen to that, you know, belle
cousine," he added, looking up with a smile.

"And how is the lady Constance, now?" demanded the queen.

"Oh! she is somewhat better," replied Arthur. "And she bade me thank
you, fair queen, in her name, as well as my own, for undertaking the
task which her illness prevented her from accomplishing."

"No thanks! no thanks! prince Arthur," replied the queen. "Is it not
the duty of every dame in France to aid in arming a knight when called
upon? But tell me, sir runaway, for I have been waiting these ten
minutes to know,--will you have these straps of cloth of gold, or
simple silk?"

This question gave rise to a very important discussion, which was just
terminated by Arthur's predilection for gold, when a page, entering,
announced to the queen that Guerin, the chancellor, desired a few
minutes' audience.

The queen turned somewhat pale, for the first sting of adversity had
gone deep in her heart, and she trembled lest it should be repeated.
She commanded the attendant, however, to admit the minister,
endeavouring, as much as possible, to conceal the alarm and uneasiness
which his visit caused her. The only symptom indeed of impatience
which escaped her appeared in her turning somewhat quickly round, and
pointing to a falcon that stood on its perch in one of the windows,
and amused itself, on seeing some degree of bustle, by uttering one or
two loud screams, thinking probably it was about to be carried to the
field.

"Take that bird away, Arthur, good youth," said the queen; "it makes
my head ache."

Arthur obeyed; and as he left the room the hospitaller entered, but
not alone. He was followed by a tall, thin, wasted man, dressed in a
brown frock, or _bure_, over which his white beard flowed down to his
girdle. In fact, it was Bernard the hermit, that, for the purposes we
shall explain, had once more for a time quitted his solitude, and
accompanied the minister of Philip Augustus to Compiègne.

The hospitaller bowed his head as he advanced towards the queen, and
the hermit gave her his blessing; but still, for a moment, the heart
of poor Agnes de Meranie beat so fast, that she could only reply by
pointing to two seats which her women left vacant by her side.

"Madame, we come to speak to you on matters of some importance," said
Guerin, looking towards the queen's women, who, though withdrawn from
her immediate proximity, still stood at a little distance. "Would it
please you to let us have a few minutes of your presence alone. Myself
and my brother Bernard are both unworthy members of the holy church,
and therefore may claim a lady's ear for a short space, without
falling into the danger of evil tongues."

"I fear no evil tongues, good brother," replied Agnes, summoning
courage to meet whatever was to come; "and though I know of no subject
concerning myself that I could wish concealed from the world, yet I
will bid these poor girls go at your desire. Go, Blanche," she
continued, turning to her principal attendant,--"go, and wait in the
ante-room till I call. Now, good brother, may I crave what can be your
business with so unimportant a person as my poor self?"

"As far, madam," replied Guerin, after a moment's pause, "as the weal
of this great realm of France is concerned, you are certainly any
thing but an unimportant person; nor can a fair, a noble, and a
virtuous lady ever be unimportant, be she queen or not. My brother
Bernard, from whom that most excellent knight and king, your royal
husband, has, as doubtless you know, lady, received many sage and
prudent counsels, has consented to join himself to me for the bold
purpose of laying before you a clear view of the state of this realm,
risking thereby, we know, to hurt your feelings, and even to offend
our lord the king, who has anxiously kept it concealed from you."

"Hold, fair brother!" said Agnes mildly, but firmly; "and before you
proceed, mark me well! Where the good of my noble Philip, or of his
kingdom of France, may be obtained by the worst pain you can inflict
on me, let no fear of hurting my feelings stop you in your course.
Agnes gives you leave to hurt Agnes, for her husband's good; but
where, in the slightest degree, the confidence you would place in me
is in opposition to the will of Philip, your king and mine, the queen
commands you to be silent. Stay, good brother, hear me out: I know
that you would say, it is for the king's ultimate good, though he may
disapprove of it at present; but to me, good bishop, and you father
hermit,--to me, my husband's wisdom is supreme, as his will to me is
law; and though I will listen to your counsel and advice with all
humility, yet you must tell me nothing that my lord would not have me
hear, for on his judgment alone will I depend."

Guerin looked to the hermit, who instantly replied:--"Daughter,
you have spoken well, wisely, and nobly; and I, even I, marvel
not,--though my heart is like a branch long broken from its stem,
withered and verdureless,--that Philip of France clings so fondly to
one, where beauty, and wisdom, and love, are so strangely united:
strangely indeed for this world! where if any two of such qualities
meet, 'tis but as that eastern plant which blossoms but once an age.
Let us only to council then, my child, and see what best may be done
to save the realm from all the horrors that menace it."

The hermit spoke in a tone of such unwonted mildness, that Guerin,
apparently doubting his firmness in executing the purpose that had
brought them thither, took up the discourse.

"Lady," said he, "after the ungrateful occurrence which terminated the
tournament of the Champeaux,--forgive me, that I recall what must pain
you,--you can hardly doubt that our holy father the pope, in his
saintly wisdom, considers that the decree of the prelates of France,
annulling the marriage of the king with Ingerburge of Denmark, was
illegal, and consequently invalid. Need I--need I, lady, urge upon you
the consequences, if our royal lord persists in neglecting, or
resisting, the repeated commands of the supreme pontiff?"

Agnes turned deadly pale, and pointed to a crystal cup filled with
water, which stood near. The minister gave it to her; and, having
drunk a few drops, she covered her eyes with her hand for a
moment--then raised them, and replied with less apparent emotion than
might have been expected: "You do not clothe the truth, sir, in that
soft guise which makes it less terrible of aspect to a weak woman's
eyes, though not less certain; but you have been a soldier, sir, and
also a recluse, mingling not with such feeble things as we are; and,
therefore, I must forgive you the hard verities you speak. What is it
you wish me to do?--for I gather from your manner that there is some
task you would fain impose upon me."

Pained by the effect his words had had upon the queen, and feeling
uncertain of how far he might venture, without driving her to actual
despair, embarrassed also by his small habits of intercourse with
women, Guerin turned once more to the hermit.

"The task, my child," said the old man, in compliance with the
minister's look, "is indeed a painful one--bitterly painful; but, if
it approaches to the agony of martyrdom, it is by its self-devotion
equally sublime and glorious. Think, daughter, what a name would that
woman gain in history, who, to save her husband's realm from civil war
and interdict, and himself from excommunication and anathema, should
voluntarily take upon herself the hard duty of opposing not only his
inclinations but also her own; should tear herself from all that was
dear to her, and thereby restore him to his glory and himself,--his
realm to peace,--and tranquillity to the bosom of the church! Think
what a name she would gain in history, and what such a sacrifice might
merit from Heaven!"

"Stay! stay! father," said Agnes, raising her hand. "Stay,--let me
think;" and casting down her beautiful eyes, she remained for a few
moments in profound thought. After a short pause, Guerin, lest the
impression should subside, attempted to fortify the hermit's arguments
with his own; but the queen waved her hand for silence, thought again,
and then raising her eyes, she replied:--

"I understand you, father; and, from my heart, I believe you seek the
good of my husband the king. But this thing must not be--it cannot
be!"

"It is painful, lady," said Guerin; "but to a mind like yours,--to a
heart that loves your husband better than yourself----"

"Hold, my good brother!" said Agnes, "I, a weak, unwise woman, am ill
fitted to contend with two wise and learned men like you; and
therefore I will at once tell you why I reject a task that no
consideration of my own feelings would have caused me to refuse;--no,
not had it slain me!" she added, raising her eyes to heaven, as if
appealing there for testimony of the truth of her assertion. "In the
first place, I am the wife of Philip king of France; and my lips shall
never do my fame the dishonour to admit that for an instant I have
been aught else, since his hand clasped mine before the altar of St.
Denis, in presence of all the prelates and bishops of his realm. I
should dishonour myself--I should dishonour my child, did I think
otherwise. As his wife, I am bound never to quit him with my
good-will; and to submit myself in all things to his judgment and his
wisdom. His wisdom then must be the judge; I will in no one thing
oppose it. If but in the slightest degree I see he begins to think the
sacrifice of our domestic happiness necessary to the public weal, I
will yield without resistance, and bear my sorrows alone to the grave
that will soon overtake me; but never till that grave has closed upon
me will I admit that there is another queen of France; never will I
acknowledge that I am not the lawful wife of Philip Augustus; nor ever
will I oppose myself to my husband's will, or arrogate to myself the
right of judging where he himself has decided. No! Philip has formed
his own determination from his own strong mind; and far be it from me,
his wife, by a word to shake his resolution, or by a thought to
impeach his judgment!"

The queen spoke calmly, but decidedly; and though no tone in her voice
betrayed any degree of vehemence, yet the bright light of her eye, and
the alternate flushing and paleness of her cheek, seemed to evince a
far more powerful struggle of feeling within, than she suffered to
appear in her language.

"But hear me, lady,--hear me once more, for all our sakes!" exclaimed
Guerin.

"Sir, I can listen no longer!" said Agnes, rising from her seat, with
a degree of energy and dignity, that her slight form and gentle
disposition seemed incapable of displaying. "My resolution is
taken--my course is fixed--my path is made; and nothing on earth shall
turn me therefrom. The icy mountains of my native land," she
continued, pointing with her hand in the direction, as she fancied, of
the Tyrol, "whose heads have stood for immemorial ages, beaten in vain
by storm and tempest, are not more immoveable than I am. But I am not
well," she added, turning somewhat pale--"I pray you, good sirs, leave
me!"

Guerin bowed his head, yet lingered, saying, "And yet I would
fain----"

"I am not well, sir," said the queen, turning paler and paler. "Send
me my women, I beseech you!"

Guerin made a step towards the door, but suddenly turned, just in time
to catch the beautiful princess in his arms, as, overcome by
excitement and distress of mind, she fell back in one of those
deathlike fainting fits which had seized her first at the Champeaux.

Her women were immediately called to her assistance; and the minister
and the hermit retired, disappointed indeed in the purpose they had
proposed to effect, but hardly less admiring the mingled dignity,
gentleness, and firmness with which the queen had conducted herself in
one of the most painful situations wherein ever a good and virtuous
woman was placed on earth.

"And now, what more can be done?" said Guerin, pausing on the last
step of the staircase, and speaking in a tone that implied abandonment
of farther effort rather than expectation of counsel. "What can be
done?"

"Nothing, my son," replied the hermit,--"nothing, without thou wouldst
again visit yon fair, unhappy girl, to torture her soul without
shaking her purpose. For me, I have no call to wring my
fellow-creatures' hearts; and therefore I meddle herein no more. Fare
thee well! I go to De Coucy Magny, as they call it, to see a wild
youth whose life I saved, I fear me, to little purpose."

"But not on foot!" said Guerin; "'tis far, good brother. Take a horse,
a mule, from my stable, I pray thee!"

"And why not on foot?" asked the old man. "Our Lord and Saviour walked
on foot, I trow; and he might have well been prouder than thou or I."



CHAPTER XV.


The woods of De Coucy Magny stretched far over hill and dale, and
plain, where now not the root of one ancient tree is to be seen; and
many a vineyard, and a cornfield, and a meadow are to-day spread fair
out in the open sunshine, which were then covered with deep and
tangled underwood, or shaded by the broad arms of vast primeval oaks.

Two straight roads passed through the forest, and a multitude of
smaller paths, which, winding about in every different direction,
crossing and recrossing each other,--now avoiding the edge of a pond
and making a large circuit, now taking advantage of a savannah, to
proceed straight forward, and now turning sharp round the vast boll of
some antique tree,--formed altogether an absolute labyrinth, through
which it needed a very certain clue, or very long experience, to
proceed in safety.

These paths, also, however multiplied and intersected, left between
them many a wide unbroken space of forest ground, where apparently the
foot of man had never trod, nor axe of woodman ever rung, the only
tracks through which seemed to be some slight breaks in the underwood,
where the rushing sides of a boar or deer had dashed the foliage away.
Many of these spaces were of the extent of several thousand acres; and
if the very intricacy of the general forest paths themselves would not
have afforded shelter and concealment to men who, like the cotereaux
and routiers, as much needed a well hidden lair as ever did the
wildest savage of the wood, such asylum was easily to be found in the
dark recesses of these inviolate wilds.

Here, on a bright morning of July, when the grey of the sky was just
beginning to warm with the rising day, a single man, armed with sword,
corselet, and steel bonnet, all shining with the last polishing touch
which they had received at the shop of the armourer, took his way
alone down one of the narrowest paths of the forest. In his hand he
held an _arbalète_,[18] or cross-bow, then a very late invention; and,
by the careful manner in which he examined every bush as he passed, he
seemed some huntsman tracing, step by step, the path of a deer.


--------------------

[Footnote 18: Guillaume le Breton says unqualifiedly, that Richard
C[oe]ur de Lion invented the _arbalète_, or cross-bow. Brompton, on
the other hand, only declares that he revived the use of it, "hoc
genus sagittandi in usum revocavit."]

--------------------


"Cursed be the fools!" muttered he to himself; "they have not taken
care to mark the _brisé_ well; and, in this strange forest, how am I
to track them? Ah, here is another!" and, passing on from tree to
tree, he at length paused where one of the smaller branches, broken
across, hung with its leaves just beginning to wither from the
interruption of the sap. Here, turning from the direct path, he pushed
his way through the foliage, stooping his head to prevent the branches
striking him in the face, but still taking pains to remark at every
step each tree or bush that he passed; and wherever he perceived a
broken branch, keeping it to his right-hand as he proceeded. His eyes
nevertheless were now and then turned to the left, as well as the
right; and at length, after he had advanced about four hundred yards
in this cautious manner, he found the boughs broken all around, so
that the _brisé_, as he called it, terminated there; and all guide by
which to direct his course seemed at an end.

At this place he paused; and, after examining more scrupulously every
object in the neighbourhood, he uttered a long whistle, which, after a
moment or two, met with a reply, but from such a distance that it was
scarcely audible. The cross-bowman whistled again; and the former
sound was repeated, but evidently nearer. Then came a slight rustling
in the bushes, as if some large body stirred the foliage, and then for
a moment all was still.

"Ha, Jodelle!" cried a voice at last, from the other side of the
bushes. "Is it you?" and pushing through the leaves, which had
concealed him while he had paused to examine the stranger we have
described, a genuine routier, if one might judge by his very rude and
rusty arms, entered the little open space in which the other had been
waiting. He had an unbent bow in his hand, and a store of arrows in
his belt, which was garnished still farther with a strong short sword,
and of knives and daggers not a few, from the _miséricorde_ of a
hand's breadth long, to the thigh knife of a peasant of those days,
whose blade of nearly two feet in length rendered it a serviceable and
tremendous weapon.

He had on his back, by way of clothing, a light iron haubert, which
certainly shone not brightly; nor possibly was it desirable for him
that it should. Though of somewhat more solid materials than a linen
gown, it had more than one rent in it, where the rings had either been
broken by a blow, or worn through by age: but, in these places, the
deficient links had been supplied by cord, which at all events kept
the yawning mouths of the gaps together. On his head was placed an
iron hat, as it was called, much in the shape of the famous helmet of
Mambrino, as described by Cervantes; and round about it were twined
several branches of oak, which rendered his head, when seen through
the boughs, scarce distinguishable from the leaves themselves; while
his rugged and dingy haubert might well pass for a part of the trunk
of one of the trees.

"Well met! well met, Jodelle!" cried he, as the other approached.
"Come to the halting place. We have waited for you long, and had
scanty fare. But say, what have you done? Have you slit the devil's
weasand, or got the knight's purse? Do you bring us good news or bad?
Do you come gay or sorry? Tell me! tell me, Jodelle! Thou art our
leader, but must not lead us to hell with thy new-fashioned ways."

"Get thee on to the halt," replied Jodelle; "I will tell all there."

The two cotereaux--for such they were--now made their way through the
trees and shrubs, to a spot where the axe had been busily plied to
clear away about half an acre of ground, round which were placed a
range of huts, formed of branches, leaves, and mud, capable of
containing perhaps two or three hundred men.

In the open space in the centre several personages of the same
respectable class as the two we have already introduced to the reader,
were engaged in various athletic sports--pitching an immense stone,
shooting at a butt, or striking downright blows at a log of wood, to
see who could hew into its substance most profoundly.

Others again were scattered about, fashioning bows out of strong
beechen poles, pointing arrows and spears, or sharpening their knives
and swords; while one or two lay listlessly looking on, seemingly
little inclined to employ very actively either their mental or
corporeal faculties.

The arrival of Jodelle, as he was called, put a stop to the sports,
and caused a momentary bustle amongst the whole party, the principal
members of which seemed to recognise in him one of the most
distinguished of their fraternity, although some of those present
gazed on him as a stranger.

"Welcome, welcome, sire Jodelle!" cried one who had been fashioning a
bow. "By my faith! we have much needed thy presence. We are here at
poor quarters. Not half so good as we had in the mountains of
Auvergne, till that bad day's work we made of it between the Allier
and the Puy; and a hundred thousand times worse than when we served
the merry king of England, under that bold knight Mercader. Oh, the
quarrel of that cross-bow at Chaluz was the worst shaft ever was shot
for us. Those days will never come again."

"They may, they may!" replied Jodelle, "and before we dream of,--for
good, hard wars are spoken of; and then the detested cotereaux
grow, with these good kings, into their faithful troops of
Brabançois,--their excellent free companions! But we shall see. In the
mean time, tell me where is Jean le Borgne?"

"He is gone with a party to look for some rich Jews going to Rouen,"
replied the person who had spoken before. "But we have plenty of men
here for any bold stroke, if there be one in the market; and
besides----"

"Did you meet with captain Vanswelder?" interrupted Jodelle. "The
fools at the castle believe he has two thousand bows with him. Where
does he lie? How many has he?"

"He never had above four hundred," replied another of the many
cotereaux who by this time had gathered round Jodelle; "and when your
men came--if you are the captain, Jodelle--he took such of us as would
go with him down to Normandy, to offer himself to the bad king John
for half the sum of crowns we had before. Now, fifty of us, who had
served king Richard, and value our honour, agreed not to undersell
ourselves after such a fashion as that; so we joined ourselves to your
men, to take the chance of the road."

"You did wisely and honourably," replied Jodelle; "but nevertheless
you would have been very likely to get hanged or roasted for your
pains, if I had not, by chance, stuck myself to the skirts of that Guy
de Coucy, who is now at his château hard by, menacing fire and sword
to every man of us that he finds in his woods. By St. Macrobius! I
believe the mad-headed boy would have attacked Vanswelder and his
whole troop, with the few swords he can muster, which do not amount to
fifty. A brave youth he is, as ever lived:--pity 'tis he must die! And
yet, when he dashed out my brother's brains with his battle-axe, I
vowed to God and St. Nicolas that I would die or slay him, as well as
that treacherous slave who betrayed us into attacking a band of
men-at-arms instead of a company of pilgrims. It is a firm vow, and
must be kept."

"And yet, good master Jodelle, thou hast been somewhat slow in putting
it in execution," said one of the cotereaux. "Here thou and Gerard
Pons have been near a month with him--and yet, from all that I can
divine, thou hast neither laid thy finger on master or man!"

"Ha! sir fool, wouldst thou have done it better?" demanded Jodelle,
turning on the speaker fiercely. "If I slew the fool juggler first,
which were easy to do, never should I get a stroke at his lord; and,
let me tell thee, 'tis no such easy matter to reach the master, who
has never doffed his steel haubert since I have seen him--except when
he sleeps, and then a varlet and a page lie across his door--a
privilege which he gave them in the Holy Land, where they saved his
life from a raw Saracen; and now, the fools hold it as such an honour,
they would not yield it for a golden ring. Besides," he added,
grinning with a mixture of shrewd malevolence and self-conceit in his
countenance, "I have a plot in my head. You know, I bear a brain."

"Yes, yes!" replied several; "we know thou art rare at a plot. What
goes forward now? I vow a wax-candle to the Virgin Mary if it be a
good plot, and succeeds," added one of them. But this liberality
towards the Virgin, unhappily for the priests, met with no imitators.

"My plot," replied Jodelle, "is as good a plot as ever was laid--ay,
or hatched either--and will succeed too. Wars are coming on thick. We
have no commander since our quarrel with Mercader. This De Coucy has
no men. To the wars he must and will; and surely would rather be
followed by a stout band of free companions, than have his banner
fluttering at the head of half a dozen varlets, like a red rag on a
furze bush. I will find means to put it in his head, and means to
bring about that you shall be the men. Then shall he lead us to spoil
and plunder enough, and leave it all to us when he has got it--for his
hand is as free as his heart is bold. My vow will stand over till the
war is done, and then the means of executing it will be in my own
hands. What say you?"

"A good plot!--an excellent good plot!" cried several of the
cotereaux; but nevertheless, though plunged deep in blood and crime,
there were many of the band who knit their brow, and turned down the
corner of the mouth, at the profound piece of villany with which
master Jodelle finished his proposal. This did not prevent them from
consenting, however; and Jodelle proceeded to make various
arrangements for disposing comfortably of the band, during the space
of time which was necessarily to elapse before his plan could be put
in execution.

The first thing to be done was to evacuate the woods of De Coucy
Magny, that no unpleasant collision might take place between the
cotereaux and De Coucy; and the next consideration was, where the band
was to lie till something more should be decided. This difficulty was
soon set aside, by one of the troop which had been originally in
possession of the forest, proposing as a refuge some woods in the
neighbourhood, which they had haunted previous to betaking themselves
to their present refuge. They then agreed to divide into two separate
bands, and to confine their system of plundering as much as possible
to the carrying off of horses; so that no difficulty might be found in
mounting the troop, in case of the young knight accepting their
services.

"And now," cried Jodelle, "how many are you, when all are here?"

"One hundred and thirty-three," was the reply.

"Try to make up three fifties," cried Jodelle, "and, in the first
place, decamp with all speed; for this very day De Coucy, with all the
horsemen he can muster, will be pricking through every brake in the
forest. Carry off all your goods--unroof the huts--and if there be a
clerk amongst you, let him write me a scroll, and leave it on the
place, to say you quit it, all for the great name of De Coucy. So
shall his vanity be tickled."

"Oh! there's Jeremy the monk can both read and write, you know," cried
several; "and as for parchment, he shall write upon the linen that was
in the pedlar's pack."

"And now," cried Jodelle, "to the work! But first show me where haunt
the deer, for I must take back a buck to the castle to excuse my
absence."

With very little trouble a fine herd was found, just cropping the
morning grass; and Jodelle instantly brought down a choice buck with a
quarrel from his cross-bow. He then bade adieu to his companions, and
casting the carcase over his shoulders, he took his way back to the
castle.

It may be almost needless here to say, that this very respectable
personage, calling himself Jodelle, was one of the two men who had
been received into De Coucy's service in Auvergne, for the purpose of
leading to Paris two beautiful Arabian horses he had brought from
Palestine. His objects in joining the young knight at all, and for
fixing himself in his train more particularly afterwards, having been
already explained by himself, we shall not notice them; but shall only
remark, that personal revenge being in those days inculcated even as a
virtue, it was a virtue not at all likely to be so confined to the
better classes, as not to ornament in a high degree persons of
Jodelle's station and profession.

The gates of the castle were open, and de Coucy himself standing on
the drawbridge, as the coterel returned.

"Ha! varlet," said he. "Where hast thou been without the gates so
early? I must have none here that stray forth when they may be
needed!"

"I had nought to do, beau sire," replied Jodelle, "and went but to
strike a buck in the wood, that your board might show some venison:--I
have not been long, though it led me farther than I thought."

"Ha! canst thou wing a shaft, or a quarrel well?" demanded De Coucy.
"Thou hast brought down indeed a noble buck, and hit him fair in the
throat. What distance was your shot?"

"A hundred and twenty yards," answered the coterel; "and if I hit not
a Normandy pippin at the same, may my bowstring be cut by your mad
fool, sir knight!"

"By the blessed saints!" cried De Coucy, "thou shalt try this very day
at a better mark; for thou shalt have a _coterel's_ head within fifty
steps, before yon same sun, that has just risen, goes down over the
wood!"

"The poor cotereaux!" cried Jodelle, affecting a look of compassion.
"They are hunted from place to place, like wild beasts; and yet there
is many a good soldier amongst them, after all."

"Out, fellow!" cried the knight. "Speakest thou for plunderers and
common thieves?"

"Nay, beau sire! I speak not for them," replied Jodelle. "Yet what can
the poor devils do? Here, in time of war, they spend their blood and
their labour in the cause of one or other of the parties; and then,
the moment they are of no further use, they are cast off like a
mail-shirt after a battle. They have no means of living but by their
swords; and when no one will employ them, what can they do? What could
I have done myself, beau sire, if your noble valour had not induced
you to take me into your train? All the money I had got in the wars
was spent; and I must have turned routier, or starved."

"But would you say, fellow, that you have been a coterel?" demanded De
Coucy, eyeing him from head to foot, as a man might be supposed to do
on finding himself unexpectedly in company with a wolf, and
discovering that it was a much more civilised sort of animal than he
expected.

"I will not deny, beau sire," replied Jodelle, "that I once commanded
two hundred as good free lances as ever served king Richard."

"Where are they now?" demanded De Coucy, with some degree of growing
interest in the man to whom he spoke. "Are they dispersed? What has
become of them?"

"I do not well know, beau sire," replied the coterel. "When Peter
Gourdun's arblast set Richard, the lion-hearted, on the same long,
dark journey that he had given to so many others himself, I quarrelled
with count Mercader, under whom I served. Richard with his dying
breath, as you have doubtless heard, fair sir, ordered the man
Gourdun, who had killed him, to be spared and set free; and Mercader
promised to obey: but, no sooner was king Richard as cold as king
Pepin, than Mercader had Gourdun tied hand and foot to the harrow of
the drawbridge of Chaluz, and saw him skinned alive with his own
eyes."

"Cruel villain!" cried De Coucy.

"Ay! fair knight," rejoined the coterel. "I ventured to say that he
was disobedient as a soldier, as well as cruel as a knight; and that
he ought to have obeyed the king's commands, just as much after he was
dead, as if he had lived to see them obeyed. What will you have? There
were plenty to tell Mercader what I said:--there were high words
followed; and I left the camp as soon as peace was trumpeted. I had
saved some money, and hoped to buy a haubert feof under some noble
lord; but, as evil fortune would have it, I met with a _menestrandie_,
consisting of the chief _menestrel_, and four or five jongleurs and
glee-maidens; and never did they leave me till all I had was nearly
gone: what lasted, kept me a year at Besançon; after which I was glad
enough to engage myself for hire, to ride your horses from Vic le
Comte to Paris."

"But your troop!" said De Coucy. "Have you never heard any news of all
your men?"

"I have heard, through one of the minstrels," said the coterel, "that
soon after I was gone, they repented and would not take service with
king John, as they had at first proposed; but came to offer themselves
to the noble king Philip of France, who, however, being at peace,
would not entertain them; and that they are now roaming about, seeking
some noble baron who will give them protection, and lead them where
they may gain both money and a good name."

"By the rood! they want the last, perhaps, more than the first,"
replied De Coucy, turning to enter the château.

The coterel's brow darkened, and he set his teeth hard, feeling the
head of his dagger as he followed the knight, as if his hand itched to
draw it and strike De Coucy from behind; which indeed he might easily
have done, and with fatal effect, at the spot where the haubert ending
left his throat and collar bare.

It is not improbable that Jodelle would have yielded without
hesitation to the temptation of opportunity, especially as his escape
over the drawbridge into the wood might have been effected in an
instant; but he saw clearly that his words had made an impression upon
the knight. For the moment indeed they seemed to produce no
determinate result, yet it was evident that whenever he found a
fitting opportunity, it would be easy to re-awaken the ideas to which
he had already given birth, and by suggesting a very slight link of
connection, cause De Coucy to make the application to himself.

One reason, perhaps, why very prudent men are often not so successful
as rash ones, may be that, even in the moment of consideration,
opportunity is lost. While the coterel still held his hand upon his
dagger, De Coucy's squire, Hugo de Barre, approached to tell the young
châtelain that his seven vassals--the poor remains of hundreds--were
very willing to ride against the cotereaux, though such was no part of
their actual tenure; and that, as soon as they could don their armour
and saddle their horses, they would be up at the castle. They promised
also to bring with them all the armed men they could get to aid them,
in the towns and villages in the neighbourhood, not one of which had
escaped without paying some tribute to the dangerous tenants of the
young knight's woods.

In little less than an hour, De Coucy found himself at the head of
near one hundred men; and, confident in his own powers both of mind
and body, he waited not for many others that were still hastening to
join him; but, giving his banner to the wind, set forth to attack the
banditti, in whatever numbers he might find them.

It were uninteresting to detail all the measures that De Coucy took to
ensure that no part of the forests should remain unsearched;
especially as we already know, that his perquisitions were destined to
be fruitless. Nor is it necessary to dwell upon the means that the
coterel employed to draw the young knight and his followers, without
seeming to do so, towards the spot which his companions had so lately
evacuated.

De Coucy, by nature, was not suspicious; but yet his eye very
naturally strayed, from time to time, to the face of Jodelle, whose
fellow feeling for the cotereaux had been so openly expressed in the
morning; and, as they approached the former halting-place of the
freebooters, he remarked somewhat of a smile upon his lip.

"Ha!" said he, in an under voice, at the same time turning his horse
and riding up to him. "What means that smile, sir Brabançois?"

Jodelle's reply was ready. "It means, sir knight, that I can help you,
and I will; for even were these my best friends, the laws by which we
are ruled bind me to render you all service against them, on having
engaged with you.--Do you see that broken bough? Be you sure it means
something. The men you seek for are not far off."

"So, my good friend," said De Coucy, "methinks you must have exercised
the trade of Brabançois in the green wood, as well as in the tented
field, to know so well all the secret signs of these gentry's hiding
places."

"I have laid many an ambush in the green wood," replied Jodelle
undauntedly; "and the signs that have served me for that may well lead
me to trace others."

"Here are foot-marks, both of horse and foot," cried Hugo de Barre,
"and lately trodden too, for scarce a fold of the moss has risen
since."

"Coming or going?" cried De Coucy, spurring up to the spot.

"Both, my lord," replied the squire. "Here are hoof marks all ways."

Without wasting time in endeavouring to ascertain which traces were
the last imprinted, De Coucy took such precautions as the scantiness
of his followers permitted for ensuring that the cotereaux did not
make their escape by some other outlet; and then boldly plunged in on
horseback, following through the bushes, as well as he could, the
marks that the band had left behind them when they decamped. He was
not long in making his way to the open space, surrounded with huts,
which we have before described. The state of the whole scene at once
showed, that it had been but lately abandoned; though the unroofing of
the hovels evinced that its former tenants entertained no thought of
making it any more their dwelling-place.

In the centre of the opening, however, stood the staff of a lance, on
the end of which was fixed a scroll of parchment, written in very fair
characters to the following effect:--

"Sire de Coucy! hearing of your return to your lands, we leave them
willingly--not because we fear you, or any man, but because we respect
your knightly prowess, and would not willingly stand in deadly fight
against one of the best knights in France."

"By St. Jerome! the knaves are not without their courtesy!" exclaimed
De Coucy. "Well, now they are off my land, God speed them!"

"Where the devil did they get the parchment?" muttered Jodelle to
himself:--and thus ended the expedition with two exclamations that did
not slightly mark the age.



CHAPTER XVI.


There are no truer chameleons than words, changing hue and aspect as
the circumstances change around them, and leaving scarce a shade of
their original meaning. _Piety_ has at present many acceptations,
according to the various lips that pronounce it, and the ears that
hear; but in the time of the commonwealth, it meant the grossest
fanaticism; and in the time of Philip Augustus, the grossest
superstition.

An age where knowledge and civilisation have made some progress, yet
not produced a cold fondness for abstract facts, may be called the
period of imagination in a nation; and then it will generally be found
that, in matters of religion, a brooding, a melancholy, and a
fanatical spirit reigns. Sectarian enthusiasm is then sufficient to
keep itself alive in each man's breast, without imagination requiring
any aid from external stimulants; and though the language of the
pulpit may be flowery and extravagant, the manners are rigid and
austere, and the rites simple and unadorned.

In more remote periods, however, where brutal ignorance is the general
character of society, the only means of communicating with the dull
imagination of the people is by their outward senses. Pomp, pageant,
and display, music and ceremony, accompany each rite of the church, to
give it dignity in the eyes of the multitude, who, if they do not
understand the spirit, at least worship the form. Such was the
case in the days of Philip Augustus. The people, with very few
exceptions,--barons, knights, serfs and ecclesiastics,--beheld, felt,
and understood little else in religion than the ceremonies of the
church of Rome. Each festival of that church was for them a day of
rejoicing; each saint was an object of the most profound devotion; and
each genuflexion of the priest (though the priest himself was often
bitterly satirised in the sirventes of the trouvères and troubadours)
was a sacred rite, that the populace would not have seen abrogated for
the world. The ceremonies of the church were the link--the only
remaining link--between the noble and the serf; and, common to
all,--the high, the low, the rich, the poor,--they were revered and
loved by all classes of the community.

Such was the general state of France, in regard to religious feelings,
when the kingdom was menaced with interdict by pope Innocent the
Third. The very rumour cast a gloom over the whole nation; but when
the legate, proceeding according to the rigid injunctions of the pope,
called the bishops, archbishops, and abbots of France to a council at
Dijon, for the purpose of putting the threat in execution, murmurs and
lamentations burst forth all over France.

Philip Augustus, however, remained inflexible in his resolution of
resistance; and, though he sent two messengers to protest against the
proceedings of the council, he calmly suffered its deliberations to
proceed, without a change of purpose. The pope was equally unmoved;
and the cardinal of St. Mary's proceeded to the painful task which had
been imposed upon him; declaring to the assembled bishops the will of
the sovereign pontiff, and calling upon them to name the day
themselves on which the interdict should be pronounced. The bishops
and abbots found all opposition in vain, and the day was consequently
named.

It was about this period that Count Thibalt d'Auvergne, having laid
the ashes of his father in the grave, prepared to retrace his steps to
Paris. His burden upon earth was a heavy one; yet, like the overloaded
camel in the desert, he resolutely bore it on without murmur or
complaint, waiting till he should drop down underneath it, and death
should give him relief. A fresh furrow might be traced on his brow, a
deeper shade of stern melancholy in his eye; but that was all by which
one might guess how painfully he felt the loss of what he looked on as
his last tie to earth. His voice was calm and firm, his manner clear
and collected: nothing escaped his remembrance; nothing indicated that
his thoughts were not wholly in the world wherein he stood, except the
fixed contraction of his brow, and the sunshineless coldness of his
lips.

When, as we have before said, he had given his power, as suzerain of
Auvergne, into the hands of his uncle, he himself mounted his horse,
and, followed by a numerous retinue, set out from Vic le Comte.

He turned not, however, his steps towards Paris in the first instance,
but proceeded direct to Dijon. Here he found no small difficulty in
obtaining a lodging for himself and train: the monasteries, on whose
hospitality he had reckoned, being completely occupied by the great
influx of prelates, which the council had brought thither; and the
houses of public entertainment being, in that day, unmeet dwellings
for persons of his rank. Nevertheless, dispersing his followers
through the town, with commands to keep his name secret, the Count
d'Auvergne took up his abode at the house of a _tavernier_, or
vintner, and proceeded to make the inquiries which had caused him so
far to deviate from his direct road.

These referred entirely to--and he had long before determined to make
them--the property of the Count de Tankerville; on which, however, he
soon found that king Philip had laid his hands; and therefore, the
story of Gallon the fool being confirmed in this point, he gave up all
farther questions upon the subject, as not likely to produce any
benefit to his friend De Coucy.

Occupied as he had been in Auvergne, the progress of the council of
bishops had but reached his ears vaguely; and he determined that the
very next day he would satisfy himself in regard to its deliberations,
which, though indeed they could take no atom from the load on his
heart, nor restore one drop of happiness to his cup, yet interested
him, perhaps, as much as any human being in France.

The day had worn away in his other inquiries, the evening had passed
in bitter thoughts; and midnight had come, without bringing even the
hope of sleep to his eyelids; when suddenly he was startled by hearing
the bells of all the churches in Dijon toll, as for the dead.
Immediately rising, he threw his cloak about him, and, drawing the
hood over his head and face, proceeded into the street to ascertain
whether the fears which those sounds had excited in his bosom were
well founded.

In the street he found a multitude of persons flocking towards the
cathedral; and, hurrying on with the rest, he entered at one of the
side-doors, and crossed to the centre of the nave.

The sight that presented itself was certainly awful. No tapers were
lighted at the high altar, not a shrine gave forth a single ray; but
on the steps before the table stood the cardinal legate, dressed in
the deep purple stole worn on the days of solemn fast in the church of
Rome. On each hand, the steps, and part of the choir, were crowded
with bishops and mitred abbots, each in the solemn habiliments
appropriated by his order to the funeral fasts; and each holding in
his hand a black and smoky torch of pitch, which spread through the
whole church their ungrateful odour and their red and baleful light.
The space behind the altar was crowded with ecclesiastics and monks,
on the upper part of whose pale and meagre faces the dim and
ill-favouring torch-light cast an almost unearthly gleam; while
streaming down the centre of the church, over the kneeling
congregation, on whose dark vestments it seemed to have no effect, the
red glare spread through the nave and aisles, catching faintly on the
tall pillars and Gothic tracery of the cathedral, and losing itself,
at last, in the deep gloom all around.

The choir of the cathedral were in the act of singing the _Miserere_
as the Count d'Auvergne entered; and the deep and solemn notes of the
chant, echoed by the vaulted roofs, and long aisles, and galleries,
while it harmonised well with the gloominess of the scene, offered
frightful discord when the deep toll of the death-bell broke across,
with sounds entirely dissonant. No longer doubting that his
apprehensions were indeed true, and that the legate was about to
pronounce the realm in interdict, Thibalt d'Auvergne advanced as far
as he could towards the choir, and, placing himself by one of the
pillars, prepared, with strange and mingled emotions, to hear the
stern thunder of the church launched at two beings whose love had made
his misery, and whose happiness was built upon his disappointment.

It were too cruel an inquest of human nature to ask if, at the thought
of Agnes de Meranie being torn from the arms of her royal lover, a
partial gleam of undefined satisfaction did not thrill through the
heart of the Count d'Auvergne; but this at least is certain, that
could he, by laying down his life, have swept away the obstacles
between them, and removed the agonising difficulties of Agnes's
situation, Thibalt d'Auvergne would not have hesitated--no, not for a
moment!

At the end of the _Miserere_, the legate advanced, and in a voice that
trembled even at the sentence it pronounced, placed the whole realm of
France in interdict,--bidding the doors of the churches to be closed;
the images of the saints, and the cross itself, to be veiled; the
worship of the Almighty to be suspended; marriage to the young, the
eucharist to the old and dying, and sepulture to the dead, to be
refused; all the rites, the ceremonies, and the consolations of
religion to be denied to every one; and France to be as a dead land,
till such time as Philip the king should separate himself from Agnes
his concubine, and take again to his bosom Ingerburge, his lawful
wife.

At that hard word, concubine, applied to Agnes de Meranie, the Count
d'Auvergne's hand naturally grasped his dagger; but the legate was
secure in his sacred character, and he proceeded to anathematise and
excommunicate Philip, according to the terrible form of the church of
Rome, calling down upon his head the curses of all the powers of
Heaven!

"May he be cursed in the city, and in the field, and in the highway!
in living, and in dying!" said the legate; "cursed be his children,
and his flocks, and his _domaines!_ Let no man call him brother, or
give him the kiss of peace! Let no priest pray for him, or admit him
to God's altar! Let all men flee from him living, and let consolation
and hope abandon his death-bed! Let his corpse remain unburied, and
his bones whiten in the wind! Cursed be he on earth, and under the
earth! in this life, and to all eternity!"

Such was in some degree, though far short of the tremendous original,
the anathema which the legate pronounced against Philip Augustus--to
our ideas, unchristian, and almost blasphemous; but then the people
heard it with reverence and trembling; and even when he summed up the
whole, by announcing it in the name of the Holy Trinity--of the
Father--of all mercy!--of the Son--the Saviour of the world!--and of
the Holy Ghost--the Lord and Giver of Life! the people, instead of
starting from the impious mingling of Heaven's holiest attributes with
the violent passions of man, joined the clergy in a loud and solemn
_Amen!_

At the same moment all the sounds ceased, the torches were
extinguished; and in obscurity and confusion, the dismayed multitude
made their way out of the cathedral.


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.



VOLUME THE SECOND.



CHAPTER I.

Gloom and consternation spread over the face of France:--the link
seemed cut between it and the other nations of the earth. Each man
appeared to stand alone: each one brooded over his new situation with
a gloomy despondency. No one doubted that the curse of God was upon
the land; and the daily,--nay, hourly deprivation of every religious
ceremony, was constantly recalling it to the imaginations of all.

The doors of the churches were shut and barred; the statues of the
saints were covered with black; the crosses on the high roads were
veiled. The bells which had marked the various hours of the day,
calling all classes to pray to one beneficent God, were no longer
heard swinging slowly over field and plain. The serf returned from the
glebe, and the lord from the wood, in gloomy silence, missing all
those appointed sounds that formed the pleasant interruption to their
dull toil, or duller amusements.

All old accustomed habits,--those grafts in our nature, which cannot
be torn out without agony, were entirely broken through. The matin, or
the vesper prayer, was no longer said; the sabbath was unmarked by its
blessed distinctness; the fêtes, whether of penitence or rejoicing,
were unnoticed and cold in the hideous gloom that overspread the land,
resting like the dead amidst the dying.

Every hour, every moment, served to impress the awful effects of the
interdict more and more deeply on the minds of men. Was a child born,
a single priest, in silence and in secrecy, as if the very act were a
crime, sprinkled the baptismal water on its brow. Marriage, with all
its gay ceremonies and feasts, was blotted, with other happy days,
from the calendar of life. The dying died in fear, without prayer or
confession, as if mercy had gone by; and the dead, cast recklessly on
the soil, or buried in unhallowed ground, were exposed, according to
the credence of the day, to the visitation of demons and evil spirits.
Even the doors of the cemeteries were closed; and the last fond
commune between the living and the dead--that beautiful weakness which
pours the heart out even on the cold, unanswering grave,--was struck
out from the solaces of existence.

The bishops and clergy, in the immediate neighbourhood of Dijon, first
began to observe the interdict; and gradually, though steadily, the
same awful privation of all religious form spread itself over France.
Towards the north, however, and in the neighbourhood of the capital,
the ecclesiastics were more slow in putting it in execution; and long
ere it had reached the borders of the Seine, many a change had taken
place in the fate of Guy de Coucy.

Having ascertained that the cotereaux had really left his woods, De
Coucy gave his whole thoughts to the scheme which had been proposed to
him by his squire, Hugo de Barre, for surprising Sir Julian of the
Mount and his fair daughter, and bringing them to his castle, without
letting them know, till after their arrival, into whose hands they had
fallen.

Such extravagant pieces of gallantry were very common in that age; but
there are difficulties of course in all schemes; and the difficulty of
the present one was, so to surprise the party, that no bloodshed or
injury might ensue; for certainly, if ever there was an undertaking to
which the warning against jesting with edged tools might be justly
applied, it was this.

The brain, however, of Hugo de Barre, which for a great part of his
life had been sterile, or at least, had lain fallow, seemed to have
become productive of a sudden; and he contrived a plan by which the
page, who, from many a private reason of his own, was very willing to
undertake the task, was to meet Sir Julian's party, disguised as a
peasant, and, mingling with the retinue, to forewarn the male part of
the armed train of the proposed surprisal, enjoining them, at the same
time, for the honour of the masculine quality of secrecy, not to
reveal their purpose to the female part of the train. "For," observed
Hugo de Barre, "a woman's head, as far as ever I could hear, is just
like a funnel: whatever you pour into her ear, is sure to run out at
her mouth."

De Coucy stayed not to controvert this ungallant position of his
squire, but sent off in all haste to Gisors, for the purpose of
preparing his château for the reception of such guests, as far as his
scanty means would permit. His purse, however, was soon exhausted; and
yet no great splendour reigned within his halls.

The air of absolute desolation, however, was done away; and, though
the young knight had ever had that sort of pride in the neatness of
his horse, his arms, and his dress, which perhaps amounted to foppery,
he valued wealth too little himself to imagine that the lady of his
love would despise him for the want of it. He could not help wishing,
however, that the king had given another tournament, where, he doubted
not, his lance would have served him to overthrow five or six
antagonists, the ransom of whose horses and armour might have served
to complete the preparations he could now only commence. It was a wish
of the thirteenth century; and though perhaps not assimilating very
well with our ideas at present, it was quite in harmony with the
character of the times, when many a knight lived entirely by his
prowess in the battle or the lists, and when the ransom of his
prisoners, or of the horses and arms of his antagonists, was held the
most honourable of all revenues.

As the period approached in which De Coucy had reason to believe Count
Julian and his train would pass near his castle, a warder was
stationed continually in the beffroy, to keep a constant watch upon
the country around; and many a time would the young knight himself
climb into the high tower, and gaze over the country spread out below.

Such was the position of the castle, and the predominating height of
the watch-tower, that no considerable party could pass within many
miles, without being seen in some part of their way. In general, the
principal roads lay open beneath the eye, traced out, clear and
distinct, over the bosom of the country, as if upon a wide map: and
with more eagerness and anxiety did De Coucy gaze upon the way, and
track each group that he fancied might contain the form of Isadore of
the Mount, than he had ever watched for Greek or Saracen. At length,
one evening, as he was thus employing himself, he saw, at some
distance, the dust of a cavalcade rise over the edge of a slight hill
that bounded his view to the north-east. Then came a confused group of
persons on horseback; and, with a beating heart, De Coucy strained his
eyes to see whether there were any female figures amongst the rest.
Long before it was possible for him to ascertain, he had determined
twenty times, both that there were, and that there were not; and
changed his opinion as often. At length, however, something light
seemed to be caught by the wind, and blown away to a little distance
from the party, while one of the horsemen galloped out to recover it,
and bring it back.

"'Tis a woman's veil," cried De Coucy. "'Tis she! by the sword of my
father!" and darting down the winding steps of the tower, whose
turnings now seemed interminable, he rushed into the court, called,
"To the saddle!" and springing on his horse, which stood always
prepared, he led his party into the woods, and laid his ambush at the
foot of the hill, within a hundred yards of the road that led to
Vernon.

All this was done with the prompt activity of a soldier long
accustomed to quick and harassing warfare. In a few minutes, also, the
disguises, which had been prepared to render himself and his followers
as like a party of cotereaux as possible, were assumed, and De Coucy
waited impatiently for the arrival of the cavalcade. The moments now
passed by with all that limping impotence of march which they always
seem to have in the eyes of expectation, For some time the knight
reasoned himself into coolness, by remembering the distance at which
he had seen the party, the slowness with which they were advancing,
and the rapidity with which he himself had taken up his position. For
the next quarter of an hour he blamed his own hastiness of
disposition, and called to mind a thousand instances in which he had
deceived himself in regard to time.

He then thought they must be near; and, after listening for a few
minutes, advanced at little to ascertain, when suddenly the sound of a
horse's feet struck on his ear, and he waited only the first sight
through the branches to make the signal of attack.

A moment, after, however, he beheld, to his surprise and
disappointment, the figure of a stout market-woman, mounted on a mare,
whose feet had produced the noise which had attracted his attention,
and whose passage left the road both silent and vacant once more.
Another long pause succeeded, and De Coucy, now almost certain that
the party he had seen must either have halted or turned from their
course, sent out scouts in various directions to gain more certain
information. After a short space one returned, and then another, all
bringing the same news, that the roads on every side were clear; and
that not the slightest sign of any large party was visible, from the
highest points in the neighbourhood.

Evening was now beginning to fall; and, very sure that Count Julian
would not travel during the darkness, through a country infested by
plunderers of all descriptions, the young knight, disappointed and
gloomy, emerged with his followers from his concealment, and once more
bent his steps slowly towards his solitary hall.

"Perhaps," said he mentally, as he pondered over his scheme and its
want of success,--"perhaps I may have escaped more bitter
disappointment--perchance she might have proved cold and
heartless--perchance she might have loved me, yet been torn from
me;--and then, when my eye was once accustomed to see her lovely form
gliding through the halls of my dwelling, how could I have afterwards
brooked its desolate vacancy? When my ear had become habituated to the
sound of her voice in my own home, how silent would it have seemed
when she were gone! No, no--doubtless, I did but scheme myself pains.
'Tis better as it is."

While these reflections were passing in his mind, he had reached the
bottom of the hill, on which his castle stood, and turned his horse up
the steep path. Naturally enough, as he did so, he raised his eyes to
contemplate the black frowning battlements that were about to receive
him once more to their stern solitude; when, to his astonishment, he
saw the flutter of a woman's dress upon the outward walls, and a gay
group of youths and maidens were seen looking down upon him from his
own castle.

De Coucy at first paused from mere surprise, well knowing that his own
household offered nothing such as he there beheld but the next moment,
as the form of Isadore of the Mount showed itself plainly to his
sight, he struck his spurs into his horse's sides, and galloped
forward like lightning, eager to lay himself open to all the
disappointments over which he had moralised so profoundly but a moment
before.

On entering the court he found a multitude of squires stabling their
horses with all the care that promised a long stay and, the moment
after, he was accosted by old Sir Julian of the Mount himself, who
informed him that, finding himself not so well as he could wish, he
had come to crave his hospitality for a day's lodging, during which
time he might communicate to him, he said, some important matter for
his deep consideration. This last announcement was made in one of
those low and solemn tones intended to convey great meaning; and,
perhaps, even Sir Julian wished to imply, that his ostensible reason
for visiting the castle of De Coucy was but a fine political covering,
to veil the more immediate and interesting object of his coming.

"But how now. Sir Guy!" added he; "surely you have been disguising
yourself! With that sack over your armour, for a _cotte d'armes_, and
the elm branch twisted round your casque, you look marvellous like a
coterel.

"By my faith! good Sir Julian," replied De Coucy with his usual
frankness, "I look but like what I intended then. The truth is,
hearing of your passing, I arrayed my men like cotereaux, and laid an
ambush for you, intending to take you at a disadvantage, and making
you prisoner, to bring you here; where, in all gentle courtesy, I
would have entreated your stay for some few days, to force a boar and
hear a lay, and forget your weightier thoughts for a short space. But,
by the holy rood! I find I have made a strange mistake; for, while I
went to take you, it seems you have taken my castle itself!"

"Good, good! very good!" cried Sir Julian; "but come with me. Sir Guy.
Isadore has found her way to the battlements already, and is looking
out at the view, which, she says, is fine. For my part, I love no fine
views but politic ones.--Come, follow me.--Let me see, which is the
way?--Oh, here--No, 'tisn't.--This is a marvellous stronghold, Sir
Guy! Which is the way?"

Cursing Sir Julian's slow vanity, in striving to lead the way through
a castle he did not know, with its lord at his side, Sir Guy de Coucy
stepped forward, and, with a foot of light, mounted the narrow
staircase in the wall, that led to the outer battlements.

"Stay, stay! Sir Guy!" cried the old man. "By the rood! you go so
fast, 'tis impossible to follow! You young men forget we old men get
short of breath; and, though our brains be somewhat stronger than
yours, 'tis said, our legs are not altogether so swift."

De Coucy, obliged to curb his impatience, paused till Sir Julian came
up, and then hurried forward to the spot where Isadore was gazing, or
seeming to gaze, upon the prospect.

A very close observer, however, might have perceived that--though she
did not turn round till the young knight was close to her--as his
clanging step sounded along the battlements, a quick warm flush rose
in her cheek; and when she did turn to answer his greeting, there was
that sort of glow in her countenance and sparkle in her eye which,
strangely in opposition with the ceremonious form of her words, would
have given matter for thought to any more quick-witted person than
Count Julian of the Mount.

That worthy baron, however, wholly pre-occupied with his own sublime
thoughts, saw nothing to excite his surprise, but presented De Coucy
to Isadore as a noble chief of cotereaux, who would fain have taken
them prisoner, had they not in the first instance stormed his castle,
and "manned, or rather," said Sir Julian, "womanned, his wall," and
the worthy old gentleman chuckled egregiously at his own wit. "Now
that we are here, however," continued Sir Julian, "he invites us to
stay for a few days, to which I give a willing consent:--what say you,
Isadore? You will find these woods even sweeter than those of
Montmorency for your mornings' walks."

Isadore cast down her large dark eyes, as if she was afraid that the
pleasure which such a proposal gave her, might shine out too
apparently through a commonplace answer. "Wherever you think fit to
stay, my dear father," replied she, "must always be agreeable to me."

Matters being thus arranged, we shall not particularise the passing of
that evening, nor indeed of the next day. Suffice it to say, that Sir
Julian found a moment to propose to De Coucy, to enter into the
coalition which was then forming between some of the most powerful
barons of France, with John king of England in his quality of duke of
Normandy, and Ferrand count of Flanders at their head, to resist the
efforts which Philip Augustus was making to recover and augment the
kingly authority.

"Do not reply. Sir Guy--do not reply hastily," concluded the old
knight; "I give you two more days to consider the question in all its
bearings; and on the third I will take my departure for Rouen, either
embracing you as a brother in our enterprise, or thanking you for your
hospitality, and relying on your secrecy."

De Coucy was glad to escape an immediate reply, well knowing that the
only answer he could conscientiously make, would but serve to irritate
his guest, and, perhaps, precipitate his departure from the castle. He
therefore let the matter rest, and applied himself, as far as his
limited means would admit, to entertain Sir Julian and his suite,
without derogating from the hospitality of his ancestors.

The communication of feeling between the young knight and his fair
Isadore made much more rapid advances than his arrangements with Sir
Julian. During the journey from Auvergne to Senlis, each day's march
had added something to their mutual love, and discovered it more and
more to each other. It had shone out but in trifles, it is true; for
Sir Julian had been constantly present, filling their ears with
continual babble, to which the one was obliged to listen from filial
duty, and the other from respect for her he loved. It had shone out
but in trifles, but what is life but a mass of trifles, with one or
two facts of graver import, scattered like jewels amidst the seashore
sands?--and though, perhaps, it was but a momentary smile, or a casual
word, a glance, a tone, a movement, that betrayed their love to each
other, it was the language that deep feelings speak, and deep feelings
alone can read, but which, then, expresses a world more than words can
ever tell.

When Isadore arrived at De Coucy's château, there wanted but one word
to tell her that she was deeply loved; and before she had been there
twelve hours that word was spoken. We will therefore pass over that
day,--which was a day of long, deep, sweet thought to Isadore of the
Mount, and to De Coucy a day of anxious hope, with just sufficient
doubt to make it hope, not joy,--and we will come at once to the
morning after.

'Twas in the fine old woods, in the immediate proximity of the castle,
towards that hour of the morning when young lovers may be supposed to
rise, and dull guardians to slumber in their beds. It was towards five
o'clock, and the spot, a very dangerous scene for any one whose heart
was not iron, with some fair being near him. A deep glade of the wood,
at the one end of which might be seen a single grey tower of the
castle, here opened out upon the very edge of a steep descent,
commanding one of those wide extensive views, over rich and smiling
lands, that make the bosom glow and expand to all that is lovely. The
sun was shining down from beyond the castle, chequering the grassy
glade with soft shadows and bright light; and a clear small stream,
that welled from a rock hard by, wound in and out amongst the roots of
the trees, over a smooth gravelly bed; till, approaching the brink of
the descent, it leaped over, as if in sport, and went bounding in
sparkling joyousness into the rich valley below. All was in
harmony--the soft air, and the birds singing their matins, and the
blue sky overhead; so that hard must have been the heart indeed that
did not then feel softened by the bland smiles of nature.

Wandering down the glade, side by side, even at that early hour, came
De Coucy and Isadore of the Mount, alone--for the waiting-maid, Alixe,
was quite sufficiently discreet to toy with every buttercup as she
passed; so that the space of full a hundred yards was ever interposed
between the lovers and any other human creature.

"Oh, De Coucy!" said Isadore, proceeding with a conversation, which
for various reasons is here omitted, "if I could but believe that your
light gay heart were capable of preserving such deep feelings as those
you speak!"

"Indeed, indeed! and in very truth!" replied De Coucy, "my heart,
sweet Isadore, is very, very different from what it seems in a gay and
heartless world. I know not why, but from my youth I have ever covered
my feelings from the eyes of my companions. I believe it was, at
first, lest those who could not understand should laugh; and now it
has become so much a habit, that often do I jest when I feel deepest,
and laugh when my heart is far from merriment; and though you may have
deemed that heart could never feel in any way, believe me now, when I
tell you, that it has felt often and deeply."

"Nay!" said Isadore, perhaps somewhat wilful in her mistake, "if you
have felt such sensations so often, and so deeply, but little can be
left for me."

"Nay, nay!" cried De Coucy eagerly. "You wrong my speech. I never
loved but you. My feelings in the world, the feelings that I spoke of,
have been for the sorrows and the cares of others--for the loss of
friends--the breaking of fond ties--to see injustice, oppression,
wrong;--to be misunderstood by those I esteemed--repelled where I
would have shed my heart's blood to serve. Here, have I felt all that
man can feel; but I never loved but you. I never yet saw woman, before
my eyes met yours, in whose hand I could put my hope and happiness, my
life and honour, my peace of mind at present, and all the fond dreams
we form for the future. Isadore, do you believe me?"

She cast down her eyes for a moment, then raised them, to De Coucy's
surprise, swimming with tears. "Perhaps I do," replied she.--"Do not
let my tears astonish you, De Coucy," she added; "they are not all
painful ones; for to find oneself beloved as one would wish to be, is
very, very sweet. But still, good friend, I see much to make us fear
for the future. The old are fond of wealth, De Coucy, and they forget
affection. I would not that my tongue should for a moment prove so
false to my heart, as to proffer one word against my father; but, I
fear me, he will look for riches in a husband to his daughter."

"And will such considerations weigh with you, Isadora?" demanded De
Coucy sadly.

"Not for a moment!" replied she. "Did I choose for myself, I would
sooner, far sooner, that the man I loved should be as poor a knight as
ever braced on a shield, that I might endow him with my wealth, and
bring him something more worthy than this poor hand. But can I oppose
my father's will, De Coucy?"

"What!" cried the knight; "and will you, Isadore, wed the first
wealthy lover he chooses to propose, and yield yourself, a cold
inanimate slave, to one man, while your heart is given to another?"

"Hush, hush!" cried Isadore--"never, De Coucy, never!--I will never
wed any man against my father's will; so far my duty as a child
compels me:--but I will never, never marry any man--but--but--what
shall I say?--but one I love."

"Oh, say something more, sweet, sweet girl!" cried the young
knight eagerly;--"say something more, to give my heart some firm
assurance--let that promise be to me!"

"Well, well!" said Isadore, speaking quick, as if afraid the words
should be stayed upon her very lip, "no one but you--Will that content
you?"

De Coucy pressed her hand to his lips, and to his heart, with all that
transport of gratitude that the most invaluable gift a woman can
bestow deserves; and yet he pressed her to repeat her promise. He
feared, he said, the many powerful arts with which friends work on a
woman's mind,--the persuasions, the threats, the false reports; and he
ceased not till he had won her to repeat again and again, with all the
vows that could bind her heart to his, that her hand should never be
given to another.

"They may cloister me in a convent," she said, as the very reiteration
rendered her promise bolder; and his ardent and passionate professions
made simple assurances seem cold: "but I deem not they will do it; for
my father, though quick in his disposition, and immoveable in what he
determines, loves me, I think, too well, to part with me willingly for
ever. He may threaten it; but he will not execute his threat. But oh!
De Coucy, have a care that you urge him not to such a point, that he
shall say my hand shall never be yours; for if once 'tis said, he will
hold it a matter of honour never to retract, though he saw us both
dying at his feet."

De Coucy promised to be patient, and to be circumspect, and all that
lover could promise; and, engaging Isadore to sit down on a mossy seat
that nature herself had formed with the roots of an old oak, he
occupied the vacant minutes with all those sweet pourings forth of the
heart to which love, and youth, and imagination alone dare give way,
in this cold and stony world. Isadore's eyes were bent upon him, her
hand lay in his, and each was fully occupied with the other, when a
sort of half scream from the waiting-maid Alixe woke them from their
dreams; and, looking up, they found themselves in the presence of old
Sir Julian of the Mount.

"Good! good! marvellous good!" cried the old knight.--"Get thee in,
Isadore--without a word!--Get thee in too, good mistress looker on!"
he added to Alixe; "'tis well thou art not a man instead of a woman,
or I would curry thy hide for thee. Get thee in, I say!--I must deal
with our noble host alone."

Isadore obeyed her father's commands in silence, turning an imploring
look to De Coucy, as if once more to counsel patience. Alixe followed,
grumbling; and the old knight, turning to De Coucy, addressed him in a
tone of ironical compliment, intended to be more bitter than the most
unmixed abuse.

"A thousand thanks! a thousand thanks! beau sire!" he said, "for your
disinterested hospitality. Good sooth, 'twas a pity your plan for
taking us prisoners did not go forward; for now you might have a fair
excuse for keeping us so, too. 'Twould have been an agreeable surprise
to us all--to me especially; and I thank you for it. Doubtless, you
proposed to marry my daughter without my knowledge also, and add
another agreeable surprise. I thank you for that, too, beau sire!"

"You mistake me, good Sir Julian," replied De Coucy calmly: "I did not
propose to wed your daughter without your knowledge, but hoped that
your consent would follow your knowledge of our love. I am not rich,
but I do believe that want of wealth is the only objection you could
have----"

"And enough surely," interrupted Sir Julian. "What! is that black
castle, and half a hundred roods of wild wood, a match for ten
thousand marks a year, which my child is heir too?--Beau sire, you do
mistake. Doubtless you are very liberal, where you give away other
people's property to receive yourself; but I am of a less generous
disposition. Besides," he added, more coolly, "to put the matter to
rest for ever. Sir Guy de Coucy, know that I have solemnly promised my
daughter's hand to the noble Guillaume de la Roche Guyon."

"Promised her hand!" exclaimed De Coucy, "to Guillaume de la Roche
Guyon! Dissembling traitor! By the holy rood! he shall undergo my
challenge, and die for his cold treachery!"

"Mark me!--mark me! I pray you, beau sire!" cried Sir Julian of the
Mount in the same cool tone. "Should Guillaume de la Roche Guyon
fall under your lance, you shall never have my child---so help me.
Heaven!--except with my curse upon her head. Ay! and even were he to
die or fall in the wars that are coming--for I give her not to him
till they be passed--you should not have her then--without," he added,
with a sneer, "I was your prisoner chained hand and foot; and you
could offer me acre with acre for my own land. But perhaps you still
intend to keep me prisoner, here in your stronghold. Such things have
been done, I know."

"They will never be done by me, Count Julian," replied De Coucy,
"though it is with pain I see you go, and would fain persuade you to
stay, and think better of my suit; yet my drawbridge shall fall at
your command, as readily as at my own. Yet, let me beseech you to
think--I would not boast;--but still let me say, my name and deeds are
not unknown in the world. The wealth that once my race possessed has
not been squandered in feasting and revelry, but in the wars of the
blessed cross, in the service of religion and honour. As to this
Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, I will undertake, within a brief space,
to bring you his formal renunciation of your promise."

"It cannot be, sir!--it cannot be!" interrupted Sir Julian. "I have
told you my mind. What I have said is fixed as fate. If you will let
me go, within this hour I depart from your castle; if you will not,
the dishonour be on your own head. Make no more efforts, sir," he
added, seeing De Coucy about to speak. "The words once passed from my
mouth are never recalled. Ask Giles, my squire, sir,--ask my
attendants all. They will tell you the same thing. What Count Julian
of the Mount has spoken is as immoveable as the earth."

So saying, the old man turned, and walked back to the castle followed
by De Coucy, mourning over the breaking of the bright day-dream,
which, like one of the fine gossamers that glitter in the summer, had
drawn a bright shining line across his path, but had snapped for ever
with the first touch.

Sir Julian's retinue were soon prepared, and the horses saddled in the
court-yard; and, when all was ready, the old knight brought down his
daughter to depart. She was closely veiled, but still De Coucy saw
that she was weeping, and advanced to place her on horseback. At that
moment, however, one of the squires, evidently seeing that all was not
right between his lord and the lord of the castle, thrust himself in
the way.

"Back, serf!" exclaimed de Coucy, laying his hand upon his collar, and
in an instant he was seen reeling to the other side of the court, as
if he had been hurled from a catapult. In the mean while De Coucy
raised Isadore in his arms, and, placing her on her horse, pressed her
slightly in his embrace, saying in a low tone, "Be constant, and we
may win yet;" then yielding the place to Sir Julian, who approached,
he ordered the drawbridge of the castle to be lowered.

The train passed through the arch, and over the bridge; and De Coucy
advanced to the barbican to catch the last look, as they wound down
the hill. Isadore could not resist, and waved her hand for an instant
before they were out of sight. De Coucy's heart swelled as if it would
have burst; but at that moment his squire approached, and put into his
hand a small packet, neatly folded and sealed, which, he said, Alixe
the waiting-woman had given him for his lord. De Coucy eagerly tore it
open. It contained a lock of dark hair, with the words "Till death,"
written in the envelope. De Coucy pressed it to his heart, and turned
to re-enter the castle.

"Ha, haw! Ha, haw!" cried Gallon the fool, perched on the battlements.
"Haw, haw, haw! Ha, haw!"



CHAPTER II.


By tardy conveyances, and over antediluvian roads, news travelled
slowly in the days we speak of; and the interdict which we have seen
pronounced at Dijon, and unknown at De Coucy Magny, was even some
hours older before the report thereof reached Compiègne.

We must beg the gentle reader to remember a sunny-faced youth, for
whom the fair queen of France, Agnes de Meranie, was, when last we
left him, working a gay coat of arms. This garment, which it was then
customary to bear over the armour, was destined to be worn by one
whose sad place in history has caused many a tear--Arthur the son of
that Geoffrey Plantagenet, who was elder brother of John Lackland, the
meanest and most pitiful villain that ever wore a crown.

How it happened that, on the death of Richard C[oe]ur de Lion, the
barons of England adhered to an usurper they despised rather than to
their legitimate prince, forms no part of this history. Suffice it,
that John ruled in England, and also retained possession of all the
feofs of his family in France, Normandy, Poitou, Anjou, and
Acquitaine, leaving to Arthur nought but the duchy of Brittany, which
descended to him from Constance his mother.

It is not, however, to be thought that Arthur endured with patience
his uncle's usurpation of his rights. Far from it. Brought up at the
court of France, he clung to Philip Augustus, the friend in whose arms
his father had died, and ceased not to importune him for aid to
recover his dominions. Philip's limited means, fatigued already by
many vast enterprises, for long prevented him from lending that
succour to the young prince, which every principle of policy and
generosity stimulated him to grant. But while no national cause of
warfare existed to make the war against king John popular with the
barons of France, and while the vassals of the English king, though an
usurper, remained united in their attachment to him, Phillip felt that
to attempt the forcible assertion of Arthur's rights would be
altogether hopeless. He waited, therefore, watching his opportunity,
very certain that the weak frivolity or the treacherous depravity of
John's character would soon either alienate some portion of his own
vassals, or furnish matter of quarrel for the barons of France.

Several years thus passed after Richard's death, drawn out in idle
treaties and fruitless negotiations:--treaties which in all ages have
been but written parchments; and negotiations, which in most instances
are but concatenations of frauds. At length, as Philip had foreseen,
the combination of folly and wickedness, which formed the principal
point of John's mind, laid him open to the long-meditated blow.

In one of his spurts of levity, beholding in the midst of her
attendants the beautiful Isabella of Angoulême, affianced to Hugues le
Brun de Lusignan, Comte de la Marche, the English monarch--without the
least hesitation on the score of honour, which he never knew, or
decency, which he never practised,--ordered her to be carried off from
the midst of her attendants, and borne to the castle of the Gueret,
where he soon induced her to forget her former engagements with his
vassal.

The barons of Poitou, indignant at the insult offered to their order,
in the person of one of their noblest companions; and to their family,
in the near relation of all the most distinguished nobles of the
province, appealed to the court of Philip Augustus, as John's
sovereign for his feofs in France. Philip, glad to establish the
rights of his court, summoned the king of England before his peers, as
count of Anjou; and on his refusing to appear, eagerly took advantage
of the fresh kindled indignation of the barons of Poitou and Anjou to
urge the rights of Arthur to the heritage of the Plantagenets.

Already in revolt against John, a great part of each of those
provinces instantly acknowledged Arthur for their sovereign; and the
indignant nobles flocked to Paris to greet him, and induce him to
place himself at their head. Arthur beheld himself now at the top of
that tide which knows no ebb, but leads on to ruin or to glory; and
accepting at once the offers of the revolted barons, he pressed Philip
Augustus to give him the belt and spurs of a knight, though still
scarcely more than a boy; and to let him try his fortune against his
usurping uncle in the field.

Philip saw difficulties and dangers in the undertaking; but, knowing
the power of opportunity, he yielded: not, however, without taking
every precaution to ensure success to the young prince's enterprise.
For the festivities that were to precede the ceremony of Arthur's
knighthood, he called together all those barons who were most likely,
from ancient enmity to John, or ancient friendship for the dead
Geoffrey, or from personal regard for himself, or general love of
excitement and danger,--or, in short, from any of those causes that
might move the minds of men towards his purpose,--to aid in
establishing Arthur in the continental feofs, at least, of the House
of Plantagenet.

He took care, too, to dazzle them with splendour and display, and to
render the ceremonies which accompanied the prince's reception as a
knight as gay and glittering as possible.

It was for this occasion that Agnes de Meranie, while Philip was
absent receiving the final refusal of John to appear before his court,
employed her time in embroidering the coat of arms which the young
knight was to wear after his reception.

Although the ceremony was solemn, and the details magnificent, we will
not here enter into any account of the creation of a knight, reserving
it for some occasion where we have not spent so much time in
description. Suffice it that the ceremony was over, and the young
knight stood before his godfather in chivalry belted and spurred, and
clothed in the full armour of a knight. His beaver was up, and his
young and almost feminine face would have formed a strange contrast
with his warlike array, had it not been for the fire of the
Plantagenets beaming out in his eye, and asserting his right to the
proud crest he bore,--where a bunch of broom was supported by the
triple figure of a lion, a unicorn, and a griffin, the ancient crest
of the fabulous king Arthur.

After a few maxims of chivalry, heard with profound respect by all the
knights present, Philip Augustus rose, and, taking Arthur by the hand,
led the way from the chapel into his council-chamber, where, having
seated himself on his throne, he placed the prince on his right hand,
and the barons having ranged themselves round the council-board, the
king addressed them thus:--

"Fair knights, and noble barons of Anjou and Poitou!--for to you,
amongst all the honourable lords and knights here present, I first
address myself,--at your instant prayer, that we should take some
measures to free you from the tyranny of an usurper, and restore to
you your lawful suzerain, we are about to yield you our well-beloved
cousin and son, Arthur, whom we tender as dearly as if he were sprung
from our own blood. Guard him, therefore, nobly. Be ye to him true and
faithful,--for Arthur Plantagenet is your lawful suzerain, and none
other, as son of Geoffrey, elder brother of that same John who now
usurps his rights: I, therefore, Philip, king of France, your
sovereign and his, now command you to do homage to him as your liege
lord."

At these words, each of the barons he addressed rose in turn, and,
advancing, knelt before the young prince, over whose fair and noble
countenance a blush of generous embarrassment spread itself, as he saw
some of the best knights in France bend the knee before him. One after
another, also, the barons pronounced the formula of homage, to the
following effect:--

"I, Hugo le Brun, Sire de Lusignan, Comte de la Marche, do liege
homage to Arthur Plantagenet, my born lord and suzerain,--save and
except always the rights of the king of France. I will yield him
honourable service; I will ransom him in captivity; and I will offer
no evil to his daughter or his wife in his house dwelling."

After this, taking the right hand of each in his, Arthur kissed them
on the mouth; which completed the ceremony of the homage.

"And now, fair barons," said Philip, "though in no degree do I doubt
your knightly valour, or suppose that, even by your own powers,
together with this noble youth's good right, and God to boot, you
could not chase from Anjou, Poitou, and Normandy, the traitor John and
his plundering bands, yet it befits me not to let my cousin and godson
go, without some help from me:--name, therefore, my fair knight," he
continued, turning to Arthur, "such of my valiant barons as, in thy
good suit, thou judgest fit to help thee valiantly in this thy
warfare; and, by my faith! he that refuses to serve thee as he would
me, shall be looked upon as my enemy!--Yet remember," added the king,
anxious to prevent offence where Arthur's choice might _not_ fall,
although such selections were common in that day, and not considered
invidious,--"remember that it is not by worthiness and valour alone
that you must judge,--for then, amongst the knights of France, your
decision would be difficult; but there are, as I have before shown
you, many points which render some of the barons more capable of
assisting you against John of England than others;--such as their
territories lying near the war; their followers being horse or foot;
and many other considerations which must guide you as you choose."

"Oh, beau sire," replied Arthur eagerly, "if it rests with me to
choose, I name at once that Sir Guy de Coucy I saw at the tournament
of the Champeaux. There is the lion in his eye, and I have heard how
in the battle of Tyre he slew nineteen Saracens with his own hand."

"He shall be sent to before the year is older by a day," replied
Philip. "His castle is but one day's journey from this place. I doubt
me though, from what I have heard, that his retinue is but small.
However, we will summon all the vassals from the lands of his aunt's
husband, the lord of Tankerville, which will give him the leading of a
prince; and, in the mean time, as that may take long, we will give him
command to gather a band of Brabançois; which may be soon done, for
the country is full of them, unhappily.--But speak again, Arthur. Whom
name you next?"

"I would say, Hugues de Dampierre, and the Sire de Beaujeu," replied
Arthur, looking towards the end of the table where those two barons
sat, "if I thought they would willingly come."

"By my life, they will!" replied Philip.--"What say you, Imbert de
Beaujeu?--What say you, Hugues de Dampierre?"

"For my part," replied Hugues de Dampierre, "you well know, beau sire,
that I am always ready to put my foot in the stirrup, in any
honourable cause. I must, however, have twenty days to raise my
vassals; but I pledge myself, on the twenty-first day from this, to be
at the city of Tours, followed by sixty as good knights as ever
couched a lance, all ready to uphold prince Arthur with hand and
heart."

"Thanks, thanks! beau sire," replied Arthur, in an ecstasy of delight,
"That will be aid, indeed!" Then, careful not to offend the barons of
Poitou by seeming to place more confidence in the strength of others
than in their efforts in his cause, he added, "If, even by the
assistance of the noble barons of Poitou alone, I could not have
conquered my feofs in France, such generous succour would render my
success certain; and in truth, I think, that if the Sire de Beaujeu,
and the Count de Nevers, who looks as if he loved me, will but hold me
out a helping hand, I will undertake to win back my crown of England
from my bad uncle's head."

"That will I,--that will I, boy!" said the blunt Count de Nevers.
"Hervey de Donzy will lend you his hand willingly, and his sword in it
to boot. Ay, and if I bring thee not an hundred good lances to Tours,
at the end of twenty days, call me recreant an' you will. My say is
said!"

"And I," said Imbert de Beaujeu, "will be there also, with as many men
as I can muster, and as many friends as love me, from the other bank
of the Loire. So, set thy mind at ease, fair prince, for we will win
thee back the feofs of the Plantagenets, or many a war-horse shall run
masterless, and many a casque be empty."

Arthur was expressing his glad thanks, for promises which plumed his
young hope like an eagle; and Philip Augustus was dictating to a clerk
a summons to De Coucy to render himself instantly to Paris, with what
servants of arms he could collect, if he were willing to serve Arthur
duke of Brittany in his righteous quarrel; when the seats which had
remained vacant round the council-chamber were filled by the arrival
of the bishops of Paris, the archbishop of Rheims, and several other
bishops and mitred abbots, who had not assisted at the ceremony of
Arthur's knighthood.

"You come late, holy fathers," said Philip, slightly turning round.
"The ceremony is over, and the council nearly so;" and he proceeded
with what he was dictating to the clerk.

The clergy replied not, but by a whisper among themselves; yet it was
easy to judge, from their grave and wrinkled brows, and anxious eyes,
that some matter of deep moment sat heavily on the mind of each. The
moment after, however, the door of the council-chamber again opened,
and two ecclesiastics entered, who, by the distinctive marks which
characterise national features, might at once be pronounced Italians.

The clerk, who wrote from Philip's dictation, was kneeling at the
table beside the monarch's chair, so that, speaking in a low voice,
the king naturally bent his head over him, and consequently took no
notice of the two strangers, till he was surprised into looking up, by
hearing a deep loud voice begin to read, in Latin, all the most heavy
denunciations of the church against his realm and person.

"By the Holy Virgin Mother of Our Lord!" cried the king, his brow
reddening and glowing like heated iron, "this insolence is beyond
belief! Have they then dared to put our realm in interdict?"

This question, though made generally, was too evidently applied to the
bishops, for them to escape reply; and the archbishop of Rheims,
though with a flush on his cheek, that bespoke no small anxiety for
the result, replied boldly, at least as far as words went.

"It is but too true, sire. Our holy father the pope, the common head
of the great Christian church, after having in vain attempted to lead
you by gentle means to religious obedience, has at length been
compelled, in some sort, to use severity; as a kind parent is often
obliged to chastise his----"

"How now!" cried Philip in a voice of thunder: "Dare _you_ use such
language to me? I marvel you sink not to the earth, bishop, rather
than so pronounce your own condemnation!--Put those men forth!" he
continued, pointing to the two Italians, who, not understanding any
thing that was said at the table, continued to read aloud the
interdict and anathema, interrupting and drowning every other voice,
with a sort of thorough bass of curses, that, detached and disjointed
as they were, almost approached the ridiculous. "Put them forth!"
thundered the king to his men-at-arms. "If they go not willingly, cast
them out headlong!--But no!" he added, after a moment, "they are but
instruments--use them firmly, but courteously, serjeant. Let me not
see them again.--And now, archbishop, tell me, have you dared to give
your countenance and assent to this bold insolence of the pontiff of
Rome?"

"Alas! sire, what could I do?" demanded the archbishop, in a much more
humble tone than that which he had before used.

"What could you do!" exclaimed Philip. "By the _joyeuse_ of St.
Charlemagne! do you ask me what you could do? Assert the rights of the
clergy of France!--assert the rights of the king!--refuse to recognise
the usurped power of an ambitious prelate! Yield him obedience in
lawful things; but stand firmly against him, where he stretched out
his hand to seize a prerogative that belongs not to his place! This
could you have done, sir bishop! and, by the Lord that liveth, you
shall find it the worse for you, that you have _not_ done it!"

"But, sire," urged one of the prelates on the king's right, "the
blessed pope is our general and common father!"

"Is it the act of a father to invade his children's rights?" demanded
Philip in the same vehement tone--"is it not rather the act of a bad
stepfather, who, coming in, pillages his new wife's children of their
inheritance?"

"By my life! a good likeness have you found, sir king!" said the blunt
Count de Nevers. "I never heard a better. The holy church is the poor
simple wife, who takes for her second husband this pope Innocent, who
tries to pillage the children--namely, the church of France--of their
rights of deciding on all ecclesiastical questions within the realm."

"It is too true, indeed!" said the king. "Now, mark me, prelates of
France! But you first, archbishop of Rheims! Did you not solemnly
pronounce the dissolution of my marriage with Ingerburge of Denmark,
after mature consideration and consultation with a general synod of
the clergy of France?"

"It is true, indeed, I did, sire!" replied the archbishop. "But----"

"But me no buts! sir," replied the king. "I will none of them! You
did pronounce the divorce. I have it under your hand, and that is
enough.--And you, bishop of Paris? You of Soissons?--and you?--and
you?--and you?" he continued, turning to the prelates, one after the
other.

No one could deny the sentence of divorce which they had pronounced
some years before, and Philip proceeded.

"Well then, by the Lord Almighty, I swear, that you _must_, and
_shall_, support your sentence! If you were wrong, you shall bear the
blame and the punishment; not I--no, nor one I love better than
myself. Let that bishop in France, who did not pronounce sentence of
divorce between Ingerburge and myself, enforce the interdict within
his diocese if he will; but whosoever shall do so, bishop or abbot,
whose hand is to that sentence, I will cast him forth from his
diocese, and his feofs, and his lands. I will strip him of his wealth
and his rank, and banish him from my realms for ever. Let it be marked
and remembered! for, as I am a crowned king, I will keep my word to
the letter!"

Philip spoke in that firm, deep, determined tone, which gave no reason
to hope or expect that any thing on earth would make him change his
purpose. And after he had done, he laid his hand still clasped upon
the table, the rigid sinews seeming with difficulty to relax in the
least from the tension into which the vehement excitement of his mind
had drawn them. He glanced his eyes, too, from countenance to
countenance of the bishops, with a look that seemed to dare them to
show one sign of resistance.

But all their eyes were cast down in bitter silence, each well knowing
that the fault, however it arose, lay amongst themselves; and Philip,
after a moment's pause, rose from the table, exclaiming--"Lords and
knights, the council is over;" and, followed by Arthur and the
principal part of the barons, he left the hall.



CHAPTER III.


I love not to see any one depart, for the sad magic of fancy is sure
to conjure up a host of phantasm danger, and sorrows, to fill the
space between the instant present, and that far distant one, when the
same form shall again stand before us. We are sure, too, that Time
must work his bitter commission,--that he must impair, or cast down,
or destroy; and I know hardly any pitch of human misery so great, that
when we see a beloved form leave us, we may justly hope, on our next
meeting, to find all circumstances of a brighter aspect. Make up our
accounts how we will with Fate, Time is always in the balance against
us.

The last sight of Isadore of the Mount called up in the breast of Guy
de Coucy as sombre a train of thoughts as ever invaded the heart of
man since the fall. When might he see her again? he asked himself, and
what might intervene? Would she not forget him? would she indeed be
his till death? Would not the slow flowing of hour after hour, with
all the obliterating circumstance of time's current, efface his image
from her memory? and even if her heart still retained the traces that
young affection had there imprinted, what but misery would it bring to
both? He had spoken hopes to her ear, that he did not feel himself;
and, when he looked up at the large, dark mass of towers and
battlements before him, as he turned back from the barbican, it struck
his eye with the cold, dead, unhopeful aspect of a tomb. He entered
it, however, and, proceeding direct to the inner court, approached the
foot of the watch-tower, the small, narrow door of which opened there,
without communicating with any other building.

De Coucy paced up its manifold steps, and, stationing himself at the
opening, fixed his eyes upon the skirt of the forest, where the road
emerged, waiting for one more glance of her he loved, though the
distance made the sight but a mere slave of Fancy. In about a quarter
of an hour, the train of Sir Julian appeared, issuing from the forest;
and De Coucy gazed, and gazed, upon the woman's form that rode beside
the chief of the horsemen, till the whole became an indistinct mass of
dark spots, as they wound onward towards Vernon.

Feeling, he knew not why, an abhorrence to his own solitary hall, the
young knight remained leaning his arms upon the slight balustrade of
the beffroy-tower, which, open on all sides, was only carried up
farther by four small pillars supporting the roof, where hung the
heavy bell call the _bancloche_. As he thus continued meditating on
all that was gloomy in his situation, his eyes still strayed
heedlessly over the prospect; sometimes turning in the direction of
Paris, as he thought of seeking fortune and honour in arms; sometimes
looking again towards Vernon though the object of his love was no
longer visible.

On the road from Paris, however, two objects were to be seen, which he
had not remarked before. The first was the figure of a man on foot, at
about half a mile's distance from the castle, to which it was slowly
approaching: the other was still so far off, that De Coucy could not
distinguish at first whether it was a horseman, or some wayfarer on
foot; but the rapidity with which it passed the various rises and
falls of the road, soon showed him that whoever it was, was not only
mounted, but proceeding at the full speed of a quick horse.

For a moment or two, from old habits of observation as a soldier, De
Coucy watched its approach; but then again really careless about every
thing that did not refer to his more absorbing feelings, he turned
from the view, and slowly descended the steps of the tower.

His feet turned once more mechanically to the drawbridge, and placing
himself under the arch of the barbican, he leaned his tall, graceful
figure against one of the enormous door-posts, revolving a thousand
vague schemes for his future existence. The strong swimmer Hope, still
struggled up through the waves that Reflection poured continually on
his head; and De Coucy's dreams were still of how he might win high
fortune and Isadora of the Mount.

Should he, in the first place, he asked himself, defy Guillaume de la
Roche Guyon, and make him yield his claim? But no;--he remembered the
serious vow of the old count; and he saw, that by so doing he should
but cast another obstacle on the pile already heaped up between him
and his purpose. Sir Julian had said, too, that Isadore's hand was not
to be given away till the coming wars were over. Those wars might be
long, De Coucy thought, and uncertain,--and hope lives upon reprieves.
He must trust to accident, and, in the mean time, strive manfully to
repair the wrong that Fortune had done him. But how? was the question.
Tournaments, wars,--all required some equipment, and his shrunk purse
contained not a single besant.

"Oh! 'tis a steep and rugged ascent!" thought De Coucy, "that same
hill of Fortune; and the man must labour hard that would climb it,
like yon old man, toiling up the steep path that leads hither."

Such was the only notice that the young knight at first took of the
weary foot-traveller he had seen from above; but gradually the figure,
dressed in its long brown robe, with the white beard streaming down to
the girdle, appeared more familiar to him; and a few steps more, as
the old man advanced, called fully to his remembrance the hermit whose
skill had so speedily brought about the cure of his bruises in
Auvergne, and whom we have since had more than one occasion to bring
upon the scene.

De Coucy had, by nature, that true spirit of chivalrous gallantry,
even the madness of which has been rendered beautiful by the great
Spaniard. No sooner did he recognise the old man than he advanced to
meet him, and aided him as carefully up the steep ascent as a son
might aid a parent.

"Welcome, good father hermit!" said he. "Come you here by accident, or
come you to rest for a while at the hold of so poor a knight as
myself?"

"I came to see whether thou wert alive or dead," replied the hermit.
"I knew not whether some new folly might not have taken thee from the
land of the living."

"Not yet," replied De Coucy with a smile: "my fate is yet an unsealed
one. But, in faith, good father, I am glad to see thee; for, when thou
hast broken thy fast in my hall, I would fain ask thee for some few
words of good counsel."

"To follow your own, after you have asked mine?" replied the hermit.
"Such is the way with man, at least.--But first, as you say, my son, I
will break my fast. Bid some of the lazy herd that of course feed on
you, seek me some cresses from the brook, and give me a draught of
water."

"Must such be your sole food, good hermit?" demanded De Coucy. "Will
not your vow admit of some more nourishing repast, after so long a
journey too?"

"I seek nought better," replied the hermit, as De Coucy led him into
the hall. "I am not one of those who hold, that man was formed to gnaw
the flesh of all harmless beasts, as if he were indeed but a more
cowardly sort of tiger. Let your men give me what I ask,--somewhat
that never felt the throb of life, or the sting of death,--those
wholesome herbs that God gave to be food to all that live, to bless
the sight with their beauty, and the smell with their odour, and the
palate with their grateful freshness. Give me no tiger's food. But
thou lookest sad, my son," he added, gazing in De Coucy's face, from
which much of the sparkling expression of undimmed gaiety of heart
that used once to shine out in every feature had now passed away.

"I _am_ sad, good hermit," replied the young knight. "Time holds two
cups, I have heard say, both of which each man must drink in the
course of his life;--either now the sweet, and then the bitter; or the
bitter first, and the sweet after; or else, mingling them both
together, taste the mixed beverage through existence. Now, I have
known much careless happiness in the days past, and I am beginning to
quaff off the bitter bowl, sir hermit."

"There is but one resource," said the hermit, "there is but one
resource, my son!"

"And what is that?" demanded De Coucy. "Do you mean death?"

"Nay," replied the old man; "I meant Christ's cross. There is the
hope, and the succour, and the reward for all evils suffered in this
life! Mark me as I sit here before thee:--didst thou ever see a thing
more withered--broken--worn? And yet I was once full of green
strength, and flourishing--as proud a thing as ever trampled on his
mother-earth: rich, honoured, renowned: I was a very giant in my
vanity! My sway stretched over wide, wide lands. My lance was always
in the vanward of the battle; my voice was heard in courts, and my
council was listened to by kings. I held in my arms the first young
love of my heart; and, strange to say! that love increased, and grew
to such absorbing passion, that, as years rolled on, I quitted all for
it--ambition, strife, pride, friendship,--all!"

"Methinks, surely," said De Coucy, with all his feelings for Isadore
fresh on his heart's surface, "such were the way to be happy!"

"As much as the way for a gambler to win is to stake all his wealth
upon one cast," replied the hermit. "But, mark me! she died, and left
me childless--hopeless--alone! And I went out into the world to search
for something that might refill the void her loss had left, not in my
heart, for that was as a sepulchre to my dead love, never to be opened
again;--no, but to fill the void in my thoughts--to give me something
to think of--to care for. I went amongst men of my own age (for I was
then unbroken), but I found them feelingless or brutal, sensual and
voluptuous; either plunderers of their neighbours, or mere eaters and
drinkers of fifty. I then went amongst the old; but I found them
querulous and tetchy; brimful of their own miseries, and as selfish in
their particular pains, as the others in their particular pleasures. I
went amongst the young, and there I found generous feelings and unworn
thoughts; and free and noble hearts, from which the accursed chisel of
time had never hewn out the finer and more exquisite touches of
Nature's perfecting hand: but then, I found the wild, ungovernable
struggling of the war-horse for the battle-plain; the light,
thoughtless impatience of the flower-changing butterfly, and I gave it
all up as a hopeless search, and sunk back into my loneliness again.
My soul withered; my mind got twisted and awry, like the black stumps
of the acacia on the sterile plains of the desert; and I lived on in
murmuring grief and misanthropy, till came a blessed light upon my
mind, and I found _that_ peace at the foot of Christ's cross, which
the world and its things could never give. Then it was I quitted the
habitations of men, in whose commune I had found no consolation, and
gave myself up to the brighter hopes that opened to me from the world
beyond!"

De Coucy was listening with interest, when the sound of the warder's
horn from one of the towers announced that something was in sight, of
sufficient importance to call for immediate attention.

"Where is Hugo de Barre, exclaimed the knight, starting up; and,
excusing this incivility to the hermit, he proceeded to ascertain the
cause of the interruption.

"Hugo de Barre is in the tower himself, beau sire," replied old Onfroy
the seneschal, whom De Coucy crossed at the hall door, just as he was
carrying in a platter full of herbs to the hermit, with no small
symptoms of respect. "I see not why he puts himself up there, to blow
his horn, as soon as he comes back! He was never created warder, I
trow!"

Without staying to notice the old man's stickling for prerogative, De
Coucy hastened to demand of the squire wherefore he had sounded the
great warder horn, which hung in the watch-tower.

"One of the king's serjeants-at-arms," cried Hugo from the top of the
tower, "is but now riding up the hill to the castle, as fast as he can
come, beau sire."

"Shut the gates," exclaimed De Coucy. "Up with the bridge!"

These orders were just obeyed, when the king's serjeant, whom Hugo had
seen from above, rode up and blew his horn before the gates. De Coucy
had by this time mounted the outer wall, and, looking down upon the
royal officer, demanded, "Whence come ye, sir serjeant, and whom seek
ye?"

"I come from Philip king of France," replied the serjeant, "and seek
Sir Guy de Coucy, châtelain of De Coucy Magny."

"If you seek for no homage or man-service, in the king's name, for
these my free lands of Magny," replied De Coucy, "my gates shall open
and my bridge shall fall; but, if you come to seek liege homage,
return to our beau sire, the king, and tell him, that of my own hand I
hold these lands; that for them I am not his man; but that they were
given as free share, by Clovis, to their first possessor, from whom to
me, through father and child, they have by right descended."

"I come with no claim, beau sire," replied the royal messenger, "but
simply bear you a loving letter from my liege lord. Sir[19] Philip the
king, with hearty greetings on his part."


--------------------

[Footnote 19: This must not be looked upon as an expression hazarded
without authority, notwithstanding its homeliness. The only titles of
honour known in those days were _Monseigneur_, _My Lord_; _Illustres
Seigneurs_, applied in general to an assembly of nobles; and _Beau
Sire_, or Fair Sir, which was not only bestowed upon kings, on all
occasions, but, even as lately as the reign of St. Louis, was
addressed to God himself. Many prayers beginning _Beau Sire Dieu_ are
still extant.]

--------------------


"Open the gates, then," cried De Coucy, still, however, taking the
precaution to add, in a loud voice,--"Mark, all men, that this is not
in sign or token of homage or service; but merely as a courtesy to the
messenger of the lord king!" So unsettled and insecure was the right
of property in those days, and such were the precautions necessary to
guard every act that might be construed into vassalage!

De Coucy descended to receive the messenger; and, on entering the
hall, found the old seneschal still busy in serving the hermit, and
apparently bestowing on him a full, true, and particular account of
the family of the De Coucys, as well as of his young lord's virtues,
exploits, and adventures, with the profound and inexhaustible
garrulity of an old and favoured servant. At the knight's approach,
however, he withdrew; and the king's serjeant-at-arms was ushered into
the hall.

"I was commanded to wait no answer, beau sire," said the man,
delivering the packet into the châtelain's hand. "The king, trusting
to the known loyalty and valour of the Sire de Coucy, deemed that
there would be but one reply, when he was called to high deeds and a
good cause."

"By my faith!" exclaimed the knight, "I hope some one has dared to
touch the glove I hung up in the queen's good quarrel! I will drive my
lance through his heart, if it be defended with triple iron! But I see
thou art in haste, good friend. Drain one cup of wine, and thou shalt
depart."

De Coucy cut not the silk that tied the packet till the messenger was
gone. Then, however, he opened it eagerly, and read:--

"To our faithful and well-beloved Sir Guy de Coucy, these. Having
undertaken and pledged our kingly word to Arthur Plantagenet duke of
Brittany, our well-beloved cousin and godson in arms, to aid him and
assist him, to the utmost of our power, in his just and righteous war
against John of Anjou, calling himself king of England: and he,
Arthur, our cousin, as aforesaid, having desired us to use our best
entreaty and endeavour to prevail on you. Sir Guy de Coucy, renowned
in arms, to aid with your body and friends in his aforesaid just wars;
we therefore, thus moved, do beg, as a king may beg, that you will
instantly, on the reading hereof, call together your vassals and
followers, knights, squires, and servants of arms, together with all
persons of good heart and prowess in war, volunteers or mercenaries,
as the case may be, to join the aforesaid Arthur at our court of the
city of Paris, within ten days from the date hereof, for the purposes
hereinbefore specified. Honour in arms, fair favour of your lady, and
the king's thanks, shall be your reward: and, for the payment of such
Brabançois or other mercenaries as you can collect to serve under your
banner in the said wars, not to exceed five hundred men, this letter
shall be your warrant on the treasurer of our royal _domaines_; at the
average hire and pay, mensual and diurnal, given by us during the last
war. Given at our court of Paris, this Wednesday, the eve of the
nativity of the blessed Virgin, Queen of Heaven, to whom we commend
thee in all love.

   "THE KING."


A radiant flush of joy broke over De Coucy's countenance as he read;
but before his eye had reached the end of the letter, importunate
memory raked up the forgotten bankruptcy of his means, and cast it in
his teeth. The hand which held the letter before his eyes dropped to
his side; and with the fingers of the other he wandered thoughtfully
over his brow, while he considered and reconsidered every expedient
for raising sums sufficient to furnish him worthily forth for the
expedition to which he was called. In the mean while, the hermit sat
beside him, marking his every action, with a glance that might perhaps
have suited Diogenes, had not a certain pensive shake of the head, as
he gazed on the working of human passions in the noble form before
him, showed a somewhat milder feeling than the cynic of the tub was
ever touched withal.

"Oh, that foul creditor, Poverty!" muttered De Coucy. "He chains the
mind and the heart, as well as the limbs; and pinions down great
desires and noble actions, to the dungeon floor of this sordid world.
Here, with a career of glory before me, that might lead to riches, to
fame, to love! I have not a besant to equip my train, all tattered
from the wars in Palestine. As for the Brabançois, too, that the king
bids me bring, they must ever have some money to equip, before they
are fit for service. He should have known _that_, at least; but he
forgot he wrote to a beggar, who could not advance a crown were it to
save his nearest from starvation!"

"You are vexed, my son," said the hermit, "and speak aloud, though you
know it not. What is it moves thee thus?"

"I am moved, good hermit," replied the knight sadly, "that now--at the
very moment when all the dearest hopes of my heart call on me to push
forward to the highest goal of honour, and when the way is clear
before me--that the emptiness of my purse--the perfect beggary of my
fortunes, casts a bar in my way that I cannot overleap. Read that
letter, and then know, that, instead of a baron's train, I can but
bring ten mounted men to serve prince Arthur; nor are these armed or
equipped so that I can look on them without shame. My lodging must be
in the field, my food gathered from the earth, till the day of battle;
nor dare I join the prince till then, for the expenses of the city
suit not those whose purses are so famished as mine."

"Nay, my son," replied the hermit calmly, "think better of thy
fortunes. To win much, one must often lose somewhat: and by a small
expense, though you may not ruffle it amongst the proudest of the
prince's train, you may fit yourself to grace it decently, till such
time as in the battle-field you can show how little akin is courage to
wealth. This may be surely done at a very small expense of gold."

"A small expense of gold!" exclaimed the young knight impatiently. "I
tell thee, good father, I have none! None--no, not a besant!"

"Nay, then," replied the hermit, "something you must sell, to produce
more hereafter. That rare carbuncle in your thumb-ring will bring you
doubtless gold enough to shine as brightly as the best."

"Nay," said De Coucy, "I part not with that. I would rather cut off
the hand it hangs upon, and coin that into gold."

"Some woman's trinket," said the hermit with a frown; for men attached
to the church, by whatever ties, were not very favourable to the
idolatrous devotion of that age to the fairer sex--a devotion which
they might think somewhat trenched upon their rights. "Some woman's
trinket, on my life!" said the hermit. "Thou wouldst guard no holy
relic so, young man."

"Faith, hermit, you do me wrong," replied De Coucy, without flinching.
"Though my love to my lady be next to my duty to my God, yet this is
not, as you say, a woman's trinket. 'Twas the gift of a good and noble
knight, the Count de Tankerville, to me, then young and going to the
Holy Land, put on my finger with many a wise and noble counsel, by
which I have striven to guide me since. Death, as thou hast heard,
good hermit, has since placed his cold bar between us; but I would not
part with this for worlds of ore. I am like the wild Arab of the
desert," he added with a smile, "in this sort somewhat superstitious;
and I hold this ring, together with the memory of the good man who
gave it, as a sort of talisman to guard me from evil spirits."

"Well! if thou wilt not part with it, I cannot help thee," replied the
hermit. "Yet I know a certain jeweller would give huge sums of silver
for such a stone as that."

"It cannot be!" answered De Coucy. "But now thou mind'st me; I have a
bright smaragd, that, in my young days of careless prosperity, I
bought of a rich Jew at Ascalon. If it were worth the value that he
gave it, 'twere now a fortune to me. I pray thee, gentle hermit, take
it with thee to the city. Give it to the jeweller thou speakest of;
and bid him, as an honest and true man, send me with all speed what
sum he may."

The hermit undertook the charge; and De Coucy instantly sent his page
to the chamber, where he had left the emerald, which, being brought
down, he committed to the hands of the old man, praying him to make no
delay. The hermit, however, still seemed to hanker after the large
carbuncle on De Coucy's hand, (which was also, be it remarked,
engraved with his signet,) and it was not till the young knight had
once and again repeated his refusal, that he rose to depart.

De Coucy conducted him to the outer gate, followed by his page, who,
when the old man had given his blessing, and begun to descend the
hill, shook his head with a meaning look, exclaiming, "Ah, beau sire!
he has got the emerald; and, I fear, you will never hear more of it:
but he has not got the carbuncle, which was what he wanted. When first
he saw you, at the time you were hurt in Auvergne, he looked at
nothing but that; and would have had it off your hand, too, if Hugo
and I had not kept our eyes on him all the while."

"Nonsense, nonsense, boy!" cried De Coucy; "send me the new servant of
arms, Jodelle!"

The coterel was not long in obeying the summons. "You told me," said
De Coucy, as he approached, "not many days ago, that you had once been
followed by a band of two hundred Brabançois, who were now, you heard,
roaming about, seeking service with some baron or suzerain who would
give them employment. Have you any means of communicating with them,
should you wish it?"

"Why, you know, beau sire," replied Jodelle, "and there is no use of
denying it, that we are oftentimes obliged to separate when the wars
are over, and go hither and thither to seek food as we best may; but
we take good care not to do so without leaving some chance of our
meeting again, when we desire it. The ways we manage that, are part of
our mystery, which I am in no manner bound to divulge; but I doubt not
I could soon discover, at least, where my ancient companions are."

"I seek none of your secrets, sir Brabançois," said De Coucy. "If you
can find your companions, do; and tell them for me, that the king
calls upon me to aid the prince Arthur Plantagenet against bad John of
Anjou, giving me commission, at the same time, to raise a body of five
hundred free spears, to serve under my leading; for whose pay, at the
rate of the last war, Philip makes himself responsible. If your
companions will take service with me, therefore, they may; but each
man must have served before, must be well trained to arms,
disciplined, and obedient; for De Coucy is no marauder, to pass over
military faults, because ye be free companions."

The coterel readily undertook a task that chimed so well with what he
already purposed; bounding his promises, however, to endeavours; and
striving to wring from De Coucy some offer of present supply to equip
his troop, whom he well knew to be in a very indifferent condition, as
far as arms and habiliments went.

Finding this to be out of the young knight's power, he left him, and
proceeded, as rapidly as possible, to seek out the hiding-place of the
wild band, with whom we have already seen him in contact. His farther
motions for the next two days were not of sufficient interest to be
here put down; but on the third morning he presented himself at the
young knight's chamber-door, as he was rising, bringing him news that
he had discovered his band, and that they willingly agreed to follow
so renowned a knight. He added, moreover, that at mid-day precisely,
they would present themselves for _monstre_, as it was called, or
review, in the great carrefour of the forest. In the mean time, he
swore faith, true service, and obedience to the young knight in their
name, for so long as the war should last.

The time of De Coucy and his followers had been employed in polishing
and preparing all the old arms, offensive and defensive, that the
castle contained; and of the former, indeed, no small quantity had
been collected; so that in the great hall lay many a sheaf of arrows
and a pile of spears, with swords, daggers, maces, and bows not a few;
some scores of battle-axes and partisans, together with various
anomalous weapons, such as bills, hooks, long knives, iron stars, and
cutting pikes. But of defensive armour the supply was wofully small.

At the appointed hour of mid-day, the knight, followed by his squire
and servants, now armed more completely than on their return from
Palestine, proceeded to the great carrefour of the forest, where, as
they approached, they beheld the body of Brabançois already arrived on
the ground, and drawn up in so regular and soldierlike a manner, that
even the experienced eye of De Coucy was deceived at first, and he
fancied them as well-armed a body of cavalry as ever he had seen.

When he came into the centre of the carrefour, however, a very
different sight struck his eye; and he could not help striking his
gauntleted hand upon his thigh till the armour rang again, with pure
mortification at seeing the hopeless state of rust and raggedness of
his new recruits.

Nor was this all: not two of the party presented the same appearance.
One was in a steel corselet,--another in a haubert,--another
had neither one nor the other. Some had brassards,--some had
cuissards,--some had splints,--some had none at all. In short, it
seemed as if they had murdered half-a-dozen men-at-arms, and divided
their armour between two hundred; so that when De Coucy thought of
presenting himself, thus followed, at the court of Philip Augustus, he
was first like to give himself up to despair, and then burst into a
loud fit of laughter.

A very slight circumstance, however, changed the face of affairs. As
he stood gazing on his ragged troop, with a half-rueful, half-laughing
countenance, an ass, apparently loaded with sand, and a man driving
it, were seen slowly approaching, as if intending to proceed to the
castle.

"By the Lord!" cried the young knight, "this is a Godsend--for, on my
word, we shall want sand enough to scrub our armour. What hast thou
there, good man?" he added, as the ass and his driver came near.

"Sand for the châtelain de Coucy," replied the man. "Be you he?"

"Yes," answered the knight.--"Sand for me!--What mean you, good
friend? You must mistake."

"Not so, beau sire!" replied the driver, approaching and speaking
low--"'tis a thousand marks of silver!"

"Ha!--Who from?"

"The price of a ring," replied the man, sent by the holy "Bernard of
St. Mandé by me, his humble penitent, to the Sire de Coucy."

"That alters the matter!" cried the knight.--"That alters the matter!
Take thy sand to the castle, good friend.--Hugo, ride with all speed
to Vernon. Bring me all the armourers of the town, with all the arms
they have ready. Send a serf to Gisors on the same errand. A thousand
marks of silver! By the Lord that lives! I will equip an army!"



CHAPTER IV.


The night was dark and gloomy. A thousand black clouds were flitting
over the sky, borne by a quick rough breeze, which ever and anon, with
wild caprice, would scatter them abroad, leaving the yellow moonlight
to shine bright upon their white edges, and pour a flood of mellow
radiance on the world below, and then again would whirl some deep
shadowy mass up from the profound verge of the horizon, and once more
overwhelm all in gloom and obscurity.

Amidst such occasional glimpses of moonlight, struggled on from the
village of Vincennes, through the great forest of St. Mandé, a stout,
short man, wrapped in an immense cloak, and preceded by a boy holding
a torch, which the high wind threatened every moment to extinguish.

"Art thou sure thou knowest the way, urchin?" cried the man, in a
wearied and panting tone, which argued plainly enough that his
corpulency loved not deeply the species of stumbling locomotion, to
which his legs subjected his paunch, amidst the roots and stones of
the forest path.--"Art thou sure that thou knowest the road?--Jesu
preserve me! I would not lose my way here, to be called to the
conclave!"

"Oh, I know the way well!" replied the boy, in a shrill treble. "I
come here every day to ask the prayers of the holy hermit for my
grandmother, who is ninety years of age, and sick of a hydropsy."

"Better pray God to take her, rather than to leave her!" replied his
companion. "'Tis a foolish errand mine,--'tis a foolish errand!" he
continued, speaking peevishly to himself, as he struggled to shake off
a pertinacious branch of withered thorn which, detached from its
parent bush, clung fondly to the tail of his robe, and trailed
solemnly on behind him. "Not the errand itself, which is holy, just,
and expedient; but the coming at night.--Take care, urchin! The wind
will blow it out, if you flaunt it after such a fashion. The coming at
night! Yet what could I do? The canon of St. Berthe's said true--that
if I came in the day, folks would say I could not govern my diocese
myself. I told you so, foolish child! I told you so! Now, what are we
to do?" continued he, raising his voice to the very highest pitch of
dismay and crossness, as a sharp gust of wind, up one of the long
glades, extinguished completely the flame of the torch, which had for
some time been wavering with a very undecided sort of flicker:--"now,
what are we to do?"

"Oh, I know the way, as well without the light as with," replied the
same childish voice: "I'll lead you right, beau sire."

"Ay, ay, child," said the other; "but I love not forests in the
dark:--this one has a bad name too--'tis said more sorts of evil
spirits than one haunt it. The Lord be merciful unto us! The devil is
powerful in these hours of darkness! And besides, there are other
dangers--" Here he stumbled over one of the large roots of an elm, shot
across the path, and would doubtless have fallen at full length, had
not his little guide's shoulder come opportunely in the way of his
hand, as it sprawled forth in the act of descent, and thus afforded
him some stay!--"Cursed be the root!" cried he;--"cursed be it, above
the earth and under the earth!--cursed be it in this life, and to all
eternity! Amen.--Lord have mercy upon me! Sinner that I am! I am
repeating the anathema. It will never go out of my head, that
anathema--cursed be it!--Boy, is it far off still?--Did not you hear a
noise?" he added suddenly.

"I hear the rustling of the wind," replied the child, "but nothing
more. You folks that do not live near the forests do not know what
sounds it makes sometimes."

"Evil spirits, boy!--evil spirits!" cried the man. "Evil spirits, I
tell thee, screaming in their malice; but I vow I hear a rushing, as
if there were some wild beasts.--Hark! hark!" and he grasped the boy's
arm, looking round and round in the darkness, which his fancy filled
with all the wild creation of fear.

"Ne in furore tuo arguas me, Domine, neque in irâ tuâ corripias me.
Miserere mei, Domine, quoniam infirmus sum!" cried the frightened
traveller; when suddenly the clouds rolled white away from the face of
the moon, and her beams for a moment, streaming down clear upon them,
showed the wide open glade of the wood, untenanted by any one but
themselves, with the old ruined tomb in the forest, and the rude hut
of Bernard the hermit, "Kyrie eleïson! Christe eleïson!" cried the
traveller, at the sight of these blessed rays; and running forward to
reach the dwelling of the hermit, before the clouds again brought
darkness over the face of the earth, he arrived, all breathless and
panting, and struck hard with his fist against the closed door. "Open,
open! brother Bernard! and let me in," he cried loudly. "Let me in,
before the moon goes behind the cloud again."

"Who art thou, who breakest through my prayers?" cried the voice of
the hermit. "And why fearest thou the going of the moon? Thou wilt not
be one jot wiser when she is gone?"

"Nay! 'tis I, brother Bernard," replied the traveller, fretting with
impatience to get in. "'Tis I, I tell thee, man! Thy friend and
fellow-labourer in this poor vineyard of France!"

"I have no friend but the Lord, and his holy saints," said the hermit,
opening the door.--"But how is this, lord bishop?

"Hush! hush!" cried the other, holding up his hand. "Do not let the
boy hear thee!--I come in secret, upon matters of deep import."

"Does not the text say, '_That which thou doest in secret shall be
proclaimed openly?_'" demanded the hermit.--"But what dost thou mean
to do with the boy?" continued he, laying his hand on the child's
head. "If he be as terrified as thou seemest to be, he will not love
to stay till thine errand with me is done."

"Oh, I fear not, father," said the youth. "I am forest bred; and
nothing evil would come within sight of thy dwelling."

"Well, poor lad!" said the hermit. "Sit there by the door; and if
aught scares thee, push it open, and come in."

The boy accordingly seated himself by the door, which was shut upon
him; and the hermit pointed to a place on his bed of straw and moss
for the bishop's seat. If it had any distinction, 'twas solely that of
being situated beneath the crucifix, under which a small lamp was
burning, giving the only light which the cell possessed.

The good prelate--for such he was--cast himself upon the moss, and
stretching forth his hands on his broad fat knees, employed no
inconsiderable space of time in cooling himself, and recovering his
breath, after the bodily fear and exertion he had undergone. The
hermit seated himself also; and waited, in grave silence, the
communication, whatever it was, that brought so respectable a
dignitary of the church as the bishop of Paris to his cell at so
unsuitable an hour.

"The Lord be merciful unto me!" cried the bishop, after a long pause.
"What perils and dangers have I not run this very night, for the
service of the church, and the poor Christian souls of the French
people, who are now crying for the rites and ceremonies of the church,
as the tribes of Israel cried for flesh in the desert!"

"But if report speaks right," replied the hermit, "thy flock has no
need to cry; as the interdict has not yet been enforced within thy
diocese, father bishop."

"True! unhappily too true!" cried the prelate, imagining that the
hermit imputed blame to him for the delay. "But what could I do,
brother Bernard? God knows--praised be his name!--that I have the
most holy and devout fear of the authority of the blessed church of
Rome;--but how can I bear to tear the food of salvation from the
mouths of the poor hungry people?--Besides, when I did but mention it
to the king, he cried out, in his rude and furious way:--'By the
joyeuse of St. Charlemagne! bishop, take care what you do! As long as
you eat of the fat, and drink of the strong, you prelates of France
mind nothing; but let me hear no more of this interdict, or I will
smite you hip and thigh! I will drive you forth from your benefices!
I will deprive you of your feofs, and I will strip you of your
wealth!--and then you may get rosy wines and rich meats where you
can!"

A sort of cynical smile gathered round the hermit's lip, as if in his
heart he thought Philip's estimate of the clergy of his day was not a
bad one: and indeed their scandalous luxury was but too fertile a
theme of censure to all the severer moralists of those times. He
contented himself, however, with demanding what the prelate intended
to do.

"Nay, on that subject, I came to consult you, brother Bernard,"
replied the bishop. "You have ever shown yourself a wise and prudent
man, since you came into this place, some seven years ago; and all you
have recommended has prospered.--Now, in truth, I know not what to do.
The king is furious. His love for this Agnes--(if God would but please
to take her to himself, what a blessing!)--is growing more and more.
He has already cast out half the bishops of France for enforcing the
interdict, and seized on the lands of many of the barons who have
permitted or encouraged it.--What can I do? If I enforce it, he will
cast me out too; and the people will be no better. If I do not enforce
it, I fall under the heavy censure of our holy father the pope!"

"You know your duty, father bishop, far better than I can tell it to
you," replied the hermit, with what might almost be called a malicious
determination to give no assistance whatever to the poor prelate, who,
between his fears of Rome and his dread of losing his diocese,
laboured like a ship in a stormy sea. "Your duty must be done."

"But hearken, brother Bernard," said the bishop. "You know John of
Arville, the canon of St. Berthe's--a keen, keen man, though he be so
quiet and calm, and one that knows every thing which passes in the
world, though he be so devout and strict in his religious exercises."

"I know him well," said the hermit sternly, as if the qualities of the
worthy canon stood not high in his esteem.--"What of him?"

"Why, you know that, now William of Albert is dead, this John is head
of the canons of St. Berthe," replied the bishop. "Now, you must know
still farther, that a few days ago, the young count d'Auvergne, with
his train, came to Paris, and was hospitably received by the canons of
St. Berthe, in whose church his father had been a great founder. As
the interdict is strictly kept in his own part of the country, the
Count could not confess himself there; but, wisely and religiously,
seeing that years might elapse before he could again receive the
comforts of the church if the interdict lasted, and not knowing what
might happen in the mean time--for life is frail, you know, brother
Bernard--he resolved to confess himself to John of Arville, the canon;
which he did. So, then, you see, John of Arville came away to me, and
told me that he had a great secret, which might heal all the wounds of
the state."

"How!" exclaimed the hermit, starting up. "Did he betray the secrets
of confession?"

"No, no! You mistake, brother Bernard," cried the bishop peevishly.
"No, no! He did not betray the secrets of confession; but, in his
conversations afterwards with the young count, he drew from him that
he loved this Agnes de Meranie, and that she had been promised to him
by her brother as he went to the Holy Land; and that her brother being
killed there, and her father knowing nothing of the promise, gave her
to the king Philip. But now, hearing that the marriage is not lawful,
he--her father, the duke of Istria--has charged this young Count
d'Auvergne, as a knight, and one who was her dead brother's dear
friend, secretly to command her, in his name, to quit the court of
France, and return to his protection: and the count has thereon staked
life and fortune, that if she will consent, he will find means to
bring her back to Istria, in despite of the whole world. This is what
he communicated to the reverend canon, not, as you say, in confession,
but in sundry conversations after confession."

Bernard the hermit gave no thought to what, in our eyes, may appear a
strange commission for a parent like the duke of Istria to confide to
so young a man as the Count d'Auvergne. But in those days, we must
remember, such things were nothing strange; for knightly honour had as
yet been so rarely violated, that to doubt it for an instant, under
such a mark of confidence, would have then been considered as a proof
of a base and dishonourable heart. The hermit's mind, therefore,
turned alone to the conduct of the priest.

"I understand," replied he, drawing his brows together, even more
sternly than he had heretofore done. "The reverend canon of St.
Berthe's claims kindred in an equal degree with the fox and the wolf.
He has taken care that the count's secrets, first communicated to him
in confession, should be afterwards repeated to him without such a
seal. Thinks he, I wonder, to juggle Heaven, as well as man, with the
letter instead of the spirit? And doubtless, now, he would gladly give
the Count d'Auvergne all easy access to persuade this unhappy girl to
return; so that he, the canon of St. Berthe's, may but save his
diocesan from the unwieldly burden of the interdict, at the expense of
a civil war between the powerful Count d'Auvergne and his liege lord
Philip. 'Tis a goodly scheme, good father bishop; but 'twill not
succeed. Agnes loves Philip--looks on him as her husband--refuses to
part from him--has the spirit of a hero in a woman's bosom, and may as
soon be moved by such futile plans, as the north star by the singing
of the nightingale."

"See what it is to be a wise man!" said the bishop, unable to restrain
a little triumphant chuckle, at having got the hermit at fault.--"See
what it is to be a wise man, and not hear a simple story out! Besides,
good brother Bernard, you speak but uncharitably of the reverend canon
of St. Berthe's, who is a holy and religious man; though, like you
yourself, somewhat too proud of worldly wisdom--a-hem!"

"A-hem!" echoed something near; at least, so it seemed to the quick
and timorous ears of the worthy prelate, who started up and listened.
"Did you not hear something, brother Bernard?" demanded he in a low
voice. "Did you not hear a noise? Cursed be it upon the earth!
and--God forgive me----"

"I heard the roaring of the wind, and the creaking of the wood, but
nothing else," replied the hermit calmly, "But what wert thou about to
say, father bishop? If I have taken thee up wrongly, I am ready to
acknowledge my folly. All men are but as fools, and I not amongst the
least. If I have wronged the canon of St. Berthe's, I am ready to
acknowledge the fault. All men are sinners, and I not amongst the
least. But how have I been mistaken at present?

"Why, altogether!" replied the prelate, after having re-assured
himself by listening several moments without hearing any farther
sound,--"altogether, brother Bernard, the canon of St. Berthe's aims
at nothing you have mentioned. No one knows better than he the queen's
mind as he is her confessor; and he sees well, that till the king
shows some sign of willingness to part with her, she will remain fixed
to him, as if she were part of himself: but he knows, too, that if
Philip does but evince the least coldness--the least slackening of the
bonds that bind him to her, she will think he wearies of his
constancy, or fears the consequences of his opposition to the holy
church; and will herself demand to quit him. His scheme therefore is,
to let the king grow jealous of the Count d'Auvergne to such a point,
as to show some chilliness to the queen. Agnes herself will think that
he repents of his opposition to our blessed father the pope, and will
propose to depart. Philip's jealousy will prevent him from saying nay;
and the reverend canon himself, as her confessor, will conduct her
with a sufficient escort to the court of Istria: where, please God! he
may be rewarded as he deserves, for the signal service he renders
France!"

"Hoo! hoo! hoo!" cried a voice from without; which sounded through the
unglazed window, as if it was in the very hut.

"Miserere mei, Domine, secundum multitudinem miserationem tuarum!"
exclaimed the bishop; the rosy hue of his cheek, which had returned,
in the security of the hermit's cell, to much the colour of the field
pimpernel, now fading away to the hue of the same flower in an ancient
herbal.

"'Tis but an owl!--'tis but an owl!" cried the hermit; and, fixing his
eyes on the ground, he meditated deeply for several minutes,
regardless of the still unsubdued terror of the bishop, who, drawing a
chaplet from beneath his robe, filled up the pause with _paters_ and
_aves_, strangely mixed with various ungodly curses from the
never-forgotten anathema, which in his fright, like prisoners in a
popular tumult, rushed forth against his will the moment fear unbarred
the door of his lips.

"It is a cruel scheme!" said the hermit at length, "and the man who
framed it is a cruel man; who, for his own base ambition of gaining
bishoprics in Germany and credit at Rome, scruples not to tear asunder
the dearest ties of the heart;--but for you or me, father bishop," he
added, turning more immediately to the prelate, "for you and me, who
have no other interest in this thing, than the general welfare of our
country, to prevent civil war and general rebellion of the king's
vassals, which will inevitably ensue if the interdict lasts,
especially while he bears so hard a hand upon them,--for us, I say, it
is to consider whether by the sorrow inflicted in this instance,
infinite, infinite misery may not be spared through the whole nation.
If you come then, father bishop, to ask me my opinion, I think the
scheme which this canon of St. Berthe's proposed may be made use
of--as an evil indeed--but as the least, infinitely the least, of two
great ones. I think, then, that it may conscientiously be made use of;
but, at the same time, I think the worse of the man that framed
it--ay! and he knew I should think the worse of him.

"Why, indeed, and in truth, I believe he did," answered the bishop,
who had somewhat recovered his composure by the non-repetition of the
sounds, "I believe he did, for he mightily opposed my consulting you on
the matter; saying that--though all the world knows, brother Bernard,
you are a wise man, and a holy one too; for, indeed, none but a holy
man dare inhabit such a wild place, amidst all sorts of evil
spirits--cursed be they above the earth and under the earth!--but
saying--as I was going to observe--that if I were seen coming here,
people would think I knew not how to govern my own diocese, but must
needs have your help. So I came here at night, God forgive me and
protect me! for, if ever the sin of pride and false shame was
punished, and repented of with fear and trembling, it has been this
night."

So frank a confession changed the cynical smile that was gathering
round the anchorite's lips into one of a blander character. "Your
coming in the day, good father bishop," replied he, "would have
honoured me, without disgracing you. The world would but have said,
that the holy bishop of Paris visited the poor hermit of Vincennes, to
consult with him for the people's good.--But let us to the question.
If you will follow my counsel, good father, you will lay this scheme
before that honoured and noble knight and reverend bishop, Guerin;
for, believe me, it will be necessary to keep a careful guard over
Philip, and to watch him well, lest, his passions being raised to a
dangerous degree, it become necessary to tell him suddenly the whole
truth. I am absent from him; you are busied with the cares of your
flock; and the canon of St. Berthe's must not be trusted. But Guerin
is always near him; and, with your holy zeal and his prudent watching,
this scheme, though it may tear the heart of the king and of the fair
unfortunate girl, Agnes his wife, may also save bloodshed, rebellion,
and civil war, and raise the interdict from this ill-fated kingdom."

A loud scream, like that of some ravenous bird, but prolonged so that
it seemed as if no mortal breath could have given it utterance,
thrilled through the air as the hermit spoke, and vibrated round and
round the hut. The bishop sank on his knees, and his little guide
pushed open the door and ran in. "I dare stay out there no longer!"
cried the boy: "there is something in the tree!--there is something in
the tree!"

"Where?" cried the hermit, striding towards the door, his worn and
emaciated figure erecting itself, and seeming to swell out with
new-born energy. "Where is this sight? Were it the prince of evil
himself, I defy him!"--and with a firm step, he advanced into the
moonlight, between the threshold of the hut and the ancient tomb,
casting his eyes up into the shattered oak, whose remaining branches
stretched wide and strong over the path.

To his surprise, however, he beheld seated on one of the large boughs,
in the attitude of an ape, a dark figure, like that of a man; who no
sooner cast his eyes on the hermit, than he began to pour forth more
strange and detestable sounds than ever were uttered by a human
tongue, moving backwards along the branches at the same time with
superhuman agility.

"Avoid thee, Satan! In the name of Jesus thy conqueror! avoid thee!"
cried the hermit, holding up the crucifix attached to his rosary.

"Ha, ha! oh rare! The interdict, the interdict!" shouted the vision
gliding along amongst the branches. "Oh rare! oh rare!" And then burst
forth a wild scream of unnatural laughter, which for a moment rang
round and round, as if echoed by a thousand voices; then died away
fainter and fainter, and at last was lost entirely; while the dark
figure, from which it seemed to proceed, disappeared amidst the gloom
of the thick boughs and leaves.

"Rise, rise, father bishop!" cried the hermit, entering the hut. "The
fiend is gone; and verily his coming, where he has never dared to come
before, seemed to show that he is fearful of your design, and would
fain scare us from endeavouring to raise the interdict:--rise, good
father, I say, and be not frightened from your endeavour!" So saying,
the hermit stooped and aided his reverend visiter; whom at his return
he had found stretched flat on his face, at the foot of the cross,
before which the anchorite's lamp was burning.

"Now, Jesu preserve us! this is very dreadful, brother Bernard!" cried
the poor bishop, his teeth chattering in his head. "How you can endure
it, and go on living here, exposed to such attacks, I know not; but I
do know that one week of such residence would wear all the flesh off
my bones."

The hermit glanced his eye, with somewhat of a cold smile, from the
round, well-covered limbs of the prelate, to his own meagre and sinewy
form. He made not, however, the comment that sprang to his lips, but
simply replied, "I am not often subject to such visitations, and, as
you see, the enemy flies from me when I appear."

"But, for all that," answered the bishop, "I tell thee, good brother
Bernard, I dare as much go home through that forest alone with this
urchin, as I dare jump off the tower of the Louvre!"

"Fear not: I will go with thee," replied the anchorite. "The boy, too,
has a torch, I see. The night is now clear, and the wind somewhat gone
down, so that the way will be soon trodden."

Company of any kind, under such circumstances, would have been
received as a blessing by the good bishop; but that of so holy a man
as the hermit was reputed to be, was doubly a security. Clinging to
him, therefore, somewhat closer than bespoke much valour, the prelate
suffered himself to be led out into the forest; while the boy, with
his torch now lighted again, accompanied them, a little indeed in
advance, but not sufficiently so as to prevent him also from holding
tight by the anchorite's frock.

Thus, then, they proceeded through the winding paths of the wood, now
in light, and now in shade, till the dark roofs of the village near
Vincennes, sleeping quietly in the moonshine, met once more the
delighted eyes of the bishop of Paris. Here the anchorite bade God
speed him, and, turning his steps back again, took the way to his hut.

Did we say that the hermit, Bernard, did not every now and then give a
glance to the wood on either side as he passed, or that he did not
hold his crucifix in his hand, and, from time to time, murmur a prayer
to Heaven or his guardian angel, we should say what was false; but
still he walked on with a firm step, and a far more erect carriage
than usual, prepared to encounter the enemy of mankind, should he
appear in bodily shape, with all the courage of a Christian and the
zeal of an enthusiast.

When he had reached his hut, however, and fastened the door, he cast
himself on his knees before the cross, and, folding his arms devoutly
on his bosom, he exclaimed:--"O, blessed Saviour! pardon if J have
sinned in the counsel I have this night given. Let not weakness of
understanding be attributed to me for wickedness of heart; but, as
thou seest that my whole desire is to serve Thee, and do good unto my
fellow-christians, grant, O Lord! pardon and remittance unto the
faults of my judgment! Nevertheless, if my counsel be evil, and thou
hast permitted thy conquered enemy to show himself unto me visibly, as
a sign of thy wrath, let me beseech thee. Lord! to turn that counsel
aside that it have no effect, and that the sorrow of my brethren lay.
not heavy on my head!"

To this extempore prayer the good hermit added one or two from the
regular ritual of the church; and then, casting himself on his bed of
moss, with a calmed mind, he fell into a profound sleep.

In the mean while, day broke upon the glades of the forest; and at
about the distance of a mile from the dwelling of the hermit, dropped
down from one of the old oaks, with the first ray of the sun, no less
a person than our friend Gallon the fool.

"Ha, ha!" cried he, "Ha, ha, haw! My lord ordered me to be shut out,
if I came not home by dusk; and now, by my shutting out, I have heard
a secret he would give his ears to hear.--Ha, haw! Ha, haw!--I've
ninety-nine minds not to tell him--but it wants the hundredth. So I
will tell him. Then he'll break their plot, or give news of it to the
king and the Auvergne;--and then, they'll all be hanged up like
acorns.--Haw, haw! and we shall keep the sweet interdict--the dear
interdict--the beloved interdict. I saw five dead men lying unburied
in the convent field.--Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw! I love the
interdict--I do! 'Tis like my nose: it mars the face of the country,
which otherwise were a fair face.--Ha, haw! I love interdicts. My nose
is my interdict.--Haw, haw, haw! But I must find other means to spite
the De Coucy, for shutting me out! I spited him finely, by sending
down the old fool Julian into the glade, where he was cajoling his
daughter!--Haw, haw, haw! Ha, haw!" So saying, he bounded forward, and
ran as hard as he could towards the distant city.



CHAPTER V.


Let us suppose a brief lapse of time and a slight change of scene.
'Twas the month of September; and though the mellow hand of autumn had
already spread a rich golden tinge over field and wood, yet not a
particle of summer's sparkling brilliancy seemed gone from the clear
blue sky. 'Twas in the bright land, too, of merry Touraine, where
migratory summer seems to linger longer than any where else; and,
though the sickle had done its work, and the brown plains told that
the year's prime was passed, yet there was a smile on the aspect of
the land, as if it would fain have promised that the sweet days of the
earth's life would be there immortal.

Over one of the wide open fields of that country, swelling gently with
a soft undulating slope, and bordered, here and there, with low
scattered woods, were seen to ride a gay party of horsemen, but few in
number indeed, but with their arms glittering in the morning sun,
their plumes waving in the breeze, and, in short, with all "the pomp
and circumstance of war."

In faith, it was as fair a sight to see as the world can give--a party
of the chivalry of that age. For them were all the richest habiliments
reserved by law. Robes of scarlet, ornaments of gold, fine furs, and
finer stuffs, were all theirs by right; and with their banners, and
pennons, and their polished armour, their embroidered coats of arms,
and their decorated horses, they formed a moving mass of animated
splendour, such as the present day cannot afford to show.

The group we speak of at present wanted nothing that chivalry could
display. At its head rode a fair youth, just in man's opening day; his
eye sparkling, his cheek glowing, his lip smiling with the bursting
happiness of his heart, at finding himself freed from restraint. Lord
of himself, and entering on the brilliant career of arms, supported by
knights, by nobles, and by kings, to strive for--not the ordinary
stake of ordinary men--but for crowns, and thrones, and kingdoms.

Arthur Plantagenet wore his helmet still; as if the new weight of
honourable armour was more a delight than a burthen to him; but the
visor being open, his face was clearly exposed, and spoke nothing but
hope and animation. His arms were all inlaid with gold, and over his
shoulders he wore the superb surcoat of arms, which had been worked
for him by the fair hands of Agnes de Meranie.

On the prince's right-hand rode Guy de Coucy, with his head still
unarmed; and merely covered by a green velvet bonnet, with a jewel,
and a plume of the feathers of the white egret, which had been
bestowed upon him by the king on his joining the expedition at Paris.
Neither did he ride his battle-horse--which, as when we first saw him,
was led behind him by a squire--but was mounted on one of the Arabian
coursers which he had brought with him from the Holy Land. He had,
however, his tremendous long sword by his side, the tip descending to
his heel, and the hilt coming up nearly to his shoulder; and, though
at the bow of his war-saddle, on the other horse, hung his heavy
battle-axe and mace, a lighter axe swung by his side. His gauntlets
were on, his squires were close behind him; and by various other signs
of the same kind, it might be inferred that the road he was now
travelling was more likely to be hostilely interrupted, than that over
which he had passed in Auvergne.

On Arthur's left-hand appeared in complete arms the famous warrior and
troubadour, whose songs and whose deeds have descended honourably even
to our days, Savary de Maulèon. As in the case of De Coucy, his casque
was borne behind him; but, in other respects, he was armed _cap à
pié_.

Of this knight one thing must be remarked, which, though it might seem
strange, was no less true, and showed the madness of that age for
song. Between himself and the squires who bore his casque and led his
battle-horse, rode a tiny, beautiful boy, mounted on a small fleet
Limousin jennet, and habited with all the extravagant finery which
could be devised. In his hand, instead of shield, or lance, or
implement of bloody warfare, he bore a small sort of harp, exactly of
the shape of those with which the sculptors of that period have
represented King David, as well as sundry angels, in the rich
tympanums of many of the gothic church-doorways in France. This
instrument, however, was not fully displayed on the journey, being
covered with a _housse_, or veil of silver gauze, from which, such
coverings often being applied to shields of arms, any one passing by
might have mistaken it for some buckler of a new and strange form.

Behind this first group, who were followed immediately by their
squires, came, at a little distance, a confused body of knights of
lesser fame; in general, vassals of Savary de Maulèon, or of his
friends; or others who, from disgust towards king John, had come over
to the increasing party of his nephew. These were all well armed and
equipped; and, though riding for the time in a scattered and irregular
manner, it wanted but a word from their chiefs, to bring them into
line, or hedge, as it was called, when, with their long lances, heavy
armed horses, and impenetrable persons, they would have offered a
formidable barrier against any attack.

A group of servants of arms followed these knights; and behind these
again, with far more show of discipline, and covered with bright new
armour, came two hundred Brabançois, with their old captain, Jodelle,
at their head. Their horses were unarmed, except by an iron poitral,
to resist the blow of a lance or a sword on the first assault. The
riders also were but lightly harnessed, with cuirass, steel cap,
and buckler; but, being intended principally to act either as
horse-archers themselves, or against bodies of foot, they often proved
the most serviceable troops in the army.

At the head of their line rode Hugo de Barre, bearing De Coucy's
banner; while, armed something like a Brabançois, but more heavily,
with the place of his favourite mare supplied by a strong black horse.
Gallon the fool rode along the ranks, keeping the greater part of the
soldiers in continual merriment. There were, it is true, some ten or
twelve of them who knit their brows from under their iron caps at the
jongleur as he passed; but the generality of the Brabançois laughed at
his jest, or gave it him back again; and, indeed, no one seemed more
amused or in better harmony with the mad juggler, than the captain
Jodelle himself.

The whole party might consist of about five hundred men; and they
moved on slowly, as if not very certain whether they might not be near
some unseen enemy. The plain on which we have said they were, was
unbroken by any thing in the shape of a hedge, and sufficiently flat
to give a view over its whole surface; but, at the same time, the low
woods that bordered it here and there might have concealed many
thousand men, and the very evenness of the country prevented any view
of what was beyond.

"Straight before you, beau sire!" said Savary de Maulèon, pointing
forward with his hand. "At the distance of three hours' march, lies
the famous city of Tours; and even now, if you look beyond that wood,
you will catch a faint glance of the church of the blessed St. Martin.
See you not a dark grey mass against the sky, squarer and more stiff
in form than any of the trees?"

"I do, I do!--And is that Tours?" cried Arthur, each fresh object
awakening in his heart that unaccountable delight with which youth
thrills towards novelty--that dear brightness of the mind which, in
our young days, reflects all things presented to it with a thousand
splendid dazzling rays not their own; but, alas! which too soon gets
dimmed and dull, in the vile chafing and rubbing of the world. "Is
that Tours?" and his fancy instantly conjured up, and combined with
the image of the distant city, a bright whirl of vague and pleasant
expectations which, like a child's top, kept dizzily spinning before
his eyes, based on an invisible point, and ready to fall on a touch.

"That is Tours, beau sire," replied the knight; "and I doubt not that
there, what with all my fair countrymen of Anjou and Poitou, who have
already promised their presence, and others who may have come without
their promise, you will find knights enough for you to undertake at
once some bold enterprise."

Arthur looked to De Coucy, under whose tutelage, as a warrior, Philip
Augustus had in some degree placed the inexperienced prince. "Far be
it from me," said the knight, "to oppose any bold measure that has the
probability of success along with it; but, as a general principle, I
think that in a war which is likely to be of long duration, when we
expect the speedy arrival of strong reinforcements, and where nothing
is to be lost by some delay, it is wise to pause, so as to strike the
first strokes with certainty of success; especially where the prince's
person may be put in danger by any rash attempt."

"By the blessed St. Martin!" cried Savary de Maulèon, "I thought not
to hear the Sire de Coucy recommend timid delay. Fame has, as usual,
belied him, when she spoke of his courage as somewhat rash."

De Coucy had, indeed, spoken rather in opposition to the general
character of his own mind; but he felt that there was a degree of
responsibility attached to his situation, which required the greatest
caution, to guard against the natural daring of his disposition. He
maintained, therefore, the same coolness in reply to the Poitevin
knight, although it cost him some effort to repress the same spirit
manifesting itself in his language which glowed warm on his brow.

"Sir Guillaume Savary de Maulèon," replied he, "in the present
instance, my counsel to prince Arthur shall be to attempt nothing,
till he has such forces as shall render those first attempts certain;
and, as to myself, I can but say, that when you and I are in the
battle-field, my banner shall go as far, at least, as yours into the
midst of the enemies."

"Not a step farther!" said Savary de Maulèon quickly--"not a step
farther!"

"That shall be as God pleases," answered De Coucy; "but, in the mean
time, we are disputing about wind. Till we reach Tours, we cannot at
all tell what assistance may wait us there. If there be sufficient
force to justify us in proceeding to action, I will by no means
dissent; but, if there be but few of our friends arrived, I will say,
that man who advises the prince to attempt any thing yet, may be as
brave as a lion, but seeks to serve his own vanity more than Arthur
Plantagenet."

"How his own vanity, sir?" demanded Savary de Maulèon, ready to take
offence on the slightest provocation.

"By risking his prince's fortunes," replied De Coucy, "rather than let
others have a share in the harvest of glory before him. Ho, there!" he
continued, turning to one of his squires, who instantly rode up.--"Bid
Jodelle detach a score of his lightest men round the eastern limb of
that wood, and bring me word what 'tis that glittered but now above
the trees.--Go yourself too, and use your eyes."

The man obeyed, with the promptitude of one accustomed to serve a
quick and imperative lord; and the little man[oe]uvre the knight had
commanded was performed with all the precision he could desire. In the
mean while he resumed the conversation with Arthur and Savary de
Maulèon, who--cooled by the momentary pause, and also somewhat soothed
by something flattering, he scarce knew what, in the idea of the sort
of avarice of glory De Coucy had attributed to him--replied to the
young knight with more cordiality than he had at first evinced. In a
very few minutes, the horsemen, who had been detached, returned at
full gallop. Their report was somewhat startling. A large body of
horse, they said, whose spear-heads De Coucy had seen above the low
trees, were skirting slowly round the wood towards them. Full a
hundred knights, with barbed horses and party pennons, had been seen.
There appeared more behind; and the whole body, with the squires,
archers, and servants of arms, might amount to fifteen hundred. No
banner, however, was displayed; but one of the Brabançois declared,
that he knew the foremost to be king John's Norman knights, by the
fashion of their hauberts, and the pikes on their horses' heads.

"Give me my lance and casque!" cried De Coucy.--"Sir Savary de
Maulèon, I leave the prince under your care, while I, with my
Brabançois and followers, give these gentry the meeting at the corner
of the wood. You would not be mad enough in this business to risk the
prince with four hundred men and forty knights, against one hundred
knights and fifteen hundred men!"

"Surely not," replied Savary de Maulèon; "but still I will go with you
myself, beau sire."

"No! as you are a knight," cried De Coucy, grasping his hand, "I
charge you, stay with the prince, cover his march to Tours; keep all
the knights with you, for you will want them all. You start fair with
the enemy--the distance is about equal to the city; and I promise you,
that if they pass yon turn of the wood within this quarter of an hour,
'tis over my dead body--let it be so, sir knight, in God's name! The
honour will rest with him who gets the prince safe to Tours. Is not
that enough? You have the post of honour."

"And you the post of danger," said Savary de Mauléon, shaking his
head.

"Mind not you that!" cried De Coucy, whose casque was by this time
fixed. "If these be Normans, there will be danger and honour enough
too, before you reach Tours!" and grasping his lance, he fell back to
the band of Brabançois, put himself at their head, and galloped at
full speed to the turning of the wood.

Before coming in sight of the enemy, however, De Coucy paused, and
advancing so far alone as to gain a sight of them, he perceived that
their numbers, though they had been somewhat exaggerated, were still
too great to admit the chance of fighting them with any hope of
success. His object, therefore, was to delay them on their march as
long as he could; and then to retreat fighting, so as to cover the
prince's march upon Tours. Accordingly he commanded the cotereaux to
spread out in such a manner that the iron of their spears might just
be seen protruding from the wood, and by patting his horse's neck, and
touching him with the spur, he made him utter one or two loud neighs,
for the purpose of calling the attention of the enemy, which the sound
of their galloping thither did not seem to have done.

The stratagem had its effect: the whole body of horse, who were
approaching, halted; and after a few minutes' consultation, a
reconnoitring party was thrown out, who approached in front of De
Coucys party, and fell back again instantly on their main body.
"Ground your spears!" cried De Coucy; "unsling your bows; have each
man his arrow on the string, and the string to his ear; and give them
such a flight as shall dizzy them whenever they come near."

The Brabançois obeyed: each man rested his spear,--which, by the way,
was distinguished in many respects from the knight's lance,--threw his
bridle over his arm, and drew his bowstring to his ear; while De Coucy
advanced a few paces, to observe the motions of the enemy. To his
surprise, however, he observed half a dozen knights ride out, while
the rest stood still; and in a moment after, displaying the banner of
Hugues de Lusignan, they advanced at full speed, crying loudly, "Artus
Anjou! Artus Anjou!"--the rallying cry which the knights of Anjou
attached to the party of Arthur had adopted.

"Hold! hold!" cried De Coucy, waving his hand to his archers. "Here
must be some mistake. These are friends." So, indeed, it proved; and on
a nearer approach, De Coucy found that the body of troops which had
caused the alarm, had in truth come forth from Tours, for the
protection of Arthur, whom they had long known to be approaching with
but a small force; while king John, with a considerable army, was
reported to be ravaging the county of Maine. The cause of the mistake
also was now explained. Some knights of Normandy, either moved by the
justice of Arthur's claims, or disgusted with the weak levity and
cowardly baseness of John, had crossed the country; and joining the
troops of Hugues le Brun, and Godefroy de Lusignan, under the command
of Ruoal d'Issoudun, Count d'Eu, had come out to give the sovereign
they had determined to acknowledge welcome and protection.

These communications were much sooner made than they are written; and
De Coucy, whose banner had been seen and recognised by the
reconnoitring party, was received by the assembled knights with no
small marks of honour and esteem. His troops had of course now to make
a retrograde motion, but no great haste was necessary to overtake the
body he had before left; for Savary de Mauléon had taken such good
care that his retreat should not appear like a flight, that the
messenger to De Coucy despatched to inform him of the change of aspect
which affairs had undergone, reached the small body of knights who had
remained with Arthur before they had proceeded half a mile.

The meeting of the two bands was a joyous one on both sides, and
nothing was now talked of amongst the knights of Anjou and Poitou but
proceeding instantly to active and energetic operations against the
enemy. De Coucy was silent, well knowing that a council must be held
on the subject after their arrival at Tours; and reserving his opinion
for that occasion, though he well saw that his single voice would be
drowned amidst the many, which were all eager to urge a course that,
under any other circumstances, he would have been the first to follow,
but which, where the stake was a kingdom, and the hazard great, he did
not feel himself justified in approving.

While things were thus proceeding, in front of the army, the
Brabançois, who now occupied a much less important station than when
they formed, as it were, the main body of the prince's force, followed
at some little distance in the rear. A few steps in advance of this
troop rode Jodelle, particularly affecting to have no private
communication with his men; but, on the contrary, sometimes riding up
to Hugo de Barre, who bore De Coucys standard on the right, and with
whom he had become a great favourite; and sometimes jesting with
Gallon the fool, whose regard he strove not a little to cultivate,
though it was not less difficult to ascertain exactly which way the
cracked juggler's esteem turned, than it was to win his affection at
all, which was no easy task.

"Ha, ha! sire Jodelle!" cried Gallon, coming close to him, as they
began to move forward towards Tours--"Haw, haw! A goodly body of
prisoners our lord has taken to-day!" and he pointed to the band of
knights which had so lately joined their own. "And yet," added Gallon,
bringing his two eyes to bear with a sly leer upon Jodelle's face,
"our lord does not often make prisoners. He contents himself with
dashing his foemen's brains out with his battle-axe, as he did in
Auvergne."

Jodelle grasped his sword, and muttered something to himself. Gallon's
eyes, however, were like the orbs in an orrery, for an instant close
together, and then, by some unapparent machinery, thrown far apart;
and before Jodelle could determine what their first expression meant,
they were straggling out again on each side of the head in which they
were placed, and the shrewd meaning leer was changed at once into the
most broad senseless vacancy.

"Oh! it would have done your heart good, sire Jodelle," continued
the jongleur, "to see how he hewed their noddles.--Haw, haw! Oh,
rare!--But, as I was saying," continued he, in his flighty, rambling
way, "yours must be a merry trade, and a thriving."

"Ours is no trade, maître Gallon," replied Jodelle, speaking calmly,
to conceal no very amicable sensations which he felt towards the
jongleur--"ours is no trade; 'tis a profession,--the noble profession
of arms."

"No trade!" exclaimed Gallon.--"Haw, haw! Haw, haw! If you make no
trade of it, with such merchandise as you have, you are not fit to
hold a sow by the ear, or soap a cat's tail. Why! Do you not buy and
sell?"

"Buy and sell!" said Jodelle, pondering. "Faith! I am heavy this
morning. What should I buy or sell, either?"

"Lord now! Lord now!" cried Gallon, holding up both his hands. "To
think that there is another man in all the world so stupid as my
master and myself!--What should you buy and sell? Why, what better
merchandise would you desire to sell to King John," he added, making
his horse sidle up against the chief of the Brabançois, so that he
could speak without being overheard by any one else,--"what better
merchandise would you desire to sell to king John, than that fat flock
of sheep before you, with the young ram, and his golden fleece, at the
head of them;--and what would you desire better to buy, than white
English silver, and yellow English gold?"

Jodelle looked in his face, to see if he could gather any thing from
that; but all was one flat, dead blank; even his very nose was still
and meaningless--one might as well have expected such words of
devilish cunning from a stone wall.

"But my oath--my honour!" cried Jodelle, gazing on him still.

"Your oath!--Haw, haw!" shouted Gallon, convulsed with
laughter,--"your honour!--Haw, haw! haw, haw! haw, haw!" And rolling
about, as if he would have fallen from his horse, he galloped on,
shouting, and roaring, and laughing, and screaming, till there was not
a man in the array who did not turn his head to look at the strange
being who dared to interrupt with such obstreperous merriment their
leader's conversation.

De Coucy well knew the sounds, and turned to chide; but Arthur, who
had been before amused with Gallon's humour, called him to approach
for the purpose of jesting with him, with that boyish susceptibility
of absurdities which characterised the age.

Gallon was as much at his ease amongst princes and barons as amongst
peasants and serving men; and, seeming to forget all that he had just
been speaking of, he dashed off into some new strain of eccentricity
better suited to his auditors.

Jodelle, who, trembling for the result, had so far forgot himself as
to ride on to listen, now rendered secure by the juggler's flighty
change of topic, dropped back into the rear, and the whole cavalcade
moved gently on to Tours.

While preparing for the prince's banquet in the evening, the place at
De Coucy's elbow was filled by Gallon the fool, who somewhat in a more
sane and placable humour than usual, amused his lord with various
tales and anecdotes, neither so disjointed nor so disfigured as his
relations usually were. The last, however, which he thought fit to
tell--what he had overheard through the unglazed window of the
hermit's cell on the night before the party of Arthur quitted Paris,
caused De Coucy instantly to write a few words to the Count
d'Auvergne, and putting it in the hands of his page, he bade him ride
for his life, and deliver the letter wherever he should find the
count, were it even in the presence of the king himself. The fatigued
state of the horses prevented the lad from setting out that night, but
by daylight next morning he was in the saddle, and away upon a journey
which we may have cause to trace more particularly hereafter.



CHAPTER VI.


After a long consultation with De Coucy, the morning following their
arrival at Tours, Arthur Plantagenet proceeded to hold his first
regular council of war. Endowed with a thousand graces of person and
of mind, Arthur had still that youthful indecision of character, that
facility of yielding, which leads the lad so often to do what the man
afterwards bitterly repents of.

Arthur entered the council room of the bishop's palace at Tours, fully
determined to adhere to the more prudent plan of waiting for the large
reinforcements he expected. He took his seat with the proud dignity of
a Plantagenet: and though his youthful countenance was in feature and
in complexion almost feminine, and his brows were only ornamented with
the ducal coronet of Brittany, still, in port and expression, he was
every inch a king. There was a dead silence amongst the knights for a
moment or two after he had entered, while Arthur spoke a few words to
the bishop of Tours, who stood on the right hand of the large throne
or chair, in which he was seated. The prince then turned towards the
council; and, with somewhat of a heightened colour, but with a clear
tone and unembarrassed manner, he spoke.

"Illustrious lords," he said, "whose valour and wisdom have gained
Poitou and Anjou a name with the whole world; as your inferior, both
in age and reason, in warlike experience and in prudent sagacity, I
come to you for advice and counsel, how to carry forward the great
enterprise I have undertaken. We are here, not much above an hundred
knights; and our whole forces do not amount to two thousand men; while
John, my usurping uncle, is within a few days' march, with ten times
our number of men, and full two thousand valiant and renowned knights.
To balance this disparity, however, king Philip, my noble and
bountiful godfather in arms, has given me, for my auxiliaries and
allies, Hervey de Donzy, Count de Nevers, surnamed the Blunt, the
valiant Hugues de Dampierre, with all the knights of Berri, and Imbert
Baron de Beaujeur, with many a noble baron from the other side of the
Loire. These knights arrive to-day at Orleans, and in three days will
be here. At the same time, my duchy of Brittany, so faithful to me in
all times, sends me five hundred valiant knights, and four thousand
men at arms, who to-morrow at the latest will be at Nantes. It seems
to me, therefore, the wisest plan we can pursue--if you, whose wisdom
and experience are greater than mine, do not think otherwise--to
remain here at least four days. Often, a short delay produces the
greatest benefit; and a wise man of antiquity has said, that it is not
the evils which happen that we should struggle to avoid, but those
that may happen. Let us also remember, that--though, Heaven knows! no
one, or old or young, shall in open warfare more expose their person
than I will do; or less cares for life than I do, if it be not life
with honour;--but still let us remember, that it is my person alone my
uncle seeks, because I demand my kingdom, and the freedom of my
imprisoned sister.[20] You all know his cruelty, and I call Heaven to
witness, that I would rather now each man here should sheathe his
dagger in my body, than suffer me to fall into the hands of my bloody
and unnatural relation.


--------------------

[Footnote 20: Eleanor Plantagenet, who was detained till her death, to
cut off all change of subsequent heirs in the line of Geoffrey
Plantagenet, John's elder brother.]

--------------------


"By letters received last night from the good king Philip I am informed
that John has just seized upon the citadel of Dol, the garrison of
which he has put to death after their surrender, the soldiers by the
sword, the knights he has crucified. The king also assures me, that
the usurper is marching hitherward, with all haste; and farther
counsels me, to conduct myself with prudence rather than rashness; and
to wait the arrival of the reinforcements, which will give me a
disposable force of fifteen hundred knights and thirty thousand men."

Arthur paused; and Savary de Maulèon instantly replied:--"Let not the
counsels of any one alarm you, beau sire. To cowards be delay; to men
of courage, action. John is marching towards us. Let him come; we
shall be glad to see him for once show a spark of valour. No, no, beau
sire, he will not come. Does he not always fly from the face of arms?
He is a coward himself, and the spirit of the prince spreads always
through the army. For us, be quick and decided action; and, before
this weak and treacherous usurper shall know, even, that we are in the
field, let us strike some blow, that shall carry panic to his fearful
heart. His bad and wicked mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is even now
shut up in the town and castle of Mirebeau. The garrison is not large,
though commanded by William Longsword, earl of Salisbury. Let us
hasten thither instantly, besiege the castle; and, before John shall
have notice of our movements, his mother, the instigator and abettor
of one half his wickedness, shall be in our power. Or even say that
the castle holds out, our reinforcements may join us there, as well as
here, and then success is certain."

The multitude of voices that applauded this proposal drowned all
opposition; and though De Coucy pressed but for the delay of a day, to
wait the arrival of his own forces, levied in the king's name on the
lands of the Count de Tankerville, and which alone would have doubled
their present numbers, both of knights and of servants of arms, his
proposition was negatived. Arthur yielded to the current; and,
catching the ardour of the Poitevins, his eyes sparkled at the idea of
surprising Mirebeau, and holding captive that bad queen, who had been
the incessant persecutor of his mother, and had acted but the part of
a step-dame, even to her own son, his father.

De Coucy saw that farther opposition was vain, and bent the whole
energies of his mind to ensure success, even to the scheme he had
disapproved.

The knights and barons of Poitou had reasonably enough wondered to see
a young warrior, whose greatest fame had been gained by the very
rashness of his courage, become the counsellor of caution and delay;
but De Coucy was rash only of his own person, holding that a knight
ought never even to consider his own individual life, or that of his
followers; but should give the whole thought and prudence which he
abstracted from himself, to carry forward successfully the object of
his undertaking.

He never once dreamed of personal danger; nor could he conceive the
idea of any man bestowing a thought upon the hazard to which any
enterprise exposed him: and thus, in contemplating an approaching
struggle, the whole powers of his mind were bent upon conquering his
enemies, and his care for himself was only as a means to that effect.

If the wonder of the knights of Poitou had been excited by De Coucy's
former slowness in counselling enterprise, it was far, far more so to
behold his activity and energy now that action had really commenced.

He became suddenly, as it were, the soul and spirit of their
enterprise: his eye was every where; his quick and capable mind seemed
continually acting on every side around them. Whatever tidings was
demanded of any part of their disjointed force, it was Sir Guy de
Coucy knew!--whatever information was required concerning the country
before them, De Coucy had already made himself master of it!--whatever
movement was to be made by any body of the troops, De Coucy saw it
done!--whatever provision was to be brought in for the supply of the
army, De Coucy assured himself that it was executed, as far as the
brief time permitted. He had recommended delay; but as action had been
decided upon, he put forth the whole energetic activity of his soul to
render action effective.

Understanding thoroughly the character and application of all the
various classes of troops made use of in that day, De Coucy took care
that his Brabançois should be turned to that service for which they
were best calculated. As reconnoitring parties they were invaluable;
and, as the army advanced upon Mirebeau, by spreading them over the
face of the country, he gained information of every thing that was
passing around.

Two messengers from Eleanor of Aquitaine to her son were thus
intercepted; and it was discovered from the letters they bare, that
she had already obtained knowledge of Arthur's movements, and
beseeched John to hasten to her relief; telling him, that though the
castle she held might be looked upon as nearly impregnable, yet the
suddenness of attack had prevented her from providing for the
garrison, sufficiently at least, for any long siege.

Such news was not lost on De Coucy; and, employing his Brabançois as
marauders, in which point of duty they certainly did not fail, he
swept the whole country round about of every sort of provisions, both
to distress the enemy, and to supply his own troops. This service
became one of danger as they approached nearer to the town, the
parties of William Longsword being also scattered about on the same
errand; and the whole of the morning before their arrival was spent in
fierce and continual skirmishes,--now for a drove of bullocks,--now
for a cart of wine,--now for a load of wheat.

At length, all the parties of Normans and English were driven within
the gates of the town; and the army of Arthur, sitting down before it,
invested it on all sides.

We must remember, however, that what were called towns in those days
might consider it a high honour to be compared even to a small English
borough of the present times; so that it was no impossible thing for
an army of two thousand men to invest even a town and castle.

A council of war was instantly held, and De Coucy's voice was no
longer for delay. Immediate attack of the town was his advice; and
though many observed that only four hours of daylight remained, he
still pressed his object, declaring that, if well seconded, he would
place his standard in the market-place before dark. Those who had
before reproached him with procrastination dared not oppose him now,
and orders were instantly issued for the attack of the walls.

The whole space occupied by the houses of Mirebeau was encompassed by
a strong curtain of rough stone, flanked with tall round towers, at
the distance of an arrow's flight from each other; so that every part
of the wall, though unguarded by a ditch, could be defended, not only
from its own projecting battlements, but by the cross fire of missiles
from the towers. Both men and munition of war seemed plenty within;
for, on the first symptoms of a general attack, the walls became
thronged with slingers and bowmen; and numbers of labourers might be
seen lighting fires for boiling oil or water, or carrying up baskets
of heavy stones, logs of wood, and quantities of quick-lime, to cast
down upon the assailants' heads, and crush them, or blind them, if the
flights of arrows proved insufficient to keep them from the gates or
the foot of the wall.

The defenders of the battlements, indeed, appeared to be principally
burghers, mingled with a small proportion of soldiers from the castle;
but, although the military citizen was but little esteemed in that
day, there was a degree of bustle and promptitude about those who
manned the wall of Mirebeau, which, at all events, indicated zeal in
its defence.

The preparations on the part of the besiegers were not less active;
and Arthur did all that an inexperienced youth could do, to give unity
and consistence to the efforts of his undisciplined and insubordinate
forces. It must not, however, be thought that we would say the knights
who accompanied him were less regular and obedient than others of
their times and class. Far from it. But it must be remembered, that
discipline was almost unknown amongst the armies of chivalry, and that
the feudal system was felt as much, or more, in times of war, than in
times of peace. Each baron commanded the knights and men-at-arms he
brought into the field. It is true, he received himself commands from
the sovereign, or the person who represented him for the moment; but
whether he obeyed those commands or not, depended upon a thousand
circumstances; as, whether the monarch was himself respected,--whether
the orders he gave were to be executed beneath his own eye; and,
lastly, whether they suited the taste, or coincided with the opinion,
of the person who received them.

In the case of Arthur, every one who followed him thought they had a
right not only to counsel, but to act; and the prince himself, afraid
of opposing them, lest they should fall from him before the arrival of
the reinforcements placed by Philip more absolutely under his command,
could only retain the external appearance of authority, by sanctioning
what they themselves proposed.

The tumultuary council held upon the occasion passed in rapid
interjections to somewhat of the following tenor. "Let us divide into
three bodies!--Each leader attack a gate. Hugues le Brun, I join
myself to you.--We will to the southern door.--I attack that
postern.--Sire de Maulèon, where do you attack?--I undertake the great
gate; that is, if the beau sire Arthur so commands."

"Certainly, beau sire! I think it will be advisable; but, at all
events, let the various attacks be simultaneous," replied the prince:
"let some signal be given when all are ready."

"True, true! Well bethought, beau sire! You are an older warrior than
any of us.--Sire de Coucy, where do you attack? I see your men are
busy about mantlets and pavisses."

"I attack that tower," replied De Coucy, pointing to one that, though
tall and strong, seemed somewhat more ancient than the wall.

"Ha! you would add another tower to those in your chief," said Savary
de Maulèon, "but you will fail. We have no ladders. Better come with
me to the gate. Well, as you will.--Sire Geoffroy de Lusignan, speed
round with your force, and shoot up a lighted arrow when you are
ready.--Where do you bestow yourself, beau sire Arthur?"

"If the prince will follow my counsel," said Hugues le Brun, "he will
hover round with the men-at-arms which were given him by the king, and
bestow his aid wherever he sees it wanted."

"Or keep on that high ground," said Geoffroy de Lusignan, "and send
your commands to us, according as you see the action turn."

Arthur bowed his head; and all the knights rode off towards the
different points they had chosen for their attack, except de Coucy,
the tower he had marked being exactly opposite the spot where they had
held their council, if such it could be called.

"They would fain prevent my fighting," said Arthur, turning to De
Coucy, and speaking still in a low voice, as if fearful of some one
hearing who might oppose his purpose; "but they will be mistaken. Sire
de Coucy, I pray you, as good knight and true, let me fight under your
honourable banner."

"To your heart's content, my prince," replied the knight, "By Heaven!
I would not keep you from the noble game before us, for very shame
sake!--Hugo de Barre, put foot to the ground, with all my squires, and
advance the mantlets.--Have you the pickaxes and the piles all ready?"

"All is ready, beau sire," replied the squire; "store of axes and of
iron bars."

"Advance then!" cried the knight, springing to the ground. "Captain
Jodelle, dismount your men, and cover us under your arrows as we
advance."

"But the signal has not been given from the other side," said Arthur.
"Had you not better wait, sir Guy?

"We have more to do than they have," replied the knight; "and, besides,
they have left us, and we beginning the attack, the Normans will think
ours a false one, and will not repel us so vigorously, more especially
as we direct our efforts against a tower instead of a gate; but they
are deceived. I see a crevice there in the very base of the wall, that
will aid us shrewdly.--Stay here, beau sire, till I return, and then
we will in together."

"Oh! sire de Coucy," cried the noble youth, "you are going to fight
without me.--Do not! do not deceive me, I pray you!"

"On my honour, gallant prince," said De Coucy, grasping his hand, "I
will not strike a stroke, except against stone walls, till you strike
beside me;" and he advanced to the spot where Hugo de Barre, and three
other of his men, held up an immense heavy screen of wood-work, just
within bow-shot of the walls. Four more of the knight's men stood
underneath this massy defence, holding all sorts of instruments for
mining the wall, as well as several strong piles of wood, and bundles
of fagots. As soon as De Coucy joined them, the whole began to move
on; and Jodelle's Brabançois, advancing at a quick pace, discharged a
flight of arrows at the battlements of the tower, which apparently, by
the bustle it occasioned, was not without some effect. An instant
answer of the same kind was given from the walls, and missiles of all
kinds fell like a thick shower of hail.

In the mean while Arthur stood on the mound, with some ten or fifteen
men-at-arms, who had been placed near him as a sort of body-guard by
Philip. From thence he could behold several points destined to be
attacked, and see the preparations of more than one of the leaders for
forcing the gates opposite to which they had stationed themselves. But
his chief attention still turned towards De Coucy, who was seen
advancing rapidly under the immense mantlet of wood he had caused to
be constructed, on which the arrows, the bolts, and the stones from
the slings fell in vain. On, on, it bore to the very foot of the
tower; but then came, on the part of the besiegers, the more
tremendous sort of defence of hurling down large stones and trunks of
trees upon it; so that, more than once, the four strong men by whom it
was supported tottered under the weight, and Hugo de Barre himself
fell upon his knee.

This last accident, however, proved beneficial; for the inclined
position thus given to the mantlet caused the immense masses that had
been cast down upon it to roll off; and the squire rose from his knee
with a lightened burden. In the mean time Jodelle and his companions
did good and soldierlike service. It was almost in vain that the
defenders of the tower shouted for fresh implements to crush the
besiegers. Not a man could show himself for an instant on the walls,
but an arrow from the bows of the Brabançois  struck him down, or
rattled against his armour; and thus the supply of fresh materials was
slow and interrupted. In the mean while De Coucy and his squires
laboured without remission at the foundation of the tower. A large
crack, with which the sure sapping hand of Time had begun to undermine
the wall, greatly facilitated their purpose; and, at every well-aimed
and steady blow which De Coucy directed with his pickaxe at the joints
of the mortar, some large mass of masonry rolled out, and left a
widening breach in the very base of the tower.

At this moment the signal for the general assault was given, from the
other side of the town, by an arrow tipped with lighted tow being shot
straight up into the air; and in a moment the whole plain rang with
the shouts and cries of the attack and defence.

Arthur could not resist the desire to ride round for a moment, and see
the progress of the besiegers in other points; and animated with the
sight of the growing strife, the clanging of the trumpets, and the
war-cries of the combatants, his very heart burned to join his hand in
the fray, and win at least some part of the honour of the day. De
Coucy, however, was his only hope in this respect; and galloping back
as fast as he could, after having gazed for a moment at the progress
of each of the other parties, he approached so near the point where
the knight was carrying on his operations, that the arrows from the
wall began to ring against his armour. Arthur's heart beat joyfully at
the very feeling that he was in the battle; but a sight now attracted
his attention, which engrossed all his hopes and fears, in anxiety for
the noble knight who was there labouring in his behalf.

The masses of wall which De Coucy and his followers had detached, had
left so large a gap in the solid foundation of the tower, that it
became necessary to support it with the large piles of wood, to
prevent the whole structure from crushing them beneath its fall, while
they pursued their labours. This had just been done, and De Coucy was
still clearing away more of the wall, when suddenly a knight, who
seemed to have been informed of what was passing, appeared on the
battlements of the tower, followed by a number of stout yeomen,
pushing along an immense instrument of wood, somewhat like one of the
cranes used in loading and unloading vessels. From a high lever above,
hung down the whole trunk of a large tree, tipped at the end with
iron; this was brought immediately over the spot where De Coucy's
mantlet concealed himself and his followers from the lesser weapons of
the besieged, and, at a sign from the knight, the lever slowly raised
the immense engine in the air.

"Have a care!--have a care! Sire de Coucy!" shouted at once the whole
troop of Brabançois, as well as Arthur's men-at-arms. But before their
cry could well reach the knight, or be understood, the lever was
suddenly loosed, and the ponderous mass of wood fell with its iron-shod
point upon the mantlet, dashing it to pieces. Hugo de Barre was
struck down, with four of the other squires; but De Coucy himself, who
was actually in the mine he had dug, with three more of his followers,
who were close to the wall, remained untouched. Hugo, however,
instantly sprang upon his feet again, but little injured, and three of
his companions followed his example; the fourth remained upon the
field for ever.

"Back, Hugo!--Back to the prince, all of you!" cried De Coucy.--"Give
me the light, and back!"

The squires obeyed; and, having placed in the knight's hand a resin
torch which was by this time nearly burnt out, they retreated towards
the Brabançois, under a shower of arrows from the walls, which, sped
from a good English bow, in more than one instance pierced the lighter
armour of De Coucy's squires, and left marks that remained till death.
In the mean while, not a point of De Coucy's armour, as he moved to
and fro at the foot of the tower, that was not the mark of an arrow or
a quarrel; while the English knight above, animated his men to every
exertion, to prevent him from completing what he had begun.

"A thousand crowns to him who strikes him down!" cried he.--"Villains!
cast the stones upon him! On your lives, let him not fire those
fagots, or the tower and the town is lost.--Give me an arblast;" and
as he spoke, the knight snatched a cross-bow from one of the yeomen,
dressed the quarrel in it, and aimed steadily at the bars of De
Coucy's helmet as he bore forward another bundle of fagots and jammed
it into the mine.

The missile struck against one of the bars, and bounded off. "Well
aimed, William of Salisbury!" cried De Coucy, looking up. "For ancient
love, my old companion in arms, I tell thee to get back from the
tower, for within three minutes it is down!" And so saying, he applied
his torch to various parts of the pile of wood he had heaped up in the
breach, and retired slowly towards prince Arthur, with the arrows
rattling upon his armour like a heavy shower of hail upon some
well-roofed building.

"Now, my noble lord," cried he, "down from your horse, and prepare to
rush on! By Heaven's grace, you shall be the first man in Mirebeau;
for I hear by the shouts, that the others have not forced the gates
yet.--Hugo, if thou art not badly hurt with that arrow, range the men
behind us--By the Lord! William of Salisbury will stay till the tower
falls!--See! they are trying to extinguish the fire by casting water
over, but it is in vain; the pillars have caught the flame. Hark, how
they crack!"

As De Coucy spoke, the earl of Salisbury and his men, seeing that the
attempt to put out the fire was useless, retired from the tower. The
flame gradually consumed the heaps of loose wood and fagots with which
the knight had filled the mine; and the strong props of wood with
which he had supported the wall as he worked on, caught fire, one
after the other, and blazed with intense fury. The besiegers and the
besieged watched alike in breathless expectation, as the fire wore
away the strength of the wood. Suddenly one of the props gave way; but
only a mass of heated masonry followed. Another broke--the tower
tottered--the others snapped short with the weight--the falling mass
seemed to balance itself in the air, and struggle, like an overthrown
king, to stand for but a moment longer--then down it rushed, with a
sound like thunder, and lay a mass of smoking ruins on the plain.

"On! on!" cried De Coucy; "charge before the dust subsides! A Coucy! a
Coucy!--St. Michael! St. Michael!" and in an instant he was standing,
with prince Arthur by his side, in the midst of the breach which the
fall of the tower had made in the wall and half-way up the sort of
causeway formed by its ruins. They passed not, however, unopposed, for
Wilham Longsword instantly threw himself before them.

"Up! Prince Arthur! up!" cried De Coucy; "you must be the first.--Set
your foot on my knee:" and he bent it to aid the young prince in
climbing a mass of broken wall that lay before him. Arthur sprang up,
sword in hand, amidst the smothering cloud of dust and smoke that
still hung above the ruins, and his weapon was instantly crossed with
that of his uncle, William of Salisbury, his father's natural
brother. At the same moment, De Coucy rushed forward and struck down
two of the Norman soldiers who opposed his passage; but then paused,
in order not to abandon Arthur to an old and experienced knight, far
more than his match in arms.

For five blows and their return, De Coucy suffered the prince to
maintain the combat himself, _to win his spurs_, as he mentally termed
it. The sixth stroke, however, of William of Salisbury's tremendous
sword fell upon Arthur's shoulder; and though the noble lad sturdily
bore up, and was not even brought upon his knee, yet the part of his
armour where the blow fell, flew into shivers with its force. The earl
lifted his sword again, and Arthur, somewhat dizzied and confused,
made a very faint movement to parry it; but instantly De Coucy rushed
in, and received the edge of the weapon on his shield.

"Nobly fought! my prince!" cried he, covering Arthur with one arm, and
returning William Longsword's blow with the other,--"nobly fought, and
knightly done!--Push in with your men-at-arms, and the Brabançois, and
leave this one to me.--Now, Salisbury, old friend, we have stood side
by side in Palestine. I love thee as well face to face. Thou art a
noble foe. There stands my foot!"

"Brave Coucy! Thou shalt have thy heart's content!" cried the earl,
dealing one of his sweeping blows at the knight's neck. But he had now
met with his equal; and, indeed, so powerful were each of the
champions, so skilful in the use of their weapons, and so cool in
their contention, that the combat between them was long and undecided.
Blow answered blow with the rapidity of lightning: stroke followed
stroke. Their arms struck fire, the crests were shorn from their
helmets, the bearings effaced from their shields, and their surcoats
of arms became as tattered as a beggar's gown.

Still, though De Coucy pressed him with impetuous fury, William of
Salisbury yielded not a step; and it was only when he saw his
followers driven back by the superior number of the Brabançois and
men-at-arms, led by Arthur, that he retired a pace or two, still
dealing blows thick and fast at De Coucy, who followed foot by foot,
shouting his battle-cry, and encouraging the men to advance: while,
every now and then, he addressed some word of friendly admiration to
his opponent, even in the midst of the deadly strife that he urged so
furiously against him.

"Thou art a good knight, on my soul, lord Salisbury!" cried he; "yet
take that for the despatch of this affair!" and he struck him with the
full sway of his blade, on the side of his head, so that the earl
reeled as he stood.

"Gramercy!" cried William, recovering his equipoise, and letting a
blow fall on the knight's casque, not inferior in force to the one he
had received.

At that moment, however, his troops gave way still farther before the
Brabançois; and at the same time a party of the burghers came rushing
from another part of the town, crying "The gate is lost! the gate is
lost!--we saw it dashed in!"

"Then the town is lost too," said Salisbury coolly.--"Sound a
retreat!" he continued, turning his head slightly to a squire, who
stood behind him watching lest he should be struck down, but forbidden
by all the laws of war to interpose between two knights, so long as
they could themselves maintain the combat. At the same time, while the
squire, as he had been bidden, sounded a retreat on his horn, William
Longsword still continued to oppose himself to the very front of the
enemy; and not till his men were clear, and in full retreat towards
the castle, did he seek to escape himself, though he in a degree
quitted the personal combat with De Coucy to cover with some of his
bravest men-at-arms the rear of the rest. Now, he struck a blow here;
now felled a Brabançois  there; now, returned for an instant to De
Coucy; and now, rushed rapidly to restore order amongst his retreating
troops.

As they quitted the walls, however, and got embarrassed in the streets
of the town, the Norman soldiers were every moment thrown into more
and more confusion, by the various parties of the burghers who had
abandoned the walls, and were flying towards the castle for shelter.
Several knights also, and men-at-arms, were seen retreating up the
high streets, from the gate which had been attacked by Savary de
Maulèon; just at the moment that De Coucy, rushing on into the
market-place, caught his standard from the hands of Hugo de Barre, and
struck it into the midst of the great fountain of the town.

The flight of the knights showed sufficiently to lord Salisbury, that
the gate which they had been placed to defend had been forced also;
and his sole care became now to get his men as speedily and as safely
within the walls of the castle as possible. This was not so difficult
to do; for though De Coucy and Arthur still hung upon his rear with
the men-at-arms, and a part of the Brabançois, a great majority of the
latter, giving way to their natural inclination, dispersed to pursue
their ancient avocation of plundering.

A scene of no small horror presented itself at the gates of the
castle. Multitudes of the burghers, with their women and children, had
crowded thither for safety; but Eleanor, with the most pitiless
cruelty, ordered the garrison to drive them back with arrows, and not
to suffer one to enter on pain of death. Their outstretched hands,
their heart-rending cries, were all in vain; the queen was inexorable;
and more than one had been wounded with the arrows, who had dared to
approach the barbican.

When Salisbury and his band came near, however, the multitude, driven
to despair by seeing the pursuers following fiercely on his track,
made an universal rush to enter along with him; and it was only by
using their swords against the townsmen, and even the women, that the
soldiers could clear themselves a passage.

Salisbury was of course the last who passed himself; and as he turned
to enter, while his soldiers formed again within the barbican, two
women, of the highest class of the townspeople, clung to his knees,
entreating him by all that may move man's heart, to let them follow
within the walls.

"I cannot!--I must not!" exclaimed he harshly; but then, turning once
more, he shouted to De Coucy, who, seeing that farther pursuit was
vain, now followed more slowly.

"Sire De Coucy!" he exclaimed, as if he had been speaking to his
dearest friend. "If you love me, protect this helpless crowd as much
as may be. For old friendship's sake, I pray thee!"

"I will, Salisbury!--I will!" replied De Coucy,--"beau sire Arthur,
have I your permission?"

"Do what thou wilt, dear friend and noble knight," replied the prince.
"Is there anything you could ask me now, that I would not grant?"

"Stand back then, ho!" cried the knight, waving his hand to the
Brabançois, who were pressing forward towards the trembling crowd of
burghers "Stand back! Who passes that mark is my foe!" and he cast
his gauntlet on the ground in the front of the line.

"We will not be balked of our spoil. The purses of the burghers are
ours!" cried several of the free companions; and one sprang forward
from immediately behind De Coucy, and passed the bound he had fixed.
That instant, however, the knight, without seeing or inquiring who he
was, struck him a blow in the face with the pommel of his sword, that
laid him rolling on the ground with the blood spouting from his mouth
and nose. No one made a movement to follow; and Jodelle--for it was
he--rose from the ground, and retired silently to his companions.

De Coucy then advanced with prince Arthur towards the multitude
crowding round the barbican. Immediately the soldiers on the walls
bent their bows: but the voice of the earl of Salisbury was heard
exclaiming, "Whoever wings a shaft at him dies on the spot?" and De
Coucy proceeded to tell the people, that they must, if they hoped to
be spared, yield whatever gold or jewels they had about them to the
soldiery; and that all such men as were not clerks must agree to
surrender themselves prisoners, and pay a fair ransom, such as should
be determined afterwards by the prince's council.

This matter was soon settled; the universal cry from the burghers
being, in their extremity of fear, "Save our lives!--Save our women's
honour!--Save our children!--and take gold, or whatever else we
possess!" Each one instantly stripped himself of the wealth he had
about him; and this, being collected in a heap, satisfied for the time
the rapacity of the soldiers. De Coucy then took measures to secure
the lives of the prisoners; and putting them by twos and threes under
the protection of the prince's men-at-arms and his own squires, he
accompanied Arthur to the market-place, followed by the Brabançois,
wrangling with each other concerning the distribution of the spoil,
and seemingly forgetful of their disappointment in not having been
permitted to add bloodshed to plunder.

In the market-place, beside De Coucy's standard, stood Savary de
Maulèon, Geoffroy de Lusignan, and several other barons, with three
Norman knights as prisoners. The moment De Coucy and Arthur
approached, Savary de Maulèon advanced to meet them; and with that
generous spirit, which formed one of the brightest points in the
ancient knightly character, he pressed the former opponent of his
counsels in his mailed arms, exclaiming, "By my faith, Sire de Coucy,
thou hast kept thy word! There stands thy banner, an hour before
sun-set! and I proclaim thee, with the voice of all my companions, the
lord of this day's fight."

"Not so, fair sir!" replied De Coucy, "not so! There is another, to
whom the honour justly belongs.--Who first mounted the breach we made
in the wall? Who first measured swords with the famous William
Longsword, earl of Salisbury, and who, in short, has been the first in
all this day's achievements?--Here he stands," continued the knight,
turning towards the princely youth who stood beside him, blushing
to his very brow, both with graceful embarrassment and gratified
pride--"here he stands! and may this conquest of Mirebeau be but the
first of those that shall, step by step, give him his whole
dominions.--Sound trumpets, sound!--Long life to Arthur, king of
England!"



CHAPTER VII.


Just six days after the events we have related in our last chapter,
Guerin, the good minister whom we have so often had occasion to
notice, was walking up and down under a range of old beech-trees,
which, forming the last limit of the forest of Compiègne, approached
close to the castle, and waved their wide branches even over part of
the royal garden.

Guerin, however, was not within the boundary of the garden; from which
the spot he had chosen for his walk, was separated by a palisade and
ditch covered towards the castle by a high hedge of shrubs. There was
indeed an outlet towards the forest by means of a small postern door,
and a slight moveable bridge of wood, but the key of that gate
remained alone with the king; so that the minister, to reach the part
of the wood in which he walked, must have made a considerable circuit
round the castle, and through part of the town itself. His object,
probably, in choosing that particular spot, was to enjoy some moments
of undisturbed thought, without shutting himself up in the close
chambers of a Gothic château. Indeed, the subjects which he revolved
in his heart were of that nature, which one loves to deal with in the
open air, where we have free space to occupy the matter, while the
mind is differently engaged--strong contending doubts, hesitations
between right and wrong, the struggles of a naturally gentle and
feeling heart, against the dictates of political necessity. Such were
the guests of his bosom. The topic, which thus painfully busied the
minister's thoughts, was the communication made to him by the good but
weak bishop of Paris, as a consequence of his conversation with
Bernard, the hermit of St. Mandé.

To tear the hearts of the king and queen asunder,--to cast between
them so sad an apple of discord as jealousy, especially when he
felt convinced that Agnes's love to her husband was as firm as
adamant,--was a stroke of policy for which the mind of Guerin was
hardly framed; and yet the misery that the interdict had already
brought, the thousand, thousand fold that it was yet to bring, could
only be done away and averted by such a step. Philip remained firm to
resist to the last; Agnes was equally so to abide by his will, without
making any attempt to quit him. In a hundred parts of the kingdom, the
people were actually in revolt. The barons were leaguing together to
compel the king to submission, or to dethrone him; and ruin,
wretchedness, and destruction seemed threatening France on every side.
The plan proposed by the canon of St. Berthe's might turn away the
storm, and yet Guerin would rather have had his hand struck off than
put it in execution.

Such were the thoughts, and such the contending feelings, that warred
against each other in his breast, while he paced slowly up and down
before the palisade of the garden; and yet nothing showed itself upon
his countenance but deep, calm thought. He was not one of those men
whose features or whose movements betray the workings of the mind.
There were no wild starts, no broken expressions, no muttered
sentences: his corporeal feelings were not sufficiently excitable for
such gesticulations: and the stern retired habits of his life had
given a degree of rigidity to his features, which, without effort
rendered them on all ordinary events as immoveable as those of a
statue.

On the present occasion, he was followed by a page bearing his sword;
for, as we have before said, during many years after he had been
elected to the bishopric of Senlis, he retained the habit of a knight
hospitaller; but the boy, though accustomed to mark his lord's
countenance, beheld nothing there but the usual steady gravity of
profound thought.

As he passed backwards and forwards, the voices of two persons
conversing in the garden hard by struck his ear. At first, the
speakers were afar off, and their tones indistinct; but gradually they
came so near, that their words even would have been perfectly audible,
had Guerin been one to play the eaves-dropper; and then again they
passed on, the sounds dying away as they pursued their walk round
their garden.

"The queen's voice," said Guerin to himself; "and, if I mistake not,
that of the Count D'Auvergne. He arrived at Compiègne last night, by
Philip's own invitation, who expected to have returned from Gournay
long since. Pray God, he fail not there! for one rebuff in war, and
all his barons would be upon him at once. I wish I had gone myself;
for he is sometimes rash. If he were to return now, and find this
Auvergne with the queen, his jealousy might perchance spring from his
own head. But there is no hope of that: as he came not last night, he
will not arrive till evening."

Such was the course of Guerin's thoughts, when a page, dressed in a
bright green tunic of silk, approached, and, addressing himself to the
follower of the minister, asked his way to the garden of the château.

"Why, you must go a mile and more round, by the town, and in at the
great gates of the castle," replied Guerin's page.--"What do you seek
in the garden?"

"I seek the Count d'Auvergne," replied the youth, "on business of life
and death; and they told me that he was in the garden behind the
château, close by the forest.--My curse upon all misleaders!" and he
turned to retread his steps through the town.

Guerin had not heeded this brief conversation, but had rather
quickened his pace, to avoid hearing what was said by the queen and
the Count d'Auvergne, who at the moment were passing, as we have said,
on the other side of the palisade, and spoke loud, in the full
confidence that no human ears were near. A few words, however, forced
themselves upon his hearing.

"And such was my father's command and message," said Agnes in a
sorrowful tone.

"Such, indeed, it was, lady," replied the Count d'Auvergne; "and he
bade me entreat and conjure you, by all that is dear and sacred
between parent and child----"

Guerin, as we have said, quickened his pace: and what the unhappy
Count d'Auvergne added was lost, at least to him. Sufficient time had
just elapsed, to allow the speakers in the garden to turn away from
that spot and take the sweep towards the castle, when the sound of
horse was heard approaching. Guerin advanced to the end of one of the
alleys, and to his surprise beheld the king, followed by about a dozen
men-at-arms, coming towards the castle in all haste.

Before he reached the spot where Guerin stood, Philip dismounted, and
gave his bridle to one of the squires. "I will through the garden,"
said he:--"go you round to the gates as quietly as possible--I would
not have the poor burgesses know that I am returned, or I shall have
petitions and lamentations about this accursed interdict: petitions
that I cannot grant--lamentations that I would not hear."

The squire took the bridle, and, in obedience to the king's commands,
turned another way with the rest of the party; while Philip advanced
slowly, with his brow knit, and his eyes fixed on the ground. He did
not observe his minister; and, as he came onward, it was easy to read
deep, powerful, painful thought in every line of his countenance.
Twice he stopped, as he advanced, with his look still bent upon the
earth, and remained gazing thereon, without word or motion, for
several minutes. It would have seemed that he paused to remark some
moss and wild flowers, gathered together at his feet, had not his
frowning forehead, and stern, fixed eye, as well as the mournful shake
of the head, with which his pause still ended, told that sadder and
more bitter contemplations were busy in his mind.

The last time he stopped was within ten paces of Guerin, and yet he
did not see him, so deeply occupied were all his thoughts. At length,
unclasping his arms, which had been folded over his breast, he
clenched his hands tight, exclaiming, "Happy, happy Saladin! Thou hast
no meddling priest to disturb thy domestic joys!--By Heaven! I will
embrace thy creed, and worship Mahound!"

As he spoke, he raised his eyes, and they instantly rested on the
figure of his minister. "Ha, Guerin!" cried the king, "has the
interdict driven thee forth from the city?"

"Not so, sire," replied the minister. "I came forth to meditate here
in silence, over what might be done to raise it.--Get thee gone, boy!"
he continued, turning to his page. "Hie thee to the castle, and leave
me with the king."

"Oh! Guerin!" said Philip, pursuing his own train of thought,--"oh
Guerin! think of these base barons! these disloyal knights! After all
their empty enthusiasm!--after all their vain boastings!--after all
their lying promises!--falling off from me now, in my moment of
need! like flies frightened from a dead carcase by the wings of a
raven.--And the bishops too!--the goodly, saintly, fickle, treacherous
pack, frightened by the very hum of Rome's vulture wings!--they leave
me in the midst of the evil they have made! But, by the Lord above!
they shall suffer for their treason! Bishops and barons! they shall
feel this interdict as deeply as I do. Their treachery and cowardice
shall fill my treasury, and shall swell my crown's domains; and they
shall find that Philip knows how to make their punishment increase his
power. Gournay has fallen, Guerin," continued the king, "without the
loss of a man. I cut the high sluices and overwhelmed them in the
waters of their own artificial lake. Walls, and turrets, and
buttresses gave way before the rushing inundation, like straws before
the sickle. Half Normandy has yielded without resistance; and I might
have come back joyful, but that in every town as I passed, it was
murmurs, and petitions, and lamentations on the foul interdict.
They brought out their dead," proceeded Philip, grasping Guerin's
arm,--"they brought out their dead, and laid them at my feet! They
lined the streets with the dying, shrieking for the aid of religion.
Oh! Guerin! my friend! 'tis very horrible!--very, very, very
horrible!"

"It is indeed, sire!" said Guerin solemnly, "most horrible! and I am
sorry to increase your affliction by telling you, that, by every
courier that arrives, the most alarming accounts are brought from the
various provinces of your kingdom, speaking of nothing but open
rebellion and revolt."

"Where?" cried Philip Augustus, his eyes flashing fire. "Where? Who
dares revolt against the will of their liege sovereign?"

"In fifty different points of the kingdom the populace are in arms,
sire!" replied the minister. "I will lay the details before you at
your leisure. Many of the barons, too, remonstrate in no humble tone."

"We will march against them, Guerin,--we will march against them,"
replied the king firmly, "and serfs and barons shall learn they have a
lord."

As he spoke, he advanced a few paces towards the garden, then paused,
and drawing forth a scrap of parchment, he put it into Guerin's hand.
"I found that on my table at Gournay," said the king. "'Tis strange!
Some enemy of the Count d'Auvergne has done it!"

Guerin looked at the paper, and beheld, written evidently in the hand
of the canon of St. Berthe's, which he well knew; "Sir king, beware of
the Count d'Auvergne!" The minister, however, had no time to make any
reply; for the sound of the voices in the garden began again to
approach, and Philip instantly recognised the tones of Agnes de
Meranie.

"'Tis the queen," said he,--"'Tis Agnes!" and as he spoke that beloved
name, all the cares and sorrows that, in the world, had gathered round
his noble brow, like morning clouds about the high peak of some proud
mountain, rolled away, like those same clouds before the risen sun,
and his countenance beamed with more than usual happiness.

Guerin had by no means determined how to act, though he decidedly
leaned towards the scheme of the canon of St. Berthe's; but the
radiant gladness of Philip's eye at the very name of Agnes de Meranie,
strangely shook all the minister's conclusions, and he remained more
than ever in doubt.

"Hark!" cried Philip, in some surprise. "There is the voice of a
man!--To whom does she speak? Know you, Guerin?"

"I believe--I believe, sire," replied the minister, really embarrassed
and undecided how to act,--"I believe it is the Count d'Auvergne."

"You believe!--you believe!" cried the king, the blood mounting into
his face, till the veins of his temples swelled out in wavy lines upon
his clear skin. "The Count d'Auvergne! You hesitate--you stammer, sir
bishop!--you that never hesitated in your days before. What means
this?--By the God of heaven! I will know!"--and drawing forth the key
of the postern, he strode towards it. But at that moment the sound of
the voices came nearer and nearer--It was irresistible--The king
paused.

Agnes was speaking, and somewhat vehemently. "Once for all, beau sire
d'Auvergne," she said, "urge me no more; for, notwithstanding all you
say--notwithstanding all my own feelings in this respect, I must
not--I cannot--I will not--quit my husband. That name alone, my
husband, were enough to bind me to him by every duty; and I will never
quit him!"

What were the feelings of Philip Augustus as he heard such words,
combined with the hesitation of his minister, with the warning he had
received, and with the confused memory of former suspicions! The
thoughts that rushed through his brain had nearly driven him to
madness. "She loves me not!" he thought. "She loves me not--after all
I have done, and sacrificed for her! She is coldly virtuous--but she
loves me not;--she owns, her feelings take part with her seducer!--but
she will not leave me, for duty's sake!--Hell and fury! I, that have
adored her! She loves me not!--Oh God! she loves me not!--But
he,--he--shall not escape me! No,--I will wring his heart of its last
drop of blood! I will trample it under my feet!"

His wild straining eye,--the almost bursting veins of his
temples,--the clenching of his hands,--but more, the last words, which
had found utterance aloud--showed evidently to Guerin the dreadfully
over-wrought state of the king's mind; and, casting himself between
Philip and the postern as he rushed towards it, he firmly opposed the
monarch's passage, kneeling at his feet, and clasping his knees in his
still vigorous arms.

"Some one is coming. Count d'Auvergne!" Agnes was heard to say
hastily. "Begone! leave me!--Never let me hear of this again! Begone,
sir, I beg!"

"Unclasp me," cried the king, struggling to free himself from Guerin's
hold. "Thou knew'st it too, vile confidant! Base betrayer of your
sovereign's honour!--Unclasp me, or, by Heaven! you die as you
kneel!--Away! I say!" and, drawing his sword, he raised his arm over
the hospitaller's head.

"Strike, sire!" cried Guerin undauntedly, clasping the monarch's knees
still more firmly in his arms--"strike your faithful servant! His
blood is yours--take it! You cannot wound his heart more deeply with
your weapon, than you have done with your words--Strike! I am unarmed;
but here will I lie, between you and your mad passion, till you have
time to think what it is to slay a guest, whom you yourself invited,
in your own halls--before you know whether he be guilty or not."

"Free me, Guerin!" said Philip more calmly, but still with bitter
sternness. "Free me, I say! I am the king once more! Nay, hold not by
my haubert, man!"

Guerin rose, saying, "I beseech you, sire, consider! But Philip put
him aside with a strong arm; and, passing over the bridge, entered the
garden by the postern gate.

"Now, God forgive us all, if we have done amiss in this matter; and
surely if I have inflicted pain, it has not been without suffering it
too." Such was the reflection of the good bishop of Senlis, when left
by Philip; but although his heart was deeply wrung to see the agony of
a man he loved, and to be thereof even a promoter, he was not one to
waste his moments in fruitless regrets; and, passing through the
postern, which the king had neglected to shut, he proceeded, as fast
as possible, towards the castle, in order to govern the circumstances,
and moderate Philip's wrath, as much as the power of man might do.

In the mean while, Philip had entered the garden with his sword drawn,
and passing through the formal rows of flowering shrubs, which was the
taste of that day, he stood for an instant at the top of the large
square of ground which lay between him and the castle. Half the way
down on the left side, his eye caught the form of Agnes de Meranie;
but she was alone, save inasmuch as two of her ladies, following at
about a hundred yards' distance, could be said to keep her company.
Without turning towards her, Philip passed through a long arcade of
trellis-work which ran along the wall to the right, and, with a pace
of light, made his way to the castle.

On the steps he paused, replaced his sword in the sheath, and, passing
through one of the lesser towers, in a minute after stood in the midst
of the great hall. The men-at-arms started up from their various
occupations and amusements, and stood marvelling at the unannounced
coming of the king; more than one of them taxing themselves internally
with some undisclosed fault, and wondering if this unusual visitation
portended a reproof.

"Has the Count d'Auvergne been seen?" demanded Philip in a tone which
he meant to be calm, but which, though sufficiently rigid--if such a
term may be applied to sound--still betrayed more agitation than he
imagined--"Has the Count d'Auvergne been seen?"

"He passed but this instant, sire," replied one of the serjeants,
"with a page habited in green, who has been searching for him this
hour."

"Seek him!" cried the king in a voice that needed no repetition; and
the men-at-arms vanished in every direction from the hall, like dust
scattered by the wind. During their absence, Philip strode up and down
the pavement, his arms ringing as he trod, while the bitter gnawing of
his nether lip showed but too plainly the burning passions that were
kindled in his bosom. Every now and then, too, he would pause at one
of the doors, throw it wide open--look out, or listen for a moment,
and then resume his perturbed pacing in the hall.

In a few minutes, however, the bishop of Senlis entered, and
approached the king. Philip passed him by, knitting his brow, and
bending his eyes on the ground, as if resolved not to see him. Guerin,
notwithstanding his frown, came nearer, respectfully but boldly; and
the king was obliged to look up. "Leave me, sir Guerin," said he. "I
will speak with thee anon. Answer not; but leave me, for fear of
worse."

"Whatever worse than your displeasure may happen, sire," replied
Guerin, "I must abide it--claiming, however, the right of committing
the old servant's crime, and speaking first, if I am to be chidden
after."

Philip crossed his arms upon his broad chest, and with a stern brow
looked the minister full in the face; but remained silent, and
suffered him to continue.

"You have this day, my lord," proceeded Guerin, with unabated
boldness, "used hard terms towards a faithful subject and an ancient
friend; but you have conferred the great power upon me of forgiving my
king. My lord, I do forgive you, for thinking that the man who has
served you truly for twenty years,--since when first, in the boyish
hand of fifteen, you held an unsteady sceptre,--would now betray your
honour himself, or know it betrayed without warning you thereof. True,
my lord, I believed the Count d'Auvergne to be at the moment of your
arrival in the castle gardens with your royal queen."

The king's lip curled, but he remained silent. "Nevertheless,"
continued Guerin, "so God help me, as I did and do believe he meant no
evil towards you, beau sire; and nought but honourable friendship
towards the queen."

"Good man!" cried the king, his lip curling with a sneer, doubly
bitter, because it stung himself as well as him to whom it was
addressed. "Guerin, Guerin, thou art a good man!--too good, as the
world goes!"

"Mock me, sire, if you will," replied the minister, "but hear me still.
I knew the Count d'Auvergne to be the dear friend of this lady's
father--the sworn companion in arms of her dead brother: and I doubted
not that, as he lately comes from Istria, he might be charged to
enforce towards the queen herself, the same request that her father
made to you by letter, when first he heard that the divorce was
annulled by the see of Rome--namely, that his daughter might return to
his court, and not be made both the subject and sacrifice of long
protracted disputes with the supreme pontiff."

"Ha!" said the king, raising his hand thoughtfully to his brow.
"Say'st thou?" and for several minutes he remained in deep meditation.
"Guerin, my friend," said he at length, raising his eyes to the
minister as he comprehended at once the hospitaller's motive for
gladly yielding way to such a communication between the Count
d'Auvergne and Agnes as that of which he spoke--"Guerin, my friend,
thou hast cleared thyself of all but judging ill. Thy intentions--as I
believe from my soul they always are--were right. I did thee wrong.
Forgive me, good friend, in charity; for, even among kings, I am very,
very unhappy!" and he stretched out his hand towards his minister.

Guerin bent his lips to it in silence; and the king proceeded:--

"In clearing thyself too, thou hast mingled a doubt with my hatred of
this Thibalt d'Auvergne; but thou hast not taken the thorn from my
bosom. She may be chaste as ice, Guerin. Nay, she is. Her every
word, her every look speaks it--even her language to him was beyond
doubt--but still, she loves me not, Guerin! She spoke of duty, but she
never spoke of love! She, who has been my adoration--she, who loved
me, I thought, as kings are seldom loved--she loves me not!"

Guerin was silent. He felt that he could not conscientiously say one
word to strengthen the king's conclusion, that Agnes did not love him;
but for the sake of the great object he had in view, of raising the
interdict, and thereby freeing France from all the dangers that
menaced her, he forebore to express his firm conviction of the queen's
deep attachment to her husband.

Fortunately for his purpose, at this moment one or two of the king's
serjeants-at-arms returned, informing Philip, with no small addition
of surprise, that they could find no trace of the Count d'Auvergne.

"Let better search be made!" said the king; "and the moment he is
found, let him be arrested in my name, and confined, under strict
guard, in the chapel tower. Let his usage be good, but his prison
sure. Your heads shall answer!" Thus saying, he turned, and left the
hall, followed by Guerin, who dared not urge his remonstrances farther
at the moment.



CHAPTER VIII.


It may be necessary here to go back a little, in order to show more
fully what had really been that conversation between Thibalt
d'Auvergne and the fair Agnes de Meranie, of which but a few words
have yet reached the reader's ears.

The Count d'Auvergne had come to the castle of Compiègne, as we have
shown, upon the direct invitation of the king himself; and, indeed,
Philip had taken more than one occasion to court his powerful vassal;
not alone, perhaps, from political motives, but because he felt within
himself, without any defined cause, a kind of doubt and dislike
towards him, which he believed to be unjust, and knew to be impolitic;
and which, he was continually afraid, might become apparent, unless he
stretched his courtesy to its utmost extent.

D'Auvergne made no return. The frozen rigidity of his manner was never
relaxed for an instant; and whatever warmth the king assumed, it could
never thaw him even to a smile. Nor was this wholly the offspring of
that personal dislike which he might well be supposed to feel to a
happy and successful rival; but he felt that, bound by his promise to
the old duke of Istria, he had a task to perform, which Philip would
consider that of an enemy, and therefore D'Auvergne resolved never to
bear towards him, for a moment, the semblance of a friend.

Having, after his return to Paris, once more accepted Philip's
invitation to Compiègne; which, being made upon the plea of consulting
him respecting the conquest of Constantinople, was complied with,
without obligation. D'Auvergne proceeded on the evening appointed to
the castle; but, finding that Philip had not returned from the siege
of Gournay, he lodged himself and his followers, as he best might, in
the village. He felt, however, that he must seize the moment which
presented itself, of conveying to Agnes her father's message; and
convinced, by bitter experience, of the quick and mortal nature of
opportunity, the morning after his arrival he proceeded to the castle,
and demanded an audience of the queen.

No sensation on earth, perhaps, can be conceived more bitter than that
of seeing the object of one's love in the possession of another; and
Thibalt d'Auvergne's heart beat painfully--his very lip grew pale, as
he passed into the castle hall, and bade one of the pages announce him
to the queen. A few moments passed, after the boy's departure, in sad
expectation; the memory of former days contrasting their bright
fancies with the dark and gloomy hopelessness of the present. The page
speedily returned, and informed the count that his lady, the queen,
would see him with pleasure if he would follow to the garden.
D'Auvergne summoned all his courage; for there is more real valour in
meeting and conquering our own feelings, when armed against us, than
in overthrowing the best paladin that ever mounted horse. He followed
the boy towards the garden with a firm step, and, on entering, soon
perceived the queen advancing to meet him.

She was no longer the gay, bright girl that he had known in Istria, on
whose rosy cheek the touch of care had withered not a flower, whose
step was buoyancy, whose eyes looked youth, and whose arching lip
breathed the very spirit of gladness. She was no longer the same fair
girl we have seen, dreaming with her beloved husband overjoys and
hopes that royal stations must not know--with the substantial
happiness of the present, and the fanciful delights of the future,
forming a beamy wreath of smiles around her brow.--No; she was still
fair and lovely, but with a sadder kind of loveliness. The same sweet
features remained,--the same bland soul, shining from within--the same
heavenly eyes--the same enchanting lip; but those eyes had an
expression of pensive languor, far different from former days; and
that lip, though it beamed with a sweet welcoming smile, as her
father's and her brother's friend approached, seemed as if chained
down by some power of melancholy, so that the smile itself was sad.
The rose too had left her cheek; and though a very, very lovely colour
of a different hue had supplied its place, still it was not the colour
of the rose. It was something more delicate, more tender, more akin
to the last blush of the sinking sun before he stoops into the
darkness.

Two of the queen's ladies were at some distance behind, and, with good
discretion, after the count d'Auvergne had joined their royal
mistress, they made that distance greater. D'Auvergne advanced, and,
as was the custom of the day, bent his lips to the queen's hand. The
one he raised it in, trembled as if it were palsied; but there was
feverish heat in that of Agnes, as he pressed his lip upon it, still
more fearful.

"Welcome to the court, beau sire D'Auvergne!" said the queen with a
sweet and unembarrassed smile. "You have heard that my truant husband,
Philip, has not yet returned, though he promised me, with all a
lover's vows, to be back by yester-even. They tell me, you men are all
false with us women, and, in good truth, I begin to think it."

"May you never find it too bitterly, madam," replied the count.

"Nay, you spoke that in sad earnest, my lord," said Agnes, now
striving with effort for the same playful gaiety that was once natural
to her. "You are no longer what you were in Istria, beau sire. But we
must make you merrier before you leave our court. Come, you know,
before the absolution, must still go confession;" and as she spoke,
with a certain sort of restlessness that had lately seized her, she
led the way round the garden, adding, "Confess, beau sire, what makes
you sad--every one must have something to make them sad--so I will be
your confessor. Confess, and you shall have remission."

She touched the count's wound to the quick, and he replied in a tone
of sadness bordering on reproach: "Oh! madam! I fear me, confession
would come too late!"

How a single word--a single tone--a single look, will sometimes give
the key to a mystery. There are moments when conception, awakened we
know not how, flashes like the lightning through all space, illumining
at once a world that was before all darkness. That single sentence,
with the tone in which it was said, touched the "electric chain" of
memory, and ran brightening along over a thousand links in the past,
which connected those words with the days long gone by. It all flashed
upon Agnes's mind at once. She had been loved--deeply, powerfully
loved; and, unknowing _then_ what love was, she had not seen it. But
_now_, that love was the constant food of her mind, from morning until
night, her eyes were opened at once, and that, with no small pain to
herself. The change in her manner, however, was instant; and she felt,
that one light word, one gay jest, after that discovery, would render
her culpable, both to her husband and to Thibalt d'Auvergne. Her eye
lost the light it had for a moment assumed--the smile died away upon
her lip, and she became calm and cold as some fair statue.

The Count d'Auvergne saw the change, and felt perhaps why; but as he
did feel it, firm in the noble rectitude of his intentions, he lost
the embarrassment of his manner, and took up the conversation which
the queen had dropped entirely.

"To quit a most painful subject, madam," he said calmly and firmly,
"allow me to say that I should never have returned to Europe, had not
duties called me; those duties are over, and I shall soon go back to
wear out the frail rest of life amidst the soldiers of the cross. I
may fall before some Saracen lance,--I may taste the cup of the mortal
plague; but my bones shall whiten on a distant shore, after fighting
under the sign of our salvation. There still, however, remains one
task to be performed, which, however wringing to my heart, must be
completed. As I returned to France, madam, I know not what desire of
giving myself pain made me visit Istria; I there saw your noble
father, who bound me by a knightly vow to bear a message to his
child."

"Indeed, sir!" said Agnes: "let me beg you would deliver it.--But
first tell me, how is my father?" she aided anxiously,--"how looks he?
Have age, and the wearing cares of this world, made any inroad on his
vigorous strength? Speak, sir count!"

"I should say falsely, lady," replied D'Auvergne, "if I said that,
since I saw him before, he had not become, when last we met, an
altered man. But I was told by those about him, that 'tis within the
last year this change has principally taken place."

"Indeed!" said Agnes thoughtfully: "and has it been very great? Stoops
he now? He was as upright as a mountain pine, when I left him? Goes he
forth to hunt as formerly?"

"He often seeks the chase, lady," answered the count, "as a diversion
to his somewhat gloomy thoughts; but I am grieved to say, that age has
bent the pine."

Agnes mused for several minutes; and the count remained silent.

"Well, sir," said she at length, "the message--what is it? Gave he no
letter?

"None, madam," said the count; "he thought that a message by one who
had seen him, and one whose wishes for your welfare were undoubted,
might be more serviceable to the purpose he desired."

"My lord, your wishes for my welfare are as undoubted by me as they
are by my father," replied the queen, noticing a slight emphasis which
D'Auvergne had placed upon the word _undoubted_; "and therefore I am
happy to receive his message from the lips of his friend."

The queen's words were courteous and kind, but her manner was as cold
and distant as if she had spoken to a stranger; and D'Auvergne felt
hurt that it should be so, though he well knew that her conduct was
perhaps the wisest for both.

After a moment's thought, however, he proceeded, to deliver the
message wherewith he had been charged by the duke of Istria and
Meranie. "Your father, lady," he said, "charged me to give you the
following message;--and let me beg you to remember, that, as far as
memory serves, I use his own words; for what might be bold,
presumptuous, or even unfeeling, in your brother's poor companion in
arms, becomes kind counsel and affectionate anxiety when urged by a
parent. Your father, lady, bade me say, that he had received a letter
from the common father of the Christian church, informing him that
your marriage with the noble king Philip was not, and could not be
valid, because----"

"Spare the reasons, sir," said Agnes, with a calm voice, indeed, but
walking on, at the same time, with that increased rapidity of pace
which showed too well her internal agitation,--"spare the reasons,
sir! I have heard them before--Indeed, too, too often!--What said my
father, more?"

"He said, madam, that as the pope assured him, on his apostolic truth,
that the marriage never could be rendered valid," continued the count;
"and farther, that the realm of France must be put in interdict--for
the interdict, madam, had not been then pronounced; and Celestin, a
far milder judge than the present, sat in the chair of St. Peter;--he
said, that as this was the case, and as the daughter of the duke of
Meranie was not formed to be an object of discord between a king and a
Christian prelate, he begged, and conjured, and commanded you to
withdraw yourself from an alliance that he now considered as
disgraceful as it had formerly appeared honourable; and to return to
your father's court, and the arms of your family, where, you well
know, he said, that domestic love and parental affection would
endeavour to wipe out from your heart the memory of disappointments
and sorrows brought on you by no fault of your own."

"And such, indeed, was my father's command and message?" said the
queen, in a tone of deep affliction.

"Such, indeed, it was, lady," replied the count D'Auvergne, "and he
bade me, farther, entreat and conjure you, by all that is dear and
sacred between parent and child, not to neglect his counsel and
disobey his commands. He said moreover that he knew----" and Thibalt
d'Auvergne's lip quivered as if the agony of death was struggling in
his heart--"he said that he knew how fondly you loved the noble king
your husband, and how hard it would be to tear yourself from him. But
he begged you to remember that your house's honour was at stake, and
not to shrink from your duty."

"Sir count," said Agnes, in a voice that faltered with emotion, "he,
nor no one else, _can_ tell how I love my husband--how deeply--how
fondly--how devotedly. Yet that should not stay me; for though I would
as soon tear out my heart, and trample it under my own feet, as quit
him, yet I would do it, if my honour and my duty bade me go. But my
honour and my duty bid me stay----" She paused, and thoughtfully
followed the direction of the walk, clasping her small hands together,
and bending down her eyes, as one whose mind, unaccustomed to decide
between contending arguments, is bewildered by number and reiteration,
but not convinced. She thus advanced some way in the turn towards the
castle, and then added--"Besides, even if I would, how could I quit
my husband's house and territories? How could I return to Istria
without his will?"

"That difficulty, madam, I would smooth for you or die," replied the
count. "The troops of Auvergne could and should protect you."

"The troops of Auvergne against Philip of France!" exclaimed Agnes,
raising her voice, while her eye flashed with an unwonted fire, and
her lip curled with a touch of scorn. "And doubtless the Count
d'Auvergne to head them, and defend the truant wife against her angry
husband!"

"You do me wrong, lady," replied D'Auvergne calmly--"you do me wrong.
The Count d'Auvergne is boon for other lands. Nor would he do one act
for worlds, that could, even in the ill-judging eyes of men, cast a
shade over the fame and honour of one----" He paused, and broke off
his sentence, adding--"But no more of that--lady, you do me wrong. I
did but deem, that, accompanied by your own holy confessor, and what
other prelates or clergymen you would, a thousand of my armed
vassals might convey you safely to the court of your father, while I,
bound by a holy vow, should take shipping at Marseilles, and never set
my foot on shore till I might plant it on the burning sands of
Palestine.--Lady, may this be?"

"No, lord count, no!"--replied Agnes, her indignation at any one
dreaming of opposing the god of her idolatry still unsubdued, "it
cannot, nor it must not be! Did I seek Istria at all, I would rather
don a pilgrim's weeds, and beg my way thither on foot. But I seek it
not, my lord--I never will seek it. Philip is my husband--France is my
land. The bishops of this realm have freed, by their united decree,
their king from all other engagement than that to me; and so long as
he himself shall look upon that engagement as valid, I will not doubt
its firmness and its truth."

"I have then discharged me of my unpleasant duty, lady," said the
Count d'Auvergne. "My task is accomplished, and my promise to your
father fulfilled. Yet, that it may be well fulfilled, let me beg you
once again to think of your father's commands; and knowing the
nobleness of his nature, the clearness of his judgment, and the
fearless integrity of his heart, think if he would have urged you to
quit king Philip without he thought it your duty to do so."

"He judged as a father; I judge as a wife," replied Agnes. "I love my
father--I would die for him; and, but to see him, I would sacrifice
crown, and dignity, and wealth. Yet, once for all, beau sire
d'Auvergne, urge me no more; for, notwithstanding all you can
say--notwithstanding my own feelings in this respect, I must not--I
cannot--I will not quit my husband. That name alone, _my husband_,
were enough to bind me to him by every duty, and I will never quit
him."

D'Auvergne was silent; for he saw, by the flushed cheek and disturbed
look of Agnes de Meranie, that he had urged her as far as in honour
and courtesy he dared to go. They had by this time turned towards the
château, from which they beheld a page, habited in green, advancing
rapidly towards them.

"Some one is coming. Count d'Auvergne," said Agnes hastily, fearful,
although her women were at a little distance behind, that any stranger
should see her discomposed look.--"Some one is coming,--Begone! Leave
me!" And seeing the count about to speak again, though it was but to
take his leave, she added--"Never let me hear of this again! Begone,
sir, I beg!"

She then stooped down to trifle with some flowers, till such time as
the stranger should be gone, or her own cheek lose the heated flush
with which it was overspread.

In the meanwhile, the Count d'Auvergne bowed low, and turned towards
the castle. Before he had reached it, however, he was encountered by
De Coucy's page, who put a paper in his hand, one glance of which made
him hasten forward; and passing directly through the hall of the
château, he issued out at the other gate. From thence he proceeded to
the lodging where he had passed the night before--called his retainers
suddenly together, mounted his horse, and rode away.

As soon as he left her, Agnes de Meranie raised her head from the
flowers over which she had been stooping, and walked on slowly,
musing, towards the castle; while thought--that strange phantasmagoria
of the brain--presented to her a thousand vague and incoherent forms,
called up by the conversation that had just passed--plans, and fears,
and hopes, and doubts, crowding the undefined future; and memories,
regrets, and sorrows thronging equally the past. Fancy, the quick
wanderer, had travelled far in a single moment, when the sound of a
hasty step caught her ear, passing along under the trellis of vines
that skirted the garden wall. She could not see the figure of the
person that went by; but it needed not that she should. The sound of
that footfall was as well known to her ear as the most familiar
form to her eye; and, bending her head, she listened again, to be
sure--very sure.

"'Tis Philip!" said she, all her other feelings forgotten, and hope
and joy sparkling again in her eye--"'tis Philip! He sees me not, and
yet he knows that at this hour it is my wont to walk here. But perhaps
'tis later than I thought. He is in haste too by his step. However, I
will in, with all speed, to meet him;" and, signing to her women to
come up, she hastened towards the castle.

"Have you seen the king?" demanded she of a page, who hurried to open
the gates for her.

"He has just passed, madam," replied the youth. "He seemed to go into
the great hall in haste, and is now speaking to the serjeants-at-arms.
You may hear his voice."

"I do," said the queen; and proceeding to her apartments, she waited
for her husband's coming, with all that joyful hope that seemed
destined in this world as meet prey for disappointment.



CHAPTER IX.


At Tours, we have seen De Coucy despatch his page towards the Count
d'Auvergne; and at Compiègne we have seen the same youth deliver a
letter to that nobleman. But we must here pause, to trace more
particularly the course of the messenger, which, in truth, was not
near so direct as at first may be imagined.

There was, at the period referred to, a little hostelry in the town of
Château du Loir, which was neat and well-furnished enough for the time
it flourished in.[21] It had the most comfortable large hearth in the
world, which, in those days, was the next great excellence in a house
of general reception to that of having good wine, which always held
the first place; and round this--on each side of the fire, as well as
behind it--was a large stone seat, that might accommodate well fifteen
or sixteen persons on a cold evening. At the far corner of this
hearth, one night in the wane of September, when days are hot and
evenings are chilly, sat a fair youth of about eighteen years of age,
for whom the good hostess, an honest, ancient dame, that always prayed
God's blessing on a pair of rosy cheeks, was mulling some spiced wine,
to cheer him after a long and heavy day's riding.


--------------------

[Footnote 21: I know not precisely how far back a curious antiquary
might trace the existence of such places of public reception. I find
one mentioned, however, in the Chronicle of Vezelai, about fifty years
prior to the period of which I write.]

--------------------


"Ah, now! I warrant thee," said the good lady, adjusting the wood
embers carefully round the little pipkin, on the top of which just
began to appear a slight creaming foam, promising a speedy conclusion
to her labours--"ay, now! I warrant thee, thou hast seen them all--the
fair lady Isadore, and pretty mistress Alice, the head maid, and
little Eleanor, with her blue eyes. Ha, sir page, you redden! I have
touched thee, child. God bless thee, boy! never blush to be in love.
Your betters have been so before thee; and I warrant little Eleanor
would blush too. God bless her, and St. Luke the apostate! Oh, bless
thee, my boy, I know them all! God wot they stayed here, master and
man, two days, while they were waiting for news from the king John;
and old Sir Julian himself vowed he was as well here as in the best
castle of France or England."

"Well, well, dame! I have ridden hard back, at all events," replied
the page; "and I will make my horse's speed soon catch up, between
this and Paris, the day and a half I have lingered here; so that my
noble lord cannot blame me for loitering on his errand."

"Tut, tut! He will never know a word," cried the old dame, applying to
the page that sort of consolatory assurance that our faults will rest
unknown, which has damned many a one, both man and woman, in this
world--"he will never know a word of it; and, if he did, he would
forgive it. Lord, Lord! being a knight, of course he is in love
himself; and knows what love is. God bless him, and all true knights!
I say."

"Oh, in love--to be sure he is!" replied the page. "Bless thee, dame!
when we came all hot from the Holy Land, like loaves out of an oven,
my lord no sooner clapped his eyes upon the lady Isadore, than he was
in love up to the ears, as they say. Ay! and would ride as far to see
her, as I would to see little Eleanor. But tell me, dame, have you
staked the door as I asked you?"

"Latch down, and bolt shot!" answered the old lady; "but what shouldst
thou fear, poor child? Thou art not of king John's friends, that I
well divine; but, bless thee! every one who has passed, this blessed
day, says they are moving the other way; though, in good troth, I have
no need to say God be thanked; for the heavy Normans, and the thirsty
English, would sit here and drink me pot after pot, and it mattered
not what wine I gave them--Loiret was as good as Beaugency. God bless
them all, and St. Luke the apostate! as I said. So what need'st thou
fear, boy?"

"Why, I'll tell thee, good dame. If they caught me, and knew I was the
De Coucy's man, they would hang me up, for God's benison," said the
page; "and I narrowly escaped on the road too. Five mounted men, with
their arms covered with soldiers' mantles,--though they looked like
knights, and rode like knights too,--chased me for more than a mile.
They had a good score of archers at their backs; and I would have
dodged them across the country, but every little hill I came to, I saw
a body of horse on all sides, moving pace by pace with them. Full five
hundred men, I counted one way and another; and there might be five
hundred more, for aught I know."

"Now, St. Barbara's toe nail to St. Luke's shoulder bone," exclaimed
the hostess, mingling somewhat strangely the relics which she was
accustomed to venerate with the profane wagers of the soldiery who
frequented her house--"now, St. Barbara's toe nail to St. Luke's
shoulder bone, that these are the men whom my lodger upstairs expected
to come to-night!"

"What lodger?" cried the page anxiously. "Dame, dame, you told me,
this very morning, you had none!"

"And I told you true, sir chit!" replied the old woman, bridling at
the tone of reproach the page adopted. "I told you true.--There, drink
your wine--it is well mulled now;--take care you do not split the
horn, pouring it in so hot.--I told you true enough--I had no lodger
this morning, when you went; but, half an hour after, came one who had
ridden all night, with a great _boutiau_ at his saddle, that would
hold four quarts. Cursed be those _boutiaus!_ they cut us vintners'
combs. Every man carries his wine with him, and never sets foot in a
hostelry but to feed his horse."

"But the traveller!--the traveller!--Good dame, tell me," cried the
page, "what manner of man was he?"

"A goodly man, i'faith," replied the landlady. "Taller than thou art,
sir page, by a hand's breadth. He had been in a fray, I warrant, for
his eye was covered over with a patch, and his nose broken across. He
too would fain not be seen, and made me put him in a guest-chamber at
the end of the dormitory. He calls himself Alberic, though that is
nothing to me or any one: and there was a Norman came to speak with
him an hour after he came; but that is nothing to me either."

"Hark, dame! hark! I hear horses," cried the page, starting up in no
small trepidation, "Where can I hide me? Where?" and, even as he asked
the question, he began to climb the stairs, that came almost
perpendicularly down into the centre of the room, with all the
precipitation of fear.

"Not there!--not there!" cried the old woman; "thou wilt meet that
Alberic. Into that cupboard;" and, seizing the page by the arm, she
pushed him into a closet filled with faggots and brushwood for
replenishing the kitchen fire. Under this heap he ensconced himself as
well as he might, paying no regard to the skin of his hands and face,
which was very sufficiently scratched in the operation of diving down
to the bottom of the pile. The old lady, who seemed quite familiar
with all such man[oe]uvres, while the sound of approaching horses came
nearer and nearer, arranged what he had disarranged in his haste, sat
down by the fire, tossed off the remainder of the wine in the pipkin,
and began to spin quietly, while the horses' feet that had startled
the page clattered on through the village. In a moment after, they
stopped at the door; and, at the same time, a heavy footfall was heard
pacing forward above, as if some one, disturbed also by the sounds,
approached to listen at the head of the stairs.

"Ho! Within there!" cried some person without, after having pushed the
door, and found it bolted.--"Ho! Within there! Open, I say."

The old dame ran forward, taking care to make her feet give audible
sounds of haste upon the floor; and, instantly unfastening the door,
she stood becking and bowing to the strangers, as they dismounted from
their horses and entered the kitchen.

"God save ye, fair sir!--God save ye, noble gentlemen. Welcome,
welcome!--Lord! Lord! I have not seen such a sight of noble faces
since good king John's army went. The blessing of God be upon him and
them! He is a right well favoured and kingly lord! Bless his noble
eyes, and his sweet low forehead, and send him plenty of crowns to put
upon it!"

"How, dame! Dost thou know King John?" asked one of the strangers,
laying his hand upon the hostess's shoulders, with an air of kindly
familiarity. "But thou mistakest. I have heard he is villanous ugly.
Ha!"

"Lord forgive you, sire, and St. Luke the apostate!" cried the old
woman. "He is the sweetest gentleman you ever set your eyes on. Many a
time have I seen him when the army was here; and so handsome he is!
Lord, Lord!"

"Ha! methinks thou wouldst look handsomer thus, thyself," cried the
stranger, suddenly snatching off the old woman's quoif, and setting it
down again on her head with the wrong side in front. "So, my lovely
lass!" and he patted the high cap with the whole strength of his hand,
so as to flatten it completely. "So, so!"

His four companions burst into a loud and applauding laugh, and were
proceeding to follow up his jest upon the old woman, when the other
stopped them at once, crying, "Enough, my masters! no more of it. Let
us to business. Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, you shall make love to
the old wench another time.--Now, beautiful lady!" he continued,
mocking the chivalrous speeches of the day. "Would those sweet lips
but deign to open the coral boundary of sound, and inform an unhappy
knight, who has this evening ridden five long leagues, whether one sir
Alberic, as he is pleased to call himself, lodges in your castle?"

"Lord bless your noble and merry heart!" replied the old woman,
apparently not at all offended or discomposed by the accustomed gibes
of her guests. "How should I know sir Alberic? I never ask strangers'
names that do my poor hostel the honour of putting up at it. Not but
that I may have heard the name, and lately; but----"

"But--hold thy peace, old woman!" said a voice from above. "These
persons want me, and I want them;" and down the staircase came no less
a person than our friend Jodelle, the captain of De Coucy's troop of
Brabançois. One eye indeed was covered with a patch; but this addition
to his countenance was probably assumed less as a concealment, than
for the purpose of covering the marks of a tremendous blow which we
may remember the knight had dealt him with the pommel of his sword;
and which, notwithstanding the patch, shone out in a large livid
swelling all round.

"Tell me, dame," cried he, advancing to the hostess, before he
exchanged one word of salutation with the strangers, "who was it that
stopped at your gate half an hour ago on horseback, and where is he
gone? He was speaking with thee but now, for I heard two voices."

"Lord bless you, sir, and St. Luke the apostate, to boot!" said the
old woman, "'twas but my nephew, poor boy; frightened out of his life,
because he said he had met with some of King Philip's horsemen on the
road. So he slipped away when he heard horses coming, and took his
beast round to the field to ride off without being noticed, because
being of the English party, King Philip would hang him if he caught
him."

"King Philip's horsemen!" cried the first stranger, turning deadly
pale. "Whence did he come, good dame? What road did he travel, that he
saw King Philip's horsemen?"

"He came from Flêche, fair sir," replied the hostess, "and he said
there were five of them chased him; and he saw many more scattered
about."

"Oh, nonsense!" cried one of the other strangers. "'Tis the youth we
chased ourselves. He has taken us for Philip's men.--How was he
dressed, dame?"

"In green, beau sire," replied the ready hostess. "He had a green
cassock on I am well nigh sure."

"'Tis the same!--'tis the same!" said the stranger, who had asked the
last question.--"Be not afraid, beau sire," he added, speaking in a
low tone to the stranger who had entered first. "Philip is far enough;
and were he near, he should dine off the heads of lances, and quaff
red blood till he were drunk, ere he harmed a hair of your head. So,
be not afraid."

"Afraid, sir!" replied the other, drawing himself up haughtily, now
re-assured by the certainty of the mistake concerning Philip's
horsemen. "How came you to suppose I am afraid?--Now, good fellow," he
continued, turning to Jodelle, "are you that Alberic that wrote a
billet this morning to the camp at----?"

"By your leave, fair sir," interrupted Jodelle, "we will have a clear
coast.--Come, old woman, get thee out. We must be alone."

"What! out of my own kitchen, sir?" cried the hostess. "That is hard
allowance, surely."

"It must needs be so, however," answered Jodelle: "out at that door,
good dame! Thou shalt not be long on the other side;" and, very
unceremoniously taking the landlady by the arm, he put her out at the
door which opened on the street, and bolted it once more. "And now,"
said he, "to see that no lurkers are about."

So saying, he examined the different parts of the room, and then
opened the door of the closet, in which the poor page lay trembling
like an aspen leaf.

"Brushwood!" said Jodelle, taking a candle from one of the iron
brackets that lighted the room, and advancing into the closet, he laid
his hand on one of the bundles, and rolled it over.

The page, cringing into the space of a pigmy, escaped his sight,
however; and the roll of the fagot, instead of discovering him,
concealed him still better by falling down upon his head. But still
unsatisfied, the marauder drew his sword, and plunged it into the mass
of brushwood to make all sure.--There was in favour of the poor page's
life but the single chance of Jodelle's blade passing to the right or
left of him. Still, that chance was for him. The Brabançois' sword was
aimed a little on one side, and, leaving him uninjured, struck against
the wall. Jodelle sheathed it again, satisfied, and returned to the
strangers, the chief of whom had seated himself by the fire, and was,
with strange levity, moralising on the empty pipkin which had held the
mulled wine.

His voice was sweet and melodious, and, though he evidently spoke in
mockery, one might discover in his speech those tones and accents that
lead and persuade.

"Mark! Guillaume de la Roche," said he, "Mark! Pembroke, and you, sir
Alberic, mark well! for it may happen in your sinful life, that never
again shall you hear how eloquently a pipkin speaks to man. Look at
it, as I hold it now in my hand. No man amongst you would buy it at
half a denier; but fill it with glorious wine of Montrichard, and it
is worth ten times the sum. Man! man! thou art but a pipkin,--formed
of clay--baked in youth--used in manhood--broken in age. So long as
thou art filled with spirit, thou art valuable and ennobled; but the
moment the spirit is out, thou art but a lump of clay again. While
thou art full, men never abandon thee; but when thou art sucked empty,
they give thee up, and let thee drop as I do the pipkin;" and opening
his finger and thumb, he suffered it to fall on the floor, where it at
once dashed itself to pieces.

"And now, sir Alberic," continued he, turning to Jodelle, "what the
devil do you want with me?"

"Beau sire king," said Jodelle, bending his knee before the stranger,
"if you are indeed, as your words imply, John, king of England----"

"I am but a pipkin!" interrupted the light king. "Alas! sir Alberic,
lam but a pipkin.--But proceed, proceed.--I am the king."

"Well then, my lord," answered Jodelle, in truth, somewhat impatient
in his heart at the king's mockery, "as I was bold to tell you in my
letter, I have heard that your heart's best desire is to have under
your safe care and guidance your nephew, Arthur, duke of Brittany----"

"Thou speakest right, fellow!" cried the King John, wakening to
animation at the thought. "'Tis my heart's dearest wish to have
him.--Where is the little rebel? Produce him! Have you got him here?"

"Good God! my lord, you forget," said the Earl of Pembroke. "This fair
gentleman cannot be expected to carry your nephew about with him, like
a holy relic in a reliquary."

"Or, a white mouse in a show-box," added Guillaume de la Roche Guyon,
laughing.

"Good, good!" cried John, joining in the laugh.--"But come, sir
Alberic, speak plainly. Where is the white mouse? When wilt thou open
thy show-box? We have come ourselves, because thou wouldest deal with
none but us; therefore, now thou hast our presence, bear thyself
discreetly in it.--Come, when wilt thou open the box, I pray?"

"When it pleases you to pay the poor showman his price?" said Jodelle,
bowing low and standing calmly before the king, in the attitude of one
who knows that, for the moment at least, he commands, where he seems
to be commanded; and that his demands, however exorbitant, must be
complied with.

"Ha!" said John, knitting his brows; "I had forgot that there is not
one man on all the earth who has not his price.--Pray, what is thine,
fellow?"

"I am very moderate, beau sire," replied Jodelle, with the most
imperturbable composure, "very moderate in regard to what I sell.
Would you know, my lord king, what I demand for placing your nephew
Arthur in your hands, with all those who are now assisting him to
besiege the queen, your mother, in her château of Mirebeau?--'Tis a
worthy deed, and merits some small recompence."

"Speak, speak, man!" cried the king impatiently. "Go not round and
round the matter. Speak it out plainly. What sum dost thou ask?"

"Marry! my lord, there must go more than sums to the bargain," replied
Jodelle boldly. "But if you would know justly what I do demand, 'tis
this. First, you shall pay me down, or give me here an order on your
royal treasure for the sum of ten thousand marks in what coin you
will."

"By the Lord, and the Holy Evangelists!" cried the king; but, then
pausing, he added, while he turned a half smiling glance to Lord
Pembroke:--"Well, thou shalt have the order on the royal treasury.
What next?"

"After you have given me the order, sire," replied Jodelle, answering
the meaning of the king's smile, "I will find means to wring the money
out of your friends, or out of your enemies, even should your treasure
be as dry as hay."

"Try my enemies first, good Alberic," said the king; "my friends have
enough to do already.--But what next? for you put that firstly, if I
forget not."

"Next, you must give me commission, under your royal signet, to raise
for your use, and at your expense, one thousand free lances," replied
Jodelle stoutly, "engaged to serve you for the space of ten years.
Moreover, I must have annually half the pay of Mercader; and you must
consent to dub me knight with your royal hand."

"Knight!" cried the Earl of Pembroke, turning fiercely upon him.--"By
the Lord! if the king do dub so mean and pitiful a traitor, I will
either make the day of your dubbing the last of your life; or I will
have my own scullion strike off my own spurs, as a dishonour to my
heels, when such a villain wears the same."

"When those spurs _are_ on, Lord Pembroke," replied Jodelle boldly,
"thou shalt not want one to meet thee, and give thee back scorn for
scorn. Till then, meddle with what concerns thee, and mar not the
king's success with thy scolding."

"Peace, Pembroke! peace!" cried King John, seeing his hasty peer about
to make angry answer. "Who dare interfere where my will speaks?--And
now tell me, fellow Alberic," he added with an air of dignity he could
sometimes assume, "suppose that we refuse thine exacting demands--what
follows then?"

"Why, that I betake myself to my beast's back, and ride away as I
came," answered Jodelle undisturbedly.

"But suppose we do not let thee go," continued the king; "and farther,
suppose we hang thee up to the elm before the door."

"Then you will have broken a king's honour to win a dead carcase,"
answered the Brabançois; "for nothing shall you ever know from me that
may stead you in your purpose."

"But we have tortures, sir, would almost make the dead speak,"
rejoined King John. "Such, at least, as would make thee wish thyself
dead a thousand times, ere death came to thy relief."

"I doubt thee not, sir king," answered Jodelle, with the same
determined tone and manner in which he had heretofore spoken--"I doubt
thee not; and, as I pretend to no more love for tortures than my
neighbours, 'tis more than likely I should tell thee all I could tell,
before the thumbscrew had taken half a turn; but it would avail thee
nothing, for nought that I could tell thee would make my men withdraw
till they have me amongst them; and, until they be withdrawn, you may
as well try to surprise the sun of heaven, guarded by all his rays, as
catch Prince Arthur and Guy de Coucy."

"Why wouldst thou not come to the camp, then?" demanded John. "If thou
wert so secure, why camest thou not when I sent for thee?"

"Because, King John, I once served your brother Richard," replied the
Brabançois, "and during that time I made me so many dear friends in
Mercader's band, that I thought, if I came to visit them, without two
or three hundred men at my back, they might, out of pure love, give me
a banquet of cold steel, and lodging with our lady mother,--the
earth."

"The fellow jests, lords! On my soul! the fellow jests!" cried
John.--"Get thee back, sirrah, a step or two; and let me consult with
my nobles," he added.--"Look to him, Pembroke, that he escape not."

John then spoke for several minutes with the gentlemen who had
attended him to this extraordinary meeting; and the conversation,
though carried on in a low tone, seemed in no slight degree
animated; more especially on the part of Lord Pembroke, who frequently
spoke loud enough for such words to be heard as "disgrace to
chivalry--disgust the barons of England--would not submit to have
their order degraded," &c.

At length, however, a moment of greater calm succeeded; and John,
beckoning the coterel forward, spoke to him thus:--

"Our determination is taken, good fellow, and thou shall subscribe to
it, or not, as thou wilt. First, we will give thee the order upon our
treasury for the ten thousand marks of silver; always provided, that
within ten days' time, the body of Arthur Plantagenet is by thy means
placed in our hands--living--or dead," added the king, with a fearful
emphasis on the last word. At the same time he contracted his brows,
and though his eyes still remained fixed upon Jodelle, he half-closed
the eyelids over them, as if he considered his own countenance as a
mask through which his soul could gaze out without being seen, while
he insinuated what he was afraid or ashamed to proclaim openly.

Lord Pembroke gave a meaning glance to another nobleman who stood
behind the king; and who slightly raised his shoulder and drew down
the corner of his mouth as a reply, while the king proceeded:--

"We will grant thee also, on the same condition, that which thou
demandest in regard to raising a band of Brabançois, and serving as
their commander, together with all the matter of pay, and whatever
else you have mentioned on that head; but as to creating thee a
knight, 'tis what we will not, nor cannot do, at least, for service of
this kind. If you like the terms, well!" concluded the king; "if not,
there stands an elm at the door, as we have before said, which would
form as cool and shady a dangling place, as a man could wish to hang
on in a September's day."

"Nay, I have no wish of the kind," replied the Brabançois: "if I must
hang on any thing, let it be a king, not a stump of timber. I will not
drive my bargain hard, sir king. Sign me the papers now, with all the
conditions you mention; and when I am your servant, I will do you such
good service, that yon proud lord, who now stands in the way of my
knighthood, shall own I deserve it as well as himself."

The Earl of Pembroke gave him a glance of scorn, but replied not to
his boast; and writing materials having been procured from some of the
attendants without--the whole house being by this time surrounded with
armed men, who had been commanded to follow the king by different
roads--the papers were drawn up, and signed by the king.

"And now, my lord," said Jodelle, with the boldness of a man who can
render needful service, "look upon Prince Arthur as your own. Advance
with all speed upon Mirebeau. When you are within five leagues, halt
till night. Arthur, with the hogs of Poitou, is kinging it in the
town. De Coucy sleeps by his watch-fire under the castle mound. My men
keep the watch on this side of the town. Let your troops advance
quietly in the dark, giving the word _Jodelle_, and, without sign or
signal, my free fellows shall retire before you, till you are in the
very heart of the place. Arthur, with his best knights, sleeps at the
prévôt's house; surround that, and you have them all, without drawing
a sword.--Love you the plan?"

"By my crown and honour!" cried the king, his eyes sparkling with
delight, "if the plan be as well executed as it is devised, thou wilt
merit a diamond worth a thousand marks, to weigh your silver down.
Count upon me, good Alberic! as your best friend through life, if thy
plot succeeds. Count on me, Alberic----"

"Jodelle! for the future, so please you, sire," replied the coterel;
"Alberic was but assumed:--and now, my lord, I will to horse and away;
for I must put twenty long leagues between me and this place before
the dawn of to-morrow."

"Speed you well!--speed you well, good Jodelle!" replied the king,
rising: "I will away too, to move forward on Mirebeau, like an eagle
to his prey. Come, lords! to horse!--Count on me, good Jodelle!" he
repeated, as he put his foot in the stirrup, and turned away, "count
on me--to hang you as high as the crow builds," he muttered to himself
as he galloped off--"ay, count on me for that! Well; lords, what think
you of our night's work?--By Heaven! our enemies are in our hands! We
have but to do, as I have seen a child catch flies,--sweep the board
with our palm, and we grasp them all."

"True, my lord," replied the Earl of Pembroke, who had been speaking
in a low voice with some of the other followers of the prince. "But
there are several things to be considered first."

"How to be considered, sir?" demanded King John, somewhat checking his
horse's pace with an impatient start. "What is it now?--for I know by
that word, _considered_, that there is some rebellion to my will,
toward."

"Not so, sire," replied the Earl of Pembroke firmly; "but the barons
of England, my liege, have to remember that, by direct line of
descent, Arthur Plantagenet was the clear heir to Richard C[oe]ur de
Lion. Now, though there wants not reason or example to show that we
have a right to choose from the royal family which member we think
most fit to bear the sceptre; yet we so far respect the blood of our
kings, and so far feel for the generous ardour of a noble youth who
seeks but to regain a kingdom which he deems his of right, that we
will not march against Arthur Plantagenet, without you, sire, will
promise to moderate your wrath towards him, to confirm him in his
dukedom of Brittany, and to refrain from placing either your nephew,
or any of his followers, in any strong place or prison, on pretext of
guarding them."

John was silent for a long space, for his habitual dissimulation could
hardly master the rage that struggled in his bosom. It conquered at
last, however, and its triumph was complete.

"I will own, I am grieved, Lord Pembroke," said he, in a hurt and
sorrowful tone, "to think that my good English barons should so far
doubt their king, as to approach the very verge of rebellion and
disobedience, to obtain what he could never have a thought of denying.
The promises you require I give you, as freely and as willingly as you
could ask them; and if I fail to keep them in word and deed, let my
orders be no longer obeyed; let my sceptre be broken, my crown torn
from my head, and let me, by peer and peasant, be no longer regarded
as a king."

"Thanks! my lord! thanks!" cried Lord Bagot and one or two of the
other barons, who followed. "You are a free and noble sovereign, and a
right loyal and excellent king. We thank you well for your free
promise and accord."

Lord Pembroke was silent. He knew John profoundly, and he had never
seen promises steadily kept, which had been so easily obtained.



CHAPTER X.


"Now, good dame, the reckoning," cried Jodelle, as soon as King John
was gone.

"Good dame not me!" cried the hostess, forgetting, in her indignation
at having been put out of her own kitchen, and kept for half an hour
in the street amid soldiers and horseboys, all her habitual and
universal civility. It might be shown by a learned dissertation, that
there are particular points of pride in every human heart, of so
inflammable a nature, that though we may bear insult and injury,
attack and affront, upon every other subject, with the most forbearing
consideration of our self-interest, yet but touch one of those points
with the very tip of the brand of scorn, and the whole place is in a
blaze in a moment, at the risk of burning the house down. But time is
wanting; therefore, suffice it to say, that the landlady, who could
bear, and had in her day borne all that woman can bear, was so
indignant at being put from her own door--that strong hold of an
innkeeper's heart, where he sees thousands arrive and depart without
stirring a foot himself--that she vituperated the worthy Brabançois
thereupon, somewhat more than his patience would endure.

"Come, come, old woman!" cried he, "an' thou will not name thy
reckoning, no reckoning shalt thou have. I am not one of those who
often pay either for man's food or horse provender, so I shall take my
beast from the stall and set out."

"Nay, nay!" she said, more fearful of Jodelle discovering the page's
horse still in the stable, than even of losing her reckoning--"nay! it
should not be said that any one, however uncivil, was obliged to fetch
his own horse. She had a boy for her stable, God wot!--Ho! boy!" she
continued, screaming from the door, "bring up the bay horse for the
gentleman. Quick!--As to the reckoning, sir, it comes only to a matter
of six sous."

The reckoning was paid, and before Jodelle could reach the stable to
which he was proceeding, notwithstanding the landlady's remonstrance,
his horse was brought up, whereupon he mounted, and set off at full
speed.

The moment the clatter of his horse's feet had passed away, the pile
of fagots and brushwood rolled into the middle of the floor, and the
half-suffocated page sprang out of his place of concealment. His face
and hands were scratched and torn, and his dress was soiled to that
degree, that the old lady could not refrain from laughing, till she
saw the deadly paleness of his countenance.

"Get me a stoup of wine, good dame--get me a stoup of wine--I am faint
and sad--get me some wine!" cried the youth. "Alack! that I, and no
other, should have heard what I have heard!"

The old lady turned away to obey, and the page, casting himself on a
settle before the fire, pressed his clasped hands between his knees,
and sat gazing on the embers, with a bewildered and horrified stare,
in which both fear and uncertainty had no small part.

"Good God! what shall I do?" cried he at length. "If I go back to Sir
Guy, and tell him that, though he ordered me to make all speed to the
Count d'Auvergne, I turned out of my way to see Eleanor, because the
pedlar told me she was at La Flêche, he will surely cleave my skull
with his battle-axe for neglecting the duty on which he sent me." And
an aguish trembling seized the poor youth, as he thought of presenting
himself to so dreadful a fate.

"And if I go not," added he thoughtfully, "what will be the
consequence? The triumph of a traitor--the destruction of my brave and
noble master--the ruin of the prince's enterprise. I will go. Let him
do his worst--I will go. Little Eleanor can but lose her lover; and
doubtless she will soon get another--and she will forget me, and be
happy, I dare say;" and the tears filled his eyes, between emotion at
the heroism of his own resolution, and the painful images his fancy
called up, while thinking of her he loved. "But I will go," he
continued--"I will go. He may kill me if he will; but I will save his
life, at least.--Come, good dame! give me the wine!"

The poor page set the flagon to his lips, believing, like many another
man, that if truth lies in a well, courage and resolution make their
abode in a tankard. In the present instance, he found it marvellous
true; and within a few minutes his determination was so greatly
fortified, that he repeated the experiment, and soon drank himself
into a hero.

"Now, good dame!--now, I will go!" cried he. "Bid thy boy bring me my
horse. And thank God, all your days, for putting me in that closet;
for owing to that, one of the most diabolical schemes shall be
thwarted that ever the devil himself helped to fabricate."

"The Lord be praised! and St. Luke and St. Martin the apostates!"
cried the hostess; "and their blessing be upon your handsome
face!--Your reckoning comes to nine sous, beau sire, which is cheap
enough in all conscience, seeing I have nourished you as if you were
my own son, and hid you in the cupboard as if you were my own
brother."

The page did not examine very strictly the landlady's accounts;
though, be it remarked, nine sous was in that day no inconsiderable
sum; but, having partaken freely of the thousand marks which De Coucy
had received before leaving Paris, he dispensed his money with the
boyish liberality that too often leaves us with our very early years.

"Allons!" cried he, springing on his horse, "I will go, let what may
come of it. Which way do I turn, dame, to reach Mirebeau?"

"To the left, beau page,--to the left!" replied the old woman. "But,
Lord-a-mercy on thy sweet heart! 'tis a far way. Take the second road,
that branches to the right, sir page," she screamed after him; "and
then, where it separates again, keep to the left." But long ere she
had concluded her directions, the youth was far out of hearing.

He rode on, and he rode on; and when the morning dawned, he found
himself, with a weary horse and a sad heart, still in the sweet plains
of bright Touraine. The world looked all gay and happy in the early
light. There was a voice of rejoicing in the air, and a smile in the
whole prospect, which went not well in harmony with the feelings of
the poor youth's heart. Absorbed in his own griefs, and little knowing
the universality of care, as he looked upon the merry sunshine
streaming over the slopes and woods which laughed and sparkled in the
rays, he fancied himself the only sorrowful thing in nature; and when
he heard the clear-voiced lark rise upon her quivering wings, and fill
the sky with her carolling, he dropped his bridle upon his horse's
neck, and clasped his hand over his eyes. He was going, he thought, to
give himself up to death;--to quit the sunshine, and the light, and
the hopes of youth, and the enjoyments of fresh existence, for the
cold charnel,--the dark, heavy grave,--the still, rigid, feelingless
torpor of the dead!

Did his resolution waver? Did he ever dream of letting fate have its
course with his lord and his enterprise, and, imitating the lark, to
wing his flight afar, and leave care behind him? He did! He did,
indeed, more than once; and the temptation was the stronger, as his
secret would ever rest with himself--as neither punishment nor
dishonour could ever follow, and as the upbraiding voice of conscience
was all that he had to fear. The better spirit, however, of the
chivalrous age came to his aid--that generous principle of
self-devotion--that constantly inculcated contempt of life, where
opposed to honour, which raised the ancient knight to a pitch of glory
that the most calculating wisdom could never obtain, had its effect
even in the bosom of the page; and, though never doubting that death
would be the punishment of his want of obedience and discipline, he
still went on to save his master and accuse himself.

It was not long, however, before the means presented itself, as he
thought, of both sparing the confession, and circumventing the
villanous designs of the Brabançois. As he rode slowly into a little
village, about eight o'clock in the morning, he saw a horse tied to
the lintel of a door, by the way-side, which he instantly recognised
as Jodelle's, and he thanked St. Martin of Tours, as if this rencontre
was a chance peculiarly of that saint's contriving. The plan of the
page smacked strongly of the thirteenth century. "Here is the
villain," said he, "refreshing at that house after his night's ride.
Now, may the blessed St. Martin never be good to me again, if I do not
attack him the moment he comes forth; and though he be a strong man,
and twice as old as I am, I have encountered many a Saracen in the
Holy Land, and, with God's blessing, I will kill the traitor, and so
stop him in his enterprise. Then may I ride on merrily, to seek the
count d'Auvergne, and never mention a word of this plot of theirs, or
of my own playing truant either."

Ermold de Marcy--for so was the page called--had a stout heart in all
matters of simple battle, as ever entered a listed field; and had
Jodelle been ten times as renowned a person as he was, Ermold would
have attacked him without fear, though his whole heart sunk at the
bare idea of offering himself to De Coucy's battle-ax; so different is
the prospect of contention, in which death may ensue, from the
prospect of death itself.

Quietly moderating his horse's progress to the slowest possible pace,
lest the noise of his hoofs should call Jodelle's attention, he
advanced to the same cottage; and, not to take his adversary at an
unjust disadvantage, he dismounted, and tied his beast to a post hard
by. He then brought round his sword ready to his hand, loosened his
dagger in the sheath, and went on towards the door; but, at that
moment, the loud neighing of the Brabançois' courser, excited by the
proximity of his fellow quadruped, called Jodelle himself to the door.

The instant he appeared, Ermold, without more ado, rushed upon him,
and, striking him with his clenched fist exclaimed, "You are a
villain!" Then springing back into the middle of the road, to give his
antagonist free space, he drew his sword with one hand, and his dagger
with the other, and waited his approach.

For his part, Jodelle, who at once recognised De Coucy's attendant,
had no difficulty in deciding on the course he had to pursue. The page
evidently suspected him of something, though of what, Jodelle of
course could not be fully aware. De Coucy believed him (as he had
taken care to give out) to be lying wounded in one of the houses of
Mirebeau. If the page then ever reached Mirebeau, his treachery would
be instantly discovered, and his enterprise consequently fail. It
therefore followed, that without a moment's hesitation, it became
quite as much Jodelle's determination to put the page to death, as it
was Ermold's to bestow the same fate on him; and, with this sanguinary
resolution on both sides, they instantly closed in mortal conflict.

Although, on the first view, such a struggle between a youth of
eighteen and a vigorous man of five-and-thirty would seem most
unequal, and completely in favour of the latter; yet such was not
entirely the case. Having served as page since a very early age, with
so renowned a knight as Guy de Coucy, Ermold de Marcy had acquired not
only a complete knowledge of the science of arms, but also that
dexterity and agility in their use, which nothing but practice can
give.

Practice also certainly Jodelle did not want; but Ermold's had been
gained in the Holy Land, where the exquisite address of the Saracens
in the use of the scymitar had necessitated additional study and
exercise of the sword amongst the crusaders and their followers.

Ermold also was as active as the wind, and this fully compensated the
want of Jodelle's masculine strength. But the Brabançois had
unfortunately in his favour the advantage of armour, being covered
with a light haubert,[22] which yielded to all the motions of his
body, and with a steel bonnet, which defended his head; while the poor
page had nothing but his green tunic, and his velvet cap and feather.
It was in vain, therefore, that he exerted his skill and activity in
dealing two blows for every one of his adversary's; the only
accessible part of Jodelle's person was his face, and that he took
sufficient care to guard against attack.


--------------------

[Footnote 22: There are various differences of opinion concerning the
persons to whom the use of the haubert was confined. Ducange implies,
from a passage in Joinville, that this part of the ancient suits of
armour was the privilege of a knight. Le Laboureur gives it also to a
squire. But the Brabançois and other bands of adventurers did not
subject themselves to any rules and regulations respecting their arms,
as might be proved from a thousand different instances.]

--------------------


The noise of clashing weapons brought the villagers to their doors;
but such things were too common in those days, and interference
therein was too dangerous an essay for any one to meddle; though some
of the women cried out upon the strong man in armour, for drawing on
the youth in the green cassock.

Ermold was nothing daunted by the disadvantage under which he
laboured; and after having struck at Jodelle's face, and parried all
his blows, with admirable perseverance, for some minutes, he actually
meditated running in upon the Brabançois; confident that if he could
but get one fair blow at his throat, the combat would be at an end.

At that moment, however, it was interrupted in a different manner; for
a party of horsemen, galloping up into the village, came suddenly upon
the combatants, and thrusting a lance between them, separated them for
the time.

"How now, masters! how now!" cried the leader of the party, in rank
Norman-French. "Which is France, and which is England?--But fight
fair! fight fair, i' God's name!--not a man against a boy,--not a
steel haubert against a cloth jerkin. Take hold of them, Robin, and
bring them in here. I will judge their quarrel."

So saying, the English knight, for such he was who spoke, dismounted
from his horse, and entered the very cottage from which Jodelle had
issued a few minutes before. It seemed to be known as a place of
entertainment, though no sign nor inscription announced the calling of
its owner; and the knight, who bore the rough weather-beaten face of
an old bluff soldier, sat himself down in a settle, and leaning his
elbow on the table, began to interrogate Ermold and the Brabançois,
who were brought before him as he had commanded.

"And now, sir, with the haubert," said he, addressing Jodelle,
apparently with that sort of instinctive antipathy, that the good
sometimes feel, they scarce know why, towards the bad, "how came you,
dressed in a coat of iron, to draw your weapon upon a beardless youth,
with nothing to guard his limbs from your blows?"

"Though I deny your right to question me," replied Jodelle, "I will
tell you, to make the matter short, that I drew upon him because he
drew on me in the first place; but still more, because he is an enemy
to my lord, the king of England."

"But thou art no Englishman, nor Norman either," replied the knight.
"Thy tongue betrays thee. I have borne arms here, these fifty years,
from boyhood to old age, and I know every jargon that is spoken in the
king's dominions, from Rouen to the mountains; and thou speakest none.
Thou art a Frenchman, of Provence, or thine accent lies."

"I may be a Frenchman, and yet serve the king of England," replied
Jodelle boldly.

"God send him better servants than thou art, then!" replied the old
knight.--"Well, boy, what sayest thou? Nay, look not sad, for that
matter. We will not hurt thee, lad."

"You will hurt me, and you do hurt me," answered Ermold, "if you hold
me here, and do not let me either cut out that villain's heart, or on
to tell my lord that he is betrayed."

"And who is thy lord, boy?" demanded the knight, "English or
French?--and what is his name?"

"French!" answered Ermold boldly; and with earnest pride he added, "he
is the noble Sir Guy de Coucy."

"A good knight!--a good knight!" said the Englishman. "I have heard
the heralds tell of him. A crusader too--young, they say, but very
bold, and full of noble prowess: I should like to splinter a lance
with him, in faith!"

"You need not baulk your liking, sir knight," answered the page at
once: "my master will meet you on horseback, or on foot, with what
arms you will, and when:--give me but a glove to bear him as a gage,
and you shall not be long without seeing him."

"Thou bearest thee like the page of such a knight," replied the
Englishman; "and in good truth, I have a mind to pleasure thee," he
added, drawing off one of his gauntlets, as if about to send it to De
Coucy; but whether such was his first intention or not, his farther
determinations were changed by Jodelle demanding abruptly--"Know you
the signature of king John, sir knight?"

"Surely! somewhat better than my own," answered the other,--"somewhat
better than my own, which I have not seen for these forty years; and
which, please God! I shall never see again; for my last will and
testament, which was drawn by the holy clerk of St. Anne's, two years
and a half come St. Michael's, was stamped with my sword pommel,
seeing that I had forgot how to write one half the letters of my name,
and the others were not readable.--But as to the king's, I'd swear to
_it_."

"Well then," said Jodelle, laying a written paper before him, "you
must know that; and by that name I require you not only to let me pass
free, but to keep yon youth prisoner, as an enemy to the king."

"'Tis sure enough the king's name, in his own writing; and there is
the great seal too," said the old knight. "This will serve your turn,
sir, as far as going away yourself,--but as to keeping the youth, I
know nothing of that. The paper says nothing of that, as far as I can
see."

"No; it does not," said Jodelle; "but still----"

"Oh, it does not, does not it?" said the Englishman, giving back the
paper. "Thank you at least for that admission; for, as to what the
paper says, may I be confounded if I can read a word of it."

"Listen to me, however," said Jodelle; and approaching close to the
English knight, he whispered a few words in his ear.

The old man listened for a moment, with a grave and attentive face,
bending his head and inclining his ear to the Brabançois'
communication. Then suddenly he turned round, and eyed him from head
to foot with a glance of severe scorn. "Open the door!" cried he to
his men loudly--"open the door! By God, I shall be suffocated!--I
never was in a small room with such a damned rascal in my life before.
Let him pass! let him pass! and keep out of the way--take care his
clothes do not touch you--it may be contagious; and, by the Lord! I
would sooner catch the plague than such villany as he is tainted
withal."

While surprised, and at first scarce grasping their leader's meaning,
the English troopers drew back from the Brabançois' path, as if he had
been really a leper, Jodelle strode to the door of the cottage,
smothering the wrath he dared not vent. On the threshold, however, he
paused; and, turning towards the old soldier as if he would speak,
glared on him for a moment with the glance of a wounded tiger; but,
whether he could find no words equal to convey the virulence of his
passion, or whether prudence triumphed over anger, cannot be told, but
he broke suddenly away, and catching his horse's bridle, sprang into
the saddle, and rode off at full speed.

"I am afraid I must keep thee, poor youth," said the old knight,--"I am
afraid I must keep thee, whether I will or no. I should be blamed if I
let thee go; though, on my knightly honour, 'tis cursed hard to be
obliged to keep a good honest youth like thee, and let a slave like
that go free! Nevertheless, you must stay here; and if you try to make
your escape, I do not know what I must do to thee. Robin," he
continued, turning to one of his men-at-arms, "put him into the back
chamber that looks upon the lane, and keep a good guard over him,
while I go on to the other village to see that lord Pembroke's
quarters be prepared:--and hark ye," he added, speaking in a lower
voice, "leave the window open, and tie his horse under it, and there is
a gros Tournois for thee to drink the king's health with the villagers
and the other soldiers. Do you understand?"

"Ay, sir! ay!" answered the man-at-arms, "I understand, and will take
care that your worship's commands be obeyed."

"'Tis a good youth," said the old knight, "and a bold, and the other
was nothing but a pitiful villain, that will be hanged yet, if there
be a tree in France to hang him on. Now, though I might be blamed if I
let this lad go, and John might call me a hard-headed old fool, as
once he did; yet I don't know, Robin,--I don't know whether in
knightly honour I should keep the true man prisoner and let the
traitor go free--I don't know Robin,--I don't know!"

So saying, the good old soldier strode to the door; and the man he
called Robin took poor Ermold into a small room at the back of the
house, where he opened the window, saying something about not wishing
to stifle him, and then left him, fastening the door on the other
side.

The poor page, however, bewildered with disappointment and distress,
and stupified with fatigue and want of sleep, had only heard the
charge to guard him safely, without the after whisper, which
neutralised that command; and, never dreaming that escape was
possible, he sat down on the end of a truckle bed that occupied the
greater part of the chamber, and gave himself up to his own melancholy
thoughts. He once, indeed, thought of looking from the window, with a
vague idea of freeing himself; but as he was about to proceed thither,
the sound of a soldier whistling, together with a horse's footsteps,
convinced him that a guard was stationed there, and he abandoned his
purpose. In this state he remained till grief and weariness proved too
heavy for his young eyelids, and he fell asleep.

In the meanwhile, the old knight, after being absent for more than
three hours, returned to the village, which he had apparently often
frequented before, and riding up to his man Robin, who was drinking
with some peasants in the market-place, his first question was, "Where
is the prisoner, Robin? I hope he has not escaped;" while a shrewd
smile very potently contradicted the exact meaning of his words.

"Escaped!" exclaimed Robin: "God bless your worship! he cannot have
escaped, without he got out of the window! for I left five men
drinking in the front room."

"Let us see, Robin,--let us see!" said the old man. "Nothing like
making sure, good Robin;" and he spurred on to the cottage, sprang
from his horse like a lad; and, casting the bridle to one of his men,
passed through the front room to that where poor Ermold was confined.

Whatever had been his expectations, when he saw him sitting on the
bed, just opening his heavy eyes at the sound of his approach, he
could not restrain a slight movement of impatience. "The boy's a
fool!" muttered he,--"the boy's a fool!" But then, recovering himself,
he shut the door, and, advancing to the page, he said,--"I am right
glad, thou hast not tried to escape, my boy,--thou art a good lad and
a patient; but if ever thou shouldst escape, while under my custody,
for 'tis impossible to guard every point, remember to do my greeting
to your lord, and tell him that I, Sir Arthur of Oakingham, will be
glad to splinter a lance with him, in all love and courtesy."

The page opened his eyes wide, as if he could scarce believe what he
heard.

"If he does not understand that," said the old man to himself, "he is
a natural fool!" But to make all sure, he went to the narrow window,
and leaning out, after whistling for a minute, he asked,--"Is that
your horse? 'Tis a bonny beast, and a swift, doubtless.--Well, sir
page, fare thee well!" he added: "in an hour's time I will send thee a
stoup of wine, to cheer thee!" and, without more ado, he turned, and
left the room once more, bolting the door behind him.

Ermold stood for a moment, as if surprise had benumbed his sinews; but
'twas only for a moment! for then, springing towards the casement, he
looked out well on each side, thrust himself through, without much
care either of his dress or his person; and, springing to the ground,
was in an instant on his horse's back, and galloping away over the
wide, uninclosed country, like Tam o'Shanter with all the witches
behind him.

For long he rode on, without daring to look behind; but when he did
so, he found that he was certainly unpursued; and proceeded, with
somewhat of a slackened pace, in order to save his horse's strength.
At the first cottage he came to, he inquired for Mirebeau; but by the
utter ignorance of the serfs that inhabited it, even of the name of
such a place, he found that he must be rather going away from the
object of his journey than approaching it. At the castles he did not
dare to ask; for the barons of that part of the country were so
divided between the two parties, that he would have thereby run fully
as much chance of being detained as directed. At length, however, as
the sun began to decline, he encountered a countrywoman, who gave him
some more correct information; but told him at the same time, that it
would be midnight before he reached the place he sought.

Ermold went on undauntedly; and only stopped for half an hour, to
refresh his horse when the weary beast could hardly move its limbs.
Still he was destined to be once more turned from his path; for, at
the moment the sun was just going down, he beheld from the top of one
of the hills, a large body of cavalry moving on in the valley below;
and the banners and ensigns which flaunted in the horizontal rays,
left no doubt that they were English.

The page was of course obliged to change his direction; but as a fine
starry night came on, he proceeded with greater ease; for the woman's
direction had been to keep due south, and in Palestine he had learned
to travel by the stars. A thousand difficulties still opposed
themselves to his way--a thousand times his horse's weariness obliged
him to halt; but he suffered not his courage to be shaken; and, at
last, he triumphed over all. As day began to break, he heard the
ringing of a large church bell, and in ten minutes he stood upon the
heights above Mirebeau. Banners, and pennons, and streamers were
dancing in the vale below; and for a moment the page paused, and
glanced his eyes over the whole scene. As he did so, he turned as pale
as death; and, suddenly drawing his rein, he wheeled to the right, and
rode away in another direction, as fast as his weary horse would bear
him.



CHAPTER XI.


We seldom, in life, find ourselves more unpleasantly situated, than
when, as is often the case, our fate and happiness are staked upon an
enterprise in which many other persons are joined, whose errors or
negligences counteract all our best endeavours, and whose conduct,
however much we disapprove, we cannot command.

Such was precisely the case with De Coucy, after the taking of the
town of Mirebeau. The castle still held out, and laughed the efforts
of their small force to scorn. Their auxiliaries had not yet come up.
No one could gain precise information of the movements of King John's
army; and yet, the knights of Poitou and Anjou passed their time in
revelling and merriment in the town, pressing the siege of the castle
vigorously during the day, but giving up the night to feasting and
debauchery, and leading Prince Arthur, in the heedlessness of his
youth, into the same improvident neglect as themselves.

When De Coucy urged the hourly danger to which they were exposed
during the night, with broken gates and an unrepaired wall, and
pressed the necessity of throwing out guards and patrols, the only
reply he obtained was, "Let the Brabançois patrol,--they were paid for
such tedious service. They were excellent scouts too. None better! Let
them play sentinel. The knights and men-at-arms had enough to do
during the day. As to King John, who feared him? Let him come. They
would fight him." So confident had they become from their first
success against Mirebeau. De Coucy, however, shared not this
confidence; but every night, as soon as the immediate operations
against the castle had ceased, he left the wounded in the town, and
retired, with the rest of his followers, to a small post he had
established on a mound, at the distance of a double arrow shot from
the fortress. His first care after this, was to distribute the least
fatigued of the Brabançois, in small parties, round the place, at a
short distance from the walls; so that, as far as they could be relied
upon, the besiegers were secure against attack.

Still the young knight, practised in the desultory warfare of the
crusades, and accustomed to every sort of attack, both by night and
day, neglected no precaution; and, by establishing a patrol of his own
tried attendants, each making the complete round of the posts once
during the night; while De Coucy himself never omitted to make the
same tour twice between darkness and light, he seemed to insure also
the faith of the Brabançois.

The fourth night had come, after the taking of the town; and, wearied
with the fatigues of the day, De Coucy had slept for an hour or two,
in one of the little huts of which he had formed his encampment. He
was restless, however, even during his sleep, and towards eleven of
the clock he rose, and proceeded to the watch-fire, at a short
distance from which, the man who was next to make the round was
sitting waiting his companion's return. The night was as black as ink;
there was a sort of solid darkness in the air; but withal it was very
warm; so that, though the light of the fire was very agreeable, its
heat was not to be supported.

"Has all gone well?" demanded the knight.

"All, beau sire," answered the man, "except that one of the coterel's
horses has got his foot in a hole, and slipped his fetlock."

"Have you heard of his captain, Jodelle?" demanded De Coucy. "Is he
better of his hurt? We want all the men we have."

"I have not seen him, beau sire, because I have not been in the town,"
replied the squire; "but one of his fellows says, that he is very bad
indeed;--that the blow you dealt him has knocked one of his eyes quite
out."

"I am sorry for that," said De Coucy. "I meant not to strike so
heavily, I will see him to-morrow before the attack. Bring me word, in
the morning, what house he lies at; and now mount and begin your
round, good Raoul. We will keep it up quickly to-night. I know not
why, but I am not easy. I have a sort of misgiving that I seldom feel.
Hush! What noise is that!"

"Oh, 'tis the folks singing in the town, beau sire," replied the man.
"They have been at it this hour. It comes from the prévôt's garden. I
heard Sir Savary de Maulèon say, as he rode by us, that he would sing
the abbess of the convent a lay to-night, for the love of her sweet
eyes."

A gust of wind now brought the sounds nearer; and De Coucy heard, more
distinctly, that it was as the man-at-arms had said. The dull tones of
a rote, with some voices singing, mingled with the merry clamour of
several persons laughing; and the general hum of more quiet
conversation told that the gay nobles of Poitou were prolonging the
revel late.

De Coucy bade the man go; and in a few minutes after, when the other,
who had been engaged in making the rounds, returned, the knight
himself mounted a fresh horse, and rode round in various directions,
sometimes visiting the posts, sometimes pushing his search into the
country; for, with no earthly reason for suspicion, he felt more
troubled and anxious than if some inevitable misfortune were about to
fall upon him. At about three in the morning he returned, and found
Hugo de Barre, by the light of the watch-fire, waiting his turn to
ride on the patrol.

"How is thy wound, Hugo?" demanded De Coucy, springing to the ground.

"Oh, 'tis nothing. Sir Guy!--'tis nothing!" replied the stout squire.
"God send me never worse than that, and my bargain would be soon
made!"

"Has all been still?" demanded the knight.

"All, save a slight rustling I thought I heard on yonder hill,"
replied Hugo. "It sounded like a far horse's feet."

"Thou hast shrewd ears, good Hugo," answered his lord. "'Twas I rode
across it some half an hour ago or less."

"'Tis that the night is woundy still," replied the squire, "one might
hear a fly buzz at a mile; 'tis as hot as Palestine too. Think you,
beau sire," he added, somewhat abruptly, "that 'twill be long before
this castle falls?"

"Nine months and a day! good Hugo," answered the knight,--"nine months
and a day! without our reinforcements come up. How would you have us
take it? We have no engines. We have neither mangonel, nor catapult,
nor pierrier to batter the wall, nor ladders nor moving tower to storm
it."

"I would fain be on to La Flêche, beau sire," said Hugo, laughing.
"'Tis that makes me impatient."

"And why to La Flêche?" demanded De Coucy. "Why there, more than to
any other town of Maine or Normandy?"

"Oh, I forgot, sire. You were not there," said the squire, "when the
packman at Tours told Ermold de Marcy and me, that Sir Julian, and the
Lady Isadore, and Mistress Alixe, and little Eleanor, and all, are at
La Flêche."

"Ha!" said De Coucy, "and this cursed castle is keeping us here for
ages, and those wild knights of Poitou lying there in the town, and
spending the time in foolish revel that would take twenty castles if
well employed."

"That is what Gallon the fool said yesterday," rejoined Hugo. "God
forgive me for putting you, sire, and Gallon together: but he said,
'If those Poitevins would but dine as heartily on stone walls as they
do on cranes and capons, and toss off as much water as they do wine,
they would drink the ditch dry, and swallow the castle, before three
days were out.'"

"On my life, he said not amiss," replied De Coucy.--"Where is poor
Gallon? I have not seen him these two days."

"He keeps to the town, beau sire," replied Hugo, "to console the good
wives, as he says. But here comes Henry Carvel from the rounds, or I
am mistaken. Yet the night is so dark, one would not see a camel at a
yard's distance. Ho, stand! Give the word!"

"Arthur!" replied the soldier, and dismounted by the watch-fire. Hugo
de Barre sprang on his horse, and proceeded on his round; while De
Coucy, casting himself down in the blaze, prepared to watch out the
night by the sentinel, who was now called to the guard.

It were little amusing to trace De Coucy's thoughts. A knight of that
day would have deemed it almost a disgrace to divide the necessary
anxieties of the profession of arms, with any other idea than that of
his lady love. However the caustic pen of Cervantes, whose chivalrous
spirit--of which, I am bold to say, no man ever originally possessed
more--had early been crushed by ingratitude and disappointment,
however his pen may have given an aspect of ridicule to the deep
devotion of the ancient knights towards the object of their love,
however true it may be that that devotion was not always of as pure a
kind as fancy has pourtrayed it; yet the love of the chivalrous ages
was a far superior feeling to the calculating transaction so termed in
the present day; and if, perhaps, it was rude in its forms and
extravagant in its excess, it had at least the energy of passion, and
the sublimity of strength. De Coucy watched and listened; but still,
while he did so, he thought of Isadore of the Mount, and he called up
her loveliness, her gentleness, her affection. Every glance of her
soft dark eyes, every tone of her sweet lip, was food for memory; and
the young knight deemed that surely for such glances and such tones a
brave man might conquer the world.

The night, as we have seen, had been sultry, and the sky dark; and it
was now waxing towards morning; but no cool breeze announced the fresh
rising of the day. The air was heavy and close, as if charged with the
matter for a thousand storms; and the wind was as still as if no
quickening wing had ever stirred the thick and lazy atmosphere.
Suddenly a sort of rolling sound seemed to disturb the air, and De
Coucy sprang upon his feet to listen. A moment of silence elapsed, and
then a bright flash of lightning blazed across the sky, followed by a
clap of thunder. De Coucy listened still. "It could not be distant
thunder," he thought,--"the sound he had first heard. He had seen no
previous lightning."

He now distinctly heard a horse's feet coming towards him; and, a
moment after, the voice of Hugo de Barre speaking to some one else.
"Come along, Sir Gallon, quick!" cried he. "You must tell it to my
lord himself. By Heaven! if 'tis a jest, you should not have made it;
and if 'tis not a jest, he must hear it."

"Ha, haw!" cried Gallon the fool.--"Ha, haw! If 'tis a jest, 'tis the
best I ever made, for it is true,--and truth is the best jest in the
calendar.--Why don't they make Truth a saint, Hugo? Haw, haw! Haw,
haw! When I'm pope, I'll make St. Truth to match St. Ruth; and when
I've done, I shall have made the best saint in the pack.--Haw, haw!
Haw, haw! But, by the Lord! some one will soon make St. Lie to spite
me; and no one will pray to St. Truth afterwards.--Haw! haw! haw!--But
there's De Coucy standing by the watch-fire, like some great devil in
armour, broiling the souls of the damned.--Haw! haw! haw!"

"What is the matter, Hugo?" cried the knight, advancing. "Why are you
dragging along poor Gallon so?

"Because poor Gallon lets him," cried the juggler, freeing himself
from the squire's grasp, by one of his almost supernatural springs.
"Haw, haw! Where's poor Gallon now?"--and he bounded up to the place
where the knight stood, and cast himself down by the fire,
exclaiming,--"Oh rare! 'Tis a sweet fire, in this sultry night.--Haw,
haw! Are you cold, De Coucy?"

"I am afraid, my lord, there is treason going forward," said Hugo de
Barre, riding up to his master, and speaking in a low voice. "I had
scarce left you, when Gallon came bounding up to me, and began running
beside my horse, saying, in his wild way, he would tell me a story. I
heeded him little at first; but when he began to tell me that this
Brabançois--this Jodelle--has not been lying wounded a-bed, but has
been away these two days on horseback, and came back into the town
towards dusk last night, I thought it right to bring him hither."

"You did well," cried De Coucy,--"you did well! I will speak with
him--I observed some movement amongst the Brabançois as we returned.
Go quietly, Hugo, and give a glance into their huts, while I speak
with the juggler.--Ho, good Gallon, come hither?"

"You won't beat me?" cried Gallon,--"ha?"

"Beat thee! no, on my honour!" replied de Coucy; and the mad juggler
crept up to him on all-fours.--"Tell me, Gallon," continued the
knight, "is what you said to Hugo true about Jodelle?"

"The good king Christopher had a cat!" replied Gallon. "You said you
would not beat me, Coucy; but your eyes look very like as if your fist
itched to give the lie to your honour."

"Nay, nay. Gallon," said De Coucy, striving by gentleness to get a
moment of serious reason from him. "My own life--the safety of the
camp--of prince Arthur--of our whole party, may depend upon your
answer. I have heard you say that you are a Christian man, and kept
your faith, even while a slave amongst the Saracens; now answer me--Do
you know for certain that Jodelle has been absent, as you told your
friend Hugo? Speak the truth, upon your soul!"

"Not upon my soul!--not upon my soul!" cried Gallon. "As to my having
a soul, that is all a matter of taste and uncertainty; but what I said
was true, upon my nose, which no one will deny--Turk or Christian,
fool or philosopher. On my nose, it was true, Coucy--on my nose."

"By Heaven! if this prove false, I will cut it off!" cried the knight,
frowning on him.

"Do so, do so! beau sire," replied Gallon, grinning; "and when you
have got it, God give you grace to wear it!"

"Now, Hugo de Barre!" cried the knight, as his squire returned with a
quick pace.

"As I hope for salvation, sir Guy," cried Hugo, "there are not ten of
the cotereaux in the huts! Those that are there are sleeping quietly
enough, but all the rest are gone!"

"Lord! what a flash!" cried Gallon, as the lightning gleamed round
about them, playing on the armour of De Coucy and his squire.

"Ha, Hugo! did you see nothing in that valley?" exclaimed the knight.

"Lances, as I live!" answered the squire. "We are betrayed to the
English, sire!"

"We may reach the town yet, and save the prince!" exclaimed the
knight. "Wake the vassals, and the Brabançois that are left! The
traitor thought them too true to be trusted: we will think them true
too.--Be quick, but silent! Bid them not speak a word!"

Each man started up in his armour, as he was awoke; for De Coucy had
not permitted them to disarm during the siege; and, being ranged in
silence behind the knight, the small party that were left began to
descend towards the town on foot, and unknowing what duty they were
going upon.

Between the castle and the hill on which De Coucy had established his
post was a small ravine, the entrance of which, nearest the town,
exactly fronted the breach that he had formerly effected in the wall.
In the bottom ran a quick but shallow stream, which, brawling amongst
some large stones, went on murmuring towards the castle, the ditch of
which it supplied with water. Leading his men down into the hollow,
the young knight took advantage of the stream, and by making his
soldiers advance through the water, covered the clank of their armour
with the noise of the rivulet. The most profound darkness hung upon
their way; but, during the four days they had been there, each man had
become perfectly acquainted with the ground, so that they were
advancing rapidly; when suddenly a slight measured sound, like the
march of armed men over soft turf, caused De Coucy to halt. "Stop!"
whispered he; "they are between us and the walls. We shall have a
flash presently. Down behind the bushes, and we shall see!"

As he expected, it was not long before the lightning again blazed
across, and showed them a strong body of infantry marching along in
line, between the spot where he stood and the walls.

"Hugo," whispered the knight, "we must risk all. They are surrounding
the town; but the southern gate must still be open. We must cut
through them, and may still save the prince. Let each man remember his
task is, to enter the house of the prévôt, and carry Arthur
Plantagenet out, whether he will or not, by the southern gate. A
thousand marks of silver to the man who sets him in the streets of
Paris;--follow silently till I give the word."

This was said like lightning; and leading onward with a quick but
cautious step, De Coucy had advanced so far, that he could hear the
footfall of each armed man in the enemy's ranks, and the rustling of
their close pressed files against each other, when the blaze of the
lightning discovered his party also to those against whom they were
advancing. It gleamed as brightly as if the flash had been actually
between them, showing to De Coucy the corselets and pikes and grim
faces of the English soldiers within twenty yards of where he stood;
while they suddenly perceived a body of armed men approaching towards
them, whose numbers the duration of the lightning was not sufficient
to display.

"A Coucy! a Coucy!" shouted the knight, giving the signal to advance,
and rushing forward with that overwhelming impetuosity which always
casts so much in favour of the attacking party. Unacquainted with the
ground, taken by surprise, uncertain to whom or to what they were
opposed, the Norman and English soldiers, for the moment, gave way in
confusion. Two went down in a moment before De Coucy's sword; a third
attempted to grapple with him, but was dashed to the earth in an
instant; a fourth retired fighting towards the wall.

De Coucy pressed upon him as a man whose all--honour, fortune,
existence--is staked upon his single arm. Hugo and his followers
thronged after, widening the breach he had hewn in the enemy's ranks.
The soldier who fronted him, struck wild, reeled, staggered under his
blows, and stumbling over the ruins of the fallen tower, was trodden
under his feet. On rushed De Coucy towards the breach, seeing nought
in the darkness, hearing nought in the tumult, his quick and bloody
passage had occasioned.

But suddenly the bright blue lightning flashed once more across his
path. What was it he beheld? The lion banner of England planted in the
breach, with a crowd of iron forms around it, and a forest of spears
shining from beyond.

"Back! back, my lord!" cried Hugo: "the way is clear behind;--back to
the hill, while we can pass!"

Back like lightning De Coucy trod his steps, but with a different
order of march from what he had pursued in advancing. Every man of his
train went now before him; and though his passage had been but for an
instant, and the confusion it had occasioned great, yet the English
soldiers were now pressing in upon him on all sides, and hard was the
task to clear himself of their ranks. The darkness, however, favoured
him, and his superior knowledge of the ground; and, hastening onward,
contenting himself with striking only where his passage was opposed,
he gradually fought his way out--foiled one or two that attempted to
pursue him--gained the hill, and, mounting it with the swiftness of an
arrow sped from the bow, he at length rallied his men in the midst of
the little huts in which he had lodged his soldiers after the taking
of the town.

"Haw, haw! beau sire! Haw, haw;" cried Gallon the fool, who had never
stirred from the fire, although the heat was intense; "so you have
come back again. But I can tell you, that if you like to go down the
other way, you may have just as good a dish of fighting, for I saw,
but now, the postern of the castle open, and a whole troop of spears
wind down behind us. Haw, haw! haw, haw!"

"Now for the last chance, Hugo!" cried the knight.--"To horse, to
horse!"

Each man detached his beast from the spot where they stood ready, and
sprang into the saddle, doubting not that their daring leader was
about to attempt to cut his way through; but De Coucy had very
different thoughts.

"There is the day breaking," cried he; "we must be quick. In the
confusion that must reign in the town the prince may escape, if we can
but draw the Normans' attention hitherward. Gallon, a fitting task for
you! Take some of those brands, and set fire to all the huts. Quick!
the day is rising!"

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon, delighted.--"Haw, haw!" and in an
astonishingly short space of time he had contrived to communicate the
flame to the greater part of the hovels, which, constructed
principally of dry branches, were easily ignited.

"Now!" cried De Coucy, "each man his horn to his lips! and let him
blow a flourish, as if he were saluting the royal standard."

De Coucy himself set the example, and the long, loud, united notes
rang far over the town.

So far as calling the attention of the English army below, the plan
perfectly succeeded; and indeed, even made the greater part both of
the knights and men-at-arms believe that Arthur was without the town.

All eyes were turned now towards the little hill, where, clearly
defined in the red light of the burning huts, stood the small party of
horsemen, hanging a dark black spot upon the very verge, backed by the
blaze of the conflagration. They might easily be mistaken for a group
of knights; and a little wood of birches some way behind, looked not
unlike a considerable clump of spears. To such a point, indeed, was
Lord Pembroke himself deceived, that he judged it fit to move a strong
body of horse round to the right of the hill, thus hemming in the
knight between the town and the castle.

De Coucy saw the movement, and rejoiced in it. Nor did he move a step,
as long as the fire of the huts continued to blaze; wishing, as far as
possible, to embarrass the enemy by the singularity of his behaviour,
in the faint hope that every additional cause of confusion, joined to
those which must always attend a night-attack, might in some degree
facilitate the escape of the prince.

The fire however expired, and the grey light of the morning was
beginning to spread more and more over the scene, when De Coucy turned
his rein, and, skirting round the little birch wood we have mentioned,
at last endeavoured to force his way through the iron toils that were
spread around him. To the right, as he wheeled round the wood, the
early light showed the strong body of cavalry Lord Pembroke had thrown
forward. On his left now lay the castle, and straight before him a
body of archers that had issued from thence with the earl of Salisbury
and half a dozen knights at their head. De Coucy hesitated not a
moment, but laid his lance in the rest, and galloped forward to the
attack of the latter at full speed.

One of the knights rode out before the rest to meet him, but went
down, horse and man, before his spear, and rolled on the plain, with
the iron of the lance broken off deep in his breast. On spurred De
Coucy, swinging his battle-axe over the head of a Norman who followed,
when his horse, unfortunately, set his foot on the carcase of the
fallen man--slipped--fell irrecoverably, and the knight was hurled to
the ground.

He sprang on his feet, however, in a moment, and, catching the bridle
of Lord Salisbury's horse, dashed the iron chamfron to atoms with his
battle-axe, and hurled the animal reeling on his haunches. The earl
spurred up his charger. "Yield! yield! De Coucy!" cried he;--"Good
treatment! Fair ransom! William's friendship! Yield you, or you die!"

"Never!" exclaimed De Coucy, turning; and at a single blow striking
down a man on foot that pressed upon him behind;--"never will I be
John of England's prisoner!"

"Be Salisbury's!--be William Longsword's!" shouted the earl loudly,
eager to save his noble foe from the lances that were now bearing him
down on all sides. But De Coucy still raged like a lion in the toils;
and, alone in the midst of his enemies--for the ranks had closed round
and cut him off even from the aid of his little band--he continued for
many minutes to struggle with a host, displaying that fearful courage
which gained him a name throughout all Europe.

At length, however, while pressed upon in front by three lances, a
powerful man-at-arms behind him raised above his head a mace that
would have felled Goliah. The knight turned his head; but to parry it
was impossible, for both his sword and shield arms were busy in
defending himself from the spears of the enemy in front; and he must
have gone down before the blow like a felled ox, had not Lord
Salisbury sprung to the ground, and interposed the shield, which hung
round his own neck, in a slanting direction between the tremendous
mace and De Coucy's helmet. The blow however fell; and, though turned
aside by William Longsword's treble target, its descent drove the
earl's arm down upon De Coucy's head, and made them both stagger.

"Salisbury, I yield me!" cried De Coucy, dropping his battle-axe:
"rescue or no rescue, generous enemy, I am thy true prisoner; and
thereunto I give thee my faith. But, as thou art a knight and a noble,
yield me not to thy bad brother John. We know too well how he treats
his prisoners."

"Salisbury's honour for your surety, brave De Coucy!" replied the
earl, clasping him in his mailed arms, and giving a friendly shake, as
if in reproach for the long-protracted struggle he had maintained. "By
the Lord! old friend, when you fought by my side in Palestine, you
were but a whelp, where you are now a lion! But know ye not yet, the
town has been in our hands this hour, and my fair nephew Arthur taken
in his bed, with all the wild revellers of Poitou, as full of wine as
leathern bottles?"

"Alas! I fear for the prince!" cried De Coucy, "in his bad uncle's
hands."

"Hush! hush!" replied Salisbury. "John is my brother, though I be but
a bastard. He has pledged his word too, I hear, to treat his nephew
nobly. So let us to the town, where we shall hear more. In the mean
while, however, let me send to the earl of Pembroke; for, by the
man[oe]uvres he is making, he seems as ignorant of what has taken
place in the town, as you were. Now let us on."



CHAPTER XII.


We must change the scene once more, and return to the palace of Philip
Augustus. The whirlwind of passion had passed by; but the deep pangs
of disappointed expectation, with a long train of gloomy suspicions
and painful anticipations, swelled in the bosom of the monarch, like
those heavy, sweeping billows which a storm leaves behind on the
long-agitated sea.

Philip Augustus slowly mounted the stairs of the great keep of the
castle, pausing at every two or three steps, as if even the attention
necessary to raise his foot from the one grade to the other
interrupted the deep current of his thoughts. So profound, indeed,
were those thoughts, that he never even remarked the presence of
Guerin, till at length, at the very door of the queen's apartments,
the minister beseeched him to collect himself.

"Remember, sire," said the bishop, "that no point of the lady's
conduct is reproachable; and, for Heaven's sake! yield not your noble
mind to any fit of passion that you may repent of hereafter."

"Fear not, Guerin," replied the king: "I am as cool as snow;" and
opening the door, he pushed aside the tapestry and entered.

Agnes had heard the step, but it was so different from her husband's
general pace, that she had not believed it to be his. When she beheld
him, however, a glow of bright, unspeakable joy, which in itself might
have convinced the most suspicious, spread over her countenance.

Philip was not proof against it; and as she sprang forward to meet
him, he kissed her cheek, and pressed her in the wonted embrace. But
there is nought so pertinacious on earth as suspicion. 'Tis the
fiend's best, most persevering servant. Cast it from us with what
force we will--crush it under what weight of reasoning we may, once
born in the human heart, it still rises on its invisible ladder, and
squeezes its little drop of corroding poison into every cup we drink.

The queen's women left the room, and Philip sat down by the embroidery
frame where Agnes had been working before she went out. He still held
her hand in his, as she stood beside him; but fixing his eyes upon the
embroidery, he was in a moment again lost in painful thought, though
his hand every now and then contracted on the small fingers they
grasped, with a sort of habitual fondness.

Agnes was surprised and pained at this unwonted mood; and yet she
would not deem it coldness, or say one word that might irritate her
husband's mind; so that for long she left him to think in silence,
seeing that something most agonising must evidently have happened, so
to absorb his ideas, even beside her.

At length, however, without making a motion to withdraw her hand, she
sunk slowly down upon her knees beside him; and, gazing up in his
face, she asked, "Do you not love me, Philip?" in a low, sweet tone,
that vibrated through his soul to all the gentler and dearer feelings
of his heart.

"Love you, Agnes!" cried he, throwing his arms round her beautiful
form, and pressing kiss upon kiss on her lips--"love you! Oh God! how
deeply!" He gazed on her face for a moment or two, with one of those
long, straining, wistful glances that we sometimes give to the dead;
then, starting up, he paced the room for several minutes, murmuring
some indistinct words to himself, till at length his steps grew slower
again, his lips ceased to move, and he once more fell into deep
meditation.

Agnes rose, and, advancing towards him, laid her hand affectionately
upon his arm, "Calm yourself, Philip. Come and sit down again, and
tell your Agnes what has disturbed you. Calm yourself, beloved! Oh,
calm yourself!"

"Calm, madam!" said the king, turning towards her with an air of cold
abstraction. "How would you have me calm?"

Agnes let her hand drop from his arm; and, returning to her seat, she
bent her head down and wept silently.

Philip took another turn in the chamber, during which he twice turned
his eyes upon the figure of his wife--then advanced towards her, and
leaning down, cast his arm over her neck. "Weep not, dear Agnes," he
said,--"weep not; I have many things to agitate and distress me. You
must bear with me, and let my humour have its way."

Agnes looked up, and kissed the lips that spoke to her, through her
tears. She asked no questions, however, lest she might recall whatever
was painful to her husband's mind. Philip, too, glanced not for a
moment towards the real cause of his agitation. There was something so
pure, so tender, so beautiful, in the whole conduct and demeanour of
his wife--so full of the same affection towards him that he felt
towards her--so unmixed with the least touch of that constraint that
might make her love doubted, that his suspicions stood reproved, and
though they rankled still, he dared not own them.

"Can it be only a feeling of cold duty binds her to me thus?" he asked
himself; "she cited nought else to support her resolution of not
flying with that pale seducer, D'Auvergne; and yet, see how she
strives for my affection! how she seems to fix her whole hopes upon
it!--how to see it shaken agitates her!"

The fiend had his answer ready. It might be pride--the fear of
sinking from the queen of a great kingdom, back into the daughter
of a petty prince. It might be vanity--which would be painfully
wrung to leave splendour, and riches, and admiration of a world, to
become--what?--what _had been_ the wife of a great king--a lonely,
unnoticed outcast from her _once husband's_ kingdom. Still, he thought
it was impossible. She had never loved splendour--she had never sought
admiration. Her delights had been with him alone, in sports and
amusements that might be tasted, with any one beloved, even in the
lowest station. It was impossible;--and yet it rankled. He felt he
wronged her. He was ashamed of it;--and yet those thoughts rankled!
Memory, too, dwelt with painful accuracy upon those words he had
overheard,--_notwithstanding her own feelings, she would not quit
him!_--and imagination, with more skill than the best sophist of the
court of Cr[oe]sus, drew therefrom matter to basis a thousand painful
doubts.

As thus he thought, he cast himself again into the seat before the
frame; and his mind being well prepared for every bitter and sorrowful
idea, he gave himself up to the gloomy train of fancies that pressed
on him on every side: the revolt of his barons--the disaffection of
his allies--the falling off of his friends--the exhaustion of his
finances--and last, not least, that dreadful interdict, that cut his
kingdom off from the Christian world, and made it like a lazar house.
He resolved all the horrible proofs of the papal power, that he had
seen on his way: the young, the old, clinging to his stirrup and
praying relief--the dead, the dying, exposed by the road-side to catch
his eye--the gloomy silence of the cities and the fields--the
deathlike void of all accustomed sounds, that spread around his path
wherever he turned:--he thought over them all; and, as he thought, he
almost unconsciously took up the chalk wherewith Agnes had been
tracing the figures on her embroidery, and slowly scrawled upon the
edge of the frame, "_Interdict! Interdict!_"

She had watched his motions as a mother watches those of her sick
child; but when she read the letters he had written, a faint cry broke
from her lips, and she became deadly pale. The conviction that
Philip's resolution was shaken by the thunders of the Roman church
took full possession of her mind, and she saw that the moment was
arrived for her to make her own peace the sacrifice for his. She felt
her fate sealed,--she felt her heart broken; and though she had often,
often contemplated the chances of such a moment, how trifling, how
weak had been the very worst dreams of her imagination to the agony of
the reality!

She repressed the cry, however, already half uttered; and rising from
her seat with her determination fixed, and her mind made up to the
worst evil that fate could inflict, she kneeled down at the king's
feet, and, raising her eyes to his, "My lord," she said, "the time is
come for making you a request that I am sure you will not refuse.
Your own repose, your kingdom's welfare, and the church's peace
require--all and each--that you should consent to part from one who
has been too long an object of painful contest. Till I thought that
the opinion of your prelates and your peers had gained over your will
to such a separation, I never dared, my noble lord, even to think
thereof; but now you are doubtless convinced that it must be so; and
all I have to beg is, that you would give me sufficient guard and
escort, to conduct me safely to my father's arms; and that you would
sometimes think with tenderness of one who has loved you well."

Agnes spoke as calmly as if she had asked some simple boon. Her voice
was low but clear; and the only thing that could betray agitation, was
the excessive rapidity of her utterance, seeming as if she doubted her
own powers to bring her request to an end.

Philip gazed upon her with a glance of agony and surprise, that were
painful even to behold. His cheek was as pale as death; but his brow
was flushed and red; and as she proceeded, the drops of agony stood
upon his temples. When she had done, he strove to speak, but no voice
answered his will; and after gasping as for breath, he started up,
exclaimed with great effort, "Oh, Agnes!" and darted out of the
chamber.

At ten paces' distance from the door stood Guerin, as if in
expectation of the king's return. Philip caught him by the arm, and,
scarcely conscious of what he did, pointed wildly with the other hand
to the door of the queen's apartments.

"Good God! my lord," cried the minister, well knowing the violent
nature of his master's passion. "In Heaven's name! what have you
done?"

"Done! done!" cried the monarch. "Done! She loves me not, Guerin! She
seeks to quit me. She loves me not, I say! She loves me not! I, that
would have sacrificed my soul for her! I, that would have abjured the
cross--embraced the crescent--desolated Europe--died myself, for her.
She seeks to leave me! Oh, madness and fury!" and clenching his hands,
he stamped with his armed heel upon the ground, till the vaulted roofs
of the keep echoed and re-echoed to the sound.

"Oh! my lord! be calm, in Heaven's name!" cried Guerin. "Speak not
such wild and daring words! Remember, though you be a king, there is a
King still higher; who perhaps even now chastens you for resisting his
high will."

"Away!" cried the king. "School not me, sir bishop! I tell thee, there
is worse hell _here_, than if there had never been heaven;" and he
struck his hand upon his mailed breast with fury, indeed almost
approaching to insanity. "Oh, Guerin, Guerin!" he cried again, after a
moment's pause, "she would leave me! Did you hear? She would leave
me!"

"Let me beseech you, sire," said the minister once more. "Compose
yourself, and, as a wise and good prince, let the discomfort and
misery that Heaven has sent to yourself, at least be turned to your
people's good; and, by so doing, be sure that you will merit of Heaven
some consolation."

"Consolation!" said the monarch mournfully. "Oh, my friend, what
consolation can I have? She loves me not, Guerin! She seeks to quit
me! What consolation can I have under that?"

"At least the consolation, sire, of relieving and restoring happiness
to your distressed people," answered the minister. "The queen herself
seeks to quit you, sire. The queen herself prays you to yield to the
authority of the church. After that, you will surely never think of
detaining her against her will. It would be an impious rebellion
against a special manifestation of Heaven's commands; for sure I am
that nothing but the express conviction that it is God's will would
have induced the princess to express such a desire as you have vaguely
mentioned."

"Do you think so, Guerin?" demanded Philip, musing--"do you think so?
But no, no! She would never quit me if she loved me?"

"Her love for you, my lord, may be suspended by the will of Heaven,"
replied the minister; "for surely she never showed want of love
towards you till now. Yield then, my lord, to the will of the Most
High. Let the queen depart; and, indeed, by so doing, I believe that
even your own fondest hopes may be gratified. Our holy father the
pope, you know, would not even hear the question of divorce tried,
till you should show your obedience to the church by separating from
the queen. When you have done so, he has pledged himself to examine it
in the true apostolic spirit; and doubtless he will come to the same
decision as your bishops of France had done before. Free from all
ties, you may then recall the queen----"

"But her love!" interrupted Philip,--"can I ever recall her love?"

"If it be by the will of Heaven," replied Guerin, "that she seeks to
leave you, her love for you, my lord, will not be lost, but increased
a thousand fold when Heaven's blessing sanctions it: and the pope----"

"Curses upon his head!" thundered Philip, bursting forth into a new
frenzy of passion,--"may pride and ambition be a curse on him and his
successors for ever! May they grasp at the power of others, till they
lose their own! May nation after nation cast off their sway! and itch
of dominion, with impotence of means, be their damnation for ever! Now
I have given him back his curse--say, what of him?"

"Nothing, my lord," replied Guerin; "but, that the only means to make
him consent to your union with the princess is to part with her for a
time. Oh, my lord! if you have not already consented,--consent, I
beseech you: she prays it herself. Do not refuse her--your kingdom
requires it: have compassion upon it. Your own honour is implicated;
for your barons rebel, and you never can chastise them while the whole
realm is bound to their cause by the strong bond of mutual distress."

"Chastise them!" said Philip thoughtfully, pausing on the ideas the
minister had suggested. Then suddenly he turned to Guerin with his
brow knit, and his cheek flushed, as if with the struggle of some new
resolution. "Be it so, Guerin!" cried he,--"be it so! The interdict
shall be raised--I will take them one by one--I will cut them into
chaff, and scatter them to the wind--I will be king of France indeed!
and if, in the mean while, this proud prelate yields me my wife--my
own beloved wife--why, well; but if he dares then refuse his sanction,
when I have bowed my rebellious subjects, his seat is but a frail one;
for I will march on Rome, and hurl him from his chair, and send him
forth to tread the sands of Palestine.--But stay, Guerin. Think you,
that on examination he will confirm the bishops' decree, if I yield
for the time?"

"I trust he will, my lord," replied the minister. "May I tell the
queen you grant her request?" he added, eager to urge Philip's
indecision into the irrevocable.

"Yes!" said the monarch, "yes!--Yet stay, Guerin,--stay!" and he fell
into thought again; when suddenly some one, mounting the steps like
lightning, approached the little vestibule where they stood. "Ha! have
you taken the count D'Auvergne?" cried the king, seeing one of his
serjeants-of-arms--his eyes flashing at the same time with all their
former fury.

"No, my lord," replied the man: "he has not yet been heard of; but a
messenger, in breathless haste, from the bishop of Tours, brings you
this packet, sire. He says, prince Arthur is taken," added the
serjeant.

"Avert it, Heaven!" exclaimed Philip, tearing open the despatch. "Too
true! too true!" he added: "and the people of Poitou in revolt! laying
the misfortune to our door, for resisting the interdict. Oh, Guerin!
it must be done--it must be done! The interdict must be raised, or all
is lost.--Begone, fellow! leave us!" he exclaimed, turning to the
serjeant, who tarried for no second command. Then, pacing up and down
for an instant, with his eyes bent on the ground, the king repeated
more than once:--"She seeks to leave me! she spoke of it as calmly as
a hermit tells his beads. She loves me not!--Too true, she loves me
not!"

"May I announce your will in this respect, my lord? demanded Guerin,
as the king paused and pondered bitterly over all that had passed.

"Ask me not, good friend!--ask me not!" replied the king, turning away
his head, as if to avoid facing the act to which his minister urged
him, "Ask me not. Do what thou wilt; there is my signet,--use it
wisely; but tear not my heart, by asking commands I cannot utter."

Thus speaking, the king drew his private seal from his finger, and
placing it in Guerin's hand, turned away; and, with a quick but
irregular step, descended the staircase, passed through the gardens,
and issuing out by the postern gate, plunged into the very heart of
the forest.

Guerin paused to collect his thoughts, scarcely believing the victory
that had been obtained; so little had he expected it in the morning.
He then approached the door of the queen's apartments, and knocked
gently for admittance. At first it passed unnoticed, but on repeating
it somewhat louder, one of Agnes's women presented herself, with a
face of ashy paleness, while another looked over her shoulder.

"Enter, my lord bishop, enter!" said the second in a low voice. "Thank
God, you are come! We know not what has so struck the queen; but she
is very ill. She speaks not; she raises not her head; and yet by her
sobbing 'tis clear she has not fainted. See where she lies!"

Guerin entered. From Philip's account, he had thought to find the
queen with a mind composed and made up to her fortunes; but a sadly
different scene presented itself. Agnes had apparently, the moment her
husband had left her, caught down the crucifix from a little moveable
oratory which stood in the room, and throwing herself on her knees
before one of the seats, had been seeking consolation in prayer. The
emotions which crossed her address to Heaven may easily be conceived;
and so powerfully had they worked, that, overcoming all other
thoughts, they seemed to have swept hope and trust, even in the
Almighty, away before them, and dashed the unhappy girl to the ground
like a stricken flower. Her head and whole person had fallen forward
on the cushion of the seat, before which she had been kneeling. Her
face was resting partly on her hands, and partly on the cross, which
they clasped, and which was deluged with her tears; while a succession
of short convulsive sobs was all that announced her to be amongst the
living.

"Has she not spoken since the king left her?" demanded Guerin, both
alarmed and shocked.

"Not a word, sir," replied her principal attendant. "We heard her move
once, after the king's voice ceased; and then came a dead silence: so
we ventured to come in, lest she should have fallen into one of those
swoons which have afflicted her ever since the tournament of the
Champeaux. We have striven to raise her, and to draw some word from
her; but she lies there, and sobs, and answers nothing."

"Send for Rigord the leech," said Guerin; "I saw him in the hall:" and
then approaching Agnes, with a heart deeply touched with the sorrow he
beheld, "Grieve not so, lady," he said in a kindly voice; "I trust
that this will not be so heavy a burden as you think: I doubt
not--indeed I doubt not, that a short separation from your royal
husband will be all that you will have to bear. The king having once,
by your good counsel, submitted his cause to the trial of the holy
church, our good father, the pope, will doubtless judge mildly, and
soon restore to him the treasure he has lost. Bear up, then, sweet
lady, bear up! and be sure that wherever you go, the blessings of a
whole nation, which your self-devotion has saved from civil war and
misery of every kind, will follow your footsteps, and smooth your
way."

It was impossible to say whether Agnes heard him or not; but the words
of comfort which the good bishop proffered produced no effect. She
remained with her face still leaning on the cross, and a quick
succession of convulsive sobs was her only reply. Guerin saw that all
farther attempt to communicate with her in any way would be vain for
the time; and he only waited the arrival of the leech to leave the
apartment.

Rigord, who acted both as physician and historian to Philip Augustus,
instantly followed the queen's attendant, who had been despatched to
seek him; and, after having received a promise from him to bring
intelligence of the queen's real state, the minister retired to his
own chamber, and hastened to render Philip's resolution irrevocable,
by writing that letter of submission to the holy see, which speedily
raised the interdict from France.



CHAPTER XIII.


Black and gloomy silence reigned through the old château of Compiègne,
during the two days that followed the queen's determination to depart.
All Philip's military operations were neglected--all the affairs of
his immediate government were forgotten, and his hours passed in
wandering alone in the forest, or in pacing his chamber with agitated
and uncertain steps.

The thoughts and feelings that filled those hours, however, though all
painful, were of a mixed and irregular character. Sometimes, it was
the indignant swelling of a proud and imperious heart against the
usurped power that snatched from it its brightest hopes. Sometimes, it
was the thrilling agony of parting from all he loved. Sometimes, it
was the burning thirst for vengeance, both on the head of him who had
caused the misery, and of those who, by their falling off in time of
need, had left him to bear it alone; and, sometimes, it was the
shadowy doubts and suspicions of awakened jealousy, throwing all into
darkness and gloom. Still, however, the deep, the passionate love
remained; and to it clung the faint hope of rewinning the treasure he
sacrificed for a time.

Thus, as he strode along the paths of the forest, with his arms
crossed upon his broad chest, he sketched out the stern but vast plan
of crushing his rebellious barons piecemeal, as soon as ever the
interdict--that fatal bond of union amongst them--should be broken. He
carried his glance, too, still farther into the future; and saw many a
rising coalition against him in Europe, fomented and supported by the
church of Rome; and firm in his own vigorous talent, it was with a
sort of joy that he contemplated their coming, as the means whereby he
would avenge the indignity he had suffered from the Roman see, crush
his enemies, punish his disobedient vassals, and, extending his
dominion to the infinite of hope, would hold Agnes once more to his
heart, and dare the whole world to snatch her thence again.

Such were the thoughts of Philip Augustus, so mingled of many
passions--ambition--love--revenge. Each in its turn using as its
servant a great and powerful mind, and all bringing about--for with
such opposite agents does Heaven still work its high will--all
bringing about great changes to the world at large; revolutions in
thoughts, in feelings, and in manners; the fall of systems, and the
advance of the human mind.

Were we of those who love to view agony with a microscope, we would
try equally to display the feelings of Agnes de Meranie, while, with
crushed joys, blighted hopes, and a broken heart, she prepared for the
journey that was to separate her for ever from him she loved best on
earth.

It would be too painful a picture, however, either to draw or to
examine. Suffice it, then, that, recovered from the sort of stupor
into which she had fallen after the efforts which had been called
forth by Philip's presence, she sat in calm dejected silence; while
her women, informed of her decision, made the necessary arrangements
for her departure. If she spoke at all, it was but to direct care to
be taken of each particular object, which might recall to her
afterwards the few bright hours she had so deeply enjoyed. 'Twas now
an ornament,--'twas now some piece of her dress, either given her by
her husband, or worn on some day of peculiar happiness, which called
her notice; and, as a traveller, forced to leave some bright land that
he may never see again, carries away with him a thousand views and
charts, to aid remembrance in after-years, poor Agnes was anxious to
secure, alone, all that could lead memory back to the joys that she
was quitting for ever. To each little trinket there was some memory
affixed; and to her heart they were relics, as holy as ever lay upon
shrine or altar.

It was on the second morning after her resolution had been taken, and
with a sad haste, springing from the consciousness of failing powers,
she was hurrying on her preparations, when she was informed that the
chancellor, Guerin, desired a few minutes' audience. She would fain
have shrunk from it; for, though she revered the minister for his
undoubted integrity, and his devotion to her husband, yet, it had so
happened that Guerin had almost always been called on to speak with
her for the purpose of communicating some painful news, or urging some
bitter duty. The impression he had left on her mind, therefore, was
aught but pleasant; and, though she esteemed him much, she loved not
his society. She was of too gentle a nature, however, to permit a
feeling so painful to its object to be seen for a moment, even now
that the minister's good word or bad could serve her nothing; and she
desired him to be admitted immediately.

The havoc that a few hours had worked on a face which was once the
perfection of earthly beauty struck even the minister, unobservant as
he was in general of things so foreign to his calling. As he remarked
it, he made a sudden pause in his advance; and looking up with a faint
smile, more sad, more melancholy than even tears, Agnes shook her
head, saving mildly, as a comment on his surprise--

"It cannot be, lord bishop, that any one should suffer as I have
suffered, and not let the traces shine out. But you are welcome, my
lord. How fares it with my noble lord--my husband, the king? He has
not come to me since yester-morning; and yet, methinks, we might have
better borne these wretched two days together than apart. We might
have fortified each other's resolution with strong words. We might
have shown each other, that what it was right to do, it was right to
do firmly."

"The king, madam," replied Guerin, "has scarcely been in a state to
see any one. I have been thrice refused admittance, though my plea was
urgent business of the state. He has been totally alone, till within
the last few minutes."

"Poor Philip!" exclaimed Agnes, the tears, in spite of every effort,
swelling in her eyes, and rolling over her fair pale cheek. "Poor
Philip! And did he think his Agnes would have tried to shake the
resolution which cost him such pangs to maintain? Oh, no! She would
have aided him to fix it, and to bear it."

"He feared not your constancy, lady," replied the bishop of Senlis.
"He feared his own. I have heard that fortitude is a woman's virtue;
and, in truth, I now believe it. But I must do my errand; for, in
faith, lady, I cannot see you weep:"--and the good minister wiped a
bright drop from his own clear, cold eye. "Having at last seen the
king," he proceeded, "he has commanded me to take strict care that all
the attendants you please to name should accompany you; that your
household expenses should be charged upon his domains, as that of the
queen of France; and having, from all things, good hope that the pope,
satisfied with this submission to his authority, will proceed
immediately to verify the divorce pronounced by the bishops, so that
your separation may be short--"

"Ha! What?" exclaimed Agnes, starting up, and catching the bishop's
arm with both her hands, while she gazed in his face with a look of
thunderstruck, incredulous astonishment--"What is it you say? Is there
a chance--is there a hope--is there a possibility that I may see him
again--that I may clasp his hand--that I may rest on his bosom once
more? O God! O God! blessed be thy holy name!" and falling on her
knees, she turned her beautiful eyes to heaven; while, clasping her
fair hands, and raising them also, trembling with emotion, towards the
sky, her lips moved silently, but rapidly, in grateful, enthusiastic
thanksgiving.

"But, oh!" she cried, starting up, and fixing her eager glance upon
the minister, "as you are a churchman, as you are a knight, as you are
a man! do not deceive me! Is there a hope--is there even a remote
hope? Does Philip think there is a hope?

"It appears to me, lady," replied the minister,--"and for no earthly
consideration would I deceive you,--that there is every cause to hope.
Our holy father the pope would not take the matter of the king's
divorce even into consideration, till the monarch submitted to the
decision of the church of Rome, which, he declared, was alone
competent to decide upon the question,--a right which the bishops of
France, he said, had arrogated unjustly to themselves."

"And did he," exclaimed Agnes solemnly--"did he cast his curse upon
this whole country--spread misery, desolation, and sorrow over the
nation--stir up civil war and rebellion, and tear two hearts asunder
that loved each other so devotedly, for the empty right to judge a
cause that had been already judged, and do away a sentence which he
knew not whether it was right or wrong?--and is this the
representative of Christ's apostle?"

"'Tis even as you say, lady, I am afraid," replied the minister. "But
even suppose his conduct to proceed from pride and arrogance,--which
Heaven forbid that I should insinuate!--our hope would be but
strengthened by such an opinion. For, contented with having
established his right and enforced his will, he will of course
commission a council to inquire into the cause, and decide according
to their good judgment. What that decision will be, is only known on
high; but as many prelates of France will of course sit in that
council, it is not likely that they will consent to reverse their own
judgment."

"And what thinks the king?" demanded Agnes thoughtfully.

"No stronger proof, lady, can be given, that he thinks as I do,"
replied Guerin, "than his determination that you should never be far
from him; so that, as soon as the papal decision shall be announced in
his favour, he may fly to reunite himself to her he will ever look
upon as his lawful wife. He begs, madam, that you would name that
royal château which you would desire for your residence--"

"Then I am not to quit France!" cried Agnes, hope and joy once more
beaming up in her eyes. "I am not to put wide, foreign lands between
us, and the journey of many a weary day! Oh! 'tis too much! 'tis too
much!" and sinking back into the chair where she had been sitting
before the minister's entrance, she covered her eyes with her hands,
and let the struggle between joy and sorrow flow gently away in tears.

Guerin made a movement as if to withdraw; but the queen raised her
hand, and stopped him. "Stay, my lord bishop, stay!" she said--"These
are tears such as I have not shed for long; and there is in them a
balmy quality that will soothe many of the wounds in my heart. Before
you go, I must render some reply to my dear lord's message. Tell him,
as my whole joy in life has been to be with him, so my only earthly
hope is to rejoin him soon. Thank him for all the blessed comfort he
has sent me by your lips; and say to him that it has snatched his
Agnes from the brink of despair. Say, moreover, that I would fain,
fain see him, if it will not pain him too deeply, before I take my
departure from the halls where I have known so much happiness. But bid
him not, on that account, to give his heart one pang to solace mine.
And now, my lord, I will choose my residence. Let me see. I will not
say Compiègne! for, though I love it well, and have here many a dear
memory, yet, I know, Philip loves it too; and I would that he should
often inhabit some place that is full of remembrances of me. But there
is a castle on the woody hill above Mantes where once, in the earliest
days of our marriage, we spent a pleasant month. It shall be my
widow's portion, till I see my lord again. Oh! why, why, why must we
part at all? But no!" she added more firmly, "it is doubtless right
that it should be so: and, if we may thus buy for our fate the blessed
certainty of never parting again, I will not think--I will try not to
think--the price too dear."

"Perhaps, madam, if I might venture to advise," said the minister,
"the interview you desire with the king would take place the last
thing before your departure."

Agnes drooped her head. "My departure!" said she mournfullyeg. "True!
'twill be but one pain for all. I have ordered my departure for this
evening, because I thought that the sooner I were gone, the sooner
would the pain be over for Philip; but oh, lord bishop, you know not
what it is to take such a resolution of departure--to cut short, even
by one brief minute, that fond lingering with which we cling to all
the loved objects that have surrounded us in happiness. But it is
right to do it, and it shall be done: my litter shall be here an hour
before supper; what guards you and the king think necessary to escort
me, I will beg you to command at the hour of three. But I hope," she
added, in an almost imploring tone,--"I hope I shall see my husband
before I go?"

"Doubt it not, madam," said Guerin: "I have but to express your
desire. Could I but serve you farther?"

"In nothing, my good lord," replied the queen, "but in watching over
the king like a father. Soothe his ruffled mood; calm his hurt mind;
teach him not to forget Agnes, but to bear her absence with more
fortitude than she can bear his. And now, my lord," she added, wiping
the tears once more from her eyes, "I will go and pray, against that
dreadful hour. I have need of help, but Heaven will give it me; and if
ever woman's heart broke in silence, it shall be mine this night."

Guerin took his leave and withdrew; and, proceeding to the cabinet of
Philip Augustus, gave him such an account of his conversation with the
queen, as he thought might soothe and console him, without shaking his
resolution of parting from her, at least for a time. Philip listened,
at first, in gloomy silence; but, as every now and then, through the
dry account given by his plain minister, shone out some touch of the
deep affection borne him by his wife, a shade passed away from his
brow, and he would exclaim, "Ha! said she so? Angel! Oh, Guerin, she
is an angel!" Then starting up, struck by some sudden impulse, he
paced the room with hasty and irregular steps.

"A villain!" cried he at length--"a villain!--Thibalt d'Auvergne,
beware thy head!--By the blessed rood! Guerin, If I lay my hands upon
him, I will cut his false heart from his mischief-devising breast!
Fiend! fiend! to strive to rob me of an angel's love like that! He has
fled me, Guerin!--he has fled me for the time. You have doubtless
heard, within five minutes, he and his train had left the town behind
him. 'Twas the consciousness of villany drove him to flight. But I
will find him, if I seek him in the heart of Africa! The world shall
not hold us two."

Guerin strove to calm the mind of the king, but it was in vain; and,
till the hour approached for the departure of Agnes from the castle,
Philip spent the time either in breathing vows of vengeance against
his adversaries, or in pacing up and down, and thinking, with a wrung
and agonised heart, over the dreadful moment before him. At length he
could bear it no longer; and, throwing open the door of his cabinet,
he walked hastily towards the queen's apartments. Guerin followed, for
a few paces, knowing that the critical moment was arrived when France
was to be saved or lost--doubting the resolution of both Agnes and
Philip, and himself uncertain how to act.

But before Philip had passed through the corridor, he turned to the
minister, and, holding up his hand, with an air of stern majesty he
said, "Alone, Guerin! I must be alone! At three, warn me!" and he
pursued his way to the queen's apartment.

The next hour we must pass over in silence; for no one was witness to
a scene that required almost more than mortal fortitude to support. At
three, the queen's litter was in the castle court, the serjeants of
arms mounted to attend her, and the horses of her ladies held ready to
set out. With a heart beating with stronger emotions than had ever
agitated it in the face of adverse hosts, Guerin approached the
apartments of Agnes de Meranie. He opened the door, but paused without
pushing aside the tapestry, saying, "My lord!"

"Come in," replied Philip, in a voice of thunder; and Guerin,
entering, beheld him standing in the midst of the floor with Agnes
clinging to him, fair, frail, and faint, with her arms twined round
his powerful frame, like the ivy clinging round some tall oak agitated
by a storm. The kings face was heated, his eyes were red, and the
veins of his temples were swelled almost to bursting. "She shall not
go!" cried he, as Guerin entered, in a voice both raised and shaken by
the extremity of his feelings--"By the Lord of heaven! she shall not
go!"

There was energy in his tone, almost to madness; and Guerin stood
silent, seeing all that he had laboured to bring about swept away in
that moment. But Agnes slowly withdrew her arms from the king, raised
her weeping face from his bosom, clasped her hands together, and gazed
on him for a moment with a glance of deep and agonised feeling--then
said, in a low but resolute voice, "Philip, it must be done! Farewell,
beloved! farewell!" and, running forward towards the door, she took
the arm of one of her women, to support her from the chamber.

Before she could go, however, Philip caught her again in his arms, and
pressed kiss after kiss upon her lips and cheek. "Help me! help me!"
said Agnes, and two of her women, gently disengaging her from the
king's embrace, half bore, half carried her down the stairs, and,
raising her into the litter, drew its curtains round, and veiled her
farther sorrows from all other eyes.

When she was gone, Philip stood for a moment gazing, as it were, on
vacancy--twice raised his hand to his head--made a step or two towards
the door--reeled--staggered--and fell heavily on the floor, with the
blood gushing from his mouth and nostrils.



END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.



VOLUME THE THIRD.



CHAPTER I.


The Count d'Auvergne left Agnes de Meranie, with his mind stretched to
the highest point of excitement. For months and months he had been
dwelling on the thoughts of that one moment. In the midst of other
scenes and circumstances, his soul had been abstracted and busy with
the anticipations of that hour. His whole powers and energies had been
wrought up to bear it firmly and calmly. And now he had accomplished
his task. It was done! he had seen, he had met the object of his
young, deep, all-absorbing affection--the object of all his regrets,
the undesigning cause of all his misery--he had seen her the wife of
another--he had seen her in sorrow and distress--he had helped even to
tear her heart, by pressing on her a separation from the man she
loved. He had marked every touch of her strong affection for Philip.
He had felt every cold and chilling word she had addressed to himself,
and yet he had borne it calmly--firmly, at least. Like the Indian
savage, he had endured the fire and the torture without a sign of
suffering; but still the fire and the torture had done their work upon
his corporeal frame.

The words in the letter, presented to him by De Coucy's page, swam
dizzily before his eyes, without conveying their defined meaning to
his senses. He saw that it was some new pang--he saw that it was some
fresh misfortune; but reason reeled upon her throne, and he could not
sufficiently fix his mind to gather what was the precise nature of the
tidings he received. He bade the page follow, however, in a hurried
and confused tone, and passed rapidly on through the castle hall into
the town, and to the lodging where he had left his retainers. His
horse stood saddled in the court, and all seemed prepared for
departure; and without well knowing why, but with the mere indistinct
desire of flying from the sorrows that pursued him, he mounted his
horse and turned him to the road.

"Shall we follow, my lord?" demanded his squire, running at his bridle
as he rode forward.

"Ha?--Yes!--Follow!" replied the count, and galloped on with the
letter the page had given him still in his hand. He rode on with the
swiftness of the wind; whenever his horse made the least pause, urging
him forward with the spur, as if a moment's cessation of his rapid
pace gave him up again to the dark and gloomy thoughts that pursued
him like fierce and winged fiends.

Still, his long habit of commanding his feelings struggled for its
ancient power. He felt that his mind was overcome, and he strove to
raise it up again. He endeavoured to recall his stoical firmness; he
tried to reason upon his own weakness; but the object to which he had
bent all his thoughts was accomplished--the motive for his endurance
was over, his firmness was gone, and reason hovered vaguely round each
subject that was presented to her, without grasping it decidedly.
During the last two years, he had raised up, as it were, a strong
embankment in his own mind against the flood of his sorrows, he had
fortified it with every power of a firm and vigorous intellect; but
the torrent had swelled by degrees, till its force became resistless;
and now it bore away every barrier, with destruction the more fearful
from the opposition it had encountered.

He rode on. The day was burning and oppressive. The hot mid-day sun
struck scorching on its brow, and his eyes became wild and bloodshot;
but still he rode on, as if he felt in no degree anything that passed
without the dark chamber of his own bosom. De Coucy's page had
hastened for his horse when he found the count about to depart, and
had galloped after. Seeing at length that his thoughts were occupied
in other matters, and that he held the letter he had received, crushed
together in his hand, Ermold De Marcy made bold to spur forward his
weary beast, and approaching D'Auvergne to say, "Is there any hope, my
lord, of your being able, in this matter, to relieve sir Guy?"

"Sir Guy!" cried D'Auvergne, suddenly checking his horse in full
career, and gazing in the page's face with an anxious, thoughtful
look, as if he strove with effort to recollect his ideas, and fix them
on the subject brought before him--"Sir Guy! What of sir Guy! Who is
sir Guy?"

"Do you not remember me, beau sire?" asked the page, astonished at the
wild, unsettled look of a man whose fixed, stern, immoveable coldness
of expression had often been a matter of wonder to the light, volatile
youth, whose own thoughts and feelings changed full fifty times a
day--"do you know me, beau sire?" he asked. "I am Ermold de Marcy, the
page of sir Guy de Coucy, who now lies in English bonds, as that
letter informs you."

"De Coucy in bonds!" cried the count, starting. Then, after gazing for
a moment or two in the page's face, he added slowly, "Ay!--Yes!--True!
Some one told me of it before, methinks. In bonds! I will march and
deliver him!"

"Alas! my lord!" answered the page, "all the powers in France would
not deliver him by force. He is in the hands of the English army, full
fifty thousand strong; and it is only by paying his ransom, I may hope
to see my noble lord freed."

"You shall pay his ransom," replied D'Auvergne--"yes, you shall pay
his ransom. How much does the soldan ask?"

"'Tis the English king who holds him, my lord," answered the page;
"not the soldan. We are in France, beau sire, not in Palestine."

"Not in Palestine, fool!" cried the count, frowning as if the page
sought to mock him. "Feel I not the hot sun burning on my brow? And
yet," he continued, looking round, "I believe thou art right.--But the
ransom, what does the soldan require.--De Coucy!--the noble De
Coucy!--to think of his ever being a prisoner to those infidel
Saracens! What does the miscreant soldan demand?"

Surprised and shocked at what he beheld, the page paused for a moment
till D'Auvergne repeated his question. Then, however, seeing that it
would be a vain attempt to change the current of the count's thoughts,
he replied, "I do not know, my lord, precisely; but I should suppose
they would never free a knight of his renown under a ransom of ten
thousand crowns."

"Ten thousand crowns!" cried D'Auvergne, his mind getting more and
more astray every moment, under the effort and excitement of
conversation, "thou shalt have double! Then with the remainder thou
shalt buy thee a flock of sheep, and find out some valley in the
mountains, where nor man nor woman ever trod; there shalt thou hide
thee with thy sheep, till age whitens thee, and death strikes thee.
Thou shalt! thou shalt, I tell thee, that the records of the world may
say there was once a man who lived and died in peace. But come to
Jerusalem! Come! and thou shalt have the gold. For me, I am bound by a
holy vow to do penance in solitude amongst the green woods of Mount
Libanus. Follow quick! follow! and thou shalt have the gold."

So saying, the count rode on, and Ermold de Marcy followed with his
train; speaking earnestly, though not very sagely perhaps, with
D'Auvergne's chief squire, concerning the sudden fit of insanity that
had seized his lord.

Notwithstanding the strange turn which the mind of count Thibalt had
taken, he mistook not his road to Paris, nor did he once err in the
various turnings of the city. On the contrary, with a faculty
sometimes possessed by madness, he seemed to proceed with more
readiness than usual, following all the shortest and most direct
streets towards the house of the canons of St. Berthe's; where, on his
arrival, he went straight to the apartments which had been assigned to
him by the good fathers; and calling for his treasurer, whom he had
left behind on his visit to Compiègne, he demanded the key of his
treasure.

The case which contained the sums he had destined to defray the
expenses of his return to the Holy Land was soon laid open before him.
For a moment or two, he gazed from it to the page, with one of the
painful, wandering looks of a mind partially gone, striving vainly to
collect all its remaining energies, and concentrate them on some
matter of deep and vital import.

"Take it!" cried he at length--"take what is necessary.--Tell thy
lord,"  he added with great effort, as if the linking each idea to the
other was a work of bitter labour--"tell thy lord, I would come--I
would strive to free him myself--I would do much.--But, but--Auvergne
is not what he was. My heart is the same--but my brain, youth! my
brain!"--and he carried his hand to his brow, wandering over it with
his fingers, while his eyes fixed gradually on vacancy; and he
continued muttering broken sentences to himself, such as, "This
morning!--ay! this morning.--The hot sun of the desert.--And
Agnes--yes, Agnes--her cold words." Then suddenly catching the eye of
the page fixed upon his countenance, he pointed to the gold,
exclaiming angrily, "Take it! Why dost thou not take it?--Get thee
gone with it to thy lord. Dost thou stay to mock. Take the gold and
get thee gone, I say!"

The page, without further bidding, kneeled beside the case, and took
thence as many bags of gold as he thought necessary for the purpose of
ransoming De Coucy; placing them one by one in his pouch. When he had
done, he paused a moment for licence to depart, which was soon given
in an angry "Get thee gone!" and, descending the stairs as quickly as
possible, he only stayed with the servants of the count d'Auvergne, to
bid them have a care of their lord; for that, to a certainty, he was
as mad as a marabout; after which, he mounted his horse and rode away.

Ermold de Marcy first turned the head of his weary beast towards the
east; but no sooner was he out of Paris, than he changed that
direction for one nearly west; and, without exactly retreading his
steps, he took quite an opposite path to that which he first intended.
This retrograde movement proceeded from no concerted purpose, but was,
in reality and truth, a complete change of intention; for, to say
sooth, the poor page was not a little embarrassed with the business he
had in hand.

"Here," thought he, "I have about me twelve thousand crowns in gold.
The roads are full of cotereaux, routiers, and robbers of all
descriptions; my horse is so weary, that if I am attacked, I must e'en
stand still and be plundered. Night is coming on fast; and I have
nowhere to lie--and what to do I know not. If I carry all this gold
about with me too, till I find my master, I shall lose it, by Saint
Jude! By the holy rood! I will go to the old hermit of Vincennes. He
cheated me, and proved himself a true man, after all, about that ring.
So I will leave the gold under his charge till I have learned more of
my lord, and to whom he has surrendered himself."

This resolution was formed just as he got out of the gate of the city;
and skirting round on the outside, he took his way towards the tower
of Vincennes; after passing which, he soon reached the dwelling of the
hermit in the forest of Saint Mandé, with but little difficulty in
finding his road. The old man received him with somewhat more urbanity
than usual, and heard his tale in calm silence. Ermold related
circumstantially all that had occurred to him since he followed his
lord from Paris, looking upon the hermit in the light of a confessor,
and relieving his bosom of the load that had weighed upon it ever
since his truant escapade to the good town of La Flêche. He told, too,
all the efforts he had made to avert the unhappy effects of Jodelle's
treachery; and pourtrayed, with an air of bitter mortification, that
interested the old man in his favour, the degree of despair he had
felt when, on mounting the hill above Mirebeau, he saw the English
army in possession of the city and country round about.

"And saw you no one who had escaped?" demanded the anchorite, with
some earnestness.

"No one," replied the page, "but our own mad juggler. Gallon the fool,
who had got away, though sore wounded with an arrow. From him,
however, I learned nothing, for he was so cursed with the pain of his
wound, that he would speak no sense; and when I questioned him
sharply, he shouted like a devil, as is his wont, and ran off as hard
as he could. I then rode forward to Tours," continued the page, "and
for a crown, got a holy clerk to write me a letter to the count
d'Auvergne, in case I could not have speech of him, telling him of my
lord's case, and praying his help; and never did I doubt that the
noble count would instantly go down to Tours himself, to ransom his
brother in arms; but, God help us all! I found his wit a cup-full
weaker than when I left him."

"How so?" demanded the hermit: "what wouldst thou say, boy? Why did
not the good count go? Speak more plainly."

"Alas! good father, he is as mad as the moon!" replied the page;
"something that happened this morning at Compiègne, his followers say,
must have been the cause, for yesterday he was as wise and calm as
ever. To-day, too, when he rose, he was gloomy and stern, they tell
me, as he always is; but when he came back from the château, he was as
mad as a Saracen santon."

The hermit clasped his hands, and knit his brows; and after thinking
deeply for several minutes, he said, apparently more as a corollary to
his own thoughts, than to the pages words, "Thus we should learn,
never for any object, though it may seem good, to quit the broad and
open path of truth. That word policy has caused, and will cause, more
misery in the world, than all the plagues of Egypt. I abjure it, and
henceforth will never yield a word's approval to aught that has even a
touch of falsehood, be it but in seeming. Never deceive any one,
youth! even to their own good, as thou mayest think; for thou knowest
not what little circumstance may intervene, unknown to thee, and,
scattering all the good designs of the matter to the wind, may leave
the deceit alone, to act deep and mischievously. A grain of sand in
the tubes of a clepsydra will derange all its functions, and throw its
manifold and complicated movements wrong. How much more likely, then,
that some little unforeseen accident in the intricate workings of this
great earthly machine should prove our best calculations false, and
whip us with our own policy! Oh! never, never deceive! Deceit in
itself is evil, and intention can never make it good."

Though, like most people, who, when they discover an error in their
own conduct, take care to sermonise some other person thereupon, the
hermit addressed his discourse to Ermold de Marcy, his homily was in
fact a reproach to himself; for, in the page's account of the count
d'Auvergne's madness, he read, though mistakenly, the effects of the
scheme he had sanctioned, as we have seen, for freeing the country
from the interdict. For a moment or two, he still continued to think
over what he had heard, inflicting on himself that sort of bitter
castigation, which his stern mind was as much accustomed to address to
himself as to others. He then turned again to the subject of De Coucy.
"'Tis an unhappy accident, thou hast told me there, youth," he said,
coming suddenly back, upon the subject, without any immediate
connexion;--"'tis an unhappy accident,--both your lord being taken,
and his brother in arms being unable to aid him; but we must see for
means to gain his ransom, and, God willing! it shall be done."

"'Tis done already, father hermit," replied the page: "the noble count
had not lost his love for sir Guy, though he had lost his own senses;
and albeit he was in no state to manage the matter of the ransom
himself, he gave me sufficient money. It lies there in that pouch,
twelve thousand crowns, all in gold. Now, I dare not be riding about
with such a sum; and so I have brought it to you to keep safe, while I
go back and find out the earl of Salisbury, who, I have heard say, was
an old companion of my master's in the Holy Land, and will tell me,
for his love, into whose hands he has fallen. I will now lead my beast
back to the village, by Vincennes, for carry me he can no farther;
and, though I could stretch me here in your hut for the night, no
stable is near, and my poor bay would be eaten by the wolves before
daybreak. To-morrow, with the first ray of the morning, I set out to
seek my lord, and find means of freeing him. 'Tis a long journey, and
may be a long treaty. Give me, therefore, two months to accomplish it
all; and if I come not then, think that the routiers have devoured me;
and send, I pray thee, good father, to king Philip, and bid him see my
lord ransomed."

"Stay, boy," said the hermit: "you must not go alone. To-morrow
morning, speed to Paris; seek sir François de Roussy, Mountjoy
king-at-arms; tell him I sent thee. Show him thy lord's case, and bid
him give thee a herald to accompany thee on thine errand. Thus shall
thou do it far quicker, and far more surely; and the herald's guerdon
shall not be wanting when he returns."

The page eagerly caught at the idea, and the farther arrangements
between himself and the hermit were easily made. After having yielded
a few of its gold pieces, to defray the expenses of the page's
journey, the pouch, with the money it contained, was safely deposited
under the moss and straw of the hermit's bed; which place, as we have
seen, had already, on one occasion, served a similar purpose. Ermold
de Marcy then received the old man's blessing, and bidding him adieu,
left him to contemplate more at leisure the news he had so suddenly
brought him.

It was then, when freed from the immediate subject of De Coucy's
imprisonment, which the presence of the page had of course rendered
the first subject of consideration, that the mind of the hermit turned
to the unhappy fate of Arthur Plantagenet. He paused for several
moments, with his arms folded on his chest, drawing manifold sad
deductions from that unhappy prince's claim to the crown of England,
joined with his present situation, and his uncle's established
cruelty. There were hopes that the English barons might interfere, or
that shame and fear might lead John to hold his unscrupulous hand. But
yet the chance was a frail one; and as the old man contemplated the
reverse, he gave an involuntary shudder, and sinking on his knees
before the crucifix, he addressed a silent prayer to Heaven, for
protection to the unfortunate beings exposed to the cruel ambition of
the weak and remorseless tyrant.



CHAPTER II.


There stood in ancient days, on the banks of the river Seine, a tall
strong tower, forming one of the extreme defences of the city of Rouen
towards the water. It has long, long been pulled down; but I have
myself seen a picture of that capital of Normandy, taken while the
tower I speak of yet stood; and though the painter had indeed
represented it as crumbling and dilapidated, even in his day, there
was still an air of menacing gloom in its aspect, that seemed to speak
it a place whose dungeons might have chronicled many a misery--a place
of long sorrows, and of ruthless deeds.

In this tower, some four months after the events which we have
recorded in the end of the last volume and the beginning of this, were
confined two persons of whom we have already spoken much--Arthur
Plantagenet and Guy de Coucy.

The chamber that they inhabited was not one calculated either to raise
the spirits of a prisoner by its lightsome airiness, or to awaken his
regrets by the prospect of the free world without. It seemed as if
made for the purpose of striking gloom and terror into the bosoms of
its sad inhabitants; and strong must have been the heart that could
long bear up under the depressing influence of its heavy atmosphere.

Its best recommendation was its spaciousness, being a square of near
thirty feet in length and breadth; but this advantage was almost
completely done away by the depression of the roof, the highest extent
of which, at the apex of the arches whereof it was composed, was not
above eight feet from the floor. In the centre rose a short column of
about two feet in diameter, from which, at the height of little more
than a yard from the ground, began to spring the segments of masonry
forming the low but pointed arches of the vault.

Window there was none; but at the highest part, through the solid bend
of one of the arches, was pierced a narrow slit, or loophole,
admitting sufficient light into the chamber to render the objects
dimly visible, but nothing more.

The furniture which this abode of wretchedness contained was as scanty
as could well be, though a pretence of superior comfort had been given
to it over the other dungeons, when it was about to be tenanted by a
prince. Thus, in one part was a pile of straw, on which De Coucy made
his couch; and in another corner was a somewhat better bed, with two
coverings of tapestry, placed there for the use of Arthur. There were
also two settles--an unknown luxury in prisons of that day, and by the
massy column in the centre stood a small oaken table.

At the side of this last piece of furniture, with his arms stretched
thereon, and his face buried in his arms, sat Arthur Plantagenet. It
was apparently one of those fine sunny days that sometimes break into
February; and a bright ray of light found its way through the narrow
loophole we have mentioned, and fell upon the stooping form of the
unhappy boy, exposing the worn and soiled condition of his once
splendid apparel, and the confused dishevelled state of the rich,
curling, yellow hair, which fell in glossy disarray over his fair
cheeks, as his brow rested heavily upon his arms. The ray passed on,
and forming a long narrow line of light upon the pillar, displayed a
rusty ring of iron, with its stauncheon deeply imbedded in the stone.
Attached to this hung several links of a broken chain; but though the
unhappy prince, when he looked upon the manacles that had been
inflicted on some former tenant of the prison, might have found that
comparative consolation which we derive from the knowledge of greater
misery than our own; yet the other painful associations, called up by
the sight, more than counterbalanced any soothing comparisons it
suggested; and he seemed, in despair, to be hiding his eyes from all
and every thing, in a scene where each object he looked upon called
up, fresh, some regret for the past, or some dread for the future.

A little beyond, in a leaning position, with his hand grasping one of
the groins of the arch, stood De Coucy, in the dim half light that
filled every part of the chamber, where that ray already mentioned
fell not immediately; and with a look of deep mournful interest, he
contemplated his young fellow-captive, whose fate seemed to affect him
even more than his own.

During the first few days of their captivity, all the prisoners taken
at Mirebeau had been treated by the crafty John with kindness and even
distinction; more especially Arthur and De Coucy, at least while
William Longsword, the Earl of Pembroke, and some others of the more
independent of the English nobility, remained near the person of the
king. While this lasted, the youthful mind of Arthur Plantagenet
recovered in some degree its tone, though the fatal events of Mirebeau
had at first sunk it almost to despair.

On one pretence or another, however, John soon contrived that all
those who might have obstructed his schemes, either by opposition or
remonstrance, should be despatched on distant and tedious expeditions;
and, free from the restraint of their presence, his real feelings
towards Arthur, and those who supported him, were not long in
displaying themselves.

Though ungifted with that fine quality which, teaching us to judge and
direct our own conduct as well as to understand and govern that of
others, truly deserves the name of wisdom, John possessed that
knowledge of human nature,--that cunning science in man's weaknesses,
which is too often mistaken for wisdom. He well understood, therefore,
that the good and noble--even in an age when virtue was chivalrous,
and when the protection of the oppressed was a deed of fame--would
often suffer violence and cruelty to pass unnoticed, after time had
taken the first hard aspect from the deed. He knew that what would
raise a thousand voices against it to-day, would to-morrow be
canvassed in a whisper, and the following day forgotten: and he judged
that, though the first rumour of his severity towards his nephew might
for a moment wake the indignation of his barons, yet, long before they
were reunited on the scene of action, individual interests, and newer
events, would step in, and divert their thoughts to very different
channels.

Lord Pembroke was consequently despatched to Guyenne, with several of
those unmanageable honest men, whose straightforward honour is the
stumbling-block of evil intentions. Lord Salisbury was left once more
to protect Touraine with very inefficient forces; and John himself
retreated across the Loire, with the prisoners and the bulk of his
army.

Each day's march changed his demeanour towards Arthur and his
unfortunate companions. His kingly courtesy became gradually scanty
kindness, manifest neglect, and, at last, cruel ill usage. The
revolted nobles of Poitou had given quite sufficient excuse for the
king's severity, towards them, at least; and with little ceremony,
either of time or manner, they were consigned to separate prisons,
scattered over the face of Maine and Brittany. Arthur and De Coucy
were granted a few days more of comparative liberty, following the
English army, strongly escorted indeed; but still breathing the free
air, and enjoying the sight of fair nature's face. At length, as the
army passed through Normandy, their escort, already furnished with
instructions to that effect, turned from the line of march, and
deposited them within the walls of the castle of Falaise; from which
place they were removed to Rouen in the midst of the winter, and
confined in the chamber we have already described.

Arthur's mind had borne up at Falaise; so far, at least, that, though
he grieved over the breaking of his first splendid hopes, and felt,
with all the eager restlessness of youth, the uncomforts of
imprisonment, the privation of exercise, the dull monotonous round of
daily hours, the want of novelty, and the wearisome continuity of one
unchanging train of thought; yet hope was still alive--nay, even
expectation; and ceaselessly would he build those blessed castles in
the air, that, like the portrait of an absent friend, picture forth
the sweet features of distant happiness, far away, but not lost for
ever. The air of the prison had there been fresh and light, the
governor mild and urbane; and though, there, he had been lodged in a
different chamber from De Coucy, yet his spirits had not sunk, even
under solitude.

At Rouen, however, though the jailer, for his own convenience, rather
than their comfort, placed the two prisoners in the same apartment,
Arthur's cheerfulness quickly abandoned him; his health failed, and
his hopes and expectations passed away like dreams, as they were. The
air, though cold, was close and heavy; and the dim, grey light of the
chamber seemed to encourage every melancholy thought.

When De Coucy strove to console him, he would but shake his head with
an impatient start, as if the very idea of better days was but a
mockery of his hopelessness; and at other times he would sit, with the
silent tears of anguish and despair chasing each other down his fair,
pale cheeks, hour after hour; as if weeping had become his occupation.
As one day followed another, his depression seemed to increase. The
only sign of interest he had shown in what was passing in the busy
world without, had been the questions which he asked the jailer,
morning and evening, when their food or a light was brought them.
Then, he had been accustomed anxiously to demand when his uncle John
was expected to return from England, and sometimes to comment on the
reply; but, after a while, this too ceased, and his whole energies
seemed benumbed with despair, from the rising till the setting of the
sun.

After it was down, however, he seemed in a degree to re-awaken; and
then alone he showed an interest in any thing unconnected with his own
immediate fate, when the day had gone, and by the light of the lamp
that was given them at night, De Coucy would relate to him many a
battle and adventure in the Holy Land--scenes of danger, and terror,
and excitement; and deeds of valour, and strength, and generosity, all
lighted up with the romantic and chivalrous spirit of the age, and
tinged with that wild and visionary superstition which cast a vague
sort of shadowy grandeur over all the tales of those days.

Then Arthur's cheek would glow with a flush of feverish interest; and
he would ask many an eager question, and listen to long and minute
descriptions, that would weary beyond all patience any modern ears;
and, in the end, he would wish that, instead of having embarked his
hopes in the fatal endeavour of recovering lost kingdoms, and wresting
his heritage from the usurper, he had given his life and hopes to the
recovery of Christ's blessed cross and sepulchre.

This, however, was only, as we have said, after the sun had gone down,
and when the lamp was lighted; for it seemed that then, when the same
darkness was apportioned to every one, and when every one sought a
refuge within the walls of their dwellings, that he felt not his
imprisonment so painfully as when day had risen--_day_, which to him
was without any of day's enjoyments. _He_ could not taste the fresh
air--_he_ could not catch the sunshine of the early spring--_he_ could
not stretch his enfeebled limbs in the sports of the morning--_he_
could not gaze upon all the unrivalled workmanship of God's glorious,
beauty-spreading hand. Daylight to him was all privation; and even the
sunbeam that found its way through the loophole in the masonry, seemed
but given to wring him with the memory of sweets he could not taste.
He thus therefore turned his back towards it, as we have at first
depicted him; and burying his eyes upon his arms, gave himself up to
the recollection of broken hopes, long-gone visions of empiry and
dominion, stifled aspirations after honour and fame, brilliant past
schemes of justice and equity, and universal benevolence, and all
those bright materials given to youth, out of which manhood preserves
so few to carry on into old age. Powerful feelings and generous
designs are, alas! too like the inheritance of a miser in the hands of
some spendthrift heir--lavished away on trifles in our early years,
and needed, but not possessed, in our riper age.

None had been more endowed in such sort than Arthur Plantagenet; but
it seemed the will of Fortune, to snatch from him, piece by piece,
each portion of his heritage, and to crush the energies of his mind at
the same time that she tore from him his right of dominion; and thus,
while he lay and pondered over all he had once hoped, there was a
touch of bitterness mingled with his grief, to feel that the noblest
wishes are but the mock and sport of Fate. Born to a kingdom, yet
doomed to a prison; as a child he had entered on the career of a man;
he had mingled the bright aspirations of youth with the ambitious
yearnings of maturity; and now his infancy lay crushed under the
misfortunes of manhood.

De Coucy gazed on him with feelings of deep and painful interest. What
he might have been, and what he was; his youth, and his calamities;
his crushed mind, and its former gallant energy, stood forth in strong
contrast to the eyes of De Coucy, as, leaning against the arch, he
contemplated the unhappy prince, whose thin, pale hands, appearing
from beneath the curls of his glossy hair, spoke plainly the ravages
that confinement and sorrow had worked upon him.

The knight was about to speak, when the sounds of voices approaching
were heard through the low small door that opened from their chamber
upon a stone gallery at the head of the staircase. De Coucy listened.

"Thou art bold!--thou art too bold!" cried one of the speakers,
pausing opposite the door. "Tell not me of other prisoners! Thine
orders were strict, that he should be kept alone.--What was 't to
thee, if that mad De Coucy had rotted with fifty others in a cell? Thy
charge is taken from thee. Speak not! but begone! Leave me thy
keys.--Thou, Humbert, stand by with thy men. Listen not; but if I
call, rush in. Mark me, dost thou? If I speak loud, rush in!"

The bolts were withdrawn, the key turned, and, the door opening, John,
King of England, entered, stooping his head to pass the low arch of
the doorway. Arthur had looked up at the first sound, and his pale
cheek had become a hue paler, even before the appearance of his uncle;
but, when John did at length approach, a quick sharp shudder passed
over his nephew's form, as if there had been indeed some innate
antipathy, which warned the victim that he was in presence of him
destined to be his murderer.

The king advanced a step or two into the chamber, and then paused,
regarding Arthur, who had risen from his seat, with a cold and
calculating eye. A slight smile of gratification passed over his lip,
as he remarked the sallow and emaciated state to which imprisonment
and despair had reduced a form but three short months before full of
life, and strength, and beauty.

The smile passed away instantly from a face little accustomed to
express the real feelings of the heart; but John still continued for a
moment to contemplate his nephew evidently little pained at the sight
of the change he beheld, whether from that change he augured
sufficient depression of mind to second his purpose of wringing from
his nephew the cession of his claims, or whether he hoped that
sickness might prove as good an auxiliary as murder, and spare him
bloodshed, that would inevitably be accompanied by danger, as well as
reproach. His eye then glanced through the sombre arches of the vault,
till it rested on De Coucy with a sort of measuring fixedness, as if
he sought to ascertain the exact space between himself and the knight.

Satisfied on this point, he turned again to Arthur.

"Well, fair nephew," said he, with that kind of irony which he seldom
banished from his lips, "for three years I asked you in vain to honour
my poor court with your noble presence. You have come at last, and
doubtless the reception I have given you is such, that you will never
think of departing from a place where you may be hospitably
entertained for life. How love you prison walls, fair nephew?"

Arthur replied not; but, casting himself again upon the settle,
covered his eyes as before, and seemed, from the quick rise and fall
of his shoulders, to weep bitterly.

"Sir King," said De Coucy, interposing indignantly, "thou art, then,
even more cruel than report gives thee out. Must thou needs add the
torture of thy words to the tyranny of thine actions. In the name of
God! bad man, leave this place of wretchedness, and give thy nephew,
at least, such tranquillity as a prison may afford."

"Ha! beau sire de Coucy," cried John with an unaltered tone. "Methinks
thou art that gallant knight who proclaimed Arthur Plantagenet King of
England in the heart of Mirebeau. His kingdom is a goodly one," he
continued, looking round the chamber, "gay and extensive is it! He has
to thank thee much for it!--Let me tell thee, sir knight," he added,
raising his voice and knitting his brow, "to the bad counsels of thee,
and such as thee, Arthur Plantagenet owes all his sorrows and
captivity. Ye have poisoned his ear against his kindred; ye have
raised up in him ambitious thoughts that become him not; ye have
taught him to think himself a king; and ye have cast him down from a
prince to a prisoner."

John spoke loudly and angrily, and at the sound the door of the vault
was pushed open, showing the form of a man-at-arms about to enter,
followed by several others. But the king waved them back with his
hand, and turning to Arthur, he proceeded:--"Hearken to me, nephew!
The way to free yourself, and to return to the bright world from which
you are now cut off, is free and open before you."[23]


--------------------

[Footnote 23: This conversation is reported by the chroniclers of the
time to have taken place previous to Arthur's confinement in the tower
of Rouen.]

--------------------


Arthur raised his head.

"Renounce your claim to kingdoms you shall never possess, and cast
from you expectations you can never realise, and you shall be free
to-morrow. I will restore to you your duchy of Brittany; I will give
you a portion befitting a Plantagenet; and I will treat you kindly as
my brother's son. What would you more? You shall have the friendship
and protection of the King of England."

"I would rather have the enmity of the King of France," cried Arthur,
starting up, as the long catalogue of all John's base perfidies rushed
across his mind, coupled with the offer of his friendship--"I would
rather have the enmity of the King of France! There is always some
resource in the generosity of a true knight."

"Thou art a fool, stubborn boy!" cried John, his eye flashing and his
lip curling at his nephew's bold reply--"thou art a stubborn fool! Are
not the kings of France the hereditary enemies of our race?"

"Philip of France is my godfather in chivalry," replied Arthur,
drawing somewhat nearer to De Coucy, as if for protection from the
wrath that was gathering on his uncles brow, "and I would rather place
my confidence in him, than in one who wronged my uncle Richard, who
wronged my father Geoffrey, and who has broken his word even in
respect to me, by thrusting me into a prison, when he promised his
barons, as they themselves have told me, to leave me at liberty and to
treat me well. He that breaks his word is no good knight, and I tell
thee, John of Anjou, thou art false and foresworn!"

John lost his habitual command over his countenance in the excess of
his wrath; and his features seemed actually to change under the
vehemence of his passion. He set his teeth; he clenched his left hand,
as if he would have buried his finger-nails in the palm; and,
thrusting his right under his crimson mantle, he evidently drew some
weapon from its sheath. But at that moment, De Coucy, taking one
stride in advance, opposed himself between the king and his nephew,
and with his head thrown back, and his broad chest displayed, prepared
at all risks to seize the tyrant, and dash him to atoms if he offered
any violence to the unhappy youth that fortune had cast into his
power.

John, however, possessed not the heart, even had he been armed in
proof, to encounter a knight like De Coucy, though unarmed; and,
sheathing again his dagger, he somewhat smoothed his look.

"By St. Paul!" he cried, taking pains, however, not to affect coolness
too suddenly, lest the rapidity of the transition should betray its
falseness, but carefully letting his anger appear to be slow in
subsiding--"by St. Paul! Arthur Plantagenet, thou wilt drive me mad!
Wert thou not my brother's son, I would strike thee with my dagger! I
came to thee, to give thee liberty, if this taste of imprisonment had
taught thee to yield thy empty pretensions to a crown thou canst never
win; and thou meetest me with abuse and insult. The consequences be on
thine own head, minion! I have dungeons deeper than this, and chains
that may weigh somewhat heavy on those frail limbs!"

"Neither dungeons nor chains," replied the gallant boy firmly, "no,
nor death itself, shall make me renounce my rights of birth! You judge
me cowardly, by the tears I shed but now; but I tell thee, that though
I be worn with this close prison, and broken by sorrow, I fear not to
meet death, rather than yield what I am bound in honour to maintain.
England, Anjou, Guyenne, Touraine, are mine in right of my father;
Brittany comes to me from my mother, its heiress; and, even in the
grave, my bones shall claim the land, and my tomb proclaim thee an
usurper!"

"Ha!" said John, "ha!" and there was a sneering accent on the last
monosyllable that was but too fatally explained afterwards. "Be it as
thou wilt, fair nephew," he added with a smile of dark and bitter
meaning--"be it as thou wilt;" and he was turning to leave the
apartment.

"Hold, sir, yet one moment!" cried De Coucy. "One word on my account.
When I yielded my sword to William of Salisbury, your noble brother,
it was under the express promise that I should be treated well and
knightly; and he was bound, in delivering me to you, to make the same
stipulation in my behalf. If he did do it, you have broken your word.
If he did not do it, he has broken his; and one or other I will
proclaim a false traitor, in every court of Europe."

John heard him to an end; and then, after eyeing him from head to foot
in silence, with an air of bitter triumphant contempt, he opened the
door and passed out, without deigning to make the least reply. The
door closed behind him--the heavy bolts were pushed forward--and
Arthur and De Coucy once more stood alone, cut off from all the world.

The young captive gazed on his fellow-prisoner for a moment or two,
with a glance in which the agitation of a weakened frame and a
depressed mind might be traced struggling with a sense of dignity and
firmness.

De Coucy endeavoured to console him; but the prince raised his hand,
with an imploring look, as if the very name of comfort were a mockery.
"Have I acted well, sir knight?" he asked. "Have I spoken as became
me?"

"Well and nobly have you acted, fair prince," replied De Coucy, "with
courage and dignity worthy your birth and station."

"That is enough then!" said Arthur--"that is enough!" and, with a deep
and painful sigh, he cast himself again upon the seat; and, once more
burying his face on his arms, let the day flit by him without even a
change of position.

In the mean while, De Coucy, with his arms folded on his breast, paced
up and down the vaulted chamber, revolving thoughts nearly as bitter
as those of his fellow-captive. Mirebeau had proved as fatal to him as
to Arthur. It had cast down his all. Arthur had struck for kingdoms,
and he had struck for glory and fortune--the object of both, however,
was happiness, though the means of the one was ambition, and of the
other, love. Both had cast their all upon the stake, and both had
lost. He, too, had to mourn then the passing away of his last hopes,
the bright dream of love, and all the gay and delightful fabrics that
imagination had built up upon its fragile base. They had fallen in
ruins round him; and his heart sickened when he thought of all that a
long captivity might effect in extinguishing the faint, faint
glimmering of hope which yet shone upon his fate.

Thus passed the hours till night began to fall; and all the various
noises of the town,--the shouts of the boatmen on the river, the
trampling of the horses in the streets, the busy buzz of many thousand
tongues, the cries of the merchants in the highways, and the rustling
tread of all the passers to and fro, which during the day had risen in
a confused hum to the chamber in which they were confined, died one by
one away; and nothing was at length heard but the rippling of the
waters of the Seine, then at high tide, washing against the very
foundations of the tower.

It was now the hour at which a lamp was usually brought them; and
Arthur raised his head, as if anxious for its coming.

"Enguerand is late to-night," said he. "But I forgot; I heard my uncle
discharge him from his office. Perhaps the new governor will not give
us any light. Yet, hark! I hear his footstep. He is lighting the
lantern in the passage."

He was apparently right, for steps approached, stopping twice for a
moment or two, as if to fulfil some customary duty, and then coming
nearer, they paused at the door of their prison. The bolts were
withdrawn, and a stranger, bearing a lamp, presented himself. His face
was certainly not very prepossessing, but it was not strikingly
otherwise; and Arthur, who with a keen though timid eye scanned every
line in his countenance, was beginning in some degree to felicitate
himself on the change of his jailer, when the stranger turned and
addressed him in a low and somewhat unsteady voice.

"My lord," said he, "you must follow me; as I am ordered to give you a
better apartment. The sire De Coucy must remain here till the upper
chamber is prepared."

Fear instantly seized upon Arthur. "I will not leave him," cried he,
running round the pillar, and clinging to De Coucy's arm. "This
chamber is good enough; I want no other."

"Your hand is not steady, sirrah!" said De Coucy, taking the lamp from
the man, and holding it to his pale face. "Your lip quivers, and your
cheek is as blanched as a templar's gown."

"'Tis the shaking fever I caught in the marshes by Du Clerc," replied
the other; "but what has that to do with the business of Prince
Arthur, beau sire?"

"Because we doubt foul play, varlet," replied De Coucy, "and you speak
not with the boldness of good intent."

"If any ill were designed, either to you or to the prince," replied
the man more boldly, "'t would be easily accomplished, without such
ceremony. A flight of arrows, shot through your doorway, would leave
you both as dead as the saints in their graves."

"That is true too!" answered De Coucy, looking to Arthur, who still
clung close to his arm. "What say you, my prince?"

"It matters little what the duke says, beau sire," said the jailer,
interposing, "for he _must_ come. Several of the great barons have
returned to the court sooner than the king expected; and he would not
have them find prince Arthur here, it seems. So, if he come not by
fair means, I must e'en have up the guard, and take him to his chamber
by force."

"Ha!" said Arthur, somewhat loosening his hold of De Coucy's arm.
"What barons are returned, sayest thou?

"I know not well," said the jailer carelessly; "Lord Pembroke I saw go
by, and I heard of good William with the Longsword; but I marked not
the names of the others, though I was told them."

Arthur looked to De Coucy as if for advice. "The ague fit has
marvellously soon passed," said the knight, fixing his eyes sternly
upon the stranger. "By the holy rood! if I thought that thou playedst
us false, I would dash thy brains out against the wall!"

"I play you not false, sir knight," replied the man in an impatient
tone. "Come, my lord," he continued to Arthur, "come quickly, for come
you must. You will find some fresh apparel in the other chamber.
To-morrow they talk of having you to the court; for these proud lords,
they say, murmur at your being kept here."

There was a vague suspicion of some treachery still rested on the mind
of De Coucy. The man's story was probable. It was more than probable,
it was very likely; but yet the knight did not believe it, he knew not
why. On Arthur, however, it had its full effect. He was aware that
lord Pembroke, together with several of the greater barons of England,
had wrung a promise for his safety, from king John, long before the
relief of Mirebeau; and he doubted not that to their remonstrance he
owed this apparent intention to alleviate his imprisonment.

"I must leave you, I am afraid, beau sire de Coucy," said the prince.
"I would fain stay here; but, I fear me, it is vain to resist."

"I fear me so too," replied the knight. "Farewell, my noble prince! We
shall often think of each other, though separated. Farewell!"

De Coucy took the unhappy boy in his arms, and pressed him for a
moment to his heart, as if he had been parting with a brother or a
child. He could no way explain his feelings at that moment. They had
long been companions in many of those bitter hours which endear people
to each other, more perhaps than even hours of mutual happiness; but
there was something in his bosom beyond the pain of parting with a
person whose fate had even thus been united with his own. He felt that
he saw Arthur Plantagenet for the last time; and he gave him, as it
were, the embrace of the dying.

He would not, however, communicate his own apprehensions to the bosom
of the prince; and, unfolding his arms, he watched him while, with a
step still hesitating, he approached the doorway.

The jailer followed, and held open the door for him to pass out.
Arthur, however, paused for a moment, and turned a timid glance
towards De Coucy, as if there was some misdoubting in his bosom too;
then, suddenly passing his hand over his brow, as if to clear away
irresolution, he passed the doorway.

The instant he entered the passage beyond, he stopped, exclaiming, "It
is my uncle!" and turned to rush back into the cell; but before he
could accomplish it, or De Coucy could start forward to assist him,
the new jailer passed out, pushed the unhappy prince from the
threshold, and shutting the door, fastened it with bolt after bolt.

"Now, minion," cried a voice without, which De Coucy could not doubt
was that of king John, "wilt thou brave me as thou didst this
morning?--Begone, slave!" he added, apparently speaking to the jailer;
"quick! begone!" and then again turning to his nephew, he poured upon
him a torrent of vehement and angry vituperation.

In that dark age such proceedings could have but one purpose, and De
Coucy, comprehending them at once, glanced round the apartment in
search of some weapon wherewith he might force the door; but it was in
vain--nothing presented itself. The door was cased with iron, and the
strength of Herculus would not have torn it from its hinges. Glaring
then like a lion in a cage, the knight stood before it, listening for
what was to follow,--doubting not for a moment the fearful object of
the bad and bloodthirsty monarch,--his heart swelling with indignation
and horror, and yet perfectly impotent to prevent the crime that he
knew was about to be perpetrated.

"John of Anjou!" he cried, shouting through the door. "Bloodthirsty
tyrant! beware what you do! Deeply shall you repent your baseness, if
you injure but a hair of his head! I will brand your name with shame
throughout Europe! I will publish it before your barons to your teeth!
You are overheard, villain, and your crime shall not sleep in secret!"

But, in the dreadful scene passing without, neither nephew nor uncle
seemed to heed his call. There was evidently a struggle, as if the
king endeavoured to free himself from the agonised clasp of Arthur,
whose faint voice was heard, every now and then, praying in vain for
mercy, at the hands of the hard-hearted tyrant in whose power he was.
At length the struggle seemed to grow fainter. A loud horrific cry
rang echoing through the passages; and then a heavy, deadly fall, as
if some mass of unelastic clay were cast at once upon the hollow stone
of the pavement. Two or three deep groans followed; and then a
distinct blow, as if a weapon of steel, stabbed through some softer
matter, struck at last against a block of stone. A retreating step was
heard; then whispering voices; then, shortly after, the paddling of a
boat in the water below the tower--a heavy plunge in the stream--and
all was silent.[24]


--------------------

[Footnote 24: The French writers of that day almost universally agree
in attributing the death of Arthur to John's own hand. The English
writers do not positively deny it, and we have indubitable proof that
such was the general rumour through all the towns and castles of
Europe at the time.--See Guill. Guiart. Guill. de Nangis. Guill. le
Breton. Mat. Paris, &c.]

--------------------



CHAPTER III.


No language can express the joy that spread over the face of France,
when the first peal from the steeples of the churches announced that
the interdict was raised--that the nation was once more to be held as
a Christian people--that the barrier was cast down which had separated
it from the pale of the church. Labour, and care, and sorrow seemed
suspended. The whole country rang with acclamations; and so crowded
were the churches, when the gates were first thrown open, that several
hundred serfs were crushed to death in the struggle for admission.

Every heart was opened--every face beamed with delight; and the aspect
of the whole land was as glad and bright, as if salvation had then
first descended upon earth. There were but two beings, in all the
realm, to whom that peal sounded unjoyfully; and to them it rang like
the knell of death. Agnes de Meranie heard it on her knees, and
mingled her prayers with tears. Philip Augustus listened to it with a
dark and frowning brow; and, striding up and down his solitary hall,
he commented on each echoing clang, with many a deep and bitter
thought. "They rejoice," said he mentally--"they rejoice in my misery.
They ring a peal to celebrate my disappointment; but each stroke of
that bell breaks a link of the chain that held them together, secure
from my vengeance. Let them beware! Let them beware! or that peal
shall be the passing bell to many a proud knight and rebellious
baron."

Philip's calculations were not wrong. During the existence of the
interdict, the nobles of France had been held together in their
opposition to the monarch, by a bond entwined of several separate
parts, which were all cut at once by the king's submission to the
papal authority. The first tie had been general superstition; but this
would have hardly proved strong enough to unite them powerfully
together, had the cause of Philip's opposition to the church been any
thing but entirely personal. In his anger, too, the king had for a
moment forgotten his policy, and added another tie to that which
existed before. Instead of courting public opinion to his support, he
had endeavoured to compel his unwilling barons to co-operate in his
resistance; and by severity and oppression, wherever his will was
opposed, had complicated the bond of union amongst his vassals, which
the interdict had first begun to twine.

The moment, however, that the papal censure was removed, all those who
had not really suffered from the king's wrath fell off from the league
against him; and many of the others, on whom his indignation had
actually fallen, whether from blind fear or clear-sighted policy,
judged that safety was no longer to be found but in his friendship,
and made every advance to remove his anger.

Philip repelled none. Those on whose services he could best rely, and
whose aid was likely to be most useful, he met with courtesy and
frankness, remitted the fines he had exacted, restored the feofs he
had forfeited, and, by the voluntary reparation of the oppression he
had committed, won far more upon opinion, than he had lost by the
oppression itself. Those, however, who still murmured, or held back,
he struck unsparingly. He destroyed their strong holds, he forfeited
their feofs, and thus, joining policy and vengeance, he increased his
own power, he punished the rebellious, he scared his enemies, and he
added many a fair territory to his own domain.

The eyes of the pope were still upon France; and seeing that the power
for which he had made such an effort was falling even by the height to
which he had raised it; that the barons were beginning to sympathise
and co-operate with the king; and that those who still remained in
opposition to the monarch were left now exposed to the full effects of
his anger; Innocent resolved at once to make new efforts, both by
private intrigue, and by another daring exercise of his power, to
establish firmly what he had already gained.

Amidst those who still remained discontented in France, he spared no
means to maintain that discontent; and amidst Philip's external
enemies he spread the project of that tremendous league, which
afterwards, gathering force like an avalanche, rolled on with
overwhelming power, in spite of all the efforts which Innocent at last
thought fit to oppose to it, when he found that the mighty engine
which he had first put in motion threatened to destroy himself. At the
same time, to give these schemes time to acquire maturity and
strength, and to break the bond of union which war always creates
between a brave nation and a warlike monarch, he prepared to interpose
between John of England and Philip Augustus, and to command the
latter, with new threats of excommunication in case of disobedience,
to abandon the glorious course that he was pursuing in person on the
right of the Loire, at the moment when we have seen him despatch
Arthur to carry on the war on the left.

It was somewhere about the period of the events we have related in our
last chapter, and winter had compelled Philip to close the campaign
which he had been pursuing against John with his wonted activity,
when, one morning, as he sat framing his plans of warfare for the
ensuing year, a conversation to the following effect took place
between him and Guerin.

"--And then for Rouen!" said the king. "Thus cut off from all
supplies, as I have showed you, and beleaguered by such an army as I
can bring against it, it cannot hold out a month. But we must be
sudden, Guerin, in our movements, carefully avoiding any demonstration
of our intentions, till we sit down before the place, lest John should
remove our poor Arthur, and thus foil us in the chief point of our
enterprise. Three more such bright sunshining mornings as this, and I
will call my men to the _monstre_. God send us an early spring!"

"I fear me much, sire, that the pope will interfere," replied Guerin;
"repeated couriers are passing between Rome and England. He has
already remonstrated strongly against the war; and, I little doubt,
will endeavour, by all means, to put a stop to it."

"Ha, say'st thou?" said the king, looking up with a smile, from a rude
plan of the city of Rouen, round which he was drawing the lines of an
encampment. "God send he may interfere, Guerin! He has triumphed over
me once, good friend. It is time that I should triumph over him."

"But are you sure of being able to do so, sire?" demanded Guerin, with
his usual simple frankness, putting the naked truth before the king's
eyes, without one qualifying phrase! "The pleasure of resistance
would, methinks, be too dear bought, at the expense of a second
defeat. The pope is strengthening himself by alliances. But yesterday
the Duke of Burgundy informed me, that six successive messengers from
the holy see had passed through his territories within a month, all
either bound to Otho the emperor, or to Ferrand count of Flanders."

Philip listened with somewhat of an abstracted air. His eye fixed upon
vacancy, as if he were gazing on the future; and yet it was evident
that he listened still, for a smile of triumphant consciousness in his
own powers glanced from time to time across his lip, as the minister
touched upon the machinations of his enemies.

"I fear me, sire," continued Guerin, "that your bold resistance to the
will of the pontiff has created you at Rome an enemy that it will not
be easy to appease."

"God send it!" was all Philip's reply, uttered with the same absent
look, as if his mind was still busy with other matters. "God send it,
Guerin! God send it!"

The minister was mute; and, after a momentary pause on both sides,
Philip Augustus started up, repeating in a louder voice, as if
impatient of the silence, "God send it, I say, Guerin! for, if he does
commit that gross mistake in meddling in matters where he has no
pretence of religious authority to support him in the eyes of the
superstitious crowd, by the Lord that lives! I will crush him like a
hornet that has stung me!"

"But, my lord, consider," said Guerin, "consider that--"

"Consider!" interrupted the king. "I have considered, Guerin! Think
you I am blind, my friend? Think you I do not see? I tell thee,
Guerin, I look into the workings of this pope's mind as clearly as
ever did prophet of old into the scheme of futurity. He hates me
nobly, I know it--with all the venom of a proud and passionate heart.
He hates me profoundly, and I hate him as well. Thank God for that! I
would not meet him but on equal terms; and, I tell thee, Guerin, I see
all which that hatred may produce."

The king paused, and took two or three strides in the apartment, as if
to compose himself, and give his thoughts a determinate form; for he
had lashed himself already into no small anger, with the very thoughts
of the hatred between the proud prelate and himself. In a few moments
he stopped, and, sitting down again, looked up in the face of the
minister, somewhat smiling at his own vehemence. Yet there was
something bitter in the smile too, from remembrance of the events
which had first given rise to his enmity towards the pope. After this
had passed away, he leaned his cheek upon his hand, and, still looking
up, marked the emphasis of his discourse with the other hand, laying
it from time to time on the sleeve of the minister's gown.

"I see it all, Guerin," said he, "and I am prepared for all. This
arrogant prelate, with his pride elevated by his late triumph, and his
heart embittered by my resistance, will do all that man can do to
overthrow me. In the first place, he will endeavour to stop my
progress against that base unknightly king--John of Anjou: but he will
fail, for my barons have already acknowledged the justice of the war;
and I have already ten written promises to support me against Rome
itself, should Rome oppose me. There is the engagement of the Duke of
Burgundy. Read that."

Guerin took up the parchment to which the king pointed, and read a
clear and positive agreement, on the part of the Duke of Burgundy, to
aid Philip, with all his knights and vassals, against John of England,
in despite of even the thunders of the church--to march and fight at
his command during the whole of that warfare, how long soever it might
last; and never either to lay down his arms, or to make peace, truce,
or treaty, either with the king of England, or the bishop of Rome,
without the express consent and order of Philip himself.

Guerin was surprised; for though he well knew that--notwithstanding
his own office--the king transacted the greater part of the high
political negotiations of the kingdom himself, and often without the
entire knowledge of any one, yet he had hardly thought that such
important arrangements could have been made totally unknown to him. It
was so, however; and Philip, not remarking his minister's
astonishment--for, as we have said before, the countenance of Guerin
was not very apt to express any of the emotions of his mind--proceeded
to comment on the letter he had shown him.

"Ten such solemn agreements have I obtained from my great vassals,"
said he, "and each can bring full two thousand men into the field.
But still, Guerin, it is not the immense power that this affords
me--greater than I have ever possessed since I sat upon the throne of
France--'tis not the power that yields me the greatest pleasure; but
it is, that herein is the seed of resistance to the papal authority;
and I will water it so well, that it shall grow up into a tall tree,
under whose shadow I may sit at ease.--Mark me, Guerin, and remember!
Henceforth, never shall an interdict be again cast upon the realm of
France,--never shall pope or prelate dare to excommunicate a French
king; and should such a thing be by chance attempted, it shall be but
as the idle wind that hisses at its own emptiness. The seed is there,"
continued he, striking his hand proudly on the parchment,--"the seed
is there, and it shall spread far and wide."

"But even should the greater part of your barons enter into this
compact, sire," said Guerin, "you may be crushed by a coalition from
without. I do not wish to be the prophet of evil; but I only seek to
place the question in every point of view. Might not then, sire, the
coalition of the pope, the emperor, and the King of England--?"

"Might wage war with me, but could never conquer, if France were true
to France," interrupted the monarch. "Guerin, I tell thee, that an
united nation was never overcome, and never shall be, so long as the
world does last. The fate of a nation is always in its own hands. Let
it be firm, and it is safe."

"But we unfortunately know, sire," said the minister, with a doubtful
shake of the head, "that France is not united. Many, many of the royal
vassals, and those some of the most powerful, cannot be depended on.
Ferrand, count of Flanders, for instance. I need not tell you, sire,
that he waits but an opportunity to throw off his allegiance. There
are many more. Count Julian of the Mount has been openly a follower of
the court of John of England; and though he is now on his lands,
doubtless preparing all for revolt, he has left his daughter, they
say, as security for his faith at the court of Rouen. May we not
suppose, sire, that, when the moment comes which is to try men's
hearts in this affair, we shall find thousands who--either from fear
of the papal censure--or from personal enmity--or a treacherous and
fickle disposition--or some one of all the many, many circumstances
that sow treasons in time of danger and trouble--will fall off from
you at the instant you want them most, and go over to swell the ranks
of your enemies?"

"I do not believe it," replied Philip thoughtfully,--"I do not believe
it! The pope's authority in a war unconnected with any affair of the
church will have small effect, and if exerted, will, like a reed in a
child's hand, break itself at the first impotent blow. Besides, I much
doubt whether Innocent would now exert it against me if it were to be
used in favour of Otho of Saxony. He hates me, true! He hates me more
than he hates any other king; but yet, Guerin, but yet I see a thread
mingling with the web of yon pope's policy that may make it all run
down. Again, the war against John is a national, and must be a
popular, war. I will take care that it shall not be stretched till
France is weary of it; and John's weakness, joined with Innocent's
insolence, will soon make it a war against the nation generally, not
against the king personally. The barons will find that they are
defending themselves, while they defend me; and I will divide the
lands of him who turns traitor, amongst those that remain true. I tell
thee, Guerin, I tell thee, I would not for the world that this pope
should slacken his hand, or abate one atom of his pride. He is sowing
enemies, my friend; and he shall reap an iron harvest."

Philip's eyes flashed as his thoughts ran on into the future. His
brow knit sternly; his hand clasped tight the edge of the table by
which he was seated, and after a moment or two of silence, he burst
forth:--"Let him but give me the means of accustoming my barons to
resist his usurped power--one great victory--and then!"

"Then what, sire?" demanded the hospitaller calmly, his unimpassioned
mind not following the quick and lightning-like turns of Philip's
rapid feelings--"then, what?"

"Agnes!" exclaimed Philip, starting up and grasping Guerin's
arm--"Agnes and vengeance! By Heaven! it glads my very soul to see
Innocent's machinations against me--machinations that, either by the
ingratitude of others, or my revenge, shall fall, certainly fall, like
a thunderbolt on his head. Let him raise up pomp-loving Otho, that
empty mockery of a Cæsar! Let him call in crafty, fickle, bloodthirsty
John, with his rebellious, disaffected barons! Let him join them with
boasting Ferrand of Flanders! Let him add Italian craft to German
stubbornness! Let him cast his whole weight of power upon the die! I
will stake my being against it, and perish, or avenge my wrongs, and
recover what I have lost!"

"I fear me, sire--" said Guerin.

"Speak not to me of fear!" interrupted the king. "I tell thee, good
friend, that in my day I have seen but one man fit to cope with a
king--I mean, Richard of England. He is gone--God rest his soul!--but
he was a good knight and a great warrior, and might have been a great
king, if fate had spared him till time had taken some of the lion's
worst part from his heart, and sprinkled some cooler wisdom on his
brow. But he is gone, and has left none like him behind. As for the
others, I will make their necks but steps to gain the height from
which my arm may reach to Rome."

"'Tis a far way to Rome! sire," replied Guerin, "and many have
stretched their arm to reach it, and failed in the attempt. I need not
remind you of the Emperor Frederic, sire, who struggled in vain to
resist."

"Nor of Philip of France, you would say," interposed the king, with a
gloomy smile that implied perhaps pain, but not anger. "Philip of
France!" he repeated, "who strove but to retain the wife of his bosom,
when a proud priest bade him cast her from him--and he too failed! But
Philip of France is not yet dead; and between the to-day and the
to-morrow, which constitute life and death, much may be done. I
failed, Guerin, it is true; but I failed by my own fault. My eyes
dazzled with the mist of passion, I made many a sad mistake; but now,
my eyes are open, my position is changed, and my whole faculties are
bent to watch the errors of my adversaries, and to guard against any
myself. But we will speak no more of this. Were it to cost me crown
and kingdom, life, and even renown, I would thank God for having given
me the means of striking at least one blow for love and vengeance. We
will speak no more of it. The day wears."

It needed not the science of an old courtier to understand what the
king's last words implied; and Guerin instantly took his leave, and
left the monarch alone.

The truth was, that to thoughts of ambition, schemes of policy, and
projects of vengeance, other ideas had succeeded in the mind of Philip
Augustus. His was a strange state of being. He lived as it were in two
worlds. Like the king of old, he seemed to have two spirits. There was
the one that, bright, and keen, and active, mingled in the busy scenes
of politics and warfare, guiding, directing, raising up, and
overthrowing; and there was another, still, silent, deep, in the
inmost chambers of his heart, yet sharing more, far more, than half
the kingdom of his thoughts, and prompting or commanding all the
actions of the other. It was this spirit that now claimed its turn to
reign exclusively; and Philip gave up all his soul to the memory of
Agnes de Meranie. Here he had a world apart from aught else on earth,
wherein the spirit of deep feeling swayed supreme; and thence issued
that strong control that his heart ever exercised over the bright
spirit of genius and talent, with which he was so eminently endowed.

He thought of Agnes de Meranie. The fine chord of association had been
touched a thousand times during his conversation with Guerin, and at
every mention of her name, at every thought that connected itself with
her unhappy fate, fresh sorrows and regrets, memories sweet, though
painful,--most painful, that they were but memories,--came crowding on
his heart, and claiming all its feelings. As soon as the minister was
gone, he called his page, and bade him see if the canon of St.
Berthe's was in attendance. The boy returned in a few minutes,
followed by the wily priest, whom we have already heard of as the
confessor of Agnes de Meranie. Philip's feelings towards him were very
different from those he entertained towards Guerin. There was that
certain sort of doubt in the straightforwardness of his intentions,
which a cunning man,--let him cover his heart with what veil of art he
will,--can hardly ever escape. Philip had no cause to doubt, and yet
he doubted. Nor did he love the plausible kind of eloquence, which the
priest had some pride in displaying; and therefore he treated him with
that proud, cold dignity, which left the subject but little
opportunity of exercising his oratory upon the king.

"Good morrow, father," he said, bending his brows upon the canon:
"when last I saw you, you were about to speak to me concerning the
queen, before persons whom I admit not to mingle in my private
affairs. Now answer me, as I shall question you, and remember, a brief
reply is the best. When saw you my wife, the queen?"

"It was on the fifth day of the last week," replied the canon, in a
low sweet tone of voice, "and it was with sorrow mingled with hope--"

"Bound yourself, in your reply, by my question, sir clerk," said the
king sternly. "I ask you neither your sorrows nor your hopes. How was
the queen in health?"

"But frail, if one might judge by her appearance, sire," answered the
priest; "she was very pale, and seemed weak; but she said that she was
well, and indeed, sweet lady, she was like, if I may use a figure--"

"Use none, sir," interrupted the king. "Did she take exercise?"

"Even too much, I fear, beau sire," replied the canon. "For hours, and
hours, she wanders through the loneliest parts of the forest, sending
from her all her attendants--"

"Ha! alone?" cried the king: "does she go alone?"

"Entirely, sire," replied the canon of St. Berthe's, whose hopes of a
bishopric in Istria were not yet extinct. "I spoke with the leech
Rigord, whom you commanded to watch over her health; and he did not
deny, that the thing most necessary to the lady's cure was the air of
her own land, and the tending of her own relations; for he judges by
her wanderings, that her mind is hurt, and needs soothing and keeping
afar from the noisy turbulence of the world; as we keep a sick man's
chamber from the glare of the mid-day sun."

Philip heard him out, fixing his eyes on the wily priest's face, as if
seeking to trace the cunning in his countenance, that he was sure was
busy at his heart: but the canon kept his look bent upon the ground
while speaking; and, when he had done, judging that his words pleased,
by being indulged in a much longer speech than Philip had ever before
permitted him to make, he raised his eyes to the monarch's face, with
a look of humiliated self-confidence, which, though it betrayed none
of the secrets of his wishes, did not succeed in producing any
favourable impression on the king.

"Begone!" said the monarch, in not the most gentle tone possible; but
then, instantly sensible that his dislike to the man might be unjust,
and that his haughtiness was at all events ungenerous, he added, more
mildly, "Leave me, good father--I would be alone. Neglect not your
charge, and you shall feel the king's gratitude."

The canon of St. Berthe's bowed low in silence, and withdrew,
pondering, with not a little mortification, on the apparent
unsuccessfulness of schemes which, though simple enough, if viewed
with the eyes of the world at present, when cunning, like every other
art, has reached the corruption of refinement, were deeply politic in
that age, when slyness was in the simplicity of its infancy.

In the mean while, Philip Augustus paused on the same spot where the
priest had left him, in deep thought. "Alone!" muttered he,--"alone! I
have vowed a deep vow, neither to touch her lip, nor enter her
dwelling, nor to speak one word to her, for six long months, without,
prior to that period's return, a council shall have pronounced on my
divorce. But I have not vowed not to see her. I can bear this no
longer! Yon priest tortures me with tales of her sickness! He must
have some dark motive! Yet, she may be sick, too.--Ho! without there!"

The page who had before conducted the canon of St. Berthe's to the
presence of the king, now presented himself again.

"Gilbert!" said the monarch, "come hither, boy! Thou art of noble
birth; and art faithful and true, I well believe. Now, doubtless, thou
hast learned so much of knightly service, that you know, the page who
babbles of his lord's actions is held dishonoured and base.--Fear not,
youth, I am not angry. If I find you discreet, this hand shall some
day lay knighthood on your shoulder; but, if I find you gossip of my
deeds, it shall strike your ears from your head, and send you forth
like a serf, into the fields. With that warning, speed to the west
hall of the armoury. Thou wilt there find, in the third window from
the door, on the left hand, a casque, with the _êventaille_ cut like a
cross; a haubert, with a steel hood; a double-handed sword; a table of
attente, and other things fitting. Bring them to me hither, and be
quick."

The page sped away, proud to be employed by the monarch on an errand
usually reserved for his noblest squires; and returned in a few
minutes, bearing the haubert and the greaves; for the load of the
whole armour would have been too much for his young arms to lift
Another journey brought the casque and sword; and a third, the
brassards and plain polished shield, called a table of attente. The
whole armour was one of those plain and unornamented suits much used
in the first fervour of the crusades, when every other decoration than
that of the cross was considered superfluous.

Without other aid than the page could afford, whose hands trembled
with delight at their new occupation, Philip arrayed himself in the
arms that had been brought him; and, taking care to remove every trace
by which he could have been recognised, he put on the casque, which,
opening at the side, had no visor, properly so called; but which,
nevertheless, entirely concealed his face, the only opening, when the
clasps were fastened, being a narrow cruciform aperture in the front,
to admit the light and air. When this was done, he wrote upon a slip
of parchment the simple words, "The king would be alone," and gave
them to the page, as his warrant for preventing any one from entering
his apartment during his absence. He then ordered him to pass the
bridge, from the island to the tower of the Louvre, and to bring a
certain horse, which he described, from the stables of that palace, to
the end of the garden wall; and waiting some minutes after his
departure, to give time for the execution of his commands, the king
rose, and, choosing the least frequented of the many staircases in the
palace, proceeded towards the street.

In the court he encountered several of his serjeants-at-arms, and his
other attendants, who gazed coldly at the strange knight, as he
seemed, who, thus encased in complete steel, passed, through them,
without offering or receiving any salutation. Thence he proceeded into
the busy streets; where, so strong was the force of habit, that Philip
started more than once at the want of the reverence to which he was
accustomed; and had to recall the disguise he had assumed, ere he
could fancy the disrespect unintentional.

At the spot he had named, he found the page with the horse; but the
sturdy groom, whose charge it was in the stable, stood there also,
fully resolved to let no one mount him without sufficient authority:
nor was it till the sight of the king's signet showed him in whose
presence he stood, that he ceased his resistance. The groom, suddenly
raised to an immense height, in his own conceit, by having become, in
any way, a sharer in the king's secret, winked to the page, and held
the stirrup while the monarch mounted.

Philip sprang into the saddle. Laying his finger on the aperture of
the casque, to enjoin secrecy, and adding, in a stern tone, "On your
life!" he turned his horse's head, and galloped away.



CHAPTER IV.


It is strange to read what countries once were, and to compare the
pictures old chroniclers have handed down, with the scenes as they lie
before us at present. In the neighbourhood of great capitals, however,
it is, that the hand of man wages the most inveterate war with nature;
and were I to describe the country through which Philip Augustus
passed, as he rode quickly onward towards Mantes, the modern traveller
who had followed that road would search his memory in vain for scenery
that no longer exists. Deep marshes, ancient forests, many a steep
hill and profound valley, with small scattered villages, "like angel
visits, few and far between," surrounded the monarch on his onward
way; and, where scarcely a hundred yards can now be traversed without
meeting many and various of the biped race, Philip Augustus rode over
long miles without catching a glimpse of the human form divine.

The king's heart beat high with the thoughts of seeing her he loved,
were it but for one short casual glance at a distance; but, even
independent of such feelings, he experienced a delight, a gladness, a
freedom in the very knowledge that he was concealed from all the
world; and that, while wrapped in the plain arms that covered him, he
was liberated from all the slavery of dignity, and the importunity of
respect. There was a degree of romance in the sensation of his
independence, which we have all felt, more or less, at one time of our
lives, even surrounded as we are by all the shackles of a most
unromantic society, but which affected Philip to a thousandfold
extent, both from his position as a king, and from the wild and
chivalrous age in which he lived.

Thus he rode on, amidst the old shadowy oaks that overhung his path,
meditating dreams and adventures that might almost have suited the
knight of La Mancha, but which, in that age, were much more easily
attainable than in the days of Cervantes.

Of course, all such ideas were much modified by Philip's peculiar cast
of mind, and by his individual situation; but still the scenery, the
sensation of being freed from restraint, and the first bland air, too,
of the early spring, all had their effect; and as he had himself
abandoned the tedious ceremonies of a court, his mind, in sympathy, as
it seemed, quitted all the intricate and painful mazes of policy, to
roam in bright freedom amidst the wilds of feeling and imagination.

Such dreams, however, did not produce a retarded pace, for it wanted
little more than an hour to mid-day; a long journey of forty miles was
before him, and his only chance of accomplishing his purpose was in
arriving during those hours that Agnes might be supposed to wander
alone in the forest, according to the account of the canon of St.
Berthe's. Philip, therefore, spurred on at full speed, and, avoiding
as much as possible the towns, arrived near the spot where Rosny now
stands, towards three o'clock.

At that spot, the hills which confine the course of the Seine fall
back in a semicircle from its banks, and leave it to wander through a
wide rich valley for the distance of about half a league, before they
again approach close to the river at Rolleboise.

There, however, the chalky banks become high and precipitous, leaving,
in many places, but a narrow road between themselves and the water;
though, at other spots, the river takes a wide turn away, and
interposes a broad meadow between its current and the cliffs.

In those days, the whole of the soil in that part of the country was
covered with wood. The hills, and the valleys, and the plains round
Rosny and Rolleboise, were all forest ground; and the trees absolutely
dipped themselves in the Seine. To the left, a little before reaching
the chapel of Notre Dame de Rosny, the road on which Philip had
hitherto proceeded turned off into the heart of Normandy; and such was
the direct way to the castle in which Agnes de Meranie had fixed her
dwelling; but to the right, nearly in the same line as the present
road to Rouen, lay another lesser path, which, crossing the woods in
the immediate vicinity of the château, was the one that Philip judged
fit to follow.

The road here first wound along down to the very banks of the Seine;
and then, quitting it at the little hamlet of Rolleboise, mounted the
steep hill, and dipping down rapidly again, skirted between the high
chalky banks on the left, and a small plain of underwood that lay on
the right towards the river.

Dug deep into the heart of the cliff, were then to be seen, as now, a
variety of caves said to have been hollowed by the heathen Normans on
their first invasion of France, some yawning and bare, but most of
them covered over with underwood and climbing plants.

By the side of one of the largest of these had grown a gigantic oak,
which, stretching its arms above, formed a sort of shady bower round
the entrance. Various signs of its being inhabited struck Philip's eye
as he approached, such as a distinct pathway from the road to the
mouth, and the marks of recent fire; but, as there was at that time
scarcely a forest in France which had not its hermit--and as many of
these, from some strange troglodytical propensity, had abjured all
habitations made with hands--the sight at first excited no surprise in
the bosom of the monarch. It was different, however, when, as he
passed by, he beheld hanging on the lowest of the oak's leafless
branches, a knight's gauntlet, and he almost fancied that one of the
romances of the day were realised, and that the next moment he should
behold some grave enchanter, or some learned sage, issue from the
bowels of the rock, and call upon him to achieve some high and
perilous adventure.

He rode by, notwithstanding, without meeting with any such
interruption; and, thoroughly acquainted with every turn in the woods,
he proceeded to a spot where he could see the castle, and a portion of
several of the roads which led to it: and, pushing in his horse
amongst the withered leaves of the underwood, he waited in anxious
hopes of catching but a glance of her he loved.

It is in such moments of expectation that imagination is often the
most painfully busy, especially when she has some slight foundation of
reality whereon to build up fears. Philip pictured to himself Agnes,
as he had first seen her in the full glow of youth, and health, and
beauty; and he then remembered her as she had left him, when a few
short months of sorrow and anxiety had blasted the rose upon her
cheek, and extinguished the light of her eye. Yet he felt he loved her
more deeply, more painfully, the pale and faded thing she was then,
than when she had first blessed his arms in all the pride of
loveliness; and many a sad inference did he draw, from the rapidity
with which that change had taken place, in regard to what she might
have since undergone under the pressure of more stinging and
ascertained calamity. Thus, while he watched, he conjured up many a
painful fear, till reality could scarcely have matched his
anticipations.

No Agnes, however, appeared; and the king began to deem that the
report of the confessor had been false, when he suddenly perceived the
flutter of white garments on the battlements of the castle. In almost
every person, some one of the senses is, as it were, peculiarly
connected with memory. In some it is the ear; and sounds that have
been heard in former days will waken, the moment they are breathed,
bright associations of lands, and scenes, and hours, from which they
are separated by many a weary mile, and many a long obliterating year.
In others, it is the eye, and forms that have been once seen are never
forgot; while those that are well known, scarce need the slightest,
most casual glance, to be recognised at once, though the distance may
be great, and their appearance but momentary. This was the case with
Philip Augustus; and though what he discerned was but as a vacillating
white spot on the dark grey walls of the castle, it needed no second
glance to tell him that _there_ was Agnes de Meranie. He tied his
horse to one of the shrubs, and with a beating heart sprang out into
the road, to gain a nearer and more satisfactory view of her he loved
best on earth.

Secure in the concealment of his armour, he approached close to the
castle, and came under the wall, just as Agnes, followed by one of her
women, turned upon the battlements. Her cheek was indeed ashy pale,
with the clear line of her brown eyebrow marked more distinctly than
ever on the marble whiteness of her forehead. She walked with her
hands clasped, in an attitude that spoke that utter hopelessness in
all earth's things, which sees no resource on this side of the grave;
and her eyes were fixed unmovingly on the ground.

Philip gazed as he advanced, not doubting that the concealment of his
armour was sure; but at that moment, the clang of the steel woke Agnes
from her reverie. She turned her eyes to where he stood. Heaven knows
whether she recognised him or not; but she paused suddenly, and
stretching her clasped hands towards him, she gazed as if she had seen
a vision, murmured a few inarticulate words, and fell back into the
arms of the lady who followed her.

Philip sprang towards the gate of the castle, and already stood under
the arch of the barbican, when the vow that the pope had exacted from
him, not to pass the threshold of her dwelling till the lawfulness of
his divorce was decided, flashed across his mind, and he paused. Upon
a promise, that that decision should be within one half year, he had
pledged his knightly honour to forbear--that decision had not yet been
given; but the half-year was not near expired, and the tie of a
knightly vow he dared not violate, however strong might be the
temptation.

The grate of the barbican was open, and at the distance of a few yards
within its limits stood several of the soldiers of the guard, with the
prévôt. Not a little surprise was excited amongst these by the sudden
approach of an armed knight, and at his as sudden pause.

"What seek ye, sir knight?" demanded the prévôt,--"what seek ye here?"

"News of the queen's health," replied the monarch. "I am forbidden to
pass the gate; but, I pray thee, sir prévôt, send to inquire how fares
the queen this morning."

The officer willingly complied, though he somewhat marvelled at the
stranger's churlishness in resting without the threshold. The reply
brought from within by the messenger was that the queen had been
seized but a few minutes before by one of those swoons that so much
afflicted her, but that she had already recovered, and was better and
more cheerful since. The message, the man added, had been dictated by
the lady herself, which showed that she was better indeed, for in
general she seldom spoke to any one.

It fell like a sweet drop of balm upon Philip's heart. There was
something told him that he had been recognised, and that Agnes had
been soothed and pleased, by the romantic mark of his love that he had
given; that she had felt for him, and with him; and dictated the reply
he had received, in order to give back to his bosom the alleviation
that his coming had afforded to her. With these sweet imaginations he
fell into a deep reverie, and forgetful of the eyes that were upon
him, paused for several minutes before the barbican, and then, slowly
returning on his steps, descended the hill to the thicket, where he
had left his horse; and throwing the bridle over his arm, led him on
the path by which he had come.

"The churl!" said one of the soldiers, looking after him. "He did not
vouchsafe one word of thanks for our doing his errand."

"Another madman! I will warrant thee!" said a second archer.

"He is no madman that," replied the prévôt thoughtfully. "Put your
fingers on your lips, and hold your tongues, good fellows! I have
heard that voice before;" and, with a meaning nod of the head, he
quitted the barbican, and left the soldiers to unravel his mystery if
they could.

In the meanwhile the king proceeded slowly on his way, chewing the cud
of sweet and bitter fancies, till he came near the same range of caves
which he had passed about an hour before. Every thing was still in the
same state; and no human being was visible. The gauntlet remained upon
the tree, seemingly only to have been touched by the wind of heaven;
and, scarcely thinking what he did, Philip approached, and reaching it
with his hand, took it down from the bough to which it was suspended.

As he did so, however, a noise in the cave showed him that his action
was not without a witness; and, in a moment after, a tall, powerful
man issued forth, and advanced towards him. He was clothed in plate
armour, somewhat rusted with the damp; but the fine tracery of gold,
by which it had been ornamented, was still visible; and the spurs and
belt which he wore proclaimed him a knight. He held his casque in his
hand, busying himself as he advanced to disentangle the lacings of it,
as if in haste to put it on; and his head was bare, exposing a
profusion of long tangled dark hair, which was just beginning to be
slightly touched with grey. His face was as pale as ashes, and wan
beyond all mortal wanness; and in his large dark eyes there shone a
brilliant, wavering, uncertain fire, not to be mistaken for aught but
insanity.

The king gazed on him, at once recognising his person; but hardly able
to believe that, in the wild lunatic before him, he saw the calm,
cold, tranquil Thibault of Auvergne.

In the meanwhile the count came forward, impatiently twisting in his
haste the already tangled lacings of his helmet into still more
intricate knots.

"Now, discourteous knight!--now!" cried he, glaring on the
king,--"now will I do battle with thee on the cause; and make you
confess that she is queen of France, and true and lawful wife of
Philip the king! Wait but till I have laced my casque, and, on horse
or on foot, I will give thee the lie! What! has the pope at length
sent thee to Mount Libanus to defy me? I tell thee, miscreant, I will
prove it against him, and all his host!"

The first thought that passed through the brain of Philip Augustus,
was the memory of his ancient hatred to the unfortunate Count
d'Auvergne, and the revived desire of vengeance for the injury he
believed him to have attempted against him. Those feelings, however,
in their full force, soon left him; and pity for the unhappy state in
which he saw him, though it could not remove his dislike, put a bar
against his anger. "I come not to defy you, sir knight," said the
king. "You mistake me. I am a stranger wandering this way----"

"The glove! the glove!" cried the count, interrupting him. "You have
taken down my glove--you have accepted the challenge. Have I not
written it up all over Mount Libanus, that whoever denies her to be
his lawful wife shall die? If you draw not your sword, I will cleave
you down as a traitor, and proclaim you a coward too. In Jerusalem and
in Ascalon, before the hosts of the crescent and the cross, I will
brand you as a felon, a traitor, and a coward.--Draw, draw, if you be
knight and noble!"

So saying, he cast his casque away from him on the ground; and,
drawing his broadsword, rushed upon Philip with the fury of a lion.
Self-defence became now absolutely necessary, for the king well knew
that he was opposed to one of the best and most skilful knights of
Christendom, whose madness was no hindrance to his powers as a
man-at-arms; and consequently, loosing the bridle of his horse, he
drew his sword, and prepared to repel the madman's attack.

The conflict was long and desperate, though, had not the natural
generosity of his disposition interfered, the king possessed an
infinite advantage over the Count d'Auvergne, whose head was, as we
have said, totally undefended. He refrained, however, from aiming one
blow at that vulnerable part of his antagonist's person, till his
scruples had nearly cost him his life, by the rings of his haubert
giving way upon his left shoulder. The Count d'Auvergne saw his
advantage, and pressed on with all the blind fury of insanity, at the
same time leaving his head totally unguarded. The heat of the combat
had irritated the monarch, and he now found it necessary to sacrifice
all other considerations to the safety of his own life. He opposed his
shield, therefore, to the thundering blows of his adversary; and
raising his heavy double-edged sword high above the count's naked
head, in another moment would have terminated his sorrows for ever,
when the blow was suspended by a circumstance which shall be related
hereafter.



CHAPTER V.


In the great hall of the ducal palace at Rouen, sat John, King of
England, now the undisputed possessor of the British throne; and,
though the blood of his nephew was scarce washed from his hands, and
the record of his crime scarce dry in the annals of the world, he bore
upon his lip that same idle smile, whose hideous lightness was the
more dreadful when contrasted with the profound depravity of his
heart. He was seated in an ivory chair, beneath a crimson dais,
gorgeously arrayed after the fashion of the day, and surrounded with
all the pomp of royalty. On his right hand stood the Earl of Pembroke,
with bitter grief and indignation written in his curled lip and
contracted brow, which found an answering expression in the
countenance of Lord Bagot, the Earl of Essex, and almost every English
peer in the presence.

John saw their stern and discontented looks, and understood their
import well; but, strange to say, the chief cause of his fear being
removed by the death of Arthur, he felt a degree of triumphant joy in
the angry sorrow of his barons; and calculated upon easily calming
their irritation, before any new danger should arise to menace him.
Indeed, with his usual false calculation, he already planned a new act
of baseness, which, by punishing one who had contributed to the death
of Arthur, by betraying him at Mirebeau, he hoped might, in some
degree, satisfy those whom that death had rendered discontented;
forgetting, in his utter ignorance of such a thing as virtue, that, in
the eyes of the honest, one base act can never repair another.

Close before the king, on the tapestry, which spread over the steps on
which his throne was raised, and extended some way into the hall,
stood no less a person than the Brabançois, Jodelle, now dressed in a
fine tunic of purple cloth, with a baldric of cloth of gold supporting
by his side a cross-hilted sword.

His air was the invariable air of a _parvenu_, in which flippant, yet
infirm self-conceit, struggles to supply the place of habitual
self-possession, and in its eagerness defeats its object. Consummate
vanity, when joined with grace, will sometimes supply the place of
high breeding; but a man that doubts in the least is lost. Thus stood
Jodelle, smiling in the plenitude, as he thought, of royal favour;
yet, with irritable knowledge of his want of right to appear in such a
presence, glancing his eye from time to time round the proud barons of
England, who, occupied with thoughts of more dignified anger, scarcely
condescended to despise him.

In the meanwhile, King John, as we have said, with a light and
sneering smile upon his lips, amused himself with the conceited
affectation of the Brabançois, who, enriched with the spoils of
Mirebeau and several other towns in Poitou, now presented himself to
claim the higher rewards that had been promised to his treachery. The
king smiled; yet, in the dark recesses of his cruel heart, he at the
very moment destined the man to death, with whom he jested as a
favoured follower.

The simile of a cat and a mouse is almost as musty as the Prince of
Denmark's proverb; and yet perhaps there is no other that would so
aptly figure the manner in which John of England played with the
traitor, of whose services he had availed himself to take his nephew
prisoner.

"Well, beau Sire Jodelle," said he, after the Brabançois had made his
obeisance, "doubtless you have exercised the royal permission we gave
you, to plunder our loving subjects of Poitou to some purpose. Nay,
your gay plumage speaks it. You were not feathered so, Sir Jodelle,
when last we saw you. But our homely proverb has it, 'Fine feathers
make fine birds.' Is it not so, Lord Pembroke?"

"Not always, sir," answered the earl boldly. "I have known a vulture
plumed like an eagle, yet not deceive a daw!"

John's brow darkened for an instant, but the next it was all clear
again, and he replied, "Your lordship follows a metaphor as closely as
a buzzard does a field mouse. Think you not, Sire Jodelle, that our
English lords have fine wits? Marry, if you had possessed as fine, you
would have kept at a goodly distance from us all; for there are
amongst us men that love you not, and you might chance to get one of
those sympathetic knots tied round your neck that draw themselves the
tighter the more you tug at them."

"I fear not, sire," replied Jodelle, though there was a sneering touch
of earnest in the king's jests that made his cheek turn somewhat
pale,--"I fear not; trusting that you will grant me your royal
protection."

"That I will, man!--that I will!" replied the monarch, "and elevate
you;" and he glanced his eyes round his court, to see if his jest was
understood and appreciated. Some of the courtiers smiled, but the
greater part still maintained their stern gravity; and John proceeded,
applying to the Coterel the terms of distinctions used towards
knights, not without an idea of mortifying those who heard, as well as
of mocking him to whom they were addressed. "Well, beau sire," he
said, "and what gives us the pleasure of your worshipful presence at
this time? Some business of rare import, doubtless, some noble or
knightly deed to be done."

"I am ever ready to do you what poor service I may, sire," replied
Jodelle. "I come, therefore, to tell you that I have raised the band
of free-companions, for which you gave me your royal permission, and
to beg you to take order that they may have the pay[25] and
appointments which you promised."


--------------------

[Footnote 25: It has been asserted that these troops received no pay,
but supported themselves by plunder. I find them, however, called
mercenaries in more than one instance, which clearly implies that they
fought for hire.]

--------------------


"Thy demand shall be satisfied on that head," replied John, in a
serious and condescending tone, calculated to allay all fears in the
mind of Jodelle, if he had begun to conceive any. "By my faith! we
shall need every man-at-arms we can get, whether vassal or Brabançois,
for Philip of France threatens loud.--Now, Sir Jodelle, what more?"

"Simply this order on your royal treasury," replied Jodelle, quite
re-assured by the king's last words. "Your treasurer refuses to acquit
it, without another direct warrant from you."

"Give it to me," said the king, holding out his hand, into which
Jodelle, somewhat unwilling, placed the order for ten thousand crowns,
which he had received as the reward of his treachery. "And now,"
proceeded John, "we will at once arrange these affairs, without the
least delay, for diligence in rendering justice to all men is a kingly
virtue. In the first place, then, for the appointments of the
free-companions raised by this worthy captain. We command you, William
Humet,[26] to send them off straight to the bands of our dearly
beloved Mercader, there to be drafted in, man by man, so that, being
well used and entertained, they may serve us truly and faithfully."


--------------------

[Footnote 26: Constable of Normandy in the year 1200, and following,
as appears from a treaty between John and Philip, concluded at
Gueuleton.]

--------------------


"But, sire!" exclaimed Jodelle, turning as pale as death.

"Tut, man! tut!" cried the king, "we will find means to satisfy
every one. Hear us to an end. In regard to this order on our royal
treasury--stand forward, John of Wincaunton! You are deputy prévôt,
are you not?"

A short, stout, bull-necked sort of person came forth from behind the
throne, and placing himself beside Jodelle, bowed in assent to the
king's question.

"Well, then," proceeded John, "by my faith! you must serve me for
deputy treasurer also, for want of a better."

John of Wincaunton, who had a keen apprehension of the king's jests in
this sort, bowed again, and making a sign, by holding up two of his
fingers, so as to be seen by a line of men-at-arms behind the circle
of nobles who occupied the front of the scene, he laid his other hand
upon Jodelle's arm, while two stout soldiers ran round and seized him
from behind. Such precautions, however, were utterly unnecessary, for
the first touch of the prévôt's hand upon his arm operated like
Prospero's wand. All power and strength seemed to go out of the
Brabançois' limbs; his arms hung useless by his side, his knees bent,
and his nether lip quivered with the very act of fear.

"Take the caitiff," cried John, frowning on him bitterly,--"take him,
prévôt; carry him to the very bound of Normandy, and there see you
acquit me of all obligation towards him. Hang him up between Normandy
and France, that all men of both lands may see his reward; for, though
we may sometimes use such slaves for the deep causes of state
necessity, we would not encourage their growth. Away with him!"

Jodelle struggled to speak, but his tongue seemed to cleave to the
roof of his mouth; and before he could force his throat to utterance,
a bustle at the other end of the long hall called the attention of
every one but himself.

"Sir king! sir king! hear me, for mercy's sake!" cried the Brabançois,
as he was dragged away. But John heeded him not, fixing his eyes upon
the figure of the Earl of Salisbury, who, armed at all points except
the head, and covered with dust, pushed through the crowd of
attendants at the extremity of the apartment, followed by two or three
other persons, as dusty and travel-stained as himself. His cheek was
flushed, his brow was bent and frowning, and, without a show even of
reverence or ceremony, he strode up the centre of the hall, mounted
the steps of the throne, and standing beside the king's chair, bent
down his head, addressing John in a low and seemingly angry whisper.

His coming, and the bold and irreverent manner in which he approached
the king, seemed to destroy at once the ceremony of the court. The
heart of almost every noble present was swelling with indignation at
the assassination of the unhappy Arthur, then already public, and by
most persons said to have been committed by the king's own hand; and
now, encouraged by the bold anger evident on the brow of John's
natural brother, they broke the circle they had formed, and, in a
close group, spoke together eagerly; while William Longsword continued
to pour upon the bloodthirsty tyrant on the throne a torrent of stern
reproaches, the more cutting and bitter from the under-tone in which
he was obliged to speak them.

For the reproaches John little cared; but his eye glanced terrified to
the disturbed crowd of his nobles. He knew himself detested by every
one present: no one, but one or two of his servile sycophants, was
attached to him by any one tie on which he could depend. He knew what
sudden and powerful resolutions are often taken in such moments of
excitement; and, as he marked the quick and eager whisper, the
flashing eyes, and frowning brows of his angry barons, he felt the
crown tremble on his head. It was in the kindly feeling and generous
heart of his bastard brother alone that he had any confidence; and
grasping the earl's hand, without replying to his accusation, he
pointed to the group beside them, and cutting across the other's
whisper, said in a low voice, "See, see, they revolt! William, will
you too abandon me?"

The earl glanced his eyes towards them, and instantly comprehended the
king's fears. "No," said he, in a louder voice than he had hitherto
spoke. "No! I will not abandon you, because you are my father's son,
and the last of his direct race; but you are a----." The earl bent his
lips to John's ear, and whispered the epithet in a tone that confined
it to him to whom it was addressed. That it was not a very gentle one
seemed plain from the manner in which it was given and which it was
received; but the earl then descended the steps of the throne, and
passing into the midst of the peers, grasped Lord Pembroke and several
others, one after the other, by the hand.

"Pembroke!" said he, "Arundel! I pray you to be calm. 'Tis a bad
business this, and must be inquired into at another time, when our
minds are more cool, to take counsel upon it. But be calm now, I pray
you all, for my sake."

"For your sake!" said the Earl of Pembroke, with a smile. "By Heavens!
Salisbury, we were just saying, that the best king that ever sat on
the English throne was a bastard; and we see not why another should
not sit there now. Why should not Rosamond of Woodstock produce as
good a son as the mother of William the Conqueror?"

"Hush; hush!" cried Salisbury quickly, at the pointed allusion to
himself. "Not a word of that, my friends. I would not wrong my
father's son for all the crowns of Europe. Nor am I fit for a king;
but no more of that! Form round again, I pray you; for I have a duty
to perform as a knight, and would fain do it decently, though my blood
was up with what I heard on my arrival."

The barons again, with lowering brows and eyes bent sternly on the
ground, as if scarce yet resolved in regard to their conduct, formed
somewhat of a regular sweep round the throne, while Lord Salisbury
advanced, and once more addressed the weak and cruel monarch, who sat
upon his throne, the most abject thing that earth can ever produce--a
despised and detested king.

"My lord," said William Longsword, almost moved to pity by the sunk
and dejected air that now overclouded the changeable brow of the light
sovereign, "when we parted in Touraine, I yielded to your importunity
my noble prisoner, Sir Guy de Coucy, on the promise that you would
cherish and honour him, and on the pretence that you wished to win him
and attach him to your own person; reserving to myself, however, the
right of putting him at what ransom I pleased, and demanding his
liberty when that ransom should be paid. How much truth there was in
the pretence by which you won him from me, and how well you have kept
the promise you made, you yourself well know; but, on my honour, to do
away the stain that you have brought upon me, I would willingly free
the good knight without any ransom whatever, only that he himself
would consider such a proposal as an insult to a warrior of his high
fame and bearing. However that may be, I have fixed his ransom at
seven thousand crowns of gold; and here stands his page ready to pay
the same, the moment that his lord is free. I therefore claim him at
your hands; for, though I hear he is in that fatal tower, whose very
name shall live a reproach upon England's honour for ever, I do not
think that the man lives who would dare to practise against the life
of _my_ prisoner."

"My Lord of Salisbury," replied John, raising his head, and striving
to assume the air of dignity which he could sometimes command; but as
he did so, his eyes encountered the stern bold look of William
Longsword, and the fixed indignant glances of his dissatisfied nobles;
and he changed his purpose in the very midst, finding that
dissimulation, his usual resource, was now become a necessary one. "My
Lord of Salisbury," he repeated, softening his tone, "thou art our
brother, and should at least judge less harshly of us than those who
know us less. A villain, construing our commands by his own black
heart, has committed within the walls of this town a most foul and
sacrilegious deed, and many wilful and traitorous persons seek to
impute that deed to us. Now, though it becomes us not, as a king, to
notice the murmurs of every fool that speaks without judgment; to you,
fair brother, and to any of our well-beloved nobles of England, we
will condescend willingly to prove that our commands were the most
opposite. This we will fully show you, on a more private occasion."

As John spoke, and found himself listened to, he became more bold, and
proceeded. "In regard to our own time, during that unhappy day which
deprived us of our dear nephew, we could, were we put to such unkingly
inquisition, account for every moment of our time. The greater
part--nay, I might almost say the whole--was spent in reading
despatches from Rome and Germany with my Lords of Arundel and Bagot."

"Except two hours in the morning, my lord, and from six till nine at
night, when I returned and found you wonderous pale and agitated,"
replied Lord Bagot with a meaning look.

"Our excellent friend, and very good knight, William de la Roche
Guyon, was with us at both the times you speak of," said the king,
turning towards the young Provençal, who stood near him, with a
gracious and satisfied air. "Was it not so, fair sir?"

"It was, my lord," faltered William de la Roche Guyon; "but--" All the
barons, at the sound of that but, fixed their eyes upon him, as if the
secret was about to transpire; but John took up the sentence as he
hesitated to conclude it.

"But,--you would say," proceeded the king,--"you went with me to the
Tower, where the poor child was confined, in the morning. True you
did.--'Tis true, my lords. But did you not hear me severely reproach
the captain of the Tower for placing the Sire de Coucy and the Duke of
Brittany in one small apartment, to the injury of the health of
both?--and did I not dismiss him for not lodging them better? Then
again, after vespers, did you ever see me quit the palace? Speak, I
charge you!" and he fixed his eye sternly on the effeminate face of
the young knight.

Guillaume de la Roche Guyon turned somewhat pale, but confirmed the
king's statement; and John went on, gathering confidence and daring as
he proceeded. "This is enough for the present moment," said he: "we
will more of it hereafter; but when our exculpation shall be complete,
woe to him who shall dare to whisper one traitorous word upon this
score! In regard to your prisoner, my Lord of Salisbury, before
putting him at liberty, we would fain----"

"Nothing before putting him at liberty, my lord," said the earl, in a
stern voice, "The prisoner is mine; I have agreed upon his ransom.
Here stands his page ready to pay the sum, and, moreover, whatever
charges may be incurred in his imprisonment; and I demand that he be
delivered to me this instant."

"Well, well, fair brother," answered John, "be it as thou wilt. I will
despatch the order after dinner."

"Haw! haw!" cried somebody from the bottom of the hall. "Haw! haw! and
perhaps De Coucy may be dispatched before dinner."

"By my knighthood, the fool says true," cried the blunt earl.--"My
lord, as we have too fatal a proof that mistakes in commands lead to
evil effects within the walls of a prison, by your leave, we will
liberate this good knight without farther delay. I will go myself and
see it done."

"At least," said the king, "to keep up the seeming of a respect that
you appear little inclined to pay in reality. Earl of Salisbury, take
a royal order for his release.--Clerk, let one be drawn."

The clerk drew the order, and John read it over with a degree of
wilful slowness that excited not a little Lord Salisbury's suspicions.
At length, however, the king concluded; and, having signed it, he gave
it to the earl, saying, "There, deliver him yourself if you will--and
God send he may have eaten his dinner!" muttered the king to himself,
as William Longsword took the paper, and turned with hasty steps to
give it effect. "William!--William of Salisbury!" cried John, before
the other had traversed half the hall. "Which is the page? Shall he
count out the ransom while you are gone?"

"That is the page," said the earl, turning unwillingly, and pointing
to Ermold de Marcy, who, accompanied by a herald and Gallon the fool,
with two men-at-arms, bearing bags of money, stood at the farther end
of the hall, in which the strange and painful scene we have
endeavoured to describe had taken place. "That is the page. Let him
tell down the ransom if you will. I will be back directly; 'tis but
ten paces to the Tower.--That is the page," he repeated, as he saw
John about to add some new question.

"And the gentleman with the nose?" demanded the light monarch, unable,
under any circumstances, to restrain his levity. "And the gentleman
with the nose--the snout!--the proboscis!--If you love me, tell me who
is he?"

But Salisbury was gone; and Gallon, as usual, took upon him to answer
for himself.--"Bless your mightiness," cried he, "I am twin brother of
John, King of England. Nature cast our two heads out of the same batch
of clay; she made him more knave than fool, and me more fool than
knave; and verily, because she gave him a crown to his head, and me
none, she furnished me forthwith an ell of nose to make up for it."

"Thou art a smart fool, whatever thou art," replied John, glad to fill
up the time, during which he was obliged to endure the presence of his
barons, and the uncertainty of what the order he had given for De
Coucy's liberation might produce. "Come hither, fool;--and you, sir
page, tell down the money, to the secretary. And now, fool, wilt thou
take service with me? Wouldst thou rather serve a king, or a simple
knight?"

"Haw! haw!" shouted Gallon, reeling with laughter, as if there was
something perfectly ridiculous in the proposition.--"Haw! haw! haw! I
am fool enough, 'tis true! But I am not fool enough to serve a king."

"And why not?"' demanded John. "Methinks there is no great folly in
that. Why not, fellow?"

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon again. "A king's smiles are too valuable for
me. That is the coin they pay in, where other men pay in gold.
Besides, since the time of Noe downwards, kings have always been
ungrateful to their best subjects."

"How so?" asked the king. "In faith, I knew not that the patriarch had
ever such a beast as thee in the ark."

"Was not the dove the first that he turned out?" demanded Gallon, with
a look of mock simplicity, that called a smile upon even the stern
faces of the English barons.

"Ha!" said John. "Thinkest thou thyself a dove? Thou art like it in
the face, truly!"

"Not less than thou art like a lion," answered Gallon boldly. "And yet
men say you had once such a relation.--Haw, haw! Haw, haw, haw!" and
he sprang back a step, as if he expected John to strike him.

But for a moment, leaving the conversation, which John for many
reasons continued to carry on with the juggler, though his replies
were of a more stinging quality than the monarch greatly relished, we
must follow Lord Salisbury to the prison of De Coucy.

It was a little past that early hour at which men dined in those days;
and when the earl entered the gloomy vault that contained the young
knight, he found him seated by a table groaning under a repast not
very usual on the boards of a prison.

De Coucy, however, was not eating, nor had he eaten, "though the
viands before him might well have tempted lips which had tasted little
but bread and water for many months before.

"Salisbury!" exclaimed the knight, as the earl strode into the
chamber, with haste in his aspect, and symptoms of long travel in
every part of his dress. "Salisbury! Have you come at length?"

"Hush! hush! De Coucy!" cried the earl, grasping his hand, "Do not
condemn me, without having heard. John persuaded me that he wished to
win you to his cause; and promised most solemnly that he would not
only treat you as a friend, but as a favourite. I am not the only one
he has deceived. However, till a fortnight since, I thought he had
carried you to England, as he declared he would. Your page, with
wonderful perseverance, traced me out amidst all the troubles in
Touraine, and offered your instant ransom. I sent to England to find
you--my messenger returned with tidings that you were here; and,
doubting false play, I set off without delay to release you. At every
town of Normandy I heard worse and worse accounts of my bad brother's
conduct.--Thank God, I am a bastard!--and when I come here, I learn
that that luckless boy, Arthur, is gone, God knows where, or how!"

"I will tell you where you may find him, Salisbury," said De Coucy,
grasping the earl's arm, and fixing his eyes steadily on his face: "at
the bottom of the Seine. Do you mark me? At the bottom of the Seine!"

"I guessed it," replied the earl, shutting his teeth, and looking up
to heaven, as if for patience.--"I guessed it!--Know you who did
it:--they say you were confined together."

"Do I know who did it?" exclaimed De Coucy: "John of Anjou! your
brother! his uncle!"

"Not with his own hand surely!" exclaimed Salisbury, drawing back with
a movement of horror.

"As I hope for salvation in the blessed cross!" replied De Coucy, "I
believe he did it with his own hand. At least, full certainly, 'twas
beneath his own eye;" and he proceeded to detail all that he had
heard. "Before that day," continued the knight, "I was fed on bread
and water, or what was little better. Since--you see how they treat
me;" and he pointed to the table. "I have contented myself each
morning with half of one of those white loaves," he added: "first,
because this is no place for hunger; and next, because I would rather
not die like a rat poisoned in a granary."

The earl hung his head for a moment or two in silence; and then again,
grasping De Coucy's hand, he said, "Come, good knight, come! Deeds
done cannot be amended. They are tumbled, like old furniture, into the
great lumber-house of the past, to give place to newer things, some
better and some worse. You were a prisoner but now--You are now free;
and believe me, on my honour, I would rather have laid my sword-hand
upon a block, beneath an axeman's blow, than that my noble friend
should have undergone such usage:--but come, your ransom by this time
is told down, and your attendants wait you in the palace hall. First,
however, you shall go to my lodging in Rouen, and do on my best
haubert and arms. There are horses in my stables, which have stood
there unridden for months. Take your choice of them; and God speed
you! for, though it be no hospitable wish, I long to see your back
turned on Normandy."

De Coucy willingly accepted the earl's courtesy, and followed down the
stairs of the prison into the open air. He trod with the proud step of
a freeman: the sight of living nature was delight; the fresh breath of
heaven a blessing indeed; and when he stood once more clothed in
shining arms, he felt as if the bold spirit of his youngest days had
come back with redoubled force.

As they proceeded to traverse the space which separated the lodging of
the Earl of Salisbury from the ducal palace, William Longsword
proceeded to give De Coucy a short account of all the steps which his
page had taken to effect his liberation, and which, however brief, we
shall not repeat here; it being quite sufficient to the purposes of
this history, that the knight was liberated.

Salisbury and De Coucy mounted the stairs of the palace with a rapid
pace: but, at the hall door, they paused for a single moment:
"Salisbury!" said De Coucy with a meaning tone, "I must do my duty as
a knight!"

"Do it!" replied the earl with firm sadness, understanding at once the
young knight's meaning. "Do it, De Coucy--God forbid that I should
stay a true knight from doing his devoir!"

So saying, he led the way into the hall.

John was still jesting with Gallon the fool. The barons were standing
around, some silently listening to the colloquy of the king and the
juggler, some speaking together in a low voice. At a table, on one
side of the hall, where sat the secretary, appeared De Coucy's page,
Ermold de Marcy, with a herald; and on the board between him and the
clerk, lay a large pile of gold pieces, with the leathern bags which
had disgorged them, while one of the men behind held a similar pouch,
ready to dispose of its contents as need might be.

De Coucy advanced to the table, and welcomed his page with an
approving smile, while the herald cried in a loud voice to call
attention: "Oyez, Oyez! Hear, hear!" and then tendering the ransom in
set form, demanded the liberation of Sir Guy de Coucy. The ransom was
accepted with the usual ceremonies, and a safe conduct granted to the
knight through the territories of the king of England; which being
done, De Coucy advanced from the table up the centre of the hall.

What had before passed had taken place at such a distance from the
throne, that John found it no difficult matter to keep his eyes in
another direction, though he was now speaking with William de la Roche
Guyon, as Gallon the fool had left him on his lord's entrance, and was
standing by the table, his nose at the same time wriggling with most
portentous agitation, as he saw the gold delivered by the page, and
taken up by the secretary. The monarch had thus affected scarcely to
see the young knight; but now De Coucy advanced, with slow, marked
steps, directly towards him, accompanied pace by pace by the herald,
who, with that sort of instinctive knowledge of every chivalrous
feeling which the officers of arms in that day are said to have
possessed, made a quick movement forward as they neared the throne,
though without any command to that effect; and exclaimed in a loud
tone,--"Hear! John, king of England! Hear!"

John looked up, and turned a frowning brow upon De Coucy. But the
knight was not to be daunted by fierce looks, even from a king; and he
proceeded boldly and in a slow distinct voice. "John of Anjou!" he
said, "false traitor, and assassin! I, Guy de Coucy, knight, do accuse
you here in your palace, and on your throne, of the murder of your
nephew, Arthur Plantagenet, rightful king of England; and to your
beard I call you mansworn, traitor, murderer, and felon--false knight,
discourteous gentleman, and treacherous king! Moreover, whoever does
deny the murder of which I here accuse you, I give him the lie, and
will prove it, my hand against his, according to the law of arms."

There was an awful pause. "Have I so many barons and noble knights
around me," cried John at length, "and not one of them noble and brave
enough to repel the insults offered to their king, in their presence,
by this braggart Frenchman?"

Several of the circle stepped forward, and De Coucy cast down his
glove, for him to take it that chose; but Lord Pembroke waved his
hand, exclaiming, "Hold, lords and knights! hold! We must not make
ourselves champions of a bad cause. Such is not the courage of true
knights. My lord the king! the nobles of England have ever been found
too willing to cast away their lives and fortunes in their monarch's
defence; and there is not one man in this presence that, give him a
good cause, and he would not meet in arms the best Frenchman that ever
was born. When, therefore, my lord, you shall satisfactorily have
proved that this charge against you is false, the swords of a thousand
British knights will start from their sheaths to avenge your quarrel;
and I, as your lord marshal, claim to be the first.

"With all respect, my Lord de Coucy," he added, while John bit his lip
with bursting mortification, "I raise your glove, and pledge myself to
meet you in arms within three months, if I find cause to judge your
words bold and untrue. If not, I will either yield the gage to
whatever true knight can, on his conscience, meet you, or will render
it back unto you honourably, in default of such. I am right willing
ever to do battle with a brave man; but I could never fight, with the
ghost of Arthur Plantagenet crying that my cause was evil."

So saying, he raised the glove, and De Coucy, darting a glance of
bitter scorn at John, bowed his head to Lord Pembroke, and proceeded
down the hall to the place where he had left William Longsword. The
earl, however, had not stayed to hear the accusation that he knew was
about to be launched at his brother, and which, as he could not
refute, he dared not resent.

De Coucy found him on the steps of the palace, at the bottom of which
stood a fresh horse, prepared for himself, together with the beasts of
Ermold the page, the herald, Gallon the fool, and the two men-at-arms,
who had carried the money to pay the knight's ransom. To these were
added the escort of a body of horse archers, to guard the young knight
safe through the English territory. This, however, he declined; and,
grasping the hand of the Earl of Salisbury, between whose bosom and
his own existed that mutual esteem which all noble minds feel towards
each other, he sprang upon his horse, and galloped with all speed out
of Rouen.



CHAPTER VI.


The road that De Coucy followed had been made, apparently, without the
least purpose of proceeding straight to Paris, though it ultimately
terminated there; but its object seemed more particularly to visit
every possible place on the way, without leaving the smallest village
within several miles of the direct line to complain of being
neglected. Thus, instead of cutting off angles, and such other
whimsical improvements of modern days, it proceeded along the banks of
the river, following, with a laudable pertinacity, all the turnings
and windings thereof. This sort of road, which uncommonly resembles
the way in which I have been obliged to relate this most meandering of
histories, is doubtless very agreeable when you have plenty of time to
stay and amuse yourself with the pleasures of this prospect or
that--to get off your horse to gather a flower upon the bank--to pause
under the shadow of a tree, and pant in concert with your beast in the
cool air; but when you are in a hurry, then is the time to bless
modern shorts cuts. Such must by my case; for, having a long way
before me, and a short space to do it in, I must abridge De Coucy's
journey as much as possible; and, only staying to relate two events
which occurred to him on the road, must hasten to bring him, together
with my other characters, to that one point to which all their
histories are tending.

Passing over, then, the follies of Gallon the fool, who,
notwithstanding all his maniac malice, felt he knew not what of joy at
his lord's deliverance, and all the details given by Ermold de Marcy
concerning his various peregrinations and negotiations, together with
the young knight's joyful feelings on his liberation, and his
sorrowful ones at the accounts he heard of the unhappy Count
d'Auvergne, we will bring the whole party at once to that high hill
from which the lower road to Paris descends rapidly on the little,
dirty, old-fashioned town called the _Pont de l'Arche_.

There being few things more uncertain in the world than the smiles of
beauty and the boundaries of kingdoms, the limits of France, which
have been here, and there, and every where, within the last few
centuries, were fixed, on the precise day I speak of, at the Pont de
l'Arche. That hill being then the extreme limit of King John's Norman
dominions, his deputy prévôt, John of Wincaunton, was, at the very
moment De Coucy and his followers arrived at the summit of the hill,
engaged in the very praiseworthy occupation of hanging the Brabançois,
Jodelle, to one of the highest elms in the land.

It must not, however, be inferred that the hanging had actually
commenced; for though the prévôt, with a party of six or seven men,
very well calculated to hang their neighbours, stood round Jodelle
under the tree, while one of their companions fastened the end of a
thick noose tightly to one of the strongest branches, yet the
plunderer's neck was still free from that encumbrance so fatal to
persons of his profession.

There are various sorts of bravery; and Jodelle was a brave man, of a
certain sort. He had never shown himself afraid of death; and yet, the
idea of hanging affected him with mortal fear--whether he fancied that
that peculiar position would be unpleasant to him or not, can hardly
be said; but certain it is, though he had never shrunk from death in
the battle-field, his face looked already that of a corpse; his limbs
shook, and his teeth chattered, at the sight of the awful preparations
that were carrying on around him.

What is there to which hope will not attach itself? Even the sight of
De Coucy, whom he had sold to his enemies, awoke a dream of it in the
breast of the Brabançois, and with pitiful cries he adjured the knight
to save him from the hands of his executioners.

The men of the prévôt stood to their arms; but the knight's reply soon
showed them they had no molestation to fear from him. "Villain,"
answered he, "if I saved thee from their hands, it should be but to
impale thee alive! Every drop of Prince Arthur's blood cries vengeance
upon thee! and, by Heaven! I have a mind to stay and see thee hanged
myself!"

"Haw, law!" cried Gallon the fool,--"Haw, haw! Beau sire Jodelle! It
strikes me, they are going to hang thee, beau sire! Undo the haussecol
of thy doublet, man. They are going to give thee one of tighter stuff.
Haw, haw, Sire Brabançois! Haw, haw! Why pray you not the Coucy again?
Perchance he may be moved. Or, rather, why pray you not me? I am the
only man in the troop that can aid thee--Haw, haw, haw! haw, haw! I
could save thee if I would!"

"Thou wouldst not if thou couldst, fiend," replied Jodelle, glaring on
him with eyes in which wrath struggled with terror, for his
executioners were now actually adjusting the noose to his neck, and
his pinioned hands might be seen to quiver with the agonising
anticipation of destruction. "I do now believe thee a devil indeed, as
thou once toldest me, for none but the devil could mock me in such a
moment as this."

"Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw, haw!" roared Gallon, rolling on his horse
with laughter. "Dost thou believe? Well, then, for that I will save
thee;" and, riding up to the prévôt, the juggler thrust his snout into
that officer's ear, and whispered a few words, in regard to the truth
of which the other seemed at first doubtful. Gallon, however,
exclaimed, "'Tis true, thou infidel! 'tis true! I heard the order
given myself! Look ye there!--There comes the messenger down in the
valley--Haw, haw, haw! Ye fools! Thought you king John could spare so
useful a villain as that?"

The prévôt gazed in the direction wherein the juggler pointed; and
then made a sign to his men to put a stop to the preparations, which
they were hurrying forward with most unseemly haste; while Gallon,
with a patronising sort of nod to Jodelle, and a loud laugh, rode on
after De Coucy, who had not waited to listen to the termination of the
eloquent conversation between the juggler and the coterel. At the
bottom of the hill, however, the young knight turned his head, never
doubting that he should behold the form of his late follower dangling
from the elm; but, to his surprise, he perceived two of the men
placing Jodelle on horseback, still apparently bound, and the rest
hastening to mount their own beasts, while a horseman was seen
conversing with the prévôt.

"By St. Paul! if thou hast saved that fellow from the hands of the
hangman," cried De Coucy, "thou art a juggler indeed, and a
mischievous one to boot, friend Gallon!"

"'Twas not I saved him, friend Coucy," replied Gallon, who was in
somewhat of a saner state of mind than usual. "'Twas our very good
friend and patron, John, King of England; and I'll tell thee what,
Coucy, if you ill-treat me, and thump me, as you used sometimes to do,
I'll e'en take service with him, John of Anjou, and leave you! Haw,
haw! What do you think of that? Or else I'll go and live with fair
William de la Roche Guyon," he added, in his rambling way. "He loves
me dearly, does William de la Roche Guyon. So I'll go and live with
him, when I want to better myself. Haw, haw! Then I shall always be
near the pretty Lady Isadore of the Mount, whom good King John of
England gave to fair Count William this morning, for standing by him
in his need, as he said. 'Twas all in a whisper; but I would have
heard it had it been twice a whisper; my ears are as fine as my nose.
Haw, haw!"

De Coucy had drawn his rein at the first word of these very pleasing
tidings, which Gallon communicated with a broad lack-lustre stare,
from which he had banished every particle of speculation; so that,
whether it was true or false, a dreadful reality or an idiotic jest,
was in no degree to be gathered from his countenance.

"What is that you say?" cried the knight. "Tell me, good Gallon, for
the love of Heaven, are you serious in your news?"

"Good Gallon!--Haw! haw!" shouted the jongleur,--"Good Gallon! He'll
call me pretty Gallon next!--Haw, haw, haw!--Coucy, you are mad!"

"For God's sake!" cried the knight earnestly, "do not drive me mad
really; but, for once, try to give me a connected answer. Say! What
was it you heard that traitorous king say to the beardless, womanly
coward, William de la Roche Guyon?"

"Give you a connected answer!" replied Gallon, suddenly assuming an
unwonted gravity. "Why should you doubt my giving you one? I'm not
mad, Coucy! I'll tell you what the king said, as wisely as he that
spoke it. William de la Roche, whispered he, with the face of a cat
lapping a saucer full of cream--William de la Roche, you have stood by
me this day in my need, and I will not forget it."

And Gallon, though with a countenance as unlike that of John of Anjou
as any human face could well be, contrived to imitate the king's look
and manner, so as to leave no earthly doubt, not only that he had said
what the fool attributed to him, but that he had also precisely said
it as was represented.

"Well then," continued the jongleur, "the noble king bade him, fair
William de Roche as aforesaid, take the fair Lady Isadore from the
castle of Moulineaux, hard by Rouen, where her father, Count Julian
the Wise, had left her under the care of the Lady Plumdumpling, or
some such English name; and when he had got her, to carry her whither
he would, as quickly as possible. And the sweet potentate John, with
true kingly consideration for the happiness of his lieges, added this
sage counsel to the aforesaid William, namely, that if he liked, he
might marry the maid; but if he liked light love better than broad
lands, he might make his leman of her."

"By the Lord, fool! if thou deceivest me, thou shall rue it!" cried De
Coucy. "I believe not thy tale! How came her father to trust her from
his sight?"

"I fear me, my lord. Gallon is right," said Ermold de Marcy, who
various negotiations had somewhat rubbed off the rawness of his youth,
and given him confidence to address his master more boldly. "In my
wanderings about, striving to achieve your ransom, I have heard much
of Count Julian and his proceedings; and I thus learned, that not long
after your capture, he left the court of King John, to raise all his
vassals for the great alliance that, men say, is forming against King
Philip, leaving the Lady Isadore as a hostage for his faith, with the
Lady Plymlymman of Cornouaille, chatelaine of the castle of
Moulineaux. So that Gallon's tale is too likely to be true."

While the page spoke, the juggler drew his two eyes together upon De
Coucy's countenance, watching, with a fiendish sort of pleasure, the
workings of all those powerful feelings that the news he had given had
cast into commotion. At length he burst into a loud laugh. "Haw, haw!"
cried he. "Haw, haw, haw! De Coucy's in a rage!--Now, Coucy, now,
think of the very best way of cleaving me down Guillaume de la Roche
from the crest to the saddle. Haw, haw, haw! Oh, rare! Crack his skull
like a walnut-shell, and leave him no more brains than a date-stone.
Haw, haw! haw, haw!"



CHAPTER VII.


There was a party of travellers wound down through the beautiful
valleys, and over the rich hills that lie between Pacy and Rolleboise,
proceeding slowly and calmly, though with a certain degree of
circumspection, as if they were not at all without their share of the
apprehensions to which travellers of every kind were exposed in those
days, and yet were embarrassed by the presence of some one, whose sex
or age prevented them from proceeding more rapidly.

At the head of the cavalcade were seen, agitated by the breeze,
various of those light habiliments which have been used in all ages to
give the female figure a degree of butterfly flutter, which seems to
court pursuit; and it appeared out of consideration for the frailer
limbs of the part of the troop thus clothed, that the iron-clad
warriors which formed the main body proceeded at so slow and easy a
pace.

The whole party might consist of fifty persons, four or five of whom,
by their pennons and arms, were distinguished as knights; while the
rest showed but the sword and buckler of the squire, or the archer's
quiver, long bow, and round target. Except an _éclaireur_ thrown out
before to mark the way, the female part of the troop took the lead;
and, as far as could be judged from appearance, the rest was but an
escort attending upon them.

One of the knights, however, whose helmet nodded with plumes, and
whose arms were glittering with gold, ever and anon spurred forward,
and, with bending head and low musical voice, addressed a few words to
the fair girl who headed the troop, demanding now whether she was
fatigued, now whether she felt the cold, now promising speedy repose,
and now offering a few words of somewhat commonplace gallantry,
concerning bright eyes, rosy lips, and inspiring smiles.

To his questions concerning her comfort, the lady replied briefly, and
as coldly as courtesy permitted; and to his gallant speeches, the
chilling unmoved glance of her large dark eye might have afforded
sufficient answer, had he been one easily rebuffed. The only
uncalled-for words which she addressed to him herself tended but to
ask where it was that her father had appointed to meet her; and on his
replying that a place called Drocourt had been named, some five
leagues farther, she relapsed into silence.

The young knight, however, though on every check he received he sunk
back into himself with an air of deep despondency, still returned to
his point, holding perseverance to be the most serviceable quality in
the world in all dealings with the fair; and thus, from time to time,
he continued his assiduities, notwithstanding cold looks and scanty
answers; till at length the road, descending, began to wind along the
banks of the Seine.

Here his attention became more entirely directed to precautions
against surprise; and the increased haste and circumspection which he
enjoined, seemed to imply that he found himself upon hostile and
dangerous ground.

"See you no ferry boat," cried he, "along the river!--Look out,
Arnoul!--look out! We must get across as soon as may be."

"The ferry lies beyond this woody tongue of land, my lord," replied
the man. "'Tis not half a mile hence, and there is no town between; so
we may pass easily;" and, spurring on, the party entered the pass,
between the wood which skirted down from the road to the river on the
one side, and the high chalky cliffs on the other.

The knight in the gilded armour had received a fresh rebuff from the
lady whose favour he seemed so anxious to win; and, having retired to
his companions, who, as we have shown, were a few steps behind, was
conversing with them in an earnest but under-tone, when from an ambush
in the wood, which had escaped even the eyes of the advanced scout,
rushed forth a body of horsemen, with such rapid force as to separate
entirely the female part of the cavalcade from their escort.

It was done in an instant; but, in truth, it needed such rapidity of
attack to render it, in itself, any thing short of madness; for, when
the escort recovered in a degree from their first astonishment, they
found that seven men formed the whole force that had thrown them into
such confusion. Before, however, this became apparent, the leader of
their adversaries shouting, "A Coucy! A Coucy!" spurred like lightning
upon the knight we have before mentioned, and at one blow of his
battle-axe dashed him under his horse's feet. A squire behind shared
the same fate; a man-at-arms followed; and each of De Coucy's
followers, fighting as if inspired by the same daring valour that
animated their lord, the escort were driven back along the road,
leaving four or five saddles vacant. Then, however, the tide of the
battle turned. The knights at the head of the escort saw the handful
of men to which they were opposed, and, ashamed of yielding a step to
so scanty a body, four of them united their efforts to attack De
Coucy, while another rallied their followers; and the young knight was
in turn driven back, now striking at one, now at another, now parrying
the blows that were aimed at himself, and now showering them thick
upon the head of the opponent that he had singled out for the moment.

Separated from the escort which attended her, the lady we have
mentioned, with her women, had in the meanwhile endeavoured to escape
from the scene of strife which had so suddenly arisen, by hurrying on
upon the road; but the scout, who had turned at the first noise of the
affray, caught her bridle, and, notwithstanding her prayers and
entreaties, would not suffer her to proceed.

The danger indeed to which she was exposed was not for the moment
great, as, by this time, the first impetuous attack of De Coucy and
his followers had driven the escort back beyond the turn of the wood;
and nothing could be gathered of the progress of the fight but from
the trampling of the horses heard sounding this way or that, and the
cries and shouts of the combatants approaching or receding as the
battle turned.

"Lady Isadore! Lady Isadore!" cried a girl who followed her. "It is
the Sire de Coucy. Hear you not his battle-cry? and I am sure I saw
Ermold the page strike down an archer twice as big as himself. God
send them the victory!"

"Hush! foolish girl! hush!" cried Isadore of the Mount, leaning her
head to listen more intently. "Hark, they are coming this way! Free my
bridle, soldier! Free my bridle, for the love of Heaven! How dare you,
serf, to hold me against my will? You will repent, whoever wins!"

The soldier, however, heeded neither the lady's entreaties nor her
threats, though it so happened that it would have proved fortunate to
himself had he done so; for, in a moment after, De Coucy, driven back
by the superior force to which he was opposed, appeared at the turn of
the wood, striking a thundering blow on the crest of one of the
knights who pressed closely on him, while the three others spurred
after at about three horse-lengths' distance.

No sooner had the blow descended, than the knight's quick glance fell
upon Isadore. "Fly, Isadore, fly!" cried he. "You have been deceived
into the power of traitors!--Fly! up the path to the right! To the
castle on the hill!" But, as he spoke, he suddenly perceived the
soldier holding her rein, and forcing her horse up a bank somewhat of
the current of the fight. Like lightning, De Coucy wheeled his
charger; and, disappointing, by the turn he took, a blow that one of
his adversaries was discharging at his head, he swung his battle-axe
round in the air, and hurled it with sure and unerring aim at the
unhappy scout. It needed a firm heart and well-practised hand to
dismiss such a fatal missile in a direction so near the person of one
deeply beloved. But De Coucy had both; and rushing within two feet of
Isadore of the Mount, the head of the ponderous axe struck the soldier
full on the neck and jawbone, and dashed him from his horse, a ghastly
and disfigured corpse.

"Fly, Isadore! fly!" repeated De Coucy, at the same moment drawing his
sword, and spurring his charger furiously against the first of his
opponents. "Fly up to the right! The castle on the hill!--the castle
on the hill!"

Isadore required no second injunction, but parted like an arrow from
the scene of the battle, while De Coucy made almost more than mortal
efforts to drive back the enemy.

Though he thus gave her time to escape, his valour and skill were of
course in vain, opposed to numbers not inferior to himself in personal
courage, and clothed in arms equal to those by which he was defended.
All he could do was to give his scattered followers time again to
collect about him; and then, satisfied with having delivered Isadore,
to keep up a defensive fight along the road.

Even this, however, was difficult to conduct successfully in the face
of a body of men so much superior to his own in numbers eager to
avenge themselves upon him, and hurried on by the knowledge, that,
being upon adverse ground, they must win their revenge quickly, or not
at all. The four knights pressed on him on all sides, striving to bear
him down to the earth; his armour was hacked and splintered in many
parts; his shield was nearly cleft in two with the blow of a
battle-axe; several of the bars of his visor were dashed to pieces, so
as to leave his face nearly uncovered; but still he retreated slowly,
with his face to his enemies, shouting from time to time his
battle-cry, to cheer the spirits of his men, and striking terrible
sweeping blows with his long sword, whenever his opponents made a
general rush upon him.

One of these united attacks, however, had nearly proved fatal to the
gallant young knight; for, in suddenly backing his horse to avoid it,
the animal's feet struck against a felled tree, and he went down at
once upon his haunches. "A Coucy! a Coucy!" cried the knight, striving
to spur him up; but all four of his antagonists pressed upon him at
once, beating him down with repeated blows, when suddenly two new
combatants were added to the fight, Philip Augustus and the Count
d'Auvergne.

Both, though we have seen them in a preceding chapter opposed hand to
hand, suddenly ceased their mutual conflict, and rushed forward to
strike upon the side of De Coucy. The Count d'Auvergne, warned by his
friend's well-known battle-cry, rushed, bare-headed as he was, into
the midst of the struggle, and, striking with all the energy of
insanity, dashed at once the foremost of the young knight's opponents
to the earth. The king, recognising instantly, by the Norman fashion
of their harness, the followers of his enemy King John, sprang on his
horse; and, with the same chivalrous spirit that induced him in former
days to attack King Richard's whole army near Courcelles with scarce
two hundred knights in his own train, he cast himself in the foremost
of the battle, and plied his weapon with a hand that seldom struck in
vain.

The struggle, by its greater equality, now became more desperate; but
it was soon rendered no longer doubtful, by the sight of a body of
horse coming down at full speed on the road from the castle. The
Normans, who had followed Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, now hastened to
effect their retreat, well knowing that whatever fresh troops arrived
on the spot must necessarily swell the party of their adversaries.
They made an effort, however, in the first place, to deliver their
companion who had been struck down by the Count d'Auvergne; but
finding it impossible, they turned their horses, and retreated along
the line of road over which they had advanced, only pausing for an
instant at the spot where the contest had first begun to aid William
de la Roche himself, who had, as we have shown, been cast from his
horse by a blow of De Coucy's battle-axe; and now sat by the
road-side, somewhat stunned and dizzied by his fall, and completely
plundered of his fine armour.

"Haw! haw!" shouted some one from the top of one of the leafless trees
hard by, as they remounted the discomfited cavalier. "Haw! haw! haw!"
and in a moment. Gallon the fool cast down one of the gay gauntlets on
the head of its former owner, laughing till the whole cliffs rang, to
see it strike him on the forehead, and deluge his fair effeminate face
with blood. The Normans had not time to seek vengeance; for De Coucy's
party, reinforced by the troop from the castle, hung upon their rear,
and gave them neither pause nor respite till the early night,
following a day in February, closed in upon the world; and, fatigued
with so long a strife, the pursuers drew the rein, and left them to
escape as they might.

So fierce and eager had been the pursuit, that scarce a word had
passed between De Coucy's party and their new companions, till, by
common accord, they checked their horses' speed.

It was then that the two brothers in arms turned towards each other,
each suddenly grasping his friend's hand with all the warmth of old
affection. "D'Auvergne!" cried De Coucy, gazing on his friend's face,
down which the blood was streaming from a wound in his temple, giving
to his worn and ashy countenance, in the twilight of the evening, an
appearance of scarcely human paleness.

"De Coucy!" replied D'Auvergne, fixing his eyes on the broken bars of
the young knight's helmet. "De Coucy!" he repeated; and, turning away
his head with a look of painful consciousness, he carried his hand to
his brow, as if sensible of his infirmity, adding, "I have been ill,
my friend--the hot sun of the desert, and Agnes' cold words when I
delivered her father's message--a message I had sworn on my knighthood
to deliver----"

"Ha! Then it was not"--cried Philip eagerly: "but let us return to
some place of repose!" added he, remembering his disguise, and cutting
across a topic which, besides being painful to himself, he loved not
to hear canvassed near the ears of strangers. "Let us return to some
place of repose. We have to thank you, sir knight," he added, turning
to the leader of the horsemen who had joined them from the castle--"we
have to thank you for your timely aid."

"Not so, beau sire," replied the knight, bowing to his saddle-bow. "We
were warned of the strife by a lady, who claimed refuge in the castle;
and we instantly came down to strike for France."

"You did well!" replied the king. "Hark, you, sir knight;" and
approaching his horse, he spoke for some moments to him in an
under-voice, to which the only reply was, "You shall be obeyed."

In the mean while, the men-at-arms and the followers of De Coucy, who
had paused to breathe after the first heat of the affray, began to
mingle in conversation upon the events that had just taken place, and
the causes which had given rise to them; and very soon all the noise
and clamour of explanation, and wonderment, and questioning, and
boasting succeeded, which usually follows any very active struggle. In
the course of this hubbub, De Coucy's name, situation, quality, the
news he had heard concerning Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, and the
means he had taken to surprise him, and deliver the lady Isadore, were
explained to every body whom it might concern, with that almost
childish frankness and simplicity, which was one of the chief
characteristics of the age of chivalry.

To this the king listened attentively; and then, turning to De Coucy,
he said, "Sir Guy de Coucy, this adventure which you have just
achieved is worthy of your other exploits! I will beg leave to ride
with your train to Paris, where doubtless you are going. This good
knight," he added, pointing to the leader of the troop from the
castle, "informs me, that the lady your good sword has delivered from
that traitor Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, is in safety with the fair
queen Agnes, and he adds, that it is the queen's will, that no man,
except the garrison of the castle, shall be admitted within the
walls."

"If such be the case, I must submit of course," replied De Coucy; "and
yet I would fain speak but a few words to the lady Isadore, to inform
her why I attacked her escort; for, beyond all doubt, they lured her
away from the château of Moulineaux, upon some fine pretext."

"I will take care that your conduct be rightly stated, beau sire,"
replied the officer. "But as to your speaking with the lady, I fear it
cannot be; for the queen will doubtless hold her, both as a liege
vassal of the crown, and as hostage for her father's faith; and she
has vowed, that during her absence from our noble lord the king, no
man shall enter her gates, except such persons as the king himself has
placed about her. Be assured, however, sir knight, that the lady shall
receive all honourable treatment, and that your high deeds and noble
prowess shall be spoken of in becoming terms."

De Coucy mused a moment. "Well," said he at length; "what must be,
must be! To Paris then! for I bear the king both sad and important
news."

"Ha?" cried Philip; but then again remembering his disguise, he added,
"Are they such as a stranger may hear?

"They are such, sir unknown knight," replied De Coucy, "as will be
soon heard of far and wide. But the king's ears must be the first to
hear my tale. D'Auvergne," he added, turning to the count. "I pray
you, let my page bind up that gash upon your temple. If I see rightly
by this pale light, the blood is streaming from it still. Let him
stanch it for thee, I pray!"

"Not so, not so! good friend," replied, the count, who, while this
conversation had been passing amongst the rest, had been leaning
silently against an oak, with his eyes bent thoughtfully upon the
ground,--"Not so! It does me good. Methinks that every drop which
trickles down and drops on the dust at my feet, takes some of the fire
out of my brain. I have been mad, I fear me, De Coucy, I am not quite
right yet; but I know, I feel, that I have done this good knight some
wrong. Pardon me, sir knight," he added, advancing to the king, and
extending his hand, "pardon me, as you are a good knight and true."

"I do, from my soul," replied the monarch, grasping the count's
offered hand, and casting from his heart at the same moment far
greater feelings of enmity than any one present knew but himself:--"I
do from my soul. But you stagger! you are faint! Bind up his wound,
some one! Stanch the blood; he has lost too much already!"

The monarch spoke in a tone of command that soon called prompt
obedience. The Count d'Auvergne's wound was instantly bound up; but,
before the bleeding could be stopped, he fainted, and in that state
was borne to the cave from which he had first issued to attack the
king. Here he was laid on a bed of moss and straw, which seemed to
have formed his usual couch; and was after some difficulty recalled to
animation.

De Coucy, having so far seen him restored to a state of safety,
burthened with the tidings of Arthur's murder, which he was eager to
announce as soon as possible to the sovereign and peers of France,
took leave of his unhappy friend; and leaving his page and one of his
men to guard and tend him, he set out with the king on the road to
Paris. Two prisoners who had been taken, as well as one of De Coucy's
followers severely wounded, were left in charge of the seneschal of
the castle, who also undertook to see the rights of sepulture bestowed
on one or two of the soldiers whose lives had been sacrificed in the
affray.



CHAPTER VIII.


The particulars of De Coucy's journey to Paris are not worth
recording. He paused for two hours at a village near Meulan, with his
followers and his royal companion, for the purpose of resting their
weary horses; but neither of the knights took any repose themselves,
though the fatigues they had undergone might well have called for it.

The conduct of De Coucy somewhat puzzled the king; for it evinced a
degree of calm respect towards him, which Philip judged the young
knight would hardly have shown had he not recognised him by some of
those signs, which, when seized on by a keen and observing eye, render
disguises almost always abortive.

At the same time, neither by indiscreet word, or meaning glance, did
De Coucy betray that he had any absolute knowledge of the quality of
him whose limbs that plain armour covered. He spoke frankly and freely
on all subjects, started various topics of conversation himself, and
in short, took care to bound his respect to grave courtesy, without
any of that formal reverence which might have directed the attention
of others to what he had observed himself.

There was one, however, in the train not quite so cautious.

Gallon the fool--though we left him last at the top of one of the
highest oaks in the wood, whither he had carried, piece by piece, the
rich armour he had stripped from Guillaume de la Roche Guyon, together
with a well-lined pouch of chamois leather--had since taken care to
rejoin the victorious party, with all his acquirements nicely bundled
up on the crupper of his horse, forming a square not unlike the pack
with which wandering minstrels travelled in those days.

On the road he was very still and thoughtful. Whether it was that he
was calculating in silence the value of his plunder, or that he was
sullen from fatigue, his companions could not well tell, but when the
party stopped, Gallon watched his opportunity, when De Coucy was
alone, gazing at the pale moon, and indulging in such dreams as
moonlight only yields. Stealing up to his lord, the juggler peered
cunningly in his face, saying in a low voice, "Oh, Coucy! Coucy! I
could show you such a trick for taming a lion;" and at the same time
he bent his thumb back over his shoulder, pointing to where the
monarch stood at a few yards' distance.

"Silence, fool!" said the knight, in a deep stern voice, adding, a
moment afterwards, "What mean you, Gallon?"

"Did you not hear him cry, 'Denis Mountjoy! Denis Mountjoy!' when he
joined the fight?" demanded Gallon.--"Coucy, Coucy! you might tame a
lion, an' you would!"

De Coucy caught Gallon by the arm, and whispered in his ear a stern
menace if he kept not silence. After which he turned at once to the
king, saying aloud, "We had better to horse, fair sir, or it will be
late ere we reach the city."

"Haw, haw!" shouted Gallon,--"Haw, haw!" and bounding away, he was the
first in the saddle.

When they were within sight of Paris, the king thanked De Coucy for
the pleasure of his fair company; and, saying that they should
doubtless soon meet at the court, he took leave of the young knight,
as if his road lay in somewhat a different direction, and rode on, his
horse putting forth all his speed to reach the well-known stable. The
young knight followed more slowly; and, proceeding across the bridge,
directed his steps to the palace on the island.

In the court he found a crowd of inferior ecclesiastics, with robes,
and stoles, and crosses, and banners, and all the pompous display of
Romish magnificence, mingled with the king's serjeants-at-arms, and
many a long train of retainers belonging to several of the great
vassals of the crown, who seemed to be at that moment at the court.
The young knight dismounted in the midst of them, and sent in to crave
an audience of the king, giving his business, as it well deserved, the
character of important.

A reply was soon returned, purporting that Sir Guy de Coucy was ever
welcome to the king of France, and the knight was instantly marshalled
to the presence-chamber.

Philip stood at the further extremity of the magnificent Gothic hall,
a part of which still remains in the old palace of the kings of
France. He was habited in a wide tunic of rich purple silk, bound
round his waist by a belt of gold, from which hung his sword of state.
The neck and sleeves were tied with gold, and from his shoulders
descended a mantle of crimson sendal, lined throughout with ermines,
which fell in broad and glossy folds upon the floor. On his head he
wore a jewelled cap of crimson velvet, from under which the glossy
waves of his long fair hair fell down in some disarray upon his
shoulders. In any other man, the haste with which he had changed his
apparel would have appeared; but Philip, in person even, was formed to
be a king; and, in the easy grace of his figure, and the dignified
erectness of his carriage, hurry or negligence of dress was never
seen; or appeared but to display the innate majesty of his demeanour
to greater advantage.

He stood with one foot rather advanced, and his chest and head thrown
back, while his eagle eye fixed with a keen and somewhat stern regard
upon a mitred prelate--the abbot of Three Fountains Abbey--who seemed
to have been speaking the moment before De Coucy entered, Guerin the
chancellor, still in the simple dress of the knights hospitallers,
stood beside the king; and around appeared a small but brilliant
circle of nobles, amongst whom were to be seen the dukes of Burgundy
and Champagne, the counts of Nevers and Dampierre; and the unhappy
count of Toulouse, afterwards sacrificed to the intolerant spirit of
the Roman Church.

"How is this?" said Philip, just as the young knight passed into the
hall;--"Will Rome never be satisfied? Do concessions wrung from our
very heart's blood but stimulate new demands? What has Innocent the
Third to do with the wars of Philip of France against his traitorous
and rebellious vassal, John duke of Normandy? What pretext of clerical
authority and the church's rights has the pontiff now to show, why a
monarch should not in his own dominions compel his vassals to
obedience, and punish crime and baseness? By the holy rood! there must
be some new creed we have not heard of, to enjoin implicit obedience,
in all temporal as well as spiritual things, to our moderate,
temperate, holy father, Innocent the Third, and his successors for
ever! We pray thee, my lord abbot, to communicate to us all the tenets
of this blessed doctrine; and to tell us, whether it has been made
manifest by inspiration or revelation."

"You speak scornfully, my son," said the abbot mildly, "ay, and
somewhat profanely; but you well know the causes that move our holy
father to interfere, when he sees two christened kings wasting their
blood, their treasure, and their time, in vain and impious wars
against each other, while the holy sepulchre is still the prey of
miscreants and infidels, and the land of our blessed Redeemer,--the
land in which so many saints have died, and for which so many heroes
have bled,--still lies bowed down to heathens and blasphemers,--you
well know the causes that move him to interfere, I say, and therefore
need ask no new motive for his christianlike and holy zeal."

"His christianlike and holy zeal!!" exclaimed the king, holding up his
hands. "Ay, abbot," he continued, his lip curling with a bitter smile,
"I do know the causes, and Christendom shall find I estimate them
justly. For all answer, then, to the mild good father pope his
exhortation to peace, I reply that Philip is king of France; and that,
though I will, in all strictly ecclesiastical affairs, yield reverence
and due submission to the supreme pontiff; yet when he dares--ay, when
he dares, abbot--to use the word command to me, in my just wars, or in
the dispensation of justice unto my vassals, I shall scoff his idle
threats to scorn, and, by God's will, pursue my way, as if there were
neither priest nor prelate on the earth. Now, fair Sir Guy de Coucy!
most welcome to Philip of France!" he continued, abruptly turning away
from the abbot and addressing the young knight. "We were arming even
now to march to deliver you and our fair cousin Arthur Plantagenet.
What cheer do you bring us from him?"

"I had hoped, my liege," replied De Coucy, with a pained and
melancholy air, "that fame, who speeds fast enough in general to bear
ill news, would have spared me the hard and bitter task of telling you
what I have to communicate. He for whom you inquire is no more! Basely
has he been murdered in the prisons of Rouen by his own uncle, John
king of England!"

Philip's brow had been cloudy before; but as the young knight spoke,
fresh shadows came quickly over it, as we see storm after storm roll
up over a thundery sky. At the same time, each of the nobles of France
took an involuntary step forward, and with knitted brow, and eager,
horrified eyes, gazed upon De Coucy while he told his news.

"God of heaven!" exclaimed the monarch rapidly. "What would you say?
Are you very sure, sir knight? Not with his own hand? His nephew too!
His own brother's child! As noble a boy as ever looked up in the face
of heaven! Speak, sir knight! Speak! What was the manner of his death!
Have you heard? But be careful that each word be founded on certain
knowledge, for on your lips hangs the fate of thousands!"

De Coucy related clearly and distinctly all that had occurred on the
day of Arthur's murder--all that he had seen, all that he had heard;
but, with scrupulous care, he took heed that not one atom of surmise
should mingle with his discourse. He painted strongly, clearly,
minutely, every circumstance; but he left his auditors to draw their
own conclusions.

The nobles of France looked silently in each other's faces, where each
read the same feelings of horror and indignation that swelled in his
own bosom. At the same time, the king glanced his keen eye round the
circle, with a momentary gaze of inquiry at the countenances of his
barons, as if he sought to gather whether the feelings of wrath and
hatred which the young knight's tale had stirred up in his heart were
common to all around.

"Now, by the bones of the saints!" cried he, "we will this day--nay
this hour,--send a herald to defy that felon king, and dare him to the
field. Ho! serjeant-at-arms, bid Mountjoy hither!"

"I have already, my lord," said De Coucy, "presumed, even before
bearing you this news, to defy king John before his court; and,
accusing him of this foul murder, to dare his barons--all, or any who
should deny the fact--to meet me in arms, upon the quarrel."

"Ha!" cried Philip eagerly. "What said his nobles?--Did they believe
your charge? Did they take up your gage, sir knight?"

"It seems, sire," replied De Coucy, "that the tidings of the prince's
murder were already common amongst the English barons; and, from what
I could gather, some of their body had already charged John of Anjou
with it before I came. As to my gauntlet, several of the knights
stepped forward to raise it--for, to do the lords of England justice,
they are never backward to draw the sword, right or wrong--but Lord
Pembroke interposed; and, taking up the gage, said that he would hold
it in all honour, till the king should have cleared himself, to their
satisfaction, of the accusation which I brought against him; hinting
some doubt, however, that he could do so. Nevertheless, he promised
either to meet me in arms in fair field of combat, or to return me my
gage, acknowledging the king's quarrel to be bad."

"'Tis evident enough!" cried the king. "The barons of England--who are
ever willing to support their monarch in any just cause," he added,
with a peculiar emphasis, not exactly reproachful, but certainly
intended to convey to the ears on which it fell a warning of the
monarch's expectations,--"the barons of England are already aware of
this hateful deed, or not one of them would for a moment hesitate to
draw the sword in defence of his king. Poor Arthur!" he continued,
casting his eyes on the ground, and letting his mind wander over the
past,--"poor Arthur! thou wert as hopeful a youth as ever a mother was
blessed withal--as fair, as engaging a boy--and now thine unhappy
mother is sonless, as well widowed. I had hoped to have seated thee on
the throne of thine ancestors, and to have made thy mother's heart
glad in the sight of thy renewed prosperity. But thou art gone, poor
child! and left few so fair and noble behind. In faith, lords! I could
weep that boy's loss," continued the king, dashing a drop from his
proud eye. "His youth promised so splendidly, that his manhood must
have proved great.--Lord Abbot," he added gravely, turning to the
abbot of Three Fountains, "you have marked what has passed this
day--you have heard what I have heard,--and, if there needs any
farther answer to him that sent you to preach me from my purpose of
punishing a rebellious vassal, tell him that John of Anjou has added
murder to treachery; and that Philip of France will never sheathe the
sword till he has fully avenged the death of Arthur Plantagenet!"

"I have indeed heard what has passed, sire, with horror and dismay,"
replied the abbot; "but still, without at all seeking to impugn the
faith or truth of this good knight, whose deeds in defence of the holy
sepulchre have been heard of by all men, and warrant his Christian
truth--yet still he saw not the murder committed."

Philip knit his brow and gnawed his lip impatiently, glancing his eye
round the circle with a scornful and meaning smile; and muttering to
himself, "Roman craft--Roman craft!"

Whether the abbot heard it or not, he took instantly a higher tone. "I
irritate you, sir king!" said he, "by speaking truth; but still you
must thus far hear me. The pope--the holy head of the common Christian
church, finding himself called upon to exert all the powers entrusted
to him for the deliverance of the holy city of Jerusalem, has resolved
that he will compel all Christian kings to cease their private
quarrels, and lay by their vindictive animosities, till the great
object of giving deliverance to Christ's sepulchre be accomplished."

"Compel!" cried Philip, the living lightning flashing from his eyes.
"By heaven! priest, the king he can compel to sheathe the sword of
righteous vengeance out against a murderer is formed of different
metal from Philip of France. So tell the pontiff! Let him cast again
the interdict upon the land if he will. The next time I pray him to
raise it, shall be at the gates of Rome with my lance in my hand, and
my shield upon my breast. My supplication shall be the voice of
trumpets, and my kneeling the trampling of my war-horse in the courts
of the capitol.--What say ye, barons! Have I spoken well?"

"Well! Well! Well!" echoed the peers around, enraged beyond moderation
at the prelate's daring protection of a murderer; and at the same
moment the Duke of Burgundy laid the finger of his right hand upon the
pommel of his sword, with a meaning glance towards the king.

"Ay, Burgundy, my noble friend! thou art right," said Philip; "with
our swords we will show our freedom.--Look not scared, sir abbot, but
know, that we are not such children as to be deceived with tales of
holy wars, when the question is, whether a murderer shall be punished.
Away with such pretences! This war against the assassin of my noble
boy, Arthur of Brittany, is _my_ holy war, and never was one more just
and righteous.--Ha, Mountjoy!" he added, as the king of arms entered,
"we have a task for thee, fitted for so noble a knight and so learned
a herald. John of Anjou has murdered Arthur Plantagenet, his nephew,
in prison. Here stands in witness thereof. Sir Guy de Coucy--"

"Good knight and noble! if ever one lived," said the herald, bowing
his head to De Coucy.

"Go then to the false traitor John," continued the king, "defy him in
our name! tell him that we will have blood for blood; and that the
death of all the thousands which shall fall in his unrighteous quarrel
we cast upon his head. Tell him, that we will never sheathe the sword,
so long as he possesses one foot of ground in France; and that when we
have even driven him across his bulwark of the sea, we will overleap
that too, and the avenging blade shall plague him at his very
hearth.--Yet hold!" cried Philip, pausing in the midst of the passion
into which he had worked himself, and reining in his wrath, to guide
it in the course of his greater purposes; as a skilful charioteer
bends the angry and impetuous fire of his horses, to whirl him on with
more energetic celerity to the goal within his view. "Yet
hold!--------" and Philip carried his hand to his brow, catching, as
by inspiration, the outline of that bright stroke of policy which,
more than any other act of his whole reign, secured to the monarchs of
France the absolute supremacy of their rule--the judgment of John of
Anjou, the greatest feudatory of the crown, by the united peers of
France.

If he made the war against John a personal one between himself and the
king of England, he might be supported by his barons, and come off
victorious in the struggle, it was true; but if he summoned John, as
Duke of Normandy, to receive judgment from his sovereign court in a
case of felony, it established his jurisdiction over his higher
vassals, on a precedent such as none would ever dare in after years to
resist. It did more; for, if John were condemned by his peers, of
which Philip entertained not a moment's doubt, the barons of France
would be bound to support their own award; and the tie between them
and him would become, not the unstable one of voluntary service,
rendered and refused as caprice might dictate, but a strictly feudal
duty with which all would be interested to comply.

Philip saw, at a glance, the immense increase of stability which he
might give to his power by this great exercise of his rights; and,
clear-sighted himself, he hardly doubted that his barons would see it
also, and perhaps oppose his will. Certain, however, that by the
feudal system his right to summon John, and judge him in his court,
was clear and undeniable, he resolved to carry it through, at all
events; but determined, first, to propose it to his nobles as a
concession that he himself made to their privileges.

What is long and tedious, as the slow eye or slower pen travels over
the paper, is but the work of a moment to the mind; and Philip had, in
the pause of one brief instant, caught every consideration that
affected the idea before him, and determined upon his line of conduct.

"Hold!" said he to the herald--"hold! My lords," he continued, turning
to the nobles, by whom he was surrounded, "in my first wrath against
this base murderer, I had forgot that, though I have the indisputable
right of warring upon him as a monarch, yet I cannot justly punish him
as a felon, strictly speaking, without your judgment previously
pronounced upon him. I would not willingly trespass upon the
privileges of any of my noble vassals; and therefore, lords--you Dukes
of Burgundy and Champagne, and whatever other peers of France are
present, I resign the judgment of this John of Anjou into your hands.
I will summon him to appear before my court of peers, at the end of
twenty days, to answer the charges brought against him. The peers of
France shall judge him according to their honour and his demerits; and
I will stand by in arms, to see that judgment executed." The peers of
France could hardly have refused to assist at the trial to which
Philip called them, even had they been so willed; but, far behind the
monarch in intellect, and indignant at the baseness of John of Anjou,
they now eagerly expressed their approval of the king's determination;
and again plighted themselves to support him in his war against the
English sovereign, whether that war was maintained as a consequence of
the judgment they should give, or as a continuation of that which had
already commenced.

The herald, then, was instantly despatched to Rouen, for the purpose
of displaying the articles of accusation against John at the court of
Normandy, and of summoning him to appear on the twentieth day at
Paris, to answer the charges to be there substantiated. At the same
time, the legate of the holy see, very well convinced that, in the
present case, the thunders of the church would fall harmless at the
feet of Philip, though launched with ever so angry a hand, took leave
of the monarch with a discontented air; and as he left the hall, the
monarch's lip curled, and his eye lightened, with a foretaste of that
triumph which he anticipated over the proud priest who had so darkly
troubled the current of his domestic happiness.

"Beau Sire De Coucy," said the king, turning to the young knight with
a bland smile, as he recalled his thoughts from the contemplation of
the future, "notwithstanding the sad news you have brought us, you are
most welcome to the court of France. Nor will we fail to repay your
sufferings, as far as our poor means will go. In the mean while, we
beg of you to make our palace your home till such time as, with
sounding trumpets and lances in rest, we shall march to punish the
assassin of Arthur Plantagenet. Then shall you lead, to aid in the
revenge I know you thirst to take, all the fair host raised on the
lands of the Count de Tankerville, full a thousand archers and two
hundred knights. At supper, noble lords," continued the king, "I trust
that all here will grace my board with their presence. Ere then, I
have a bitter task to perform--to break to a fond mother the death of
her noble boy, and to soothe the sorrows of a helpless widow."



CHAPTER IX.


One unchanging cloud of perpetual sorrow lowered over the days of the
unhappy Agnes de Meranie. The hope that the council which had been
called to decide upon the king's divorce might pronounce a judgment
favourable to her wishes, dwindled gradually away, till its
flickering, uncertain light was almost more painful than the darkness
of despair. The long delays of the church of Rome, the tedious
minutiae of all its ceremonious forms, the cavillings upon words, the
endless technicalities, however sweet and enduring was her
disposition, wore her mind and her frame, and she faded away like a
rose at the end of summer, dropping leaf by leaf towards decay.

She delighted no longer in things wherein she had most joyed. The
opening flowers of the spring, the chanting of the wild melodious
birds, the reviving glow of all nature's face after the passing of the
long, chill winter, brought her no happiness. Her heart had lost its
young expansion. Her eye§ were covered with a dim, shadowy veil, that
gave its own dull, sombre hue to all that she beheld. Her ears were
closed against every sound that spoke of hope, or pleasure, or
enjoyment. Her life was one long, sad dream, overjoys passed away, and
happiness never to return.

For many and many an hour, she would wander about through the woods;
but when she saw the young green leaves opening out from the careful
covering with which nature had defended their infancy, she would
recall the time when, with her beloved husband, she had watched the
sweet progress of the spring, and would weep to find him no longer by
her side, and to see in the long, cold future an unchanging prospect
of the same dull vacancy. Often, too, she would stray to the top of
one of the high hills near the castle, and, gazing over the
wide-extended view--the sea of woods waving their tender green heads
below her--the mingling hills, and valleys, and plains beyond--the
windings of the broad river, with the rich, rich vale through which it
flows--and the distant gleams of towers and spires scattered over the
fair face of the bright land of France, she would sigh as she looked
upon the proud kingdom of her Philip, and would quickly shrink back
from the wide extension of the scene to the small limit of her heart's
feelings and her individual regrets.

She shrunk, too, from society. Her women followed, but followed at a
distance; for they saw that their presence importuned her; and it was
only when any message arrived from the king, or any news was brought
concerning the progress of his arms, that they broke in upon her
reveries. Then, indeed, Agnes listened as if her whole soul was in the
tale; and she made the narrators repeat over and over again every
small particular. She heard that one castle had fallen--that another
district had submitted--that this baron had come over to the crown of
France--or that city had laid its keys at the feet of Philip, dwelling
on each minute circumstance, both of warfare and of policy, with as
deep and curious an interest as if her life and hope had depended on
the issue of each particular movement.

It was remarked, too, that the oftener the name of Philip was repeated
in the detail, the more interest she appeared to take therein, and the
more minute was her questioning; and if any eminent success had
attended his arms, it would communicate a gleam of gladness to her
eyes, that hardly left them during the whole day.

At other times she spoke but little, for it seemed to fatigue her;
and, though from the blush of her cheek, which every evening seemed to
come back brighter and brighter, and from a degree of glistening
splendour in her eye, which grew more brilliant than it had ever been
even in her happier days, her women augured returning health, yet her
strength visibly failed; and that lovely hand, whose small but rounded
symmetry had been a theme for half the poets of France, grew pale and
thin, so that the one loved ring nearly dropped from the finger round
which it hung.

It was not from a love of new things or new faces, for no one was more
constant in all her affections than Agnes de Meranie; but though she
avoided even the society of her own immediate followers, several of
whom had attended upon her in her own land, yet Isadore of the Mount,
from the time she had taken refuge in the castle where she was still
detained by royal order, was often welcomed by the queen with a smile
that the others could not win.

Perhaps the secret was, that Isadore never tried to console her--that
she seemed to feel that the name of comfort under such circumstances
was but a mockery; and though she strove, gently and sweetly, to
divert the mind of the unhappy princess from the immediate subject of
her grief, she did it by soft degrees, and never sought for a gaiety
that she did not feel herself, and which she saw was sadly discordant
with all the feelings of the queen when affected by others in the hope
of pleasing her.

One morning, towards the end of March, on entering the apartments of
the queen, Isadore found her with her head bent over her hand, and her
eyes fixed upon the small circle of gold that had bound her to Philip
Augustus, while drop after drop swelled through the long lashes of her
eyelids, and fell upon the ring itself. Seeing that she wept, Isadore
was about to retire; for there is a sacredness in grief such as hers,
that a feeling heart would never violate.

The queen, however, beckoned her forward, and looking up, wiped the
tears away. "One must be at a sad pitch of fortune, Isadore," said
she, with a painful smile at her own melancholy conceit,--"one must be
at a sad pitch of fortune, when even inanimate things play the traitor
and leave us in our distress. This little magic symbol," she
continued, laying one finger of the other hand upon the ring,--"this
fairy token, that in general is destined to render two hearts happy or
miserable, according to the virtue of the giver and the receiver--it
has fallen from my finger this morning, though it has been my comfort
through many a sorrow. Is not that ominous, Isadore?"

"Of nothing evil, I hope, lady," replied Isadore. "Trust me, 'tis but
to show that it will be put on again under happier auspices."

"'Twill be in heaven, then," replied Agnes, fixing her eyes on the
thin fair hand which lay on the table before her. "'Twill be in
heaven, then! Do you too deceive yourself, lady?--Isadore, Isadore!
the canker-worm of grief has not only eaten the leaves of the blossom,
it has blasted it to the heart. I would not die if I could avoid my
fate, for it will give Philip pain; but for me, lady,--for me, the
grave is the only place of peace. Care must have made some progress
ere that ring, round which the flesh once rose up, as if to secure it
for ever as its own, would slip with its own weight to the ground."

Isadore bent her head, and was silent; for she saw, that to speak of
hope at that moment would be worse than vain.

"I had been trying," said the queen, clinging to the subject with a
sort of painful fondness,--"I had been trying to write something to
Constance of Brittany, that might console her for the loss of her poor
boy Arthur. But I blotted many a page in vain, and found how hard it
is to speak one word of comfort to real grief. I know not whether it
was that my mind still selfishly turned to my own sorrows, and took
from me the power of consoling those of others, or whether there is
really no such thing as consolation upon earth; but, still as I wrote,
I found each line more calculated to sadden than to cheer. At last I
abandoned the task, and letting my hand which had held the paper drop
beside me, this faithless pledge of as true a love as ever bound two
hearts, dropped from my finger and rolled away from me. Oh! Isadore,
'twas surely an evil omen! But it was not that which made me weep. As
I put it on again, I thought of the day that it had first shone upon
my hand, and all the images of lost happiness rose up around me like
the spectres of dead friends, calling me too to join the past; and oh!
how the bright and golden forms of those sunny days contrasted with
the cold, hard sorrow of each hour at present. Oh! Isadore, 'tis not
the present, I believe, that ever makes our misery; 'tis its contrast
with the past--'tis the loss of some hope, or the crushing of some
joy--the disappointment of expectation, or the regrets of memory. The
present is nothing--nothing--nothing, but in its relation to the
future or the past."

"How painful, then, must be that contrast to the poor duchess of
Brittany," said Isadore in reply, taking advantage of the mention that
the queen had made of Constance, to lead her mind away from the
contemplation of her own griefs. "How bitter must be her tears for
that gallant young Prince Arthur, when all France is weeping for him!
Not a castle throughout the land but rings, they say, with the tale of
his murder. Not a bosom but beats with indignation against his
assassin. I have just heard, that Sir Guy de Coucy, who was his
fellow-prisoner, defied John Lackland in the midst of his barons, and
cast down his gauntlet at the foot of the very throne. The messenger,"
she added, casting down her eyes as the queen raised hers, for there
came a certain tell-tale glow into her cheek as she spoke of De Coucy,
that she did not care to be remarked,--"the messenger you sent to the
canon of St. Berthe's has but now returned, bringing news from Paris
concerning the court of peers held upon the murderer, and affirming
that he has refused to appear before the barons of France--at least,
so says my girl Eleanor."

The news of Arthur's death, and various particulars concerning it, had
spread in vague rumours to every castle in France. Many and various
were the shapes which the tale had assumed, but of course it had
reached Agnes de Meranie and her suite in somewhat of a more authentic
form. All that concerned Philip in any way was of course a matter of
deep interest to her, Isadore's plan for withdrawing her mind for the
moment from herself had therefore its full effect, and she instantly
directed the messenger to be brought to her, for the purpose of
learning from him all that had occurred at the court of peers, to
which assembly, however, we shall conduct our reader in his own
person.



CHAPTER X.


To those who have not studied the spirit of the feudal system, it
would seem an extraordinary and almost inconceivable anomaly, that one
sovereign prince should have the power of summoning to his court, and
trying as a felon, another, of dominions scarcely less extensive than
his own. But the positions of vassal and lord were not so incoherent
or ill-defined as may be imagined. Each possessor of a feof, at the
period of his investiture, took upon himself certain obligations
towards the sovereign under whom he held, from which nothing could
enfranchise him, as far as that feof was concerned; and upon his
refusing, or neglecting to comply with those obligations, the
territory enfeofed or granted returned in right to what was called the
capital lord, or him, in short, who granted it.

To secure, however, that even justice should be done between the
vassal and the lord--each equally an interested party--it became
necessary that some third person, or body of persons, should possess
the power of deciding on all questions between the other two. Thus it
became a fundamental principle of the feudal system, that no vassal
could be judged but by his peers,--that is to say, by persons holding
in the same relative position as himself, from the same superior. For
the purpose of rendering these judgments, each great baron held, from
time to time, his court, composed of vassals holding directly from
himself; and, in like manner, the king's court of peers was competent
to try all causes affecting the feudatories who held immediately from
the crown.

John therefore was summoned to appear before the court of Philip
Augustus, not as King of England, which was an independent
sovereignty, but as Duke of Normandy, and Lord of Anjou, Poitou, and
Guyenne, all feofs of the crown of France. No one, therefore, doubted
the competence of the court, and John himself dared not deny its
authority.

It was a splendid sight, the palace of the Louvre on the morning
appointed for the trial. Each of the great barons of France, anxious
that none of his peers should outvie him in the splendour of his
train, had called together all his most wealthy retainers, and
presented himself at the court of the king, followed by a host of
knights and nobles, clothed in the graceful flowing robes worn in that
day, shining with gold and jewels, and flaunting with all the gay
colours that the art of dyeing could then produce. Silks and velvets,
and cloths of gold and silver, contended in gorgeous rivalry, in the
courts and antechambers of the palace. Flags and pennons, banners and
banderols, fluttered on the breeze; while all the most beautiful
horses that could be procured, were led in the various trains, by the
pages and squire, unmounted; as if their graceful forms were too noble
to bear even the burden of a prince.

In the great hall itself the scene was more solemn, but scarcely less
magnificent. Around, in the midst of all the gorgeous decorations of a
royal court on its day of solemn ceremony, sat all the highest and
noblest of France, clothed in those splendid robes of ermine, which,
independent of any associations of their value, from the very snowy
whiteness, and the massy folds into which that peculiar fur falls,
gives an idea of majesty and grandeur that no other dress can convey.
Each bore upon his coroneted[27] brow the lines of stern and
impressive gravity; for all deeply felt how solemn was the occasion on
which they had met, how terrible was the cause of their assembly, and
how mighty would be the consequences of their decision. The feeling
was near akin to awe; and many of the younger peers scarcely seemed to
breathe, lest they should disturb the silence.


--------------------

[Footnote 27: Seldon has said that the custom of bearing coronets by
peers is of late days. In this assertion, however, he is apparently
mistaken, the proofs of which may be seen at large in Ducange,
Dissért, xxiv. R. Hoved. 792. Hist. des Compte de Poitou, &c. The
matter is of little consequence, except so far as the representation
of the manners and customs of the times is affected by it.]

--------------------


In the centre, surrounded by all the insignia of royalty, upon a
throne raised several steps above the hall, and covered by a dais of
crimson and gold, sat Philip Augustus--a monarch indeed, in mind, in
person, and in look. There was a simple bandlet of gold around his
brows[28], raised with _fleurs de lis_, and jewelled with fine uncut
stones; but the little distinction which existed between it and the
coronets of his peers would have hardly marked the sovereign. Though
personal appearance, however, is indeed no sign of dignity, either of
mind or station, yet Philip Augustus was not to be mistaken. There was
royalty in his eye and his carriage. The custom of command shone out
in every line; and though there were many noble and princely persons
present, there was none like him.

--------------------

[Footnote 28: The closed crown was not introduced until the reign of
Louis XII. or Francis I.]

--------------------


On the king's left hand stood Mountjoy, king-at-arms, holding a
scroll, containing the appeal of Constance, Duchess of Brittany, to
the peers of France, for the punishment of John, called unjustly--it
went on to state--King of England, for the murder of Arthur
Plantagenet, his nephew and born sovereign, her son.

On the right, stood De Coucy, neither armed nor clothed in his robes
as peer, though, however small his territories, their being free and
held under no one, gave him such a right; but being there as the chief
accuser of John, he sat not of course amongst those called to judge
him.

Several of the peers' seats were vacant; and, before proceeding to the
immediate business on which the court had met, various messengers were
admitted, to offer the excuses of the several barons, who, either from
want of power or inclination, were not present in person. The apology
of most was received as sufficient; but, at the names of several, the
king's brow darkened, and he turned a meaning look to his chancellor,
Guerin, who stood at a little distance.

When this part of the ceremony was concluded, Philip made a sign to
the king of arms, who, having waved his hand to still a slight murmur
that had been caused by the admission of the messengers, proceeded to
read the petition of Constance of Brittany; and then, followed by a
train of heralds and marshals, advanced to the great doors of the
hall, which were thrown open at his approach; and, in a loud voice,
summoned John, Duke of Normandy, to appear before the peers of France,
and answer to the charge of Constance Duchess of Brittany.

Three times he repeated the call, as a matter of ceremony; and,
between each reiteration, the trumpets sounded, and then gave a pause
for reply.

At length, after a brief conversation with some persons without, the
heralds returned, introducing two persons as deputies for John, who,
as every one there already knew, was not, and would not be present.
The one was a bishop, habited in his pontifical robes, and the other
the well-known Hubert de Burgh.

"Sir deputies, you are welcome," said the king, as the two Normans
advanced to the end of the table in the centre of the hall. "Give us
the cause why John of Anjou does not present himself before his peers,
to answer the charges against him? Say, is he sick to the death? Or,
does he dare deny the competence of my court?"

"He is neither sick, sire," replied the bishop, "nor does he, as Duke
of Normandy, at all impugn the authority of the peers of France to
judge upon all questions within the limits of this kingdom." Philip's
brow relaxed. "But," continued the bishop, "before trusting himself in
a city, and a land, where he has many and bitter enemies, he demands
that the King of France shall guarantee his safety."

"Willingly," replied Philip; "let him come! I will warrant him from
harm or from injustice."

"But will you equally stake your royal word," demanded the bishop,
fixing his eyes keenly on the king, as if he feared some deceit--"will
you stake your royal word that he shall return safely to his own
land?"

"Safely shall he return," replied the king, with a clear, marked, and
distinct voice, "if the judgment of his peers permit him so to do."

"But if the peers condemn him," asked the bishop, "will you give him a
safe conduct?"

"No! by the Lord of heaven and earth!" thundered the king. "No! If his
peers condemn him, he shall suffer the punishment his peers award,
should they doom him to the block, the cord, or the wheel! Their
sentence shall be executed to the letter."

"You well know then, sire king," replied the bishop calmly, "that
John, King of England, cannot submit himself to your court. The realm
of England cannot be put at the disposition of the barons of France,
by its king submitting to their judgment; neither would our English
barons suffer it."

"What is that to me?" cried Philip. "Because my vassal, the Duke of
Normandy, increases his domains, do I, as his sovereign, lose my
rights? By heaven's host, no! Go, heralds, to the courts, and the
bridges, and the highways, and summon John of Anjou to present himself
before his peers! Sir bishop, you have done your embassy; and, if you
stay but half an hour, you shall hear the judgment of our court, on
the cause of which we have met to take cognizance."

The bishop, however, and his companion, took their leave and departed;
the bishop bowing low, in reverence to the court; and the stout Hubert
de Burgh turning away after a calm careless glance round the peers of
France, as if he had just concluded a piece of needless ceremony, of
which he was heartily tired.

For a moment or two after the deputies were gone, the barons continued
to converse together in a whisper, while Philip sat without speaking,
glancing his quick keen eye from one countenance to another, as if he
would gather beforehand the terms of the judgment they were afterwards
to pronounce. Gradually, complete silence began again to spread itself
over the court; one baron after another dropping the conversation that
he held with his neighbour, till all was still. There is always
something awful in very profound silence; but when the silence of
expectation on any great occasion has been prolonged for any extent of
time, it becomes a sort of painful charm, which requires no small
resolution to break.

Thus the peers of France, when once the stillness had completely
established itself, sat without word or motion, waiting the return of
the heralds, awed by the very quiet; though many of the more timid and
undecided would fain have asked counsel of those next whom they sat,
had they dared to break the spell that seemed to hang over the
assembly.

Many a vague doubt and many a fear attached itself to the duty they
were called upon to perform; for, even in that day, it was no small
responsibility to set a world in arms, and renew that deluge of
bloodshed that had so lately ceased. From time to time, under the
influence of these feelings, the several peers gazed in the
countenances of their fellows, to see if they were shaken by the same
hesitations as themselves. But it is ever the bold that lead; and here
and there, scattered through the assembly, might be seen a face that
turned to no one for advice or support; but, with the eyes fixed on
the ground, the brow bent, and the lips closed, seemed to offer a
picture of stern determined resolution. It was these men who decided
the deliberations of the day. For their opinions all waited, and all
voices followed their lead.

At length the doors of the hall were again thrown open; and Mountjoy
king-at-arms, presented himself, informing the court that he had
summoned John of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, in the courts, on the
bridges, and the highways; and that he did not appear.

There was now a deep pause, and Philip turned his eyes to the Duke of
Burgundy. He was a man of a dull, saturnine aspect, stout even to
corpulency, with shaggy eyebrows overhanging his dark eyes, but with a
high, finely formed nose, and small, well-shaped mouth, so that his
countenance was stern without being morose, and striking without being
handsome.

The great baron rose from his seat, while there was a breathless
silence all around; and laying his hand upon his heart, he said in a
clear stern tone, "I pronounce John of Anjou guilty of murder and
disloyalty; I hold him a cruel and perverse traitor; and I declare
that for these crimes, his feofs of Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Maine,
and Guyenne, are justly forfeited to his sovereign lord, and he
himself worthy of death, upon my honour!"

A murmur of approbation succeeded, for a great proportion of the
barons had already determined upon a similar judgment; and those who
had remained undecided, were glad of some one with whose opinion to
establish their own. One after another now rose; and, notwithstanding
all the hesitation which many had felt the moment before, there was
not one dissenting voice from the condemnation pronounced by the Duke
of Burgundy. Had there been any strong mind to oppose, half the peers
would have followed him like a flock of sheep, but there was none; and
they now all eagerly, and almost turbulently, pronounced judgment
against John of Anjou, sentencing him unanimously to forfeiture of all
his feofs, and every pain inflicted on high felony.

The silence was succeeded by a babble of tongues perfectly
extraordinary; but the moment after, the voice of the king was heard
above the rest, and all was again hushed.

What would in the present day smack of stage effect, was in perfect
harmony with the manners, habits, and feelings of those times, when a
spirit unknown to us--a moving principle whose force is now exhausted,
or only felt even feebly in the breasts of a few--the spirit of
chivalry, impelled men to every thing that was singular and striking.

Philip rose majestically from his throne, drew his sword from the
scabbard, and, advancing to the table, laid the weapon upon it naked.
Then, gazing round the peers, he exclaimed, "To arms! to arms! nobles
of France, your judgment is pronounced! 'tis time to enforce it with
the sword!--to arms! to arms I lose no moments in vain words. Call
together your vassals. Philip of France marches to execute your
sentence against John of Anjou; and he calls on his barons to support
their award! The day of meeting is the tenth from this, the place of
_monstre_ beneath the walls of château Galliard! let cowards leave me,
and brave men follow me! and I will punish the traitor before a year
be out."

So saying, he waved his hand to his peers; and, followed by the
heralds and men-at-arms, left the hall of assembly.

The younger and less clear-sighted of the peers eagerly applauded
Philip's brief appeal! but there was, in fact, a tone of triumph in
it, which struck the more deep-thinking barons, and perhaps made them
fear that they had that day consecrated a power, which might sooner or
later be used against themselves. Doubt kept them silent, however; and
they separated at once, to prepare for the campaign before them.

Philip Augustus lost no time. Scarcely had the herald carried to John
of England the news of his condemnation by the court of peers, than
every part of his dominions in France were invaded at once with an
overpowering force.

Disgusted with his baseness, his treachery, and his levity, the barons
of England afforded him but little aid, and the nobles of his French
dominions, in most instances, yielded willingly to the king of France,
who offered them friendship and protection on which they could rely.
The greater towns, indeed, of Maine and Normandy still held for John,
and made some show of resistance: but what by superior force and skill
in war, and what by politic concessions, before two months were over
the major part had been led to submit to Philip.

The war was of course begun, as was ever the case in those days, by
hordes of plunderers of every description, who, on the very first call
to arms, inundated Normandy, pillaging, ravaging, and destroying,
sparing neither sex nor age, and, by their excesses, driving the
people to submit willingly to the authority of the French monarch, who
alone could afford them any sufficient protection. To the towns,
Philip held out the promise of being rendered free communes under
royal charters; to the barons he offered security in all their rights
and privileges; and to the people, peace and safety. With these
offers, and the sight of their accomplishment wherever they were
accepted, on the one hand, and an immense and conquering army on the
other, it is not at all wonderful that triumph should follow every
where the royal standard of France.

John fled timidly into Guyenne, while the Earl of Salisbury, with
small and inefficient forces, endeavoured in some degree to check the
progress of the French monarch. Battles there were none, for the
inequality of the two armies totally prevented William Longsword from
hazarding any thing like a general engagement; but sieges and
skirmishes succeeded each other rapidly; and De Coucy had now the
opportunity of drinking deep the cup of glory for which he had so long
thirsted.

At the head of the retainers of the Count de Tankerville, which formed
as splendid a leading as any in the army, he could display those high
military talents, which had always hitherto been confined to a
narrower sphere. He did not neglect the occasion of doing so, and in
castle and in bower, throughout all the land of France, wherever great
deeds were spoken of, there was repeated the name of Sir Guy de Coucy.

In the mean while, still confined to the castle of Rolleboise, Isadore
of the Mount heard, from day to day, of her lover's feats of arms;
and, though she often trembled for his safety, with those timid fears
from which a woman's heart, even in the days of chivalry, was never
wholly free; yet, knowing the impulse that carried him forward, and
proud of the affection that she had inspired and that she returned,
whenever the name of the young knight was mentioned, her eye sparkled
and her cheek glowed with love, and hope, and expectation.

Her father, she thought, after the base attempt made to carry her off
by William de la Roche Guyon--of the particulars of which she was now
fully aware--would never press her to wed so base a traitor; and who
stood so fair to win the place that he had lost as Guy de Coucy? Thus
whispered hope. Fear, however, had another discourse; and perhaps she
listened as often to the tale of the one, as the other.

During this time, the Count d'Auvergne had recovered from the wound he
had received; and, under the care of his own attendants, who, by the
clue afforded by De Coucy, had regained him, soon acquired new
strength--at least, of body. It was remarked, however, that, though
while suffering excessive exhaustion from loss of blood, his mind had
been far more clear and collected; yet, in proportion as he recovered
his corporeal vigour, his intellectual faculties again abandoned him.
His followers, who, notwithstanding the cold sternness of his manners,
loved him with true feudal attachment, kept a continual watch upon
him; but it was in vain they did so. With a degree of cunning, often
joined to insanity, he contrived to deceive all eyes; and once more
made his escape, leaving not a trace by which he could be followed.

Such was the situation of all the personages concerned in this
history, towards the end of the month of June; when suddenly the Earl
of Salisbury, with the handful of men who had accompanied him, ceasing
to hover round the king's army, harassing it with continued
skirmishes, as had been his custom, disappeared entirely, leaving all
Normandy open and undefended, A thousand vague reports were instantly
circulated through the camp; but the only correct one was, that which
was brought to the king's tent, as he sat writing after the march of
the morning.

"Well," cried Philip, as one of his most active scouts was ushered
into his presence, "what news of the Earl of Salisbury? No more _I
believes!_ Give me some certainty."

"My lord," replied the man, "I am now sure; for I saw the rear-guard
of his army in full march towards Boulogne. Mocking the jargon of the
Normans, I spoke with some of the men, when I found that the whole
host is boon for Flanders."

"Ha! so soon!" cried the king. "I knew not that they were so far
prepared."

But, to explain the king's words, we must turn to the events which had
been going on without the immediate limits of France, and which, while
he was striding from victory to victory within his own dominions,
threatened to overwhelm him by the combination of his external
enemies, with all his discontented vassals.



CHAPTER XI.


During the wars in Normandy and Maine, John had been absent, but not
inactive; and, what by his single power he could not bring about, he
resolved to accomplish by coalition. Many causes of enmity towards
Philip Augustus existed amongst all the monarchs by whose territories
his kingdom was surrounded, and not less amongst his own immediate
vassals; and John at once saw, that his only hope of ever regaining
the feofs that Philip had wrested from him, was in joining his own
power with those of every enemy of the French monarch, and hurling
him, by their united efforts, from the throne.

The English sovereign found no opposition to these schemes of policy.
Otho, emperor of Germany, had met in Philip an unceasing and
irreconcileable adversary. Philip it was who had principally opposed
his election; Philip it was who had raised candidate after candidate
against him. Philip it was who had taken advantage of his late
quarrels with the irritable pope; and had, even after his coronation,
thrown in a rival, and placed the greater part of Upper Germany in the
hands of Frederic of Sicily. Otho, therefore, thirsted for vengeance;
and the proposal of a general confederacy against the French monarch
but fulfilled his hopes and anticipated his efforts.

Ferrand, count of Flanders, was not less easily won to join the
coalition. One of the greatest vassals of the crown of France, with
territories more extensive than the royal domain itself, he had ever
been jealous of Philip's increasing power, and had, by many a breach
of his feudal duties, endeavoured to loosen the tie that bound him to
his sovereign. By the example of John, however, he now began to see
that such breach of duty would not pass unpunished. Views of ambition,
too, joined themselves to hatred and fear. He saw prospects of
independence, of sovereignty, and immense territorial aggrandisement,
as the infallible consequence of Philip's overthrow; and he therefore
was one of the first to put his name to the confederation. So great an
alliance once established, thousands of minor princes joined
themselves to it, eager to share the spoil. The dukes of Brabant and
Lemburgh, the counts of Holland, Namur, and Boulogne, whether vassals
of the king of France or not, all found some motive to unite against
him, and some excuse to their own conscience, for throwing off the
homage they had vowed.

In the mean time, the disaffection of Philip's vassals in the heart of
his kingdom was great and increasing. The immense strides which the
monarchical power had taken under his guidance; the very vast increase
of authority they had themselves cast into his hands by their judgment
against John: the extensive increase of absolute domain, which his
prompt and successful execution of that judgment had given him, made
each baron tremble for his own power; while, at the same time,
Philip's protection of the communes, his interference in matters of
justice and general right, and the appeal he granted in his court as
supreme lord against the decisions of his great vassals, made each
also tremble for the stability of the feudal system itself.

John took care to encourage discontent and apprehension. A thousand
rumours were spread concerning Philip's views and intentions. Some
declared that his ambitious mind would never be at peace till he had
re-established the empire of Charlemagne--till he had broken the power
of the barons, and wrested from their hands the administration of
justice in their territories. Some said that his plans were already
formed for throwing down their strongholds, and possessing himself of
their lands; and there was not, in fact, a report, however
extravagant, that could irritate the fears and jealousies of the
nobles of France against their king, that was not cunningly devised,
and industriously circulated.

Some believed, and some pretended to believe; and nothing was heard
of, from all parts of the kingdom, but preparations for revolt.

In the mean while, Philip was, as we have already shown, steadily
pursuing his operations against John, the more anxious for success,
because he knew that one defeat would at once call the storm upon his
head. He suffered himself not to be turned from the business he had in
hand by threatenings of any kind, having secured what he considered
sufficient support amongst his barons to repel his external enemies
and punish internal rebellion. He saw too, with that keen sagacity
which was one of his peculiar qualities, that passions were beginning
to mingle themselves in the confederacy of his enemies, which would in
time weaken their efforts, if not disunite them entirely. These
passions were not those doubts and jealousies of each other, which so
often overthrow the noblest alliances; but rather that wild and eager
grasping after the vast and important changes which can only be
brought about by the operation of many slow and concentring causes.

The designs of the confederates spread as they found their powers
increase. Their first object had been but to make war upon Philip
Augustus. Perhaps even the original proposal extended but to curb his
authority, and reduce him to the same position with his predecessors.
Gradually, however, they determined to cast him and his race from the
throne; and, calculating upon the certainty of success, they proceeded
by treaty to divide his dominions amongst them. Otho was assigned his
part, John his, and Ferrand of Flanders claimed Paris and all the
adjacent territory for himself. All laws and customs established by
Philip were to be done away, and the feudal system restored, as it had
been seen a century and a half before. Various other changes were
determined upon; but that which was principally calculated to destroy
their alliance, was the resolution to attack the power of the church,
and to divide its domains amongst the barons and the knights.

John had felt the lash of a papal censure; and, though the
ecclesiastical authority had been exercised for the purpose of raising
Otho to the imperial throne, he also had since experienced the weight
of the church's domination, and had become inimical to the sway by
which he had been formerly supported. Nothing then was spoken of less
than reducing the power of Rome, and seizing on the luxurious wealth
of the clergy.

Innocent the pope heard and trembled; and, though he the very first
had laid the basis of the confederacy against the French monarch, he
now saw consequences beyond it, that made him use every effort to stop
it in its career; but it was in vain. The hatreds he raised up against
Philip in his own dominions--the fears he had excited, and the
jealousies he had stimulated, were now producing their fruits; and a
bitter harvest they promised against himself. At the same time, as he
contemplated the approaching struggle, which was hurrying on with
inconceivable rapidity to its climax, he beheld nothing but danger
from whatever party might prove victorious. Over the King of France,
however, he fancied he had some check, so long as the question of his
divorce remained undecided, and consequently the usual doubts and
hesitations of the church of Rome were prolonged even beyond their
ordinary measure of delay.

The confederation had not been so silent in its movements but that the
report thereof had reached the ears of Philip Augustus. Care had been
taken, however, that the immediate preparations should be made as
privately as possible, so that the first intimation that the troops of
the coalition were actually in the field against him, was given by the
movement of the Earl of Salisbury, upon Flanders.

After that moment, however, "post after post came thick as hail,"
announcing the various motions of the allies. A hundred and fifty
thousand men, of all nations and arms, were already assembled on the
banks of the Scheld. John of England was in arms in Poitou; and more
than twenty strong places had submitted to him without a stroke.
Otho's imperial banner was given to the wind; and fresh thousands were
flocking to it every hour, as if his very Gothic name had called
together the myriads of the North to a fresh invasion of the more
civilised world.

At the same time, revolt and disaffection were manifest through every
district of Languedoc; and some of the nearest relations and oldest
friends of the French monarch swelled the ranks of his enemies. Such
were the tidings that every courier brought; and such were the forces
that threatened to overwhelm the kingdom of France and overthrow its
throne.

It would be vain to say that Philip Augustus saw such a mighty
combination against him without alarm; but it was not the alarm of a
weak and feeble mind, which yields to difficulties, or shrinks from
danger. No sooner did he hear the extent to which his enemies'
preparations had been carried--an extent which he had not fully
anticipated--than he issued his charter, convoking the _ban_ and
_arrière ban_ of France to meet at Soissons, and calling to his aid
all good men and true throughout his dominions.

Though far inferior in number to his enemies, the force he mustered
was any thing but insignificant. Then appeared the gratitude of the
communes towards the king who had enfrachised them. By their charters
they were bound to furnish a certain number of armed men in times of
need; but on this occasion there is every reason to believe that they
far exceeded their quota.

Nor were the nobles and the knights a few who presented themselves at
the _monstre_ at Soissons. Seldom had France shown so brilliant a
display of chivalry; and even their inferiority of number was more
than compensated by their zeal and their renown in arms.

First passed before the monarch, as he sat on his battle-horse
surrounded by the troops of his own domains, his faithful vassal,
Eudes, Duke of Burgundy, followed by all his vassals, vavassours, and
knights, with a long train of many thousand archers and men-at-arms
from all the vast lands of his kingly dukedom.

Next came Thibalt of Champagne, yet in his green youth, but
accompanied by his uncle Philip, and a contingent of knights and
soldiers that was an army in itself. Then succeeded the Counts of
Dreux, Auxerre, Ponthieu, and St. Paul, each with a long train of
men-at-arms. De Coucy leading the troops of Tankerville, the Lords of
Montmorency, of Malvoisin, St. Valary, Mareiul, and Roye, with the
Viscount of Melun, and the famous Guillaume des Barres, followed
after; while the troops willingly raised by the clergy, and the long
trains of archers and men-at-arms furnished by the free cities,
completed the line, and formed an army of more than eighty thousand
men, all bedecked with glittering banners and dancing plumes, which
gave the whole that air of splendour and pageant that excites
enthusiasm and stimulates hope.

The king's eyes lightened with joy as he looked upon them; and
conscious of his own great powers of mind to lead to the best effect
the noble host before him, he no longer doubted of victory.

"Now," said he in his own breast, as he thought of all that the last
few years had brought--the humiliation that the pope had inflicted on
him--the agony of his parting from Agnes--the vow that had been
extorted from him not to see her till the council had pronounced upon
his divorce, if its sentence should be given within six months--the
long delays of the church of Rome, which had now nearly protracted its
deliberations beyond that period--the treason which the proceedings of
Innocent had stirred up amongst his vassals, mingled with the memory
of torn affections and many bitter injuries--"now! it shall be my turn
to triumph, Agnes! I will soon be thine, or in the grave! and let me
see the man, prelate or prince, who, when I have once more clasped
thy hand in mine, shall dare to pluck it thence! Now, now!" he
murmured,--"now the turn is mine!"

Detaching a part of his new-raised army to keep in check the forces of
King John in Poitou, Philip Augustus, without a moment's delay,
marched to meet the chief body of the confederates in Flanders.

All the horrors of a great and bloody warfare soon followed the bodies
of plunderers and adventurers that went before the army, burning,
pillaging, and destroying every thing, as they advanced beyond the
immediate territories of the king. Nothing was beheld as the army
advanced, but smoking ruins, devastated fields, and the dead bodies of
women and children, mingled with the half-consumed carcasses of
cattle, and the broken implements of industry and domestic comfort. It
was a piteous and sad sight to see all the pleasant dwellings of a
land laid waste, the hopes of the year's labour all destroyed; and the
busy human emmets, that had there toiled and joyed, swept away as if
the wing of a pestilence had brushed the face of the earth, or lying
murdered on their desolate hearths.

Philip Augustus, more refined than his age, strove to soften the
rigours of warfare by many a proclamation against all useless
violence; but in that day such proclamations were in vain; and the
very unsheathing of war's flaming sword scorched up the land before it
struck.

In the mean while, the Imperial forces, now swelled to more than two
hundred thousand men, marched eagerly to meet the king, and about the
same time each army arrived within a few miles of Tournay.

Both chieftains longed for a battle, yet the ardour of Philip's forces
was somewhat slackened since their departure from Soissons. Ferrand of
Flanders and his confederates had contrived, with infinite art, to
seduce some of the followers of the French monarch, and to spread
doubt and suspicion over many others; so that Philip's reliance was
shaken in his troops, and most of the leaders divided amongst
themselves.

Such' continued the doubtful state of the royal army when Philip
arrived at Tournay, and heard that the emperor, with all his forces,
was encamped at the village of Mortain, within ten miles of the city;
but still the king resolved to stake all upon a battle; for, though
his troops were inferior, he felt that his own superior mind was a
host; and he saw that, if the disaffection which was reported really
existed amongst his barons, delay would but increase it in a tenfold
degree.

The evening had come, all his preparations were over he had summoned
his barons to council in an hour; and, sitting in a large chamber of
the old castle of Tournay, Philip had given order that he should not
be disturbed.

He felt, as it were, a thirst for calm and tranquil thought. The last
few months of his existence had been given up to all the energy of
action; his reflections had been nothing but eternal calculation--the
combination of his own movements--the anticipation of his enemy's--
plans of battle and policy; and all the thousand momentary anxieties
that press upon the general of a large and ill-organised army. He had
thought deeply and continually, it is true; but he had not time for
thoughts of that grand and extensive nature that raise and dignify the
mind every time they are indulged. Though Agnes, too, was still the
secret object that gave life and movement to all his energies--though
he loved her still with that deep, powerful love that is seldom
permitted to share the heart with ambition--though she, in fact, was
his ambition's object, and though the battle to which he strode would,
if won, place in his hands such power, that none should dare to hold
her from him--yet he had scarcely hitherto had an instant to bestow on
those calmer, sweeter, gentler ideas, where feeling mingles with
reflection, and relieves the mind from petty calculation and workday
cares. There are surely two distinct parts linked together in the
human soul--feeling and thought:--the thought, that receives, that
separates, that investigates, that combines;--the feeling, that hopes,
that wishes, that enjoys, that creates.

Philip Augustus, however, felt a thirst for that calm reflection,
wherein feeling has the greater shared and, covering his eyes with his
hands, he now abandoned himself to it altogether. The coming day was
to be a day of bloodshed and of strife,--a day that was to hurl him
from a throne, or to crown him with immortal renown,--to leave him a
corpse on the cold field of battle, or to increase his power and
glory, and restore him to Agnes. He thought of it long and deeply. He
thought of what would be Agnes' grief if she heard that her husband,
that her lover had fallen before his enemies; and he wrung his own
heart by picturing the agony of hers. Then again came brighter
visions. Hope rose up and grew into expectation; and he fancied what
would be her joy, when, crowned with the laurel of victory, and
scoffing to shame the impotent thunder of the Roman church, he should
clasp her once more in his arms, and bid her tread upon the necks of
her enemies. Ambition perhaps had its share in his breast, and his
thoughts might run on to conquest yet to come, and to mighty schemes
of polity and aggrandisement; but still Agnes had therein a share. In
the chariot of victory, or on the imperial throne, imagination always
placed her by his side.

His dream was interrupted by a quick step, and the words, "My lord!"
and, uncovering his eyes, he beheld Guerin advancing from behind the
tapestry that fell over the door.

"What now, Guerin?" cried the king somewhat impatiently. "What now?"

"My lord," replied the minister, "I would not have intruded, but that
I have just seen a fellow, who brings tidings from the enemy's camp,
of such importance, I judged that you would willingly give ear to it
yourself."

"Knowest thou the man?" demanded Philip: "I love not spies."

"I cannot say with any certainty, that I have before seen him, sire,"
replied Guerin, "though I have some remembrance of his face. He says,
however, that he was foot-servant to Prince Arthur, who hired him at
Tours; and he gives so clear an account of the taking of Mirebeau, and
the subsequent disasters, that there is little doubt of his tale. He
says moreover, that, being taken there with the rest, Lord Salisbury
has kept him with him since, to dress one of his horses; till, finding
himself so near the royal army, he made his escape like a true man."

"Admit him," said the king: "his tale is a likely one."

Guerin retired for a moment; and then returned, with a bony, powerful
man, whose short cut hair, long beard, and mustachoes, offered so
different an appearance to the face of anything like a Frenchman in
those days, that Philip gazed on him with some doubts.

"How, fellow!" cried he; "thou art surely some Polack, no true
Frenchman, with thy beard like a hermit's, and thy hair like a
hedge-hog!"

The man's tongue, however, at once showed that he claimed France for
his country justly; and his singular appearance he accounted for, by
saying it was a whim of the Earl of Salisbury.

"Answer me then," said the king, looking upon him somewhat sternly.
"Where were your tents pitched in the enemy's camp?--You will find I
know their forces as well as you; and if you deceive me, you die."

"The tents of the Earl of Salisbury are pitched between those of the
Count of Holland and the troops of the emperor, so please you, sire,"
replied the man boldly. "I came to tell you the truth, not to deceive
you."

"You have spoken truth in one thing, at least," replied the monarch.
"One more question," he continued, looking at some notes on the
table,--"one more question, and thou shalt tell thy tale thy own way.
What troops lie behind those of the Duke of Brabant, and what are
their number?"

"The next tents to those of the Duke of Brabant," replied the man,
"are those of the Duke of Lorraine, amounting, they say in the camp,
to nine hundred knights and seven thousand men-at-arms."

"Thou art right in the position, fellow, and nearly right in the
number," replied the king, "therefore will I believe thee. Now repeat
the news that you gave to that good knight."

"May it please you, sire," replied the man, with a degree of boldness
that amounted almost to affectation, "late last night, a council was
held in the tent of the emperor; and the Earl of Salisbury chose me to
hold his horse near the entrance of the tent,--for he is as proud an
Englishman as ever buckled on spurs;--and, though all the other
princes contented themselves with leaving their horses on the outside
of the second guard, he must needs ride to the very door of the tent,
and have his horse held there till he came out."

"By my faith! 'tis like their island pride!" said the king. "Each
Englishman fancies himself equal to a prince. But proceed with thy
tale, and be quick, for the hour of the council approaches."

"My story is a very short one, sire," replied the man, "for it was but
little I heard. However, after they had spoken within the tent for
some time in a low voice, the emperor's tongue sounded very loud, as
if some one had opposed him; and I heard him say, 'He will march
against us, whatever be the peril--I know him well; and then, at the
narrow passage of Damarets we will cut them off to a man, for Sir Guy
de Coucy has promised to embarrass their rear with the men of
Tankerville;--and he will keep his word too!' cried the emperor
loudly, as if some one had seemed to doubt it, 'for we have promised
him the hand of his lady love, the daughter of Count Julian of the
Mount, if we win the victory.'

"Ha!" cried the king, turning his eyes from the countenance of the
informer to that of Guerin,--"ha! this is treason, indeed! Said they
aught else, fellow, that you heard?"

"They spoke of there being many traitors in your host, sire," replied
the man; "but they named none else but Sir Guy de Coucy; and just then
I heard the Earl of Salisbury speak as if he were walking to the mouth
of the tent. 'If Philip discovers his treason,' said he, 'he will cut
off his head, and then your plan is nought.' Just as he spoke, he came
out, and seeing me stand near the tent, he bade me angrily go farther
off, so that I heard no more."

"Have Sir Guy de Coucy to prison!" said the king, turning to Guerin.
"By the holy rood! we will follow the good Earl of Salisbury's plan,
and have one traitor less in the camp!"

As he heard these words, the eyes of the informer sparkled with a
degree of joy, that did not escape the keen observing glance of the
king; but, wishing to gain more certain knowledge, he thanked him with
condescending dignity for the news he had given, and told him to wait
amongst the serjeants of arms below, till the council should be over,
when the chancellor would give him a purse of gold, as a reward for
his services. The man with a low reverence retired. "Follow, Guerin,"
cried Philip hastily. "Bid some of the serjeants look to him narrowly,
but let them treat him well. Lead him to babble, if it be possible.
However, on no account let him escape. Have this De Coucy to prison
too, though I doubt the tale."

Guerin turned to obey; but, at that moment, the pages from without
opened the doors of the chamber, giving entrance to the barons who had
been called to the council.

A moment of bustle succeeded; and by the time that Guerin could quit
the king, the man who had brought the information we have just heard
was gone, and nowhere to be found.

So suspicious a circumstance induced Guerin to refrain from those
strong measures against De Coucy which the king had commanded, till he
had communicated with the monarch on the subject. He sent down,
however to the young knight's quarters, to require his presence at the
castle on business of import; when the answer returned by his squires
was, that De Coucy himself, his squire Hugo de Barre, who had by this
time been ransomed by his lord, his page, and a small party of lances,
had been absent ever since the encampment had been completed, and no
one knew whither they had gone.

Guerin knit his brows; for he would have staked much upon De Coucy's
honour; but yet, his absence at so critical a moment was difficult to
be accounted for. He returned to Philip instantly, and found the
council still in deliberation; some of its members being of opinion
that it would be better to march directly forward upon Mortain and
attack the enemy without loss of time; and others, again strongly
counselling retreat upon Peronne.

Many weighty arguments had been produced on both sides, and at the
moment Guerin entered, a degree of silence had taken place previous to
the king's pronouncing his final decision. Guerin, however, approached
the monarch, and bending beside him, informed him, in a low voice, of
what he had just heard.

The king listened, knitting his brows and fixing his eyes upon the
table, till Guerin had concluded; then raising his head, and thinking
for a moment, without taking any immediate notice of what the minister
had said, he announced his decision on the point before the council.

"Noble lords," said he, "we have heard and weighed your opinions upon
the conduct of the war; but various circumstances will induce us, in
some degree, to modify both, or, rather, to take a medium between
them. If we advance upon the enemy at Mortain, we expose ourself to
immense disadvantage in the narrow passage by Damarets. This
consideration opposes itself on the one hand; and on the other, it
must never be said that Philip of France fled before his enemies, when
supported by so many true and faithful peers as we see around us
here;" and the monarch glanced his eagle eye rapidly from face to
face, with a look which, without evincing doubt, gathered at once the
expression of each as he spoke. "Our determination therefore is, early
to-morrow morning to march, as if towards Lille; and the next day,
wheeling through the open plains of that country, to take the enemy on
their flank, before they are aware of our designs. By dawn, therefore,
I pray ye, noble peers, have your men all arrayed beneath your
banners, and we will march against our enemy; who, be assured,
whatever fair promises he holds out, is not alone the enemy of Philip,
but of every true Frenchman. You are fighting for your hearths and for
your homes; and where is the man, that will not strike boldly in such
a quarrel? For to-night, lords, adieu! To-morrow we will meet you with
the first ray of the sun."

With these words the council broke up, and the barons took their leave
and withdrew; some well contented with the king's plan, some murmuring
that their opinion had not been conceded to, and some perhaps
disappointed with a scheme that threatened failure to the very
confederacy against which they appeared in arms.

"'Tis strange, Guerin! 'tis strange!" cried the king, as soon as his
peers were gone, "We have traitors amongst us, I fear!--Yet I will not
believe that De Coucy is false. His absence is unaccountable; but,
depend on it, there is some good cause;--and yet, that groom's tale
against him! 'Tis strange! I doubt some of the faces, too, that I have
seen but now. But I will try them, Guerin--I will try them; and if
they be traitors, they shall damn themselves to hell!"

As the king had commanded, with the first ray of the sun the host was
under arms; and stretching out in a long line under the walls of
Tournay, it offered a gay and splendid sight, with the horizontal
beams of the early morning shining bright on a thousand banners, and
flashing back from ten thousand lances.

The marshals had scarcely arrayed it five minutes, when the king,
followed by his glittering train, issued forth from the castle,
mounted on a superb black charger, and armed cap-à-pié. He rode slowly
from one end of the line to the other, bowing his plumed helmet in
answer to the shouts and acclamations of the troops, and then returned
to the very centre of the host. Circling round the crest of his casque
were seen the golden fleurs de lis of the crown of France; and it was
remarked, that behind him two of his attendants carried an immense
golden wine-cup called a hanap, and a sharp naked sword.

In the centre of the line the king paused, and raised the volant piece
of his helmet, when his face might be seen by every one, calm, proud,
and dignified. At a sign from the monarch, two priests approached,
carrying a large silver cruise and a small loaf of bread, which Philip
received from their hands; and, cutting the bread into pieces with the
edge of the sword carried by his attendant, he placed the pieces in
the chalice, and then poured it full of wine.

"Barons of France!" cried he, in a loud voice, which made itself heard
to an immense distance,--"Barons of France! Some foul liar last night
sent me word, that there were traitors in my council and rebels in my
host. Here I stand before you all, bearing on my casque the crown of
France; and if amongst you there be one man that judges me unworthy to
wear that crown, instantly let him separate from my people and depart
to my enemies. He shall go free and unscathed, with his arms and
followers, on the honour of a king! But those noble barons who are
willing to fight and to die with their sovereign, in defence of their
wives, their children, their homes, and their country--let them come
forward; and in union with their king, eat this consecrated bread, and
taste this sacred wine; and cursed be he who shall hereafter forget
this sign of unity and fellowship!"

A loud shout from the whole host was the first reply; and then each
baron, without an exception, hurried forward before the ranks, and
claimed to pledge himself as Philip had proposed.

In the midst of the ceremony, however, a tall strong man in black
armour pushed his way through the rest, exclaiming--"Give me the cup!
give me the cup!"

When it was placed in his hands, he raised it first to his head,
without lifting the visor of his helmet; but, finding his mistake, he
unclasped the volant hurriedly, and throwing it back, discovered the
wild countenance of Count Thibalt d'Auvergne. He then raised again the
cup, and with a quick, but not ungraceful movement, bowed low to
Philip, and drank some of the wine.

"Philip, king of France, I am yours till death," he said, when he had
drunk; and after gazing for a few moments earnestly in the king's
face, he turned his horse and galloped back to a large body of lances,
a little in the rear of the line.

"Unhappy man!" said the king; and turning to Guerin, he added--"Let
him be looked to, Guerin. See who is with him."

On sending to inquire, however, it was replied, that the Count
d'Auvergne was there with his vassals and followers, to serve his
sovereign Philip Augustus, in his wars, as a true and faithful
liegeman.

Satisfied, therefore, that he was under good and careful guidance, the
king turned his thoughts back to other subjects; and, having briefly
thanked his barons for their ready zeal, commanded the army to begin
its march upon Lille.



CHAPTER XII.


Between Mortain and Tournay, in a small road with high banks on either
side, the shrubs and flowers of which were covered with a thick
coating of dust, rode two of our old acquaintances, on the same
morning that the review we have just described took place in the army
of the king.

The first, armed in haubergeon and casque, with his haussecol, or
gorget, hiding his long beard, and his helmet covering his short cut
hair, it was no longer difficult to recognise as Jodelle the
Brabançois, whom we saw last in an assumed character before Philip
Augustus. By his side, more gaudily costumed than ever, with a long
peacock's feather ornamenting his black cap, rode Gallon the fool.

Though two persons of such respectability might well have pretended to
some attendants, they were alone; and Jodelle, who seemed in some
haste, and not particularly pleased with his companion's society, was
pricking on at a sharp pace. But Gallon's mare, on which he was once
more mounted, had been trained by himself, and ambled after the
coterel's horse, with a sweet sort of pertinacity from which there was
no escaping.

"Why follow you me, fool, devil?" cried the Brabançois.--"Get thee
gone! We shall meet again. Fear not! I am in haste; and, my curse upon
those idiot Saxons that let you go, when I charged them to keep you,
after you hunted me all the way from your camp to ours last night."

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon, showing all his white sharp teeth to the
very back, as he grinned at Jodelle;--"haw, haw! thou art ungrateful,
sire Jodelle--Haw, haw! to think of a coterel being ungrateful! Did
not I let thee into all Coucy's secrets two days ago? Did not I save
thy neck from the hangman five months ago? And now, thou ungrateful
hound, thou grudgest me thy sweet company.--Haw, haw! I that love
thee,--haw, haw, haw! I that enjoy thy delectable society!--Haw, haw!
Haw, haw! Haw, haw!" and he rolled and shouted with laughter, as if
the very idea of any one loving the Brabançois was sufficient to
furnish the whole world with mirth. "So, thou toldest thy brute
Saxons to keep me, or hang me, or burn me alive, if they would, last
night--ay, and my bonny mare too; saying, it was as great devil as
myself. Haw, haw! maître Jodelle! They told me all. But they fell in
love with my phiz; and let me go, all for the sweetness of my
countenance. Who can resist my wonderous charms?" and he contorted his
features into a form that left them the likeness of nothing human.
"But I'll plague thee!" he continued; "I'll never leave thee, till I
see what thou dost with that packet in thy bosom.--Haw, haw! I'll
teaze thee! I have plagued the Coucy enough, for a blow he gave me one
day. Haw, haw! that I have! Now, methinks, I'll have done with that,
and do him some good service!"

"Thou'lt never serve him more, fool!" cried Jodelle, his eyes gleaming
with sanguinary satisfaction; "I have paid him, too, for the blow he
gave me--and for more things than that! His head is off by this time,
juggler! I heard the order given myself--ay, and I caused that order.
Ha! canst thou do a feat like that?"

"Haw, haw! Haw, haw, haw!" screamed Gallon, wriggling his snout hither
and thither, and holding his sides with laughter. "Haw, haw! thou
dolt! thou ass! thou block! thou stump of an old tree! By the Lord!
thou must be a wit after all, to invent such a piece of uncommon
stupidity.--Haw, haw, haw! Haw, haw! Didst thou think, that I would
have furnished thee with a good tale against the Coucy, and given
thee means of speech with the chancellor himself, without taking
care to get the cow-killing, hammer-fisted homicide out of the way
first?--Haw, haw! thou idiot. Haw, haw, haw!--Lord! what an ass a
coterel is!--Haw, haw, haw!"

"Not such an ass as thou dreamest, fiend!" muttered Jodelle, setting
his teeth close, and almost resolved to aim a blow with his dagger at
the juggler as he rode beside him. But Gallon had always one of his
eyes, at least, fixed upon his companion; and, in truth, Jodelle had
seen so much of his extraordinary activity and strength that he held
Gallon in some dread, and scarcely dared to close with him in fair and
equal fight. He had smothered his vengeance for long, however, and he
had no inclination to delay it much longer, as the worthy Brabançois
had more reasons than one for resolving to rid himself of the society
of a person so little trustworthy as Gallon, in the most summary
manner possible--but the only question was how to take him at a
disadvantage.

For this purpose, it was necessary to cover every appearance of wrath,
that the juggler might be thrown off his guard. Jodelle smoothed his
brow therefore, and, after a moment, affected to join in Gallon's
laugh. "Thou art a cunning dealer!" said he--"thou art a cunning
dealer, sir Gallon! But, in troth, I should like to know how thou
didst contrive to beguile this De Coucy away from the army, as thou
sayest, at such a moment."

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon--"haw, haw! 'Twas no hard work. How dost thou
catch a sparrow, sire Jodelle? Is it not by spreading out some crumbs?
Well, by the holy rood! as he says himself, I sent him a goose's
errand all the way down the river, to reconnoitre a party of men whom
I made Ermold the page, make Hugo the squire, make Coucy the knight,
believe were going to take the king's host on the flank!--Haw, haw! Oh
rare!"

"By St. Peter! thou hast betrayed what I told thee when we were
drinking two nights since," cried Jodelle. "Fool! thou wilt have my
dagger in thee if thou heedest not!"

"Oh rare!" shouted Gallon, "Oh rare! What then, did I tell the Coucy
true, when I said Count Julian of the Mount, and William de la Roche
Guyon, were there with ten thousand men?--Haw, haw! did I tell him
true, coterel? Talk not to me of daggers, lout, or I'll drive mine in
under thy fifth rib, and leave thee as dead as a horse's bones on a
common. Haw, haw! I thought the Coucy would have gone down with all
the men of Tankerville, and have chined me that fair-faced coward,
that once fingered this great monument of my beauty;" and he laid his
finger on his long unnatural snout, with so mingled an expression of
face, that it was difficult to decide whether he spoke in vanity or
mockery. "But he only went down to reconnoitre," added the juggler.
"The great ninny! he might have swallowed father and lover up at a
mouthful, and then married the heiress if he had liked! And he calls
me fool, too! Oh rare!--But where art thou going, beau sire Jodelle? I
saw all your army a-foot before I left them to come after you; and I
dreamed that they were going to cut off the king at the passage by
Bovines; and doubtless thou art bearer of an order to Sir Julian, and
Count William, with the Duke of Limburg and the men of Ardennes, to
take him in the rear. Haw, haw! there will be fine smashing of bones,
and hacking of flesh. I must be there to have the picking of the dead
men."

Thus ran on Gallon, rambling from subject to subject, but withal
betraying so clear a knowledge of all the plans of the imperial army,
that Jodelle believed his information to be little less than magical;
though indeed Gallon was indebted for it to strolling amongst the
tents of the Germans the night before, and catching here and
there, while he amused the knights and squires with his tricks of
_jonglerie_, all the rumours that were afloat concerning the movements
of the next day. From these, with a happiness that madness sometimes
has, he jumped at conclusions, which many a wiser brain would have
missed, and, like a blind man stumbling on a treasure, hit by accident
upon the exact truth.

As his conversation with Jodelle arrived at this particular point, the
road which they were pursuing opened out upon a little irregular piece
of ground, bisected by another by-path, equally ornamented by high
rough banks. Nevertheless, neither of these roads traversed the centre
of the little green or common; the one which the travellers were
pursuing skirting along the side, under the sort of cliff by which it
was flanked, and the other edging the opposite extreme. At the
intersection of the paths, however, on the very top of the farther
bank, stood a tall elm tree, which Gallon measured with his eye as
they approached.

"Haw, haw!" cried he, delighting in every recollection that might
prove unpleasant to his neighbours.--"Haw, haw! Beau sire Jodelle!
Monstrous like the tree on which they were going to hang you, near the
Pont de l'Arche! Haw, haw, haw! The time when you were like to be
hanged, and I saved you--you remember?"

"Thou didst not save me, fool!" replied the Brabançois: "'twas king
John saved me. I would not owe my life to such a foul fool as thou
art, for all that it is worth. The king saved my life to do a great
deed of vengeance, which I will accomplish yet before I die," added
Jodelle, "and then I'll account with him too, for what I owe him--he
shall not be forgot! no, no!" and the plunderer's eyes gleamed as he
thought of the fate that the faithless monarch had appointed for him,
and connected it with the vague schemes of vengeance that were
floating through his own brain.

"Haw, haw!" cried Gallon. "If thou goest not to hell, sire Jodelle,
thou art sure t'will not be for lack of thanklessness, to back your
fair bevy of gentlemanly vices. John, the gentle, sent thee thy
pardon, that thou mightest murder De Coucy for prating of his
murdering Arthur,--I know that as well as thou dost; but had my tongue
not been quicker than his messenger's horse, thou wouldst soon have
been farther on your road to heaven than ever you may be again. Oh
rare! How the crows of the _Pont de l'Arche_ must hate me! Haw, haw!
vinegar face! didst ever turn milk sour with thy sharp nose?--Hark!
Hear you not a distant clatter? Your army is marching down towards the
bridge, prince Pumkin," he rambled on; "I'll up into yon tree, and
see; for this country is as flat as peas porridge."

So saying. Gallon sprang to the ground, climbed the bank in an
instant, and walked up the straight boll of the tree, as easily as if
he had been furnished with a ladder; giving a quick glance round,
however, every step, to see that Jodelle did not take any advantage of
him.

His movements had been so rapid, that with the best intentions
thereunto in the world, the coterel could not have injured him in his
ascent; and when he was once up, he began to question him on what he
saw.

"What do I see?" said Gallon. "Why, when I look that way, I see German
asses, and Lorraine foxes, and English curs, and Flanders mules, all
marching down towards the river as quietly as may be; and when I look
the other way, I perceive a whole band of French monkeys, tripping on
gaily without seeing the others; and when I look down there," he
continued, pointing to Jodelle, "I see a Provençal wolf, hungry for
plunder, and thirsty for blood;" and Gallon began to descend the tree.

As he had spoken, there was a sound of horses heard coming up the
road, and Jodelle spurred close up under the bank, as if to catch a
glance of the persons who were approaching; but, at the same moment,
he quietly drew his sword. Gallon instantly perceived his man[oe]uvre,
and attempted to spring up the tree once more.

Ere he could do so, however, Jodelle struck at him; and though he
could only reach high enough to wound the tendon of his leg, the pain
made the juggler let go his hold, and he fell to the top of the bank,
nearly on a level with the face of the coterel, who, rising in his
stirrups, with the full lunge of his arm, plunged his sword into his
body.

Though mortally wounded, Gallon, without word or groan, rolled down
the bank, and clung to the legs of his enemy's horse, impeding the
motions of the animal as much as if it had been clogged; while at the
same time Jodelle now urged it furiously with the spur; for the sound
of coming cavaliers, and the glance of a knight's pennon from behind
the turn of the road, at about an hundred yards' distance, showed him
that he must either ride on, or take the risk of the party being
inimical to his own.

Three times the horse, plunging furiously under the spur, set its feet
full on the body of the unfortunate juggler; but still he kept his
hold, without a speech or outcry, till suddenly shouting "Haw,
haw!--Haw, haw, haw!--The Coucy! the Coucy! Haw, haw!" he let go his
hold; and the coterel galloped on at full speed, ascertaining by a
single glance, that Gallon's shout announced nothing but the truth.

De Coucy's eyes were quick, however; and his horse far fleeter than
that of the coterel. He saw Jodelle, and recognised him instantly;
while the dying form of Gallon, and the blood that stained the dry
white sand of the road, in dark red patches round about, told their
own tale, and were not to be mistaken. Without pausing to clasp his
visor, or to brace his shield, the knight snatched his lance from his
squire, struck his spurs into the flanks of his charger; and, before
Jodelle had reached the other side of the little green, the iron of
the spear struck him between the shoulders, and, passing through his
plastron as if it had been made of parchment, hurled him from his
horse, never to mount again. A shrill cry like that of a wounded
vulture, as the knight struck him, and a deep groan as he fell to the
ground, were the only sounds that the plunderer uttered more. De Coucy
tugged at his lance for a moment, endeavouring to shake it free from
the body; but, finding that he could not do so without dismounting, he
left it in the hands of his squire, and returned to the spot where
Gallon the fool still lay, surrounded by part of the young knight's
train.

"Coucy, Coucy!" cried the dying juggler, in a faint voice, "Gallon is
going on the long journey! Come hither, and speak to him before he
sets out!"

The young knight put his foot to the ground, and came close up to his
wounded follower, who gazed on him with wistful eyes, in which shone
the first glance of affection, perhaps, that ever he had bestowed on
mortal man.

"I am sorry to leave thee, Coucy!" said he, "I am sorry to leave thee,
now it comes to this--I love thee better than I thought. Give me thy
hand."

De Coucy spoke a few words of kindness to him, and let him take his
hand, which he carried feebly to his lips, and licked it like a dying
dog.

"I have spited you very often, Coucy," said the juggler; "and do you
know I am sorry for it now, for you have been kinder to me than any
one else. Will you forgive me?"

"Yes, my poor Gallon," replied the knight: "I know of no great evil
thou hast done; and even if thou hast, I forgive thee from my heart."

"Heaven bless thee for it!" said Gallon.--"Heaven bless thee for
it!--But hark thee, De Coucy! I will do thee one good turn before I
die. Give me some wine out of thy _boutiau_, mad Ermold the page, and
I will tell the Coucy where I have wronged him, and where he may right
himself. Give me some wine, quick, for my horse is jogging to the
other world."

Ermold, as he was desired, put the leathern bottle, which every one
travelled with in those days, to the lips of the dying man; who, after
a long draught, proceeded with his confession. We will pass over many
a trick which he acknowledged to have played his lord in the Holy
Land, at Constantinople, and in Italy, always demanding between each,
"Can you forgive me now?" De Coucy's heart was not one to refuse
pardon to a dying man; and Gallon proceeded to speak of the deceit he
had put upon him concerning the lands of the Count de Tankerville. "It
was all false together," said he. "The Vidame of Besançon told me to
tell you, that his friend, the Count de Tankerville, had sent a
charter to be kept in the king's hands, giving you all his feofs; and
now, when he sees you with the army, commanding the men of
Tankerville, the vidame thinks that you are commanding them by your
own right, not out of the good will of the king. Besides, he told me,
he did not know whether your uncle was dead or not; but that Bernard,
the hermit of Vincennes, could inform you."

"But why did you not--?" demanded De Coucy.

"Ask me no questions, Coucy," cried Gallon: "I have but little breath
left; and that must go to tell you something more important still.
From the top of yon tree, I saw the king marching down to the bridge
at Bovines; and, without his knowing it, the enemy are marching after
him. If he gets half over, he is lost. I heard Henry of Brabant last
night say, that they would send a plan of their battle to the Duke of
Limburg, Count Julian, and William de la Roche Guyon, whose troops I
sent you after, down the river. He said too," proceeded Gallon,
growing apparently fainter as he spoke,--"he said too, that it was to
be carried by one who well knew the French camp. Oh, Coucy, my breath
fails me. Jodelle, the coterel--he is the man, I am sure--the papers
are on him.--But, Coucy! Coucy!" he continued, gasping for breath, and
holding the knight with a sort of convulsive grasp, as he saw him
turning to seek the important packet he mentioned,--"do not go, Coucy!
do not go to the camp--they think you a traitor.--Oh, how dim my eyes
grow!--They will have your head off--don't go--you'll be of no use
with the head off--Haw, haw! haw, haw!" And with a faint effort at his
old wild laugh. Gallon the fool gave one or two sharp shudders, and
yielded the spirit, still holding De Coucy tight by the arm.

"He is gone!" said the knight, disengaging himself from his grasp.
"Our army marching upon Bovines!" continued he: "can it be true? They
were not to quit Tournay for two days.--Up, Ermold, into that tree,
and see whether you can gain any sight of them. Quick! for we must
spur hard, if it be true.--You, Hugo, search the body of the
coterel.--Quick, Ermold--hold by that branch--there, your foot on the
other! See you any thing now?"

With some difficulty, Ermold de Marcy, though an active youth, had
climbed half-way up the tree that Gallon had sprung up like a
squirrel; and now, holding round it with both legs and arms, he gazed
out over the far prospect. "I see spears," cried he,--"I see spears
marching on by the river--and I can see the bridge too!"

"Are there any men on it?" cried De Coucy:--"how far is it from the
foremost spears?"

"It is clear yet!" replied the page; "but the lances in the van are
not half a mile from it!"

"Look to the right!--look to the right!" cried the knight; "towards
Mortain, what see you?"

"I see a clump or two of spears," replied the youth, "scattered here
and there; but over one part, that seems a valley, there rises a
cloud;--it maybe the morning mist--it may be dust:--stay, I will climb
higher;" and he contrived to reach two or three branches above.
"Lances, as I live!" cried he: "I see the steel heads glittering
through the cloud of dust, and moving on, just above the place where
the hill cuts them. They are rising above the slope--now they dip down
again--thousands on thousands--never did I see such a host in
Christendom or Paynimry!"

"Come down, Ermold, and mount!" cried the knight. "Two of the servants
of arms, take up yon poor fellow's body!" he continued, "and bear it
to the cottage where we watered our horses but now--then follow
towards the bridge with all speed.--Now, Hugo, hast thou the packet?
'Tis it, by the holy rood!" he added, taking a sealed paper that the
squire had found upon Jodelle. "To horse! to horse! We shall reach the
king's host yet, ere the van has passed the bridge. He must fight
there or lose all." And followed by the small body of spears that
accompanied him, Guy de Coucy spurred on at full gallop towards the
bridge of Bovines.

The distance might be about four miles; but ere he had ridden one-half
of that way, he came suddenly upon a body of about twenty spears, at
the top of a slight rise that concealed each party till they were
within fifty yards of the other. "Down with your lances!" cried De
Coucy; "France! France! A Coucy! a Coucy!" and in an instant the
spears of his followers, to the number of about seventy, were levelled
in a long straight row.

"France! France!" echoed the other party; and, riding forward, De
Coucy was met in mid space by the Chancellor Guerin,--armed at all
points, but bearing the coat and cross of a knight hospitaller--and
Adam Viscount de Melun, who had together ridden out from the main body
of the army, to ascertain the truth of some vague reports, that the
enemy had left Mortain, and was pursuing with all his forces.

"Well met. Sir Guy de Coucy," said Guerin. "By your cry of France but
now, I trust you are no traitor to France, though strange accusations
against you reached the king last night; and your absence at a moment
of danger countenanced them. I have order," he added, "to attach you
for treason."

"Whosoever calls me traitor, lies in his teeth," replied the knight
rapidly, eager to arrive at the king's host with all speed. "My
absence was in the kings service; and as to attaching me for treason,
lord bishop," he added with a smile, "methinks my seventy lances
against your twenty will soon cancel your warrant. I dreamed not that
the king would think of marching to-day, being Sunday, or I should
have returned before. But now, my lord, my errand is to the king
himself, and 'tis one also that requires speed. The enemy are
following like hounds behind the deer. I have here a plan of their
battle. They hope to surprise the king at the passage of the river. He
must halt on this side, or all is lost. From that range of low hills,
most likely you will see the enemy advancing.--Farewell."

Guerin, who had never for a moment doubted the young knight's
innocence, did not of course attempt to stay him, and De Coucy once
more galloped on at full speed. He soon began to fall in with
stragglers from the different bodies of the royal forces; camp
followers, plunderers, skirmishers, pedlars, jugglers, cooks, and all
the train of extraneous living lumber attached to an army of the
thirteenth century. From these he could gain no certain information
of where the king was to be found. Some said he had passed the
bridge,--some said he was yet in the rear; and, finding that they were
all as ignorant on the subject as himself, the young knight sped on;
and passing by several of the thick battalions which were hurrying on
through clouds of July dust towards the bridge, he demanded of one of
the leaders, where was the king.

"I heard but now, that he was in that green meadow to the right,"
replied the other knight; "and, see!" he added, pointing with his
lance, "that may be he, under those ash-trees."

De Coucy turned his eyes in the direction the other pointed, and
perceived a group of persons, some on horseback, some on foot,
standing round one who, stretched upon the grass, lay resting himself
under the shadow of a graceful clump of ash-trees. Close behind him
stood a squire, holding a casque in his hand; and another, at a little
distance, kept in the ardour of a magnificent battle-horse, that,
neighing and pawing the grass, seemed eager to join the phalanx that
defiled before him.

It was evidently the king who lay there; and De Coucy, bringing his
men to a halt, at the side of the high road, along which the rest were
pressing, troop after troop, towards the bridge, spurred on, followed
by his squires alone, and rode up to the group at once.

Philip Augustus raised his eyes to De Coucy's face as he came up; and,
at a few paces, the young knight sprang from his horse, and casting
his rein to Hugo de Barre, approached the monarch.

"My lord," said he earnestly, as soon as he was within hearing, "I
beseech you to order a halt, and command your troops who have passed
the bridge to return. The enemy are not half a mile from you; and
before half the army can pass, you will be attacked on all sides."

De Coucy spoke rapidly, and the king answered in the same manner. "Sir
Guy de Coucy," said he, without rising, however, "you are accused to
me of treason. Ought I to listen to counsel from a man in that
situation?"

"My lord the king," replied the knight, "God send you many such good
_traitors_ as I am! There is the enemy's plan of attack;--at least, so
I believe, for I have not opened it. You will see by the seal it is
from the Duke of Brabant; and by the superscription, that it is to the
Duke of Limburgh, together with Count Julian of the Mount, and Count
William de la Roche Guyon, his allies. I reconnoitred their forces
last night; they amount to fifteen thousand men; and lie three miles
down the river."

The king took the paper, and hastily cut the silk with his dagger.
"Halt!" cried he, after glancing his eye over it. "Mareuil de
Malvoisin, command a halt!--Ho, Guerin!" he cried, seeing the minister
riding quickly towards him. "Have you seen the enemy?"

"They are advancing with all speed, sire," shouted the hospitaller as
he rode up. "For God's sake, sire, call back the troops! They are
coming up like the swarms of locusts we have seen in Palestine. Their
spears are like corn in August."

"We will reap them," cried Philip, starting up with a triumphant smile
upon his lip,--"we will reap them!--To arms! Warriors, to arms!" And
putting his foot in the stirrup, he stood with his hand upon the
horse's neck, turning to those about him, and multiplying his orders
with the prompt activity of his keen all-grasping mind. "The oriflamme
has passed the bridge; speed to bring it back, Renault.--Hugo, to the
Count of St. Pol! bid him return with all haste.--De Coucy, I did you
wrong--forget it, and strike this day as you are wont.--Guerin, array
the host as we determined. See that the faithful communes be placed in
our own battle, but let Arras and Amiens hold the second line. Let the
barons and the knights stretch out as far as may be;--remember! every
man's own lance and shield must be his safeguard.--Eustache, speed to
the Count de Beaumont; bid him re-pass the river at the ford, and take
his place at the right.--Now, Guerin, hasten! Let the sergeants of
Soissons begin the battle, that the enemy may be broken ere the
knights charge.--Away, De Coucy! Lead Tankerville well, and win the
day.--Guillaume de Mortemar, stay by our person."

Such were some of the orders given by Philip Augustus: then, springing
on his horse, he received his casque, and, raising the visor, sat in
silence gazing upon the field, which was clear and open on all sides,
except the road, through which the troops were still seen approaching
towards the bridge; and which, in the other direction, wound away
towards Tournay, through some small woods and valleys that hid the
rear guard from view.

In the meanwhile, Guerin, whose long experience as a knight
hospitaller qualified him well to marshal the army, hastened to array
all the troops that had yet arrived on the plain, taking care to keep
the entrance of the bridge free, that the forces which had already
passed and were returning upon their steps, might take up their
position without confusion and disarray. At that moment, a messenger
arrived in breathless haste from the rear of the army, stating that
the enemy were already engaged with the light troops of Auxerre, who
sustained themselves with difficulty, and demanded help. But even
while he spoke, the two bodies engaged issued forth upon the plain;
and the spears of the whole imperial army began to bristle over the
hills.

The trumpets of the French sounded as their enemies appeared; and it
seemed that the emperor was not a little surprised to find his
adversary so well prepared to meet him.

Whether the unexpected sight of so large a body of troops drawn up to
oppose them embarrassed the confederates and deranged their plans, or
whether Philip's first line covering the bridge they did not perceive
that a great part of his forces were still either on the other side of
the river, or engaged in repassing it, cannot now be told; but they
took no advantage of so favourable a moment for attack. The body
engaged with the rear of Philip's army was called back; and wheeling
to the right of the road by which they came, they took up their
position on the slope of the hills to the north of the plain, while
Philip eagerly seized the opportunity of displaying his forces on the
southern side, thus having the eyes of his soldiers turned away from
the burning sun, that shone full in the faces of the adverse host. An
army commanded by many chiefs, is of course never well led; for what
may be gained by consultation is ever lost by indecision; and the two
great faults thus committed by the confederates were probably owing to
the uncertainty of their councils.

However that might be, they suffered Philip greatly to recover the
unity of his forces, and to take up the best position on the field;
after which succeeded a pause, as if they hesitated to begin the
strife, though theirs had been the party to follow and to urge their
enemy to a battle, and though they had overtaken him at the precise
moment which they had themselves planned, and in which an attack must
have proved the most disastrous.



CHAPTER XIII.


For several minutes after the two armies were thus ranged opposite
each other, both stood without motion, gazing on the adverse host. The
front line was composed almost entirely of cavalry, which formed in
those days the great strength of an army, and uniformly decided the
event of a battle; but between the long battalions of the knights and
men-at-arms were ranged close bodies of cross-bowmen and archers, who
waited but a signal to commence the engagement with their missiles.

Standing thus face to face, with but a narrow space between them, the
two hosts seemed as if contemplating the glittering array of the
field, which, if we may believe the "_branch of royal lineages_,"
offered on either part as splendid a pageant as ever a royal court
exhibited on fête or tournament. "There," it says in its naif jargon,
"you might see many a pleasant coat of arms, and many a neat and
gentle device, tissued of gold and various shining colours, blue,
vermilion, yellow, and green. There were to be seen serried shields,
and neighing horses, and ringing arms, pennons and banners, and helms
and glittering crests."

To the left of the imperial army appeared Ferrand, Count of Flanders,
with an immense host of hardy Flemings, together with the Count de
Boulogne and several other of the minor confederates; while, opposed
to him, was the young Duke of Champagne, the Duke of Burgundy, and the
men of the commune of Soissons. To the right of the imperial army was
a small body of English, with the Duke of Brabant and his forces in
face of the Comte de Dreux, the Bishop of Beauvais, and a body of the
troops of the clergy; while in the centre of each host, and
conspicuous to both, were Otho, Emperor of Germany, and Philip
Augustus of France, commanding in person the chosen knights of either
monarchy.

In the midst of the dark square of lances that surrounded the emperor
was to be seen a splendid car, from the centre of which rose a tall
pole, bearing on the top the imperial standard, a golden eagle
hovering above a dragon; while, beside Philip Augustus, was borne the
royal banner of France,[29] consisting of an azure field embroidered
with fleurs de lis of gold. On either hand of the king were ranged the
knights selected to attend his person, whom we find named as William
des Barres, Barthelmy de Roye, Peter de Malvoisin, Gerard Scropha,
Steven of Longchamp, William of Mortemar, John of Rouvrai, William de
Garlande, and Henry, Count de Bar, all men distinguished in arms, and
chosen for their high and chivalrous qualities.


--------------------

[Footnote 29: A different banner from the famous oriflamme which was
the standard of St. Denis.]

--------------------


A dead silence pervaded the field. Each host, as we have said, gazed
upon the other, still and motionless, waiting in awful expectation the
first movement which should begin the horrid scene of carnage about to
follow. It wanted but a word--a sign--the levelling of a lance--the
sounding of a trumpet, to cast the whole dark mass of bloodthirsty
insects there assembled into strife and mutual destruction: but yet
there was a pause; as if each monarch felt the dreadful responsibility
which that signal would bring upon his head, and hesitated to give it.
Some reflections of the kind certainly passed through the mind of
Philip Augustus; for, turning to William de Mortemar, he said, "We
must begin the fight--I seek not their blood, but God gives us a right
to defend ourselves. They have leagued to crush me, and the carnage of
this day be upon their head. Where is the oriflamme?" he continued,
looking round for the consecrated banner of St. Denis.

"It has not yet repassed the river, sire," replied Gerard Scropha. "I
heard the tramp of the communes still coming over the bridge, and
filling up the ranks behind. The oriflamme was the first banner that
passed, and therefore of course will be the last that returns.

"We must not wait for it then," said the king. "Henry de Bar, speed to
Guerin, who is on the right, with the Count de St. Paul; bid them
begin the battle by throwing in a few men-at-arms to shake that heavy
line of the Flemings. Then let the knights charge."

The young count bowed low, and set spurs to his horse; but his very
passage along the line was a signal for the confederates to commence
the fight. A flight of arrows and quarrels instantly darkened the sky,
and fell thick as hail amongst the ranks of the French; the trumpets
sounded, the lances were levelled, and two of the king's chaplains,
who were placed at a little distance behind him, began to sing the
hundred and forty-third Psalm, while the tears rolled plentifully from
their eyes, from the effects of mingled fear, agitation, and devotion.

In the meanwhile, an hundred and fifty sergeants of arms charged the
whole force of the Count of Flanders, according to the order of the
king. His intention was completely fulfilled.[30] Dropping the points
of their lances, the French men-at-arms cast themselves into the midst
of the Flemish knights, who, indignant at being attacked by men who
had not received the honours of chivalry, fell upon them furiously,
with little regard to their own good order.


--------------------

[Footnote 30: Lacurne de St. Palaye was decidedly wrong in attributing
the use of the lance solely to knights. Besides the example before
given, the present instance of the serjeants of Soissons puts the
matter beyond doubt. The words of Guillaume Guiart are--

         "Serjanz d'armes cent et cinquante.
          Criant Monjoie! ensemble brochent;
          Vers les rens des Flamens deseochent
          Les pointes des lances enclines," &c.

That the serjeants of arms of Soissons were simple burghers is evident
from the contempt with which the Flemish knights received them--Guil.
le Breton, in vit. Phil. Aug.]

--------------------


In an instant, the horses of the French men-at-arms were all slain;
but being men of the commune of Soissons, trained to fight on foot as
well as on horseback, they prolonged the fight hand to hand with the
enemy's knights, and completely succeeded in throwing the centre of
the imperial left wing into disarray. At that moment, the battalion of
knights, under the Count de St. Paul, charged in support of the
men-at-arms, and with their long lances levelled in line swept all
before them, cleaving through the host of Flemings, and scattering
them abroad upon the plain, as a thunderbolt strikes a pine, and rends
it into atoms.

The strife, thus begun upon the right wing of the royal army, soon
communicated itself to the centre; where, on a small mound sat Philip
Augustus, viewing with a calm observing eye the progress of the
battle, though gradually the dust and steam of the fight, and the
confused groups of the combatants, falling every moment into greater
disorder, would have confounded a less keen and experienced glance
than his.

Though the left was now also engaged, the monarch's eye principally
rested upon the right wing of his forces, where the Count of St. Paul,
the Dukes of Burgundy and Champagne, were still struggling hard with
the Flemings, whose second and third line, having come up, had turned
the fortune of the day, and were driving back the French towards the
river.

"By the Lord of Heaven! Burgundy is down!" cried Philip. "Ho, Michael,
gallop to Sir Guy de Coucy; tell him to charge with the men of
Tankerville, to support the good Duke of Burgundy! Away!"

The sergeant to whom he spoke galloped off like lightning to the spot
where De Coucy was placed as a reserve.

"By Heaven! the duke is down, and his banner too!" continued the king,
turning to Guerin, who now had joined him. "De Coucy moves not yet.
St. Denis to boot! they will turn our flank. Is the knight a coward or
mad?--Away, Guerin! Bid him charge for his honour."

But the king saw not what De Coucy saw, that a fresh corps of the
confederates was debouching from the road behind the imperial army. If
he attacked the Flemings before this body had advanced, he not only
left his own rear unguarded, but the flank of the whole army totally
exposed. He paused, therefore notwithstanding the critical situation
of the Duke of Burgundy, till such time as this fresh body had, in the
hurry and confusion of their arrival, advanced between him and the
Flemings.

Then, however, the fifteen hundred lances he commanded were levelled
in an instant: the trumpets sounded, the chargers sprang forward, and,
hurled like an avalanche against the flank of this newly arrived
corps, the squadron of De Coucy drove them in pell-mell upon the
Flemings, forced the Flemings themselves back upon the troops of the
emperor, and left a clear space for the soldiers of Burgundy and
Champagne, to rally round their chiefs.

"Brave De Coucy!" cried the king, who had marked the man[oe]uvre. "Good
knight! Stout lance! All goes down before him. Burgundy is up. His
banner waves again. Ride, Walter the young, and compliment the duke
for me. Who are these coming down? I cannot see for the dust."

"They are the burgesses of Compiègne and Abbeville, and the oriflamme,
sire," replied Guillaume des Barres. "They want a taste of the fight,
and are forcing themselves in between us and those Saxon serfs, who
are advancing straight towards us."

As he spoke the men of the communes, eager to signalise themselves in
the service of a king who had done so much for them, marched boldly
into the very front of the battle, and mingled hand to hand with an
immense body of German infantry that were approaching rapidly towards
the king.

The French communes, however, were inferior to the burly Saxons, both
in number and in strength; and were, after an obstinate fight, driven
back to the very foot of the mound on which Philip was placed. The
knights and men-at-arms who surrounded him, seeing the battle so near
the monarch's person, charged through the ranks of the burgesses, and,
mingling with the Saxon infantry, cut them down in all directions with
their long heavy swords. The German cavalry again spurred forward to
support their own communes; and the fight became general around the
immediate person of the monarch, who remained on the summit of the
hillock, with no one but the Count de Montigny, bearing his standard,
and Sir Stephen of Longchamp, who had refrained from following the
rest into the melée.

"For God's sake! sire, retire a little!" said the knight: "if you are
hurt, all is lost."

"Not a step, for a thousand empires!" replied the king, drawing down
his visor and unsheathing his sword, as he beheld three or four German
knights spurring towards him at full career, followed by a large troop
of footmen, contending with the burghers of Compiègne. "We must do our
devoir as a knight as well as a king, Sir Stephen."

"Mine then as a knight!" cried Stephen of Longchamp, laying his lance
in rest; and on he galloped at the foremost of the German knights,
whom he hurled dead from his horse, pierced from side to side with the
iron of the spear.

The German that followed, however, without, spending a blow on the
French knight's casque, plunged his sword in his horse's chest, at a
spot where the iron barding was wanting. Rider and horse went down at
once; and the German, springing to the ground, drew a long knife from
his side, and knelt upon his prostrate adversary's chest.

"Denis Mountjoy!" cried the king, galloping on to the aid of his
faithful follower. "Denis Mountjoy! _au secours!_" But before he could
arrive, the German knight had plunged his knife through the bars of
the fallen man's helmet, and Stephen Longchamp was no more. The
monarch avenged him, however, if he could not save; and, as the
Saxon's head was bent down, accomplishing his bloody purpose, he
struck him so fierce a blow on the back of his neck, with the full
sway of a vigorous and practised arm, that the hood of his mail shirt
yielded at once to the blow, and the edge of the weapon drove on
through the backbone.

At that moment, however, the king found himself surrounded on every
side by the German foot, who hemmed him in with their short pikes. The
only knight who was near him was the Count de Montigny, bearing the
royal banner; and nothing was to be seen around but the fierce faces
of the Saxon pikemen looking out from under their steel caps, drawing
their circle closer and closer round him, and fixing their eager eyes
upon the crown that he wore on the crest of his helmet--or else the
forms of some German knights at a short distance, whirling about like
armed phantoms, through the clouds of dust that enveloped the whole
scene.

Still Philip fought with desperate valour, plunging his horse into the
ranks of the pikemen, and dealing sweeping blows around with his
sword, which four or five times succeeded in clearing the space
immediately before him.

Well and nobly too did the Count de Montigny do his devoir, holding
with one hand the royal banner, which he raised and depressed
continually, to give notice to all eyes of the monarch's danger, and
striking with the other on every side round Philip's person, which he
thus protected for many minutes from the near approach of his enemies.

It was in vain, however, that the king and his banner-bearer displayed
such feats of chivalrous valour. Closer and closer the German
burgesses hemmed them in. Many of the Saxon knights became attracted
by the sight of the royal banner, and were urging their horses through
the melée towards the spot where the conflict was raging so fiercely,
when one of the serfs crept close to the king's charger. Philip felt
his horse reeling underneath him; and, in a moment, the animal fell to
the ground, bearing its rider down along with it.

A hundred of the long, three-edged knives, with which many of the
Saxons fought that day, were instantly at the King's throat, and at
the bars of his helmet. One thought of Agnes--one brief prayer to
Heaven, was all that seemed allowed to Philip Augustus; but that
moment, the shout of "Auvergne! Auvergne!" rang upon his ear and
yielded hope.

With his head bent down to his saddle-bow, receiving a thousand blows
as he came, his horse all in foam and blood, his armour hacked,
dented, and broken, Thibalt d'Auvergne clove the hostile press with
the fierce rapidity of a falcon in its stoop. He checked his horse but
by the royal banner; he sprang to the ground; dashed, weltering to the
earth, the boors who were kneeling on the prostrate body of the king,
and, striding over it, whirled his immense mace round his head, at
every blow sending the soul of some Saxon on the cold pilgrimage of
death. The burgesses reeled back; but at the same time the knights who
had been advancing, hurled themselves upon the Count d'Auvergne, and
heaped blow upon blow on his head.

The safety of the whole host--the life and death, or captivity of the
king--the destiny of all Europe--perhaps of all the world, depended at
that moment on the arm of a madman. But that arm bore it all nobly up;
and, though his armour was actually hewn from his flesh, and he
himself bleeding from an hundred wounds, he wavered not a step; but,
still striding over the body of the king, as he lay unable to rise,
from the weight of his horse resting on his thigh, maintained his
ground till, knight after knight arriving on both sides, the combat
became more equal.

Still the fight around the royal banner was doubtful, when the
battle-cry of De Coucy was heard approaching. "A Coucy! A Coucy! St.
Michael! St. Michael!" rang over the plain; and the long lances of
Tankerville, which had twice completely traversed and retraversed the
enemy's line,[31] were seen sweeping on, in unbroken masses, like a
thunder-cloud advancing over the heaven. The regular order they had
still preserved, as well as their admirable training, and confidence
in their leader, gave them vast superiority. The German pikemen were
trampled under their tread. The knights were forced back at the point
of the spear; the communes of Compiègne and Abbeville rallied behind
them, and, in a short time, the field around the royal banner was once
more clear of all enemies.


--------------------

[Footnote 31: This circumstance, however extraordinary, is not the
less true; and though attributed by the various chroniclers to various
persons, is mentioned particularly by all who have described the
battle of Bovines.]

--------------------


The first thing was to free the king from the weight of his horse,
which had been stabbed in the neck, and was now quite dead. The
monarch rose; but, before he remounted, though there were a thousand
horses held ready for him, and a thousand voices pressing him to
mount, he exclaimed, "Where is the Count d'Auvergne? I owe him
life.--Stand back, Guillaume des Barres! your foot is on his chest.
That is he in the black armour!"

It was indeed the unhappy Count d'Auvergne, who had borne up under a
multitude of wounds, till the life of the king was in safety. He had
then fallen in the melée, striking still, and lay upon a heap of dead
that his hand had made. By the king's order, his casque was instantly
unlaced; and Philip himself, kneeling beside him, raised his head upon
his knee, and gazed in the ashy face to see if the flame of life's
frail lamp was extinct indeed in the breast of him who had saved him
from the tomb.

D'Auvergne opened his eyes, and looked faintly in the face of the
monarch. His lips moved, but no sound issued from them.

"If thou diest, Auvergne," said Philip, in the fulness of his
gratitude, "I have lost my best subject."

The count made another effort to speak. The king stooped over him, and
inclined his ear. "Tell her," said the broken accents of the dying
man,--"tell her--that for her love--I died--to save your life."

"I will," said Philip Augustus!--"on my faith, I will! and I know her
not, or she will weep your fall."

There was something like a faint smile played round the dying knight's
lip; his eyes fixed upon the king, and the spirit that lighted them
passed away for ever!

"Farewell, Auvergne!" said the king. "Des Barres, see his body removed
and honoured. And now, good knights," cried he, springing on
horseback, "how fares the fight? My eyes have been absent too long.
But, by my faith! you have worked well while I was down. The enemy's
left is flying, or my sight deceives me."

"'Tis true, my lord;--'tis true!" replied Guillaume des Barres; "and
Ferrand of Flanders himself is taken by the Duke of Burgundy."

"Thank God for that!" cried Philip, and he turned his eyes quickly to
the centre. "They seem in strange confusion there. Where is the
imperial standard? Where is Otho himself?"

"Otho has to do with Peter of Malvoisin and Gerard the Sow," replied
William des Barres, laughing, "and finds them unpleasant neighbours
doubtless. But do you know, sire, that a pike head is sticking in your
cuirass?"

"Mind not that!" cried the king; "Let us charge! Otho's ranks are
broken; his men dispersed; one gallant charge, and the day is ours.
Down with your lances, De Coucy! Men of Soissons, follow the king!
knights, remember your own renown! Burghers, fight for your firesides!
Denis Mountjoy! Upon them! Charge!"

It was the critical moment. Otho might have rallied; and his forces
were still more than double those of the king; while the Count de
Boulogne and the English, though the Earl of Salisbury had been dashed
from his horse by the mace of the bellicose Bishop of Beauvais,
were still maintaining the fight to the left. The well-timed and
well-executed charge of the king, however, accompanied, as he was, by
the choice chivalry of his realm, who had gathered about him to his
rescue, decided the fate of the day. The Germans fled in confusion.
Otho himself narrowly escaped being taken; and though a part of the
right wing of the confederates retreated in somewhat better array, yet
the defeat even there was complete, and the Earl of Salisbury and the
Count de Boulogne were both made prisoners.

For nearly six hours the combat lasted; and, when at last the flight
was complete, the number of prisoners was so great, that Philip dared
not allow his troops to pursue the fugitives for any length of way,
lest he should be mastered at last by those he had just conquered.

At five o'clock the trumpets sounded to the standard to recall the
pursuers; and thus ended the famous battle of Bovines--a strife and a
victory scarcely paralleled in history.



CHAPTER XIV.


The hurry and confusion of the battle was over; order was greatly
restored; and the victorious army had encamped on the banks of the
river, when Philip Augustus retired to his own tent; and, after having
been disarmed by his attendants, commanded that they should leave
him alone for an hour. No one was permitted to approach; and the
monarch sat down to meditate over the vast and mighty deed he had
accomplished.

Oh, what a whirlpool of contending feelings must have been within his
bosom at that moment! Policy, triumph, ambition, hate, revenge, and
love, each claimed their place in his heart.

The recollection of the difficulties he had overcome; the fresh memory
of the agitating day in which he had overcome them; the glorious
prospects yet to come--the past, the present, and the future, raised
their voices together, and, with a sound like thunder, called to him,
"Rejoice!"

But Philip Augustus sat with his hands clasped over his eyes, in deep
and even melancholy thought. A feeling of his mortality mingled, he
knew not why or how, even with the exultation of his victory. To his
mind's eye, a shadow, as if from the tomb, was cast over the banner of
his triumph. A feeling of man's transitory littleness,--a yearning
after some more substantial glory, chastened the pride of the
conqueror; and, bending the knee before Heaven's throne, he prayed
fervently to the Giver of all victory.

After long, deep thought, he recalled his attendants; received several
messengers that had come on from Lille; and, ordering the hangings of
his tent to be drawn up, he commanded the various chieftains who had
distinguished themselves in that day's conflict to be called around
him.

It was a beautiful summer evening; and the rays of the declining sun
shone over the field of battle, into the tent of the victor, as he sat
surrounded by all the pomp of royalty, receiving the greatest and
noblest of his land. For each he had some gratulatory word, some
mention of their deeds, some praise of their exertions; and there was
a tempered moderation in his smile, a calm, grave dignity of aspect,
that relieved his greater barons from the fears which even they, who
had aided to win it, could not help feeling, respecting the height to
which such a victory might carry his ambition. There was not a touch
of pride in his deportment--no, not even of the humility with which
pride is sometimes fond to deck itself. It was evident that he knew he
had won a great battle, and rejoiced--that he had vanquished his
enemies--that he had conquered a confederated world;--but yet he never
felt himself more mortal, or less fancied himself kindred to a god. He
had triumphed in anticipation--the arrogance of victory had exhausted
itself in expectation; and he found it not so great a thing to have
overcome an universe as he had expected.

"Thanks, brave Burgundy! thanks!" cried he, grasping the hand of the
duke, as he approached him. "We have won a great triumph; and Burgundy
has fully done his part. By my faith! Lord Bishop of Beauvais, thy
mace is as good a weapon as thy crosier. I trust thou mayest often
find texts in Scripture to justify thy so smiting the king's enemies."

"I spill no blood, sire," replied the warlike bishop: "to knock on the
head, is not to spill blood, let it be remarked."

"We have, at all events, with thine aid, my Lord of Beauvais," said
the king, smiling at the prelate's nice distinction,--"we have, at all
events, knocked on the head a great and foul confederation against our
peace and liberties.--Ha! my young Lord of Champagne! Valiantly hast
thou won thy knighthood.--Guillaume des Barres, thou art a better
knight than any of the round table; and to mend thy cellarage, I give
thee five hundred acres in my valley of Soissons. And Pierre de Dreux,
too, art thou, for once in thy life, satisfied with hard blows? De
Coucy, my noble De Coucy! to whom I did some wrong before the battle.
As thou hast said thyself, De Coucy, God send me ever such traitors as
thou art! However, I have news for thee, will make thee amends for one
hard word. Welcome, St. Valery!--as welcome as when you came to my
succour this fair morning. Now, lords, we will see the prisoners--not
to triumph over them, but that they may know their fate."

According to the king's commands, the several prisoners of high rank,
who had been taken that morning, were now brought before him; a part
of the ceremony to which even his own barons looked with some doubt
and anxiety, as well as the captives themselves; for, amongst those
who had fought on the other side, were many who were not only traitors
to the king, inasmuch as violating their oath of homage rendered them
so--but traitors under circumstances of high aggravation, after
repeated pardon and many a personal favour; yet who were also linked,
by the nearest ties of kindred, to those in whose presence they now
stood as prisoners. The first that appeared was the Earl of Salisbury,
who, in the fear caused by the number of prisoners, had been bound
with strong cords, and was still in that condition when brought before
the king.

"I am sorry to see you here, William of Salisbury," said Philip
frankly. "But why those cords upon your hands? Who has dared, so
unworthily, to bind a noble knight? Off with them! quick! Will you not
yield yourself a true prisoner?

"With all my heart, sir king," replied the earl, "since I may no
better. The knaves tied me, I fancy, lest the prisoners should eat up
their conquerors. But, by my faith! had the cowardly scum who have run
from the field, but fought like even your gownsmen, we should have won
few prisoners, but some glory."

"For form's sake, we must have some one to be hostage for your faith,"
said the king, "and then good knight, you shall have as much liberty
as a prisoner may.--Who will be William of Salisbury's surety?"

"That will I," said De Coucy, stepping forward. "In life and lands,
though I have but little of the last."

"Thank thee, old friend," said the earl, grasping his hand. "We fought
in different parts of the field, or we would have tried some of our
old blows; but 'tis well as it is, though 'twas a bishop, they tell
me, knocked me on the head. I saw him not, in faith, or I would have
split his mitre for his pains."

Prisoner after prisoner was now brought before the king, to most of
whom he spoke in a tone to allay their fears. On Ferrand of Flanders,
however, he bent his brows, strongly moved with indignation, when he
remembered the presumptuous vaunting of that vain light prince, who
had boasted that, within a month, he would ride triumphant into Paris.

"Now, rebellious vassal," said the monarch with severe dignity of
aspect, "what fate does thy treason deserve? Snake, thou hast stung us
for fostering thee in our bosom, and the pleasures of Paris, shown to
thee in the hospitality of our court, have made thee covet the
heritage of thy lord. As thou hast boasted, so shall it befall thee;
and thou shalt ride in triumph into our capital; but, by heaven's
queen! it shall not be to sport with jugglers and courtesans!"

Ferrand turned deadly pale, in his already excited fears,
misconstruing the king's words. "I hope, my lord," said he, "that you
will think well before you strike at my life. Remember, I am but your
vassal for these lands of Flanders, in right of my wife--that I am the
son of an independent monarch, and my life may not----"

"Thy life!" cried Philip, his lip curling with scorn,--"Fear not for
thy pitiful life! Get thee gone! I butcher not my prisoners; but, by
the Lord! I will take good care that ye rebel not again! Now, Renault
of Boulogne," he continued, turning to the gigantic count of Boulogne,
who, of all the confederates, had fought the longest and most
desperately, entertaining no hope of life if taken, both from being
one of the chief instigators of the confederacy, and from many an old
score of rebellion not yet wiped off between himself and the king. He
appeared before the monarch, however, with a frank smile upon his
jovial countenance, as if prepared to endure with good humour the
worst that could befall; and seeing that, as a kind of trophy, one of
the pages bore in his enormous casque, on the crest of which he had
worn two of the broad blades of whalebone, near six feet high, he
turned laughing to those around, while the king spoke to Ferrand of
Flanders--"Good faith," said he, "I thought myself a leviathan, but
they have managed to catch me notwithstanding."

"Now, Renault of Boulogne," said the king sternly--"how often have I
pardoned thee--canst thou tell?"

"Faith, my lord!" replied the count, "I never was good at reckoning;
but this I do know, that you have granted me my life oftener than I
either deserved or expected, though I cannot calculate justly how
often."

"When you do calculate, then," said Philip, "add another time to the
list; but, remember, by the bones of all the saints! it is the last!"

"Faith! my lord, you shall not break their bones for me," replied the
count. "For I have made a resolution to be your good vassal for the
future; and, as my good friend Count Julian of the Mount says, my
resolutions are as immoveable as the centre."

"Ha, Count Julian!" said the king. "You are welcome, fair count; and,
by Heaven, we have a mind to deal hardly with you. You have been a
comer and goer, sir, in all these errands. You have been one of the
chief stirrers-up of my vassals against me; and by the Lord! if block
and axe were ever well won, you have worked for them. However, here
stands sir Guy de Coucy, true knight, and the king's friend; give him
the hand of your daughter, his lady-love, and you save your head upon
your shoulders."

"My lord, it cannot be," replied old sir Julian stoutly. "I have
already given the knight his answer. What I have said, is said--my
resolutions are as immoveable as the centre, and I'd sooner encounter
the axe than break them."

"Then, by Heaven! the axe shall be your doom!" cried Philip, giving
way to one of his quick bursts of passion, at the bold and obstinate
tone in which his rebellious vassal dared to address him. "Away with
him to the block! and know, old mover of rebellions, that your lands
and lordships, and your daughter's hand, I, as your sovereign lord,
will give to this brave knight, after you have suffered the punishment
of your treason and your obstinacy."

Sir Julian's cheek turned somewhat pale, and his eye twinkled; but he
merely bit his lip; and, firm in his impenetrable obstinacy, offered
no word to turn aside the monarch's wrath. De Coucy, however, stepped
forward, and prayed the king, as sir Julian had been taken by his own
men, to give him over to him, when he doubted not he would be able to
bring him to reason.

"Take him then, De Coucy," said Philip; "I give you power to make what
terms with him you like; but before he quits this presence, he
consents to his daughter's marriage with you, or he quits it for the
block. Let us hear how you will convert him."

"What I have said, is said!" muttered sir Julian,--"my resolutions are
as immoveable as the centre!"

"Sir Julian," said De Coucy, standing forward before the circle, while
the prisoner made up his face to a look of sturdy obstinacy, that
would have done honour to an old, well-seasoned mule, "you told me
once, that I might claim your daughter's hand, if ever--Guillaume de
la Roche Guyon, to whom you had promised her, being dead--you should
be fairly my prisoner, and I could measure acre for acre with your
land. Now, I have to tell you, that William de la Roche fell on
yonder plain, pierced from the back to the front by one of the lances
of Tankerville, as he was flying from the field. You are, by the
king's bounty and my good fortune, my true and lawful prisoner; and
surely the power of saving your life, and giving you freedom, may be
reckoned against wealth and land."

"No, no!" said sir Julian. "What I have said----"

But he was interrupted by the king, who had recovered from the first
heat into which sir Julian's obstinacy had cast him, and was now
rather amused than otherwise with the scene before him. "Hold, count
Julian!" cried he, "Do not make any objection yet. The only difficulty
is about the lands, it seems--that we will soon remove."

"Oh, that alters the case," cried count Julian, not sorry in his heart
to be relieved from the painful necessity of maintaining his
resolution at the risk of his life. "If you, sire, in your bounty,
choose to make him my equal in wealth--William de la Roche Guyon
being dead, and I being his prisoner,--all the conditions will be
fulfilled, and he shall have my daughter. What I have said is as firm
as fate."

"Well then," replied the king, glancing his eye towards the barons,
who stood round, smiling at the old knight's mania, "we will not only
make De Coucy your equal in wealth, sir Julian, but far your superior.
A court of peers, lords!--a court of peers! Let my peers stand
around."

Such of the spectators as were by right peers of France, advanced a
step from the other persons of the circle, and the king proceeded.

"Count Julian of the Mount!" said he in a stern voice, "We, Philip
the Second, king of France, with the aid and counsel of our peers, do
pronounce you guilty of _leze majesté_; and do declare all your feofs,
lands, and lordships, wealth, furniture, and jewels, forfeited and
confiscate to the Crown of France, to use and dispose thereof, as
shall be deemed expedient!"

"A judgment! a judgment!" cried the peers while the countenance of
poor Count Julian fell a thousand degrees. "Now, sir," continued the
king, "without a foot of land in Europe, and without a besant to bless
yourself,--William de la Roche Guyon being dead, and you that good
knight's prisoner,--we call upon you to fulfil your word to him, and
consent to his marriage with your daughter, Isadore, on pain of being
held false and mansworn, as well as stubborn and mulish."

"What I have said is said!" replied count Julian, putting forth his
wonted proposition in a very crest-fallen tone. "My resolutions are
always as firm as the centre.--De Coucy, I promised her to you, under
such circumstances. They are fulfilled, and she is your's--though it
is hard that I must marry my daughter to a beggar.

"Beggar, sir!" cried the king, his brow darkening again; "let me tell
you, that though rich enough in worth and valour alone to match the
daughter of a prince, sir Guy de Coucy, as he stands there, possesses
double in lands and lordships what you have ever possessed. De Coucy,
it is true: the lands and lordships of Tankerville, and all those fair
domains upon the banks of the broad Rhone, possessed by the Count of
Tankerville, who wedded your father's sister, are now yours, by a
charter in our royal treasury, made under his hand, some ten years
ago, and warranted by our consent. We have ourself, pressed by the
necessities of the state, taken for the last year the revenue of those
lands, purposing to make restitution--to you, if it should appear that
the count was really dead--to him, if he returned from Palestine,
whither he was said to have gone. But we find ourself justified by an
unexpected event. We acted in this by the counsel of the wise and
excellent hermit of Vincennes, now a saint in God's paradise: and we
have just learned, that the count de Tankerville himself it was who
died ten days ago in the person of that same Bernard, the anchorite of
Vincennes. He had lived there in that holy disguise for many years;
and it was so long since we had seen him, the change in his person, by
fasts and macerations, was so great, and his appearance as a hermit
altogether so different from what it was as the splendid Count of
Tankerville, that, though not liable to forget the faces we have seen,
in his case we were totally deceived. On his death-bed he wrote to us
this letter, full of pious instruction and good counsel. At the same
time, he makes us the unnecessary prayer of loving and protecting you.
You, therefore, wed the proud old man's daughter, far his superior in
every gift of fortune; and, as some punishment to his vanity and
stubbornness, we endow you and your heirs with all those feofs that he
has justly forfeited, leaving you to make what provision for his age
you yourself may think fit."

Count Julian hung his head; but here let it be said, that he had never
any cause to regret that the king had cast his fortunes into such a
hand; for De Coucy was one of those whose hearts, nobly formed, expand
rather than contract under the sunshine of fortune.



CHAPTER XV.


Six days had elapsed after the scenes we have described in our two
last chapters, and Philip Augustus had taken all measures to secure
the fruits of his victory, when, at the head of a gay party of knights
and attendants, no longer burdened with warlike armour, but garmented
in the light and easy robes of peace, the conquering monarch spurred
along the banks of the Oise, anxious to make Agnes a sharer of his
joy, and to tell her that, though the crafty policy of Rome still
prolonged the question of his divorce, he was now armed with power to
dictate what terms he pleased, and to bring her enemies to her feet.

The six months had now more than expired, during which he had
consented not to see her; and that absence had given to his love all
that magic light with which memory invests past happiness. The
brightest delight, too, of hope was added to his feelings,--the hope
of seeing joy reblossom on the cheek of her he loved, and the
inspiration of the noblest purpose that can wing human endeavour
carried him on,--the purpose of raising, and comforting, and bestowing
happiness.

It may easily be believed, then, that the monarch was in one of his
gayest and most gladsome moods; and to De Coucy, who rode by his side,
full of as high hopes and glad anticipations as himself, he ever and
anon poured forth some of the bright feelings that were swelling in
his bosom.

The young knight, too, hurrying on towards the castle of Rolleboise,
where Isadore, now his own, won by knightly deeds and honourable
effort, still remained, uncertain of her fate--gave way at once more
to the natural liveliness of his disposition; and, living in an age
when Ceremony had not drawn her rigid barrier between the monarch and
his vassal, suffered the high spirits, which for many months had been,
as it were, chained down by circumstance, to shine out in many a quick
sally and cheerful reply.

The death of his companion in arms, the unhappy Count d'Auvergne,
would indeed throw an occasional shade over De Coucy's mind. But the
regrets which we in the present age experience for the loss of a
friend in such a manner--and which De Coucy was formed to feel as
keenly as any one--in that age met with many alleviations. He had died
knightly in his harness, defending his monarch; he had fallen upon a
whole pile of enemies his hand had slain; he had wrought high deeds,
and won immortal renown. In the eyes of De Coucy, such a death was to
be envied; and thus, though, when he thought of never beholding his
friend again, he felt a touch of natural grief for his own sake; yet,
as he remembered the manner of his fate, he felt proud that his friend
had so finished his career.

It was a bright July morning, and would have been extremely hot, had
not an occasional cloud skimmed over the sky, and cast a cool though
fleeting shadow upon the earth. One of these had just passed, and had
let fall a few large drops of rain upon them in its course, the glossy
stains of which on his black charger's neck Philip was examining with
the sweet idleness of happiness, when De Coucy called his attention to
a pigeon flying overhead.

"A carrier pigeon, as I live! my lord!" said the knight. "I have seen
them often in Palestine. Look! there is its roll of paper!"

"Has any one a falcon?" cried the king, apparently more agitated than
De Coucy expected to see, on so simple an event. "I would give a
thousand besants for a falcon!"

One of the king's pages, in the train, carried, as was common in those
days even during long journies, a falcon on his wrist; and, hearing
the monarch's exclamation, he, in a moment, unhooded his bird, and
slipped its gesses. Lifting its keen eyes towards the skies, the hawk
spread its wings at once, and towered after the pigeon.

"Well flown, good youth!" cried the king. "What is thy name?"

"My name is Hubert," replied the boy, somewhat abashed, "My name is
Hubert, beau sire."

"Hubert? What, nothing else? Henceforth, then be Hubert de
Fauconpret;" and having sportively given this name to the youth--a
name which descended distinguished to after years, he turned his eyes
towards the falcon, and watched its progress through the sky. "The
bird will miss his stroke, I fear me," said the king, turning towards
De Coucy; and then, seeing some surprise at his anxiety painted on the
young knight's countenance, he added, "That pigeon is from Rolleboise.
I brought the breed from Ascalon. Agnes would not have loosed it
without some weighty cause."

As he spoke, the falcon towered above the pigeon, struck it, and at a
whistle brought it, trembling and half dead with fear, to the page,
who instantly delivered it from the clutches of its winged enemy, and
gave it into the hands of the king. Philip took the scrap of paper
from the poor bird's neck, caressed it for a moment, and then again
threw it up into the air. At first, it seemed as if it would have
fallen, from the fear which it had undergone, though the well-trained
falcon had not injured it in the least. After a few faint whirls,
however, it gained strength again, rose in a perpendicular line into
the sky, took two or three circles in the air, and then darted off at
once directly towards Paris.

In the meanwhile, Philip Augustus gazed upon the paper he had thus
received; and, whatever were the contents, they took the colour from
his cheek. Without a word, he struck his horse violently with his
spurs, urged him into a gallop, and, followed by his train as best
they might, drew not in his rein till he stood before the barbican of
the castle of Rolleboise.

Pale cheeks and anxious eyes encountered his glance, as he dashed over
the drawbridge the moment it was lowered. "The queen?" cried he, "the
queen? How fares the queen?" But, without waiting for a reply, he
sprang to the ground in the court, rushed past the crowd of
attendants, through the hall, up the staircase, and paused not, till
he reached the door of that chamber which he and Agnes had inhabited
during the first months of their union; and in which, from its happy
memories, he knew she would be fond to dwell. There, however, he
stopped, the beating of his heart seeming almost to menace him with
destruction if he took a step farther.

There was a murmur of voices within; and, after an instant's pause, he
opened the door, and gliding past the tapestry, stood at the end of
the room.

The chamber was dim, for the night was near; but at the farther
extremity was the faint light of a taper contending with the pale
remains of day. He could see, however, that his marriage-bed was
arrayed like the couch of the dying, that there were priests standing
round in silence, and women in tears; while one lovely girl, whose
face he knew not, knelt by the bed-side, and supported on her arm the
pale and ashy countenance of another, over which the grey shadow of
death seemed advancing fast.

Philip started forward. Could that be Agnes--that pale, blighted
thing, over whose dim and glassy eyes a strange unlife-like film
was drawn, the precursor of the shroud? Could that be Agnes--the
bright--the beautiful--the beloved?

A faint exclamation, which broke from the attendants as they beheld
him, reached even the heavy ear of the dying. The film was drawn back
from her eyes for a moment; life blazed up once more, and concentrated
all its parting light in the full, glad, ecstatic gaze which she fixed
upon the countenance of him she loved. A smile of welcome and farewell
hung upon her lip; and, with a last effort, she stretched forth her
arms towards him. With bitter tears, Philip clasped her to his bosom.
Agnes bent down her . . . head upon his neck and died!

Oh, glory! oh, victory! oh, power! Ye shining emptinesses! Ye bubbles
on the stream of time!



THE END.



LONDON:
Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
New-Street-Square.





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