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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

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

Title: Men of Iron
Author: Pyle, Howard
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 "Men of Iron" ***

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


by Howard Pyle


The year 1400 opened with more than usual peacefulness in England. Only
a few months before, Richard II--weak, wicked, and treacherous--had been
dethroned, and Henry IV declared King in his stead. But it was only a
seeming peacefulness, lasting but for a little while; for though King
Henry proved himself a just and a merciful man--as justice and mercy
went with the men of iron of those days--and though he did not care
to shed blood needlessly, there were many noble families who had been
benefited by King Richard during his reign, and who had lost somewhat of
their power and prestige from the coming in of the new King.

Among these were a number of great lords--the Dukes of Albemarle,
Surrey, and Exeter, the Marquis of Dorset, the Earl of Gloucester, and
others--who had been degraded to their former titles and estates, from
which King Richard had lifted them. These and others brewed a secret
plot to take King Henry’s life, which plot might have succeeded had not
one of their own number betrayed them.

Their plan had been to fall upon the King and his adherents, and to
massacre them during a great tournament, to be held at Oxford. But Henry
did not appear at the lists; whereupon, knowing that he had been lodging
at Windsor with only a few attendants, the conspirators marched thither
against him. In the mean time the King had been warned of the plot,
so that, instead of finding him in the royal castle, they discovered
through their scouts that he had hurried to London, whence he was
even then marching against them at the head of a considerable army. So
nothing was left them but flight. Some betook themselves one way, some
another; some sought sanctuary here, some there; but one and another,
they were all of them caught and killed.

The Earl of Kent--one time Duke of Surrey--and the Earl of
Salisbury were beheaded in the market-place at Cirencester; Lord Le
Despencer--once the Earl of Gloucester--and Lord Lumley met the same
fate at Bristol; the Earl of Huntingdon was taken in the Essex fens,
carried to the castle of the Duke of Gloucester, whom he had betrayed
to his death in King Richard’s time, and was there killed by the castle
people. Those few who found friends faithful and bold enough to afford
them shelter, dragged those friends down in their own ruin.

Just such a case was that of the father of the boy hero of this
story, the blind Lord Gilbert Reginald Falworth, Baron of Falworth and
Easterbridge, who, though having no part in the plot, suffered through
it ruin, utter and complete.

He had been a faithful counsellor and adviser to King Richard, and
perhaps it was this, as much and more than his roundabout connection
with the plot, that brought upon him the punishment he suffered.


Myles Falworth was but eight years of age at that time, and it was only
afterwards, and when he grew old enough to know more of the ins and outs
of the matter, that he could remember by bits and pieces the things that
afterwards happened; how one evening a knight came clattering into the
court-yard upon a horse, red-nostrilled and smeared with the sweat and
foam of a desperate ride--Sir John Dale, a dear friend of the blind

Even though so young, Myles knew that something very serious had
happened to make Sir John so pale and haggard, and he dimly remembered
leaning against the knight’s iron-covered knees, looking up into his
gloomy face, and asking him if he was sick to look so strange. Thereupon
those who had been too troubled before to notice him, bethought
themselves of him, and sent him to bed, rebellious at having to go so

He remembered how the next morning, looking out of a window high up
under the eaves, he saw a great troop of horsemen come riding into the
courtyard beneath, where a powdering of snow had whitened everything,
and of how the leader, a knight clad in black armor, dismounted and
entered the great hall door-way below, followed by several of the band.

He remembered how some of the castle women were standing in a frightened
group upon the landing of the stairs, talking together in low voices
about a matter he did not understand, excepting that the armed men who
had ridden into the courtyard had come for Sir John Dale. None of the
women paid any attention to him; so, shunning their notice, he ran off
down the winding stairs, expecting every moment to be called back again
by some one of them.

A crowd of castle people, all very serious and quiet, were gathered
in the hall, where a number of strange men-at-arms lounged upon the
benches, while two billmen in steel caps and leathern jacks stood
guarding the great door, the butts of their weapons resting upon the
ground, and the staves crossed, barring the door-way.

In the anteroom was the knight in black armor whom Myles had seen from
the window. He was sitting at the table, his great helmet lying upon
the bench beside him, and a quart beaker of spiced wine at his elbow. A
clerk sat at the other end of the same table, with inkhorn in one hand
and pen in the other, and a parchment spread in front of him.

Master Robert, the castle steward, stood before the knight, who every
now and then put to him a question, which the other would answer, and
the clerk write the answer down upon the parchment.

His father stood with his back to the fireplace, looking down upon the
floor with his blind eyes, his brows drawn moodily together, and the
scar of the great wound that he had received at the tournament at
York--the wound that had made him blind--showing red across his
forehead, as it always did when he was angered or troubled.

There was something about it all that frightened Myles, who crept to his
father’s side, and slid his little hand into the palm that hung limp and
inert. In answer to the touch, his father grasped the hand tightly,
but did not seem otherwise to notice that he was there. Neither did
the black knight pay any attention to him, but continued putting his
questions to Master Robert.

Then, suddenly, there was a commotion in the hall without, loud voices,
and a hurrying here and there. The black knight half arose, grasping a
heavy iron mace that lay upon the bench beside him, and the next moment
Sir John Dale himself, as pale as death, walked into the antechamber. He
stopped in the very middle of the room. “I yield me to my Lord’s grace
and mercy,” said he to the black knight, and they were the last words he
ever uttered in this world.

The black knight shouted out some words of command, and swinging up the
iron mace in his hand, strode forward clanking towards Sir John, who
raised his arm as though to shield himself from the blow. Two or three
of those who stood in the hall without came running into the room with
drawn swords and bills, and little Myles, crying out with terror, hid
his face in his father’s long gown.

The next instant came the sound of a heavy blow and of a groan, then
another blow and the sound of one falling upon the ground. Then the
clashing of steel, and in the midst Lord Falworth crying, in a dreadful
voice, “Thou traitor! thou coward! thou murderer!”

Master Robert snatched Myles away from his father, and bore him out of
the room in spite of his screams and struggles, and he remembered just
one instant’s sight of Sir John lying still and silent upon his face,
and of the black knight standing above him, with the terrible mace in
his hand stained a dreadful red.

It was the next day that Lord and Lady Falworth and little Myles,
together with three of the more faithful of their people, left the

His memory of past things held a picture for Myles of old Diccon Bowman
standing over him in the silence of midnight with a lighted lamp in his
hand, and with it a recollection of being bidden to hush when he would
have spoken, and of being dressed by Diccon and one of the women,
bewildered with sleep, shuddering and chattering with cold.

He remembered being wrapped in the sheepskin that lay at the foot of
his bed, and of being carried in Diccon Bowman’s arms down the silent
darkness of the winding stair-way, with the great black giant shadows
swaying and flickering upon the stone wall as the dull flame of the lamp
swayed and flickered in the cold breathing of the night air.

Below were his father and mother and two or three others. A stranger
stood warming his hands at a newly-made fire, and little Myles, as he
peeped from out the warm sheepskin, saw that he was in riding-boots and
was covered with mud. He did not know till long years afterwards that
the stranger was a messenger sent by a friend at the King’s court,
bidding his father fly for safety.

They who stood there by the red blaze of the fire were all very still,
talking in whispers and walking on tiptoes, and Myles’s mother hugged
him in her arms, sheepskin and all, kissing him, with the tears
streaming down her cheeks, and whispering to him, as though he could
understand their trouble, that they were about to leave their home

Then Diccon Bowman carried him out into the strangeness of the winter

Outside, beyond the frozen moat, where the osiers, stood stark and stiff
in their winter nakedness, was a group of dark figures waiting for them
with horses. In the pallid moonlight Myles recognized the well-known
face of Father Edward, the Prior of St. Mary’s.

After that came a long ride through that silent night upon the
saddle-bow in front of Diccon Bowman; then a deep, heavy sleep, that
fell upon him in spite of the galloping of the horses.

When next he woke the sun was shining, and his home and his whole life
were changed.


From the time the family escaped from Falworth Castle that midwinter
night to the time Myles was sixteen years old he knew nothing of the
great world beyond Crosbey-Dale. A fair was held twice in a twelvemonth
at the market-town of Wisebey, and three times in the seven years old
Diccon Bowman took the lad to see the sights at that place. Beyond these
three glimpses of the outer world he lived almost as secluded a life as
one of the neighboring monks of St. Mary’s Priory.

Crosbey-Holt, their new home, was different enough from Falworth or
Easterbridge Castle, the former baronial seats of Lord Falworth. It was
a long, low, straw-thatched farm-house, once, when the church lands were
divided into two holdings, one of the bailiff’s houses. All around were
the fruitful farms of the priory, tilled by well-to-do tenant holders,
and rich with fields of waving grain, and meadow-lands where sheep and
cattle grazed in flocks and herds; for in those days the church lands
were under church rule, and were governed by church laws, and there,
when war and famine and waste and sloth blighted the outside world,
harvests flourished and were gathered, and sheep were sheared and cows
were milked in peace and quietness.

The Prior of St. Mary’s owed much if not all of the church’s prosperity
to the blind Lord Falworth, and now he was paying it back with a haven
of refuge from the ruin that his former patron had brought upon himself
by giving shelter to Sir John Dale.

I fancy that most boys do not love the grinding of school life--the
lessons to be conned, the close application during study hours. It is
not often pleasant to brisk, lively lads to be so cooped up. I wonder
what the boys of to-day would have thought of Myles’s training. With him
that training was not only of the mind, but of the body as well, and for
seven years it was almost unremitting. “Thou hast thine own way to
make in the world, sirrah,” his father said more than once when the boy
complained of the grinding hardness of his life, and to make one’s way
in those days meant a thousand times more than it does now; it meant not
only a heart to feel and a brain to think, but a hand quick and strong
to strike in battle, and a body tough to endure the wounds and blows in
return. And so it was that Myles’s body as well as his mind had to be
trained to meet the needs of the dark age in which he lived.

Every morning, winter or summer, rain or shine he tramped away six long
miles to the priory school, and in the evenings his mother taught him

Myles, being prejudiced in the school of thought of his day, rebelled
not a little at that last branch of his studies. “Why must I learn that
vile tongue?” said he.

“Call it not vile,” said the blind old Lord, grimly; “belike, when thou
art grown a man, thou’lt have to seek thy fortune in France land, for
England is haply no place for such as be of Falworth blood.” And in
after-years, true to his father’s prediction, the “vile tongue” served
him well.

As for his physical training, that pretty well filled up the hours
between his morning studies at the monastery and his evening studies
at home. Then it was that old Diccon Bowman took him in hand, than whom
none could be better fitted to shape his young body to strength and his
hands to skill in arms. The old bowman had served with Lord Falworth’s
father under the Black Prince both in France and Spain, and in long
years of war had gained a practical knowledge of arms that few could
surpass. Besides the use of the broadsword, the short sword, the
quarter-staff, and the cudgel, he taught Myles to shoot so skilfully
with the long-bow and the cross-bow that not a lad in the country-side
was his match at the village butts. Attack and defence with the lance,
and throwing the knife and dagger were also part of his training.

Then, in addition to this more regular part of his physical training,
Myles was taught in another branch not so often included in the military
education of the day--the art of wrestling. It happened that a fellow
lived in Crosbey village, by name Ralph-the-Smith, who was the greatest
wrestler in the country-side, and had worn the champion belt for three
years. Every Sunday afternoon, in fair weather, he came to teach Myles
the art, and being wonderfully adept in bodily feats, he soon grew so
quick and active and firm-footed that he could cast any lad under twenty
years of age living within a range of five miles.

“It is main ungentle armscraft that he learneth,” said Lord Falworth one
day to Prior Edward. “Saving only the broadsword, the dagger, and the
lance, there is but little that a gentleman of his strain may use.
Neth’less, he gaineth quickness and suppleness, and if he hath true
blood in his veins he will acquire knightly arts shrewdly quick when the
time cometh to learn them.”

But hard and grinding as Myles’s life was, it was not entirely without
pleasures. There were many boys living in Crosbey-Dale and the village;
yeomen’s and farmers’ sons, to be sure, but, nevertheless, lads of his
own age, and that, after all, is the main requirement for friendship in
boyhood’s world. Then there was the river to bathe in; there were the
hills and valleys to roam over, and the wold and woodland, with their
wealth of nuts and birds’-nests and what not of boyhood’s treasures.

Once he gained a triumph that for many a day was very sweet under the
tongue of his memory. As was said before, he had been three times to the
market-town at fair-time, and upon the last of these occasions he had
fought a bout of quarterstaff with a young fellow of twenty, and had
been the conqueror. He was then only a little over fourteen years old.

Old Diccon, who had gone with him to the fair, had met some cronies of
his own, with whom he had sat gossiping in the ale-booth, leaving Myles
for the nonce to shift for himself. By-and-by the old man had noticed
a crowd gathered at one part of the fair-ground, and, snuffing a fight,
had gone running, ale-pot in hand. Then, peering over the shoulders of
the crowd, he had seen his young master, stripped to the waist, fighting
like a gladiator with a fellow a head taller than himself. Diccon was
about to force his way through the crowd and drag them asunder, but a
second look had showed his practised eye that Myles was not only holding
his own, but was in the way of winning the victory. So he had stood with
the others looking on, withholding himself from any interference and
whatever upbraiding might be necessary until the fight had been brought
to a triumphant close. Lord Falworth never heard directly of the
redoubtable affair, but old Diccon was not so silent with the common
folk of Crosbey-Dale, and so no doubt the father had some inkling of
what had happened. It was shortly after this notable event that Myles
was formally initiated into squirehood. His father and mother, as was
the custom, stood sponsors for him. By them, each bearing a lighted
taper, he was escorted to the altar. It was at St. Mary’s Priory, and
Prior Edward blessed the sword and girded it to the lad’s side. No
one was present but the four, and when the good Prior had given the
benediction and had signed the cross upon his forehead, Myles’s mother
stooped and kissed his brow just where the priest’s finger had drawn the
holy sign. Her eyes brimmed bright with tears as she did so. Poor
lady! perhaps she only then and for the first time realized how big her
fledgling was growing for his nest. Henceforth Myles had the right to
wear a sword.

Myles had ended his fifteenth year. He was a bonny lad, with brown face,
curling hair, a square, strong chin, and a pair of merry laughing
blue eyes; his shoulders were broad; his chest was thick of girth; his
muscles and thews were as tough as oak.

The day upon which he was sixteen years old, as he came whistling home
from the monastery school he was met by Diccon Bowman.

“Master Myles,” said the old man, with a snuffle in his voice--“Master
Myles, thy father would see thee in his chamber, and bade me send thee
to him as soon as thou didst come home. Oh, Master Myles, I fear me that
belike thou art going to leave home to-morrow day.”

Myles stopped short. “To leave home!” he cried.

“Aye,” said old Diccon, “belike thou goest to some grand castle to
live there, and be a page there and what not, and then, haply, a
gentleman-at-arms in some great lord’s pay.”

“What coil is this about castles and lords and gentlemen-at-arms?” said
Myles. “What talkest thou of, Diccon? Art thou jesting?”

“Nay,” said Diccon, “I am not jesting. But go to thy father, and then
thou wilt presently know all. Only this I do say, that it is like thou
leavest us to-morrow day.”

And so it was as Diccon had said; Myles was to leave home the very
next morning. He found his father and mother and Prior Edward together,
waiting for his coming.

“We three have been talking it over this morning,” said his father, “and
so think each one that the time hath come for thee to quit this poor
home of ours. An thou stay here ten years longer, thou’lt be no more fit
to go then than now. To-morrow I will give thee a letter to my kinsman,
the Earl of Mackworth. He has thriven in these days and I have fallen
away, but time was that he and I were true sworn companions, and
plighted together in friendship never to be sundered. Methinks, as I
remember him, he will abide by his plighted troth, and will give thee
his aid to rise in the world. So, as I said, to-morrow morning thou
shalt set forth with Diccon Bowman, and shall go to Castle Devlen, and
there deliver this letter which prayeth him to give thee a place in his
household. Thou mayst have this afternoon to thyself to make read such
things as thou shalt take with thee. And bid me Diccon to take the gray
horse to the village and have it shod.”

Prior Edward had been standing looking out of the window. As Lord
Falworth ended he turned.

“And, Myles,” said he, “thou wilt need some money, so I will give thee
as a loan forty shillings, which some day thou mayst return to me an
thou wilt. For this know, Myles, a man cannot do in the world without
money. Thy father hath it ready for thee in the chest, and will give it
thee to-morrow ere thou goest.”

Lord Falworth had the grim strength of manhood’s hard sense to upbear
him in sending his son into the world, but the poor lady mother had
nothing of that to uphold her. No doubt it was as hard then as it is
now for the mother to see the nestling thrust from the nest to shift for
itself. What tears were shed, what words of love were spoken to the only
man-child, none but the mother and the son ever knew.

The next morning Myles and the old bowman rode away, and no doubt to
the boy himself the dark shadows of leave-taking were lost in the golden
light of hope as he rode out into the great world to seek his fortune.


WHAT MYLES remembered of Falworth loomed great and grand and big, as
things do in the memory of childhood, but even memory could not make
Falworth the equal of Devlen Castle, when, as he and Diccon Bowman rode
out of Devlentown across the great, rude stone bridge that spanned the
river, he first saw, rising above the crowns of the trees, those
huge hoary walls, and the steep roofs and chimneys clustered thickly
together, like the roofs and chimneys of a town.

The castle was built upon a plateau-like rise of ground, which was
enclosed by the outer wall. It was surrounded on three sides by a
loop-like bend of the river, and on the fourth was protected by a deep,
broad, artificial moat, almost as wide as the stream from which it was
fed. The road from the town wound for a little distance along by the
edge of this moat. As Myles and the old bowman galloped by, with the
answering echo of their horses’ hoof-beats rattling back from the smooth
stone face of the walls, the lad looked up, wondering at the height and
strength of the great ancient fortress. In his air-castle building Myles
had pictured the Earl receiving him as the son of his one-time comrade
in arms--receiving him, perhaps, with somewhat of the rustic warmth that
he knew at Crosbey-Dale; but now, as he stared at those massive walls
from below, and realized his own insignificance and the greatness of
this great Earl, he felt the first keen, helpless ache of homesickness
shoot through his breast, and his heart yearned for Crosbey-Holt again.

Then they thundered across the bridge that spanned the moat, and through
the dark shadows of the great gaping gate-way, and Diccon, bidding him
stay for a moment, rode forward to bespeak the gate-keeper.

The gate-keeper gave the two in charge of one of the men-at-arms who
were lounging upon a bench in the archway, who in turn gave them into
the care of one of the house-servants in the outer court-yard. So,
having been passed from one to another, and having answered many
questions, Myles in due time found himself in the outer waiting-room
sitting beside Diccon Bowman upon a wooden bench that stood along the
wall under the great arch of a glazed window.

For a while the poor country lad sat stupidly bewildered. He was aware
of people coming and going; he was aware of talk and laughter sounding
around him; but he thought of nothing but his aching homesickness and
the oppression of his utter littleness in the busy life of this great

Meantime old Diccon Bowman was staring about him with huge interest,
every now and then nudging his young master, calling his attention now
to this and now to that, until at last the lad began to awaken somewhat
from his despondency to the things around. Besides those servants and
others who came and went, and a knot of six or eight men-at-arms with
bills and pole-axes, who stood at the farther door-way talking together
in low tones, now and then broken by a stifled laugh, was a group of
four young squires, who lounged upon a bench beside a door-way hidden by
an arras, and upon them Myles’s eyes lit with a sudden interest. Three
of the four were about his own age, one was a year or two older, and
all four were dressed in the black-and-yellow uniform of the house of

Myles plucked the bowman by the sleeve. “Be they squires, Diccon?” said
he, nodding towards the door.

“Eh?” said Diccon. “Aye; they be squires.”

“And will my station be with them?” asked the boy.

“Aye; an the Earl take thee to service, thou’lt haply be taken as

Myles stared at them, and then of a sudden was aware that the young men
were talking of him. He knew it by the way they eyed him askance, and
spoke now and then in one another’s ears. One of the four, a gay young
fellow, with long riding-boots laced with green laces, said a few words,
the others gave a laugh, and poor Myles, knowing how ungainly he must
seem to them, felt the blood rush to his cheeks, and shyly turned his

Suddenly, as though stirred by an impulse, the same lad who had just
created the laugh arose from the bench, and came directly across the
room to where Myles and the bowman sat.

“Give thee good-den,” said he. “What be’st thy name and whence comest
thou, an I may make bold so to ask?”

“My name is Myles Falworth,” said Myles; “and I come from Crosbey-Dale
bearing a letter to my Lord.”

“Never did I hear of Crosbey-Dale,” said the squire. “But what seekest
here, if so be I may ask that much?”

“I come seeking service,” said Myles, “and would enter as an esquire
such as ye be in my Lord’s household.”

Myles’s new acquaintance grinned. “Thou’lt make a droll squire to wait
in a Lord’s household,” said he. “Hast ever been in such service?”

“Nay,” said Myles, “I have only been at school, and learned Latin and
French and what not. But Diccon Bowman here hath taught me use of arms.”

The young squire laughed outright. “By’r Lady, thy talk doth tickle
me, friend Myles,” said he. “Think’st thou such matters will gain thee
footing here? But stay! Thou didst say anon that thou hadst a letter to
my Lord. From whom is it?”

“It is from my father,” said Myles. “He is of noble blood, but fallen in
estate. He is a kinsman of my Lord’s, and one time his comrade in arms.”

“Sayst so?” said the other. “Then mayhap thy chances are not so
ill, after all.” Then, after a moment, he added: “My name is Francis
Gascoyne, and I will stand thy friend in this matter. Get thy letter
ready, for my Lord and his Grace of York are within and come forth anon.
The Archbishop is on his way to Dalworth, and my Lord escorts him so far
as Uppingham. I and those others are to go along. Dost thou know my Lord
by sight?”

“Nay,” said Myles, “I know him not.”

“Then I will tell thee when he cometh. Listen!” said he, as a confused
clattering sounded in the court-yard without. “Yonder are the horses
now. They come presently. Busk thee with thy letter, friend Myles.”

The attendants who passed through the anteroom now came and went more
hurriedly, and Myles knew that the Earl must be about to come forth.
He had hardly time to untie his pouch, take out the letter, and tie the
strings again when the arras at the door-way was thrust suddenly aside,
and a tall thin squire of about twenty came forth, said some words to
the young men upon the bench, and then withdrew again. Instantly the
squires arose and took their station beside the door-way. A sudden hush
fell upon all in the room, and the men-at-arms stood in a line against
the wall, stiff and erect as though all at once transformed to figures
of iron. Once more the arras was drawn back, and in the hush Myles heard
voices in the other room.

“My Lord cometh,” whispered Gascoyne in his ear, and Myles felt his
heart leap in answer.

The next moment two noblemen came into the anteroom followed by a crowd
of gentlemen, squires, and pages. One of the two was a dignitary of the
Church; the other Myles instantly singled out as the Earl of Mackworth.


He was a tall man, taller even than Myles’s father. He had a thin
face, deep-set bushy eyebrows, and a hawk nose. His upper lip was clean
shaven, but from his chin a flowing beard of iron-gray hung nearly to
his waist. He was clad in a riding-gown of black velvet that hung a
little lower than the knee, trimmed with otter fur and embroidered with
silver goshawks--the crest of the family of Beaumont.

A light shirt of link mail showed beneath the gown as he walked, and a
pair of soft undressed leather riding-boots were laced as high as the
knee, protecting his scarlet hose from mud and dirt. Over his shoulders
he wore a collar of enamelled gold, from which hung a magnificent
jewelled pendant, and upon his fist he carried a beautiful Iceland

As Myles stood staring, he suddenly heard Gascoyne’s voice whisper in
his ear, “Yon is my Lord; go forward and give him thy letter.”

Scarcely knowing what he did, he walked towards the Earl like a machine,
his heart pounding within him and a great humming in his ears. As he
drew near, the nobleman stopped for a moment and stared at him, and
Myles, as in a dream, kneeled, and presented the letter. The Earl took
it in his hand, turned it this way and that, looked first at the bearer,
then at the packet, and then at the bearer again.

“Who art thou?” said he; “and what is the matter thou wouldst have of

“I am Myles Falworth,” said the lad, in a low voice; “and I come seeking
service with you.”

The Earl drew his thick eyebrows quickly together, and shot a keen
look at the lad. “Falworth?” said he, sharply--“Falworth? I know no

“The letter will tell you,” said Myles. “It is from one once dear to

The Earl took the letter, and handing it to a gentleman who stood near,
bade him break the seal. “Thou mayst stand,” said he to Myles; “needst
not kneel there forever.” Then, taking the opened parchment again, he
glanced first at the face and then at the back, and, seeing its length,
looked vexed. Then he read for an earnest moment or two, skipping from
line to line. Presently he folded the letter and thrust it into the
pouch at his side. “So it is, your Grace,” said he to the lordly
prelate, “that we who have luck to rise in the world must ever suffer by
being plagued at all times and seasons. Here is one I chanced to know a
dozen years ago, who thinks he hath a claim upon me, and saddles me
with his son. I must e’en take the lad, too, for the sake of peace and
quietness.” He glanced around, and seeing Gascoyne, who had drawn near,
beckoned to him. “Take me this fellow,” said he, “to the buttery, and
see him fed; and then to Sir James Lee, and have his name entered in the
castle books. And stay, sirrah,” he added; “bid me Sir James, if it may
be so done, to enter him as a squire-at-arms. Methinks he will be better
serving so than in the household, for he appeareth a soothly rough cub
for a page.”

Myles did look rustic enough, standing clad in frieze in the midst of
that gay company, and a murmur of laughter sounded around, though he
was too bewildered to fully understand that he was the cause of the
merriment. Then some hand drew him back--it was Gascoyne’s--there was a
bustle of people passing, and the next minute they were gone, and
Myles and old Diccon Bowman and the young squire were left alone in the

Gascoyne looked very sour and put out. “Murrain upon it!” said he; “here
is good sport spoiled for me to see thee fed. I wish no ill to thee,
friend, but I would thou hadst come this afternoon or to-morrow.”

“Methinks I bring trouble and dole to every one,” said Myles, somewhat
bitterly. “It would have been better had I never come to this place,

His words and tone softened Gascoyne a little. “Ne’er mind,” said the
squire; “it was not thy fault, and is past mending now. So come and fill
thy stomach, in Heaven’s name.”

Perhaps not the least hard part of the whole trying day for Myles
was his parting with Diccon. Gascoyne and he had accompanied the old
retainer to the outer gate, in the archway of which they now stood; for
without a permit they could go no farther. The old bowman led by the
bridle-rein the horse upon which Myles had ridden that morning. His own
nag, a vicious brute, was restive to be gone, but Diccon held him in
with tight rein. He reached down, and took Myles’s sturdy brown hand in
his crooked, knotted grasp.

“Farewell, young master,” he croaked, tremulously, with a watery glimmer
in his pale eyes. “Thou wilt not forget me when I am gone?”

“Nay,” said Myles; “I will not forget thee.”

“Aye, aye,” said the old man, looking down at him, and shaking his head
slowly from side to side; “thou art a great tall sturdy fellow now, yet
have I held thee on my knee many and many’s the time, and dandled thee
when thou wert only a little weeny babe. Be still, thou devil’s limb!”
 he suddenly broke off, reining back his restive raw-boned steed,
which began again to caper and prance. Myles was not sorry for the
interruption; he felt awkward and abashed at the parting, and at the old
man’s reminiscences, knowing that Gascoyne’s eyes were resting amusedly
upon the scene, and that the men-at-arms were looking on. Certainly
old Diccon did look droll as he struggled vainly with his vicious
high-necked nag. “Nay, a murrain on thee! an’ thou wilt go, go!” cried
he at last, with a savage dig of his heels into the animal’s ribs,
and away they clattered, the led-horse kicking up its heels as a final
parting, setting Gascoyne fairly alaughing. At the bend of the road the
old man turned and nodded his head; the next moment he had disappeared
around the angle of the wall, and it seemed to Myles, as he stood
looking after him, as though the last thread that bound him to his
old life had snapped and broken. As he turned he saw that Gascoyne was
looking at him.

“Dost feel downhearted?” said the young squire, curiously.

“Nay,” said Myles, brusquely. Nevertheless his throat was tight and dry,
and the word came huskily in spite of himself.


THE EARL of Mackworth, as was customary among the great lords in those
days, maintained a small army of knights, gentlemen, men-at-arms, and
retainers, who were expected to serve him upon all occasions of need,
and from whom were supplied his quota of recruits to fill such levies as
might be made upon him by the King in time of war.

The knights and gentlemen of this little army of horse and foot soldiers
were largely recruited from the company of squires and bachelors, as the
young novitiate soldiers of the castle were called.

This company of esquires consisted of from eighty to ninety lads,
ranging in age from eight to twenty years. Those under fourteen years
were termed pages, and served chiefly the Countess and her waiting
gentlewomen, in whose company they acquired the graces and polish of the
times, such as they were. After reaching the age of fourteen the lads
were entitled to the name of esquire or squire.

In most of the great houses of the time the esquires were the especial
attendants upon the Lord and Lady of the house, holding such positions
as body-squires, cup-bearers, carvers, and sometimes the office of
chamberlain. But Devlen, like some other of the princely castles of the
greatest nobles, was more like a military post or a fortress than an
ordinary household. Only comparatively few of the esquires could be
used in personal attendance upon the Earl; the others were trained
more strictly in arms, and served rather in the capacity of a sort of
body-guard than as ordinary squires. For, as the Earl rose in power and
influence, and as it so became well worth while for the lower nobility
and gentry to enter their sons in his family, the body of squires became
almost cumbersomely large. Accordingly, that part which comprised the
squires proper, as separate from the younger pages, was divided into
three classes--first, squires of the body, who were those just past
pagehood, and who waited upon the Earl in personal service; second,
squires of the household, who, having regular hours assigned for
exercise in the manual of arms, were relieved from personal service
excepting upon especial occasions; and thirdly and lastly, at the head
of the whole body of lads, a class called bachelors--young men ranging
from eighteen to twenty years of age. This class was supposed to
exercise a sort of government over the other and younger squires--to
keep them in order as much as possible, to marshal them upon occasions
of importance, to see that their arms and equipments were kept in good
order, to call the roll for chapel in the morning, and to see that those
not upon duty in the house were present at the daily exercise at arms.
Orders to the squires were generally transmitted through the bachelors,
and the head of that body was expected to make weekly reports of affairs
in their quarters to the chief captain of the body.

From this overlordship of the bachelors there had gradually risen a
system of fagging, such as is or was practised in the great English
public schools--enforced services exacted from the younger lads--which
at the time Myles came to Devlen had, in the five or six years it had
been in practice, grown to be an absolute though unwritten law of the
body--a law supported by all the prestige of long-continued usage. At
that time the bachelors numbered but thirteen, yet they exercised over
the rest of the sixty-four squires and pages a rule of iron, and were
taskmasters, hard, exacting, and oftentimes cruel.

The whole company of squires and pages was under the supreme command of
a certain one-eyed knight, by name Sir James Lee; a soldier seasoned by
the fire of a dozen battles, bearing a score of wounds won in fight and
tourney, and withered by hardship and labor to a leather-like toughness.
He had fought upon the King’s side in all the late wars, and had at
Shrewsbury received a wound that unfitted him for active service, so
that now he was fallen to the post of Captain of Esquires at Devlen
Castle--a man disappointed in life, and with a temper imbittered by that
failure as well as by cankering pain.

Yet Perhaps no one could have been better fitted for the place he held
than Sir James Lee. The lads under his charge were a rude, rough, unruly
set, quick, like their elders, to quarrel, and to quarrel fiercely, even
to the drawing of sword or dagger. But there was a cold, iron sternness
about the grim old man that quelled them, as the trainer with a lash of
steel might quell a den of young wolves. The apartments in which he was
lodged, with his clerk, were next in the dormitory of the lads, and
even in the midst of the most excited brawlings the distant sound of his
harsh voice, “Silence, messieurs!” would bring an instant hush to the
loudest uproar.

It was into his grim presence that Myles was introduced by Gascoyne.
Sir James was in his office, a room bare of ornament or adornment or
superfluous comfort of any sort--without even so much as a mat of rushes
upon the cold stone pavement to make it less cheerless. The old one-eyed
knight sat gnawing his bristling mustaches. To anyone who knew him it
would have been apparent that, as the castle phrase went, “the devil sat
astride of his neck,” which meant that some one of his blind wounds was
aching more sorely than usual.

His clerk sat beside him, with account-books and parchment spread upon
the table, and the head squire, Walter Blunt, a lad some three or four
years older than Myles, and half a head taller, black-browed, powerfully
built, and with cheek and chin darkened by the soft budding of his
adolescent beard, stood making his report.

Sir James listened in grim silence while Gascoyne told his errand.

“So, then, pardee, I am bid to take another one of ye, am I?” he
snarled. “As though ye caused me not trouble enow; and this one a cub,
looking a very boor in carriage and breeding. Mayhap the Earl thinketh I
am to train boys to his dilly-dally household service as well as to use
of arms.”

“Sir,” said Gascoyne, timidly, “my Lord sayeth he would have this one
entered direct as a squire of the body, so that he need not serve in the

“Sayest so?” cried Sir James, harshly. “Then take thou my message back
again to thy Lord. Not for Mackworth--no, nor a better man than he--will
I make any changes in my government. An I be set to rule a pack of boys,
I will rule them as I list, and not according to any man’s bidding.
Tell him, sirrah, that I will enter no lad as squire of the body without
first testing an he be fit at arms to hold that place.” He sat for a
while glowering at Myles and gnawing his mustaches, and for the time
no one dared to break the grim silence. “What is thy name?” said he,
suddenly. And then, almost before Myles could answer, he asked the head
squire whether he could find a place to lodge him.

“There is Gillis Whitlock’s cot empty,” said Blunt. “He is in the
infirmary, and belike goeth home again when he cometh thence. The fever
hath gotten into his bones, and--”

“That will do,” said the knight, interrupting him impatiently. “Let him
take that place, or any other that thou hast. And thou, Jerome,” said he
to his clerk, “thou mayst enter him upon the roll, though whether it be
as page or squire or bachelor shall be as I please, and not as Mackworth
biddeth me. Now get ye gone.”

“Old Bruin’s wound smarteth him sore,” Gascoyne observed, as the two
lads walked across the armory court. He had good-naturedly offered to
show the new-comer the many sights of interest around the castle, and in
the hour or so of ramble that followed, the two grew from acquaintances
to friends with a quickness that boyhood alone can bring about. They
visited the armory, the chapel, the stables, the great hall, the Painted
Chamber, the guard-house, the mess-room, and even the scullery and the
kitchen, with its great range of boilers and furnaces and ovens. Last of
all Myles’s new friend introduced him to the armor-smithy.

“My Lord hath sent a piece of Milan armor thither to be repaired,” said
he. “Belike thou would like to see it.”

“Aye,” said Myles, eagerly, “that would I.”

The smith was a gruff, good-natured fellow, and showed the piece of
armor to Myles readily and willingly enough. It was a beautiful bascinet
of inlaid workmanship, and was edged with a rim of gold. Myles scarcely
dared touch it; he gazed at it with an unconcealed delight that warmed
the smith’s honest heart.

“I have another piece of Milan here,” said he. “Did I ever show thee my
dagger, Master Gascoyne?”

“Nay,” said the squire.

The smith unlocked a great oaken chest in the corner of the shop, lifted
the lid, and brought thence a beautiful dagger with the handle of ebony
and silver-gilt, and a sheath of Spanish leather, embossed and gilt.
The keen, well-tempered blade was beautifully engraved and inlaid
with niello-work, representing a group of figures in a then popular
subject--the dance of Death. It was a weapon at once unique and
beautiful, and even Gascoyne showed an admiration scarcely less keen
than Myles’s openly-expressed delight.

“To whom doth it belong?” said he, trying the point upon his thumb nail.

“There,” said the smith, “is the jest of the whole, for it belongeth
to me. Sir William Beauclerk bade me order the weapon through Master
Gildersworthy, of London town, and by the time it came hither, lo! he
had died, and so it fell to my hands. No one here payeth the price for
the trinket, and so I must e’en keep it myself, though I be but a poor

“How much dost thou hold it for?” said Gascoyne.

“Seventeen shillings buyeth it,” said the armorer, carelessly.

“Aye, aye,” said Gascoyne, with a sigh; “so it is to be poor, and not be
able to have such things as one loveth and would fain possess. Seventeen
shillings is nigh as much by half again as all my yearly wage.”

Then a sudden thought came to Myles, and as it came his cheeks glowed
as hot as fire “Master Gascoyne,” said he, with gruff awkwardness,
“thou hast been a very good, true friend to me since I have come to this
place, and hast befriended me in all ways thou mightest do, and I, as
well I know, but a poor rustic clod. Now I have forty shillings by me
which I may spend as I list, and so I do beseech thee that thou wilt
take yon dagger of me as a love-gift, and have and hold it for thy very

Gascoyne stared open-mouthed at Myles. “Dost mean it?” said he, at last.

“Aye,” said Myles, “I do mean it. Master Smith, give him the blade.”

At first the smith grinned, thinking it all a jest; but he soon saw that
Myles was serious enough, and when the seventeen shillings were produced
and counted down upon the anvil, he took off his cap and made Myles a
low bow as he swept them into his pouch. “Now, by my faith and troth,”
 quoth he, “that I do call a true lordly gift. Is it not so, Master

“Aye,” said Gascoyne, with a gulp, “it is, in soothly earnest.” And
thereupon, to Myles’s great wonderment, he suddenly flung his arms about
his neck, and, giving him a great hug, kissed him upon the cheek. “Dear
Myles,” said he, “I tell thee truly and of a verity I did feel warm
towards thee from the very first time I saw thee sitting like a poor oaf
upon the bench up yonder in the anteroom, and now of a sooth I give thee
assurance that I do love thee as my own brother. Yea, I will take the
dagger, and will stand by thee as a true friend from this time forth.
Mayhap thou mayst need a true friend in this place ere thou livest long
with us, for some of us esquires be soothly rough, and knocks are more
plenty here than broad pennies, so that one new come is like to have a
hard time gaining a footing.”

“I thank thee,” said Myles, “for thy offer of love and friendship, and
do tell thee, upon my part, that I also of all the world would like best
to have thee for my friend.”

Such was the manner In which Myles formed the first great friendship of
his life, a friendship that was destined to last him through many years
to come. As the two walked back across the great quadrangle, upon which
fronted the main buildings of the castle, their arms were wound across
one another’s shoulders, after the manner, as a certain great writer
says, of boys and lovers.


A boy’s life is of a very flexible sort. It takes but a little while for
it to shape itself to any new surroundings in which it may be thrown, to
make itself new friends, to settle itself to new habits; and so it was
that Myles fell directly into the ways of the lads of Devlen. On his
first morning, as he washed his face and hands with the other squires
and pages in a great tank of water in the armory court-yard, he
presently found himself splashing and dashing with the others, laughing
and shouting as loud as any, and calling some by their Christian names
as though he had known them for years instead of overnight. During
chapel he watched with sympathetic delight the covert pranks of the
youngsters during the half-hour that Father Emmanuel droned his Latin,
and with his dagger point he carved his own name among the many cut
deep into the back of the bench before him. When, after breakfast, the
squires poured like school-boys into the great armory to answer to the
roll-call for daily exercise, he came storming in with the rest, beating
the lad in front of him with his cap.

Boys are very keen to feel the influence of a forceful character. A lad
with a strong will is quick to reach his proper level as a greater or
lesser leader among the others, and Myles was of just the masterful
nature to make his individuality felt among the Devlen squires. He was
quick enough to yield obedience upon all occasions to proper authority,
but would never bend an inch to the usurpation of tyranny. In the school
at St. Mary’s Priory at Crosbey-Dale he would submit without a murmur or
offer of resistance to chastisement by old Father Ambrose, the
regular teacher; but once, when the fat old monk was sick, and a great
long-legged strapping young friar, who had temporarily taken his place,
undertook to administer punishment, Myles, with a wrestling trip, flung
him sprawling backward over a bench into the midst of a shoal of small
boys amid a hubbub of riotous confusion. He had been flogged soundly
for it under the supervision of Prior Edward himself; but so soon as
his punishment was over, he assured the prior very seriously that should
like occasion again happen he would act in the same manner, flogging or
no flogging.

It was this bold, outspoken spirit that gained him at once friends and
enemies at Devlen, and though it first showed itself in what was but a
little matter, nevertheless it set a mark upon him that singled him out
from the rest, and, although he did not suspect it at the time, called
to him the attention of Sir James Lee himself, who regarded him as a lad
of free and frank spirit.

The first morning after the roll-call in the armory, as Walter Blunt,
the head bachelor, rolled up the slip of parchment, and the temporary
silence burst forth into redoubled noise and confusion, each lad arming
himself from a row of racks that stood along the wall, he beckoned Myles
to him.

“My Lord himself hath spoken to Sir James Lee concerning thee,” said he.
“Sir James maintaineth that he will not enter thee into the body till
thou hast first practised for a while at the pels, and shown what thou
canst do at broadsword. Hast ever fought at the pel?”

“Aye,” answered Myles, “and that every day of my life sin I became
esquire four years ago, saving only Sundays and holy days.”

“With shield and broadsword?”

“Sometimes,” said Myles, “and sometimes with the short sword.”

“Sir James would have thee come to the tilt-yard this morn; he himself
will take thee in hand to try what thou canst do. Thou mayst take the
arms upon yonder rack, and use them until otherwise bidden. Thou seest
that the number painted above it on the wall is seventeen; that will be
thy number for the nonce.”

So Myles armed himself from his rack as the others were doing from
theirs. The armor was rude and heavy, used to accustom the body to the
weight of the iron plates rather than for any defence. It consisted of
a cuirass, or breastplate of iron, opening at the side with hinges, and
catching with hooks and eyes; epauliers, or shoulder-plates; arm-plates
and leg-pieces; and a bascinet, or open-faced helmet. A great triangular
shield covered with leather and studded with bosses of iron, and a heavy
broadsword, pointed and dulled at the edges, completed the equipment.

The practice at the pels which Myles was bidden to attend comprised the
chief exercise of the day with the esquires of young cadet soldiers of
that time, and in it they learned not only all the strokes, cuts, and
thrusts of sword-play then in vogue, but also toughness, endurance, and
elastic quickness. The pels themselves consisted of upright posts of
ash or oak, about five feet six inches in height, and in girth somewhat
thicker than a man’s thigh. They were firmly planted in the ground, and
upon them the strokes of the broadsword were directed.

At Devlen the pels stood just back of the open and covered tilting
courts and the archery ranges, and thither those lads not upon household
duty were marched every morning excepting Fridays and Sundays, and were
there exercised under the direction of Sir James Lee and two assistants.
The whole company was divided into two, sometimes into three parties,
each of which took its turn at the exercise, delivering at the word
of command the various strokes, feints, attacks, and retreats as the
instructors ordered.

After five minutes of this mock battle the perspiration began to pour
down the faces, and the breath to come thick and short; but it was not
until the lads could absolutely endure no more that the order was given
to rest, and they were allowed to fling themselves panting upon the
ground, while another company took its place at the triple row of posts.

As Myles struck and hacked at the pel assigned to him, Sir James Lee
stood beside him watching him in grim silence. The lad did his best to
show the knight all that he knew of upper cut, under cut, thrust, and
back-hand stroke, but it did not seem to him that Sir James was very
well satisfied with his skill.

“Thou fightest like a clodpole,” said the old man. “Ha, that stroke
was but ill-recovered. Strike me it again, and get thou in guard more

Myles repeated the stroke.

“Pest!” cried Sir James. “Thou art too slow by a week. Here, strike thou
the blow at me.”

Myles hesitated. Sir James held a stout staff in his hand, but otherwise
he was unarmed.

“Strike, I say!” said Sir James. “What stayest thou for? Art afeard?”

It was Myles’s answer that set the seal of individuality upon him.
“Nay,” said he, boldly, “I am not afeard. I fear not thee nor any man!”
 So saying, he delivered the stroke at Sir James with might and main. It
was met with a jarring blow that made his wrist and arm tingle, and the
next instant he received a stroke upon the bascinet that caused his ears
to ring and the sparks to dance and fly before his eyes.

“Pardee!” said Sir James, grimly. “An I had had a mace in my hand, I
would have knocked thy cockerel brains out that time. Thou mayst take
that blow for answering me so pertly. And now we are quits. Now strike
me the stroke again an thou art not afeard.”

Myles’s eyes watered in spite of himself, and he shut the lids tight to
wink the dimness away. Nevertheless he spoke up undauntedly as before.
“Aye, marry, will I strike it again,” said he; and this time he was
able to recover guard quickly enough to turn Sir James’s blow with his
shield, instead of receiving it upon his head.

“So!” said Sir James. “Now mind thee of this, that when thou strikest
that lower cut at the legs, recover thyself more quickly. Now, then,
strike me it at the pel.”

Gascoyne and other of the lads who were just then lying stretched out
upon the grass beneath, a tree at the edge of the open court where stood
the pels, were interested spectators of the whole scene. Not one of them
in their memory had heard Sir James so answered face to face as Myles
had answered him, and, after all, perhaps the lad himself would not
have done so had he been longer a resident in the squires’ quarters at

“By ‘r Lady! thou art a cool blade, Myles,” said Gascoyne, as they
marched back to the armory again. “Never heard I one bespeak Sir James
as thou hast done this day.”

“And, after all,” said another of the young squires, “old Bruin was not
so ill-pleased, methinks. That was a shrewd blow he fetched thee on the
crown, Falworth. Marry, I would not have had it on my own skull for a
silver penny.”


So little does it take to make a body’s reputation.

That night all the squires’ quarters buzzed with the story of how the
new boy, Falworth, had answered Sir James Lee to his face without fear,
and had exchanged blows with him hand to hand. Walter Blunt himself was
moved to some show of interest.

“What said he to thee, Falworth?” asked he.

“He said naught,” said Myles, brusquely. “He only sought to show me how
to recover from the under cut.”

“It is passing strange that he should take so much notice of thee as to
exchange blows with thee with his own hand. Haply thou art either very
quick or parlous slow at arms.”

“It is quick that he is,” said Gascoyne, speaking up in his friend’s
behalf. “For the second time that Falworth delivered the stroke, Sir
James could not reach him to return; so I saw with mine own eyes.”

But that very sterling independence that had brought Myles so creditably
through this adventure was certain to embroil him with the rude,
half-savage lads about him, some of whom, especially among the
bachelors, were his superiors as well in age as in skill and training.
As said before, the bachelors had enforced from the younger boys a
fagging sort of attendance on their various personal needs, and it was
upon this point that Myles first came to grief. As it chanced, several
days passed before any demand was made upon him for service to the heads
of the squirehood, but when that demand was made, the bachelors were
very quick to see that the boy who was bold enough to speak up to Sir
James Lee was not likely to be a willing fag for them.

“I tell thee, Francis,” he said, as Gascoyne and he talked over the
matter one day--“I tell thee I will never serve them. Prithee, what
shame can be fouler than to do such menial service, saving for one’s
rightful Lord?”

“Marry!” quoth Gascoyne; “I reason not of shame at this or that. All I
know is that others serve them who are haply as good and maybe better
than I be, and that if I do not serve them I get knocked i’ th’ head
therefore, which same goeth soothly against my stomach.”

“I judge not for thee,” said Myles. “Thou art used to these castle
ways, but only I know that I will not serve them, though they be thirty
against me instead of thirteen.”

“Then thou art a fool,” said Gascoyne, dryly.

Now in this matter of service there was one thing above all others that
stirred Myles Falworth’s ill-liking. The winter before he had come to
Devlen, Walter Blunt, who was somewhat of a Sybarite in his way, and who
had a repugnance to bathing in the general tank in the open armory court
in frosty weather, had had Dick Carpenter build a trough in the corner
of the dormitory for the use of the bachelors, and every morning it was
the duty of two of the younger squires to bring three pails of water to
fill this private tank for the use of the head esquires. It was seeing
two of his fellow-esquires fetching and carrying this water that Myles
disliked so heartily, and every morning his bile was stirred anew at the

“Sooner would I die than yield to such vile service,” said he.

He did not know how soon his protestations would be put to the test.

One night--it was a week or two after Myles had come to Devlen--Blunt
was called to attend the Earl at livery. The livery was the last meal of
the day, and was served with great pomp and ceremony about nine o’clock
at night to the head of the house as he lay in bed. Curfew had not yet
rung, and the lads in the squires’ quarters were still wrestling and
sparring and romping boisterously in and out around the long row of rude
cots in the great dormitory as they made ready for the night. Six or
eight flaring links in wrought-iron brackets that stood out from the
wall threw a great ruddy glare through the barrack-like room--a light of
all others to romp by. Myles and Gascoyne were engaged in defending the
passage-way between their two cots against the attack of three other
lads, and Myles held his sheepskin coverlet rolled up into a ball and
balanced in his hand, ready for launching at the head of one of the
others so soon as it should rise from behind the shelter of a cot. Just
then Walter Blunt, dressed with more than usual care, passed by on his
way to the Earl’s house. He stopped for a moment and said, “Mayhaps I
will not be in until late to-night. Thou and Falworth, Gascoyne, may
fetch water to-morrow.”

Then he was gone. Myles stood staring after his retreating figure with
eyes open and mouth agape, still holding the ball of sheepskin balanced
in his hand. Gascoyne burst into a helpless laugh at his blank,
stupefied face, but the next moment he laid his hand on his friend’s

“Myles,” he said, “thou wilt not make trouble, wilt thou?”

Myles made no answer. He flung down his sheepskin and sat him gloomily
down upon the side of the cot.

“I said that I would sooner die than fetch water for them,” said he.

“Aye, aye,” said Gascoyne; “but that was spoken in haste.”

Myles said nothing, but shook his head.

But, after all, circumstances shape themselves. The next morning when he
rose up through the dark waters of sleep it was to feel some one shaking
him violently by the shoulder.

“Come!” cried Gascoyne, as Myles opened his eyes--“come, time passeth,
and we are late.”

Myles, bewildered with his sudden awakening, and still fuddled with the
fumes of sleep, huddled into his doublet and hose, hardly knowing what
he was doing; tying a point here and a point there, and slipping
his feet into his shoes. Then he hurried after Gascoyne, frowzy,
half-dressed, and even yet only half-awake. It was not until he was
fairly out into the fresh air and saw Gascoyne filling the three
leathern buckets at the tank, that he fully awakened to the fact that he
was actually doing that hateful service for the bachelors which he had
protested he would sooner die than render.

The sun was just rising, gilding the crown of the donjon-keep with a
flame of ruddy light. Below, among the lesser buildings, the day was
still gray and misty. Only an occasional noise broke the silence of the
early morning: a cough from one of the rooms; the rattle of a pot or
a pan, stirred by some sleepy scullion; the clapping of a door or a
shutter, and now and then the crowing of a cock back of the long row of
stables--all sounding loud and startling in the fresh dewy stillness.

“Thou hast betrayed me,” said Myles, harshly, breaking the silence at
last. “I knew not what I was doing, or else I would never have come
hither. Ne’theless, even though I be come, I will not carry the water
for them.”

“So be it,” said Gascoyne, tartly. “An thou canst not stomach it,
let be, and I will e’en carry all three myself. It will make me two
journeys, but, thank Heaven, I am not so proud as to wish to get me
hard knocks for naught.” So saying, he picked up two of the buckets and
started away across the court for the dormitory.

Then Myles, with a lowering face, snatched up the third, and, hurrying
after, gave him his hand with the extra pail. So it was that he came to
do service, after all.

“Why tarried ye so long?” said one of the older bachelors, roughly, as
the two lads emptied the water into the wooden trough. He sat on the
edge of the cot, blowzed and untrussed, with his long hair tumbled and

His dictatorial tone stung Myles to fury. “We tarried no longer than
need be,” answered he, savagely. “Have we wings to fly withal at your

He spoke so loudly that all in the room heard him; the younger squires
who were dressing stared in blank amazement, and Blunt sat up suddenly
in his cot.

“Why, how now?” he cried. “Answerest thou back thy betters so pertly,
sirrah? By my soul, I have a mind to crack thy head with this clog for
thy unruly talk.”

He glared at Myles as he spoke, and Myles glared back again with right
good-will. Matters might have come to a crisis, only that Gascoyne and
Wilkes dragged their friend away before he had opportunity to answer.

“An ill-conditioned knave as ever I did see,” growled Blunt, glaring
after him.

“Myles, Myles,” said Gascoyne, almost despairingly, “why wilt thou
breed such mischief for thyself? Seest thou not thou hast got thee
the ill-will of every one of the bachelors, from Wat Blunt to Robin de

“I care not,” said Myles, fiercely, recurring to his grievance. “Heard
ye not how the dogs upbraided me before the whole room? That Blunt
called me an ill-conditioned knave.”

“Marry!” said Gascoyne, laughing, “and so thou art.”

Thus it is that boldness may breed one enemies as well as gain one
friends. My own notion is that one’s enemies are more quick to act than
one’s friends.


Every one knows the disagreeable, lurking discomfort that follows a
quarrel--a discomfort that imbitters the very taste of life for the time
being. Such was the dull distaste that Myles felt that morning after
what had passed in the dormitory. Every one in the proximity of such
an open quarrel feels a reflected constraint, and in Myles’s mind was a
disagreeable doubt whether that constraint meant disapproval of him or
of his late enemies.

It seemed to him that Gascoyne added the last bitter twang to his
unpleasant feelings when, half an hour later, they marched with the
others to chapel.

“Why dost thou breed such trouble for thyself, Myles?” said he,
recurring to what he had already said. “Is it not foolish for thee to
come hither to this place, and then not submit to the ways thereof, as
the rest of us do?”

“Thou talkest not like a true friend to chide me thus,” said Myles,
sullenly; and he withdrew his arm from his friend’s.

“Marry, come up!” said Gascoyne; “an I were not thy friend, I would let
thee jog thine own way. It aches not my bones to have thine drubbed.”

Just then they entered the chapel, and words that might have led to a
quarrel were brought to a close.

Myles was not slow to see that he had the ill will of the head of their
company. That morning in the armory he had occasion to ask some question
of Blunt; the head squire stared coldly at him for a moment, gave him a
short, gruff answer, and then, turning his back abruptly, began talking
with one of the other bachelors. Myles flushed hot at the other’s
insulting manner, and looked quickly around to see if any of the others
had observed what had passed. It was a comfort to him to see that all
were too busy arming themselves to think of anything else; nevertheless,
his face was very lowering as he turned away.

“Some day I will show him that I am as good a man as he,” he muttered to
himself. “An evil-hearted dog to put shame upon me!”

The storm was brewing and ready to break.

That day was exceptionally hot and close, and permission had been asked
by and granted to those squires not on duty to go down to the river for
a bath after exercise at the pels. But as Myles replaced his arms in
the rack, a little page came with a bidding to come to Sir James in his

“Look now,” said Myles, “here is just my ill-fortune. Why might he not
have waited an hour longer rather than cause me to miss going with ye?”

“Nay,” said Gascoyne, “let not that grieve thee, Myles. Wilkes and I
will wait for thee in the dormitory--will we not, Edmund? Make thou
haste and go to Sir James.”

Sir James was sitting at the table studying over a scroll of parchment,
when Myles entered his office and stood before him at the table.

“Well, boy,” said he, laying aside the parchment and looking up at the
lad, “I have tried thee fairly for these few days, and may say that I
have found thee worthy to be entered upon the rolls as esquire of the

“I give thee thanks, sir,” said Myles.

The knight nodded his head in acknowledgement, but did not at once give
the word of dismissal that Myles had expected. “Dost mean to write thee
a letter home soon?” said he, suddenly.

“Aye,” said Myles, gaping in great wonderment at the strangeness of the

“Then when thou dost so write,” said Sir James, “give thou my deep
regards to thy father.” Then he continued, after a brief pause. “Him did
I know well in times gone by, and we were right true friends in hearty
love, and for his sake I would befriend thee--that is, in so much as is

“Sir,” said Myles; but Sir James held up his hand, and he stopped short
in his thanks.

“But, boy,” said he, “that which I sent for thee for to tell thee was of
more import than these. Dost thou know that thy father is an attainted

“Nay,” cried Myles, his cheeks blazing up as red as fire; “who sayeth
that of him lieth in his teeth.”

“Thou dost mistake me,” said Sir James, quietly. “It is sometimes no
shame to be outlawed and banned. Had it been so, I would not have told
thee thereof, nor have bidden thee send my true love to thy father, as
I did but now. But, boy, certes he standest continually in great
danger--greater than thou wottest of. Were it known where he lieth hid,
it might be to his undoing and utter ruin. Methought that belike thou
mightest not know that; and so I sent for thee for to tell thee that it
behoovest thee to say not one single word concerning him to any of these
new friends of thine, nor who he is, nor what he is.”

“But how came my father to be so banned?” said Myles, in a constrained
and husky voice, and after a long time of silence.

“That I may not tell thee just now,” said the old knight, “only
this--that I have been bidden to make it known to thee that thy father
hath an enemy full as powerful as my Lord the Earl himself, and
that through that enemy all his ill-fortune--his blindness and
everything--hath come. Moreover, did this enemy know where thy father
lieth, he would slay him right speedily.”

“Sir,” cried Myles, violently smiting his open palm upon the table,
“tell me who this man is, and I will kill him!”

Sir James smiled grimly. “Thou talkest like a boy,” said he. “Wait until
thou art grown to be a man. Mayhap then thou mayst repent thee of these
bold words, for one time this enemy of thy father’s was reckoned the
foremost knight in England, and he is now the King’s dear friend and a
great lord.”

“But,” said Myles, after another long time of heavy silence, “will not
my Lord then befriend me for the sake of my father, who was one time his
dear comrade?”

Sir James shook his head. “It may not be,” said he. “Neither thou nor
thy father must look for open favor from the Earl. An he befriended
Falworth, and it came to be known that he had given him aid or succor,
it might belike be to his own undoing. No, boy; thou must not even look
to be taken into the household to serve with gentlemen as the other
squires do serve, but must even live thine own life here and fight thine
own way.”

Myles’s eyes blazed. “Then,” cried he, fiercely, “it is shame and
attaint upon my Lord the Earl, and cowardice as well, and never will I
ask favor of him who is so untrue a friend as to turn his back upon a
comrade in trouble as he turneth his back upon my father.”

“Thou art a foolish boy,” said Sir James with a bitter smile, “and
knowest naught of the world. An thou wouldst look for man to befriend
man to his own danger, thou must look elsewhere than on this earth. Was
I not one time Mackworth’s dear friend as well as thy father? It could
cost him naught to honor me, and here am I fallen to be a teacher of
boys. Go to! thou art a fool.”

Then, after a little pause of brooding silence, he went on to say that
the Earl was no better or worse than the rest of the world. That men of
his position had many jealous enemies, ever seeking their ruin, and
that such must look first of all each to himself, or else be certainly
ruined, and drag down others in that ruin. Myles was silenced, but the
bitterness had entered his heart, and abided with him for many a day

Perhaps Sir James read his feelings in his frank face, for he sat
looking curiously at him, twirling his grizzled mustache the while.
“Thou art like to have hard knocks of it, lad, ere thou hast gotten thee
safe through the world,” said he, with more kindness in his harsh voice
than was usual. “But get thee not into fights before thy time.” Then he
charged the boy very seriously to live at peace with his fellow-squires,
and for his father’s sake as well as his own to enter into none of the
broils that were so frequent in their quarters.

It was with this special admonition against brawling that Myles was
dismissed, to enter, before five minutes had passed, into the first
really great fight of his life.

Besides Gascoyne and Wilkes, he found gathered in the dormitory six
or eight of the company of squires who were to serve that day upon
household duty; among others, Walter Blunt and three other bachelors,
who were changing their coarse service clothes for others more fit for
the household.

“Why didst thou tarry so long, Myles?” said Gascoyne, as he entered.
“Methought thou wert never coming.”

“Where goest thou, Falworth?” called Blunt from the other end of the
room, where he was lacing his doublet.

Just now Myles had no heart in the swimming or sport of any sort, but he
answered, shortly, “I go to the river to swim.”

“Nay,” said Blunt, “thou goest not forth from the castle to-day. Hast
thou forgot how thou didst answer me back about fetching the water
this morning? This day thou must do penance, so go thou straight to the
armory and scour thou up my breastplate.”

From the time he had arisen that morning everything had gone wrong with
Myles. He had felt himself already outrated in rendering service to
the bachelors, he had quarrelled with the head of the esquires, he had
nearly quarrelled with Gascoyne, and then had come the bitterest and
worst of all, the knowledge that his father was an outlaw, and that
the Earl would not stretch out a hand to aid him or to give him any
countenance. Blunt’s words brought the last bitter cut to his heart,
and they stung him to fury. For a while he could not answer, but stood
glaring with a face fairly convulsed with passion at the young man, who
continued his toilet, unconscious of the wrath of the new recruit.

Gascoyne and Wilkes, accepting Myles’s punishment as a thing of course,
were about to leave the dormitory when Myles checked them.

“Stop, Francis!” he cried, hoarsely. “Thinkest thou that I will stay
behind to do yon dog’s dirty work? No; I go with ye.”

A moment or two of dumb, silent amazement followed his bold words; then
Blunt cried, “Art thou mad?”

“Nay,” answered Myles in the same hoarse voice, “I am not mad. I tell
thee a better man than thou shouldst not stay me from going an I list to

“I will break thy cockerel head for that speech,” said Blunt, furiously.
He stooped as he spoke, and picked up a heavy clog that lay at his feet.

It was no insignificant weapon either. The shoes of those days were
sometimes made of cloth, and had long pointed toes stuffed with tow or
wool. In muddy weather thick heavy clogs or wooden soles were strapped,
like a skate, to the bottom of the foot. That clog which Blunt had
seized was perhaps eighteen or twenty inches long, two or two and a half
inches thick at the heel, tapering to a point at the toe. As the older
lad advanced, Gascoyne stepped between him and his victim.

“Do not harm him, Blunt,” he pleaded. “Bear thou in mind how new-come he
is among us. He knoweth not our ways as yet.”

“Stand thou back, Gascoyne,” said Blunt, harshly, as he thrust him
aside. “I will teach him our ways so that he will not soon forget them.”

Close to Myles’s feet was another clog like that one which Blunt held.
He snatched it up, and set his back against the wall, with a white face
and a heart beating heavily and tumultuously, but with courage steeled
to meet the coming encounter. There was a hard, grim look in his blue
eyes that, for a moment perhaps, quelled the elder lad. He hesitated.
“Tom! Wat! Ned!” he called to the other bachelors, “come hither, and
lend me a hand with this knave.”

“An ye come nigh me,” panted Myles, “I will brain the first within

Then Gascoyne dodged behind the others, and, without being seen, slipped
out of the room for help.

The battle that followed was quick, sharp, and short. As Blunt strode
forward, Myles struck, and struck with might and main, but he was too
excited to deliver his blow with calculation. Blunt parried it with the
clog he held, and the next instant, dropping his weapon, gripped Myles
tight about the body, pinning his arms to his sides.

Myles also dropped the clog he held, and, wrenching out his right
arm with a sudden heave, struck Blunt full in the face, and then with
another blow sent him staggering back. It all passed in an instant; the
next the three other bachelors were upon him, catching him by the body,
the arms, the legs. For a moment or two they swayed and stumbled hither
and thither, and then down they fell in a struggling heap.

Myles fought like a wild-cat, kicking, struggling, scratching; striking
with elbows and fists. He caught one of the three by his collar, and
tore his jacket open from the neck to the waist; he drove his foot into
the pit of the stomach of another, and knocked him breathless. The other
lads not in the fight stood upon the benches and the beds around, but
such was the awe inspired by the prestige of the bachelors that not one
of them dared to lend hand to help him, and so Myles fought his fierce
battle alone.

But four to one were odds too great, and though Myles struggled as
fiercely as ever, by-and-by it was with less and less resistance.

Blunt had picked up the clog he had dropped when he first attacked the
lad, and now stood over the struggling heap, white with rage, the blood
running from his lip, cut and puffed where Myles had struck him, and
murder looking out from his face, if ever it looked out of the face of
any mortal being.

“Hold him a little,” said he, fiercely, “and I will still him for you.”

Even yet it was no easy matter for the others to do his bidding, but
presently he got his chance and struck a heavy, cruel blow at Myles’s
head. Myles only partly warded it with his arm. Hitherto he had fought
in silence, now he gave a harsh cry.

“Holy Saints!” cried Edmund Wilkes. “They will kill him.”

Blunt struck two more blows, both of them upon the body, and then at
last they had the poor boy down, with his face upon the ground and his
arms pinned to his sides, and Blunt, bracing himself for the stroke,
with a grin of rage raised a heavy clog for one terrible blow that
should finish the fight.


“How now, messieurs?” said a harsh voice, that fell upon the turmoil
like a thunder-clap, and there stood Sir James Lee. Instantly the
struggle ceased, and the combatants scrambled to their feet.

The older lads stood silent before their chief, but Myles was deaf and
blind and mad with passion, he knew not where he stood or what he said
or did. White as death, he stood for a while glaring about him, catching
his breath convulsively. Then he screamed hoarsely.

“Who struck me? Who struck me when I was down? I will have his blood
that struck me!” He caught sight of Blunt. “It was he that struck me!”
 he cried. “Thou foul traitor! thou coward!” and thereupon leaped at his
enemy like a wild-cat.

“Stop!” cried Sir James Lee, clutching him by the arm.

Myles was too blinded by his fury to see who it was that held him. “I
will not stop!” he cried, struggling and striking at the knight. “Let me
go! I will have his life that struck me when I was down!”

The next moment he found himself pinned close against the wall, and
then, as though his sight came back, he saw the grim face of the old
one-eyed knight looking into his.

“Dost thou know who I am?” said a stern, harsh voice.

Instantly Myles ceased struggling, and his arms fell at his side. “Aye,”
 he said, in a gasping voice, “I know thee.” He swallowed spasmodically
for a moment or two, and then, in the sudden revulsion of feeling, burst
out sobbing convulsively.

Sir James marched the two off to his office, he himself walking
between them, holding an arm of each, the other lads following behind,
awe-struck and silent. Entering the office, Sir James shut the door
behind him, leaving the group of squires clustered outside about the
stone steps, speculating in whispers as to what would be the outcome of
the matter.

After Sir James had seated himself, the two standing facing him, he
regarded them for a while in silence. “How now, Walter Blunt,” said he
at last, “what is to do?”

“Why, this,” said Blunt, wiping his bleeding lip. “That fellow, Myles
Falworth, hath been breeding mutiny and revolt ever sin he came hither
among us, and because he was thus mutinous I would punish him therefor.”

“In that thou liest!” burst out Myles. “Never have I been mutinous in my

“Be silent, sir,” said Sir James, sternly. “I will hear thee anon.”

“Nay,” said Myles, with his lips twitching and writhing, “I will not be
silent. I am friendless here, and ye are all against me, but I will not
be silent, and brook to have lies spoken of me.”

Even Blunt stood aghast at Myles’s boldness. Never had he heard any one
so speak to Sir James before. He did not dare for the moment even to
look up. Second after second of dead stillness passed, while Sir James
sat looking at Myles with a stern, terrifying calmness that chilled him
in spite of the heat of his passion.

“Sir,” said the old man at last, in a hard, quiet voice, “thou dost know
naught of rules and laws of such a place as this. Nevertheless, it
is time for thee to learn them. So I will tell thee now that if thou
openest thy lips to say only one single word more except at my bidding,
I will send thee to the black vault of the donjon to cool thy hot
spirits on bread and water for a week.” There was something in the
measured quietness of the old knight’s tone that quelled Myles utterly
and entirely. A little space of silence followed. “Now, then, Blunt,”
 said Sir James, turning to the bachelor, “tell me all the ins and outs
of this business without any more underdealing.”

This time Blunt’s story, though naturally prejudiced in his own favor,
was fairly true. Then Myles told his side of the case, the old knight
listening attentively.

“Why, how now, Blunt,” said Sir James, when Myles had ended, “I myself
gave the lads leave to go to the river to bathe. Wherefore shouldst thou
forbid one of them?”

“I did it but to punish this fellow for his mutiny,” said the bachelor.
“Methought we at their head were to have oversight concerning them.”

“So ye are,” said the knight; “but only to a degree. Ere ye take it upon
ye to gainsay any of my orders or permits, come ye first to me. Dost
thou understand?”

“Aye,” answered Blunt, sullenly.

“So be it, and now get thee gone,” said the knight; “and let me hear no
more of beating out brains with wooden clogs. An ye fight your battles,
let there not be murder in them. This is twice that the like hath
happed; gin I hear more of such doings--” He did utter his threat, but
stopped short, and fixed his one eye sternly upon the head squire. “Now
shake hands, and be ye friends,” said he, abruptly.

Blunt made a motion to obey, but Myles put his hand behind him.

“Nay, I shake not hands with any one who struck me while I was down.”

“So be it,” said the knight, grimly. “Now thou mayst go, Blunt. Thou,
Falworth, stay; I would bespeak thee further.”

“Tell me,” said he, when the elder lad had left them, “why wilt thou not
serve these bachelors as the other squires do? Such is the custom here.
Why wilt thou not obey it?”

“Because,” said Myles, “I cannot stomach it, and they shall not make me
serve them. An thou bid me do it, sir, I will do it; but not at their

“Nay,” said the knight, “I do not bid thee do them service. That lieth
with thee, to render or not, as thou seest fit. But how canst thou hope
to fight single-handed against the commands of a dozen lads all older
and mightier than thou?”

“I know not,” said Myles; “but were they an hundred, instead of
thirteen, they should not make me serve them.”

“Thou art a fool!” said the old knight, smiling faintly, “for that be’st
not courage, but folly. When one setteth about righting a wrong, one
driveth not full head against it, for in so doing one getteth naught but
hard knocks. Nay, go deftly about it, and then, when the time is ripe,
strike the blow. Now our beloved King Henry, when he was the Earl of
Derby, what could he have gained had he stood so against the old King
Richard, brooking the King face to face? I tell thee he would have been
knocked on the head as thou wert like to have been this day. Now were
I thee, and had to fight a fight against odds, I would first get me
friends behind me, and then--” He stopped short, but Myles understood
him well enough.

“Sir,” said he, with a gulp, “I do thank thee for thy friendship, and
ask thy pardon for doing as I did anon.”

“I grant thee pardon,” said the knight, “but tell thee plainly, an thou
dost face me so again, I will truly send thee to the black cell for a
week. Now get thee away.”

All the other lads were gone when Myles came forth, save only the
faithful Gascoyne, who sacrificed his bath that day to stay with his
friend; and perhaps that little act of self-denial moved Myles more than
many a great thing might have done.

“It was right kind of thee, Francis,” said he, laying his hand
affectionately on his friend’s shoulder. “I know not why thou lovest me

“Why, for one thing, this matter,” answered his friend; “because
methinks thou art the best fighter and the bravest one of all of us

Myles laughed. Nevertheless Gascoyne’s words were a soothing balm for
much that had happened that day. “I will fight me no more just now,”
 said he; and then he told his friend all that Sir James had advised
about biding his time.

Gascoyne blew a long whistle. “Beshrew me!” quoth he, “but methinks old
Bruin is on thy side of the quarrel, Myles. An that be so, I am with
thee also, and others that I can name as well.”

“So be it,” said Myles. “Then am I content to abide the time when we may
become strong enough to stand against them.”


Perhaps there is nothing more delightful in the romance of boyhood than
the finding of some secret hiding-place whither a body may creep away
from the bustle of the world’s life, to nestle in quietness for an hour
or two. More especially is such delightful if it happen that, by
peeping from out it, one may look down upon the bustling matters of
busy every-day life, while one lies snugly hidden away unseen by any, as
though one were in some strange invisible world of one’s own.

Such a hiding-place as would have filled the heart of almost any boy
with sweet delight Myles and Gascoyne found one summer afternoon. They
called it their Eyry, and the name suited well for the roosting-place
of the young hawks that rested in its windy stillness, looking down upon
the shifting castle life in the courts below.

Behind the north stable, a great, long, rambling building, thick-walled,
and black with age, lay an older part of the castle than that peopled
by the better class of life--a cluster of great thick walls, rudely but
strongly built, now the dwelling-place of stable-lads and hinds, swine
and poultry. From one part of these ancient walls, and fronting an inner
court of the castle, arose a tall, circular, heavy-buttressed tower,
considerably higher than the other buildings, and so mantled with a
dense growth of aged ivy as to stand a shaft of solid green. Above its
crumbling crown circled hundreds of pigeons, white and pied, clapping
and clattering in noisy flight through the sunny air. Several windows,
some closed with shutters, peeped here and there from out the leaves,
and near the top of the pile was a row of arched openings, as though of
a balcony or an airy gallery.

Myles had more than once felt an idle curiosity about this tower, and
one day, as he and Gascoyne sat together, he pointed his finger and
said, “What is yon place?”

“That,” answered Gascoyne, looking over his shoulder--“that they call
Brutus Tower, for why they do say that Brutus he built it when he came
hither to Britain. I believe not the tale mine own self; ne’theless, it
is marvellous ancient, and old Robin-the-Fletcher telleth me that there
be stairways built in the wall and passage-ways, and a maze wherein
a body may get lost, an he know not the way aright, and never see the
blessed light of day again.”

“Marry,” said Myles, “those same be strange sayings. Who liveth there

“No one liveth there,” said Gascoyne, “saving only some of the stable
villains, and that half-witted goose-herd who flung stones at us
yesterday when we mocked him down in the paddock. He and his wife and
those others dwell in the vaults beneath, like rabbits in any warren. No
one else hath lived there since Earl Robert’s day, which belike was
an hundred years agone. The story goeth that Earl Robert’s brother--or
step-brother--was murdered there, and some men say by the Earl himself.
Sin that day it hath been tight shut.”

Myles stared at the tower for a while in silence. “It is a
strange-seeming place from without,” said he, at last, “and mayhap it
may be even more strange inside. Hast ever been within, Francis?”

“Nay,” said Gascoyne; “said I not it hath been fast locked since Earl
Robert’s day?”

“By’r Lady,” said Myles, “an I had lived here in this place so long as
thou, I wot I would have been within it ere this.”

“Beshrew me,” said Gascoyne, “but I have never thought of such a
matter.” He turned and looked at the tall crown rising into the warm
sunlight with a new interest, for the thought of entering it smacked
pleasantly of adventure. “How wouldst thou set about getting within?”
 said he, presently.

“Why, look,” said Myles; “seest thou not yon hole in the ivy branches?
Methinks there is a window at that place. An I mistake not, it is in
reach of the stable eaves. A body might come up by the fagot pile to the
roof of the hen-house, and then by the long stable to the north stable,
and so to that hole.”

Gascoyne looked thoughtfully at the Brutus Tower, and then suddenly
inquired, “Wouldst go there?”

“Aye,” said Myles, briefly.

“So be it. Lead thou the way in the venture, I will follow after thee,”
 said Gascoyne.

As Myles had said, the climbing from roof to roof was a matter easy
enough to an active pair of lads like themselves; but when, by-and-by,
they reached the wall of the tower itself, they found the hidden window
much higher from the roof than they had judged from below--perhaps ten
or twelve feet--and it was, besides, beyond the eaves and out of their

Myles looked up and looked down. Above was the bushy thickness of the
ivy, the branches as thick as a woman’s wrist, knotted and intertwined;
below was the stone pavement of a narrow inner court between two of the
stable buildings.

“Methinks I can climb to yon place,” said he.

“Thou’lt break thy neck an thou tryest,” said Gascoyne, hastily.

“Nay,” quoth Myles, “I trust not; but break or make, we get not there
without trying. So here goeth for the venture.”

“Thou art a hare-brained knave as ever drew breath of life,” quoth
Gascoyne, “and will cause me to come to grief some of these fine days.
Ne’theless, an thou be Jack Fool and lead the way, go, and I will be Tom
Fool and follow anon. If thy neck is worth so little, mine is worth no

It was indeed a perilous climb, but that special providence which guards
reckless lads befriended them, as it has thousands of their kind before
and since. So, by climbing from one knotted, clinging stem to another,
they were presently seated snugly in the ivied niche in the window. It
was barred from within by a crumbling shutter, the rusty fastening of
which, after some little effort upon the part of the two, gave way, and
entering the narrow opening, they found themselves in a small triangular
passage-way, from which a steep flight of stone steps led down through a
hollow in the massive wall to the room below.

At the bottom of the steps was a heavy oaken door, which stood ajar,
hanging upon a single rusty hinge, and from the room within a dull, gray
light glimmered faintly. Myles pushed the door farther open; it creaked
and grated horribly on its rusty hinge, and, as in instant answer to
the discordant shriek, came a faint piping squeaking, a rustling and a
pattering of soft footsteps.

“The ghosts!” cried Gascoyne, in a quavering whisper, and for a moment
Myles felt the chill of goose-flesh creep up and down his spine. But the
next moment he laughed.

“Nay,” said he, “they be rats. Look at yon fellow, Francis! Be’st as big
as Mother Joan’s kitten. Give me that stone.” He flung it at the rat,
and it flew clattering across the floor. There was another pattering
rustle of hundreds of feet, and then a breathless silence.

The boys stood looking around them, and a strange enough sight it was.
The room was a perfect circle of about twenty feet across, and was
piled high with an indistinguishable mass of lumber--rude tables, ruder
chairs, ancient chests, bits and remnants of cloth and sacking and
leather, old helmets and pieces of armor of a by-gone time, broken
spears and pole-axes, pots and pans and kitchen furniture of all sorts
and kinds.

A straight beam of sunlight fell through a broken shutter like a bar of
gold, and fell upon the floor in a long streak of dazzling light that
illuminated the whole room with a yellow glow.

“By ‘r Lady!” said Gascoyne at last, in a hushed voice, “here is Father
Time’s garret for sure. Didst ever see the like, Myles? Look at yon
arbalist; sure Brutus himself used such an one!”

“Nay,” said Myles; “but look at this saddle. Marry, here be’st a rat’s
nest in it.”

Clouds of dust rose as they rummaged among the mouldering mass, setting
them coughing and sneezing. Now and then a great gray rat would shoot
out beneath their very feet, and disappear, like a sudden shadow, into
some hole or cranny in the wall.

“Come,” said Myles at last, brushing the dust from his jacket, “an we
tarry here longer we will have chance to see no other sights; the sun is
falling low.”

An arched stair-way upon the opposite side of the room from which they
had entered wound upward through the wall, the stone steps being lighted
by narrow slits of windows cut through the massive masonry. Above the
room they had just left was another of the same shape and size, but with
an oak floor, sagging and rising into hollows and hills, where the joist
had rotted away beneath. It was bare and empty, and not even a rat
was to be seen. Above was another room; above that, another; all the
passages and stairways which connected the one story with the other
being built in the wall, which was, where solid, perhaps fifteen feet

From the third floor a straight flight of steps led upward to a closed
door, from the other side of which shone the dazzling brightness of
sunlight, and whence came a strange noise--a soft rustling, a melodious
murmur. The boys put their shoulders against the door, which was
fastened, and pushed with might and main--once, twice; suddenly the
lock gave way, and out they pitched headlong into a blaze of sunlight.
A deafening clapping and uproar sounded in their ears, and scores of
pigeons, suddenly disturbed, rose in stormy flight.

They sat up and looked around them in silent wonder. They were in a
bower of leafy green. It was the top story of the tower, the roof of
which had crumbled and toppled in, leaving it open to the sky, with only
here and there a slanting beam or two supporting a portion of the tiled
roof, affording shelter for the nests of the pigeons crowded closely
together. Over everything the ivy had grown in a mantling sheet--a
net-work of shimmering green, through which the sunlight fell

“This passeth wonder,” said Gascoyne, at last breaking the silence.

“Aye,” said Myles, “I did never see the like in all my life.” Then,
“Look, yonder is a room beyond; let us see what it is, Francis.”

Entering an arched door-way, the two found themselves in a beautiful
little vaulted chapel, about eighteen feet long and twelve or fifteen
wide. It comprised the crown of one of the large massive buttresses, and
from it opened the row of arched windows which could be seen from below
through the green shimmering of the ivy leaves. The boys pushed aside
the trailing tendrils and looked out and down. The whole castle lay
spread below them, with the busy people unconsciously intent upon the
matters of their daily work. They could see the gardener, with bowed
back, patiently working among the flowers in the garden, the stable-boys
below grooming the horses, a bevy of ladies in the privy garden playing
at shuttlecock with battledoors of wood, a group of gentlemen walking
up and down in front of the Earl’s house. They could see the household
servants hurrying hither and thither, two little scullions at
fisticuffs, and a kitchen girl standing in the door-way scratching her
frowzy head.

It was all like a puppetshow of real life, each acting unconsciously a
part in the play. The cool wind came in through the rustling leaves and
fanned their cheeks, hot with the climb up the winding stair-way.

“We will call it our Eyry,” said Gascoyne “and we will be the hawks that
live here.” And that was how it got its name.

The next day Myles had the armorer make him a score of large spikes,
which he and Gascoyne drove between the ivy branches and into the cement
of the wall, and so made a safe passageway by which to reach the window
niche in the wall.


THE TWO friends kept the secret of the Eyry to themselves for a little
while, now and then visiting the old tower to rummage among the lumber
stored in the lower room, or to loiter away the afternoon in the windy
solitudes of the upper heights. And in that little time, when the
ancient keep was to them a small world unknown to any but themselves--a
world far away above all the dull matters of every-day life--they talked
of many things that might else never have been known to one another.
Mostly they spoke the crude romantic thoughts and desires of boyhood’s
time--chaff thrown to the wind, in which, however, lay a few stray
seeds, fated to fall to good earth, and to ripen to fruition in
manhood’s day.

In the intimate talks of that time Myles imparted something of his
honest solidity to Gascoyne’s somewhat weathercock nature, and to
Myles’s ruder and more uncouth character Gascoyne lent a tone of his
gentler manners, learned in his pagehood service as attendant upon the
Countess and her ladies.

In other things, also, the character and experience of the one lad
helped to supply what was lacking in the other. Myles was replete with
old Latin gestes, fables, and sermons picked up during his school life,
in those intervals of his more serious studies when Prior Edward had
permitted him to browse in the greener pastures of the Gesta Romanorum
and the Disciplina Clericalis of the monastery library, and Gascoyne was
never weary of hearing him tell those marvellous stories culled from the
crabbed Latin of the old manuscript volumes.

Upon his part Gascoyne was full of the lore of the waiting-room and
the antechamber, and Myles, who in all his life had never known a lady,
young or old, excepting his mother, was never tired of lying silently
listening to Gascoyne’s chatter of the gay doings of the castle
gentle-life, in which he had taken part so often in the merry days of
his pagehood.

“I do wonder,” said Myles, quaintly, “that thou couldst ever find the
courage to bespeak a young maid, Francis. Never did I do so, nor ever
could. Rather would I face three strong men than one young damsel.”

Whereupon Gascoyne burst out laughing. “Marry!” quoth he, “they be
no such terrible things, but gentle and pleasant spoken, and soft and
smooth as any cat.”

“No matter for that,” said Myles; “I would not face one such for

It was during the short time when, so to speak, the two owned the
solitude of the Brutus Tower, that Myles told his friend of his father’s
outlawry and of the peril in which the family stood. And thus it was.

“I do marvel,” said Gascoyne one day, as the two lay stretched in the
Eyry, looking down into the castle court-yard below--“I do marvel, now
that thou art ‘stablished here this month and more, that my Lord doth
never have thee called to service upon household duty. Canst thou riddle
me why it is so, Myles?”

The subject was a very sore one with Myles. Until Sir James had told him
of the matter in his office that day he had never known that his father
was attainted and outlawed. He had accepted the change from their
earlier state and the bald poverty of their life at Crosbey-Holt with
the easy carelessness of boyhood, and Sir James’s words were the first
to awaken him to a realization of the misfortunes of the house of
Falworth. His was a brooding nature, and in the three or four weeks
that passed he had meditated so much over what had been told him, that
by-and-by it almost seemed as if a shadow of shame rested upon his
father’s fair fame, even though the attaint set upon him was unrighteous
and unjust, as Myles knew it must be. He had felt angry and resentful
at the Earl’s neglect, and as days passed and he was not noticed in any
way, his heart was at times very bitter.

So now Gascoyne’s innocent question touched a sore spot, and Myles spoke
with a sharp, angry pain in his voice that made the other look quickly
up. “Sooner would my Lord have yonder swineherd serve him in the
household than me,” said he.

“Why may that be, Myles?” said Gascoyne.

“Because,” answered Myles, with the same angry bitterness in his voice,
“either the Earl is a coward that feareth to befriend me, or else he is
a caitiff, ashamed of his own flesh and blood, and of me, the son of his
one-time comrade.”

Gascoyne raised himself upon his elbow, and opened his eyes wide in
wonder. “Afeard of thee, Myles!” quoth he. “Why should he be afeared to
befriend thee? Who art thou that the Earl should fear thee?”

Myles hesitated for a moment or two; wisdom bade him remain silent
upon the dangerous topic, but his heart yearned for sympathy and
companionship in his trouble. “I will tell thee,” said he, suddenly,
and therewith poured out all of the story, so far as he knew it, to his
listening, wondering friend, and his heart felt lighter to be thus eased
of its burden. “And now,” said he, as he concluded, “is not this Earl
a mean-hearted caitiff to leave me, the son of his one-time friend and
kinsman, thus to stand or to fall alone among strangers and in a
strange place without once stretching me a helping hand?” He waited, and
Gascoyne knew that he expected an answer.

“I know not that he is a mean-hearted caitiff, Myles,” said he at last,
hesitatingly. “The Earl hath many enemies, and I have heard that he hath
stood more than once in peril, having been accused of dealings with
the King’s foes. He was cousin to the Earl of Kent, and I do remember
hearing that he had a narrow escape at that time from ruin. There be
more reasons than thou wottest of why he should not have dealings with
thy father.”

“I had not thought,” said Myles, bitterly, after a little pause, “that
thou wouldst stand up for him and against me in this quarrel, Gascoyne.
Him will I never forgive so long as I may live, and I had thought that
thou wouldst have stood by me.”

“So I do,” said Gascoyne, hastily, “and do love thee more than any one
in all the world, Myles; but I had thought that it would make thee feel
more easy, to think that the Earl was not against thee. And, indeed,
from all thou has told me, I do soothly think that he and Sir James mean
to befriend thee and hold thee privily in kind regard.”

“Then why doth he not stand forth like a man and befriend me and my
father openly, even if it be to his own peril?” said Myles, reverting
stubbornly to what he had first spoken.

Gascoyne did not answer, but lay for a long while in silence. “Knowest
thou,” he suddenly asked, after a while, “who is this great enemy of
whom Sir James speaketh, and who seeketh so to drive thy father to

“Nay,” said Myles, “I know not, for my father hath never spoken of these
things, and Sir James would not tell me. But this I know,” said he,
suddenly, grinding his teeth together, “an I do not hunt him out some
day and slay him like a dog--” He stopped abruptly, and Gascoyne,
looking askance at him, saw that his eyes were full of tears, whereupon
he turned his looks away again quickly, and fell to shooting pebbles out
through the open window with his finger and thumb.

“Thou wilt tell no one of these things that I have said?” said Myles,
after a while.

“Not I,” said Gascoyne. “Thinkest thou I could do such a thing?”

“Nay,” said Myles, briefly.

Perhaps this talk more than anything else that had ever passed between
them knit the two friends the closer together, for, as I have said,
Myles felt easier now that he had poured out his bitter thoughts and
words; and as for Gascoyne, I think that there is nothing so flattering
to one’s soul as to be made the confidant of a stronger nature.

But the old tower served another purpose than that of a spot in which
to pass away a few idle hours, or in which to indulge the confidences of
friendship, for it was there that Myles gathered a backing of strength
for resistance against the tyranny of the bachelors, and it is for that
more than for any other reason that it has been told how they found the
place and of what they did there, feeling secure against interruption.

Myles Falworth was not of a kind that forgets or neglects a thing upon
which the mind has once been set. Perhaps his chief objective since
the talk with Sir James following his fight in the dormitory had been
successful resistance to the exactions of the head of the body of
squires. He was now (more than a month had passed) looked upon by nearly
if not all of the younger lads as an acknowledged leader in his own
class. So one day he broached a matter to Gascoyne that had for some
time been digesting in his mind. It was the formation of a secret order,
calling themselves the “Knights of the Rose,” their meeting-place to be
the chapel of the Brutus Tower, and their object to be the righting
of wrongs, “as they,” said Myles, “of Arthur his Round-table did right

“But, prithee, what wrongs are there to right in this place?” quoth
Gascoyne, after listening intently to the plan which Myles set forth.

“Why, first of all, this,” said Myles, clinching his fists, as he had a
habit of doing when anything stirred him deeply, “that we set those vile
bachelors to their right place; and that is, that they be no longer our
masters, but our fellows.”

Gascoyne shook his head. He hated clashing and conflict above all
things, and was for peace. Why should they thus rush to thrust
themselves into trouble? Let matters abide as they were a little longer;
surely life was pleasant enough without turning it all topsy-turvy.
Then, with a sort of indignation, why should Myles, who had only come
among them a month, take such service more to heart than they who had
endured it for years? And, finally, with the hopefulness of so many of
the rest of us, he advised Myles to let matters alone, and they would
right themselves in time.

But Myles’s mind was determined; his active spirit could not brook
resting passively under a wrong; he would endure no longer, and now or
never they must make their stand.

“But look thee, Myles Falworth,” said Gascoyne, “all this is not to
be done withouten fighting shrewdly. Wilt thou take that fighting upon
thine own self? As for me, I tell thee I love it not.”

“Why, aye,” said Myles; “I ask no man to do what I will not do myself.”

Gascoyne shrugged his shoulders. “So be it,” said he. “An thou hast
appetite to run thy head against hard knocks, do it i’ mercy’s name! I
for one will stand thee back while thou art taking thy raps.”

There was a spirit of drollery in Gascoyne’s speech that rubbed against
Myles’s earnestness.

“Out upon it!” cried he, his patience giving way. “Seest not that I
am in serious earnest? Why then dost thou still jest like Mad Noll, my
Lord’s fool? An thou wilt not lend me thine aid in this matter, say so
and ha’ done with it, and I will bethink me of somewhere else to turn.”

Then Gascoyne yielded at once, as he always did when his friend lost his
temper, and having once assented to it, entered into the scheme heart
and soul. Three other lads--one of them that tall thin squire Edmund
Wilkes, before spoken of--were sounded upon the subject. They also
entered into the plan of the secret organization with an enthusiasm
which might perhaps not have been quite so glowing had they realized how
very soon Myles designed embarking upon active practical operations.
One day Myles and Gascoyne showed them the strange things that they
had discovered in the old tower--the inner staircases, the winding
passage-ways, the queer niches and cupboard, and the black shaft of a
well that pierced down into the solid wall, and whence, perhaps, the old
castle folk had one time drawn their supply of water in time of siege,
and with every new wonder of the marvellous place the enthusiasm of the
three recruits rose higher and higher. They rummaged through the lumber
pile in the great circular room as Myles and Gascoyne had done, and at
last, tired out, they ascended to the airy chapel, and there sat cooling
themselves in the rustling freshness of the breeze that came blowing
briskly in through the arched windows.

It was then and there that the five discussed and finally determined
upon the detailed plans of their organization, canvassing the names of
the squirehood, and selecting from it a sufficient number of bold and
daring spirits to make up a roll of twenty names in all.

Gascoyne had, as I said, entered into the matter with spirit, and
perhaps it was owing more to him than to any other that the project
caught its delightful flavor of romance.

“Perchance,” said he, as the five lads lay in the rustling stillness
through which sounded the monotonous and ceaseless cooing of the
pigeons--“perchance there may be dwarfs and giants and dragons and
enchanters and evil knights and what not even nowadays. And who knows
but that if we Knights of the Rose hold together we may go forth into
the world, and do battle with them, and save beautiful ladies, and
have tales and gestes written about us as they are writ about the Seven
Champions and Arthur his Round-table.”

Perhaps Myles, who lay silently listening to all that was said, was the
only one who looked upon the scheme at all in the light of real utility,
but I think that even with him the fun of the matter outweighed the
serious part of the business.

So it was that the Sacred Order of the Twenty Knights of the Rose
came to be initiated. They appointed a code of secret passwords and
countersigns which were very difficult to remember, and which were only
used when they might excite the curiosity of the other and uninitiated
boys by their mysterious sound. They elected Myles as their Grand High
Commander, and held secret meetings in the ancient tower, where many
mysteries were soberly enacted.

Of course in a day or two all the body of squires knew nearly everything
concerning the Knights of the Rose, and of their secret meetings in
the old tower. The lucky twenty were the objects of envy of all not so
fortunate as to be included in this number, and there was a marked air
of secrecy about everything they did that appealed to every romantic
notion of the youngsters looking on. What was the stormy outcome of it
all is now presently to be told.


Thus it was that Myles, with an eye to open war with the bachelors,
gathered a following to his support. It was some little while before
matters were brought to a crisis--a week or ten days. Perhaps even Myles
had no great desire to hasten matters. He knew that whenever war was
declared, he himself would have to bear the brunt of the battle, and
even the bravest man hesitates before deliberately thrusting himself
into a fight.

One morning Myles and Gascoyne and Wilkes sat under the shade of two
trees, between which was a board nailed to the trunks, making a rude
bench--always a favorite lounging-place for the lads in idle moments.
Myles was polishing his bascinet with lard and wood-ashes, rubbing the
metal with a piece of leather, and wiping it clean with a fustian rag.
The other two, who had just been relieved from household duty, lay at
length idly looking on.

Just then one of the smaller pages, a boy of twelve or thirteen, by name
Robin Ingoldsby, crossed the court. He had been crying; his face was red
and blubbered, and his body was still shaken with convulsive sniffs.

Myles looked up. “Come hither, Robin,” he called from where he sat.
“What is to do?”

The little fellow came slowly up to where the three rested in the shade.
“Mowbray beat me with a strap,” said he, rubbing his sleeve across his
eyes, and catching his breath at the recollection.

“Beat thee, didst say?” said Myles, drawing his brows together. “Why did
he beat thee?”

“Because,” said Robin, “I tarried overlong in fetching a pot of beer
from the buttery for him and Wyatt.” Then, with a boy’s sudden and easy
quickness in forgetting past troubles, “Tell me, Falworth,” said he,
“when wilt thou give me that knife thou promised me--the one thou break
the blade of yesterday?”

“I know not,” said Myles, bluntly, vexed that the boy did not take
the disgrace of his beating more to heart. “Some time soon, mayhap. Me
thinks thou shouldst think more of thy beating than of a broken knife.
Now get thee gone to thy business.”

The youngster lingered for a moment or two watching Myles at his work.
“What is that on the leather scrap, Falworth?” said he, curiously.

“Lard and ashes,” said Myles, testily. “Get thee gone, I say, or I
will crack thy head for thee;” and he picked up a block of wood, with a
threatening gesture.

The youngster made a hideous grimace, and then scurried away, ducking
his head, lest in spite of Myles’s well-known good-nature the block
should come whizzing after him.

“Hear ye that now!” cried Myles, flinging down the block again and
turning to his two friends. “Beaten with straps because, forsooth, he
would not fetch and carry quickly enough to please the haste of these
bachelors. Oh, this passeth patience, and I for one will bear it no

“Nay, Myles,” said Gascoyne, soothingly, “the little imp is as lazy as a
dormouse and as mischievous as a monkey. I’ll warrant the hiding was his
due, and that more of the like would do him good.”

“Why, how dost thou talk, Francis!” said Myles, turning upon him
indignantly. “Thou knowest that thou likest to see the boy beaten no
more than I.” Then, after a meditative pause, “How many, think ye, we
muster of our company of the Rose today?”

Wilkes looked doubtfully at Gascoyne. “There be only seventeen of us
here now,” said he at last. “Brinton and Lambourne are away to Roby
Castle in Lord George’s train, and will not be back till Saturday next.
And Watt Newton is in the infirmary.

“Seventeen be’st enou,” said Myles, grimly. “Let us get together this
afternoon, such as may, in the Brutus Tower, for I, as I did say, will
no longer suffer these vile bachelors.”

Gascoyne and Wilkes exchanged looks, and then the former blew a long

So that afternoon a gloomy set of young faces were gathered together in
the Eyry--fifteen of the Knights of the Rose--and all knew why they were
assembled. The talk which followed was conducted mostly by Myles. He
addressed the others with a straightforward vim and earnestness, but the
response was only half-hearted, and when at last, having heated himself
up with his own fire, he sat down, puffing out his red cheeks and
glaring round, a space of silence followed, the lads looked doubtfully
at one another. Myles felt the chill of their silence strike coldly on
his enthusiasm, and it vexed him.

“What wouldst thou do, Falworth?” said one of the knights, at last.
“Wouldst have us open a quarrel with the bachelors?”

“Nay,” said Myles, gruffly. “I had thought that ye would all lend me a
hand in a pitched battle but now I see that ye ha’ no stomach for that.
Ne’theless, I tell ye plainly I will not submit longer to the bachelors.
So now I will ask ye not to take any venture upon yourselves, but only
this: that ye will stand by me when I do my fighting, and not let five
or seven of them fall upon me at once.

“There is Walter Blunt; he is parlous strong,” said one of the others,
after a time of silence. “Methinks he could conquer any two of us.”

“Nay,” said Myles; “ye do fear him too greatly. I tell ye I fear not to
stand up to try battle with him and will do so, too, if the need arise.
Only say ye that ye will stand by my back.”

“Marry,” said Gascoyne, quaintly, “an thou wilt dare take the heavy end
upon thee, I for one am willing to stand by and see that thou have thy
fill of fighting.”

“I too will stand thee by, Myles,” said Edmund Wilkes.

“And I, and I, and I,” said others, chiming in.

Those who would still have held back were carried along by the stream,
and so it was settled that if the need should arise for Myles to do
a bit of fighting, the others should stand by to see that he had fair

“When thinkest thou that thou wilt take thy stand against them, Myles?”
 asked Wilkes.

Myles hesitated a moment. “To-morrow,” said he, grimly.

Several of the lads whistled softly.

Gascoyne was prepared for an early opening of the war, but perhaps not
for such an early opening as this. “By ‘r Lady, Myles, thou art hungry
for brawling,” said he.


After the first excitement of meeting, discussing, and deciding had
passed, Myles began to feel the weight of the load he had so boldly
taken upon himself. He began to reckon what a serious thing it was for
him to stand as a single champion against the tyranny that had grown
so strong through years of custom. Had he let himself do so, he might
almost have repented, but it was too late now for repentance. He had
laid his hand to the plough, and he must drive the furrow.

Somehow the news of impending battle had leaked out among the rest of
the body of squires, and a buzz of suppressed excitement hummed through
the dormitory that evening. The bachelors, to whom, no doubt, vague
rumors had been blown, looked lowering, and talked together in low
voices, standing apart in a group. Some of them made a rather marked
show of secreting knives in the straw of their beds, and no doubt it had
its effect upon more than one young heart that secretly thrilled at the
sight of the shining blades. However, all was undisturbed that evening.
The lights were put out, and the lads retired with more than usual
quietness, only for the murmur of whispering.

All night Myles’s sleep was more or less disturbed by dreams in which he
was now conquering, now being conquered, and before the day had fairly
broken he was awake. He lay upon his cot, keying himself up for the
encounter which he had set upon himself to face, and it would not be
the truth to say that the sight of those knives hidden in the straw
the night before had made no impression upon him. By-and-by he knew the
others were beginning to awake, for he heard them softly stirring, and
as the light grew broad and strong, saw them arise, one by one, and
begin dressing in the gray morning. Then he himself arose and put on his
doublet and hose, strapping his belt tightly about his waist; then he
sat down on the side of his cot.

Presently that happened for which he was waiting; two of the younger
squires started to bring the bachelors’ morning supply of water. As they
crossed the room Myles called to them in a loud voice--a little uneven,
perhaps: “Stop! We draw no more water for any one in this house, saving
only for ourselves. Set ye down those buckets, and go back to your

The two lads stopped, half turned, and then stood still, holding the
three buckets undecidedly.

In a moment all was uproar and confusion, for by this time every one
of the lads had arisen, some sitting on the edge of their beds, some
nearly, others quite dressed. A half-dozen of the Knights of the Rose
came over to where Myles stood, gathering in a body behind him and the
others followed, one after another.

The bachelors were hardly prepared for such prompt and vigorous action.

“What is to do?” cried one of them, who stood near the two lads with the
buckets. “Why fetch ye not the water?”

“Falworth says we shall not fetch it,” answered one of the lads, a boy
by the name of Gosse.

“What mean ye by that, Falworth?” the young man called to Myles.

Myles’s heart was beating thickly and heavily within him, but
nevertheless he spoke up boldly enough. “I mean,” said he, “that from
henceforth ye shall fetch and carry for yourselves.”

“Look’ee, Blunt,” called the bachelor; “here is Falworth says they
squires will fetch no more water for us.”

The head bachelor had heard all that had passed, and was even then
hastily slipping on his doublet and hose. “Now, then, Falworth,” said he
at last, striding forward, “what is to do? Ye will fetch no more water,
eh? By ‘r Lady, I will know the reason why.”

He was still advancing towards Myles, with two or three of the older
bachelors at his heels, when Gascoyne spoke.

“Thou hadst best stand back, Blunt,” said he, “else thou mayst be hurt.
We will not have ye bang Falworth again as ye once did, so stand thou

Blunt stopped short and looked upon the lads standing behind Myles, some
of them with faces a trifle pale perhaps, but all grim and determined
looking enough. Then he turned upon his heel suddenly, and walked back
to the far end of the dormitory, where the bachelors were presently
clustered together. A few words passed between them, and then the
thirteen began at once arming themselves, some with wooden clogs,
and some with the knives which they had so openly concealed the
night before. At the sign of imminent battle, all those not actively
interested scuttled away to right and left, climbing up on the benches
and cots, and leaving a free field to the combatants. The next moment
would have brought bloodshed.

Now Myles, thanks to the training of the Crosbey-Dale smith, felt
tolerably sure that in a wrestling bout he was a match--perhaps more
than a match--for any one of the body of squires, and he had determined,
if possible, to bring the battle to a single-handed encounter upon that
footing. Accordingly he suddenly stepped forward before the others.

“Look’ee, fellow,” he called to Blunt, “thou art he who struck me whilst
I was down some while since. Wilt thou let this quarrel stand between
thee and me, and meet me man to man without weapon? See, I throw me
down mine own, and will meet thee with bare hands.” And as he spoke, he
tossed the clog he held in his hand back upon the cot.

“So be it,” said Blunt, with great readiness, tossing down a similar
weapon which he himself held.

“Do not go, Myles,” cried Gascoyne, “he is a villain and a traitor, and
would betray thee to thy death. I saw him when he first gat from bed
hide a knife in his doublet.”

“Thou liest!” said Blunt. “I swear, by my faith, I be barehanded as ye
see me! Thy friend accuses me, Myles Falworth, because he knoweth thou
art afraid of me.”

“There thou liest most vilely!” exclaimed Myles. “Swear that thou hast
no knife, and I will meet thee.”

“Hast thou not heard me say that I have no knife?” said Blunt. “What
more wouldst thou have?”

“Then I will meet thee halfway,” said Myles.

Gascoyne caught him by the sleeve, and would have withheld him, assuring
him that he had seen the bachelor conceal a knife. But Myles, hot for
the fight, broke away from his friend without listening to him.

As the two advanced steadily towards one another a breathless silence
fell upon the dormitory in sharp contrast to the uproar and confusion
that had filled it a moment before. The lads, standing some upon
benches, some upon beds, all watched with breathless interest the
meeting of the two champions.

As they approached one another they stopped and stood for a moment a
little apart, glaring the one upon the other. They seemed ill enough
matched; Blunt was fully half a head taller than Myles, and was
thick-set and close-knit in young manhood. Nothing but Myles’s undaunted
pluck could have led him to dare to face an enemy so much older and
stouter than himself.

The pause was only for a moment. They who looked saw Blunt slide his
hand furtively towards his bosom. Myles saw too, and in the flash of an
instant knew what the gesture meant, and sprang upon the other before
the hand could grasp what it sought. As he clutched his enemy he felt
what he had in that instant expected to feel--the handle of a dagger.
The next moment he cried, in a loud voice: “Oh, thou villain! Help,
Gascoyne! He hath a knife under his doublet!”

In answer to his cry for help, Myles’s friends started to his aid. But
the bachelors shouted, “Stand back and let them fight it out alone, else
we will knife ye too.” And as they spoke, some of them leaped from the
benches whereon they stood, drawing their knives and flourishing them.

For just a few seconds Myles’s friends stood cowed, and in those few
seconds the fight came to an end with a suddenness unexpected to all.

A struggle fierce and silent followed between the two; Blunt striving
to draw his knife, and Myles, with the energy of despair, holding him
tightly by the wrist. It was in vain the elder lad writhed and twisted;
he was strong enough to overbear Myles, but still was not able to clutch
the haft of his knife.

“Thou shalt not draw it!” gasped Myles at last. “Thou shalt not stab

Then again some of his friends started forward to his aid, but they were
not needed, for before they came, the fight was over.

Blunt, finding that he was not able to draw the weapon, suddenly ceased
his endeavors, and flung his arms around Myles, trying to bear him down
upon the ground, and in that moment his battle was lost.

In an instant--so quick, so sudden, so unexpected that no one could see
how it happened--his feet were whirled away from under him, he spun with
flying arms across Myles’s loins, and pitched with a thud upon the stone
pavement, where he lay still, motionless, while Myles, his face white
with passion and his eyes gleaming, stood glaring around like a young
wild-boar beset by the dogs.

The next moment the silence was broken, and the uproar broke forth
with redoubled violence. The bachelors, leaping from the benches, came
hurrying forward on one side, and Myles’s friends from the other.

“Thou shalt smart for this, Falworth,” said one of the older lads.
“Belike thou hast slain him!”

Myles turned upon the speaker like a flash, and with such a passion of
fury in his face that the other, a fellow nearly a head taller than he,
shrank back, cowed in spite of himself. Then Gascoyne came and laid his
hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“Who touches me?” cried Myles, hoarsely, turning sharply upon him; and
then, seeing who it was, “Oh, Francis, they would ha’ killed me!”

“Come away, Myles,” said Gascoyne; “thou knowest not what thou doest;
thou art mad; come away. What if thou hadst killed him?”

The words called Myles somewhat to himself. “I care not!” said he, but
sullenly and not passionately, and then he suffered Gascoyne and Wilkes
to lead him away.

Meantime Blunt’s friends had turned him over, and, after feeling his
temples, his wrist, and his heart, bore him away to a bench at the far
end of the room. There they fell to chafing his hands and sprinkling
water in his face, a crowd of the others gathering about. Blunt was
hidden from Myles by those who stood around, and the lad listened to the
broken talk that filled the room with its confusion, his anxiety growing
keener as he became cooler. But at last, with a heartfelt joy, he
gathered from the confused buzz of words that the other lad had opened
his eyes and, after a while, he saw him sit up, leaning his head upon
the shoulder of one of his fellow-bachelors, white and faint and sick as

“Thank Heaven that thou didst not kill him!” said Edmund Wilkes, who
had been standing with the crowd looking on at the efforts of Blunt’s
friends to revive him, and who had now come and sat down upon the bed
not far from Myles.

“Aye,” said Myles, gruffly, “I do thank Heaven for that.”


If Myles fancied that one single victory over his enemy would cure the
evil against which he fought, he was grievously mistaken; wrongs are not
righted so easily as that. It was only the beginning. Other and far more
bitter battles lay before him ere he could look around him and say, “I
have won the victory.”

For a day--for two days--the bachelors were demoralized at the fall of
their leader, and the Knights of the Rose were proportionately uplifted.

The day that Blunt met his fall, the wooden tank in which the water
had been poured every morning was found to have been taken away. The
bachelors made a great show of indignation and inquiry. Who was it stole
their tank? If they did but know, he should smart for it.

“Ho! ho!” roared Edmund Wilkes, so that the whole dormitory heard him,
“smoke ye not their tricks, lads? See ye not that they have stolen their
own water-tank, so that they might have no need for another fight over
the carrying of the water?”

The bachelors made an obvious show of not having heard what he said, and
a general laugh went around. No one doubted that Wilkes had spoken the
truth in his taunt, and that the bachelors had indeed stolen their own
tank. So no more water was ever carried for the head squires, but it was
plain to see that the war for the upperhand was not yet over.

Even if Myles had entertained comforting thoughts to the contrary, he
was speedily undeceived. One morning, about a week after the fight, as
he and Gascoyne were crossing the armory court, they were hailed by
a group of the bachelors standing at the stone steps of the great

“Holloa, Falworth!” they cried. “Knowest thou that Blunt is nigh well

“Nay,” said Myles, “I knew it not. But I am right glad to hear it.”

“Thou wilt sing a different song anon,” said one of the bachelors. “I
tell thee he is hot against thee, and swears when he cometh again he
will carve thee soothly.”

“Aye, marry!” said another. “I would not be in thy skin a week hence for
a ducat! Only this morning he told Philip Mowbray that he would have thy
blood for the fall thou gavest him. Look to thyself, Falworth; he cometh
again Wednesday or Thursday next; thou standest in a parlous state.”

“Myles,” said Gascoyne, as they entered the great quadrangle, “I do
indeed fear me that he meaneth to do thee evil.”

“I know not,” said Myles, boldly; “but I fear him not.” Nevertheless his
heart was heavy with the weight of impending ill.

One evening the bachelors were more than usually noisy in their end of
the dormitory, laughing and talking and shouting to one another.

“Holloa, you sirrah, Falworth!” called one of them along the length of
the room. “Blunt cometh again to-morrow day.”

Myles saw Gascoyne direct a sharp glance at him; but he answered nothing
either to his enemy’s words or his friend’s look.

As the bachelor had said, Blunt came the next morning. It was just after
chapel, and the whole body of squires was gathered in the armory waiting
for the orders of the day and the calling of the roll of those chosen
for household duty. Myles was sitting on a bench along the wall, talking
and jesting with some who stood by, when of a sudden his heart gave a
great leap within him.

It was Walter Blunt. He came walking in at the door as if nothing had
passed, and at his unexpected coming the hubbub of talk and laughter
was suddenly checked. Even Myles stopped in his speech for a moment, and
then continued with a beating heart and a carelessness of manner that
was altogether assumed. In his hand Blunt carried the house orders for
the day, and without seeming to notice Myles, he opened it and read the
list of those called upon for household service.

Myles had risen, and was now standing listening with the others. When
Blunt had ended reading the list of names, he rolled up the parchment,
and thrust it into his belt; then swinging suddenly on his heel, he
strode straight up to Myles, facing him front to front. A moment or two
of deep silence followed; not a sound broke the stillness. When Blunt
spoke every one in the armory heard his words.

“Sirrah!” said he, “thou didst put foul shame upon me some time sin.
Never will I forget or forgive that offence, and will have a reckoning
with thee right soon that thou wilt not forget to the last day of thy

When Myles had seen his enemy turn upon him, he did not know at first
what to expect; he would not have been surprised had they come to blows
there and then, and he held himself prepared for any event. He faced
the other pluckily enough and without flinching, and spoke up boldly in
answer. “So be it, Walter Blunt; I fear thee not in whatever way thou
mayst encounter me.”

“Dost thou not?” said Blunt. “By’r Lady, thou’lt have cause to fear me
ere I am through with thee.” He smiled a baleful, lingering smile, and
then turned slowly and walked away.

“What thinkest thou, Myles?” said Gascoyne, as the two left the armory

“I think naught,” said Myles gruffly. “He will not dare to touch me
to harm me. I fear him not.” Nevertheless, he did not speak the full
feelings of his heart.

“I know not, Myles,” said Gascoyne, shaking his head doubtfully. “Walter
Blunt is a parlous evil-minded knave, and methinks will do whatever evil
he promiseth.”

“I fear him not,” said Myles again; but his heart foreboded trouble.

The coming of the head squire made a very great change in the condition
of affairs. Even before that coming the bachelors had somewhat recovered
from their demoralization, and now again they began to pluck up their
confidence and to order the younger squires and pages upon this personal
service or upon that.

“See ye not,” said Myles one day, when the Knights of the Rose were
gathered in the Brutus Tower--“see ye not that they grow as bad as ever?
An we put not a stop to this overmastery now, it will never stop.”

“Best let it be, Myles,” said Wilkes. “They will kill thee an thou cease
not troubling them. Thou hast bred mischief enow for thyself already.”

“No matter for that,” said Myles; “it is not to be borne that they order
others of us about as they do. I mean to speak to them to-night, and
tell them it shall not be.”

He was as good as his word. That night, as the youngsters were shouting
and romping and skylarking, as they always did before turning in, he
stood upon his cot and shouted: “Silence! List to me a little!” And
then, in the hush that followed--“I want those bachelors to hear this:
that we squires serve them no longer, and if they would ha’ some to wait
upon them, they must get them otherwheres than here. There be twenty of
us to stand against them and haply more, and we mean that they shall ha’
service of us no more.”

Then he jumped down again from his elevated stand, and an uproar of
confusion instantly filled the place. What was the effect of his words
upon the bachelors he could not see. What was the result he was not slow
in discovering.

The next day Myles and Gascoyne were throwing their daggers for a
wager at a wooden target against the wall back of the armorer’s smithy.
Wilkes, Gosse, and one or two others of the squires were sitting on
a bench looking on, and now and then applauding a more than usually
well-aimed cast of the knife. Suddenly that impish little page spoken of
before, Robin Ingoldsby, thrust his shock head around the corner of
the smithy, and said: “Ho, Falworth! Blunt is going to serve thee out
to-day, and I myself heard him say so. He says he is going to slit thine
ears.” And then he was gone as suddenly as he had appeared.

Myles darted after him, caught him midway in the quadrangle, and brought
him back by the scuff of the neck, squalling and struggling.

“There!” said he, still panting from the chase and seating the boy by no
means gently upon the bench beside Wilkes. “Sit thou there, thou imp of
evil! And now tell me what thou didst mean by thy words anon--an thou
stop not thine outcry, I will cut thy throat for thee,” and he made a
ferocious gesture with his dagger.

It was by no means easy to worm the story from the mischievous little
monkey; he knew Myles too well to be in the least afraid of his threats.
But at last, by dint of bribing and coaxing, Myles and his friends
managed to get at the facts. The youngster had been sent to clean the
riding-boots of one of the bachelors, instead of which he had lolled
idly on a cot in the dormitory, until he had at last fallen asleep. He
had been awakened by the opening of the dormitory door and by the sound
of voices--among them was that of his taskmaster. Fearing punishment for
his neglected duty, he had slipped out of the cot, and hidden himself
beneath it.

Those who had entered were Walter Blunt and three of the older
bachelors. Blunt’s companions were trying to persuade him against
something, but without avail. It was--Myles’s heart thrilled and his
blood boiled--to lie in wait for him, to overpower him by numbers,
and to mutilate him by slitting his ears--a disgraceful punishment
administered, as a rule, only for thieving and poaching.

“He would not dare to do such a thing!” cried Myles, with heaving breast
and flashing eyes.

“Aye, but he would,” said Gascoyne. “His father, Lord Reginald Blunt,
is a great man over Nottingham way, and my Lord would not dare to punish
him even for such a matter as that. But tell me, Robin Ingoldsby, dost
know aught more of this matter? Prithee tell it me, Robin. Where do they
propose to lie in wait for Falworth?”

“In the gate-way of the Buttery Court, so as to catch him when he passes
by to the armory,” answered the boy.

“Are they there now?” said Wilkes.

“Aye, nine of them,” said Robin. “I heard Blunt tell Mowbray to go and
gather the others. He heard thee tell Gosse, Falworth, that thou wert
going thither for thy arbalist this morn to shoot at the rooks withal.”

“That will do, Robin,” said Myles. “Thou mayst go.”

And therewith the little imp scurried off, pulling the lobes of his ears
suggestively as he darted around the corner.

The others looked at one another for a while in silence.

“So, comrades,” said Myles at last, “what shall we do now?”

“Go, and tell Sir James,” said Gascoyne, promptly.

“Nay,” said Myles, “I take no such coward’s part as that. I say an they
hunger to fight, give them their stomachful.”

The others were very reluctant for such extreme measures, but Myles, as
usual, carried his way, and so a pitched battle was decided upon. It was
Gascoyne who suggested the plan which they afterwards followed.

Then Wilkes started away to gather together those of the Knights of the
Rose not upon household duty, and Myles, with the others, went to the
armor smith to have him make for them a set of knives with which to meet
their enemies--knives with blades a foot long, pointed and double-edged.

The smith, leaning with his hammer upon the anvil, listened to them as
they described the weapons.

“Nay, nay, Master Myles,” said he, when Myles had ended by telling the
use to which he intended putting them. “Thou art going all wrong in this
matter. With such blades, ere this battle is ended, some one would be
slain, and so murder done. Then the family of him who was killed would
haply have ye cited, and mayhap it might e’en come to the hanging, for
some of they boys ha’ great folkeys behind them. Go ye to Tom Fletcher,
Master Myles, and buy of him good yew staves, such as one might break a
head withal, and with them, gin ye keep your wits, ye may hold your own
against knives or short swords. I tell thee, e’en though my trade be
making of blades, rather would I ha’ a good stout cudgel in my hand than
the best dagger that ever was forged.”

Myles stood thoughtfully for a moment or two; then, looking up,
“Methinks thou speaketh truly, Robin,” said he; “and it were ill done to
have blood upon our hands.”


From the long, narrow stone-paved Armory Court, and connecting it with
the inner Buttery Court, ran a narrow arched passage-way, in which was
a picket-gate, closed at night and locked from within. It was in this
arched passage-way that, according to little Robert Ingoldsby’s report,
the bachelors were lying in wait for Myles. Gascoyne’s plan was that
Myles should enter the court alone, the Knights of the Rose lying
ambushed behind the angle of the armory building until the bachelors
should show themselves.

It was not without trepidation that Myles walked alone into the court,
which happened then to be silent and empty. His heart beat more quickly
than it was wont, and he gripped his cudgel behind his back, looking
sharply this way and that, so as not to be taken unawares by a flank
movement of his enemies. Midway in the court he stopped and hesitated
for a moment; then he turned as though to enter the armory. The next
moment he saw the bachelors come pouring out from the archway.

Instantly he turned and rushed back towards where his friends lay
hidden, shouting: “To the rescue! To the rescue!”

“Stone him!” roared Blunt. “The villain escapes!”

He stopped and picked up a cobble-stone as he spoke, flinging it after
his escaping prey. It narrowly missed Myles’s head; had it struck him,
there might have been no more of this story to tell.

“To the rescue! To the rescue!” shouted Myles’s friends in answer, and
the next moment he was surrounded by them. Then he turned, and swinging
his cudgel, rushed back upon his foes.

The bachelors stopped short at the unexpected sight of the lads with
their cudgels. For a moment they rallied and drew their knives; then
they turned and fled towards their former place of hiding.

One of them turned for a moment, and flung his knife at Myles with a
deadly aim; but Myles, quick as a cat, ducked his body, and the weapon
flew clattering across the stony court. Then he who had flung it turned
again to fly, but in his attempt he had delayed one instant too long.
Myles reached him with a long-arm stroke of his cudgel just as he
entered the passage-way, knocking him over like a bottle, stunned and

The next moment the picket-gate was banged in their faces and the bolt
shot in the staples, and the Knights of the Rose were left shouting and
battering with their cudgels against the palings.

By this time the uproar of fight had aroused those in the rooms and
offices fronting upon the Armory Court; heads were thrust from many of
the windows with the eager interest that a fight always evokes.

“Beware!” shouted Myles. “Here they come again!” He bore back towards
the entrance of the alley-way as he spoke, those behind him scattering
to right and left, for the bachelors had rallied, and were coming again
to the attack, shouting.

They were not a moment too soon in this retreat, either, for the next
instant the pickets flew open, and a volley of stones flew after the
retreating Knights of the Rose. One smote Wilkes upon the head,
knocking him down headlong. Another struck Myles upon his left shoulder,
benumbing his arm from the finger-tips to the armpit, so that he thought
at first the limb was broken.

“Get ye behind the buttresses!” shouted those who looked down upon the
fight from the windows--“get ye behind the buttresses!” And in answer
the lads, scattering like a newly-flushed covey of partridges, fled
to and crouched in the sheltering angles of masonry to escape from the
flying stones.

And now followed a lull in the battle, the bachelors fearing to leave
the protection of the arched passage-way lest their retreat should be
cut off, and the Knights of the Rose not daring to quit the shelter of
the buttresses and angles of the wall lest they should be knocked down
by the stones.

The bachelor whom Myles had struck down with his cudgel was sitting up
rubbing the back of his head, and Wilkes had gathered his wits enough to
crawl to the shelter of the nearest buttress. Myles, peeping around the
corner behind which he stood, could see that the bachelors were gathered
into a little group consulting together. Suddenly it broke asunder, and
Blunt turned around.

“Ho, Falworth!” he cried. “Wilt thou hold truce whiles we parley with

“Aye,” answered Myles.

“Wilt thou give me thine honor that ye will hold your hands from harming
us whiles we talk together?”

“Yea,” said Myles, “I will pledge thee mine honor.”

“I accept thy pledge. See! here we throw aside our stones and lay
down our knives. Lay ye by your clubs, and meet us in parley at the
horse-block yonder.”

“So be it,” said Myles, and thereupon, standing his cudgel in the angle
of the wall, he stepped boldly out into the open court-yard. Those of
his party came scatteringly from right and left, gathering about him;
and the bachelors advanced in a body, led by the head squire.

“Now what is it thou wouldst have, Walter Blunt?” said Myles, when both
parties had met at the horse-block.

“It is to say this to thee, Myles Falworth,” said the other. “One time,
not long sin, thou didst challenge me to meet thee hand to hand in the
dormitory. Then thou didst put a vile affront upon me, for the which I
ha’ brought on this battle to-day, for I knew not then that thou wert
going to try thy peasant tricks of wrestling, and so, without guarding
myself, I met thee as thou didst desire.”

“But thou hadst thy knife, and would have stabbed him couldst thou ha’
done so,” said Gascoyne.

“Thou liest!” said Blunt. “I had no knife.” And then, without giving
time to answer, “Thou canst not deny that I met thee then at thy
bidding, canst thou, Falworth?”

“Nay,” said Myles, “nor haply canst thou deny it either.” And at this
covert reminder of his defeat Myles’s followers laughed scoffingly and
Blunt bit his lip.

“Thou hast said it,” said he. “Then sin. I met thee at thy bidding,
I dare to thee to meet me now at mine, and to fight this battle out
between our two selves, with sword and buckler and bascinet as gentles
should, and not in a wrestling match like two country hodges.”

“Thou art a coward caitiff, Walter Blunt!” burst out Wilkes, who stood
by with a swelling lump upon his head, already as big as a walnut. “Well
thou knowest that Falworth is no match for thee at broadsword play. Is
he not four years younger than thou, and hast thou not had three times
the practice in arms that he hath had? I say thou art a coward to seek
to fight with cutting weapons.”

Blunt made no answer to Wilkes’s speech, but gazed steadfastly at Myles,
with a scornful smile curling the corners of his lips. Myles stood
looking upon the ground without once lifting his eyes, not knowing what
to answer, for he was well aware that he was no match for Blunt with the

“Thou art afraid to fight me, Myles Falworth,” said Blunt, tauntingly,
and the bachelors gave a jeering laugh in echo.

Then Myles looked up, and I cannot say that his face was not a trifle
whiter than usual. “Nay,” said he, “I am not afraid, and I will fight
thee, Blunt.”

“So be it,” said Blunt. “Then let us go at it straightway in the armory
yonder, for they be at dinner in the Great Hall, and just now there
be’st no one by to stay us.”

“Thou shalt not fight him, Myles!” burst out Gascoyne. “He will murther
thee! Thou shalt not fight him, I say!”

Myles turned away without answering him.

“What is to do?” called one of those who were still looking out of the
windows as the crowd of boys passed beneath.

“Blunt and Falworth are going to fight it out hand to hand in the
armory,” answered one of the bachelors, looking up.

The brawling of the squires was a jest to all the adjoining part of the
house. So the heads were withdrawn again, some laughing at the “sparring
of the cockerels.”

But it was no jesting matter to poor Myles.


I have no intention to describe the fight between Myles Falworth and
Walter Blunt. Fisticuffs of nowadays are brutal and debasing enough, but
a fight with a sharp-edged broadsword was not only brutal and debasing,
but cruel and bloody as well.

From the very first of the fight Myles Falworth was palpably and
obviously overmatched. After fifteen minutes had passed, Blunt stood
hale and sound as at first; but poor Myles had more than one red stain
of warm blood upon doublet and hose, and more than one bandage had been
wrapped by Gascoyne and Wilkes about sore wounds.

He had received no serious injury as yet, for not only was his body
protected by a buckler, or small oblong shield, which he carried upon
his left arm, and his head by a bascinet, or light helmet of steel, but
perhaps, after all, Blunt was not over-anxious to do him any dangerous
harm. Nevertheless, there could be but one opinion as to how the fight
tended, and Myles’s friends were gloomy and downcast; the bachelors
proportionately exultant, shouting with laughter, and taunting Myles at
every unsuccessful stroke.

Once, as he drew back panting, leaning upon Gascoyne’s shoulder, the
faithful friend whispered, with trembling lips: “Oh, dear Myles, carry
it no further. Thou hurtest him not, and he will slay thee ere he have
done with thee.”

Thereupon Blunt, who caught the drift of the speech, put in a word.
“Thou art sore hurt, Myles Falworth,” said he, “and I would do thee no
grievous harm. Yield thee and own thyself beaten, and I will forgive
thee. Thou hast fought a good fight, and there is no shame in yielding

“Never!” cried Myles, hoarsely--“never will I yield me! Thou mayst slay
me, Walter Blunt, and I reck not if thou dost do so, but never else wilt
thou conquer me.”

There was a tone of desperation in his voice that made all look serious.

“Nay,” said Blunt; “I will fight thee no more, Myles Falworth; thou hast
had enough.”

“By heavens!” cried Myles, grinding his teeth, “thou shalt fight me,
thou coward! Thou hast brought this fight upon us, and either thou or I
get our quittance here. Let go, Gascoyne!” he cried, shaking loose his
friend’s hold; “I tell thee he shall fight me!”

From that moment Blunt began to lose his head. No doubt he had not
thought of such a serious fight as this when he had given his challenge,
and there was a savage bull-dog tenacity about Myles that could not but
have had a somewhat demoralizing effect upon him.

A few blows were given and taken, and then Myles’s friends gave a shout.
Blunt drew back, and placed his hand to his shoulder. When he drew
it away again it was stained with red, and another red stain grew and
spread rapidly down the sleeve of his jacket. He stared at his hand for
a moment with a half-dazed look, and then glanced quickly to right and

“I will fight no more,” said he, sullenly.

“Then yield thee!” cried Myles, exultantly.

The triumphant shouts of the Knights of the Rose stung Blunt like a
lash, and the battle began again. Perhaps some of the older lads were of
a mind to interfere at this point, certainly some looked very serious,
but before they interposed, the fight was ended.

Blunt, grinding his teeth, struck one undercut at his opponent--the
same undercut that Myles had that time struck at Sir James Lee at the
knight’s bidding when he first practised at the Devlen pels. Myles
met the blow as Sir James had met the blow that he had given, and then
struck in return as Sir James had struck--full and true. The bascinet
that Blunt wore glanced the blow partly, but not entirely. Myles felt
his sword bite through the light steel cap, and Blunt dropped his own
blade clattering upon the floor. It was all over in an instant, but in
that instant what he saw was stamped upon Myles’s mind with an indelible
imprint. He saw the young man stagger backward; he saw the eyes roll
upward; and a red streak shoot out from under the cap and run down
across the cheek.

Blunt reeled half around, and then fell prostrate upon his face; and
Myles stood staring at him with the delirious turmoil of his battle
dissolving rapidly into a dumb fear at that which he had done.

Once again he had won the victory--but what a victory! “Is he dead?” he
whispered to Gascoyne.

“I know not,” said Gascoyne, with a very pale face. “But come away,
Myles.” And he led his friend out of the room.

Some little while later one of the bachelors came to the dormitory where
Myles, his wounds smarting and aching and throbbing, lay stretched upon
his cot, and with a very serious face bade him to go presently to Sir
James, who had just come from dinner, and was then in his office.

By this time Myles knew that he had not slain his enemy, and his heart
was light in spite of the coming interview. There was no one in
the office but Sir James and himself, and Myles, without concealing
anything, told, point by point, the whole trouble. Sir James sat looking
steadily at him for a while after he had ended.

“Never,” said he, presently, “did I know any one of ye squires, in all
the time that I have been here, get himself into so many broils as thou,
Myles Falworth. Belike thou sought to take this lad’s life.”

“Nay,” said Myles, earnestly; “God forbid!”

“Ne’theless,” said Sir James, “thou fetched him a main shrewd blow; and
it is by good hap, and no fault of thine, that he will live to do more
mischief yet. This is thy second venture at him; the third time, haply,
thou wilt end him for good.” Then suddenly assuming his grimmest and
sternest manner: “Now, sirrah, do I put a stop to this, and no more
shall ye fight with edged tools. Get thee to the dormitory, and abide
there a full week without coming forth. Michael shall bring thee bread
and water twice a day for that time. That is all the food thou shalt
have, and we will see if that fare will not cool thy hot humors withal.”

Myles had expected a punishment so much more severe than that which was
thus meted to him, that in the sudden relief he broke into a convulsive
laugh, and then, with a hasty sweep, wiped a brimming moisture from his

Sir James looked keenly at him for a moment. “Thou art white i’ the
face,” said he. “Art thou wounded very sorely?”

“Nay” said Myles, “it is not much; but I be sick in my stomach.”

“Aye, aye,” said Sir James; “I know that feeling well. It is thus
that one always feeleth in coming out from a sore battle when one hath
suffered wounds and lost blood. An thou wouldst keep thyself hale, keep
thyself from needless fighting. Now go thou to the dormitory, and, as I
said, come thou not forth again for a week. Stay, sirrah!” he added; “I
will send Georgebarber to thee to look to thy sores. Green wounds are
best drawn and salved ere they grow cold.”

I wonder what Myles would have thought had he known that so soon as
he had left the office, Sir James had gone straight to the Earl and
recounted the whole matter to him, with a deal of dry gusto, and that
the Earl listened laughing.

“Aye,” said he, when Sir James had done, “the boy hath mettle, sure.
Nevertheless, we must transplant this fellow Blunt to the office of
gentleman-in-waiting. He must be old enough now, and gin he stayeth in
his present place, either he will do the boy a harm, or the boy will do
him a harm.”

So Blunt never came again to trouble the squires’ quarters; and
thereafter the youngsters rendered no more service to the elders.

Myles’s first great fight in life was won.


The summer passed away, and the bleak fall came. Myles had long since
accepted his position as one set apart from the others of his kind, and
had resigned himself to the evident fact that he was never to serve
in the household in waiting upon the Earl. I cannot say that it never
troubled him, but in time there came a compensation of which I shall
have presently to speak.

And then he had so much the more time to himself. The other lads were
sometimes occupied by their household duties when sports were afoot
in which they would liked to have taken part. Myles was always free
to enter into any matter of the kind after his daily exercise had been
performed at the pels, the butts, or the tilting-court.

But even though he was never called to do service in “my Lord’s house,”
 he was not long in gaining a sort of second-hand knowledge of all the
family. My Lady, a thin, sallow, faded dame, not yet past middle age,
but looking ten years older. The Lady Anne, the daughter of the house;
a tall, thin, dark-eyed, dark-haired, handsome young dame of twenty or
twenty-one years of age, hawk-nosed like her father, and silent, proud,
and haughty, Myles heard the squires say. Lady Alice, the Earl of
Mackworth’s niece and ward, a great heiress in her own right, a
strikingly pretty black-eyed girl of fourteen or fifteen.

These composed the Earl’s personal family; but besides them was Lord
George Beaumont, his Earl’s brother, and him Myles soon came to know
better than any of the chief people of the castle excepting Sir James

For since Myles’s great battle in the armory, Lord George had taken a
laughing sort of liking to the lad, encouraging him at times to talk of
his adventures, and of his hopes and aspirations.

Perhaps the Earl’s younger brother--who was himself somewhat a soldier
of fortune, having fought in Spain, France, and Germany--felt a certain
kinship in spirit with the adventurous youngster who had his unfriended
way to make in the world. However that might have been, Lord George was
very kind and friendly to the lad, and the willing service that Myles
rendered him reconciled him not a little to the Earl’s obvious neglect.

Besides these of the more immediate family of the Earl were a number
of knights, ladies, and gentlemen, some of them cadets, some of them
retainers, of the house of Beaumont, for the princely nobles of those
days lived in state little less royal than royalty itself.

Most of the knights and gentlemen Myles soon came to know by sight,
meeting them in Lord George’s apartments in the south wing of the great
house, and some of them, following the lead of Lord George, singled him
out for friendly notice, giving him a nod or a word in passing.

Every season has its pleasures for boys, and the constant change that
they bring is one of the greatest delights of boyhood’s days.

All of us, as we grow older, have in our memory pictures of by-gone
times that are somehow more than usually vivid, the colors of some not
blurring by time as others do. One of which, in remembering, always
filled Myles’s heart in after-years with an indefinable pleasure, was
the recollection of standing with others of his fellow squires in the
crisp brown autumn grass of the paddock, and shooting with the long-bow
at wildfowl, which, when the east wind was straining, flew low overhead
to pitch to the lake in the forbidden precincts of the deer park beyond
the brow of the hill. More than once a brace or two of these wildfowl,
shot in their southward flight by the lads and cooked by fat,
good-natured Mother Joan, graced the rude mess-table of the squires in
the long hall, and even the toughest and fishiest drake, so the fruit
of their skill, had a savor that, somehow or other, the daintiest fare
lacked in after-years.

Then fall passed and winter came, bleak, cold, and dreary--not winter as
we know it nowadays, with warm fires and bright lights to make the long
nights sweet and cheerful with comfort, but winter with all its grimness
and sternness. In the great cold stone-walled castles of those days the
only fire and almost the only light were those from the huge blazing
logs that roared and crackled in the great open stone fireplace, around
which the folks gathered, sheltering their faces as best they could from
the scorching heat, and cloaking their shoulders from the biting cold,
for at the farther end of the room, where giant shadows swayed and
bowed and danced huge and black against the high walls, the white frost
glistened in the moonlight on the stone pavements, and the breath went
up like smoke.

In those days were no books to read, but at the best only rude stories
and jests, recited by some strolling mummer or minstrel to the listening
circle, gathered around the blaze and welcoming the coarse, gross jests,
and coarser, grosser songs with roars of boisterous laughter.

Yet bleak and dreary as was the winter in those days, and cold and
biting as was the frost in the cheerless, windy halls and corridors of
the castle, it was not without its joys to the young lads; for then, as
now, boys could find pleasure even in slushy weather, when the sodden
snow is fit for nothing but to make snowballs of.

Thrice that bitter winter the moat was frozen over, and the lads, making
themselves skates of marrow-bones, which they bought from the hall cook
at a groat a pair, went skimming over the smooth surface, red-checked
and shouting, while the crows and the jackdaws looked down at them from
the top of the bleak gray walls.

Then at Yule-tide, which was somewhat of a rude semblance to the Merry
Christmas season of our day, a great feast was held in the hall, and all
the castle folk were fed in the presence of the Earl and the Countess.
Oxen and sheep were roasted whole; huge suet puddings, made of barley
meal sweetened with honey and stuffed with plums, were boiled in great
caldrons in the open courtyard; whole barrels of ale and malmsey were
broached, and all the folk, gentle and simple, were bidden to the feast.
Afterwards the minstrels danced and played a rude play, and in the
evening a miracle show was performed on a raised platform in the north

For a week afterwards the castle was fed upon the remains of the good
things left from that great feast, until everyone grew to loathe fine
victuals, and longed for honest beef and mustard again.

Then at last in that constant change the winter was gone, and even the
lads who had enjoyed its passing were glad when the winds blew warm once
more, and the grass showed green in sunny places, and the leader of the
wild-fowl blew his horn, as they who in the fall had flown to the south
flew, arrow-like, northward again; when the buds swelled and the leaves
burst forth once more, and crocuses and then daffodils gleamed in the
green grass, like sparks and flames of gold.

With the spring came the out-door sports of the season; among others
that of ball--for boys were boys, and played at ball even in those
faraway days--a game called trap-ball. Even yet in some parts of England
it is played just as it was in Myles Falworth’s day, and enjoyed just as
Myles and his friends enjoyed it.

So now that the sun was warm and the weather pleasant the game of
trap-ball was in full swing every afternoon, the play-ground being an
open space between the wall that surrounded the castle grounds and that
of the privy garden--the pleasance in which the ladies of the Earl’s
family took the air every day, and upon which their apartments opened.

Now one fine breezy afternoon, when the lads were shouting and playing
at this, then their favorite game, Myles himself was at the trap
barehanded and barearmed. The wind was blowing from behind him, and,
aided perhaps by it, he had already struck three of four balls nearly
the whole length of the court--an unusual distance--and several of the
lads had gone back almost as far as the wall of the privy garden to
catch any ball that might chance to fly as far as that. Then once more
Myles struck, throwing all his strength into the blow. The ball shot up
into the air, and when it fell, it was to drop within the privy garden.

The shouts of the young players were instantly stilled, and Gascoyne,
who stood nearest Myles, thrust his hands into his belt, giving a long
shrill whistle.

“This time thou hast struck us all out, Myles,” said he. “There be no
more play for us until we get another ball.”

The outfielders came slowly trooping in until they had gathered in a
little circle around Myles.

“I could not help it,” said Myles, in answer to their grumbling. “How
knew I the ball would fly so far? But if I ha’ lost the ball, I can get
it again. I will climb the wall for it.”

“Thou shalt do naught of the kind, Myles,” said Gascoyne, hastily.
“Thou art as mad as a March hare to think of such a venture! Wouldst get
thyself shot with a bolt betwixt the ribs, like poor Diccon Cook?”

Of all places about the castle the privy garden was perhaps the most
sacred. It was a small plot of ground, only a few rods long and wide,
and was kept absolutely private for the use of the Countess and her
family. Only a little while before Myles had first come to Devlen,
one of the cook’s men had been found climbing the wall, whereupon the
soldier who saw him shot him with his cross bow. The poor fellow dropped
from the wall into the garden, and when they found him, he still held
a bunch of flowers in his hand, which he had perhaps been gathering for
his sweetheart.

Had Myles seen him carried on a litter to the infirmary as Gascoyne
and some of the others had done, he might have thought twice before
venturing to enter the ladies’ private garden. As it was, he only shook
his stubborn head, and said again, “I will climb the wall and fetch it.”

Now at the lower extremity of the court, and about twelve or fifteen
feet distant from the garden wall, there grew a pear-tree, some of the
branches of which overhung into the garden beyond. So, first making sure
that no one was looking that way, and bidding the others keep a sharp
lookout, Myles shinned up this tree, and choosing one of the thicker
limbs, climbed out upon it for some little distance. Then lowering his
body, he hung at arm’s-length, the branch bending with his weight, and
slowly let himself down hand under hand, until at last he hung directly
over the top of the wall, and perhaps a foot above it. Below him he
could see the leafy top of an arbor covered with a thick growth of
clematis, and even as he hung there he noticed the broad smooth
walks, the grassy terrace in front of the Countess’s apartments in the
distance, the quaint flower-beds, the yew-trees trimmed into odd shapes,
and even the deaf old gardener working bare-armed in the sunlight at a
flower-bed in the far corner by the tool-house.

The top of the wall was pointed like a house roof, and immediately below
him was covered by a thick growth of green moss, and it flashed through
his mind as he hung there that maybe it would offer a very slippery
foothold for one dropping upon the steep slopes of the top. But it was
too late to draw back now.

Bracing himself for a moment, he loosed his hold upon the limb above.
The branch flew back with a rush, and he dropped, striving to grasp the
sloping angle with his feet. Instantly the treacherous slippery moss
slid away from beneath him; he made a vain clutch at the wall, his
fingers sliding over the cold stones, then, with a sharp exclamation,
down he pitched bodily into the garden beneath! A thousand thoughts
flew through his brain like a cloud of flies, and then a leafy greenness
seemed to strike up against him. A splintering crash sounded in his
ears as the lattice top of the arbor broke under him, and with one final
clutch at the empty air he fell heavily upon the ground beneath.

He heard a shrill scream that seemed to find an instant echo; even as
he fell he had a vision of faces and bright colors, and when he sat up,
dazed and bewildered, he found himself face to face with the Lady Anne,
the daughter of the house, and her cousin, the Lady Alice, who clutching
one another tightly, stood staring at him with wide scared eyes.


For a little time there was a pause of deep silence, during which the
fluttering leaves came drifting down from the broken arbor above.

It was the Lady Anne who first spoke. “Who art thou, and whence comest
thou?” said she, tremulously.

Then Myles gathered himself up sheepishly. “My name is Myles Falworth,”
 said he, “and I am one of the squires of the body.”

“Oh! aye!” said the Lady Alice, suddenly. “Me thought I knew thy face.
Art thou not the young man that I have seen in Lord George’s train?”

“Yes, lady,” said Myles, wrapping and twining a piece of the broken vine
in and out among his fingers. “Lord George hath often had me of late
about his person.”

“And what dost thou do here, sirrah?” said Lady Anne, angrily. “How
darest thou come so into our garden?”

“I meant not to come as I did,” said Myles, clumsily, and with a face
hot and red. “But I slipped over the top of the wall and fell hastily
into the garden. Truly, lady, I meant ye no harm or fright thereby.”

He looked so drolly abashed as he stood before them, with his clothes
torn and soiled from the fall, his face red, and his eyes downcast, all
the while industriously twisting the piece of clematis in and around his
fingers, that Lady Anne’s half-frightened anger could not last. She and
her cousin exchanged glances, and smiled at one another.

“But,” said she at last, trying to draw her pretty brows together into a
frown, “tell me; why didst thou seek to climb the wall?”

“I came to seek a ball,” said Myles, “which I struck over hither from
the court beyond.”

“And wouldst thou come into our privy garden for no better reason than
to find a ball?” said the young lady.

“Nay,” said Myles; “it was not so much to find the ball, but, in good
sooth, I did truly strike it harder than need be, and so, gin I lost the
ball, I could do no less than come and find it again, else our sport is
done for the day. So it was I came hither.”

The two young ladies had by now recovered from their fright. The Lady
Anne slyly nudged her cousin with her elbow, and the younger could not
suppress a half-nervous laugh. Myles heard it, and felt his face grow
hotter and redder than ever.

“Nay,” said Lady Anne, “I do believe Master Giles--”

“My name be’st Myles,” corrected Myles.

“Very well, then, Master Myles, I say I do believe that thou meanest
no harm in coming hither; ne’theless it was ill of thee so to do. An my
father should find thee here, he would have thee shrewdly punished for
such trespassing. Dost thou not know that no one is permitted to enter
this place--no, not even my uncle George? One fellow who came hither to
steal apples once had his ears shaven close to his head, and not more
than a year ago one of the cook’s men who climbed the wall early one
morning was shot by the watchman.”

“Aye,” said Myles, “I knew of him who was shot, and it did go somewhat
against my stomach to venture, knowing what had happed to him.
Ne’theless, an I gat not the ball, how were we to play more to-day at
the trap?”

“Marry, thou art a bold fellow, I do believe me,” said the young lady,
“and sin thou hast come in the face of such peril to get thy ball, thou
shalt not go away empty. Whither didst thou strike it?”

“Over yonder by the cherry-tree,” said Myles, jerking his head in that
direction. “An I may go get it, I will trouble ye no more.” As he spoke
he made a motion to leave them.

“Stay!” said the Lady Anne, hastily; “remain where thou art. An thou
cross the open, some one may haply see thee from the house, and will
give the alarm, and thou wilt be lost. I will go get thy ball.”

And so she left Myles and her cousin, crossing the little plots of grass
and skirting the rosebushes to the cherry-tree.

When Myles found himself alone with Lady Alice, he knew not where to
look or what to do, but twisted the piece of clematis which he still
held in and out more industriously than ever.

Lady Alice watched him with dancing eyes for a little while. “Haply thou
wilt spoil that poor vine,” said she by-and-by, breaking the silence and
laughing, then turning suddenly serious again. “Didst thou hurt thyself
by thy fall?”

“Nay,” said Myles, looking up, “such a fall as that was no great matter.
Many and many a time I have had worse.”

“Hast thou so?” said the Lady Alice. “Thou didst fright me parlously,
and my coz likewise.”

Myles hesitated for a moment, and then blurted out, “Thereat I grieve,
for thee I would not fright for all the world.”

The young lady laughed and blushed. “All the world is a great matter,”
 said she.

“Yea,” said he, “it is a great matter; but it is a greater matter to
fright thee, and so I would not do it for that, and more.”

The young lady laughed again, but she did not say anything further, and
a space of silence fell so long that by-and-by she forced herself to
say, “My cousin findeth not the ball presently.”

“Nay,” said Myles, briefly, and then again neither spoke, until
by-and-by the Lady Anne came, bringing the ball. Myles felt a great
sense of relief at that coming, and yet was somehow sorry. Then he took
the ball, and knew enough to bow his acknowledgment in a manner neither
ill nor awkward.

“Didst thou hurt thyself?” asked Lady Anne.

“Nay,” said Myles, giving himself a shake; “seest thou not I be whole,
limb and bone? Nay, I have had shrewdly worse falls than that. Once I
fell out of an oak-tree down by the river and upon a root, and bethought
me I did break a rib or more. And then one time when I was a boy in
Crosbey-Dale--that was where I lived before I came hither--I did catch
me hold of the blade of the windmill, thinking it was moving slowly, and
that I would have a ride i’ th’ air, and so was like to have had a fall
ten thousand times worse than this.”

“Oh, tell us more of that!” said the Lady Anne, eagerly. “I did never
hear of such an adventure as that. Come, coz, and sit down here upon the
bench, and let us have him tell us all of that happening.”

Now the lads upon the other side of the wall had been whistling
furtively for some time, not knowing whether Myles had broken his neck
or had come off scot-free from his fall. “I would like right well to
stay with ye,” said he, irresolutely, “and would gladly tell ye that and
more an ye would have me to do so; but hear ye not my friends call me
from beyond? Mayhap they think I break my back, and are calling to see
whether I be alive or no. An I might whistle them answer and toss me
this ball to them, all would then be well, and they would know that I
was not hurt, and so, haply, would go away.”

“Then answer them,” said the Lady Anne, “and tell us of that thing thou
spokest of anon--how thou tookest a ride upon the windmill. We young
ladies do hear little of such matters, not being allowed to talk with
lads. All that we hear of perils are of knights and ladies and jousting,
and such like. It would pleasure us right well to have thee tell of thy

So Myles tossed back the ball, and whistled in answer to his friends.

Then he told the two young ladies not only of his adventure upon the
windmill, but also of other boyish escapades, and told them well, with
a straightforward smack and vigor, for he enjoyed adventure and loved to
talk of it. In a little while he had regained his ease; his shyness and
awkwardness left him, and nothing remained but the delightful fact that
he was really and actually talking to two young ladies, and that with
just as much ease and infinitely more pleasure than could be had in
discourse with his fellow-squires. But at last it was time for him to
go. “Marry,” said he, with a half-sigh, “methinks I did never ha’ so
sweet and pleasant a time in all my life before. Never did I know a
real lady to talk with, saving only my mother, and I do tell ye
plain methinks I would rather talk with ye than with any he in
Christendom--saving, perhaps, only my friend Gascoyne. I would I might
come hither again.”

The honest frankness of his speech was irresistible; the two girls
exchanged glances and then began laughing. “Truly,” said Lady Anne, who,
as was said before, was some three or four years older than Myles,
“thou art a bold lad to ask such a thing. How wouldst thou come hither?
Wouldst tumble through our clematis arbor again, as thou didst this

“Nay,” said Myles, “I would not do that again, but if ye will bid me do
so, I will find the means to come hither.”

“Nay,” said Lady Anne, “I dare not bid thee do such a foolhardy thing.
Nevertheless, if thou hast the courage to come--”

“Yea,” said Myles, eagerly, “I have the courage.”

“Then, if thou hast so, we will be here in the garden on Saturday next
at this hour. I would like right well to hear more of thy adventures.
But what didst thou say was thy name? I have forgot it again.”

“It is Myles Falworth.”

“Then we shall yclep thee Sir Myles, for thou art a soothly
errant-knight. And stay! Every knight must have a lady to serve. How
wouldst thou like my Cousin Alice here for thy true lady?”

“Aye,” said Myles, eagerly, “I would like it right well.” And then he
blushed fiery red at his boldness.

“I want no errant-knight to serve me,” said the Lady Alice, blushing,
in answer. “Thou dost ill tease me, coz! An thou art so free in choosing
him a lady to serve, thou mayst choose him thyself for thy pains.”

“Nay,” said the Lady Anne, laughing; “I say thou shalt be his true lady,
and he shall be thy true knight. Who knows? Perchance he may serven thee
in some wondrous adventure, like as Chaucer telleth of. But now, Sir
Errant-Knight, thou must take thy leave of us, and I must e’en let thee
privily out by the postern-wicket. And if thou wilt take the risk upon
thee and come hither again, prithee be wary in that coming, lest in
venturing thou have thine ears clipped in most unknightly fashion.”

That evening, as he and Gascoyne sat together on a bench under the trees
in the great quadrangle, Myles told of his adventure of the afternoon,
and his friend listened with breathless interest.

“But, Myles,” cried Gascoyne, “did the Lady Anne never once seem proud
and unkind?”

“Nay,” said Myles; “only at first, when she chid me for falling through
the roof of their arbor. And to think, Francis! Lady Anne herself
bade me hold the Lady Alice as my true lady, and to serve her in all
knightliness!” Then he told his friend that he was going to the privy
garden again on the next Saturday, and that the Lady Anne had given him
permission so to do.

Gascoyne gave a long, wondering whistle, and then sat quite still,
staring into the sky. By-and-by he turned to his friend and said, “I
give thee my pledge, Myles Falworth, that never in all my life did I
hear of any one that had such marvellous strange happenings befall him
as thou.”

Whenever the opportunity occurred for sending a letter to Crosbey-Holt,
Myles wrote one to his mother; and one can guess how they were treasured
by the good lady, and read over and over again to the blind old Lord as
he sat staring into darkness with his sightless eyes.

About the time of this escapade he wrote a letter telling of those
doings, wherein, after speaking of his misadventure of falling from the
wall, and of his acquaintance with the young ladies, he went on to speak
of the matter in which he repeated his visits. The letter was worded
in the English of that day--the quaint and crabbed language in which
Chaucer wrote. Perhaps few boys could read it nowadays, so, modernizing
it somewhat, it ran thus:

“And now to let ye weet that thing that followed that happening that
made me acquaint with they two young Damoiselles. I take me to the south
wall of that garden one day four and twenty great spikes, which Peter
Smith did forge for me and for which I pay him fivepence, and that all
the money that I had left of my half-year’s wage, and wot not where I
may get more at these present, withouten I do betake me to Sir James,
who, as I did tell ye, hath consented to hold those moneys that Prior
Edward gave me till I need them.

“Now these same spikes, I say, I take me them down behind the corner of
the wall, and there drave them betwixt the stones, my very dear comrade
and true friend Gascoyne holping me thereto to do. And so come Saturday,
I climb me over the wall and to the roof of the tool-house below,
seeking a fitting opportunity when I might so do without being in too
great jeopardy.

“Yea; and who should be there but they two ladies, biding my coming,
who, seeing me, made as though they had expected me not, and gave me
greatest rebuke for adventuring so moughtily. Yet, methinks, were they
right well pleasured that I should so aventure, which indeed I might not
otherwise do, seeing as I have telled to thee, that one of them is mine
own true lady for to serven, and so was the only way that I might come
to speech with her.”

Such was Myles’s own quaint way of telling how he accomplished his aim
of visiting the forbidden garden, and no doubt the smack of adventure
and the savor of danger in the undertaking recommended him not a little
to the favor of the young ladies.

After this first acquaintance perhaps a month passed, during which Myles
had climbed the wall some half a dozen times (for the Lady Anne
would not permit of too frequent visits), and during which the first
acquaintance of the three ripened rapidly to an honest, pleasant
friendship. More than once Myles, when in Lord George’s train, caught
a covert smile or half nod from one or both of the girls, not a little
delightful in its very secret friendliness.


As was said, perhaps a month passed; then Myles’s visits came to an
abrupt termination, and with it ended, in a certain sense, a chapter of
his life.

One Saturday afternoon he climbed the garden wall, and skirting behind
a long row of rosebushes that screened him from the Countess’s terrace,
came to a little summer-house where the two young ladies had appointed
to meet him that day.

A pleasant half-hour or so was passed, and then it was time for Myles
to go. He lingered for a while before he took his final leave, leaning
against the door-post, and laughingly telling how he and some of his
brother squires had made a figure of straw dressed in men’s clothes, and
had played a trick with it one night upon a watchman against whom they
bore a grudge.

The young ladies were listening with laughing faces, when suddenly, as
Myles looked, he saw the smile vanish from Lady Alice’s eyes and a wide
terror take its place. She gave a half-articulate cry, and rose abruptly
from the bench upon which she was sitting.

Myles turned sharply, and then his very heart seemed to stand still
within him; for there, standing in the broad sunlight without, and
glaring in upon the party with baleful eyes, was the Earl of Mackworth

How long was the breathless silence that followed, Myles could never
tell. He knew that the Lady Anne had also risen, and that she and her
cousin were standing as still as statues. Presently the Earl pointed to
the house with his staff, and Myles noted stupidly how it trembled in
his hand.

“Ye wenches,” said he at last, in a hard, harsh voice--“ye wenches, what
meaneth this? Would ye deceive me so, and hold parlance thus secretly
with this fellow? I will settle with him anon. Meantime get ye
straightway to the house and to your rooms, and there abide until I give
ye leave to come forth again. Go, I say!”

“Father,” said Lady Anne, in a breathless voice--she was as white as
death, and moistened her lips with her tongue before she spoke--“father,
thou wilt not do harm to this young man. Spare him, I do beseech thee,
for truly it was I who bade him come hither. I know that he would not
have come but at our bidding.”

The Earl stamped his foot upon the gravel. “Did ye not hear me?” said
he, still pointing towards the house with his trembling staff. “I bade
ye go to your rooms. I will settle with this fellow, I say, as I deem

“Father,” began Lady Anne again; but the Earl made such a savage gesture
that poor Lady Alice uttered a faint shriek, and Lady Anne stopped
abruptly, trembling. Then she turned and passed out the farther door of
the summerhouse, poor little Lady Alice following, holding her tight
by the skirts, and trembling and shuddering as though with a fit of the

The Earl stood looking grimly after them from under his shaggy eyebrows,
until they passed away behind the yew-trees, appeared again upon the
terrace behind, entered the open doors of the women’s house, and were
gone. Myles heard their footsteps growing fainter and fainter, but he
never raised his eyes. Upon the ground at his feet were four pebbles,
and he noticed how they almost made a square, and would do so if he
pushed one of them with his toe, and then it seemed strange to him that
he should think of such a little foolish thing at that dreadful time.

He knew that the Earl was looking gloomily at him, and that his face
must be very pale. Suddenly Lord Mackworth spoke. “What hast thou to
say?” said he, harshly.

Then Myles raised his eyes, and the Earl smiled grimly as he looked his
victim over. “I have naught to say,” said the lad, huskily.

“Didst thou not hear what my daughter spake but now?” said the Earl.
“She said that thou came not of thy own free-will; what sayst thou to
that, sirrah--is it true?”

Myles hesitated for a moment or two; his throat was tight and dry.
“Nay,” said he at last, “she belieth herself. It was I who first came
into the garden. I fell by chance from the tree yonder--I was seeking
a ball--then I asked those two if I might not come hither again, and so
have done some several times in all. But as for her--nay; it was not at
her bidding that I came, but through mine own asking.”

The Earl gave a little grunt in his throat. “And how often hast thou
been here?” said he, presently.

Myles thought a moment or two. “This maketh the seventh time,” said he.

Another pause of silence followed, and Myles began to pluck up some
heart that maybe all would yet be well. The Earl’s next speech dashed
that hope into a thousand fragments. “Well thou knowest,” said he, “that
it is forbid for any to come here. Well thou knowest that twice have men
been punished for this thing that thou hast done, and yet thou camest in
spite of all. Now dost thou know what thou wilt suffer?”

Myles picked with nervous fingers at a crack in the oaken post against
which he leaned. “Mayhap thou wilt kill me,” said he at last, in a dull,
choking voice.

Again the Earl smiled a grim smile. “Nay,” said he, “I would not slay
thee, for thou hast gentle blood. But what sayest thou should I shear
thine ears from thine head, or perchance have thee scourged in the great

The sting of the words sent the blood flying back to Myles’s face again,
and he looked quickly up. “Nay,” said he, with a boldness that surprised
himself; “thou shalt do no such unlordly thing upon me as that. I be thy
peer, sir, in blood; and though thou mayst kill me, thou hast no right
to shame me.”

Lord Mackworth bowed with a mocking courtesy. “Marry!” said he.
“Methought it was one of mine own saucy popinjay squires that I caught
sneaking here and talking to those two foolish young lasses, and lo! it
is a young Lord--or mayhap thou art a young Prince--and commandeth
me that I shall not do this and I shall not do that. I crave your
Lordship’s honorable pardon, if I have said aught that may have galled

The fear Myles had felt was now beginning to dissolve in rising wrath.
“Nay,” said he, stoutly, “I be no Lord and I be no Prince, but I be as
good as thou. For am I not the son of thy onetime very true comrade and
thy kinsman--to wit, the Lord Falworth, whom, as thou knowest, is poor
and broken, and blind, and helpless, and outlawed, and banned? Yet,”
 cried he, grinding his teeth, as the thought of it all rushed in upon
him, “I would rather be in his place than in yours; for though he be
ruined, you--”

He had just sense enough to stop there.

The Earl, gripping his staff behind his back, and with his head a little
bent, was looking keenly at the lad from under his shaggy gray brows.
“Well,” said he, as Myles stopped, “thou hast gone too far now to draw
back. Say thy say to the end. Why wouldst thou rather be in thy father’s
stead than in mine?”

Myles did not answer.

“Thou shalt finish thy speech, or else show thyself a coward. Though thy
father is ruined, thou didst say I am--what?”

Myles keyed himself up to the effort, and then blurted out, “Thou art
attainted with shame.”

A long breathless silence followed.

“Myles Falworth,” said the Earl at last (and even in the whirling of his
wits Myles wondered that he had the name so pat)--“Myles Falworth, of
all the bold, mad, hare-brained fools, thou art the most foolish. How
dost thou dare say such words to me? Dost thou not know that thou makest
thy coming punishment ten times more bitter by such a speech?”

“Aye!” cried Myles, desperately; “but what else could I do? An I did not
say the words, thou callest me coward, and coward I am not.”

“By ‘r Lady!” said the Earl, “I do believe thee. Thou art a bold,
impudent varlet as ever lived--to beard me so, forsooth! Hark’ee; thou
sayst I think naught of mine old comrade. I will show thee that thou
dost belie me. I will suffer what thou hast said to me for his sake, and
for his sake will forgive thee thy coming hither--which I would not do
in another case to any other man. Now get thee gone straightway, and
come hither no more. Yonder is the postern-gate; mayhap thou knowest the
way. But stay! How camest thou hither?”

Myles told him of the spikes he had driven in the wall, and the Earl
listened, stroking his beard. When the lad had ended, he fixed a sharp
look upon him. “But thou drove not those spikes alone,” said he; “who
helped thee do it?”

“That I may not tell,” said Myles, firmly.

“So be it,” said the Earl. “I will not ask thee to tell his name. Now
get thee gone! And as for those spikes, thou mayst e’en knock them out
of the wall, sin thou drave them in. Play no more pranks an thou wouldst
keep thy skin whole. And now go, I say!”

Myles needed no further bidding, but turned and left the Earl without
another word. As he went out the postern-gate he looked over his
shoulder, and saw the tall figure, in its long fur-trimmed gown, still
standing in the middle of the path, looking after him from under the
shaggy eyebrows.

As he ran across the quadrangle, his heart still fluttering in his
breast, he muttered to himself, “The old grizzle-beard; an I had not
faced him a bold front, mayhap he would have put such shame upon me
as he said. I wonder why he stood so staring after me as I left the

Then for the time the matter slipped from his mind, saving only that
part that smacked of adventure.


So for a little while Myles was disposed to congratulate himself upon
having come off so well from his adventure with the Earl. But after a
day or two had passed, and he had time for second thought, he began to
misdoubt whether, after all, he might not have carried it with a better
air if he had shown more chivalrous boldness in the presence of his true
lady; whether it would not have redounded more to his credit if he had
in some way asserted his rights as the young dame’s knight-errant and
defender. Was it not ignominious to resign his rights and privileges so
easily and tamely at a signal from the Earl?

“For, in sooth,” said he to Gascoyne, as the two talked the matter over,
“she hath, in a certain way, accepted me for her knight, and yet I stood
me there without saying so much as one single word in her behalf.”

“Nay,” said Gascoyne, “I would not trouble me on that score. Methinks
that thou didst come off wondrous well out of the business. I would not
have thought it possible that my Lord could ha’ been so patient with
thee as he showed himself. Methinks, forsooth, he must hold thee privily
in right high esteem.”

“Truly,” said Myles, after a little pause of meditative silence, “I know
not of any esteem, yet I do think he was passing patient with me in this
matter. But ne’theless, Francis, that changeth not my stand in the case.
Yea, I did shamefully, so to resign my lady without speaking one word;
nor will I so resign her even yet. I have bethought me much of this
matter of late, Francis, and now I come to thee to help me from my evil
case. I would have thee act the part of a true friend to me--like that
one I have told thee of in the story of the Emperor Justinian. I would
have thee, when next thou servest in the house, to so contrive that my
Lady Alice shall get a letter which I shall presently write, and wherein
I may set all that is crooked straight again.”

“Heaven forbid,” said Gascoyne, hastily, “that I should be such a fool
as to burn my fingers in drawing thy nuts from the fire! Deliver thy
letter thyself, good fellow!”

So spoke Gascoyne, yet after all he ended, as he usually did, by
yielding to Myles’s superior will and persistence. So the letter was
written and one day the good-natured Gascoyne carried it with him to the
house, and the opportunity offering, gave it to one of the young ladies
attendant upon the Countess’s family--a lass with whom he had friendly
intimacy--to be delivered to Lady Alice.

But if Myles congratulated himself upon the success of this new
adventure, it was not for long. That night, as the crowd of pages and
squires were making themselves ready for bed, the call came through the
uproar for “Myles Falworth! Myles Falworth!”

“Here I be,” cried Myles, standing up on his cot. “Who calleth me?”

It was the groom of the Earl’s bedchamber, and seeing Myles standing
thus raised above the others, he came walking down the length of the
room towards him, the wonted hubbub gradually silencing as he advanced
and the youngsters turning, staring, and wondering.

“My Lord would speak with thee, Myles Falworth,” said the groom, when he
had come close enough to where Myles stood. “Busk thee and make ready;
he is at livery even now.”

The groom’s words fell upon Myles like a blow. He stood for a while
staring wide-eyed. “My Lord speak with me, sayst thou!” he ejaculated at

“Aye,” said the other, impatiently; “get thee ready quickly. I must
return anon.”

Myles’s head was in a whirl as he hastily changed his clothes for a
better suit, Gascoyne helping him. What could the Earl want with him at
this hour? He knew in his heart what it was; the interview could concern
nothing but the letter that he had sent to Lady Alice that day. As he
followed the groom through the now dark and silent courts, and across
the corner of the great quadrangle, and so to the Earl’s house, he tried
to brace his failing courage to meet the coming interview. Nevertheless,
his heart beat tumultuously as he followed the other down the long
corridor, lit only by a flaring link set in a wrought-iron bracket. Then
his conductor lifted the arras at the door of the bedchamber, whence
came the murmuring sound of many voices, and holding it aside, beckoned
him to enter, and Myles passed within. At the first, he was conscious
of nothing but a crowd of people, and of the brightness of many lighted
candles; then he saw that he stood in a great airy room spread with a
woven mat of rushes. On three sides the walls were hung with tapestry
representing hunting and battle scenes, at the farther end, where the
bed stood, the stone wall of the fourth side was covered with cloth of
blue, embroidered with silver goshawks. Even now, in the ripe springtime
of May, the room was still chilly, and a great fire roared and crackled
in the huge gaping mouth of the stone fireplace. Not far from the blaze
were clustered the greater part of those present, buzzing in talk, now
and then swelled by murmuring laughter. Some of those who knew Myles
nodded to him, and two or three spoke to him as he stood waiting, whilst
the groom went forward to speak to the Earl; though what they said and
what he answered, Myles, in his bewilderment and trepidation, hardly

As was said before, the livery was the last meal of the day, and was
taken in bed. It was a simple repast--a manchette, or small loaf of
bread of pure white flour, a loaf of household bread, sometimes a lump
of cheese, and either a great flagon of ale or of sweet wine, warm
and spiced. The Earl was sitting upright in bed, dressed in a furred
dressing-gown, and propped up by two cylindrical bolsters of crimson
satin. Upon the coverlet, and spread over his knees, was a large wide
napkin of linen fringed with silver thread, and on it rested a silver
tray containing the bread and some cheese. Two pages and three gentlemen
were waiting upon him, and Mad Noll, the jester, stood at the head of
the bed, now and then jingling his bawble and passing some quaint jest
upon the chance of making his master smile. Upon a table near by were
some dozen or so waxen tapers struck upon as many spiked candlesticks
of silver-gilt, and illuminating that end of the room with their bright
twinkling flames. One of the gentlemen was in the act of serving the
Earl with a goblet of wine, poured from a silver ewer by one of the
squires, as the groom of the chamber came forward and spoke. The Earl,
taking the goblet, turned his head, and as Myles looked, their eyes met.
Then the Earl turned away again and raised the cup to his lips, while
Myles felt his heart beat more rapidly than ever.

But at last the meal was ended, and the Earl washed his hands and his
mouth and his beard from a silver basin of scented water held by another
one of the squires. Then, leaning back against the pillows, he beckoned
to Myles.

In answer Myles walked forward the length of the room, conscious that
all eyes were fixed upon him. The Earl said something, and those who
stood near drew back as he came forward. Then Myles found himself
standing beside the bed, looking down upon the quilted counterpane,
feeling that the other was gazing fixedly at him.

“I sent for thee,” said the Earl at last, still looking steadily at
him, “because this afternoon came a letter to my hand which thou hadst
written to my niece, the Lady Alice. I have it here,” said he, thrusting
his hand under the bolster, “and have just now finished reading it.”
 Then, after a moment’s pause, whilst he opened the parchment and scanned
it again, “I find no matter of harm in it, but hereafter write no more
such.” He spoke entirely without anger, and Myles looked up in wonder.
“Here, take it,” said the Earl, folding the letter and tossing it to
Myles, who instinctively caught it, “and henceforth trouble thou my
niece no more either by letter or any other way. I thought haply thou
wouldst be at some such saucy trick, and I made Alice promise to let me
know when it happed. Now, I say, let this be an end of the matter. Dost
thou not know thou mayst injure her by such witless folly as that of
meeting her privily, and privily writing to her?”

“I meant no harm,” said Myles.

“I believe thee,” said the Earl. “That will do now; thou mayst go.”

Myles hesitated.

“What wouldst thou say?” said Lord Mackworth.

“Only this,” said Myles, “an I have thy leave so to do, that the Lady
Alice hath chosen me to be her knight, and so, whether I may see her or
speak with her or no, the laws of chivalry give me, who am gentle born,
the right to serve her as a true knight may.”

“As a true fool may,” said the Earl, dryly. “Why, how now, thou art not
a knight yet, nor anything but a raw lump of a boy. What rights do the
laws of chivalry give thee, sirrah? Thou art a fool!”

Had the Earl been ever so angry, his words would have been less bitter
to Myles than his cool, unmoved patience; it mortified his pride and
galled it to the quick.

“I know that thou dost hold me in contempt,” he mumbled.

“Out upon thee!” said the Earl, testily. “Thou dost tease me beyond
patience. I hold thee in contempt, forsooth! Why, look thee, hadst thou
been other than thou art, I would have had thee whipped out of my house
long since. Thinkest thou I would have borne so patiently with another
one of ye squires had such an one held secret meeting with my daughter
and niece, and tampered, as thou hast done, with my household, sending
through one of my people that letter? Go to; thou art a fool, Myles

Myles stood staring at the Earl without making an effort to speak. The
words that he had heard suddenly flashed, as it were, a new light into
his mind. In that flash he fully recognized, and for the first time,
the strange and wonderful forbearance the great Earl had shown to him,
a poor obscure boy. What did it mean? Was Lord Mackworth his secret
friend, after all, as Gascoyne had more than once asserted? So Myles
stood silent, thinking many things.

Meantime the other lay back upon the cylindrical bolsters, looking
thoughtfully at him. “How old art thou?” said he at last.

“Seventeen last April,” answered Myles.

“Then thou art old enough to have some of the thoughts of a man, and to
lay aside those of a boy. Haply thou hast had foolish things in thy
head this short time past; it is time that thou put them away. Harkee,
sirrah! the Lady Alice is a great heiress in her own right, and mayst
command the best alliance in England--an Earl--a Duke. She groweth apace
to a woman, and then her kind lieth in Courts and great houses. As for
thee, thou art but a poor lad, penniless and without friends to aid thee
to open advancement. Thy father is attainted, and one whisper of where
he lieth hid would bring him thence to the Tower, and haply to the
block. Besides that, he hath an enemy, as Sir James Lee hath already
told thee--an enemy perhaps more great and powerful than myself. That
enemy watcheth for thy father and for thee; shouldst thou dare raise thy
head or thy fortune ever so little, he would haply crop them both, and
that parlously quick. Myles Falworth, how dost thou dare to lift thine
eyes to the Lady Alice de Mowbray?”

Poor Myles stood silent and motionless. “Sir,” said he at last, in a
dry choking voice, “thou art right, and I have been a fool. Sir, I will
never raise mine eyes to look upon the Lady Alice more.”

“I say not that either, boy,” said the Earl; “but ere thou dost so dare,
thou must first place thyself and thy family whence ye fell. Till then,
as thou art an honest man, trouble her not. Now get thee gone.”

As Myles crossed the dark and silent courtyards, and looked up at the
clear, still twinkle of the stars, he felt a kind of dull wonder that
they and the night and the world should seem so much the same, and he be
so different.

The first stroke had been given that was to break in pieces his boyhood
life--the second was soon to follow.


There are now and then times in the life of every one when new and
strange things occur with such rapidity that one has hardly time to
catch one’s breath between the happenings. It is as though the old were
crumbling away--breaking in pieces--to give place to the new that is
soon to take its place.

So it was with Myles Falworth about this time. The very next day after
this interview in the bed-chamber, word came to him that Sir James Lee
wished to speak with him in the office. He found the lean, grizzled old
knight alone, sitting at the heavy oaken table with a tankard of spiced
ale at his elbow, and a dish of wafers and some fragments of cheese on a
pewter platter before him. He pointed to his clerk’s seat--a joint stool
somewhat like a camp-chair, but made of heavy oaken braces and with a
seat of hog-skin--and bade Myles be seated.

It was the first time that Myles had ever heard of such courtesy being
extended to one of the company of squires, and, much wondering, he
obeyed the invitation, or rather command, and took the seat.

The old knight sat regarding him for a while in silence, his one eye,
as bright and as steady as that of a hawk, looking keenly from under the
penthouse of its bushy brows, the while he slowly twirled and twisted
his bristling wiry mustaches, as was his wont when in meditation. At
last he broke the silence. “How old art thou?” said he, abruptly.

“I be turned seventeen last April,” Myles answered, as he had the
evening before to Lord Mackworth.

“Humph!” said Sir James; “thou be’st big of bone and frame for thine
age. I would that thy heart were more that of a man likewise, and less
that of a giddy, hare-brained boy, thinking continually of naught but

Again he fell silent, and Myles sat quite still, wondering if it was
on account of any special one of his latest escapades that he had been
summoned to the office--the breaking of the window in the Long Hall by
the stone he had flung at the rook, or the climbing of the South Tower
for the jackdaw’s nest.

“Thou hast a friend,” said Sir James, suddenly breaking into his
speculations, “of such a kind that few in this world possess. Almost
ever since thou hast been here he hath been watching over thee. Canst
thou guess of whom I speak?”

“Haply it is Lord George Beaumont,” said Myles; “he hath always been
passing kind to me.

“Nay,” said Sir James, “it is not of him that I speak, though methinks
he liketh thee well enow. Canst thou keep a secret, boy?” he asked,

“Yea,” answered Myles.

“And wilt thou do so in this case if I tell thee who it is that is thy
best friend here?”


“Then it is my Lord who is that friend--the Earl himself; but see that
thou breathe not a word of it.”

Myles sat staring at the old knight in utter and profound amazement, and
presently Sir James continued: “Yea, almost ever since thou hast come
here my Lord hath kept oversight upon all thy doings, upon all thy mad
pranks and thy quarrels and thy fights, thy goings out and comings in.
What thinkest thou of that, Myles Falworth?”

Again the old knight stopped and regarded the lad, who sat silent,
finding no words to answer. He seemed to find a grim pleasure in the
youngster’s bewilderment and wonder. Then a sudden thought came to

“Sir,” said he, “did my Lord know that I went to the privy garden as I

“Nay,” said Sir James; “of that he knew naught at first until thy father
bade thy mother write and tell him.”

“My father!” ejaculated Myles.

“Aye,” said Sir James, twisting his mustaches more vigorously than ever.
“So soon as thy father heard of that prank, he wrote straightway to
my Lord that he should put a stop to what might in time have bred

“Sir,” said Myles, in an almost breathless voice, “I know not how to
believe all these things, or whether I be awake or a-dreaming.”

“Thou be’st surely enough awake,” answered the old man; “but there are
other matters yet to be told. My Lord thinketh, as others of us do--Lord
George and myself--that it is now time for thee to put away thy boyish
follies, and learn those things appertaining to manhood. Thou hast been
here a year now, and hast had freedom to do as thou might list; but,
boy,”--and the old warrior spoke seriously, almost solemnly--“upon thee
doth rest matters of such great import that did I tell them to thee thou
couldst not grasp them. My Lord deems that thou hast, mayhap, promise
beyond the common of men; ne’theless it remaineth yet to be seen an he
be right; it is yet to test whether that promise may be fulfilled. Next
Monday I and Sir Everard Willoughby take thee in hand to begin training
thee in the knowledge and the use of the jousting lance, of arms, and of
horsemanship. Thou art to go to Ralph Smith, and have him fit a suit of
plain armor to thee which he hath been charged to make for thee against
this time. So get thee gone, think well over all these matters, and
prepare thyself by next Monday. But stay, sirrah,” he added, as Myles,
dazed and bewildered, turned to obey; “breathe to no living soul what
I ha’ told thee--that my Lord is thy friend--neither speak of anything
concerning him. Such is his own heavy command laid upon thee.”

Then Myles turned again without a word to leave the room. But as he
reached the door Sir James stopped him a second time.

“Stay!” he called. “I had nigh missed telling thee somewhat else. My
Lord hath made thee a present this morning that thou wottest not of. It
is”--then he stopped for a few moments, perhaps to enjoy the full flavor
of what he had to say--“it is a great Flemish horse of true breed and
right mettle; a horse such as a knight of the noblest strain might be
proud to call his own. Myles Falworth, thou wert born upon a lucky day!”

“Sir,” cried Myles, and then stopped short. Then, “Sir,” he cried again,
“didst thou say it--the horse--was to be mine?”

“Aye, it is to be thine.”

“My very own?”

“Thy very own.”

How Myles Falworth left that place he never knew. He was like one in
some strange, some wonderful dream. He walked upon air, and his heart
was so full of joy and wonder and amazement that it thrilled almost to
agony. Of course his first thought was of Gascoyne. How he ever found
him he never could tell, but find him he did.

“Come, Francis!” he cried, “I have that to tell thee so marvellous that
had it come upon me from paradise it could not be more strange.”

Then he dragged him away to their Eyry--it had been many a long day
since they had been there--and to all his friend’s speeches, to all his
wondering questions, he answered never a word until they had climbed the
stairs, and so come to their old haunt. Then he spoke.

“Sit thee down, Francis,” said he, “till I tell thee that which passeth
wonder.” As Gascoyne obeyed, he himself stood looking about him. “This
is the last time I shall ever come hither,” said he. And thereupon he
poured out his heart to his listening friend in the murmuring solitude
of the airy height. He did not speak of the Earl, but of the wonderful
new life that had thus suddenly opened before him, with its golden
future of limitless hopes, of dazzling possibilities, of heroic
ambitions. He told everything, walking up and down the while--for he
could not remain quiet--his cheeks glowing and his eyes sparkling.

Gascoyne sat quite still, staring straight before him. He knew that his
friend was ruffling eagle pinions for a flight in which he could never
hope to follow, and somehow his heart ached, for he knew that this must
be the beginning of the end of the dear, delightful friendship of the
year past.


And so ended Myles Falworth’s boyhood. Three years followed, during
which he passed through that state which immediately follows boyhood in
all men’s lives--a time when they are neither lads nor grown men, but
youths passing from the one to the other period through what is often an
uncouth and uncomfortable age.

He had fancied, when he talked with Gascoyne in the Eyry that time,
that he was to become a man all at once; he felt just then that he had
forever done with boyish things. But that is not the way it happens in
men’s lives. Changes do not come so suddenly and swiftly as that, but by
little and little. For three or four days, maybe, he went his new way of
life big with the great change that had come upon him, and then, now
in this and now in that, he drifted back very much into his old ways
of boyish doings. As was said, one’s young days do not end all at once,
even when they be so suddenly and sharply shaken, and Myles was not
different from others. He had been stirred to the core by that first
wonderful sight of the great and glorious life of manhood opening before
him, but he had yet many a sport to enjoy, many a game to play, many a
boisterous romp to riot in the dormitory, many an expedition to make
to copse and spinney and river on days when he was off duty, and when
permission had been granted.

Nevertheless, there was a great and vital change in his life; a change
which he hardly felt or realized. Even in resuming his old life there
was no longer the same vitality, the same zest, the same enjoyment in
all these things. It seemed as though they were no longer a part of
himself. The savor had gone from them, and by-and-by it was pleasanter
to sit looking on at the sports and the games of the younger lads than
to take active part in them.

These three years of his life that had thus passed had been very full;
full mostly of work, grinding and monotonous; of training dull, dry,
laborious. For Sir James Lee was a taskmaster as hard as iron and
seemingly as cold as a stone. For two, perhaps for three, weeks Myles
entered into his new exercises with all the enthusiasm that novelty
brings; but these exercises hardly varied a tittle from day to day, and
soon became a duty, and finally a hard and grinding task. He used, in
the earlier days of his castle life, to hate the dull monotony of the
tri-weekly hacking at the pels with a heavy broadsword as he hated
nothing else; but now, though he still had that exercise to perform, it
was almost a relief from the heavy dulness of riding, riding, riding in
the tilt-yard with shield and lance--couch--recover--en passant.

But though he had nowadays but little time for boyish plays and
escapades, his life was not altogether without relaxation. Now and
then he was permitted to drive in mock battle with other of the younger
knights and bachelors in the paddock near the outer walls. It was a
still more welcome change in the routine of his life when, occasionally,
he would break a light lance in the tilting-court with Sir Everard
Willoughby; Lord George, perhaps, and maybe one or two others of the
Hall folk, looking on.

Then one gilded day, when Lord Dudleigh was visiting at Devlen, Myles
ran a course with a heavier lance in the presence of the Earl, who came
down to the tilt-yard with his guest to see the young novitiate ride
against Sir Everard. He did his best, and did it well. Lord Dudleigh
praised his poise and carriage, and Lord George, who was present, gave
him an approving smile and nod. But the Earl of Mackworth only sat
stroking his beard impassively, as was his custom. Myles would have
given much to know his thoughts.

In all these years Sir James Lee almost never gave any expression either
of approbation or disapproval--excepting when Myles exhibited some
carelessness or oversight. Then his words were sharp and harsh enough.
More than once Myles’s heart failed him, and bitter discouragement
took possession of him; then nothing but his bull-dog tenacity and
stubbornness brought him out from the despondency of the dark hours.

“Sir,” he burst out one day, when his heart was heavy with some failure,
“tell me, I beseech thee, do I get me any of skill at all? Is it in me
ever to make a worthy knight, fit to hold lance and sword with other
men, or am I only soothly a dull heavy block, worth naught of any good?”

“Thou art a fool, sirrah!” answered Sir James, in his grimmest tones.
“Thinkest thou to learn all of knightly prowess in a year and a half?
Wait until thou art ripe, and then I will tell thee if thou art fit to
couch a lance or ride a course with a right knight.”

“Thou art an old bear!” muttered Myles to himself, as the old one-eyed
knight turned on his heel and strode away. “Beshrew me! an I show thee
not that I am as worthy to couch a lance as thou one of these fine

However, during the last of the three years the grinding routine of his
training had not been quite so severe as at first. His exercises took
him more often out into the fields, and it was during this time of his
knightly education that he sometimes rode against some of the castle
knights in friendly battle with sword or lance or wooden mace. In these
encounters he always held his own; and held it more than well, though,
in his boyish simplicity, he was altogether unconscious of his own
skill, address, and strength. Perhaps it was his very honest modesty
that made him so popular and so heartily liked by all.

He had by this time risen to the place of head squire or chief bachelor,
holding the same position that Walter Blunt had occupied when he himself
had first come, a raw country boy, to Devlen. The lesser squires
and pages fairly worshipped him as a hero, albeit imposing upon his
good-nature. All took a pride in his practice in knightly exercises, and
fabulous tales were current among the young fry concerning his strength
and skill.

Yet, although Myles was now at the head of his class, he did not,
as other chief bachelors had done, take a leading position among the
squires in the Earl’s household service. Lord Mackworth, for his own
good reasons, relegated him to the position of Lord George’s especial
attendant. Nevertheless, the Earl always distinguished him from the
other esquires, giving him a cool nod whenever they met; and Myles, upon
his part--now that he had learned better to appreciate how much his Lord
had done for him--would have shed the last drop of blood in his veins
for the head of the house of Beaumont.

As for the two young ladies, he often saw them, and sometimes, even
in the presence of the Earl, exchanged a few words with them, and Lord
Mackworth neither forbade it nor seemed to notice it.

Towards the Lady Anne he felt the steady friendly regard of a lad for a
girl older than himself; towards the Lady Alice, now budding into ripe
young womanhood, there lay deep in his heart the resolve to be some day
her true knight in earnest as he had been her knight in pretence in that
time of boyhood when he had so perilously climbed into the privy garden.

In body and form he was now a man, and in thought and heart was quickly
ripening to manhood, for, as was said before, men matured quickly in
those days. He was a right comely youth, for the promise of his boyish
body had been fulfilled in a tall, powerful, well-knit frame. His face
was still round and boyish, but on cheek and chin and lip was the curl
of adolescent beard--soft, yellow, and silky. His eyes were as blue
as steel, and quick and sharp in glance as those of a hawk; and as he
walked, his arms swung from his broad, square shoulders, and his body
swayed with pent-up strength ready for action at any moment.

If little Lady Alice, hearing much talk of his doings and of his promise
in these latter times, thought of him now and then it is a matter not
altogether to be wondered at.

Such were the changes that three years had wrought. And from now the
story of his manhood really begins.

Perhaps in all the history of Devlen Castle, even at this, the high tide
of pride and greatness of the house of Beaumont, the most notable time
was in the early autumn of the year 1411, when for five days King Henry
IV was entertained by the Earl of Mackworth. The King was at that time
making a progress through certain of the midland counties, and with him
travelled the Comte de Vermoise. The Count was the secret emissary of
the Dauphin’s faction in France, at that time in the very bitterest
intensity of the struggle with the Duke of Burgundy, and had come to
England seeking aid for his master in his quarrel.

It was not the first time that royalty had visited Devlen. Once, in Earl
Robert’s day, King Edward II had spent a week at the castle during the
period of the Scottish wars. But at that time it was little else than a
military post, and was used by the King as such. Now the Beaumonts were
in the very flower of their prosperity, and preparations were made
for the coming visit of royalty upon a scale of such magnificence and
splendor as Earl Robert, or perhaps even King Edward himself, had never

For weeks the whole castle had been alive with folk hurrying hither and
thither; and with the daily and almost hourly coming of pack-horses,
laden with bales and boxes, from London. From morning to night one heard
the ceaseless chip-chipping of the masons’ hammers, and saw carriers
of stones and mortar ascending and descending the ladders of the
scaffolding that covered the face of the great North Hall. Within, that
part of the building was alive with the scraping of the carpenters’
saws, the clattering of lumber, and the rapping and banging of hammers.

The North Hall had been assigned as the lodging place for the King and
his court, and St. George’s Hall (as the older building adjoining it was
called) had been set apart as the lodging of the Comte de Vermoise and
the knights and gentlemen attendant upon him.

The great North Hall had been very much altered and changed for the
accommodation of the King and his people; a beautiful gallery of carved
wood-work had been built within and across the south end of the room for
the use of the ladies who were to look down upon the ceremonies below.
Two additional windows had been cut through the wall and glazed, and
passage-ways had been opened connecting with the royal apartments
beyond. In the bedchamber a bed of carved wood and silver had been
built into the wall, and had been draped with hangings of pale blue and
silver, and a magnificent screen of wrought-iron and carved wood had
been erected around the couch; rich and beautiful tapestries brought
from Italy and Flanders were hung upon the walls; cushions of velvets
and silks stuffed with down covered benches and chairs. The floor of
the hall was spread with mats of rushes stained in various colors, woven
into curious patterns, and in the smaller rooms precious carpets of
arras were laid on the cold stones.

All of the cadets of the House had been assembled; all of the
gentlemen in waiting, retainers and clients. The castle seemed full to
overflowing; even the dormitory of the squires was used as a lodging
place for many of the lesser gentry.

So at last, in the midst of all this bustle of preparation, came the day
of days when the King was to arrive. The day before a courier had come
bringing the news that he was lodging at Donaster Abbey overnight, and
would make progress the next day to Devlen.

That morning, as Myles was marshalling the pages and squires, and, with
the list of names in his hand, was striving to evolve some order out
of the confusion, assigning the various individuals their special
duties--these to attend in the household, those to ride in the
escort--one of the gentlemen of Lord George’s household came with an
order for him to come immediately to the young nobleman’s apartments.
Myles hastily turned over his duties to Gascoyne and Wilkes, and then
hurried after the messenger. He found Lord George in the antechamber,
three gentlemen squires arming him in a magnificent suit of ribbed

He greeted Myles with a nod and a smile as the lad entered. “Sirrah,”
 said he, “I have had a talk with Mackworth this morn concerning thee,
and have a mind to do thee an honor in my poor way. How wouldst thou
like to ride to-day as my special squire of escort?”

Myles flushed to the roots of his hair. “Oh, sir!” he cried, eagerly,
“an I be not too ungainly for thy purpose, no honor in all the world
could be such joy to me as that!”

Lord George laughed. “A little matter pleases thee hugely,” said he;
“but as to being ungainly, who so sayeth that of thee belieth thee,
Myles; thou art not ungainly, sirrah. But that is not to the point. I
have chosen thee for my equerry to-day; so make thou haste and don thine
armor, and then come hither again, and Hollingwood will fit thee with a
wreathed bascinet I have within, and a juppon embroidered with my arms
and colors.”

When Myles had made his bow and left his patron, he flew across the
quadrangle, and burst into the armory upon Gascoyne, whom he found still
lingering there, chatting with one or two of the older bachelors.

“What thinkest thou, Francis?” he cried, wild with excitement. “An honor
hath been done me this day I could never have hoped to enjoy. Out of
all this household, Lord George hath chose me his equerry for the day to
ride to meet the King. Come, hasten to help me to arm! Art thou not glad
of this thing for my sake, Francis?”

“Aye, glad am I indeed!” cried Gascoyne, that generous friend; “rather
almost would I have this befall thee than myself!” And indeed he was
hardly less jubilant than Myles over the honor.

Five minutes later he was busy arming him in the little room at the end
of the dormitory which had been lately set apart for the use of the head
bachelor. “And to think,” he said, looking up as he kneeled, strapping
the thigh-plates to his friend’s legs, “that he should have chosen thee
before all others of the fine knights and lords and gentlemen of quality
that are here!”

“Yea,” said Myles, “it passeth wonder. I know not why he should so
single me out for such an honor. It is strangely marvellous.”

“Nay,” said Gascoyne, “there is no marvel in it, and I know right well
why he chooseth thee. It is because he sees, as we all see, that thou
art the stoutest and the best-skilled in arms, and most easy of carriage
of any man in all this place.”

Myles laughed. “An thou make sport of me,” said he, “I’ll rap thy head
with this dagger hilt. Thou art a silly fellow, Francis, to talk so. But
tell me, hast thou heard who rides with my Lord?”

“Yea, I heard Wilkes say anon that it was Sir James Lee.”

“I am right glad of that,” said Myles; “for then he will show me what to
do and how to bear myself. It frights me to think what would hap should
I make some mistake in my awkwardness. Methinks Lord George would never
have me with him more should I do amiss this day.”

“Never fear,” said Gascoyne; “thou wilt not do amiss.”

And now, at last, the Earl, Lord George, and all their escort were
ready; then the orders were given to horse, the bugle sounded, and away
they all rode, with clashing of iron hoofs and ringing and jingling
of armor, out into the dewy freshness of the early morning, the slant
yellow sun of autumn blazing and flaming upon polished helmets and
shields, and twinkling like sparks of fire upon spear points. Myles’s
heart thrilled within him for pure joy, and he swelled out his sturdy
young breast with great draughts of the sweet fresh air that came
singing across the sunny hill-tops. Sir James Lee, who acted as the
Earl’s equerry for the day, rode at a little distance, and there was an
almost pathetic contrast between the grim, steadfast impassiveness of
the tough old warrior and Myles’s passionate exuberance of youth.

At the head of the party rode the Earl and his brother side by side,
each clad cap-a-pie in a suit of Milan armor, the cuirass of each
covered with a velvet juppon embroidered in silver with the arms and
quarterings of the Beaumonts. The Earl wore around his neck an “S S”
 collar, with a jewelled St. George hanging from it, and upon his head a
vizored bascinet, ornamented with a wreath covered with black and yellow
velvet and glistening with jewels.

Lord George, as was said before, was clad in a beautiful suit of ribbed
Milan armor. It was rimmed with a thin thread of gold, and, like his
brother, he wore a bascinet wreathed with black and yellow velvet.

Behind the two brothers and their equerries rode the rest in their
proper order--knights, gentlemen, esquires, men-at-arms--to the number,
perhaps, of two hundred and fifty; spears and lances aslant, and
banners, permons, and pencels of black and yellow fluttering in the warm
September air.

From the castle to the town they rode, and then across the bridge, and
thence clattering up through the stony streets, where the folk looked
down upon them from the windows above, or crowded the fronts of the
shops of the tradesmen. Lusty cheers were shouted for the Earl, but the
great Lord rode staring ever straight before him, as unmoved as a stone.
Then out of the town they clattered, and away in a sweeping cloud of
dust across the country-side.

It was not until they had reached the windy top of Willoughby Croft, ten
miles away, that they met the King and his company. As the two parties
approached to within forty or fifty yards of one another they stopped.

As they came to a halt, Myles observed that a gentleman dressed in
a plain blue-gray riding-habit, and sitting upon a beautiful white
gelding, stood a little in advance of the rest of the party, and he knew
that that must be the King. Then Sir James nodded to Myles, and leaping
from his horse, flung the reins to one of the attendants. Myles did
the like; and then, still following Sir James’s lead as he served
Lord Mackworth, went forward and held Lord George’s stirrup while he
dismounted. The two noblemen quickly removed each his bascinet, and
Myles, holding the bridle-rein of Lord George’s horse with his left
hand, took the helmet in his right, resting it upon his hip.

Then the two brothers walked forward bare-headed, the Earl, a little in
advance. Reaching the King he stopped, and then bent his knee--stiffly
in the armored plates--until it touched the ground. Thereupon the King
reached him his hand, and he, rising again, took it, and set it to his

Then Lord George, advancing, kneeled as his brother had kneeled, and to
him also the King gave his hand.

Myles could hear nothing, but he could see that a few words of greeting
passed between the three, and then the King, turning, beckoned to a
knight who stood just behind him and a little in advance of the others
of the troop. In answer, the knight rode forward; the King spoke a few
words of introduction, and the stranger, ceremoniously drawing off his
right gauntlet, clasped the hand, first of the Earl, and then of Lord
George. Myles knew that he must be the great Comte de Vermoise, of whom
he had heard so much of late.

A few moments of conversation followed, and then the King bowed
slightly. The French nobleman instantly reined back his horse, an order
was given, and then the whole company moved forward, the two brothers
walking upon either side of the King, the Earl lightly touching the
bridle-rein with his bare hand.

Whilst all this was passing, the Earl of Mackworth’s company had been
drawn up in a double line along the road-side, leaving the way open to
the other party. As the King reached the head of the troop, another halt
followed while he spoke a few courteous words of greeting to some of the
lesser nobles attendant upon the Earl whom he knew.

In that little time he was within a few paces of Myles, who stood
motionless as a statue, holding the bascinet and the bridle-rein of Lord
George’s horse.

What Myles saw was a plain, rather stout man, with a face fat, smooth,
and waxy, with pale-blue eyes, and baggy in the lids; clean shaven,
except for a mustache and tuft covering lips and chin. Somehow he felt
a deep disappointment. He had expected to see something lion-like,
something regal, and, after all, the great King Henry was commonplace,
fat, unwholesome-looking. It came to him with a sort of a shock that,
after all, a King was in nowise different from other men.

Meanwhile the Earl and his brother replaced their bascinets, and
presently the whole party moved forward upon the way to Mackworth.


That same afternoon the squires’ quarters were thrown into such a
ferment of excitement as had, perhaps, never before stirred them. About
one o’clock in the afternoon the Earl himself and Lord George came
walking slowly across the Armory Court wrapped in deep conversation, and
entered Sir James Lee’s office.

All the usual hubbub of noise that surrounded the neighborhood of the
dormitory and the armory was stilled at their coming, and when the two
noblemen had entered Sir James’s office, the lads and young men gathered
in knots discussing with an almost awesome interest what that visit
might portend.

After some time Sir James Lee came to the door at the head of the long
flight of stone steps, and whistling, beckoned one of the smaller pages
to him. He gave a short order that sent the little fellow flying on some
mission. In the course of a few minutes he returned, hurrying across
the stony court with Myles Falworth, who presently entered Sir James’s
office. It was then and at this sight that the intense half-suppressed
excitement reached its height of fever-heat. What did it all mean? The
air was filled with a thousand vague, wild rumors--but the very wildest
surmises fell short of the real truth.

Perhaps Myles was somewhat pale when he entered the office; certainly
his nerves were in a tremor, for his heart told him that something very
portentous was about to befall him. The Earl sat at the table, and in
the seat that Sir James Lee usually occupied; Lord George half sat, half
leaned in the window-place. Sir James stood with his back to the
empty fireplace, and his hands clasped behind him. All three were very

“Give thee good den, Myles Falworth,” said the Earl, as Myles bowed
first to him and then to the others; “and I would have thee prepare
thyself for a great happening.” Then, continuing directly to the point:
“Thou knowest, sirrah, why we have been training thee so closely these
three years gone; it is that thou shouldst be able to hold thine own
in the world. Nay, not only hold thine own, but to show thyself to be
a knight of prowess shouldst it come to a battle between thee and thy
father’s enemy; for there lieth no half-way place for thee, and thou
must be either great or else nothing. Well, sir, the time hath now come
for thee to show thy mettle. I would rather have chosen that thou hadst
labored a twelvemonth longer; but now, as I said, hath come a chance to
prove thyself that may never come again. Sir James tells me that thou
art passably ripe in skill. Thou must now show whether that be so or no.
Hast thou ever heard of the Sieur de la Montaigne?”

“Yea, my Lord. I have heard of him often,” answered Myles. “It was he
who won the prize at the great tourney at Rochelle last year.”

“I see that thou hast his fame pat to thy tongue’s end,” said the Earl;
“he is the chevalier of whom I speak, and he is reckoned the best knight
of Dauphiny. That one of which thou spokest was the third great tourney
in which he was adjudged the victor. I am glad that thou holdest his
prowess highly. Knowest thou that he is in the train of the Comte de

“Nay,” said Myles, flushing; “I did hear news he was in England, but
knew not that he was in this place.”

“Yea,” said Lord Mackworth; “he is here.” He paused for a moment; then
said, suddenly. “Tell me, Myles Falworth, an thou wert a knight and of
rank fit to run a joust with the Sieur de la Montaigne, wouldst thou
dare encounter him in the lists?”

The Earl’s question fell upon Myles so suddenly and unexpectedly that
for a moment or so he stood staring at the speaker with mouth agape.
Meanwhile the Earl sat looking calmly back at him, slowly stroking his
beard the while.

It was Sir James Lee’s voice that broke the silence. “Thou heardst thy
Lord speak,” said he, harshly. “Hast thou no tongue to answer, sirrah?”

“Be silent, Lee,” said Lord Mackworth, quietly. “Let the lad have time
to think before he speaketh.”

The sound of the words aroused Myles. He advanced to the table, and
rested his hand upon it. “My Lord--my Lord,” said he, “I know not what
to say, I--I am amazed and afeard.”

“How! how!” cried Sir James Lee, harshly. “Afeard, sayst thou? An thou
art afeard, thou knave, thou needst never look upon my face or speak to
me more! I have done with thee forever an thou art afeard even were the
champion a Sir Alisander.”

“Peace, peace, Lee,” said the Earl, holding up his hand. “Thou art too
hasty. The lad shall have his will in this matter, and thou and no one
shall constrain him. Methinks, also, thou dost not understand him. Speak
from thy heart, Myles; why art thou afraid?”

“Because,” said Myles, “I am so young, sir; I am but a raw boy. How
should I dare be so hardy as to venture to set lance against such an one
as the Sieur de la Montaigne? What would I be but a laughing-stock for
all the world who would see me so foolish as to venture me against one
of such prowess and skill?”

“Nay, Myles,” said Lord George, “thou thinkest not well enough of thine
own skill and prowess. Thinkest thou we would undertake to set thee
against him, an we did not think that thou couldst hold thine own fairly

“Hold mine own?” cried Myles, turning to Lord George. “Sir; thou dost
not mean--thou canst not mean, that I may hope or dream to hold mine own
against the Sieur de la Montaigne.”

“Aye,” said Lord George, “that was what I did mean.”

“Come, Myles,” said the Earl; “now tell me: wilt thou fight the Sieur de
la Montaigne?”

“Yea,” said Myles, drawing himself to his full height and throwing out
his chest. “Yea,” and his cheeks and forehead flushed red; “an thou bid
me do so, I will fight him.”

“There spake my brave lad!” cried Lord George heartily.

“I give thee joy, Myles,” said the Earl, reaching him his hand, which
Myles took and kissed. “And I give thee double joy. I have talked with
the King concerning thee this morning, and he hath consented to knight
thee--yea, to knight thee with all honors of the Bath--provided thou
wilt match thee against the Sieur de la Montaigne for the honor of
England and Mackworth. Just now the King lieth to sleep for a little
while after his dinner; have thyself in readiness when he cometh forth,
and I will have thee presented.”

Then the Earl turned to Sir James Lee, and questioned him as to how the
bachelors were fitted with clothes. Myles listened, only half hearing
the words through the tumbling of his thoughts. He had dreamed in his
day-dreams that some time he might be knighted, but that time always
seemed very, very distant. To be knighted now, in his boyhood, by the
King, with the honors of the Bath, and under the patronage of the
Earl of Mackworth; to joust--to actually joust--with the Sieur de la
Montaigne, one of the most famous chevaliers of France! No wonder he
only half heard the words; half heard the Earl’s questions concerning
his clothes and the discussion which followed; half heard Lord George
volunteer to array him in fitting garments from his own wardrobe.

“Thou mayst go now,” said the Earl, at last turning to him. “But be thou
at George’s apartments by two of the clock to be dressed fittingly for
the occasion.”

Then Myles went out stupefied, dazed, bewildered. He looked around,
but he did not see Gascoyne. He said not a word to any of the others in
answer to the eager questions poured upon him by his fellow-squires,
but walked straight away. He hardly knew where he went, but by-and-by
he found himself in a grassy angle below the end of the south stable; a
spot overlooking the outer wall and the river beyond. He looked around;
no one was near, and he flung himself at length, burying his face in
his arms. How long he lay there he did not know, but suddenly some
one touched him upon the shoulder, and he sprang up quickly. It was

“What is to do, Myles?” said his friend, anxiously. “What is all this
talk I hear concerning thee up yonder at the armory?”

“Oh, Francis!” cried Myles, with a husky choking voice: “I am to be
knighted--by the King--by the King himself; and I--I am to fight the
Sieur de la Montaigne.”

He reached out his hand, and Gascoyne took it. They stood for a while
quite silent, and when at last the stillness was broken, it was Gascoyne
who spoke, in a choking voice.

“Thou art going to be great, Myles,” said he. “I always knew that it
must be so with thee, and now the time hath come. Yea, thou wilt be
great, and live at court amongst noble folk, and Kings haply. Presently
thou wilt not be with me any more, and wilt forget me by-and-by.”

“Nay, Francis, never will I forget thee!” answered Myles, pressing
his friend’s hand. “I will always love thee better than any one in the
world, saving only my father and my mother.”

Gascoyne shook his head and looked away, swallowing at the dry lump in
his throat. Suddenly he turned to Myles. “Wilt thou grant me a boon?”

“Yea,” answered Myles. “What is it?”

“That thou wilt choose me for thy squire.”

“Nay,” said Myles; “how canst thou think to serve me as squire? Thou
wilt be a knight thyself some day, Francis, and why dost thou wish now
to be my squire?”

“Because,” said Gascoyne, with a short laugh, “I would rather be in thy
company as a squire than in mine own as a knight, even if I might be

Myles flung his arm around his friend’s neck, and kissed him upon the
cheek. “Thou shalt have thy will,” said he; “but whether knight or
squire, thou art ever mine own true friend.”

Then they went slowly back together, hand in hand, to the castle world

At two o’clock Myles went to Lord George’s apartments, and there his
friend and patron dressed him out in a costume better fitted for the
ceremony of presentation--a fur-trimmed jacket of green brocaded velvet
embroidered with golden thread, a black velvet hood-cap rolled like a
turban and with a jewel in the front, a pair of crimson hose, and a pair
of black velvet shoes trimmed and stitched with gold-thread. Myles had
never worn such splendid clothes in his life before, and he could not
but feel that they became him well.

“Sir,” said he, as he looked down at himself, “sure it is not lawful for
me to wear such clothes as these.”

In those days there was a law, known as a sumptuary law, which regulated
by statute the clothes that each class of people were privileged to
wear. It was, as Myles said, against the law for him to wear such
garments as those in which he was clad--either velvet, crimson stuff,
fur or silver or gold embroidery--nevertheless such a solemn ceremony as
presentation to the King excused the temporary overstepping of the law,
and so Lord George told him. As he laid his hand upon the lad’s shoulder
and held him off at arm’s-length, he added, “And I pledge thee my word,
Myles, that thou art as lusty and handsome a lad as ever mine eyes

“Thou art very kind to me, sir,” said Myles, in answer.

Lord George laughed; and then giving him a shake, let go his shoulder.

It was about three o’clock when little Edmond de Montefort, Lord
Mackworth’s favorite page, came with word that the King was then walking
in the Earl’s pleasance.

“Come, Myles,” said Lord George, and then Myles arose from the
seat where he had been sitting, his heart palpitating and throbbing

At the wicket-gate of the pleasance two gentlemen-at-arms stood guard in
half-armor; they saluted Lord George, and permitted him to pass with his
protege. As he laid his hand upon the latch of the wicket he paused for
a moment and turned.

“Myles,” said he, in a low voice, “thou art a thoughtful and cautious
lad; for thy father’s sake be thoughtful and cautious now. Do not
speak his name or betray that thou art his son.” Then he opened the
wicket-gate and entered.

Any lad of Myles’s age, even one far more used to the world than he,
would perhaps have felt all the oppression that he experienced under the
weight of such a presentation. He hardly knew what he was doing as
Lord George led him to where the King stood, a little apart from
the attendants, with the Earl and the Comte de Vermoise. Even in his
confusion he knew enough to kneel, and somehow his honest, modest
diffidence became the young fellow very well. He was not awkward, for
one so healthful in mind and body as he could not bear himself very ill,
and he felt the assurance that in Lord George he had a kind friend at
his side, and one well used to court ceremonies to lend him countenance.
Then there is something always pleasing in frank, modest manliness such
as was stamped on Myles’s handsome, sturdy face. No doubt the King’s
heart warmed towards the fledgling warrior kneeling in the pathway
before him. He smiled very kindly as he gave the lad his hand to kiss,
and that ceremony done, held fast to the hard, brown, sinewy fist of the
young man with his soft white hand, and raised him to his feet.

“By the mass!” said he, looking Myles over with smiling eyes, “thou art
a right champion in good sooth. Such as thou art haply was Sir Galahad
when he came to Arthur’s court. And so they tell me, thou hast stomach
to brook the Sieur de la Montaigne, that tough old boar of Dauphiny.
Hast thou in good sooth the courage to face him? Knowest thou what a
great thing it is that thou hast set upon thyself--to do battle, even in
sport, with him?”

“Yea, your Majesty,” answered Myles, “well I wot it is a task haply
beyond me. But gladly would I take upon me even a greater venture, and
one more dangerous, to do your Majesty’s pleasure!”

The King looked pleased. “Now that was right well said, young man,” said
he, “and I like it better that it came from such young and honest lips.
Dost thou speak French?”

“Yea, your Majesty,” answered Myles. “In some small measure do I so.”

“I am glad of that,” said the King; “for so I may make thee acquainted
with Sieur de la Montaigne.”

He turned as he ended speaking, and beckoned to a heavy, thick-set,
black-browed chevalier who stood with the other gentlemen attendants at
a little distance. He came instantly forward in answer to the summons,
and the King introduced the two to one another. As each took the other
formally by the hand, he measured his opponent hastily, body and limb,
and perhaps each thought that he had never seen a stronger, stouter,
better-knit man than the one upon whom he looked. But nevertheless
the contrast betwixt the two was very great--Myles, young, boyish,
fresh-faced; the other, bronzed, weather beaten, and seamed with a great
white scar that ran across his forehead and cheek; the one a novice, the
other a warrior seasoned in twoscore battles.

A few polite phrases passed between the two, the King listening smiling,
but with an absent and far-away look gradually stealing upon his face.
As they ended speaking, a little pause of silence followed, and then the
King suddenly aroused himself.

“So,” said he, “I am glad that ye two are acquainted. And now we will
leave our youthful champion in thy charge, Beaumont--and in thine, Mon
Sieur, as well--and so soon as the proper ceremonies are ended, we will
dub him knight with our own hands. And now, Mackworth, and thou my Lord
Count, let us walk a little; I have bethought me further concerning
these threescore extra men for Dauphiny.”

Then Myles withdrew, under the charge of Lord George and the Sieur de
la Montaigne and while the King and the two nobles walked slowly up and
down the gravel path between the tall rose-bushes, Myles stood
talking with the gentlemen attendants, finding himself, with a certain
triumphant exultation, the peer of any and the hero of the hour.

That night was the last that Myles and Gascoyne spent lodging in the
dormitory in their squirehood service. The next day they were assigned
apartments in Lord George’s part of the house, and thither they
transported themselves and their belongings, amid the awestruck wonder
and admiration of their fellow-squires.


In Myles Falworth’s day one of the greatest ceremonies of courtly life
was that of the bestowal of knighthood by the King, with the honors of
the Bath. By far the greater number of knights were at that time created
by other knights, or by nobles, or by officers of the crown. To be
knighted by the King in person distinguished the recipient for life. It
was this signal honor that the Earl, for his own purposes, wished Myles
to enjoy, and for this end he had laid not a few plans.

The accolade was the term used for the creation of a knight upon the
field of battle. It was a reward of valor or of meritorious service, and
was generally bestowed in a more or less off-hand way; but the ceremony
of the Bath was an occasion of the greatest courtly moment, and it was
thus that Myles Falworth was to be knighted in addition to the honor of
a royal belting.

A quaint old book treating of knighthood and chivalry gives a full and
detailed account of all the circumstances of the ceremony of a creation
of a Knight of the Bath. It tells us that the candidate was first
placed under the care of two squires of honor, “grave and well seen in
courtship and nurture, and also in feats of chivalry,” which same were
likewise to be governors in all things relating to the coming honors.

First of all, the barber shaved him, and cut his hair in a certain
peculiar fashion ordained for the occasion, the squires of honor
supervising the operation. This being concluded, the candidate was
solemnly conducted to the chamber where the bath of tepid water was
prepared, “hung within and without with linen, and likewise covered
with rich cloths and embroidered linen.” While in the bath two “ancient,
grave, and reverend knights” attended the bachelor, giving him “meet
instructions in the order and feats of chivalry.” The candidate was then
examined as to his knowledge and acquirements, and then, all questions
being answered to the satisfaction of his examiners, the elder of the
two dipped a handful of water out from the bath, and poured it upon his
head, at the same time signing his left shoulder with the sign of the

As soon as this ceremony was concluded, the two squires of honor helped
their charge from the bath, and conducted him to a plain bed without
hangings, where they let him rest until his body was warm and dry.
Then they clad him in a white linen shirt, and over it a plain robe of
russet, “girdled about the loins with a rope, and having a hood like
unto a hermit.”

As soon as the candidate had arisen, the two “ancient knights” returned,
and all being in readiness he was escorted to the chapel, the two
walking, one upon either side of him, his squires of honor marching
before, and the whole party preceded by “sundry minstrels making a loud
noise of music.”

When they came to the chapel, the two knights who escorted him took
leave of the candidate, each saluting him with a kiss upon the cheek.
No one remained with him but his squires of honor, the priest, and the

In the mean time the novitiate’s armor, sword, lance, and helmet had
been laid in readiness before the altar. These he watched and guarded
while the others slept, keeping vigil until sunrise, during which time
“he shall,” says the ancient authority, “pass the night in orisons,
prayers, and meditation.” At daylight he confessed to the priest, heard
matins, and communicated in mass, and then presented a lighted candle
at the altar, with a piece of money stuck in it as close to the flame
as could be done, the candle being offered to the honor of God, and the
money to the honor of that person who was to make him a knight.

So concluded the sacred ceremony, which being ended his squires
conducted the candidate to his chamber, and there made him comfortable,
and left him to repose for a while before the second and final part of
the ordinance.

Such is a shortened account of the preparatory stages of the ceremonies
through which Myles Falworth passed.

Matters had come upon him so suddenly one after the other, and had come
with such bewildering rapidity that all that week was to him like some
strange, wonderful, mysterious vision. He went through it all like one
in a dream. Lord George Beaumont was one of his squires of honor; the
other, by way of a fitting complement to the courage of the chivalrous
lad, was the Sieur de la Montaigne, his opponent soon to be. They were
well versed in everything relating to knightcraft, and Myles followed
all their directions with passive obedience. Then Sir James Lee and the
Comte de Vermoise administered the ceremony of the Bath, the old knight
examining him in the laws of chivalry.

It occurs perhaps once or twice in one’s lifetime that one passes
through great happenings--sometimes of joy, sometimes of dreadful
bitterness--in just such a dazed state as Myles passed through this. It
is only afterwards that all comes back to one so sharply and keenly that
the heart thrills almost in agony in living it over again. But perhaps
of all the memory of that time, when it afterwards came back piece by
piece, none was so clear to Myles’s back-turned vision as the long
night spent in the chapel, watching his armor, thinking such wonderful
thoughts, and dreaming such wonderful wide-eyed dreams. At such times
Myles saw again the dark mystery of the castle chapel; he saw again the
half-moon gleaming white and silvery through the tall, narrow window,
and throwing a broad form of still whiteness across stone floor, empty
seats, and still, motionless figures of stone effigies. At such times
he stood again in front of the twinkling tapers that lit the altar where
his armor lay piled in a heap, heard again the deep breathing of his
companions of the watch sleeping in some empty stall, wrapped each in
his cloak, and saw the old chandler bestir himself, and rise and come
forward to snuff the candles. At such times he saw again the day growing
clearer and clearer through the tall, glazed windows, saw it change to
a rosy pink, and then to a broad, ruddy glow that threw a halo of light
around Father Thomas’s bald head bowed in sleep, and lit up the banners
and trophies hanging motionless against the stony face of the west wall;
heard again the stirring of life without and the sound of his companions
arousing themselves; saw them come forward, and heard them wish him joy
that his long watch was ended.

It was nearly noon when Myles was awakened from a fitful sleep by
Gascoyne bringing in his dinner, but, as might be supposed, he had but
little hunger, and ate sparingly. He had hardly ended his frugal meal
before his two squires of honor came in, followed by a servant carrying
the garments for the coming ceremony. He saluted them gravely, and then
arising, washed his face and hands in a basin which Gascoyne held; then
kneeled in prayer, the others standing silent at a little distance. As
he arose, Lord George came forward.

“The King and the company come presently to the Great Hall, Myles,” said
he; “it is needful for thee to make all the haste that thou art able.”

Perhaps never had Devlen Castle seen a more brilliant and goodly company
gathered in the great hall than that which came to witness King Henry
create Myles Falworth a knight bachelor.

At the upper end of the hall was a raised dais, upon which stood
a throne covered with crimson satin and embroidered with lions and
flower-deluces; it was the King’s seat. He and his personal attendants
had not yet come, but the rest of the company were gathered. The day
being warm and sultry, the balcony was all aflutter with the feather
fans of the ladies of the family and their attendants, who from this
high place looked down upon the hall below. Up the centre of the hall
was laid a carpet of arras, and the passage was protected by wooden
railings. Upon the one side were tiers of seats for the castle
gentlefolks and the guests. Upon the other stood the burghers from the
town, clad in sober dun and russet, and yeomanry in green and brown. The
whole of the great vaulted hall was full of the dull hum of many people
waiting, and a ceaseless restlessness stirred the crowded throng. But
at last a whisper went around that the King was coming. A momentary hush
fell, and through it was heard the noisy clatter of horses’ feet coming
nearer and nearer, and then stopping before the door. The sudden blare
of trumpets broke through the hush; another pause, and then in through
the great door-way of the hall came the royal procession.

First of all marched, in the order of their rank, and to the number of
a score or more, certain gentlemen, esquires and knights, chosen mostly
from the King’s attendants. Behind these came two pursuivants-at-arms
in tabards, and following them a party of a dozen more bannerets
and barons. Behind these again, a little space intervening, came two
heralds, also in tabards, a group of the greater nobles attendant
upon the King following in the order of their rank. Next came the
King-at-arms and, at a little distance and walking with sober slowness,
the King himself, with the Earl and the Count directly attendant upon
him--the one marching upon the right hand and the other upon the left.
A breathless silence filled the whole space as the royal procession
advanced slowly up the hall. Through the stillness could be heard the
muffled sound of the footsteps on the carpet, the dry rustling of
silk and satin garments, and the clear clink and jingle of chains and
jewelled ornaments, but not the sound of a single voice.

After the moment or two of bustle and confusion of the King taking his
place had passed, another little space of expectant silence fell. At
last there suddenly came the noise of acclamation of those who stood
without the door--cheering and the clapping of hands--sounds heralding
the immediate advent of Myles and his attendants. The next moment the
little party entered the hall.

First of all, Gascoyne, bearing Myles’s sword in both hands, the hilt
resting against his breast, the point elevated at an angle of forty-five
degrees. It was sheathed in a crimson scabbard, and the belt of Spanish
leather studded with silver bosses was wound crosswise around it. From
the hilt of the sword dangled the gilt spurs of his coming knighthood.
At a little distance behind his squire followed Myles, the centre of
all observation. He was clad in a novitiate dress, arranged under Lord
George’s personal supervision. It had been made somewhat differently
from the fashion usual at such times, and was intended to indicate in a
manner the candidate’s extreme youthfulness and virginity in arms. The
outer garment was a tabard robe of white wool, embroidered at the hem
with fine lines of silver, and gathered loosely at the waist with a belt
of lavender leather stitched with thread of silver. Beneath he was clad
in armor (a present from the Earl), new and polished till it shone with
dazzling brightness, the breastplate covered with a juppon of white
satin, embroidered with silver. Behind Myles, and upon either hand, came
his squires of honor, sponsors, and friends--a little company of
some half-dozen in all. As they advanced slowly up the great, dim,
high-vaulted room, the whole multitude broke forth into a humming buzz
of applause. Then a sudden clapping of hands began near the door-way,
ran down through the length of the room, and was taken up by all with
noisy clatter.

“Saw I never youth so comely,” whispered one of the Lady Anne’s
attendant gentlewomen. “Sure he looketh as Sir Galahad looked when he
came first to King Arthur’s court.”

Myles knew that he was very pale; he felt rather than saw the restless
crowd of faces upon either side, for his eyes were fixed directly before
him, upon the dais whereon sat the King, with the Earl of Mackworth
standing at his right hand, the Comte de Vermoise upon the left, and the
others ranged around and behind the throne. It was with the same tense
feeling of dreamy unreality that Myles walked slowly up the length of
the hall, measuring his steps by those of Gascoyne. Suddenly he
felt Lord George Beaumont touch him lightly upon the arm, and almost
instinctively he stopped short--he was standing just before the covered
steps of the throne.

He saw Gascoyne mount to the third step, stop short, kneel, and offer
the sword and the spurs he carried to the King, who took the weapon
and laid it across his knees. Then the squire bowed low, and walking
backward withdrew to one side, leaving Myles standing alone facing the
throne. The King unlocked the spur chains from the sword-hilt, and
then, holding the gilt spurs in his hand for a moment, he looked Myles
straight in the eyes and smiled. Then he turned, and gave one of the
spurs to the Earl of Mackworth.

The Earl took it with a low bow, turned, and came slowly down the steps
to where Myles stood. Kneeling upon one knee, and placing Myles’s foot
upon the other, Lord Mackworth set the spur in its place and latched the
chain over the instep. He drew the sign of the cross upon Myles’s bended
knee, set the foot back upon the ground, rose with slow dignity, and
bowing to the King, drew a little to one side.

As soon as the Earl had fulfilled his office the King gave the second
spur to the Comte de Vermoise, who set it to Myles’s other foot with the
same ceremony that the Earl had observed, withdrawing as he had done to
one side.

An instant pause of motionless silence followed, and then the King
slowly arose, and began deliberately to unwind the belt from around the
scabbard of the sword he held. As soon as he stood, the Earl and the
Count advanced, and taking Myles by either hand, led him forward and up
the steps of the dais to the platform above. As they drew a little to
one side, the King stooped and buckled the sword-belt around Myles’s
waist, then, rising again, lifted his hand and struck him upon the
shoulder, crying, in a loud voice.

“Be thou a good knight!”

Instantly a loud sound of applause and the clapping of hands filled the
whole hall, in the midst of which the King laid both hands upon Myles’s
shoulders and kissed him upon the right cheek. So the ceremony ended;
Myles was no longer Myles Falworth, but Sir Myles Falworth, Knight by
Order of the Bath and by grace of the King!


It was the custom to conclude the ceremonies of the bestowal of
knighthood by a grand feast given in honor of the newly-created knight.
But in Myles’s instance the feast was dispensed with. The Earl of
Mackworth had planned that Myles might be created a Knight of the Bath
with all possible pomp and ceremony; that his personality might be
most favorably impressed upon the King; that he might be so honorably
knighted as to make him the peer of any who wore spurs in all England;
and, finally, that he might celebrate his new honors by jousting with
some knight of high fame and approved valor. All these desiderata chance
had fulfilled in the visit of the King to Devlen.

As the Earl had said to Myles, he would rather have waited a little
while longer until the lad was riper in years and experience, but the
opportunity was not to be lost. Young as he was, Myles must take
his chances against the years and grim experience of the Sieur de la
Montaigne. But it was also a part of the Earl’s purpose that the King
and Myles should not be brought too intimately together just at that
time. Though every particular of circumstance should be fulfilled in the
ceremony, it would have been ruination to the Earl’s plans to have the
knowledge come prematurely to the King that Myles was the son of
the attainted Lord Falworth. The Earl knew that Myles was a shrewd,
coolheaded lad; but the King had already hinted that the name was
familiar to his ears, and a single hasty answer or unguarded speech upon
the young knight’s part might awaken him to a full knowledge. Such a
mishap was, of all things, to be avoided just then, for, thanks to the
machinations of that enemy of his father of whom Myles had heard so
much, and was soon to hear more, the King had always retained and still
held a bitter and rancorous enmity against the unfortunate nobleman.

It was no very difficult matter for the Earl to divert the King’s
attention from the matter of the feast. His Majesty was very intent
just then upon supplying a quota of troops to the Dauphin, and the chief
object of his visit to Devlen was to open negotiations with the Earl
looking to that end. He was interested--much interested in Myles and in
the coming jousting in which the young warrior was to prove himself, but
he was interested in it by way of a relaxation from the other and more
engrossing matter. So, though he made some passing and half preoccupied
inquiry about the feast he was easily satisfied with the Earl’s reasons
for not holding it: which were that he had arranged a consultation for
that morning in regard to the troops for the Dauphin, to which meeting
he had summoned a number of his own more important dependent nobles,
that the King himself needed repose and the hour or so of rest that
his barber-surgeon had ordered him to take after his mid-day meal; that
Father Thomas had laid upon Myles a petty penance--that for the first
three days of his knighthood he should eat his meals without meat and
in his own apartment--and various other reasons equally good and
sufficient. So the King was satisfied, and the feast was dispensed with.

The next morning had been set for the jousting, and all that day the
workmen were busy erecting the lists in the great quadrangle upon which,
as was said before, looked the main buildings of the castle. The windows
of Myles’s apartment opened directly upon the bustling scene--the
carpenters hammering and sawing, the upholsterers snipping, cutting,
and tacking. Myles and Gascoyne stood gazing out from the open casement,
with their arms lying across one another’s shoulders in the old boyhood
fashion, and Myles felt his heart shrink with a sudden tight pang as
the realization came sharply and vividly upon him that all these
preparations were being made for him, and that the next day he should,
with almost the certainty of death, meet either glory or failure under
the eyes not only of all the greater and lesser castle folk, but of the
King himself and noble strangers critically used to deeds of chivalry
and prowess. Perhaps he had never fully realized the magnitude of the
reality before. In that tight pang at his heart he drew a deep breath,
almost a sigh. Gascoyne turned his head abruptly, and looked at his
friend, but he did not ask the cause of the sigh. No doubt the same
thoughts that were in Myles’s mind were in his also.

It was towards the latter part of the afternoon that a message came from
the Earl, bidding Myles attend him in his private closet. After Myles
had bowed and kissed his lordship’s hand, the Earl motioned him to
take a seat, telling him that he had some final words to say that might
occupy a considerable time. He talked to the young man for about half
an hour in his quiet, measured voice, only now and then showing a little
agitation by rising and walking up and down the room for a turn or two.
Very many things were disclosed in that talk that had caused Myles
long hours of brooding thought, for the Earl spoke freely, and without
concealment to him concerning his father and the fortunes of the house
of Falworth.

Myles had surmised many things, but it was not until then that he knew
for a certainty who was his father’s malignant and powerful enemy--that
it was the great Earl of Alban, the rival and bitter enemy of the Earl
of Mackworth. It was not until then that he knew that the present Earl
of Alban was the Lord Brookhurst, who had killed Sir John Dale in
the anteroom at Falworth Castle that morning so long ago in his early
childhood. It was not until then that he knew all the circumstances of
his father’s blindness; that he had been overthrown in the melee at the
great tournament at York, and that that same Lord Brookhurst had ridden
his iron-shod war-horse twice over his enemy’s prostrate body before his
squire could draw him from the press, and had then and there given him
the wound from which he afterwards went blind. The Earl swore to Myles
that Lord Brookhurst had done what he did wilfully, and had afterwards
boasted of it. Then, with some hesitation, he told Myles the reason
of Lord Brookhurst’s enmity, and that it had arisen on account of Lady
Falworth, whom he had one time sought in marriage, and that he had sworn
vengeance against the man who had won her.

Piece by piece the Earl of Mackworth recounted every circumstance and
detail of the revenge that the blind man’s enemy had afterwards
wreaked upon him. He told Myles how, when his father was attainted
of high-treason, and his estates forfeited to the crown, the King had
granted the barony of Easterbridge to the then newly-created Earl of
Alban in spite of all the efforts of Lord Falworth’s friends to the
contrary; that when he himself had come out from an audience with the
King, with others of his father’s friends, the Earl of Alban had boasted
in the anteroom, in a loud voice, evidently intended for them all to
hear, that now that he had Falworth’s fat lands, he would never rest
till he had hunted the blind man out from his hiding, and brought his
head to the block.

“Ever since then,” said the Earl of Mackworth “he hath been striving by
every means to discover thy father’s place of concealment. Some time,
haply, he may find it, and then--”

Myles had felt for a long time that he was being moulded and shaped, and
that the Earl of Mackworth’s was the hand that was making him what he
was growing to be; but he had never realized how great were the things
expected of him should he pass the first great test, and show himself
what his friends hoped to see him. Now he knew that all were looking
upon him to act, sometime, as his father’s champion, and when that time
should come, to challenge the Earl of Alban to the ordeal of single
combat, to purge his father’s name of treason, to restore him to his
rank, and to set the house of Falworth where it stood before misfortune
fell upon it.

But it was not alone concerning his and his father’s affairs that the
Earl of Mackworth talked to Myles. He told him that the Earl of Alban
was the Earl of Mackworth’s enemy also; that in his younger days he had
helped Lord Falworth, who was his kinsman, to win his wife, and that
then, Lord Brookhurst had sworn to compass his ruin as he had sworn
to compass the ruin of his friend. He told Myles how, now that Lord
Brookhurst was grown to be Earl of Alban, and great and powerful, he
was forever plotting against him, and showed Myles how, if Lord Falworth
were discovered and arrested for treason, he also would be likely to
suffer for aiding and abetting him. Then it dawned upon Myles that the
Earl looked to him to champion the house of Beaumont as well as that of

“Mayhap,” said the Earl, “thou didst think that it was all for the
pleasant sport of the matter that I have taken upon me this toil and
endeavor to have thee knighted with honor that thou mightst fight the
Dauphiny knight. Nay, nay, Myles Falworth, I have not labored so
hard for such a small matter as that. I have had the King, unknown to
himself, so knight thee that thou mayst be the peer of Alban himself,
and now I would have thee to hold thine own with the Sieur de la
Montaigne, to try whether thou be’st Alban’s match, and to approve
thyself worthy of the honor of thy knighthood. I am sorry, ne’theless,”
 he added, after a moment’s pause, “that this could not have been put off
for a while longer, for my plans for bringing thee to battle with that
vile Alban are not yet ripe. But such a chance of the King coming hither
haps not often. And then I am glad of this much--that a good occasion
offers to get thee presently away from England. I would have thee out
of the King’s sight so soon as may be after this jousting. He taketh
a liking to thee, and I fear me lest he should inquire more nearly
concerning thee and so all be discovered and spoiled. My brother George
goeth upon the first of next month to France to take service with the
Dauphin, having under his command a company of tenscore men--knights and
archers; thou shalt go with him, and there stay till I send for thee to

With this, the protracted interview concluded, the Earl charging Myles
to say nothing further about the French expedition for the present--even
to his friend--for it was as yet a matter of secrecy, known only to the
King and a few nobles closely concerned in the venture.

Then Myles arose to take his leave. He asked and obtained permission for
Gascoyne to accompany him to France. Then he paused for a moment or two,
for it was strongly upon him to speak of a matter that had been lying
in his mind all day--a matter that he had dreamed of much with open eyes
during the long vigil of the night before.

The Earl looked up inquiringly. “What is it thou wouldst ask?” said he.

Myles’s heart was beating quickly within him at the thought of his own
boldness, and as he spoke his cheeks burned like fire. “Sir,” said he,
mustering his courage at last, “haply thou hast forgot it, but I have
not; ne’theless, a long time since when I spoke of serving the--the Lady
Alice as her true knight, thou didst wisely laugh at my words, and bade
me wait first till I had earned my spurs. But now, sir, I have gotten
my spurs, and--and do now crave thy gracious leave that I may serve that
lady as her true knight.”

A space of dead silence fell, in which Myles’s heart beat tumultuously
within him.

“I know not what thou meanest,” said the Earl at last, in a somewhat
constrained voice. “How wouldst thou serve her? What wouldst thou have?”

“I would have only a little matter just now,” answered Myles. “I would
but crave of her a favor for to wear in the morrow’s battle, so that she
may know that I hold her for my own true lady, and that I may have the
courage to fight more boldly, having that favor to defend.”

The Earl sat looking at him for a while in brooding silence, stroking
his beard the while. Suddenly his brow cleared. “So be it,” said he.
“I grant thee my leave to ask the Lady Alice for a favor, and if she
is pleased to give it to thee, I shall not say thee nay. But I set this
upon thee as a provision: that thou shalt not see her without the Lady
Anne be present. Thus it was, as I remember, thou saw her first, and
with it thou must now be satisfied. Go thou to the Long Gallery, and
thither they will come anon if naught hinder them.”

Myles waited in the Long Gallery perhaps some fifteen or twenty minutes.
No one was there but himself. It was a part of the castle connecting the
Earl’s and the Countess’s apartments, and was used but little. During
that time he stood looking absently out of the open casement into the
stony court-yard beyond, trying to put into words that which he had
to say; wondering, with anxiety, how soon the young ladies would come;
wondering whether they would come at all. At last the door at the
farther end of the gallery opened, and turning sharply at the sound, he
saw the two young ladies enter, Lady Alice leaning upon Lady Anne’s arm.
It was the first time that he had seen them since the ceremony of the
morning, and as he advanced to meet them, the Lady Anne came frankly
forward, and gave him her hand, which Myles raised to his lips.

“I give thee joy of thy knighthood, Sir Myles,” said she, “and do
believe, in good sooth, that if any one deserveth such an honor, thou
art he.”

At first little Lady Alice hung back behind her cousin, saying nothing
until the Lady Anne, turning suddenly, said: “Come, coz, has thou naught
to say to our new-made knight? Canst thou not also wish him joy of his

Lady Alice hesitated a minute, then gave Myles a timid hand, which he,
with a strange mixture of joy and confusion, took as timidly as it was
offered. He raised the hand, and set it lightly and for an instant
to his lips, as he had done with the Lady Anne’s hand, but with very
different emotions.

“I give you joy of your knighthood, sir,” said Lady Alice, in a voice so
low that Myles could hardly hear it.

Both flushed red, and as he raised his head again, Myles saw that the
Lady Anne had withdrawn to one side. Then he knew that it was to give
him the opportunity to proffer his request.

A little space of silence followed, the while he strove to key his
courage to the saying of that which lay at his mind. “Lady,” said he at
last, and then again--“Lady, I--have a favor for to ask thee.”

“What is it thou wouldst have, Sir Myles?” she murmured, in reply.

“Lady,” said he, “ever sin I first saw thee I have thought that if I
might choose of all the world, thou only wouldst I choose for--for
my true lady, to serve as a right knight should.” Here he stopped,
frightened at his own boldness. Lady Alice stood quite still, with her
face turned away. “Thou--thou art not angered at what I say?” he said.

She shook her head.

“I have longed and longed for the time,” said he, “to ask a boon of thee,
and now hath that time come. Lady, to-morrow I go to meet a right good
knight, and one skilled in arms and in jousting, as thou dost know. Yea,
he is famous in arms, and I be nobody. Ne’theless, I fight for the honor
of England and Mackworth--and--and for thy sake. I--Thou art not angered
at what I say?”

Again the Lady Alice shook her head.

“I would that thou--I would that thou would give me some favor for to
wear--thy veil or thy necklace.”

He waited anxiously for a little while, but Lady Alice did not answer

“I fear me,” said Myles, presently, “that I have in sooth offended thee
in asking this thing. I know that it is a parlous bold matter for one so
raw in chivalry and in courtliness as I am, and one so poor in rank, to
ask thee for thy favor. An I ha’ offended, I prithee let it be as though
I had not asked it.”

Perhaps it was the young man’s timidity that brought a sudden courage to
Lady Alice; perhaps it was the graciousness of her gentle breeding that
urged her to relieve Myles’s somewhat awkward humility, perhaps it was
something more than either that lent her bravery to speak, even knowing
that the Lady Anne heard all. She turned quickly to him: “Nay, Sir
Myles,” she said, “I am foolish, and do wrong thee by my foolishness
and silence, for, truly, I am proud to have thee wear my favor.” She
unclasped, as she spoke, the thin gold chain from about her neck. “I
give thee this chain,” said she, “and it will bring me joy to have it
honored by thy true knightliness, and, giving it, I do wish thee all
success.” Then she bowed her head, and, turning, left him holding the
necklace in his hand.

Her cousin left the window to meet her, bowing her head with a smile
to Myles as she took her cousin’s arm again and led her away. He stood
looking after them as they left the room, and when they were gone, he
raised the necklace to his lips with a heart beating tumultuously with a
triumphant joy it had never felt before.


And now, at last, had come the day of days for Myles Falworth; the day
when he was to put to the test all that he had acquired in the three
years of his training, the day that was to disclose what promise of
future greatness there was in his strong young body. And it was a noble
day; one of those of late September, when the air seems sweeter and
fresher than at other times; the sun bright and as yellow as gold, the
wind lusty and strong, before which the great white clouds go sailing
majestically across the bright blueness of the sky above, while their
dusky shadows skim across the brown face of the rusty earth beneath.

As was said before, the lists had been set up in the great quadrangle
of the castle, than which, level and smooth as a floor, no more fitting
place could be chosen. The course was of the usual size--sixty paces
long--and separated along its whole length by a barrier about five feet
high. Upon the west side of the course and about twenty paces distant
from it, a scaffolding had been built facing towards the east so as to
avoid the glare of the afternoon sun. In the centre was a raised dais,
hung round with cloth of blue embroidered with lions rampant. Upon the
dais stood a cushioned throne for the King, and upon the steps below,
ranged in the order of their dignity, were seats for the Earl, his
guests, the family, the ladies, knights, and gentlemen of the castle.
In front, the scaffolding was covered with the gayest tapestries and
brightest-colored hangings that the castle could afford. And above,
parti-colored pennants and streamers, surmounted by the royal ensign of
England, waved and fluttered in the brisk wind.

At either end of the lists stood the pavilions of the knights. That of
Myles was at the southern extremity and was hung, by the Earl’s desire,
with cloth of the Beaumont colors (black and yellow), while a wooden
shield bearing three goshawks spread (the crest of the house) was nailed
to the roof, and a long streamer of black and yellow trailed out in the
wind from the staff above. Myles, partly armed, stood at the door-way of
the pavilion, watching the folk gathering at the scaffolding. The ladies
of the house were already seated, and the ushers were bustling hither
and thither, assigning the others their places. A considerable crowd
of common folk and burghers from the town had already gathered at
the barriers opposite, and as he looked at the restless and growing
multitude he felt his heart beat quickly and his flesh grow cold with a
nervous trepidation--just such as the lad of to-day feels when he sees
the auditorium filling with friends and strangers who are to listen
by-and-by to the reading of his prize poem.

Suddenly there came a loud blast of trumpets. A great gate at the
farther extremity of the lists was thrown open, and the King appeared,
riding upon a white horse, preceded by the King-at-arms and the heralds,
attended by the Earl and the Comte de Vermoise, and followed by a crowd
of attendants. Just then Gascoyne, who, with Wilkes, was busied lacing
some of the armor plates with new thongs, called Myles, and he turned
and entered the pavilion.

As the two squires were adjusting these last pieces, strapping them in
place and tying the thongs, Lord George and Sir James Lee entered
the pavilion. Lord George took the young man by the hand, and with a
pleasant smile wished him success in the coming encounter.

Sir James seemed anxious and disturbed. He said nothing, and after
Gascoyne had placed the open bascinet that supports the tilting helm
in its place, he came forward and examined the armor piece by piece,
carefully and critically, testing the various straps and leather points
and thongs to make sure of their strength.

“Sir,” said Gascoyne, who stood by watching him anxiously, “I do trust
that I have done all meetly and well.”

“I see nothing amiss, sirrah,” said the old knight, half grudgingly. “So
far as I may know, he is ready to mount.”

Just then a messenger entered, saying that the King was seated, and Lord
George bade Myles make haste to meet the challenger.

“Francis,” said Myles, “prithee give me my pouch yonder.”

Gascoyne handed him the velvet bag, and he opened it, and took out the
necklace that the Lady Alice had given him the day before.

“Tie me this around my arm,” said he. He looked down, keeping his eyes
studiously fixed on Gascoyne’s fingers, as they twined the thin golden
chain around the iron plates of his right arm, knowing that Lord
George’s eyes were upon him, and blushing fiery red at the knowledge.

Sir James was at that moment examining the great tilting helm, and Lord
George watched him, smiling amusedly. “And hast thou then already chosen
thee a lady?” he said, presently.

“Aye, my Lord,” answered Myles, simply.

“Marry, I trust we be so honored that she is one of our castle folk,”
 said the Earl’s brother.

For a moment Myles did not reply; then he looked up. “My Lord,” said he,
“the favor was given to me by the Lady Alice.”

Lord George looked grave for the moment; then he laughed. “Marry, thou
art a bold archer to shoot for such high game.”

Myles did not answer, and at that moment two grooms led his horse up to
the door of the pavilion. Gascoyne and Wilkes helped him to his saddle,
and then, Gascoyne holding his horse by the bridle-rein, he rode slowly
across the lists to the little open space in front of the scaffolding
and the King’s seat just as the Sieur de la Montaigne approached from
the opposite direction.

As soon as the two knights champion had reached each his appointed
station in front of the scaffolding, the Marshal bade the speaker read
the challenge, which, unrolling the parchment, he began to do in a loud,
clear voice, so that all might hear. It was a quaint document, wrapped
up in the tangled heraldic verbiage of the time.

The pith of the matter was that the Sieur Brian Philip Francis de la
Montaigne proclaimed before all men the greater chivalry and skill at
arms of the knights of France and of Dauphiny, and likewise the greater
fairness of the ladies of France and Dauphiny, and would there defend
those sayings with his body without fear or attaint as to the truth of
the same. As soon as the speaker had ended, the Marshal bade him call
the defendant of the other side.

Then Myles spoke his part, with a voice trembling somewhat with the
excitement of the moment, but loudly and clearly enough: “I, Myles
Edward Falworth, knight, so created by the hand and by the grace of
his Majesty King Henry IV of England, do take upon me the gage of this
battle, and will defend with my body the chivalry of the knights of
England and the fairness of the ladies thereof!”

Then, after the speaker ended his proclamation and had retired to his
place, the ceremony of claiming and redeeming the helmet, to which
all young knights were subjected upon first entering the lists, was

One of the heralds cried in a loud voice, “I, Gilles Hamerton, herald to
the most noble Clarencieux King-at-arms, do claim the helm of Sir Myles
Edward Falworth by this reason, that he hath never yet entered joust or

To which Myles answered, “I do acknowledge the right of that claim, and
herewith proffer thee in ransom for the same this purse of one hundred
marks in gold.”

As he spoke, Gascoyne stepped forward and delivered the purse, with the
money, to the Herald. It was a more than usually considerable ransom,
and had been made up by the Earl and Lord George that morning.

“Right nobly hast thou redeemed thy helm,” said the Herald, “and
hereafter be thou free to enter any jousting whatsoever, and in whatever

So, all being ended, both knights bowed to the King, and then, escorted
each by his squire, returned to his pavilion, saluted by the spectators
with a loud clapping of hands.

Sir James Lee met Myles in front of his tent. Coming up to the side of
the horse, the old man laid his hand upon the saddle, looking up into
the young man’s face.

“Thou wilt not fail in this venture and bring shame upon me?” said he.

“Nay, my dear master,” said Myles; “I will do my best.”

“I doubt it not,” said the old man; “and I believe me thou wilt come off
right well. From what he did say this morning, methinks the Sieur de la
Montaigne meaneth only to break three lances with thee, and will content
himself therewith, without seeking to unhorse thee. Ne’theless, be thou
bold and watchful, and if thou find that he endeavor to cast thee, do
thy best to unhorse him. Remember also those things which I have told
thee ten thousand times before: hold thy toes well down and grip the
stirrup hard, more especially at the moment of meeting; bend thy body
forward, and keep thine elbow close to thy side. Bear thy lance point
one foot above thine adversary’s helm until within two lengths of
meeting, and strike thou in the very middle of his shield. So, Myles,
thou mayst hold thine own, and come off with glory.”

As he ended speaking he drew back, and Gascoyne, mounting upon a stool,
covered his friend’s head and bascinet with the great jousting helm,
making fast the leathern points that held it to the iron collar.

As he was tying the last thong a messenger came from the Herald, saying
that the challenger was ready, and then Myles knew the time had come,
and reaching down and giving Sir James a grip of the hand, he drew on
his gauntlet, took the jousting lance that Wilkes handed him, and turned
his horse’s head towards his end of the lists.


As Myles took his place at the south end of the lists, he found the
Sieur de la Montaigne already at his station. Through the peep-hole in
the face of the huge helmet, a transverse slit known as the occularium,
he could see, like a strange narrow picture, the farther end of
the lists, the spectators upon either side moving and shifting with
ceaseless restlessness, and in the centre of all, his opponent, sitting
with spear point directed upward, erect, motionless as a statue of iron,
the sunlight gleaming and flashing upon his polished plates of steel,
and the trappings of his horse swaying and fluttering in the rushing of
the fresh breeze.

Upon that motionless figure his sight gradually centred with every
faculty of mind and soul. He knew the next moment the signal would be
given that was to bring him either glory or shame from that iron statue.
He ground his teeth together with stern resolve to do his best in the
coming encounter, and murmured a brief prayer in the hallow darkness of
his huge helm. Then with a shake he settled himself more firmly in his
saddle, slowly raised his spear point until the shaft reached the exact
angle, and there suffered it to rest motionless. There was a moment of
dead, tense, breathless pause, then he rather felt than saw the Marshal
raise his baton. He gathered himself together, and the next moment a
bugle sounded loud and clear. In one blinding rush he drove his spurs
into the sides of his horse, and in instant answer felt the noble steed
spring forward with a bound.

Through all the clashing of his armor reverberating in the hollow depths
of his helmet, he saw the mail-clad figure from the other end of the
lists rushing towards him, looming larger and larger as they came
together. He gripped his saddle with his knees, clutched the stirrup
with the soles of his feet, and bent his body still more forward. In the
instant of meeting, with almost the blindness of instinct, he dropped
the point of his spear against the single red flower-de-luce in the
middle of the on-coming shield. There was a thunderous crash that seemed
to rack every joint, he heard the crackle of splintered wood, he felt
the momentary trembling recoil of the horse beneath him, and in the next
instant had passed by. As he checked the onward rush of his horse at the
far end of the course, he heard faintly in the dim hollow recess of the
helm the loud shout and the clapping of hands of those who looked on,
and found himself gripping with nervous intensity the butt of a broken
spear, his mouth clammy with excitement, and his heart thumping in his

Then he realized that he had met his opponent, and had borne the meeting
well. As he turned his horse’s head towards his own end of the lists, he
saw the other trotting slowly back towards his station, also holding a
broken spear shaft in his hand.

As he passed the iron figure a voice issued from the helmet, “Well done,
Sir Myles, nobly done!” and his heart bounded in answer to the words of
praise. When he had reached his own end of the lists, he flung away his
broken spear, and Gascoyne came forward with another.

“Oh, Myles!” he said, with sob in his voice, “it was nobly done. Never
did I see a better ridden course in all my life. I did not believe that
thou couldst do half so well. Oh, Myles, prithee knock him out of his
saddle an thou lovest me!”

Myles, in his high-keyed nervousness, could not forbear a short
hysterical laugh at his friend’s warmth of enthusiasm. He took the fresh
lance in his hand, and then, seeing that his opponent was walking his
horse slowly up and down at his end of the lists, did the same during
the little time of rest before the next encounter.

When, in answer to the command of the Marshal, he took his place a
second time, he found himself calmer and more collected than before, but
every faculty no less intensely fixed than it had been at first. Once
more the Marshal raised his baton, once more the horn sounded, and once
more the two rushed together with the same thunderous crash, the same
splinter of broken spears, the same momentary trembling recoil of
the horse, and the same onward rush past one another. Once more the
spectators applauded and shouted as the two knights turned their horses
and rode back towards their station.

This time as they met midway the Sieur de la Montaigne reined in his
horse. “Sir Myles,” said his muffled voice, “I swear to thee, by my
faith, I had not thought to meet in thee such an opponent as thou dost
prove thyself to be. I had thought to find in thee a raw boy, but find
instead a Paladin. Hitherto I have given thee grace as I would
give grace to any mere lad, and thought of nothing but to give thee
opportunity to break thy lance. Now I shall do my endeavor to unhorse
thee as I would an acknowledged peer in arms. Nevertheless, on account
of thy youth, I give thee this warning, so that thou mayst hold thyself
in readiness.”

“I give thee gramercy for thy courtesy, my Lord,” answered Myles,
speaking in French; “and I will strive to encounter thee as best I may,
and pardon me if I seem forward in so saying, but were I in thy place,
my Lord, I would change me yon breast-piece and over-girth of my saddle;
they are sprung in the stitches.”

“Nay,” said the Sieur de la Montaigne, laughing, “breast-piece and
over-girth have carried me through more tilts than one, and shall
through this. An thou give me a blow so true as to burst breast-piece
and over-girth, I will own myself fairly conquered by thee.” So saying,
he saluted Myles with the butt of the spear he still held, and passed by
to his end of the lists.

Myles, with Gascoyne running beside him, rode across to his pavilion,
and called to Edmund Wilkes to bring him a cup of spiced wine. After
Gascoyne had taken off his helmet, and as he sat wiping the perspiration
from his face Sir James came up and took him by the hand.

“My dear boy,” said he, gripping the hand he held, “never could I hope
to be so overjoyed in mine old age as I am this day. Thou dost bring
honor to me, for I tell thee truly thou dost ride like a knight seasoned
in twenty tourneys.”

“It doth give me tenfold courage to hear thee so say, dear master,”
 answered Myles. “And truly,” he added, “I shall need all my courage
this bout, for the Sieur de la Montaigne telleth me that he will ride to
unhorse me this time.”

“Did he indeed so say?” said Sir James. “Then belike he meaneth to
strike at thy helm. Thy best chance is to strike also at his. Doth thy
hand tremble?”

“Not now,” answered Myles.

“Then keep thy head cool and thine eye true. Set thy trust in God, and
haply thou wilt come out of this bout honorably in spite of the rawness
of thy youth.”

Just then Edmund Wilkes presented the cup of wine to Myles, who drank it
off at a draught, and thereupon Gascoyne replaced the helm and tied the

The charge that Sir James Lee had given to Myles to strike at his
adversary’s helm was a piece of advice he probably would not have given
to so young a knight, excepting as a last resort. A blow perfectly
delivered upon the helm was of all others the most difficult for the
recipient to recover from, but then a blow upon the helm was not one
time in fifty perfectly given. The huge cylindrical tilting helm was so
constructed in front as to slope at an angle in all directions to one
point. That point was the centre of a cross formed by two iron bands
welded to the steel-face plates of the helm where it was weakened by the
opening slit of the occularium, or peephole. In the very centre of
this cross was a little flattened surface where the bands were riveted
together, and it was upon that minute point that the blow must be given
to be perfect, and that stroke Myles determined to attempt.

As he took his station Edmund Wilkes came running across from the
pavilion with a lance that Sir James had chosen, and Myles, returning
the one that Gascoyne had just given him, took it in his hand. It was
of seasoned oak, somewhat thicker than the other, a tough weapon, not
easily to be broken even in such an encounter as he was like to have. He
balanced the weapon, and found that it fitted perfectly to his grasp.
As he raised the point to rest, his opponent took his station at the
farther extremity of the lists, and again there was a little space of
breathless pause. Myles was surprised at his own coolness; every nervous
tremor was gone. Before, he had been conscious of the critical multitude
looking down upon him; now it was a conflict of man to man, and such a
conflict had no terrors for his young heart of iron.

The spectators had somehow come to the knowledge that this was to be
a more serious encounter than the two which had preceded it, and a
breathless silence fell for the moment or two that the knights stood in

Once more he breathed a short prayer, “Holy Mary, guard me!”

Then again, for the third time, the Marshal raised his baton, and the
horn sounded, and for the third time Myles drove his spurs into his
horse’s flanks. Again he saw the iron figure of his opponent rushing
nearer, nearer, nearer. He centred, with a straining intensity, every
faculty of soul, mind, and body upon one point--the cross of the
occularium, the mark he was to strike. He braced himself for the
tremendous shock which he knew must meet him, and then in a flash
dropped lance point straight and true. The next instant there was a
deafening stunning crash--a crash like the stroke of a thunder-bolt.
There was a dazzling blaze of blinding light, and a myriad sparks danced
and flickered and sparkled before his eyes. He felt his horse stagger
under him with the recoil, and hardly knowing what he did, he drove
his spurs deep into its sides with a shout. At the same moment there
resounded in his ears a crashing rattle and clatter, he knew not of
what, and then, as his horse recovered and sprang forward, and as the
stunning bewilderment passed, he found that his helmet had been
struck off. He heard a great shout arise from all, and thought, with a
sickening, bitter disappointment, that it was because he had lost. At
the farther end of the course he turned his horse, and then his heart
gave a leap and a bound as though it would burst, the blood leaped to
his cheeks tingling, and his bosom thrilled with an almost agonizing
pang of triumph, of wonder, of amazement.

There, in a tangle of his horse’s harness and of embroidered trappings,
the Sieur de la Montaigne lay stretched upon the ground, with his saddle
near by, and his riderless horse was trotting aimlessly about at the
farther end of the lists.

Myles saw the two squires of the fallen knight run across to where their
master lay, he saw the ladies waving their kerchiefs and veils, and the
castle people swinging their hats and shouting in an ecstasy of delight.
Then he rode slowly back to where the squires were now aiding the fallen
knight to arise. The senior squire drew his dagger, cut the leather
points, and drew off the helm, disclosing the knight’s face--a face
white as death, and convulsed with rage, mortification, and bitter

“I was not rightly unhorsed!” he cried, hoarsely and with livid lips,
to the Marshal and his attendants, who had ridden up. “I unhelmed him
fairly enough, but my over-girth and breast-strap burst, and my saddle
slipped. I was not unhorsed, I say, and I lay claim that I unhelmed

“Sir,” said the Marshal calmly, and speaking in French, “surely thou
knowest that the loss of helmet does not decide an encounter. I need not
remind thee, my Lord, that it was so awarded by John of Gaunt, Duke of
Lancaster, when in the jousting match between Reynand de Roye and John
de Holland, the Sieur Reynand left every point of his helm loosened, so
that the helm was beaten off at each stroke. If he then was justified in
doing so of his own choice, and wilfully suffering to be unhelmed, how
then can this knight be accused of evil who suffered it by chance?”

“Nevertheless,” said the Sieur de la Montaigne, in the same hoarse,
breathless voice, “I do affirm, and will make my affirmation good
with my body, that I fell only by the breaking of my girth. Who says
otherwise lies!”

“It is the truth he speaketh,” said Myles. “I myself saw the stitches
were some little what burst, and warned him thereof before we ran this

“Sir,” said the Marshal to the Sieur de la Montaigne, “how can you now
complain of that thing which your own enemy advised you of and warned
you against? Was it not right knightly for him so to do?”

The Sieur de la Montaigne stood quite still for a little while, leaning
on the shoulder of his chief squire, looking moodily upon the ground;
then, without making answer, he turned, and walked slowly away to his
pavilion, still leaning on his squire’s shoulder, whilst the other
attendant followed behind, bearing his shield and helmet.

Gascoyne had picked up Myles’s fallen helmet as the Sieur de la
Montaigne moved away, and Lord George and Sir James Lee came walking
across the lists to where Myles still sat. Then, the one taking his
horse by the bridle-rein, and the other walking beside the saddle, they
led him before the raised dais where the King sat.

Even the Comte de Vermoise, mortified and amazed as he must have been
at the overthrow of his best knight, joined in the praise and
congratulation that poured upon the young conqueror. Myles, his heart
swelling with a passion of triumphant delight, looked up and met the
gaze of Lady Alice fixed intently upon him. A red spot of excitement
still burned in either cheek, and it flamed to a rosier red as he bowed
his head to her before turning away.

Gascoyne had just removed Myles’s breastplate and gorget, when Sir James
Lee burst into the pavilion. All his grim coldness was gone, and he
flung his arms around the young man’s neck, hugging him heartily, and
kissing him upon either cheek.

Ere he let him go, “Mine own dear boy,” he said, holding him off at
arm’s-length, and winking his one keen eye rapidly, as though to wink
away a dampness of which he was ashamed--“mine own dear boy, I do tell
thee truly this is as sweet to me as though thou wert mine own son;
sweeter to me than when I first broke mine own lance in triumph, and
felt myself to be a right knight.”

“Sir,” answered Myles, “what thou sayest doth rejoice my very heart.
Ne’theless, it is but just to say that both his breast-piece and
over-girth were burst in the stitches before he ran his course, for so I
saw with mine own eyes.”

“Burst in the stitches!” snorted Sir James. “Thinkest thou he did not
know in what condition was his horse’s gearing? I tell thee he went down
because thou didst strike fair and true, and he did not so strike thee.
Had he been Guy of Warwick he had gone down all the same under such a
stroke and in such case.”


It was not until more than three weeks after the King had left Devlen
Castle that Lord George and his company of knights and archers were
ready for the expedition to France. Two weeks of that time Myles spent
at Crosbey-Dale with his father and mother. It was the first time that
he had seen them since, four years ago, he had quitted the low, narrow,
white-walled farmhouse for the castle of the great Earl of Mackworth. He
had never appreciated before how low and narrow and poor the farm-house
was. Now, with his eyes trained to the bigness of Devlen Castle,
he looked around him with wonder and pity at his father’s humble
surroundings. He realized as he never else could have realized how great
was the fall in fortune that had cast the house of Falworth down from
its rightful station to such a level as that upon which it now rested.
And at the same time that he thus recognized how poor was their lot, how
dependent upon the charity of others, he also recognized how generous
was the friendship of Prior Edward, who perilled his own safety so
greatly in affording the family of the attainted Lord an asylum in its
bitter hour of need and peril.

Myles paid many visits to the gentle old priest during those two weeks’
visit, and had many long and serious talks with him. One warm bright
afternoon, as he and the old man walked together in the priory garden,
after a game or two of draughts, the young knight talked more freely and
openly of his plans, his hopes, his ambitions, than perhaps he had
ever done. He told the old man all that the Earl had disclosed to him
concerning the fallen fortunes of his father’s house, and of how all
who knew those circumstances looked to him to set the family in its old
place once more. Prior Edward added many things to those which Myles
already knew--things of which the Earl either did not know, or did not
choose to speak. He told the young man, among other matters, the reason
of the bitter and lasting enmity that the King felt for the blind
nobleman: that Lord Falworth had been one of King Richard’s council in
times past; that it was not a little owing to him that King Henry, when
Earl of Derby, had been banished from England, and that though he
was then living in the retirement of private life, he bitterly and
steadfastly opposed King Richard’s abdication. He told Myles that at the
time when Sir John Dale found shelter at Falworth Castle, vengeance was
ready to fall upon his father at any moment, and it needed only such a
pretext as that of sheltering so prominent a conspirator as Sir John to
complete his ruin.

Myles, as he listened intently, could not but confess in his own mind
that the King had many rational, perhaps just, grounds for grievance
against such an ardent opponent as the blind Lord had shown himself to
be. “But, sir,” said he, after a little space of silence, when Prior
Edward had ended, “to hold enmity and to breed treason are very
different matters. Haply my father was Bolingbroke’s enemy, but, sure,
thou dost not believe he is justly and rightfully tainted with treason?”

“Nay,” answered the priest, “how canst thou ask me such a thing? Did I
believe thy father a traitor, thinkest thou I would thus tell his son
thereof? Nay, Myles, I do know thy father well, and have known him for
many years, and this of him, that few men are so honorable in heart and
soul as he. But I have told thee all these things to show that the King
is not without some reason to be thy father’s unfriend. Neither, haply,
is the Earl of Alban without cause of enmity against him. So thou, upon
thy part, shouldst not feel bitter rancor against the King for what hath
happed to thy house, nor even against William Brookhurst--I mean the
Earl of Alban--for, I tell thee, the worst of our enemies and the worst
of men believe themselves always to have right and justice upon their
side, even when they most wish evil to others.”

So spoke the gentle old priest, who looked from his peaceful haven with
dreamy eyes upon the sweat and tussle of the world’s battle. Had he
instead been in the thick of the fight, it might have been harder for
him to believe that his enemies ever had right upon their side.

“But tell me this,” said Myles, presently, “dost thou, then, think that
I do evil in seeking to do a battle of life or death with this wicked
Earl of Alban, who hath so ruined my father in body and fortune?”

“Nay,” said Prior Edward, thoughtfully, “I say not that thou doest evil.
War and bloodshed seem hard and cruel matters to me; but God hath given
that they be in the world, and may He forbid that such a poor worm as I
should say that they be all wrong and evil. Meseems even an evil thing
is sometimes passing good when rightfully used.”

Myles did not fully understand what the old man meant, but this much he
gathered, that his spiritual father did not think ill of his fighting
the Earl of Alban for his temporal father’s sake.

So Myles went to France in Lord George’s company, a soldier of fortune,
as his Captain was. He was there for only six months, but those six
months wrought a great change in his life. In the fierce factional
battles that raged around the walls of Paris; in the evil life which
he saw at the Burgundian court in Paris itself after the truce--a court
brilliant and wicked, witty and cruel--the wonderful liquor of youth had
evaporated rapidly, and his character had crystallized as rapidly into
the hardness of manhood. The warfare, the blood, the evil pleasures
which he had seen had been a fiery, crucible test to his soul, and I
love my hero that he should have come forth from it so well. He was no
longer the innocent Sir Galahad who had walked in pure white up the
Long Hall to be knighted by the King, but his soul was of that grim,
sterling, rugged sort that looked out calmly from his gray eyes upon the
wickedness and debauchery around him, and loved it not.

Then one day a courier came, bringing a packet. It was a letter from the
Earl, bidding Myles return straightway to England and to Mackworth House
upon the Strand, nigh to London, without delay, and Myles knew that his
time had come.

It was a bright day in April when he and Gascoyne rode clattering out
through Temple Bar, leaving behind them quaint old London town, its
blank stone wall, its crooked, dirty streets, its high-gabled wooden
houses, over which rose the sharp spire of St. Paul’s, towering high
into the golden air. Before them stretched the straight, broad highway
of the Strand, on one side the great houses and palaces of princely
priests and powerful nobles; on the other the Covent Garden, (or the
Convent Garden, as it was then called), and the rolling country, where
great stone windmills swung their slow-moving arms in the damp, soft
April breeze, and away in the distance the Scottish Palace, the White
Hall, and Westminster.

It was the first time that Myles had seen famous London town. In that
dim and distant time of his boyhood, six months before, he would
have been wild with delight and enthusiasm. Now he jogged along with
Gascoyne, gazing about him with calm interest at open shops and booths
and tall, gabled houses; at the busy throng of merchants and craftsmen,
jostling and elbowing one another; at townsfolk--men and dames--picking
their way along the muddy kennel of a sidewalk. He had seen so much of
the world that he had lost somewhat of interest in new things. So he
did not care to tarry, but rode, with a mind heavy with graver matters,
through the streets and out through the Temple Bar direct for Mackworth
House, near the Savoy Palace.

It was with a great deal of interest that Myles and his patron regarded
one another when they met for the first time after that half-year which
the young soldier had spent in France. To Myles it seemed somehow very
strange that his Lordship’s familiar face and figure should look so
exactly the same. To Lord Mackworth, perhaps, it seemed even more
strange that six short months should have wrought so great a change in
the young man. The rugged exposure in camp and field during the hard
winter that had passed had roughened the smooth bloom of his boyish
complexion and bronzed his fair skin almost as much as a midsummer’s sun
could have done. His beard and mustache had grown again, (now heavier
and more mannish from having been shaved), and the white seam of a scar
over the right temple gave, if not a stern, at least a determined look
to the strong, square-jawed young face. So the two stood for a while
regarding one another. Myles was the first to break the silence.

“My Lord,” said he, “thou didst send for me to come back to England;
behold, here am I.”

“When didst thou land, Sir Myles?” said the Earl.

“I and my squire landed at Dover upon Tuesday last,” answered the young

The Earl of Mackworth stroked his beard softly. “Thou art marvellous
changed,” said he. “I would not have thought it possible.”

Myles smiled somewhat grimly. “I have seen such things, my Lord, in
France and in Paris,” said he, quietly, “as, mayhap, may make a lad a
man before his time.”

“From which I gather,” said the Earl, “that many adventures have
befallen thee. Methought thou wouldst find troublesome times in the
Dauphin’s camp, else I would not have sent thee to France.”

A little space of silence followed, during which the Earl sat musingly,
half absently, regarding the tall, erect, powerful young figure standing
before him, awaiting his pleasure in motionless, patient, almost dogged
silence. The strong, sinewy hands were clasped and rested upon the long
heavy sword, around the scabbard of which the belt was loosely wrapped,
and the plates of mail caught and reflected in flashing, broken pieces,
the bright sunlight from the window behind.

“Sir Myles,” said the Earl, suddenly, breaking the silence at last,
“dost thou know why I sent for thee hither?”

“Aye,” said Myles, calmly, “how can I else? Thou wouldst not have called
me from Paris but for one thing. Methinks thou hast sent for me to fight
the Earl of Alban, and lo! I am here.”

“Thou speakest very boldly,” said the Earl. “I do hope that thy deeds be
as bold as thy words.”

“That,” said Myles, “thou must ask other men. Methinks no one may justly
call me coward.”

“By my troth!” said the Earl, smiling, “looking upon thee--limbs and
girth, bone and sinew--I would not like to be the he that would dare
accuse thee of such a thing. As for thy surmise, I may tell thee plain
that thou art right, and that it was to fight the Earl of Alban I sent
for thee hither. The time is now nearly ripe, and I will straightway
send for thy father to come to London. Meantime it would not be safe
either for thee or for me to keep thee in my service. I have spoken to
his Highness the Prince of Wales, who, with other of the Princes, is
upon our side in this quarrel. He hath promised to take thee into his
service until the fitting time comes to bring thee and thine enemy
together, and to-morrow I shall take thee to Scotland Yard, where his
Highness is now lodging.”

As the Earl ended his speech, Myles bowed, but did not speak. The Earl
waited for a little while, as though to give him the opportunity to

“Well, sirrah,” said he at last, with a shade of impatience, “hast thou
naught to say? Meseems thou takest all this with marvellous coolness.”

“Have I then my Lord’s permission to speak my mind?”

“Aye,” said the Earl, “say thy say.”

“Sir,” said Myles, “I have thought and pondered this matter much while
abroad, and would now ask thee a plain question in all honest an I ha’
thy leave.”

The Earl nodded his head.

“Sir, am I not right in believing that thou hast certain weighty
purposes and aims of thine own to gain an I win this battle against the
Earl of Alban?”

“Has my brother George been telling thee aught to such a purpose?” said
the Earl, after a moment or two of silence.

Myles did not answer.

“No matter,” added Lord Mackworth. “I will not ask thee who told thee
such a thing. As for thy question--well, sin thou ask it frankly, I will
be frank with thee. Yea, I have certain ends to gain in having the Earl
of Alban overthrown.”

Myles bowed. “Sir,” said he, “haply thine ends are as much beyond aught
that I can comprehend as though I were a little child; only this I know,
that they must be very great. Thou knowest well that in any case I would
fight me this battle for my father’s sake and for the honor of my house;
nevertheless, in return for all that it will so greatly advantage thee,
wilt thou not grant me a boon in return should I overcome mine enemy?”

“What is thy boon, Sir Myles?”

“That thou wilt grant me thy favor to seek the Lady Alice de Mowbray for
my wife.”

The Earl of Mackworth started up from his seat. “Sir Myles Falworth”--he
began, violently, and then stopped short, drawing his bushy eyebrows
together into a frown stern, if not sinister.

Myles withstood his look calmly and impassively, and presently the Earl
turned on his heel, and strode to the open window. A long time passed in
silence while he stood there, gazing out of the window into the garden
beyond with his back to the young man.

Suddenly he swung around again. “Sir Myles,” said he, “the family of
Falworth is as good as any in Derbyshire. Just now it is poor and fallen
in estate, but if it is again placed in credit and honor, thou, who art
the son of the house, shalt have thy suit weighed with as much respect
and consideration as though thou wert my peer in all things, Such is my
answer. Art thou satisfied?”

“I could ask no more,” answered Myles.


That night Myles lodged at Mackworth House. The next morning, as soon
as he had broken his fast, which he did in the privacy of his own
apartments, the Earl bade him and Gascoyne to make ready for the barge,
which was then waiting at the river stairs to take them to Scotland

The Earl himself accompanied them, and as the heavy snub-nosed boat,
rowed by the six oarsmen in Mackworth livery, slid slowly and heavily
up against the stream, the Earl, leaning back in his cushioned seat,
pointed out the various inns of the great priests or nobles; palatial
town residences standing mostly a little distance back from the water
behind terraced high-walled gardens and lawns. Yon was the Bishop of
Exeter’s Close; yon was the Bishop of Bath’s; that was York House; and
that Chester Inn. So passing by gardens and lawns and palaces, they came
at last to Scotland Yard stairs, a broad flight of marble steps that led
upward to a stone platform above, upon which opened the gate-way of the
garden beyond.

The Scotland Yard of Myles Falworth’s day was one of the more
pretentious and commodious of the palaces of the Strand. It took its
name from having been from ancient times the London inn which the
tributary Kings of Scotland occupied when on their periodical visits of
homage to England. Now, during this time of Scotland’s independence, the
Prince of Wales had taken up his lodging in the old palace, and made it
noisy with the mad, boisterous mirth of his court.

As the watermen drew the barge close to the landing-place of the stairs,
the Earl stepped ashore, and followed by Myles and Gascoyne, ascended
to the broad gate-way of the river wall of the garden. Three men-at-arms
who lounged upon a bench under the shade of the little pent roof of a
guard-house beside the wall, arose and saluted as the well-known figure
of the Earl mounted the steps. The Earl nodded a cool answer, and
passing unchallenged through the gate, led the way up a pleached walk,
beyond which, as Myles could see, there stretched a little grassy lawn
and a stone-paved terrace. As the Earl and the two young men approached
the end of the walk, they were met by the sound of voices and laughter,
the clinking of glasses and the rattle of dishes. Turning a corner,
they came suddenly upon a party of young gentlemen, who sat at a late
breakfast under the shade of a wide-spreading lime-tree. They had
evidently just left the tilt-yard, for two of the guests--sturdy,
thick-set young knights--yet wore a part of their tilting armor.

Behind the merry scene stood the gray, hoary old palace, a steep flight
of stone steps, and a long, open, stone-arched gallery, which evidently
led to the kitchen beyond, for along it hurried serving-men, running up
and down the tall flight of steps, and bearing trays and dishes and cups
and flagons. It was a merry sight and a pleasant one. The day was warm
and balmy, and the yellow sunlight fell in waving uncertain patches of
light, dappling the table-cloth, and twinkling and sparkling upon the
dishes, cups, and flagons.

At the head of the table sat a young man some three or four years
older than Myles, dressed in a full suit of rich blue brocaded velvet,
embroidered with gold-thread and trimmed with black fur. His face, which
was turned towards them as they mounted from the lawn to the little
stone-flagged terrace, was frank and open; the cheeks smooth and fair;
the eyes dark and blue. He was tall and rather slight, and wore his
thick yellow hair hanging to his shoulders, where it was cut square
across, after the manner of the times. Myles did not need to be told
that it was the Prince of Wales.

“Ho, Gaffer Fox!” he cried, as soon as he caught sight of the Earl of
Mackworth, “what wind blows thee hither among us wild mallard drakes?
I warrant it is not for love of us, but only to fill thine own larder
after the manner of Sir Fox among the drakes. Whom hast thou with thee?
Some gosling thou art about to pluck?”

A sudden hush fell upon the company, and all faces were turned towards
the visitors.

The Earl bowed with a soft smile. “Your Highness,” said he, smoothly,
“is pleased to be pleasant. Sir, I bring you the young knight of whom I
spoke to you some time since--Sir Myles Falworth. You may be pleased to
bring to mind that you so condescended as to promise to take him into
your train until the fitting time arrived for that certain matter of
which we spoke.”

“Sir Myles,” said the Prince of Wales, with a frank, pleasant smile, “I
have heard great reports of thy skill and prowess in France, both from
Mackworth and from others. It will pleasure me greatly to have thee in
my household; more especially,” he added, “as it will get thee, callow
as thou art, out of my Lord Fox’s clutches. Our faction cannot do
without the Earl of Mackworth’s cunning wits, Sir Myles; ne’theless I
would not like to put all my fate and fortune into his hands without
bond. I hope that thou dost not rest thy fortunes entirely upon his aid
and countenance.”

All who were present felt the discomfort of the Prince’s speech, It was
evident that one of his mad, wild humors was upon him. In another case
the hare-brained young courtiers around might have taken their cue
from him, but the Earl of Mackworth was no subject for their gibes
and witticisms. A constrained silence fell, in which the Earl alone
maintained a perfect ease of manner.

Myles bowed to hide his own embarrassment. “Your Highness,” said he,
evasively, “I rest my fortune, first of all, upon God, His strength and

“Thou wilt find safer dependence there than upon the Lord of Mackworth,”
 said the Prince, dryly. “But come,” he added, with a sudden change of
voice and manner, “these be jests that border too closely upon bitter
earnest for a merry breakfast. It is ill to idle with edged tools. Wilt
thou not stay and break thy fast with us, my Lord?”

“Pardon me, your Highness,” said the Earl, bowing, and smiling the same
smooth smile his lips had worn from the first--such a smile as Myles
had never thought to have seen upon his haughty face; “I crave your good
leave to decline. I must return home presently, for even now, haply,
your uncle, his Grace of Winchester, is awaiting my coming upon the
business you wot of. Haply your Highness will find more joyance in a
lusty young knight like Sir Myles than in an old fox like myself. So I
leave him with you, in your good care.”

Such was Myles’s introduction to the wild young madcap Prince of Wales,
afterwards the famous Henry V, the conqueror of France.

For a month or more thereafter he was a member of the princely
household, and, after a little while, a trusted and honored member.
Perhaps it was the calm sturdy strength, the courage of the young
knight, that first appealed to the Prince’s royal heart; perhaps
afterwards it was the more sterling qualities that underlaid that
courage that drew him to the young man; certain it was that in two weeks
Myles was the acknowledged favorite. He made no protestation of virtue;
he always accompanied the Prince in those madcap ventures to London,
where he beheld all manner of wild revelry; he never held himself aloof
from his gay comrades, but he looked upon all their mad sports with the
same calm gaze that had carried him without taint through the courts of
Burgundy and the Dauphin. The gay, roistering young lords and gentlemen
dubbed him Saint Myles, and jested with him about hair-cloth shirts
and flagellations, but witticism and jest alike failed to move Myles’s
patient virtue; he went his own gait in the habits of his life, and in
so going knew as little as the others of the mad court that the Prince’s
growing liking for him was, perhaps, more than all else, on account of
that very temperance.

Then, by-and-by, the Prince began to confide in him as he did in none of
the others. There was no great love betwixt the King and his son; it has
happened very often that the Kings of England have felt bitter jealousy
towards the heirs-apparent as they have grown in power, and such was the
case with the great King Henry IV. The Prince often spoke to Myles of
the clashing and jarring between himself and his father, and the thought
began to come to Myles’s mind by degrees that maybe the King’s jealousy
accounted not a little for the Prince’s reckless intemperance.

Once, for instance, as the Prince leaned upon, his shoulder waiting,
whilst the attendants made ready the barge that was to carry them down
the river to the city, he said, abruptly: “Myles, what thinkest thou of
us all? Doth not thy honesty hold us in contempt?”

“Nay, Highness,” said Myles. “How could I hold contempt?”

“Marry,” said the Prince, “I myself hold contempt, and am not as honest
a man as thou. But, prithee, have patience with me, Myles. Some day,
perhaps, I too will live a clean life. Now, an I live seriously, the
King will be more jealous of me than ever, and that is not a little.
Maybe I live thus so that he may not know what I really am in soothly

The Prince also often talked to Myles concerning his own affairs; of
the battle he was to fight for his father’s honor, of how the Earl of
Mackworth had plotted and planned to bring him face to face with the
Earl of Alban. He spoke to Myles more than once of the many great
changes of state and party that hung upon the downfall of the enemy
of the house of Falworth, and showed him how no hand but his own could
strike that enemy down; if he fell, it must be through the son of
Falworth. Sometimes it seemed to Myles as though he and his blind father
were the centre of a great web of plot and intrigue, stretching far and
wide, that included not only the greatest houses of England, but royalty
and the political balance of the country as well, and even before the
greatness of it all he did not flinch.

Then, at last, came the beginning of the time for action. It was in the
early part of May, and Myles had been a member of the Prince’s household
for a little over a month. One morning he was ordered to attend the
Prince in his privy cabinet, and, obeying the summons, he found the
Prince, his younger brother, the Duke of Bedford, and his uncle, the
Bishop of Winchester, seated at a table, where they had just been
refreshing themselves with a flagon of wine and a plate of wafers.

“My poor Myles,” said the Prince, smiling, as the young knight bowed to
the three, and then stood erect, as though on duty. “It shames my heart,
brother--and thou, uncle--it shames my heart to be one privy to this
thing which we are set upon to do. Here be we, the greatest Lords of
England, making a cat’s-paw of this lad--for he is only yet a boy--and
of his blind father, for to achieve our ends against Alban’s faction. It
seemeth not over-honorable to my mind.”

“Pardon me, your Highness,” said Myles, blushing to the roots of his
hair; “but, an I may be so bold as to speak, I reck nothing of what your
aims may be; I only look to restoring my father’s honor and the honor of
our house.”

“Truly,” said the Prince, smiling, “that is the only matter that maketh
me willing to lay my hands to this business. Dost thou know why I have
sent for thee? It is because this day thou must challenge the Duke of
Alban before the King. The Earl of Mackworth has laid all his plans and
the time is now ripe. Knowest that thy father is at Mackworth House?”

“Nay,” said Myles; “I knew it not.”

“He hath been there for nearly two days,” said the Prince. “Just now the
Earl hath sent for us to come first to Mackworth House. Then to go
to the palace, for he hath gained audience with the King, and hath so
arranged it that the Earl of Alban is to be there as well. We all go
straightway; so get thyself ready as soon as may be.”

Perhaps Myles’s heart began beating more quickly within him at the
nearness of that great happening which he had looked forward to for so
long. If it did, he made no sign of his emotion, but only asked, “How
must I clothe myself, your Highness?”

“Wear thy light armor,” said the Prince, “but no helmet, a juppon
bearing the arms and colors that the Earl gave thee when thou wert
knighted, and carry thy right-hand gauntlet under thy belt for thy
challenge. Now make haste, for time passes.”


Adjoining the ancient palace of Westminster, where King Henry IV was
then holding his court, was a no less ancient stone building known as
the Painted Room. Upon the walls were depicted a series of battle scenes
in long bands reaching around this room, one above another. Some of
these pictures had been painted as far back as the days of Henry III,
others had been added since his time. They chronicled the various wars
of the King of England, and it was from them that the little hall took
its name of the Painted Room.

This ancient wing, or offshoot, of the main buildings was more retired
from the hurly-burly of outer life than other parts of the palace, and
thither the sick King was very fond of retiring from the business of
State, which ever rested more and more heavily upon his shoulders,
sometimes to squander in quietness a spare hour or two; sometimes to
idle over a favorite book; sometimes to play a game of chess with a
favorite courtier. The cold painted walls had been hung with tapestry,
and its floor had been spread with arras carpet. These and the cushioned
couches and chairs that stood around gave its gloomy antiquity an air of
comfort--an air even of luxury.

It was to this favorite retreat of the King’s that Myles was brought
that morning with his father to face the great Earl of Alban.

In the anteroom the little party of Princes and nobles who escorted
the father and son had held a brief consultation. Then the others had
entered, leaving Myles and his blind father in charge of Lord Lumley and
two knights of the court, Sir Reginald Hallowell and Sir Piers Averell.

Myles, as he stood patiently waiting, with his father’s arm resting in
his, could hear the muffled sound of voices from beyond the arras. Among
others, he recognized the well-remembered tones of the King. He fancied
that he heard his own name mentioned more than once, and then the sound
of talking ceased. The next moment the arras was drawn aside, and the
Earl entered the antechamber again.

“All is ready, cousin,” said he to Lord Falworth, in a suppressed voice.
“Essex hath done as he promised, and Alban is within there now.” Then,
turning to Myles, speaking in the same low voice, and betraying more
agitation than Myles had thought it possible for him to show, “Sir
Myles,” said he, “remember all that hath been told thee. Thou knowest
what thou hast to say and do.” Then, without further word, he took Lord
Falworth by the hand, and led the way into the room, Myles following
close behind.

The King half sat, half inclined, upon a cushioned seat close to which
stood the two Princes. There were some dozen others present, mostly
priests and noblemen of high quality who clustered in a group at a
little distance. Myles knew most of them at a glance having seen them
come and go at Scotland Yard. But among them all, he singled out only
one--the Earl of Alban. He had not seen that face since he was a little
child eight years old, but now that he beheld it again, it fitted
instantly and vividly into the remembrance of the time of that terrible
scene at Falworth Castle, when he had beheld the then Lord Brookhurst
standing above the dead body of Sir John Dale, with the bloody mace
clinched in his hand. There were the same heavy black brows, sinister
and gloomy, the same hooked nose, the same swarthy cheeks. He even
remembered the deep dent in the forehead, where the brows met in
perpetual frown. So it was that upon that face his looks centred and

The Earl of Alban had just been speaking to some Lord who stood beside
him, and a half-smile still hung about the corners of his lips. At
first, as he looked up at the entrance of the newcomers, there was no
other expression; then suddenly came a flash of recognition, a look of
wide-eyed amazement; then the blood left the cheeks and the lips, and
the face grew very pale. No doubt he saw at a flash that some great
danger overhung him in this sudden coming of his old enemy, for he was
as keen and as astute a politician as he was a famous warrior. At least
he knew that the eyes of most of those present were fixed keenly and
searchingly upon him. After the first start of recognition, his left
hand, hanging at his side, gradually closed around the scabbard of his
sword, clutching it in a vice-like grip.

Meantime the Earl of Mackworth had led the blind Lord to the King, where
both kneeled.

“Why, how now, my Lord?” said the King. “Methought it was our young
Paladin whom we knighted at Devlen that was to be presented, and here
thou bringest this old man. A blind man, ha! What is the meaning of

“Majesty,” said the Earl, “I have taken this chance to bring to thy
merciful consideration one who hath most wofully and unjustly suffered
from thine anger. Yonder stands the young knight of whom we spake; this
is his father, Gilbert Reginald, whilom Lord Falworth, who craves mercy
and justice at thy hands.”

“Falworth,” said the King, placing his hand to his head. “The name is
not strange to mine ears, but I cannot place it. My head hath troubled
me sorely to-day, and I cannot remember.”

At this point the Earl of Alban came quietly and deliberately forward.
“Sire,” said he, “pardon my boldness in so venturing to address you, but
haply I may bring the name more clearly to your mind. He is, as my Lord
of Mackworth said, the whilom Baron Falworth, the outlawed, attainted
traitor; so declared for the harboring of Sir John Dale, who was one of
those who sought your Majesty’s life at Windsor eleven years ago.
Sire, he is mine enemy as well, and is brought hither by my proclaimed
enemies. Should aught occur to my harm, I rest my case in your gracious

The dusty red flamed into the King’s pale, sickly face in answer, and he
rose hastily from his seat.

“Aye,” said he, “I remember me now--I remember me the man and the name!
Who hath dared bring him here before us?” All the dull heaviness of
sickness was gone for the moment, and King Henry was the King Henry of
ten years ago as he rolled his eyes balefully from one to another of the
courtiers who stood silently around.

The Earl of Mackworth shot a covert glance at the Bishop of Winchester,
who came forward in answer.

“Your Majesty,” said he, “here am I, your brother, who beseech you as
your brother not to judge over-hastily in this matter. It is true
that this man has been adjudged a traitor, but he has been so adjudged
without a hearing. I beseech thee to listen patiently to whatsoever he
may have to say.”

The King fixed the Bishop with a look of the bitterest, deepest anger,
holding his nether lip tightly under his teeth--a trick he had when
strongly moved with anger--and the Bishop’s eyes fell under the look.
Meantime the Earl of Alban stood calm and silent. No doubt he saw that
the King’s anger was likely to befriend him more than any words that he
himself could say, and he perilled his case with no more speech which
could only prove superfluous.

At last the King turned a face red and swollen with anger to the blind
Lord, who still kneeled before him.

“What hast thou to say?” he said, in a deep and sullen voice.

“Gracious and merciful Lord,” said the blind nobleman, “I come to thee,
the fountain-head of justice, craving justice. Sire, I do now and here
deny my treason, which denial I could not before make, being blind and
helpless, and mine enemies strong and malignant. But now, sire, Heaven
hath sent me help, and therefore I do acclaim before thee that my
accuser, William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of Alban, is a foul and an
attainted liar in all that he hath accused me of. To uphold which
allegation, and to defend me, who am blinded by his unknightliness, I do
offer a champion to prove all that I say with his body in combat.”

The Earl of Mackworth darted a quick look at Myles, who came forward the
moment his father had ended, and kneeled beside him. The King offered no
interruption to his speech, but he bent a look heavy with anger upon the
young man.

“My gracious Lord and King,” said Myles, “I, the son of the accused, do
offer myself as his champion in this cause, beseeching thee of thy grace
leave to prove the truth of the same, being a belted knight by thy grace
and of thy creation and the peer of any who weareth spurs.” Thereupon,
rising, he drew his iron gauntlet from his girdle, and flung it clashing
down upon the floor, and with his heart swelling within him with anger
and indignation and pity of his blind father, he cried, in a loud
voice, “I do accuse thee, William of Alban, that thou liest vilely as
aforesaid, and here cast down my gage, daring thee to take it up.”

The Earl of Alban made as though he would accept the challenge, but the
King stopped him hastily.

“Stop!” he cried, harshly. “Touch not the gage! Let it lie--let it lie,
I tell thee, my Lord! Now then,” said he, turning to the others, “tell
me what meaneth all this coil? Who brought this man hither?”

He looked from one to another of those who stood silently around, but no
one answered.

“I see,” said he, “ye all have had to do with it. It is as my Lord of
Alban sayeth; ye are his enemies, and ye are my enemies as well. In this
I do smell a vile plot. I cannot undo what I have done, and since I have
made this young man a knight with mine own hands, I cannot deny that
he is fit to challenge my Lord of Alban. Ne’theless, the High Court of
Chivalry shall adjudge this case. Meantime,” said he, turning to the
Earl Marshal, who was present, “I give thee this attainted Lord in
charge. Convey him presently to the Tower, and let him abide our
pleasure there. Also, thou mayst take up yon gage, and keep it till it
is redeemed according to our pleasure.”

He stood thoughtfully for a moment, and then raising his eyes, looked
fixedly at the Earl of Mackworth. “I know,” he said, “that I be a right
sick man, and there be some who are already plotting to overthrow those
who have held up my hand with their own strength for all these years.”
 Then speaking more directly: “My Lord Earl of Mackworth, I see your hand
in this before all others. It was thou who so played upon me as to get
me to knight this young man, and thus make him worthy to challenge my
Lord of Alban. It was thy doings that brought him here to-day, backed
by mine own sons and my brother and by these noblemen.” Then turning
suddenly to the Earl of Alban: “Come, my Lord,” said he; “I am aweary
with all this coil. Lend me thine arm to leave this place.” So it
was that he left the room, leaning upon the Earl of Alban’s arm, and
followed by the two or three of the Alban faction who were present.

“Your Royal Highness,” said the Earl Marshal, “I must e’en do the King’s
bidding, and take this gentleman into arrest.”

“Do thy duty,” said the Prince. “We knew it must come to this. Meanwhile
he is to be a prisoner of honor, and see that he be well lodged and
cared for. Thou wilt find my barge at the stairs to convey him down the
river, and I myself will come this afternoon to visit him.”


It was not until the end of July that the High Court of Chivalry
rendered its judgment. There were many unusual points in the case, some
of which bore heavily against Lord Falworth, some of which were in
his favor. He was very ably defended by the lawyers whom the Earl
of Mackworth had engaged upon his side; nevertheless, under ordinary
circumstances, the judgment, no doubt, would have been quickly rendered
against him. As it was, however, the circumstances were not ordinary,
and it was rendered in his favor. The Court besought the King to grant
the ordeal by battle, to accept Lord Falworth’s champion, and to appoint
the time and place for the meeting.

The decision must have been a most bitter, galling one for the sick
King. He was naturally of a generous, forgiving nature, but Lord
Falworth in his time of power had been an unrelenting and fearless
opponent, and his Majesty who, like most generous men, could on
occasions be very cruel and intolerant, had never forgiven him. He had
steadily thrown the might of his influence with the Court against the
Falworths’ case, but that influence was no longer all-powerful for good
or ill. He was failing in health, and it could only be a matter of a few
years, probably of only a few months, before his successor sat upon the

Upon the other hand, the Prince of Wales’s faction had been steadily,
and of late rapidly, increasing in power, and in the Earl of Mackworth,
its virtual head, it possessed one of the most capable politicians and
astute intriguers in Europe. So, as the outcome of all the plotting and
counter-plotting, scheming and counter-scheming, the case was decided in
Lord Falworth’s favor. The knowledge of the ultimate result was known
to the Prince of Wales’s circle almost a week before it was finally
decided. Indeed, the Earl of Mackworth had made pretty sure of that
result before he had summoned Myles from France, but upon the King it
fell like the shock of a sudden blow. All that day he kept himself in
moody seclusion, nursing his silent, bitter anger, and making only
one outbreak, in which he swore by the Holy Rood that should Myles be
worsted in the encounter, he would not take the battle into his own
hands, but would suffer him to be slain, and furthermore, that should
the Earl show signs of failing at any time, he would do all in his power
to save him. One of the courtiers who had been present, and who was
secretly inclined to the Prince of Wales’s faction, had repeated this
speech at Scotland Yard, and the Prince had said, “That meaneth, Myles,
that thou must either win or die.”

“And so I would have it to be, my Lord,” Myles had answered.

It was not until nearly a fortnight after the decision of the Court of
Chivalry had been rendered that the King announced the time and place
of battle--the time to be the 3d of September, the place to be
Smithfield--a spot much used for such encounters.

During the three weeks or so that intervened between this announcement
and the time of combat, Myles went nearly every day to visit the lists
in course of erection. Often the Prince went with him; always two or
three of his friends of the Scotland Yard court accompanied him.

The lists were laid out in the usual form. The true or principal list in
which the combatants were to engage was sixty yards long and forty yards
wide; this rectangular space being surrounded by a fence about six feet
high, painted vermilion. Between the fence and the stand where the King
and the spectators sat, and surrounding the central space, was the
outer or false list, also surrounded by a fence. In the false list the
Constable and the Marshal and their followers and attendants were to be
stationed at the time of battle to preserve the general peace during the
contest between the principals.

One day as Myles, his princely patron, and his friends entered the
barriers, leaving their horses at the outer gate, they met the Earl of
Alban and his followers, who were just quitting the lists, which they
also were in the habit of visiting nearly every day. As the two parties
passed one another, the Earl spoke to a gentleman walking beside him and
in a voice loud enough to be clearly overheard by the others: “Yonder
is the young sprig of Falworth,” said he. “His father, my Lords, is
not content with forfeiting his own life for his treason, but must,
forsooth, throw away his son’s also. I have faced and overthrown many a
better knight than that boy.”

Myles heard the speech, and knew that it was intended for him to hear
it; but he paid no attention to it, walking composedly at the Prince’s
side. The Prince had also overheard it, and after a little space of
silence asked, “Dost thou not feel anxiety for thy coming battle,

“Yea, my Lord,” said Myles; “sometimes I do feel anxiety, but not such
as my Lord of Alban would have me feel in uttering the speech that he
spake anon. It is anxiety for my father’s sake and my mother’s sake that
I feel, for truly there are great matters for them pending upon this
fight. Ne’theless, I do know that God will not desert me in my cause,
for verily my father is no traitor.”

“But the Earl of Alban,” said the Prince, gravely, “is reputed one of
the best-skilled knights in all England; moreover, he is merciless and
without generosity, so that an he gain aught advantage over thee, he
will surely slay thee.”

“I am not afraid, my Lord,” said Myles, still calmly and composedly.

“Nor am I afraid for thee, Myles,” said the Prince, heartily, putting
his arm, as he spoke, around the young man’s shoulder; “for truly, wert
thou a knight of forty years, instead of one of twenty, thou couldst not
bear thyself with more courage.”

As the time for the duel approached, the days seemed to drag themselves
along upon leaden feet; nevertheless, the days came and went, as all
days do, bringing with them, at last, the fateful 3d of September.

Early in the morning, while the sun was still level and red, the Prince
himself, unattended, came to Myles’s apartment, in the outer room of
which Gascoyne was bustling busily about arranging the armor piece by
piece; renewing straps and thongs, but not whistling over his work as he
usually did. The Prince nodded to him, and then passed silently through
to the inner chamber. Myles was upon his knees, and Father Ambrose,
the Prince’s chaplain, was beside him. The Prince stood silently at the
door, until Myles, having told his last bead, rose and turned towards

“My dear Lord,” said the young knight, “I give you gramercy for the
great honor you do me in coming so early for to visit me.”

“Nay, Myles, give me no thanks,” said the Prince, frankly reaching him
his hand, which Myles took and set to his lips. “I lay bethinking me of
thee this morning, while yet in bed, and so, as I could not sleep any
more, I was moved to come hither to see thee.”

Quite a number of the Prince’s faction were at the breakfast at Scotland
Yard that morning; among others, the Earl of Mackworth. All were more or
less oppressed with anxiety, for nearly all of them had staked much upon
the coming battle. If Alban conquered, he would be more powerful to harm
them and to revenge himself upon them than ever, and Myles was a very
young champion upon whom to depend. Myles himself, perhaps, showed as
little anxiety as any; he certainly ate more heartily of his breakfast
that morning than many of the others.

After the meal was ended, the Prince rose. “The boat is ready at the
stairs,” said he; “if thou wouldst go to the Tower to visit thy father,
Myles, before hearing mass, I and Cholmondeley and Vere and Poins will
go with thee, if ye, Lords and gentlemen, will grant me your pardon
for leaving you. Are there any others that thou wouldst have accompany

“I would have Sir James Lee and my squire, Master Gascoyne, if thou art
so pleased to give them leave to go,” answered Myles.

“So be it,” said the Prince. “We will stop at Mackworth stairs for the

The barge landed at the west stairs of the Tower wharf, and the whole
party were received with more than usual civilities by the Governor, who
conducted them at once to the Tower where Lord Falworth was lodged. Lady
Falworth met them at the head of the stairs; her eyes were very red and
her face pale, and as Myles raised her hand and set a long kiss upon it,
her lips trembled, and she turned her face quickly away, pressing
her handkerchief for one moment to her eyes. Poor lady! What agony of
anxiety and dread did she not suffer for her boy’s sake that day! Myles
had not hidden both from her and his father that he must either win or

As Myles turned from his mother, Prior Edward came out from the inner
chamber, and was greeted warmly by him. The old priest had arrived in
London only the day before, having come down from Crosbey Priory to be
with his friend’s family during this their time of terrible anxiety.

After a little while of general talk, the Prince and his attendants
retired, leaving the family together, only Sir James Lee and Gascoyne
remaining behind.

Many matters that had been discussed before were now finally settled,
the chief of which was the disposition of Lady Falworth in case the
battle should go against them. Then Myles took his leave, kissing his
mother, who began crying, and comforting her with brave assurances.
Prior Edward accompanied him as far as the head of the Tower stairs,
where Myles kneeled upon the stone steps, while the good priest blessed
him and signed the cross upon his forehead. The Prince was waiting in
the walled garden adjoining, and as they rowed back again up the river
to Scotland Yard, all were thoughtful and serious, even Poins’ and
Vere’s merry tongues being stilled from their usual quips and jesting.

It was about the quarter of the hour before eleven o’clock when Myles,
with Gascoyne, set forth for the lists. The Prince of Wales, together
with most of his court, had already gone on to Smithfield, leaving
behind him six young knights of his household to act as escort to the
young champion. Then at last the order to horse was given; the great
gate swung open, and out they rode, clattering and jingling, the
sunlight gleaming and flaming and flashing upon their polished armor.
They drew rein to the right, and so rode in a little cloud of dust along
the Strand Street towards London town, with the breeze blowing merrily,
and the sunlight shining as sweetly and blithesomely as though they were
riding to a wedding rather than to a grim and dreadful ordeal that meant
either victory or death.


In the days of King Edward III a code of laws relating to trial by
battle had been compiled for one of his sons, Thomas of Woodstock. In
this work each and every detail, to the most minute, had been arranged
and fixed, and from that time judicial combats had been regulated in
accordance with its mandates.

It was in obedience to this code that Myles Falworth appeared at the
east gate of the lists (the east gate being assigned by law to the
challenger), clad in full armor of proof, attended by Gascoyne, and
accompanied by two of the young knights who had acted as his escort from
Scotland Yard.

At the barriers he was met by the attorney Willingwood, the chief lawyer
who had conducted the Falworth case before the High Court of Chivalry,
and who was to attend him during the administration of the oaths before
the King.

As Myles presented himself at the gate he was met by the Constable, the
Marshal, and their immediate attendants. The Constable, laying his hand
upon the bridle-rein, said, in a loud voice: “Stand, Sir Knight, and
tell me why thou art come thus armed to the gates of the lists. What is
thy name? Wherefore art thou come?”

Myles answered, “I am Myles Falworth, a Knight of the Bath by grace of
his Majesty King Henry IV and by his creation, and do come hither to
defend my challenge upon the body of William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of
Alban, proclaiming him an unknightly knight and a false and perjured
liar, in that he hath accused Gilbert Reginald, Lord Falworth, of
treason against our beloved Lord, his Majesty the King, and may God
defend the right!”

As he ended speaking, the Constable advanced close to his side, and
formally raising the umbril of the helmet, looked him in the face.
Thereupon, having approved his identity, he ordered the gates to be
opened, and bade Myles enter the lists with his squire and his friends.

At the south side of the lists a raised scaffolding had been built for
the King and those who looked on. It was not unlike that which had
been erected at Devlen Castle when Myles had first jousted as belted
knight--here were the same raised seat for the King, the tapestries, the
hangings, the fluttering pennons, and the royal standard floating above;
only here were no fair-faced ladies looking down upon him, but instead,
stern-browed Lords and knights in armor and squires, and here were no
merry laughing and buzz of talk and flutter of fans and kerchiefs, but
all was very quiet and serious.

Myles riding upon his horse, with Gascoyne holding the bridle-rein,
and his attorney walking beside him with his hand upon the stirrups,
followed the Constable across the lists to an open space in front of the
seat where the King sat. Then, having reached his appointed station, he
stopped, and the Constable, advancing to the foot of the stair-way that
led to the dais above, announced in a loud voice that the challenger had
entered the lists.

“Then called the defendant straightway,” said the King, “for noon
draweth nigh.”

The day was very warm, and the sun, bright and unclouded, shone fiercely
down upon the open lists. Perhaps few men nowadays could bear the
scorching heat of iron plates such as Myles wore, from which the body
was only protected by a leathern jacket and hose. But men’s bodies in
those days were tougher and more seasoned to hardships of weather than
they are in these our times. Myles thought no more of the burning
iron plates that incased him than a modern soldier thinks of his dress
uniform in warm weather. Nevertheless, he raised the umbril of his
helmet to cool his face as he waited the coming of his opponent. He
turned his eyes upward to the row of seats on the scaffolding above,
and even in the restless, bewildering multitude of strange faces turned
towards him recognized those that he knew: the Prince of Wales, his
companions of the Scotland Yard household, the Duke of Clarence,
the Bishop of Winchester, and some of the noblemen of the Earl of
Mackworth’s party, who had been buzzing about the Prince for the past
month or so. But his glance swept over all these, rather perceiving
than seeing them, and then rested upon a square box-like compartment not
unlike a prisoner’s dock in the courtroom of our day, for in the box sat
his father, with the Earl of Mackworth upon one side and Sir James Lee
upon the other. The blind man’s face was very pale, but still wore its
usual expression of calm serenity--the calm serenity of a blind face.
The Earl was also very pale, and he kept his eyes fixed steadfastly upon
Myles with a keen and searching look, as though to pierce to the very
bottom of the young man’s heart, and discover if indeed not one little
fragment of dryrot of fear or uncertainty tainted the solid courage of
his knighthood.

Then he heard the criers calling the defendant at the four corners of
the list: “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of Alban,
come to this combat, in which you be enterprised this day to discharge
your sureties before the King, the Constable, and the Marshal, and to
encounter in your defence Myles Falworth, knight, the accepted champion
upon behalf of Gilbert Reginald Falworth, the challenger! Oyez! Oyez!
Oyez! Let the defendant come!”

So they continued calling, until, by the sudden turning of all faces,
Myles knew that his enemy was at hand.

Then presently he saw the Earl and his attendants enter the outer gate
at the west end of the barrier; he saw the Constable and Marshal meet
him; he saw the formal words of greeting pass; he saw the Constable
raise the umbril of the helmet. Then the gate opened, and the Earl of
Alban entered, clad cap-a-pie in a full suit of magnificent Milan armor
without juppon or adornment of any kind. As he approached across the
lists, Myles closed the umbril of his helmet, and then sat quite still
and motionless, for the time was come.

So he sat, erect and motionless as a statue of iron, half hearing the
reading of the long intricately-worded bills, absorbed in many thoughts
of past and present things. At last the reading ended, and then he
calmly and composedly obeyed, under the direction of his attorney,
the several forms and ceremonies that followed; answered the various
official questions, took the various oaths. Then Gascoyne, leading the
horse by the bridle-rein, conducted him back to his station at the east
end of the lists.

As the faithful friend and squire made one last and searching
examination of arms and armor, the Marshal and the clerk came to the
young champion and administered the final oath by which he swore that he
carried no concealed weapons.

The weapons allowed by the High Court were then measured and attested.
They consisted of the long sword, the short sword, the dagger, the mace,
and a weapon known as the hand-gisarm, or glave-lot--a heavy swordlike
blade eight palms long, a palm in breadth, and riveted to a stout handle
of wood three feet long.

The usual lance had not been included in the list of arms, the
hand-gisarm being substituted in its place. It was a fearful and
murderous weapon, though cumbersome, Unhandy, and ill adapted for quick
or dexterous stroke; nevertheless, the Earl of Alban had petitioned
the King to have it included in the list, and in answer to the King’s
expressed desire the Court had adopted it in the stead of the lance,
yielding thus much to the royal wishes. Nor was it a small concession.
The hand-gisarm had been a weapon very much in vogue in King Richard’s
day, and was now nearly if not entirely out of fashion with the younger
generation of warriors. The Earl of Alban was, of course, well used to
the blade; with Myles it was strange and new, either for attack or in

With the administration of the final oath and the examination of the
weapons, the preliminary ceremonies came to an end, and presently Myles
heard the criers calling to clear the lists. As those around him moved
to withdraw, the young knight drew off his mailed gauntlet, and gave
Gascoyne’s hand one last final clasp, strong, earnest, and intense with
the close friendship of young manhood, and poor Gascoyne looked up at
him with a face ghastly white.

Then all were gone; the gates of the principal list and that of the
false list were closed clashing, and Myles was alone, face to face, with
his mortal enemy.


There was a little while of restless, rustling silence, during which the
Constable took his place in the seat appointed for him directly in
front of and below the King’s throne. A moment or two when even the
restlessness and the rustling were quieted, and then the King leaned
forward and spoke to the Constable, who immediately called out, in a
loud, clear voice.

“Let them go!” Then again, “Let them go!” Then, for the third and last
time, “Let them go and do their endeavor, in God’s name!”

At this third command the combatants, each of whom had till that moment
been sitting as motionless as a statue of iron, tightened rein, and rode
slowly and deliberately forward without haste, yet without hesitation,
until they met in the very middle of the lists.

In the battle which followed, Myles fought with the long sword, the Earl
with the hand-gisarm for which he had asked. The moment they met, the
combat was opened, and for a time nothing was heard but the thunderous
clashing and clamor of blows, now and then beating intermittently, now
and then pausing. Occasionally, as the combatants spurred together,
checked, wheeled, and recovered, they would be hidden for a moment in
a misty veil of dust, which, again drifting down the wind, perhaps
revealed them drawn a little apart, resting their panting horses. Then,
again, they would spur together, striking as they passed, wheeling and
striking again.

Upon the scaffolding all was still, only now and then for the buzz of
muffled exclamations or applause of those who looked on. Mostly the
applause was from Myles’s friends, for from the very first he showed and
steadily maintained his advantage over the older man. “Hah! well struck!
well recovered!” “Look ye! the sword bit that time!” “Nay, look, saw ye
him pass the point of the gisarm?” Then, “Falworth! Falworth!” as some
more than usually skilful stroke or parry occurred.

Meantime Myles’s father sat straining his sightless eyeballs, as though
to pierce his body’s darkness with one ray of light that would show him
how his boy held his own in the fight, and Lord Mackworth, leaning with
his lips close to the blind man’s ear, told him point by point how the
battle stood.

“Fear not, Gilbert,” said he at each pause in the fight. “He holdeth his
own right well.” Then, after a while: “God is with us, Gilbert. Alban
is twice wounded and his horse faileth. One little while longer and the
victory is ours!”

A longer and more continuous interval of combat followed this
last assurance, during which Myles drove the assault fiercely and
unrelentingly as though to overbear his enemy by the very power
and violence of the blows he delivered. The Earl defended himself
desperately, but was borne back, back, back, farther and farther. Every
nerve of those who looked on was stretched to breathless tensity, when,
almost as his enemy was against the barriers, Myles paused and rested.

“Out upon it!” exclaimed the Earl of Mackworth, almost shrilly in his
excitement, as the sudden lull followed the crashing of blows. “Why doth
the boy spare him? That is thrice he hath given him grace to recover;
an he had pushed the battle that time he had driven him back against the

It was as the Earl had said; Myles had three times given his enemy grace
when victory was almost in his very grasp. He had three times spared
him, in spite of all he and those dear to him must suffer should his
cruel and merciless enemy gain the victory. It was a false and foolish
generosity, partly the fault of his impulsive youth--more largely of
his romantic training in the artificial code of French chivalry. He felt
that the battle was his, and so he gave his enemy these three chances to
recover, as some chevalier or knight-errant of romance might have
done, instead of pushing the combat to a mercifully speedy end--and his
foolish generosity cost him dear.

In the momentary pause that had thus stirred the Earl of Mackworth to
a sudden outbreak, the Earl of Alban sat upon his panting, sweating
war-horse, facing his powerful young enemy at about twelve paces
distant. He sat as still as a rock, holding his gisarm poised in front
of him. He had, as the Earl of Mackworth had said, been wounded twice,
and each time with the point of the sword, so much more dangerous than a
direct cut with the weapon. One wound was beneath his armor, and no one
but he knew how serious it might be; the other was under the overlapping
of the epauhere, and from it a finger’s-breadth of blood ran straight
down his side and over the housings of his horse. From without, the
still motionless iron figure appeared calm and expressionless; within,
who knows what consuming blasts of hate, rage, and despair swept his
heart as with a fiery whirlwind.

As Myles looked at the motionless, bleeding figure, his breast swelled
with pity. “My Lord,” said he, “thou art sore wounded and the fight is
against thee; wilt thou not yield thee?”

No one but that other heard the speech, and no one but Myles heard the
answer that came back, hollow, cavernous, “Never, thou dog! Never!”

Then in an instant, as quick as a flash, his enemy spurred straight upon
Myles, and as he spurred he struck a last desperate, swinging blow, in
which he threw in one final effort all the strength of hate, of fury,
and of despair. Myles whirled his horse backward, warding the blow with
his shield as he did so. The blade glanced from the smooth face of the
shield, and, whether by mistake or not, fell straight and true, and with
almost undiminished force, upon the neck of Myles’s war-horse, and just
behind the ears. The animal staggered forward, and then fell upon its
knees, and at the same instant the other, as though by the impetus of
the rush, dashed full upon it with all the momentum lent by the weight
of iron it carried. The shock was irresistible, and the stunned and
wounded horse was flung upon the ground, rolling over and over. As his
horse fell, Myles wrenched one of his feet out of the stirrup; the other
caught for an instant, and he was flung headlong with stunning violence,
his armor crashing as he fell. In the cloud of dust that arose no
one could see just what happened, but that what was done was done
deliberately no one doubted. The earl, at once checking and spurring
his foaming charger, drove the iron-shod war-horse directly over Myles’s
prostrate body. Then, checking him fiercely with the curb, reined him
back, the hoofs clashing and crashing, over the figure beneath. So
he had ridden over the father at York, and so he rode over the son at

Myles, as he lay prostrate and half stunned by his fall, had seen his
enemy thus driving his rearing horse down upon him, but was not able to
defend himself. A fallen knight in full armor was utterly powerless to
rise without assistance; Myles lay helpless in the clutch of the very
iron that was his defence. He closed his eyes involuntarily, and then
horse and rider were upon him. There was a deafening, sparkling crash,
a glimmering faintness, then another crash as the horse was reined
furiously back again, and then a humming stillness.

In a moment, upon the scaffolding all was a tumult of uproar and
confusion, shouting and gesticulation; only the King sat calm, sullen,
impassive. The Earl wheeled his horse and sat for a moment or two as
though to make quite sure that he knew the King’s mind. The blow that
had been given was foul, unknightly, but the King gave no sign either of
acquiescence or rebuke; he had willed that Myles was to die.

Then the Earl turned again, and rode deliberately up to his prostrate

When Myles opened his eyes after that moment of stunning silence, it was
to see the other looming above him on his war-horse, swinging his gisarm
for one last mortal blow--pitiless, merciless.

The sight of that looming peril brought back Myles’s wandering senses
like a flash of lightning. He flung up his shield, and met the blow even
as it descended, turning it aside. It only protracted the end.

Once more the Earl of Alban raised the gisarm, swinging it twice around
his head before he struck. This time, though the shield glanced it, the
blow fell upon the shoulder-piece, biting through the steel plate and
leathern jack beneath even to the bone. Then Myles covered his head with
his shield as a last protecting chance for life.

For the third time the Earl swung the blade flashing, and then it fell,
straight and true, upon the defenceless body, just below the left arm,
biting deep through the armor plates. For an instant the blade stuck
fast, and that instant was Myles’s salvation. Under the agony of the
blow he gave a muffled cry, and almost instinctively grasped the shaft
of the weapon with both hands. Had the Earl let go his end of the
weapon, he would have won the battle at his leisure and most easily; as
it was, he struggled violently to wrench the gisarm away from Myles. In
that short, fierce struggle Myles was dragged to his knees, and then,
still holding the weapon with one hand, he clutched the trappings of the
Earl’s horse with the other. The next moment he was upon his feet. The
other struggled to thrust him away, but Myles, letting go the gisarm,
which he held with his left hand, clutched him tightly by the sword-belt
in the intense, vise-like grip of despair. In vain the Earl strove to
beat him loose with the shaft of the gisarm, in vain he spurred and
reared his horse to shake him off; Myles held him tight, in spite of all
his struggles.

He felt neither the streaming blood nor the throbbing agony of his
wounds; every faculty of soul, mind, body, every power of life, was
centered in one intense, burning effort. He neither felt, thought, nor
reasoned, but clutching, with the blindness of instinct, the heavy,
spiked, iron-headed mace that hung at the Earl’s saddle-bow, he gave it
one tremendous wrench that snapped the plaited leathern thongs that held
it as though they were skeins of thread. Then, grinding his teeth as
with a spasm, he struck as he had never struck before--once, twice,
thrice full upon the front of the helmet. Crash! crash! And then, even
as the Earl toppled sidelong, crash! And the iron plates split and
crackled under the third blow. Myles had one flashing glimpse of an
awful face, and then the saddle was empty.

Then, as he held tight to the horse, panting, dizzy, sick to death, he
felt the hot blood gushing from his side, filling his body armor, and
staining the ground upon which he stood. Still he held tightly to the
saddle-bow of the fallen man’s horse until, through his glimmering
sight, he saw the Marshal, the Lieutenant, and the attendants gather
around him. He heard the Marshal ask him, in a voice that sounded faint
and distant, if he was dangerously wounded. He did not answer, and one
of the attendants, leaping from his horse, opened the umbril of his
helmet, disclosing the dull, hollow eyes, the ashy, colorless lips, and
the waxy forehead, upon which stood great beads of sweat.

“Water! water!” he cried, hoarsely; “give me to drink!” Then, quitting
his hold upon the horse, he started blindly across the lists towards the
gate of the barrier. A shadow that chilled his heart seemed to fall upon
him. “It is death,” he muttered; then he stopped, then swayed for an
instant, and then toppled headlong, crashing as he fell.


But Myles was not dead. Those who had seen his face when the umbril of
the helmet was raised, and then saw him fall as he tottered across the
lists, had at first thought so. But his faintness was more from loss
of blood and the sudden unstringing of nerve and sense from the intense
furious strain of the last few moments of battle than from the vital
nature of the wound. Indeed, after Myles had been carried out of the
lists and laid upon the ground in the shade between the barriers,
Master Thomas, the Prince’s barber-surgeon, having examined the wounds,
declared that he might be even carried on a covered litter to Scotland
Yard without serious danger. The Prince was extremely desirous of having
him under his care, and so the venture was tried. Myles was carried to
Scotland Yard, and perhaps was none the worse therefore. The Prince, the
Earl of Mackworth, and two or three others stood silently watching as
the worthy shaver and leecher, assisted by his apprentice and Gascoyne,
washed and bathed the great gaping wound in the side, and bound it with
linen bandages. Myles lay with closed eyelids, still, pallid, weak as
a little child. Presently he opened his eyes and turned them, dull and
languid, to the Prince.

“What hath happed my father, my Lord?” said he, in a faint, whispering

“Thou hath saved his life and honor, Myles,” the Prince answered. “He
is here now, and thy mother hath been sent for, and cometh anon with the
priest who was with them this morn.”

Myles dropped his eyelids again; his lips moved, but he made no sound,
and then two bright tears trickled across his white cheek.

“He maketh a woman of me,” the Prince muttered through his teeth, and
then, swinging on his heel, he stood for a long time looking out of the
window into the garden beneath.

“May I see my father?” said Myles, presently, without opening his eyes.

The Prince turned around and looked inquiringly at the surgeon.

The good man shook his head. “Not to-day,” said he; “haply to-morrow he
may see him and his mother. The bleeding is but new stanched, and such
matters as seeing his father and mother may make the heart to swell, and
so maybe the wound burst afresh and he die. An he would hope to live, he
must rest quiet until to-morrow day.”

But though Myles’s wound was not mortal, it was very serious. The fever
which followed lingered longer than common--perhaps because of the hot
weather--and the days stretched to weeks, and the weeks to months, and
still he lay there, nursed by his mother and Gascoyne and Prior Edward,
and now and again by Sir James Lee.

One day, a little before the good priest returned to Saint Mary’s
Priory, as he sat by Myles’s bedside, his hands folded, and his sight
turned inward, the young man suddenly said, “Tell me, holy father, is it
always wrong for man to slay man?”

The good priest sat silent for so long a time that Myles began to think
he had not heard the question. But by-and-by he answered, almost with a
sigh, “It is a hard question, my son, but I must in truth say, meseems
it is not always wrong.”

“Sir,” said Myles, “I have been in battle when men were slain, but never
did I think thereon as I have upon this matter. Did I sin in so slaying
my father’s enemy?”

“Nay,” said Prior Edward, quietly, “thou didst not sin. It was for
others thou didst fight, my son, and for others it is pardonable to do
battle. Had it been thine own quarrel, it might haply have been more
hard to have answered thee.”

Who can gainsay, even in these days of light, the truth of this that the
good priest said to the sick lad so far away in the past?

One day the Earl of Mackworth came to visit Myles. At that time the
young knight was mending, and was sitting propped up with pillows, and
was wrapped in Sir James Lee’s cloak, for the day was chilly. After a
little time of talk, a pause of silence fell.

“My Lord,” said Myles, suddenly, “dost thou remember one part of a
matter we spoke of when I first came from France?”

The Earl made no pretence of ignorance. “I remember,” said he, quietly,
looking straight into the young man’s thin white face.

“And have I yet won the right to ask for the Lady Alice de Mowbray to
wife?” said Myles, the red rising faintly to his cheeks.

“Thou hast won it,” said the Earl, with a smile.

Myles’s eyes shone and his lips trembled with the pang of sudden joy
and triumph, for he was still very weak. “My Lord,” said he, presently
“belike thou camest here to see me for this very matter?”

The Earl smiled again without answering, and Myles knew that he had
guessed aright. He reached out one of his weak, pallid hands from
beneath the cloak. The Earl of Mackworth took it with a firm pressure,
then instantly quitting it again, rose, as if ashamed of his emotion,
stamped his feet, as though in pretence of being chilled, and then
crossed the room to where the fire crackled brightly in the great stone

Little else remains to be told; only a few loose strands to tie, and the
story is complete.

Though Lord Falworth was saved from death at the block, though his honor
was cleansed from stain, he was yet as poor and needy as ever. The
King, in spite of all the pressure brought to bear upon him, refused to
restore the estates of Falworth and Easterbridge--the latter of which
had again reverted to the crown upon the death of the Earl of Alban
without issue--upon the grounds that they had been forfeited not because
of the attaint of treason, but because of Lord Falworth having refused
to respond to the citation of the courts. So the business dragged along
for month after month, until in January the King died suddenly in the
Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster. Then matters went smoothly enough, and
Falworth and Mackworth swam upon the flood-tide of fortune.

So Myles was married, for how else should the story end? And one day
he brought his beautiful young wife home to Falworth Castle, which his
father had given him for his own, and at the gateway of which he was met
by Sir James Lee and by the newly-knighted Sir Francis Gascoyne.

One day, soon after this home-coming, as he stood with her at an open
window into which came blowing the pleasant May-time breeze, he suddenly
said, “What didst thou think of me when I first fell almost into thy
lap, like an apple from heaven?”

“I thought thou wert a great, good-hearted boy, as I think thou art
now,” said she, twisting his strong, sinewy fingers in and out.

“If thou thoughtst me so then, what a very fool I must have looked to
thee when I so clumsily besought thee for thy favor for my jousting at
Devlen. Did I not so?”

“Thou didst look to me the most noble, handsome young knight that did
ever live; thou didst look to me Sir Galahad, as they did call thee,
withouten taint or stain.”

Myles did not even smile in answer, but looked at his wife with such a
look that she blushed a rosy red. Then, laughing, she slipped from his
hold, and before he could catch her again was gone.

I am glad that he was to be rich and happy and honored and beloved after
all his hard and noble fighting.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Men of Iron" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.