Suchx sights and scenes as these will show the chivalrous army with whom
I served in but an indifferent light. And ill it would beseem me, who
remember this time with pride and the gloomy pleasure of my later life,
to stain the fair fame of English chivalry or to discredit with the foul life of
its outer remnant our gallant army or that royal person who shone in the
white light of his day, the bravest knight and the gentlest king of any then
This sovereign was, above everything, a soldier. He ob
-erved all that passed in his camp with extraordinary acumen. It was my
chance, soon after we joined the army, to catch his eye by some small
deed of prowess in a nlelee near his standard, and that shrewd sovereign
called me to him and asked my name and fame -- the which I answered
plausible enough, for my tongue was never tied by the cold sterility of
truth -- and then, pointing to where there lay on his shield a famous dead
English captain of mercenaries, asked me if I would do duty for that
soldier. I knew the troops he had led. They were grizzled veterans. rough
old dogs every one of them, who had rode their close-packed chargers,
shoulder to shoulder, through the thick tangles of a hundred fights. I had
seen them alone, those stern old fellows, put down their lances, and all
together, like the band of close-united brothers that they were, go
thundering over the dusty French aampagnas, and to the music that they
loved so well of ringing bits and hollow-sounding scabbards, of steel
martingale and harness -- delighting in the dreadful odds -- charge ten
times their number, and~burst through the reeling enemy, and override
and trample him down, and mow great swathes from his seething ranks,
and revel in that sweet thunderous carnage, as if the red dust of the meiee
were the sweetest air that had ever fanned their aged beards.
"Ah, prince," J said, speaking out boldly, as that remembrance came
before me; " by Thor! if those good fellows will take so young a one as I
for leader, in place of a better, I wdll gladly let it be a compact."
"They will have you readily enough," replied the king, "even if it were not
mine by right to name their captain, according to their rules." And
mounting the gray palfrey he rode in camp, the better to spare his roan
war-horse, he took me to where the troops were ranged up after the
charge that had cost them their leader, and gave them over to me.
Thus was I provided with~a lordly following, and the king's gratitune for
my poor service expressed; but still I appeared strangely to haunt the
sovereign's memory. He looked back at me once or twice as though I
were something most uncommon, and not long afterward he would have
me sup with him.
It happened as we fell back from the furthest limit of our raid, burning
and plundering as we went along the Somme. One evening a fair French
chateau on a hill, bending down by grassy slopes to the slow stream
below, had fahen to our assault. In truth, that fair pile had found us rune
visitors. Twice in the storm the red flames had burst out of its broad
upper oorridors, and twice had been subdued. Its doore and
gate-ways were beaten in, its casements burst and empty, the moat about
it was full of dead men, the ivy hung in unsightly tatters from its turrets,
and on the smooth grass glacis, coping stone and battlement, hurled on tlS
by the besieged as we swamed to the ladders, lay in crumbling ruins. Yet
it was, as I say, a stately place, even in its ncw-made desolation; and I was
standing at the close of a loDg dusty autumn day by my tent door,
watching the yellow harvest-moon come over the low French hills, and
shedding as it rose a pale light over the English camp and that lordly place
a little set back from it, when down through the twilight came a page, ~~-
ho wore on sleeve and tunic-breast the royal cognizance. l\Tas I, he
questioned, the stranger knight new-come from Englar;d? aDd that being
answered, he gave his message: " King lTdward would be glad if that
knight would take his eveDing meal with him.',
I went -- ~how could I else? -- and there in the great tor n and disordered
hall of the castle we had taken was a broad table spread and already laid
with rough magnificence. Page and squire were hurrying here and there
in that stately pillaled chamber, sl~reading on the tables white linens that
contrasted most strangely with the black, new-made smoke-stains on the
ceiling, piling on them gold and silver basins and ewers and plates bent
and broken, just as our men-at-arms had saved them from pillaged crypts
or rifled treasure-cells. Others were fixing a hnndred gleaming torches to
the notched, scarred coluruns of that banquet-place, and while one would
be wiping half-dried blood of French peer and peasant from floor and
door-nay, or sprinkling rushes or sawdust on those gory patches, another
was decanting redder Burgundy -- the which babbled most pleasantly to
thirsty soldier ears as it passed in gushing streams from the cellar skins to
supper flagon. It was an episode full of quamt contradictions.
Bul it was not at the feast I 1ooked -- not at the gallant table already
flashing back the gleaming crimson lights from its stored magnificence.
There, round that hall, in groups of twos and threes, chatting whle they
waited, laughing and talking over the incidents of the day, were some
hundred war like Fnglish nobles. And amid them, the most renowned
warrior where all were famous, the tallest and most resolutelooking in a
circle of heroes, stood the king. His quick, restless eye saw me enter, and
he came toward me, slighting my reverence, and taking my hand, like
one good soldier weleoming another. He led me round that glittering
throng, making me knowu to prince and captain, and knight and noble,
and ever as we wout a hush fell upon those gallant groups. ~ay
be 'twas all the l,hlg s ~na~siniCo, br~t I doubt it. It was nQt on hin1 all
eves sveie fixerl so hard it was not for him those stern soldiors ~N-er e
sileni a sl~2ll, and then fell to whispering and wondering amon`~
themgelve~s as we passed down the pillared corridor -- ah! no' was it all
on account of that familiar kingly host that the parre-boys, in gap;~l~,
wonder, upset the red wine, and the glamour ed servers for~ot to sot
down their loaded dishes as they stood staring afEer ns. No matter; I was
getting accustomed to this silent awe, and little regarded it. It was but the
homage, I thought, their late-born essences paid unwitting to my older
Well, we talked and laughed a spell, seeming to wait for something, the
while the meat grew cold, and then the arras over the great arch at the
bottom of the hall lifted, and with hasty strides, like those late to a
banquet, came in two lknights. The first one was black from top to toe;
black was his dancing plume, black was his gleaming arrnor, black were
his gloves and gyves, and never one touch of color on him but the new
golden spurs upon his heels and the broad jewel belt that held his cross-
As this dusky champion entered a smile of pleasure shone over the king's
grave face. He ran to him and took his hand, the while he put his other
affectionately on his shoulder.
"~y dear boy," he said, forgetting monarch in father, "I have been thinking
of thee for an hour. You are working too hard; you must be weary. Are
there no tough captains in my host that you must be in the saddle early
and late, and do a' hundred of the duties of those beneath you, trying
with that young haun of yours each nenv-set stake of our evening
pa~isades, sampling the rune soldiers' supper rations, seeing the troop go
down to water, and counting and conning the lay of the Frenchman's
twinkling watch-fire. My dear hungry lad, yon are overzealous -- you
~wll make me grieve for that nevr knighthood I have put upon you."*
"Oh, 'tis all right, father. I am but trying to infuse a little shame of their idle
ways into this silken company of thine. But I do confess I am as hungry as
well can be. Hast saved a drink of wine and a loaf for me?"
"Saved a loaf for thee, my handsome boy. Why, thou shouldst have a loaf
though it were the last in France, and thou~rh the broad stream of
England's treasure were run dry to buy it. We have waited; we have not
* The Black Prince, then sixteen years old, was knighted on the Normandy
beach, where the expedition landed.
"Why, then, father, I will set the example. Here, some of vou squires,
discover me; I have been plated much too long." And the ready pages ran
for~vard, and with willing fingors rid the young prince of his raven
harness. They unbuckled and unriveted him, until he stood before us in
the close-fitting quilted black silk that he wore beneath, and I thought, as I
stood back a little way and watched, that never had I seen a body at once
so strong and supple. Then he ran his hands through his curly black hair,
and took his place midway down the table; the king sat at the head. And
when the chaplain had muttered a Latin grace we fell to work.
t was a merry meal in that ample hall, still littered under the arches with
the broken rubbish of the morning's fight. The courteous English king sat
smiling under the strange canopy, and overhead -- rocking in the breeze
that came from broken casements -- were the tattered flags our dead
foeman's nands had won in many wars. Our table shone with heaped
splendor shot out from the spoil-carts at the door; the king's seneschal
blazed behind his chair in cloth of gold; while honest rough troopers, in
weather-stained leather and rusty trap pings (pressed on the moment to
do squires' duty), waited upon us, and ministered, after the fashion of
their stalwart inexperience, to our needs. Amid all those strange
surrounding we talked of wines and love, and chivalry; we laughed and
drank, tossing off our beakers of red Burgundy to the health of that
soldier sovereign nuner the dals, and drank deep bumpers to the gray to-
morrow that was crimsoning the eastern windows ere we had done.
Indeed, we did that night as soldiers do who live in pawn to chance and
snatch hasty pleasures from the brink of the unknown while the close
foeman's watch-fires shine upon their faces, and each forethinks, as the
full cups circle, how well he may take his next meal in Paradise. Of all the
courtly badinage and warrior-mirth that rau round the loaded table while
plates were emptied and tankards turned, but one thing lives in my mind.
Truth, 'twas a strange chance, a most quaint conjunction that brought that
tale about, and p~lt me there to hear it.
I have said that when the Black Prince entered the banquet-hall there
came another knight behind him -- a strong, tall young soldier in
glittering mail, something in whose presence set me wondering how or
where we two had met before. Ere I could remember who this knight
might be, the king and prince were speaking as I have set down; and then
the trumpets blew, and we fell to meat and wine with soldier appetites,
and the unknown warrior was forgotten, until, when the feast
tvas well begun, looking over the rim of a. circling silver goblet of
mal~nsey I was lifting at a youth who had just taken the empty place
upon my right -- Jove! how it made me start -- ~lulleluleted, unharnessed,
lightly nodding to his comrades, and all unwotting of his wondrous
neighborhood, was that same Lord Codrington, that curly-headed gallant
who had leaned against me in the white moonlight of St. Olaf's cloisters
when I was a blessed relic -- a silent, mitered, listening, long-dead miraele.
Gods! you may guess how I did glare at him over the sculptured rim of
that great beaker, the while the red wine stood stagnant at my lips; and
then how my breath did halt and flag as presently he turned slow and
calm upon me, and there, a foot apart, the living and the dead were face
to face and front to front. I scarce durst breathe as he took the heavy
pledge-cup from my hand. Would he know me? Would he leap from his
seat with a yell of fear and wonder, and there, from some distaut vantage-
point among the shadowy pillars, with trembling finger impeach me to
that startled table? Hoth! I saw in my mind's eye those superstitious
warriors tumbling from their places, the while I alone sat gloomy and
morose at tha littered trestles, and hundling and crowding to the
shadows, as they would not for a thousand Frenchmen, while that brave
boy with chattering teeth and white fingers clutched upon the kingly arm
did, incoherent, tell my tale, and with husky whisper say how 'twas no
soldier of flesh and blood who sat there alone at the long white table,
under the taper lights, self-damned by his solitune! I waited to see all this,
and then that soldier, nothing wotting, glanced heedlessly over me; he
wiped his lips with his napkin, and took a long draught of the wine within
the cup. Then, smiling as he handed it on, and turning lightly round as he
laughed, "A very good tankard indeed, Sir Stranger; such a one as is some
solace for eight hours in a Flemish saddle. But there was just a little too
much nutmeg in the brew this time -- didst thou not think so?"
I murmured some faint agreement, and sat back into my place, watching
the great beaker circle round the table, while my thoughts idly hovered
upon what might have chanced had been known, and how I might have
vantaged or lost by recognition. Well, the chance had passed, and I would
not take it back. And yet, surely fate was sporting with me! The cup had
scarcely made the circle and been drained to the last few drops among the
novices at the further end, when I was again in that very same peril.
"You are new from England, Lord Worringham,'3 the young earl said
across me to a knight upon my other hand. "Is there late news of interest
to tell us?"
"Hardly one sentence. 1~ll the news we had was stale reports of what you
here have done. Men's minds and eyes have been all upon you, md each
homeward courier has been ri,led of his bunget at every port and village
on his way by a htZndred hungry speculators as sharply as though he
wele a rich wanderer beset by footpads on a lonely heath. The common
people are wild to hear of a great victory, and will thinl: of nothing else.
There is not one other voice in England -- saving, perhaps, that some sleek
city merchants do complain of new assessments, and certain reverent
abbots, 'tis said, of the havoc you have played with this year's vintage."
"Yes," answered the earl, with a laugh, "one can well believe that last.
Sanctity, I have had late cause to know, is thirsty work. Why, the very
abbot of St. Olaf's himself, usually esteemed a right reverend prelate, did
charge me at my last confessional to send him hence some vats of
malmsey. No doubt he shrewdly foresaw this dearth that we are making."
"What!" exclaimed the other knight, staring across me. "Hast thou actually
confessed to that bulky saint? Mon Dieu.! but you are in luck! Why, lord
earl, thou hast disburdened thyself to the wonder of the age -- to the most
favored son of Mother Church -- the associate of beatibed beingE -- and
the particularly selected of the apostles. Dost not know the wonder that
has happened to St. Olaf's?"
"Not a whit. It was ordinary and peaceful when I was there a few weeks
"Then, by my spurs! there is some news for you. You remember that
wondrous thing they had, that sleeping image that men swore was an
actual living man, and the holy brothers, who, no doubt, were right,
declared was a blessed saint that died three hundred years ago? You too
must know, ~ him, sir," he said, turning to me, and looking me full in the
face; "you must know him, if you ever were at St. Olaf's."
"Yes," I answered, calmly returning his gaze, "I have been at St. Olaf's at
one time or another, and I doubt if any man living knows that form you
speak of better than I do myself."
"And I," put in the devont young earl, "know him too. A holy and very
wondrous body. Surely God's beneficence still shields him in his sleep."
"Shields him! Why, Codrington, he has been translated;
removed just as he was to celestial places; 'tis on the very word of the
abbot himself we have it, and where good men meet and talk in England
no other tale can compete for a moment with this one."
"Out with it, bold Worringham! Surely such a thing has not happened
since the time of Elijah,"
"'Tis simple enough, and I had it from one who had it from the abbot's
lips. That saintly recluse had spent a long day in fast and vigils amid the
cloisters of his ancient abbey, so he said, and when the evening came had
knelt, after his wont, an hour at the shrine, lost in holy thought and pious
exercise. Nothing new or strange appeared about the Wonder. It lay as it
had ever lain, silent, in the cathedral twilight, and the good man, full of
gentle thoughts and celestial speculations, if we may take his word for it --
and God forefeun I should do otherwise! -- the holy father even bent over
him in fraternal love and reverence the while, he says, the beads ran
through his fingers as ave and pater-noster were told to the sleeping
martyr's credit by scores and hundreds. Not a sign of life was on the dead
man's face. He slept and smiled up at the vaulted roof just as he had done
year in and out beyond all memory, and, therefore, as was natural, the
abbot thought he would sleep on while two stones of the cathedral stood
one upon another.
"He left him, and, pacing down the aisles, wended to the refectory, where
the brothers had near done their evening meal, and there, still in holy
meditation, sat him down to break that crust of dry bread and drink that
cup of limpid water which (he told my friend) was his invariable supper,"
"Hast thou ever seen the reverend father, good Worringham?" queried a
young knight across the table as the story-teller stopped for a moment to
drink from the flagon by his elbow.
"Yes, I have seen him once or twice."
"Why, so have I," laughed the young soldier; " and, by all the saints in
Paradise, I do not believe he sups on husks and water,"
"Believe or not as you will, it is a matter between thyself and conscience.
The abbot spoke, and I have repeated just what he said,"
"On with the story, lord earl," laughed another; "we are all open-mouthed
to hear what came next, and even if his reverence -- in holy abstraction, of
course -- doth some time dip fingers into a venison pasty by mistake for a
bread trencher, or gets hold of the wine vessel instead of the water-
beaker, 'tis nothing to us. Suppose the reyerend meal was ended -- as
Jerome sy's it should be -- in humble gladness, what came then?"
"What came then?" cried Worrhingham. "Why, the monks were all away;
the tapers burned low; the abbot sat there by himself, his praying hands
crossed before him, when wide the chancel door was flung, and there, in
his grave-clothes, white and tall, was the saint himself!"
Every head was turned as the English knight thus told his story, and,
while the younger soldiers smiled disdainfully, good Codrington at my
side crossed himself again and again, and I saw his soldier lips trembling,
as prayer and verse came quick across them.
"Ah, the saint was on foot without a doubt, and it might have chilled all
the breath in a common man to see him stand there, alive and witful, who
had so long been dead and mindless, to meet the light of those sockets
where the eyes had so long been dull. But 'tis a blessed thing to be an
abbot, to have a heart whiter than one's mother's milk, and a soul of
limpid clearness. That holy friar, without one touch of mortal fear -- it is
his very own asseveration -- rose and welcomed his noble guest, and sat
him i' tLe dais, and knelt before him, and adored, and, bold in goodness,
waited to be cursed or canonized -- withered by a glance of those eyes no
man could safely look on, or hoist straight to St. Peter's chair, just as
chance should have it."
"Wonderful and marvelous!" gasped Codrington. "I would have given all
my lands to have knelt at the bottom of that hall whose top was sanctified
by such a presence."
"And I," cried another knight, "would have given this dinted suit of Milan
that I sit in, and a tattered tent somewhere on yonder dark hill-side (the
which is all I own in this world), to have been ten miles away when that
same thing happened. Surely it was most dread and grim, and may
Heaven protect all ordinary men if the fashion spreads with saints!'
"They will not trouble you, no doubt, good comrade. This one rose in no
stern spirit to rebuke, but as the pale commissioner of Heaven to reward
virtue and bless merit. It would it beseem me to tell, or you -- common,
gross soldier of the world -- to listen to what passed between those two.
'Twere rank sacrilege to mock the new-risen's words by retailing them
over a camp-table, even though the table be that of the king himseif; and
who are we -- roup,Th, unruly sons of Mother Church -- that we should
submit to repetition the converse of a prelate with one we scarce dare
nalae?" Whereon ~Torringham
drank silently from his goblet, and half a dozen knights crossed
"And there is another reason why I should be silent," he continued. "The
abbot will not tell what passed between them. Only so much as this: he
gives out with modest hesitance that his holy living and great attainment
had gone straighter to Heaven than the smoke of libel's altar fire, and
thus, on these counts and others, he had bocn specially selected for divine
favors, and his ancient church for miracle. The priest, so the Wonder
vowed, must be made a cardinal, and have next reversion of the papal
chair. Meanwhile pilgrims were to hold the Wonder-shrine of St. Olaf's no
less holy and tenantless than tenanted, to be devont, and above all things
liberal, and pray for the constant intercession of that messenger who
could no longer stay whereon, quoth the abbot, a wondrous light did
daze the watcher's sight; unheard, unseen of other men, the walls and
roof fell wide apart, and then and there, amid a wondrous hum of voices
and countless shooting-stars, that Presence mounted to the sky, and the
abbot fell fainting on the floor,"
"Truly a strange story, and like to make St. Olaf's coffers fuller than King
"And to do sterling service to the reverend prior. What think you, sir?"
said one, turning to me, who had kept silent all through this strange
medley of fact and cunning fiction. "Is it not a tale that greatly redounds to
the holy father's credit, and like to do him material service?"
"No doubt," I answered, "it will serve the purpose for which 'twas told. But
whether the adventure be truly narrated or not only the abbot and he
who supped with him can know,"
"Ah!" they laughed, "and, by Our Lady! you may depend upon it the priest
will stick to his version through thick and thin."
"And by all oaths rolled in one!" I fiercely cried, striking my fist upon the
table till the foeman's silver leaped (for the lying abbot's story had moved
my wrath), "by Thor and Odin, by cruel Osiris, by the bones of Hengist
and his brother, that saint will never contradict him!"
Shortly after we rose, and each on his rough pallet sought the rest a long
day's work had made so grateful.
Yes, we sought it; but to one, at least, it would not come for long. Hour
after hour I paced in meditation about my tent with folded arms and bent
head, thinking of all that had
been or might have been, and, after that supper of suggestions, the last
few weeks rose up strongly before me. Again and again all that I had seen
and do~~~e in that crowded interval swept by my eyes, but the one thing
that staved while all others faded, the one ever-present shadow among so
many, was the remembrance of the fair, unhappy girl, Isobel. Full of
rougher thoughts, I have not ouce spoken of her, yet, since we landed on
this shore, her whlning presence had grown on me every day I lived, and
now to-night, here, close on the eve, as we knew it, of a desperate battle,
wherefrom no man could see the outcome, the very darkness all about
me, after the flickering banquet lights, was full of lsobel. I laughed and
frowned by turn to myself in my lonely walk that evening, to fiun how
the slighted girl was growing upon me. Was I a silly squire at a trysting-
place, docked out with love-knots and tokens, a green gallant in a
summer wood, full of sighs and sonnets, to be so witched by the bare
memory of a foolish white wench who had fahen enamored of my swart
countenance? It was idle nousense; I would not yield. I put it behind me,
and thought of to-morrow -- the good king and my jolly comrades -- and
then there again was the outline of Isollel's fair face in the yellow rift of
the evening sky; there were Isobel's clear eyes fixed, gentle and
reproachful, on me, and the glimmer of her white draperies amid the
shifting shadow of the tent, and even the evening wind outside. was
whispering as it came sighing over the wild grass lands -- "Isobel!" All! and
there was something more behind all that thought of Isobel. There were
eyes that looked from Isobel's shadowy face, wherever in my fancy I saw
it, that filled me with a strange unrest, and a whisper behind the whispers
of that maiden voice that was hers and yet was not -- a fine thin music that
played upon the. fibers of my heart; a presence behinid a hutZnting
presence; a meaning behiun a meaning that stirred me wit
the strangest fancies. And before another night was over I understood
Well, in fact and in deed, I was in love like many another good soldier,
and long did I strive to find a specific for the gentle malady, but when this
might not be -- why, I laughod; the thing itself must needs be borne; 'twas
a commou complaint, and uo great harm. When the war was over I
would get back to England, and, if the maid were still of the same way of
thinking~ had I not stood a good many knocks ant1 buffets in the world?
-- a little ease would do me good. Ah! a very fair maid -- a fair maid,
indeed! And her dower some of the fattest land you could find in a dozen
Thus sohooling mYself to think a due'entertahlmont of the malady were
better ihall a churlish cure, I presently decided to write to the lady; for, I
argued, if to-morrow ends as we hope it may, why, the letter will be a
good word for a homeward traveling hero crowned with new-plucked
bays; and if to-morrow sees me stiff and stark, down in yon black valley,
among to-morrow's silent ones, still'twill be a meet parting, and I owe the
maid a word or two of gentleness. I determined, thereLore, to WIUtO to
her at once a scroll -- not of love, for I was not ripe for that, but of
compassion -- of just those foolings that one has to another when the
spark of love trembles to the ki~~ling but is not yet ablaze And because I
did not know my own mind to any oertaiaty, and because that youth
Flamaucceur was both shro.wd and witty -- as readywitteti am as nimble,
indeed, with tongue and pen as though he were a woman -- I determined
it should be he who should indite that cpistle, and ease my conscience of
this duty which had grown to be so near a pleasure.
I sent forthwith for Flamaueecur, and he came at once, as was his WOllt,
sheathed in comely sted from neck to heel, his elose-shut helm upon his
head, but all weaponless as usual, save for a toy dagger at his side.
"Good friend," I said, "you carry neither sword nor mace. That is not wise
in such a camp as this, and while the Frenchman's watch-fires smoke upon
the eastern sky. But never mind, I will arm thee myself for the moment.
Here" -- passing him the things a writer needs -- "here is a little weapon
wherewith they say much mischief has been done at one time or another
in the world, and some sore wounds taken and given; wield it now for me
in kinder sort, and write me the prettiest epistle thou canst ~not too full of
hare-brained love or the nousense that minstrels deal in -- but friendly,
suave, and gentle, courteous to my lady love."
"To whom?" gasped Flamaueeour, stepping back a pace.
"Par Dieu, boy!" I Iaughed. "~I spoke plain enotlgh. Why, thou consumed
dog in the manger, while thy own heart is confessedly in condition of
eternal combustion, may not anothor knight even warm himself by a
spark of love without your glowering at him so between the bars of think
iron muzzle~ Curlle, why should not I love a maid as well as you -- ah,
and write to her a farewell on the eve of battle?"
"Oh, write to whom you will, but ~ can not -- will not -- help you!" and the
youth, who knew nothing of my affections, and to whom I had never
spoken of a woman before, walked away
to the tent door and lifted the flap, loolted out over the dim French hills,
seeming marvelously perturbed.
Poor lad, I thought to myself, how soft he is! My love reminds him of his
own, and hence he fears GO touch a lover pen. And yet he must. He can
write twice as ingenious, shrewd as I, and no one else could do this letter
half so well. "Come, Flamatlcceur, indeed you must help me. lf you are so
sorry over your own refleGtioBs' why, the more reason for lending me
thy help. We are companions in this pretty grief, and should render to
each the help due between true brothers in misforturle. I do assure you I
have near broken a maiden heart back in England."
"Perhaps she was unworthy of thy love. Why should you write ?"
"Unworthy! Gods! she was unhappy, she was unfortunate; but unworthy,
never! Why, Flamaucceur, here, as I have been ehewing the cun of
reflection all these days, I have begun to think she was the whitest,
sweetest maid that ever breathed,"
"Some pampered, sickly jade, surely, Sir Knight," murmured the young
man, in strange, jealous-sounding tones whereof I could not fail to heed
the bitterness. "Let her by; she has forgotten thee, mayhap, and taken a
new love -- those pink-and-white ones were ever shallow."
"Shallow! you wayward boy! By Hoth! had you seen our parting you
would not have said so. Why, she wept and clung to me, although no
words of love had ever been between us -- "
"A jade, a wanton!" sobbed that strange figure there by t he shadowy tent-
flap, whereon, flaming up:
"God's death!" I shouted, "younker, that goes too far! Curb thy infernal
tongue, or neither thy greenness nor un~ weaponed state shall save thee
from my sword!"
"And I," quoth Flamaueeour, stepping out before me -- "I deride thy
weapon; I will not turn one hair's-breadth from it -- here! point it here, to
this heart, dammed and choked with a cruel affection! Oh, I am wretched
and miserable, and eager against all my instincts for to-morrow's
Whereat that soft and silly youth turned his gorget back upm me, and
leaned against the tent-pole most dejectedly. And I was grieved for him,
and spun my angry brand into the furthest corner, and clapped him on
the shoulder, and cheered him as I might, au!;1 then, half mindful to
renonuce my letter, yet asked him once again.
"Come, thou art steadier now~ Wilt thou finally write for me to m~
"By evory saint in Paradise," groaned the unhappy Flamaucoeur, "I will
"What! not do me a favor and please thy old friend, Isobel of Oswaldston,,
at one and the same time:~"
"Please whom?" shrieked Flamaucceur, starting like a frightened rose.
"Why, you incomprehensible boy, lsobel of Oswaldston -- thy old
playmate Isobel. Surely I had told thee before it was of her I was thus
What passed then within that steel casque I did not know, though now I
well can guess; but that slim gallant turned from me, and never a word he
spoke. ~ gentle tremor shook him from head to heel, and I saw the steel
plates of his harness quiver with the throes of his pent emotion, while the
blue plumes upon his helmet-top shook like aspen leaves in the first
breath of a storm, and over the bars of his cruel visor there rippled a sigh
such as surely could only have come from deep down in a human heart.
All this perplexed me very much and made me thoughtful; but before I
could fashion my suspicions Flamaucoeur mastered his feelings, and came
slowly to the little table, and, saying in a shy, humble voice, wondrously
altered, "I will write to thy maid," drew off his steel gaulltlet and took up
the pen. That smooth, fine hand q! his trembled a little as he spread the
paper on the table, and then we began.
OUB CAlffP BY THE SOM~E, "Angu~t 24, 1376.
"To the Excelle,~t Lady lsobel of Oswaldston this brings greeting and
"MADA~E, -- l\Iay it please you to accept the homago of the humblest
soldier who serves with Eing Edward."
"That," said Flamaucceur, stopping for a moment to sharpen his pen, "is
not a very amorous beginning."
"No," I answered, "and I have a mind first only to tell her how we fare.
You see, good youth, our parting was such she weeps in solitune, I expect,
hoping nothing from me, and therefore I would wish to break my
amendment to her gently. Faith! she may be dying of love for aught I
know, and the shock of a frank avowal of my new-awakened passion
might turn her head."
"Why, yes, Sir Knight," quoth my comrade, taking a fresh dip of ink, "or,
on the other hand, she may now be footing it to some gay measure on
those polished floors we wht of,
playing hide-and-seek among the tapestries with certain merry gallants,"
"Jove! if I thought so!"
"Well, never mind. Get on with thy missive, and I will not interrupt again."
"After leaving your father's castle, madame, I fell in about nightfall with
that excehen t youth, Flamaueecur, according to your ladyship's
supposition. We crossed the narrow sea, and since have scarcely had time
to dine or sleep or wipe douvn our weary chargers, or once to scour our
red and rusty armor. We joined :king :Edward, madame, just as his
highness unfurled the lions and Jleur-de-lis upon the green slopes of the
Seine, and thence, right up to the walis of Paris, we scoured the country.
We turned then, Queen of Tournaments, northward, toward Flanders. "~
At this Flamaueecur laid down his pen for a moment, and heaving a sigh,
exclaimed: " That ' Queen of Tourname?lts' does not come well from thee,
Sir Knight. Thou slighted this very girl once in the lists when the prize was
on thy spearpoint,"
"Par Oie~6! and so I did. I had clean forgotten it. But how, in lieaven's
name, came you to know of that, who were not there?"
"Some one told me of it," replied the boy, looking away from me as
though he were lying.
"Well, cross it out,"
"Not I; the maid already knows, no doubt, the fickleness of men, and this
will surprise her no more than to see a weather-cock go round when the
wind doth change. E,roceed,"
":ELeavy laden with booty, we turned toward Flanders. We gained two
days ago the swelling bauks of the Somme, and down this sluggish
stream, taking what we listed as we went with the red license of our
revengeful errand, we have struggled until here, fair lady. But each hour
of this adventurous march has seen us closer and more closely beset. The
broad stream runs to north of us, the burgher levies of Amiens are
mustering thick upon our right and behind, Gods! so close that now, as
this is penued, the black canopy of the night is all rundy where his
countless watch-fires glimmer on the southern sky; behind us comes the
pale respondent in this bloody suit that we are trying -- Philip, who says
that France is his by Salic law, and no rod of it, no foot or inch on this side
of the salt -sea~ ever c~n or shall be Edward's, And for
jurors, madame, to the assize that will be held so shortly he has gathered
from every corner of his vassal realm an hundred thousand footmen and
twenty thousand horse. A score of perjured princes make his false quarrel
doubly false by bearing witness to it; and here, to-morrow at the furthest,
we do think they will arraign us, and put this matter to the sharp
adjustment of the sword. Against that great host that threatens us we are
but a handful; four thousand men-at-arms, all native to the English shires,
ten thousand archers, as many light-amed Welshmen, and four thousand
"There," I said, with pride, as Flamaueecur's busy pen came to a stop --
"there, she will know now how it goes with King Edward's gallant
"Why, yes, no doubt she may," responded my friend; " but maids are
more apt to be interested in the particular than in the general. You have
addressed her so far like the presiding captain of a warlike council. Is there
nothing more to come?"
"Gads, that's true enough! I have left out all the love."
"Yet that is what her hungry eyes will look for when her fingers untie this
"~hy, then, take up your pen again and write thus:
"And, madame, to-morrow's battle, if it comes will be no light affair. He
who sends this to thee may, eli it reaches thy hand, be numbered among
the things that are past. Therefore he would also that all negligence of his
were purged by such atonement as he can make, and all cruneness
likewise amended. And in particular he offers to thee, whose virtues and
condescension late reflection have brought lively to his mblcl, his most
dutiinl and appreciative homage. You, who have so good a knowledge of
his poor taste, will pardon his ineloquence; but he would say to thee, in
fact, that thy genneness and worth were never so conscious to him as
here tonight, when the red gleam of coming battle plays along the
evening sky, and if he wears no token in his helmet in tomorrow's fray,
'tis because he has none of thine,"
"There, boy, 'tis not what I meant to say, and very halting, yet she will
guess its meaning. Dost thou not think so?"
"('ruess its meaning! Oh, dear comrade, she will live again and feed upon
it,-wake and sleep upon it, and wear it next her heart -- just as I should
were I she and you were you."
"But it is beggarly and poorly expressed," I said, with pleased humility.
"She will not think so," cried Flamaucreur. "If I know aught of maids, she
will think it the most blessed vellum that ever was engrossed; she will like
its stylo- better than the wretched culprit likes the style of the roprieve the
steaming horseman flaunts before him. She'll cou cach line and lotter, and
puncture them with tears and kisses. Thou hast had small ken of maids, I
think, sweet soldier,"
"TVell, well, it may be so. l)o tZp the letter, since it will read so well, and
put it in the way to be taken by the first messenger who sails for England.
Then we will ride round the posts and see how near the Frenchman's
watch-fires be. And so to sleep, good friend, and may the many-named
powers which sit on high wake us to a happy to-morrow,"
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