I took lodgings that evening with some rough soldiers who kept guard 
over the town gate, and slept as soundly by their watch-fire as though my 
country clothes were purple, and a stony bench in an angle of the walls 
were a princely couch. But when the morning came I determined to better 
my condition.

With this object in view, one of the smallest of my rings was selected, and 
with this conveniently hidden, I went down


into the town to search for a jeweler's. A strange town indeed it struck me. 
Narrow and many were the streets, and paved with stones, timber and 
plaster jutting out overhead so as to lessen the fair, free sky to a narrow 
strip, and greatly to compress my country spirit. At every lattice-window, 
so amply provided with glass as I had never known before, they were 
hanging out linen at that early hour to air; and the prentice lads came 
yawning and stretching to their masters' shutter booths, and every now 
and then down the quaint streets of that curious city, which had sprung, 
peopled with a new race, from the earth during the long night of my sleep, 
there rumbled a country tumbril loaded with rustic things, whereat the 
women came out to chaffer and buy of the smocked cartsman who spoke 
the glib English so novel to my ear, and laughed and gossiped with them. 
The early ware I noticed in his cart was still damp and sparkling with the 
morning dew, so close upon the dawn had he come in, and there in the 
town where the deep street shadows still lay undisturbed, now and then a 
Jew, still ashamed, it seemed, to meet any of those sleepy Christian eyes, 
would steal by to an early bargain, wrapped to his chin with his gabardine 
-- I knew that garment a thousand years ago -- and fearfully slinking, in 
that intolerant time, from house to house and shadow to shadow.

Now and then as I sauntered along in a city of novelties, a couple of 
revelers in extraordinary various clothes, their toes longer than their 
sleeves, their velvet caps quaintly peaked, and slashed doublets showing 
gay vests below, came reeling and singing up the back ways, making the 
half-waked dogs dozing in the gutters snarl and snap at them, and 
disturbing the morning meal of the crows rooting in the litter-heaps.

As the sun came up, and the fresh, white light of that fair Plantagenet 
morning crept down the faces of the eastward walls, the city woke to its 
daily business. A page came tripping over the cobbles with a message in 
his belt, the good wives were astir in all the houses, and the prentices fell to 
work manfully on booth and bars as merchant and mendicant, early 
gallant, and basketed maid began the day in earnest.

All these things I saw from under the broad rim of my rustic hat -- my 
ragged, sorrel-green cloak thrown over my shoulder and across my face, 
and, so disguised, silent, observant -- now recognizing something of that 
yesterday that was so long ago, and anon sad and dubious, I went on until 
I found what I sought for, and came into a smooth, broad street, where the 
jewelers had their stalls. I chose one of those who seemed in a fair way of 
business, and entered.


"Are you the master here?" I asked of a gray-bearded merchant who was 
searching for the spectacles he had put away overnight.

"My neighbors say so," he answered, gruffly.

"Then I would trade with you."

Whereon, having found and adjusted his great horn-glasses, he eyed me 
superciliously from head to foot; then said, ill a tone of derision:

"As you wish, friend countryman. But will you trade in pearl and sapphire 
or diamond pins and brooches, perhaps; or is it only for broken victuals of 
my last night's supper:"'

"Keep thy victuals for thy lean and hungry lads. I will trade with you in 
pearl and sapphire." And thereon, from under my moldy rags, I brought a 
lordly ring that danced and sparkled in the clear sunlight stealing through 
the mullioned windows of his booth, and threw quivering rainbow hues 
upon the white walls of the little den dazzling the blinking, delighted old 
man in front of me. "How much for that?" I asked, throwing it down in 
front of him.

It was a better gem than he had seen for many a day, and, having turned it 
over loving and wistful, he whispered to me (for he thought I had surely 
stolen it) one sixteenth of its value. Thereon I laughed at him, and threw 
down my cap, and took the ring, and gave him such a lecture on gems and 
jewels -- all out of my old Phrygian merchant knowledge -- so praised and 
belanded the shine and water of each single shining point in that golden 
circlet that presently I had sold it to him for near its value.

Then I bought a leather wallet and put the money in, and traded again 
lower down the street with another ring. And then again at good prices -- 
for competition was close among these goldsmiths, and none liked me to 
sell the beautiful things I showed them one by one to their rivals -- I sold 
two more.

"Surely, surely, good youth," questioned one merchant to me, "these 
trinkets were made for some master abbot's thumb, or some blessed 

"And surely again, my friend," I answered, "you have just seen them 
drawn from a layman's finger."

"Well, well," he said, "I will give you your price;" and then, as he turned 
away to pack them, he muttered to himself, "a stout cudgel seems a good 
profession nowadays. If it were not through fear yon Flemish rascal over 
the road might , take the gem, I at least would never deal with such an 
obvious footpad."

By this time I was rich, and my wallet-purse hung low and


heavy at my girdle, so away I went to where some tailors lived, and 
accosted the best of them. Here the cross-legged sewers who sat on the sill 
among shreds of hundred-colored stuffs, and the bent white-fingered 
embroiderers stopped their work and gaped to hear the ragged, way-
worn loafer, whose broad shadow darkened their door-way, ask for silks 
and satins, yepres and velvet. One youthful churl, under the master's eyes, 
unbonneted, and in mock civility asked me whether I would have my 
surtout of crimson or silver, whether my jupons should be strung with 
seedling pearls, or just plain sewn with golden thread and lace. He said, 
that harmless scoffer, he knew a fine pattern a noble lord had lately worn, 
of minever and silver, which would very neatly suit me; but I, disdainful, 
not putting my hand to my loaded pouch as another might have done, 
only let the ragged homespun fall from across my face, and taking the cap 
from my raven hair, and grim, weather-beaten face, turned upon them.

The laughter died away in that little den as I did so, the embroiderer's 
needle stuck half-way through its golden fabric, the workers stared upon 
me open-mouthed. The cutter's shears shut with a snap upon the rustling 
webs, and then forgot to open, while prentice lads stood all with 
yardwands in their hand, most strangely spell-bound by my presence. The 
conquest was complete without a word, and no one moved, until presently 
down shuffled the master-tailor from his dusky corner, and, waving back 
his foolish boys, bowed low with sudden reverence as he asked, with 
many epithets of respect, in how he might serve me.

"Thanks," I said, "my friend. What I need is only this: that you should 
express upon me some of these tardy but courteous commendations. 
Translate me from these rags to the livery of gentility. Express in good 
stuffs upon me some of that 'nobility' your quick perception has now 
discovered -- in brief, suit me at once as a not too fantastic knight of your 
time is clad, and have no doubt about my paying." Whereon I quickened 
his willingness by a sight of my broad pieces.

Well, they had just such vests and tunics and hose as I needed, and these, 
according to the fashion, being laced behind and drawn in at the middle by 
a loose sword-belt, fitted me without special making. My vest was of the 
finest doeskin, scalloped round the edge, bound with gold tissue, and 
worked all up the front with the same in leaves and flowers. My hose were 
as green as rushes, and my shoes pointed and upturned half-way to my 
knees. on my shoulders hung a loose cloak of green velvet of the same 
hue as my hose, lined and puffed


with the finest grass-green satin that ever came in merchant bales from 
over seas. Over my right arm it was held by a gold-and-emerald brooch -- 
a "morse" that worthy clothier termed it -- bigger than my palm, and this 
tunic hung to my small-laced middle. My maunch sleeves were lined with 
ermine, and hung to my ankles a yard and more in length. On my head, 
my cap, again, was all of ermine and velvet, bound with strings of seed-
pearls. That same kindly hosier got me a pretty play-time dagger of gold 
and sapphire for my hip, and green satin gloves, sewn thick upon the back 
with golden threads. This, he said, was a fair and knightly vestment, such 
as became a goodly soldier when he did not wear his harness, but with 
naught about it of the courtly sumptuousness which so hard and warlike-
seeming a lord as I no doubt despised.

From hence I went by many a cobble pavement to where the noisy sound 
of hammers and anvils filled the narrow streets. And mighty busy I 
discovered the armor-smiths. There was such a riveting and hammering, 
such a fitting and filing and brazing going on, that it seemed as though 
every man in the town were about to don steel and leather. There were 
long-legged pages in garb of rainbow hue hurrying about with orders to 
the armorers, or carrying home their masters' finished helms or warlike 
gear; there were squires and men-at-arms idly watching at the forge doors 
the pulsing hammers weld rivets and chains; and ever and anon a man-at-
arms would come pushing through these groups with sheaves of broken 
arrows to be ground, or an armful of pikes to be rehandled, casting them 
down upon the cumbered floor; or, perhaps, it was a squire came along 
the way leading over the cobbles a stately war horse to the shoeing.

In truth, it was a sight to please a soldier's eyes, and right pleasant was it to 
me to hear the proud neighing of the chargers, the laughing and the talk, 
the busy whir of grindstone on sword and axes, the clanguor of the 
hammers as the hot, white spear-heads went to the noisy anvil, while 
forges beat in unison to the singing of the smiths. Ah! and I walked slowly 
down those streets, wondering and watching with vast pleasure in the 
busy scene, though every now and then it came over me how solitary I 
was -- I, the one impassive in this turmoil, to whom the very stake they 
prepared to fight for was unknown

A little way off were the booths where stores of Milan armor was for sale. 
To them I went, and was shown piles and stacks of harness such as never 
man saw before, all of steel and


golden inlay covering every point of a warrior, and so rich and 
cumbersome that it was only with great hesitation I submitted my free 
Phrygian limbs to such a steel casmenting. But I was a gentleman now, 
whereof to witness came in gorgeous apparel, backing the grim authority 
of my face, and the bargaining was easy enough. Skogula and Mista! but 
those smart, olive-skinned, hook-hosed Jewish apprentices screwed me up 
and braced me down into that suit of Milan steel until I could scarcely 
breathe, their black-eyed master all the time belauding the sit and comfort 
of it.

"Gads, sir," quoth he, "many's the hauberk I have seen laced on knightly 
shoulders, but, by the mail from the back of the Gittite who fell in 
Shochoh! I never saw a coat of links sit closer or truer than that!" and then 
again, "There's a gorget for you, sir! why, if Ahab had but possessed such a 
one, as I am a miserable, poor merchant and your valor's very humble 
servant, even the blessed arrows of Israel would have glanced off 
harmlessly from his ungodly body!" And the cunning, sanctimonious old 
Jew went fawning and smiling round, while his helpers pent me up in my 
glittering hide until I was steel and gold inlay from head to heel.

"By Abraham, noble sir, those greaves become your legs! -- pull them in a 
little more at the ankles, Isaac; and here's a tabard, sir, of crimson velvet 
and emblazoned borderings a prince might gladly wear."

Then they put a helm upon me with a visor and beaver, through which I 
frowned, as ill at ease as a young goshawk with his first hood, and girded 
me with a broad belt chosen from many, and a good English broadsword, 
the dagger "misericordia" at my other hip, and knightly spurs (they gave 
me that rank without question) upon my heels; so that I was completely 
armed at last, after the fantastic style of the time, and fit to take my place 
again in the red ranks of my old profession.

I will not weary you with many details of the process whereby I adapted 
myself to the times. From that armorer's shop I went -- leaving my mail to 
be a little altered -- to a hostlery in the center square of the town, and there 
I fed and rested. There, too, I chose a long-legged squire from among 
those who hung about every street corner, and he turned out a most 
accomplished knave. I never knew a villain who could lie so sweetly in his 
master's service as that particolored, curly-headed henchman. He fetched 
my armor back the next day, cheating the armorer at one end of the 
errand and me at the other, he got me a charger -- filling the gray-stoned 


with capering palfreys that I might take my choice -- and over the price of 
my selection he cozened the dealers and hood winked me. He was the 
most accomplished youth in his station that ever thrust a vagrom leg into 
green-and-canary tights, or put a cock's feather into a borrowed cap. He 
would sit among the wall-flowers on the inn-yard wall and pipe French 
ditties till every lattice-window round had its idle sewing-maid. He would 
swear, out in the market-place, when he lost at dice or skittles, until the 
bronzed troopers looking on blushed under their tawny hides at his 
supreme expurlatives. There was not such a lad within the town walls for 
strut, for brag, or bully; yet when he came in to render the service due to 
me, he ministered like a soft, white-fingered damsel. He combed my long 
black hair, anointing and washing it with wondrous scents, whereof he 
sold me vials at usurious interest; he whispered into my sullen, unnoticing 
ear a constant stream of limpid, sparkling scandal; he cleaned my armor till 
it shone like a brook in May-time, and stole my golden lace and a dozen of 
the sterling links from my dagger-chain. He knew the wittiest, most 
delicately licentious songs that ever were writ by a minstrel, and he could 
cook such dishes as might have made a dying anchorite sit up and feast.

Strange, incomprehensible! that wayward youth went forth one day on his 
own affairs, and met in the yard two sturdy loafers who spoke of me, and 
calling me penniless, unknown, infamous, and French, perhaps -- for they 
doubted I was good English -- whereon that gallant youth of mine fell on 
them and fought them -- there right under my window -- and beat them 
both, and flogged their dusty jackets all across the market-place to the tune 
of their bellowings, and all this for his master's honor. Then, having done 
so much, he proceeded with his private errand, which was to change, for 
his own advantage at a mean Fleming's shop, those pure golden spurs of 
mine, secreted in his bosom, into a pair of common brass ones.

For five days I had lain in that town in magnificent idleness, and had spent 
nearly all my rings and money, when one day, as I sat moody and alone 
by the porch of the inn drinking in the sun, my idle valor rusting for 
service, and looking over the market-square with its weather-worn central 
fountain, its cobble-stones mortared together with green moss and quaint 
surroundings, there came cantering in and over to my resthouse three 
goodly knights in complete armor with squires behind them, their 
pennons fluttering in the wind, tall white feathers streaming from their 
helms, and their swords and maces rattling at the saddle-bows to the 
merriest of tunes,


They pulled up by the open lattice, and throwing their broad bridles to the 
ready squires, came clattering up, dusty and thirsty, past where I lay, my 
inglorious silken legs outstretched upon the window-bench, and the 
sunlight all ashine upon the gorgeous raiment that irked me so.

They were as jolly fellows as one could wish to see; and they tossed up 
their beavers, and called for wine, and poured it down their throats with a 
pleasure pleasant enough to watch. Then -- for they could not unlace 
themselves -- in came their lads and fell to upon them, and unscrewed and 
lifted off the great helms, and, piece by piece, all the glittering armor, and 
piling it on the benches, the knights the while sighing with relief as each 
plate and buckle was relaxed, and so they got them at last down to their 
quilted vests; and then the gallants sat to table, and fell to laughing, and 
talking until their dinner came.

From what I gathered, they were on their way to war, and war upon that 
fair, fertile country yonder over the narrow seas. Jove! how they did revile 
the Frenchman, and drain their beakers to a merry meeting with him, until 
ever as they chattered the feeling grew within me that here was the chance 
I was waiting for; I would join them, and, since it was the will of the 
Incomprehensible, draw my sword once more in the cause of this fair, 
many-mastered island.

Nor was there long to wait for an excuse. They began talking of King 
Edward's forces presently, and how that every man who could spin a 
sword or sit a war-horse was needed for the coming onset, and how more 
especially leaders were wanting for the host gathering, so they said, away 
by the coast. Whereon at once I arose and went over, sitting down at their 
table, and told them that I had some knowledge of war, and though just 
then I lacked a quarrel, I would willingly espouse their cause if they would 
put me in the way of it.

In my interest and sympathy I had forgotten they had not known I was so 
close; and now the effect which my sudden appearance always had on 
strangers made them all stare at me as though I were a being of another 
world -- as indeed I was -- of many other worlds. And yet the comely, 
stalwart, raven-tressed, silk-swathed fellow who sat there before them at 
the white-scrubbed board, marking their fearful wonder with regretful 
indifference, was solid and real, and presently the eldest of them 
swallowed his surprise and spoke out courteously for all, saying they 
would be glad enough to help my wishes, and then, warming with good-
fellowship as the first effect of my entry wore off, he added they were that 


bound for the rendezvous, as he termed it, at a near castle; "and if I could 
wear harness as fitly as I could wear silk, and had a squire and a horse, 
they would willingly take me along with them." So it was settled, and in a 
great bumper they drank to me and I to them, and thus informally was I 
admitted into the ranks of English chivalry.

We eat and drank and laughed for an hour or two, and then settled with 
our host and got into our armor. This to them was accustomary enough, 
nor was it now so difficult a thing to me, for I had donned and doffed my 
gorgeous steel casings, by way of practice, so often in seclusion that when 
it came to the actual test, assisted with the nimble fingers of that varlet of 
mine, I was in panoply from head to heel, helmeted and spurred, before 
the best of them. Ah! and I was not so old yet but that I could delight in 
what, after all, was a noble vestment. And as I looked round upon my 
knightly comrades draining the last drops of their flagons, while their 
squires braced down their shining plates and girt their steel hips with noble 
brands, the while I knew in my heart that if they were strong and stalwart 
I was stronger and more stalwart; that if they carried proud hearts and 
faces shining there, under their nodding plumes, of gentle birth and 
handsome soldierliness, no less did I. Knowing all this, I say, and feeling 
peer to these comely peers, I had a flush of pride and contentment again in 
my strangely varied lot. Then the grooms brought round our gay-
ribboned horses to the cobbles in front, where, mounting, we presently set 
out, as goodly a four as ever went clanking down a sunny market-place, 
while the maids waved white handkerchiefs from the overhanging lattices, 
and townsmen and prentices uncapped them to our dancing pennons.

We rode some half score miles through a fertile country toward the west, 
now cantering over green undulations, and anon picking a way through 
woodland coppices, where the chequered light played daintily upon our 
polished furniture, and the spear-points rustled ever and anon against the 
green boughs overhead.

"What of this good knight to whose keep we are going?" asked one of my 
companions presently. "He is reputed rich, and, what is convenient in these 
penurious times, blessed only with daughters."

"Why," responded the fellow at his elbow, who set no small store by a 
head of curly chestnut hair and a handsome face below it, "if that is so, in 
truth I am not at all sure but that I will respectfully bespeak one of those 
fair maids. I am


half convinced I was not born to die on some scoundrel Frenchman's rusty 
toasting-iron. 'Tis a cursed perilous expedition this of ours, and I never 
thought so highly of the advantages of a peaceful and Christian life as I 
have this last day or two. Now, which of these admirable maids dost thou 
think most accessible, good Delafosse?" he asked, turning to the horseman 
who acted as our guide by right of previous knowledge here.

"Well," quoth that youth, after a moment's hesitation, "I must frankly tell 
you, Ralph, that I doubt if there are any two maids within a score of miles 
of us who have been tried so often by such as you and proved more 
intractable. The knight, their father, is a rough old fellow, as rich as though 
he were an abbot, hale and frank with every one. You may come or go 
about his halls, and (for they have no mother) lay what siege you like to 
his girls, nor will he say a word. So far so well, and many a pretty gallant 
asks no better opportunity. But because you begin thus propitious, it does 
not follow either fair citadel is yours. No; these virgin walls have stood 
unmoved a hundred assaults, and as much esclading as only a country 
swarming with poor desperate youths can any way explain."

"St. Denis!" exclaimed the other, "all this but fans the spark of my desire."

"Oh, desire, by all means. If wishes would bring down well-lined 
maidenhoods, those were a mighty scarce commodity, but, soberly, does 
thy comprehensive valor intend to siege both these heiresses at once, or 
will one of them suffice?"

"One, gentle Delafosse; and when my exulting pennon flutters triumphant 
from that captured turret I will in gratitude help thee to mount the other. 
Difference them; beguile this all too tedious way with an account of their 
peculiar graces. Which maid dost thou think I might the most aptly sue?"

"Well, you may try, of course; but, remember, I hold out no hope, neither 
of the elder nor the younger. That one, the first, is as magnificent a shrew 
as ever laughed an honest lover to scorn. She is as black and comely as any 
daughter of Zion. 'Tis to her near every knight yields at first glance; but, 
gads! it does them little good. She has a heart like the nether millstone; and 
as for pride, she is prouder than Lucifer! I know not what game it may be 
this swart Circe sees upon the skyline: some say 'tis even for that bold boy 
the young prince himself, now gone with his father to France, she waits, 
and some others say she will look no lower than a duke backed by


the wealth of the grand Soldan himself. But whoever it be, he has not yet 

"By the bones of St. Thomas a Becket," the young knight laughed, "I have a 
mind that that knight and I may cross the drawbridge together. Canst tell 
me, out of good comradeship, any weak place in this damsel's harness?"

"There is none I know of. She is proof at every point. Indeed, I am nigh 
reluctant to let one like you, whose heart has ripened in the sun of 
experience so much faster than his head, engage upon such a dangerous 
venture. They say one gallant was so stung by the calm scorn with which 
she mocked his offer that he went home and hung himself to a cellar 
beam; and another, blind in desperate love, leaped from her father's walls, 
and fell in the court-yard, a horrid, shapeless mass. Young de Vipon, as 
you know, stabbed himself at her feet, and 'tis told the maid's wrath was 
all because his spurting heart's-blood soiled her wimple a day before it was 
due to go to wash. How thrives thy inclination?"

"Oh, well enough! 'twould take more than this to spoil my appetite. But, 
nevertheless, let us hear something of the other sister. This elder is 
obviously a proud minx, who has set her heart on lordly game, and will 
not marry because her suitors seem too mean. How is it with the other 

"Why," said Delafosse, "it is even more hopeless with her. She will not 
marry, for the cold, sufficient reason that her suitors be all men."

"A most abominable offense."

"Ah, so she thinks it. Such a tender, shy, and modest maid there is not in 
the boast of the county. While the elder will hear you out, arms crossed on 
pulseless bosom, cold, disdainful eyes fixed with haughty stare to yours, 
the other will not stop to listen -- no, not so much as to the first inkling of 
your passion. Breathe so little as half a sigh, or tint your speech with a rosy 
glint of dawning love, and she is away, lighter than thistle-down on the 
upland breeze. I know of but two men -- loose, worldly fellows both of 
them -- who cornered her, and they came from her presence looking so 
crestfallen, so abashed at their hopes, so melancholy to think on their gross 
manliness, as it had appeared against the white celibacy of that maid, that 
even some previous suitors sorrowed for them. This is, I think, the safer 
venture, but even the least hopeful,"

"Is the maid all fallow like that? Has she no human faults to set against so 
much sterile virtue?"

"Of her faults I can not speak; but you must not hold her


altogether insipid and shallow. She is less approachable than her sister, and 
contemns and fears our kind; yet she is straight and tall in person, and, I 
have heard from a foster-brother of hers, can sit a fiery charger, new from 
stall, like a groom or horse-boy; she is the best shot with a cross-bow of 
any on the castle green, and in the women's hall as merry a romp, as ready 
for fun or mischief, as any village girl that ever kept a twilight tryst on a 
Saturday evening,"

"Gads, a most pleasant description! I will keep tryst with this one for a 
certainty, not only Saturdays, but six other days out of the week. The black 
jade may wait for her princeling for a hundred years as far as I am 
concerned. How far is it to the castle? I am hot impatience itself."

"Nor need your patience cool. Look," said Delafosse, and as he spoke we 
turned a bend in the woodland road, and there, a mile before us, flashing 
back the level sun from towers and walls that seemed of burnished copper, 
was the noble pile we sought.

Certes! when we came up to it it was a fine place indeed, cunningly built 
with fosses round about, long barbican walls within them, turreted and 
towered, and below these again were other walls so shrewd designed for 
defense as to move any soldier heart with wonder and delight. But if the 
walls did pleasure me, the great keep within, towering high into the sky, 
with endless buttresses and towers and casements, grim, massive, and 
stately, rearing its proud circumference, embattled and serrated far 
beyond the reach of rude assault or desperate onset, filled me with pride 
and awe. I scarce could take my eyes from those red walls shining so 
molten in the setting sun, yet round about the country lay very fair to look 
at. All beyond that noble pile the land dropped away -- on two sides by 
sheer cliffs to the shining river underneath, and on the others in gentle, 
grassy undulations, dotted with great trees, whereunder lay, encamped by 
tent and watch fire, the rear of King Edward's army, and then on again 
into the pleasant distance that lay stretched away in hill and valley toward 
the yellow west.

All over that wide champaign were scattered the villages of serfs and 
vassals, who grew corn for the lordly owner in peacetime, and followed 
his banner in battle. And in that knightly stronghold up above there were, 
I found when I came to know it better, many kinsmen and women who 
sheltered under my lord's liberality. Dowagers dwelt in the wings, and 
young squires of good name -- a jolly, noisy, unruly crew -- harbored 
down in the great vaulted chambers by the sally-port.


There were kinsmen of the left-hand degree in the warder's lodge by the 
gates, and poor wearers of the same noble escutcheon up among the 
jackdaws and breezes of the highest battlements. And so generous was the 
knight's bounty, so ample the sweep of his castellated walls, and 
labyrinthine the mazes of the palace keep they encircled, so abundant the 
income of his tithes and tenure, dues and fees, that all these folk found 
living and harborage with him; and not only did it not irk that lord, but 
only to his steward and hall porter was it known how many guests there 
were, or when a man came or went, or how many hundred horses stood 
in the stalls, or how many score of vassals fed in the great kitchen.

On Sundays, after mass, the smooth green in the center of the castle would 
be thronged with men and maids in all their finery; while the quintains 
spun merrily under the mock onsets of the young knights, and dame and 
gallant trod the stony battlements, and down among the wide shadow of 
the cedar-trees on the slope ('twas a crusader who brought the saplings 
from Palestine) vassal and yeoman idled and made love or frolicked with 
their merry little ones. Over all that gallant show my lord's great blazon 
snapped and flaunted in the wind upon the highest donjon; and in the halls 
beneath the lords and ladies sat in the deep-seated windows, and laughed 
and sung and jested in the mullion-tinted sunshine with all the courtly 
extravagance of their brilliant day.

Ah, by old Isis! at that time the world, it seemed to me, was less complex, 
and the rules of life were simpler. Kingcraft had found its mold and fashion 
in the courageous Edward, and the first duty of a noble was then nobility; 
the knights swore by their untarnished chivalry, and the vassals by their 
loyalty. Yes, and it was priestly then to fear God and hell, and every 
woman was, or would be, lovely. So ran the simple creed of those who 
sung or taught, while near every one believed them.

But you who live in a time when there is no belief but that of incredulence, 
when the creative skill and forethought of the great primeval cause is open 
to the criticism and cavil of every base human atom it has brought about -- 
you know better; you know how vain their dream was, how foolish their 
fidelity, how simple their simplicity, how contemptible their courage, and 
how mean by the side of your love of mediocrity their worship of ideals 
and heroes. By the bright Theban flames to which my fathers swore, by 
the grim shadow of Osiris which dogged the track of my old Phoenician 
bark, I was soon more English than any of them!


But while I thus tell you the thoughts that come of experience, I keep you 
waiting at the castle gate. They admitted us by drawbridge and 
portcullised arch into the center space, and there we dismounted. Then 
down the steps, to greet guests of such good degree, came the gallant, 
grizzled old lord himself in his quilted under-armor vest. We made 
obeisance, and in a few words the host very courteously welcomed his 
guests, leading us in state (after we had given our helmets to the pages at 
the door) into the great hall of his castle, where we found a throng of 
ladies and gallants in every variety of dress, filling those lofty walls with 
life and color.

In truth, it was a noble hall, the walls bedecked with antlers or spoils of 
woodcraft, with heads and horns and bows and bills, and tapestry; and the 
ceiling wonderfully wrought with carved beams as far down that ample 
corridor as one could see. The floor of oak was dark with wear, yet as 
smooth and reflective to many-colored petticoats and rainbow-tinted 
shoes as the Parian marble of some fair Roman villa. And on the other side 
there were fifty windows deep-set in the wall, with gay stainings on them 
of parable and escutcheon; while on the benches, fingering ribboned 
maudolins, whispering gentle murmurs under the tinseled lawn of fair 
ladies' kerchiefs, or sauntering to and fro across the great chamber's ample 
length, were all these good and gentle folk, bedecked and tasseled and 
ribboned in a way that made that changing scene a very fairy show of 

Strange, indeed, was it for me to walk among the glittering throng, all 
prattling that merry medley they called their native English, and to 
remember all I could remember, to recall Briton, Roman, Norseman, 
Norman, Saxon, and to know each and all of those varied peoples were 
gone -- gone forever -- gone beyond a hope or chance of finding, and yet, 
again, to know that each and every one of those nations, whose strong life 
in turn had given color to my life, were here --here before me, 
consummated in this people -- oh, 'twas strange, and almost past belief ! 
And ever as I went among them in fairer silks and ermines than any, yet 
underneath that rustling show I laughed to know that I was nothing but 
the old Phoenician merchant, nothing but Electra's petted paramour, the 
strong, unruly Saxon thane.

And if I thought thus of them, in sooth they thought no less strangely of 
me. Ever, as my good host led me here and there from group to group, 
the laughter died away on cherry lips, and minstrel fingers went all a-
wandering down their music strings as one and all broke off in mid-
pleasure to stare


in mute perplexity and wonder at me. From group to group we went, my 
host at each making me known to many a glittering lord and lady, and to 
each of those courtly presences I made in return that good Saxon bow, 
which subsequently I found instable fashion had made exceeding rustic.

Presently in this way we came to a gay knot of men collected round two 
fair women, the one of them seated in a great velvet chair, holding court, 
as I could guess by word and action, over the bright constellations that 
played about her, the other within the circle, yet not of it, standing a little 
apart and turned from us as we approached. Alianora, the first of these 
noble damsels, was the elder daughter of the master of the house, and the 
second, Isobel, was his younger child. The first of these was a queen of 
beauty, and from that first moment when I stood in front of her, and came 
under the cold, proud shine of those black eyes, I loved her! Jove! I felt the 
hot fire of love leap through my veins on the instant as I bowed me there 
at her footstool, and forgot everything else from the moment, merging all 
the world against the inaccessible heart of that beautiful girl. Indeed, she 
was one who well might play the queen among men. Her hair was black 
as night, and, after the fashion of the time, worked up to either side of her 
head into a golden filigree crown, beaded with shining pearls, 
extraordinary regal. Black were her eyes as any sloe, and her smooth calm 
face was wonderful and goddess-like in the perfect outline and color. 
Never a blush of shame or fear, never a sign of inward feeling, stirred that 
haughty damsel's mood. By Venus! I wonder why we loved her so. To 
whisper gentle things into her ear was but like dropping a stone into some 
deep well -- the ripples on the dark, sullen water were not more cold, 
silent, intangible than her responsive smile. She was too proud even to 
frown, that disdainful English peeress, but, instead, at slight or negligence 
she would turn those unwavering eyes of hers upon the luckless wight and 
look upon him so that there was not a knight, though of twenty  fights, 
there was not a gallant, though never so experienced in gentle tourney 
with ladies' eyes, who durst meet them. To this maid I' knelt, and rose in 
love against all my better instinct -- wildly, recklessly enamored of her 
shining Circean queenliness. Ah! so inthralled was I by the black Alianora 
that my host had to pluck me by the sleeve ere he whispered to me; 
"Another daughter, Sir Stranger. Divide your homage," and he led me to 
the younger girl.

Now, if the elder sister had won me at first sight, my feelings were still 
more wonderful to the other. If the elder had


the placid sovereignty of the evening star, Isobel was like the planet of the 
morning. From head to heel she was in white. Upon her forehead her fair 
brown hair was strained back under a coverchief and wimple as colorless 
as the hawthorn flowers. This same fair linen, in the newest fashion of 
demurity, came down her checks and under her chin, framing her face in 
oval, in pretty mockery of the steel coif of an armed knight. Her dress 
below was of the whitest, softest stuff, with long hanging sleeves, a 
wondrous slender middle, drawn in by a silk and silver cestus-belt made 
like a warrior's sword-wear, and a skirt that descended in pretty folds to 
her feet and lay atwining about them in comely ampleness. She was as 
supple as a willow wand, and tall and straight, and her face -- when in a 
moment she turned it on me -- was wondrous pleasant to look at -- the 
very opposite of her sister's -- all pink and white, and honestly ashine with 
demure fun and merriment, the which constantly twinkled in her 
downcast eyes, and kept the pretty corners of her mouth a-twitching with 
covert, ill-suppressed, unruly smiles. A fair and tender young girl indeed, 
made for love and gentleness.

Unhappy Isobel! luckless victim of an accursed fate! Wretched, perverse 
Phoenician! Ill-omened Alianora! Between us three sprung up two fatal 
passions. Read on, and you shall see.

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Chapter 11