Now, when that fair young English girl, at her father's voice, turned to 
acknowledge my presence -- thinking it was some other new knight of the 
many who came there every hour -- she lifted her eyes to mine, and then, 
all on a sudden, without rhyme or reason, she started back and blanched 
whiter than her own wimple, and then flushed again, equally 
unaccountably, and fell a-trembling and staring at me in a wondrous 
fashion. She came a step forward, as though she would greet some long 
looked-for friend, and then withdrew, and half held out her hand, and 
took it back, the while the color came and went upon her cheeks in quick 
flushes, and, stirred by some strange emotion, her bosom rose and fell 
under the golden cestus and the lawn with the stress of her feelings. The 
sudden storm, however invoked, shook that sweet fabric most mightily. 
There, in that very minute, it seemed -- there, in that merry, careless place 
in sight of me, but a gaudy gallant a little more thoughtful-looking, 
perhaps, than those she often saw, yet, all the same, naught but a stranger 


unknown and nameless to her -- moved by some affinity within us, just as 
the alchemist's magic touch converts between two breaths one elixir in his 
crucibles to another, so, before my eyes, I saw in that fair girl's pallid face 
love flush through her veins, and light her heart and eyes with a 
responding blush.

And I -- I, the unhappy, I, the sorrow bestower, as I saw her first, what of 
all things in this wide world should I think of -- what should leap up in my 
mind as I perked my gilded scabbard and bowed low to the polished 
oaken floor in my glittering Plantagenet finery -- what vision should come 
to me in that latter-day hall, among those mandolin-fingering courtiers, 
before that costly raimented maiden, the fair heiress of a thousand years of 
care and gentle living, that girl leaning frightened and shy upon the arm of 
her strong father like a soft white mist-cloud in the shadow of a mountain 
-- what thought, what idea, but a swift revision of Blodwen, my wild, 
ruddy, untutored British wife!

All those gaudy butterflies of the new day, that stately home and that fair 
flower herself, shrunk into nothing; and as the white lightning leaps 
through the dull void of midnight, and shows for one dazzling second 
some long-remembered country, ashine in every leaf and detail, to the 
startled pilgrim, and then is gone with all the ghostly mirage of its passage, 
so in that surprising moment, so full of import, Blodwen rose to my mind 
against all reason and likelihood -- Blodwen the Briton, the ruddy-haired -- 
Blodwen radiant with her gentle motherhood -- Blodwen, who could 
scream so fiercely to her clansmen in the fore-front of conflict, and drive 
her bloody chariot through the red mud of battle with wounded foemen 
writhing under her remorseless wheels more blithely than a latter-day 
maid would trip through the spangled meadow-grass of spring-time -- 
Blodwen rose before me!

Oh, 'twas wild, 'twas foolish, past explaining nonsense! And, angry with 
myself and that white maid who stood and hung her head before me, I 
stroked my hand across my face to rid me of the fancy, and, gathering 
myself together, made my bow, murmuring something fiercely civil, and 
turned my back upon her to seek another group.

Yes; but if you think I conquered that fancy, you are wrong. For days and 
days it haunted me, even though I laughed it to scorn, and, what made the 
matter more difficult, more perplexing, was that I had not guessed in 
error: the unhappy Isobel had loved me from first sight, and, against every 
precedent her nature would have warranted, grew daily deeper in the 
toils. And I, who never yet had turned from the eyes


of supplicant maid, watched her color shift and fly as I came or went, and 
strode gloomy, unmindful through all her pretty artifices of maiden 
tenderness, burning the meanwhile with love for her disdainful sister. It 
was a strange medley, and in one phase or another pursued me all the 
time I was in that noble keep. When I was not wooing I was being wooed. 
Alas! and all the coldness I got from that black-browed lady with the 
goddess carriage and the faultless skin I passed on to the poor, enamored 
girl who dogged my idle footsteps for a word.

Thus, on one day we had a tournament. All round the great castle, under 
the oaks, were pitched the tents of the troopers, while the pennons and 
bannerets of knights and barons, as we saw them from the turret-top, 
shone in the sunlight like a field of flowers. 'The soldier-yeomen had their 
sports and contests on the greensward, and we went down to watch them. 
Thor! but I never saw such bronzed and stalwart fellows, or witnessed 
anything like the truth and straightness of those stinging flights of shafts 
the archers sent against their butts! Then the next day, following the sports 
of the common people, in the tilt-yard inside the barbican, we held a 
tourney, a mock battle and a breaking of spears, a very gorgeous show 
indeed, and near as exciting as an honest melee itself.

So tuneful in my ears proved the shivering of lances and the clatter of 
swords on the steel panoply of the knights, that, though at first I held 
aloof, stern and gloomy with my futile passion, yet presently I itched to 
take a spear, and, since those sparkling riders liked the fun so much, to let 
them try whether my right hand had lost the cunning it learned before 
their fathers were conceived. And as I thought so, standing among the 
chief ones in that brilliant tourney ring, up came the white Rose and 
tempted me to break a lance, and sighed so softly and brushed against me 
with her scented draperies, and tried with feeble self-command to meet 
my eyes and could not, and was so obviously wishful that I should ride a 
course or two, and so prettily in love, that I was near relenting of my 

I did unbend so much as to consent to mount. A page fetched my armor 
and my mighty black charger draped in crimson-blazoned velvet and 
ribboned from head to tail, and then I went to the rear of the lists and put 
on the steel.

"Thanks, good squire," I said to the youth who thrust my pointed toes into 
the stirrups when I was on my horse.


"Now give me up my gauntlets and post me in my principles."

"Fy, sir, not to know," quoth he, "the worship of weapons and the honor of 
fair ladies!"

"Thanks. That is not difficult to remember; and as to my practice?"

"Ah! there you confuse him," put in a jester standing by. "No good knight 
likes to be bound too closely as to that,"

As I rode round the lists a white hand from under the sisters' dais -- to 
whom belonging I well could guess -- threw me a flower, the which fell 
under my sleek charger's hoofs and was stamped into the trodden mold. 
And then the trumpet sounded "Avant!" called the glittering marshal, and 
we met in mid-career.

Seven strong knights did I jerk from their high-peaked saddles that 
morning, and won a lady's golden head-ring, and rode round about the 
circus with it on my lance point. When I came under where Isobel sat, I 
saw her fair cheeks redder than my ribbons with maiden expectation; but 
as I passed without a sign, they grew whiter than her lawn. And then I 
reined up and deposited that circlet at the footstool of her sister. The 
proud, cold maid accepted the homage as was her duty, but scarcely 
deigned to lower her eyes to the level of my helmet plumes while her 
father put it on her forehead.

A merry time we had in that courtly place waiting for the signal to start; 
and much did I learn and note -- Soon the favorite gallant in that goodly 
company, the acknowledged strongest spearman in the lists, the best teller 
of strange stories by an evening fire. But never an inch of way could I 
make with the impenetrable girl on whom my wayward heart was set, 
while the other -- the younger -- made her sweet self the pointing-stock of 
high and low, she was so blindly, so obviously in love.

One day it came to a climax. We met by chance in a glade of black shadows 
among the cedar branches, I and that damsel in white, and finding I would 
not woo her, she set to work and wooed me -- so sweet, so strong, so 
passionate, that to this day, I can not think how I withstood it. Yes, and 
that fair, slim maid, renowned through all the district for her gentle 
reticence, when I would not answer love with love, and glance for glance, 
fired up with white-hot passion, threw hesitance to the wind, and besought 
and knelt to me, and asked no more than to be my slave, so sweet, so 
reckless in her passion that it was not the high-born English lady who knelt 
there, but rather it seemed my dear, fiery, untutored British princess,


Fool I was not to see it then, witless after so much not to guess the 
tameless spirit, the intruder soul that poor girl at my feet held unwitting in 
her bosom.

She came to me, as I have said, all in a gust of feeling unlike herself, and, 
when I would not say that which she longed to hear, she wrung her hands, 
and then down she came upon her knees, and clipped me round my 
jeweled belt, and confessed her love for me in such a headlong rush of 
tearful eloquence I durst rot write it.

"Lady," I said, lifting the supple girl to her feet, "I grieve, but it is useless. 
Forget! forgive! I can not answer as you would,"

"Ah, but," she answered, rushing again to the onset sighing as now the hot, 
strange love that burned within her and now her sweet native spirit strove 
for mastery -- "surely I think I am possessed -- I will not take 'No' for an 
answer. I am consumed (oh! fy to say it) for thee. I am not first in thy dear 
affection -- why, then, I will be second. Not second! then I will be the 
hundredth from thy heart. My light, my life and fate, I can not live without 
thee. Oh! as yon were born by your mother's consummated love, as thou 
hast ever felt compunction for a white-cheeked maid, have pity on me. I 
tell thee I will follow thee to the ends of the earth (Lord, how my tongue 
runs on!). For one moiety of that affection perhaps a happier woman has I 
will serve thee through life. Thou hast no wife, 'tis said, to hinder. Thou art 
a soldier; and a score of them, ere I was touched with this strange infection, 
have sued hopeless for but a chance of that which is proffered thee so 
freely. Truth! they have told me I was fair, and tall, with a complexion that 
ridiculed the water-lilies on the moat, and hair, one said, was like ripe corn 
with a harvest sun upon it ('it makes me blush' -- I heard her whisper to 
herself -- 'to apprise myself like this'), and yet you stand averse and sullen, 
with eyes turned from me, and deaf ears! am I a sight so dreadful to you?"

"Maid!" I cried, shutting out her supplicant beauty from my heart -- 
overfull as I thought it of that other one, her sister -- "no man could look 
upon you and not be moved. The wayward immortals have given you 
more sweetness than near any other woman I ever saw. 'A sight so 
dreadful to me!' Why, you are fairer than an early morning in May, when 
the new sun gets up over the wet-flowered hawthorns. And for this very 
reason, for pity on us both, stand up and dry your tears. Believe me, dear 
maid, where I go you can not come. You tread the rough soldier's path. 
Why, those pretty velvet


buskins would wear out in the first march. And turn those dainty hands to 
the rough craft of war, to scouring harness and grooming chargers -- oh! 
that were miserable indeed; those cherry lips are worse suited than you 
know for the chance fare of camp and watch-fire, and these round arms 
would soon find a sword was heavier than a bodkin -- there, again forget, 
forgive -- and, perhaps, when I come back -- "

But why should I further follow that sad love-scene under the broad-
spreading cedars? Let it be sufficient for you that I soothed her as well as 
might be, and stanched her tears, and modified my coldness, taking her 
pretty hands, and whispering to as dainty and greedy an ear as ever was 
opened to hear, perhaps, a little more of lover friendliness than I truly 
meant; and so we parted.

Now see the shield turned. That very afternoon did the other sister 
unbend a point with cruel suavity, and set me joyous by promising to 
meet me at nightfall, whereat, as you will readily understand, every other 
event of the day faded into nothingness. At the appointed hour, just as the 
white mist floated in thick, fine wisps from the shadowed moat on the 
eastward of the castle wall, and the red setting sun was throwing the 
strong black shadows of cedar branches upon the copper-gleaming 
windows and walls of the side that faced him, I rose, and making some 
jesting excuse, slipped away from my noisy comrades in the hall into the 
shadows of the corridors. Yes; and though you may smile, he who thought 
this Phoenician had plumbed the well of mortal love to the very depth, had 
learned all there was to learn, and left nothing that could stir him so much 
as a heart-beat in this fair field of adventure, was now tripping through the 
ruddy and black dusk, anxious and alert, his pulses beating a quicker 
measure than his feet, the native boldness of his nature all overlaid with 
new-born diffidence, fingering his silken points as he went, and conning 
pretty speeches, now hoping in his lover hesitance the tryst would not be 
kept, and then anon spurning himself for being so laggard and faint-
hearted; and thus progressing in moods and minds as many as the gentle 
shadows chequering his path from many an oriel window and many a 
fluted casement, he came at length within sight of the deep-set window 
looking down over the pale shining water and the heavy woods beyond, 
where his own love-tale was to be told.

And there, as I plucked back the last tapestry that barred my passage, and 
stood still for a moment on the threshold -- there, before we, sitting on the 
trestles under the mullions 


in the twilight, was the figure of my fair and haughty English girl.

She had her face turned away from the evening glow, her ample white 
cap, peaked and laced with gold on either crescent point, further threw 
into shadow the features I knew so well, while the fine, shapely hands lay 
hidden in the folds of the ample dress which shone and glimmered in the 
dusk against the oak panelings of that ancient lobby in misty uncertainty. 
Gentle dame! My heart bounded with expectant triumph to see how 
pensive and downcast was her look, how still she sat, and how, 
methought, the white linen and the golden ceinture above her heart rose 
and fell even in that silent place with the tumult of maidenly passion 
within. My heart opened to her, I say, as though I were an enmored 
shepherd about to pour a brand-new virgin love into the frightened ears 
of some timid country maid, and within my veins, as the heavy arras fell 
from my hands behind me, there surged up the molten stream of eastern 
love. I neither waited to see nor hear else, but strode swiftly over the floor 
and cast myself down there at her feet upon one knee (gods! how it makes 
me smart to think of it! -- I who had never bent a knee before in 
supplication to earth or heaven), and poured out before her the offering of 
my passion. Hot and swiftly I wooed her, saying I scarce know what, 
loosening my heart before that silent shrine, laying bare the keen, strong 
throb of life and yearning that pulsed within me, persuading, entreating, 
cajoling, until both breath and fancy failed. And never, under all that 
stream of love, had the damsel given one sign -- one single indication of 

Then on I went again, deeming the maid held herself not yet wooed 
enough, disporting myself before her, and pleading the simplicity of my 
love, saying how that, if it brought no great riches with it, yet was it the 
treasure of a truthful heart. Did she sigh to widen her father's broad lands? 
I swore by Osiris I would do it for her love better than any petty lordling 
could. Did she desire to shine, honored above all women, where spears 
were broken or feasts were spread? Think of yon littered lists, I cried, and 
told her there was not a champion in all the world I feared; none who 
should not come humbled to her footstool; while as for honor and 
recognition -- Jove! I would pluck them from the king himself, even as I 
had plucked them from his betters. Yet never a sign that fair girl gave.

Full of wonder and surprise, I waited for a moment for some sign or show, 
if not of answering fire, at least of reason;


and then, as I cheeked in full course my passionate pleadings, that 
wretched thing before me burst, not into the tears I expected of maidenly 
capitulation, nor into the proud anger of offended virgins, but into a silly, 
plebeian simper, which began in ludicrous smothered merriment under 
the folds of the lawn she held across her face, and ended, amid what 
appeared contending feelings, in a rustic outburst of sobs and 

I was on my feet in an instant, all my wild love-making dammed back 
upon my heart by suspicion and surprise, and as I frowned fiercely at that 
dim-seen form under the distorting shadow of the windows, it rose -- to 
nothing like Alianora's height -- and stepped out where the evening light 
better illumined us. And there that poor traitress tore off in anger and 
remorse the lace and linen of a well-born English maiden, and stood 
revealed before me the humblest, the meanest seeming, and the most 
despised kitchen-wench of any that served in that baronial hall.

You will guess what my feelings were as this indignity I had been put to 
rushed upon me, how in my wounded pride I crossed my arms savagely 
upon my breast, and turned away from that poor, simpering, rustic fool, 
and clinched my teeth, and swore fierce oaths against that cruel girl who, 
in her pride and insolence, had played me this sorry trick. Wild and bitter 
were the gusts of passion that swept through my heart, and all the more 
unruly since it was by and for a woman I had fallen , and there was none 
for me to take vengeance on.

In a few minutes I turned to the wretched tool of a vixen mistress. "Hast 
any explanation of this?" I sternly asked, pointing to the disordered finery 
that lay glimmering upon the floor.

The unhappy kitchen-maid nodded behind her tears and the thick red 
hands wherewith she was streaking two wet, round cheeks with alternate 
hues of grief and dinginess, and put a hand into her bosom and handed me 
a folded missive. I tore it open and read, in prettily scrawled old Norman-
French, this cruel message:

"This is to tell that nameless knight who has nothing to distinguish him but 
presumption, that although the daughter of an English peer must ever 
treat his suit with the contempt it deserves, Yet will she go so far as to 
select him from among her father's vassals one to whom she thinks he 
might very fitly unburden his soul of its load of 'love and fealty.'"

Such was the missive, one surely penned by as ungentle a


hand as ever ministered to a woman's heart. I tore it into hundred 
fragments, and then grimly pointed my traducer to the narrow wicket in 
the remote wall leading down by a hundred stony stairs to the scullion 
places whence she had come. She turned and went a little way toward it, 
then came sobbing back, and burst out into grief anew, and "Alas! alas! sir," 
she cried, "this is the very worst task that ever I was put to. Shame upon 
Lady Alianora, and double shame upon me for doing her behests! I am 
sorry, sir, indeed I am! Until you began that wonderful tale I thought 'twas 
but a merry game; but, oh, sir, to see you there upon your knee, to see 
your eyes burning in the dark with true love for my false mistress -- why, 
sir, it would have drawn tears from the hardest stone in the mill down 
yonder. And ever as your talk went on just now, I kept saying to myself: 
sure, but it must be a big heart which works a tongue like that; and when 
you had done, sir; ah! before you were half-way through, though I could 
not stop you, yet I loathed my errand. I am sorry, sir, indeed I am! I can 
not go until I be forgiven."

"There, there, silly girl," I said, my wrath quenched by her red eyes and 
humble amendment, "you are fully absolved."

She kissed my hands and dried her eyes, and swept together, with woman 
swiftness, the tattered things in which she had masqueraded, and then, as 
she was about to leave, I called her back.

"Stay one moment, damsel. How much had you for thus betraying me?"

"Two sequins, sir," she answered, with simplicity

"Why, then, here's three others to say naught about this evening's doings 
in the servants' hall. You understand? There, go, and no more tears or 
thanks;" and, as the curtain fell upon her, I could not help muttering to 
myself: "What! two sequins to undo you, Phra, and three to mend it? why, 
Phoenician, thou hast not been so cheap for thirteen hundred years!"

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Chapter 12