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M- rs . ^(S,/ 'r^-.c^ 




HARVARD 
COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 




SIR NIGEL 



IVORKS BY A. CO NAN DOYLE, 

The White Company. 

MiCAH Clarke. 

The Refugees. 

Rodney Stone. 

Uncle Besnac : A Meuory of tbb Empire. 

The Great Shadow. 

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. 

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. 

The Sign of Four. 

A Study in Scarlet. 

The Firm of Girdlestoke. 

The Parasite. 

Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. 

Captain of the Polestar. 

Round the Red Lamp. 

The Stark Munro Letters. 

The Doings of Raffles Haw. 

The Tragedy of the Korosko. 

Songs of Action. 

A Duet. 

The Green Flag, and other Stories op War 

and Sport. 
The Great Boer War. 
Adventures of Gerard. 
The Hound of the Baskervilles. 
Return of Sherlock Holmes. 
Sir Nigel. 



i 







*A SUDDEN WILD, FIERCE SHOUT PEALED UP TO THE VAULTED CEILING. 

[FrontUpiece (j»ee page 223.) 



SIR NIGEL 



BY 

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE 

AVTKOi or 

"TIB WHITB COKfAMT," ITC. 



LONDON 
SMITH. ELDER & CO., 15, WATERLOO PLACE 

1906 

Ailrigkii mtrptd 



H '? 3. 3 6>. / 7 6-', J^. 



WOUAM CLOWK AMD tONS, LIMXTBD» 
LOKDOM AND BlCaKS. 



INTRODUCTION 



Damb History is so austere a lady that if one has been so 
ill-advised ^ to take a liberty with her one should hasten 
to make amends by repentance and confession. Events 
have been transposed to the extent of some few months 
in this narrative in order to preserve the continnity and 
evenness of the story. I hope so small a divergence may 
seem a venial error after so many centuries. For the rest 
it is as accurate as a good deal of research and hard work 
could make it. 

The matter of diction is always a question of taste and 
discretion in a historical reproduction. In the year 1350 
the upper classes still spoke Korman-French, though they 
were just b^inning to condescend to English. The lower 
classes spoke the English of the original Piers Plowman 
text, which would be considerably more obscure than their 
superior's French if tbe two were now reproduced or 
imitated. The most which the chronicler can do is to 
catch the cadence and style of their talk, and to infuse 
here and there such a dash of the archaic as may indicate 
their fashion of speech. 

I am aware that there are incidents which may 
strike the modem reader as brutal and repellent. It is 
useless, however, to draw the Twentieth Century and 
label it the Fourteenth. It was a sterner age, and men's 
code of morality, especially in matters of cruelty, was very 
different. There is no incident in the text for which very 



vi INTRODUCTION 

good warrant maj not be given. The fisuitastic graces of 
chivalry laj upon the surface of life, but beneath it was a 
half-savage population, fierce and animal, with little ruth 
or mercy. It was a raw, rude England, full of elemental 
passions, and redeemed only by elemental virtues. Such I 
have tried to draw it 

For good or bad, many books have gone to the building 
of this one. I look round my study table and I survey 
those which lie with me at the moment, before I happily 
disperse them for ever. I see La Croix's "Middle Ages," 
Oman's " Art of War,'' Eietstap's " Armorial Gfo^ral," De 
la Borderie's "Histoire de Bretagne," Dame Berners' 
"Boke of St. Albans,*' "The Chronicle of Jocelyn 
of Brakelond,*' "The Old Eoad," Hewitt's "Ancient 
Armour," Coussan's "Heraldry," Boutell's "Arms," 
Browne's " Chaucer's England," Cust's " Scenes of the 
Middle Ages," Jusserand's "Wayfaring life," Ward's 
"Canterbury Pilgrims," Cornish's "Chivahy," Hastings* 
"British Archer," Strutt's "Sports," Johnes "Eroissart," 
Hargrove's "Archery," Longman's "Edward IIL," Wright's 
" Domestic Manners." With these and many otliers I have 
lived for months. If I have been unable to combine and 
transfer their effect the fault is mine. 



AETHUE CONAN DOTLB. 



Vjxdvbbhaw, 
Oddber, 1906. 



CONTENTS 



PAOt 

L Thb Hottsb of Lobiho ... ... ... ... 1 

n. How THE Devil came to Waveblet ... 7 

HL The Yellow Hobse of Cbooksburt ••• ... 14 

lY. How THE SUIOCOBEB GAME TO THE MaNOB-BOUSB OF 

TiLFOBD ... ... ... ... ..« 32 

v. How NiOBL WAS TBIED BT THE AdBOT OF 

Waveblet «.. ... ... ... ... 47 

VL Ih WHICH Ladt Ebutbtbude 0FEK8 THE Ibok Coffeb 64 

VII. How NiOEL WENT MABKETIKO TO GuiLDFOBD ... 75 

Vm. How THB ElHO HAWKED OK CbOOKSBUBT HbATH 92 

IX. How NiOKL HELD THE BbIDOE AT TiLFOBD ... 104 

X. How THB KlNO OBEETED HIS SeNESOHAL OF CALAIS 114 

XI. Ik THB Hall of the Ekiobt of Dcfpun ... 127 

XIL How Nioel fought thb Twisted Man of Shalfobd 140 
XIIL How the Cohbades joubneted dowk the Old, Old 

BoAD ... ... ... ... ... 156 

XIV. How Nigel chased the Red Febbet ... 179 

XV. How THE Red Febbet came to Cosfobd ... ... 204 

XVL How the Eiko's Coubt feasted or Calais Castle 215 

vii 



viii CONTENTS 

CHAPTSB PAOB 

XVII. The Spanubds on the Sea ... ... ... 227 

XVIII. How Black Sihon claimed Forfeit from tbe 

EiKO OF Sabk ... ... ... ... 250 

XIX. How A Squibe of Ekglakd kzt a Squire of 

France ... ... ... ... ... 262 

XX. How the English attempted the Castle of La 

Brobiniere ... ... ... ... 283 

XXI. How THE Second Messenger went to Cosford 297 

XXII. How Robert of Beaumanoib came to Floermel 315 

XXIIL How Thirtt of Josselin encountered Thirty of 

PLOERinsL ... ... ... ... ... 325 

XXIY. How Nigel was called to his Master ... 342 

XXV. How the King of France held Coitnsel at 

Maxtpertdis ... ... ... ... 357 

XX VL How Nigel found bis Third Deed ... 367 

XXVII. How THE Third Messenger came to Ck)5n)BD ... 388 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



** A Sudden Wud, Fiebcb Shout pealed up to the Vaulted 
Ceilino" ... ... ••• ... Frontitpiece 

TO r AC! WMM 

^Wttb nbitheb Saddle nob Stibbups to help him, . . . 
he was habd pbessed to hold hib own ^ ... 24 

*^ Despebatelt Nigel stboye to gain his Swobd'* ... 42 

'*Had Widdicombe been btbuck by a Thundebbolt, he 

could not have flown FASTEB OB FABTHEB FBOM HIS 

Saddle'* ... ... ... ... ... 108 

"A SiBANGS Sight tt was that met them now in the 
Cdkcle OF Light"... ... ... ... ... 164 

^ Then slowlt the Whole Figube of a Man in Coublbte 
Plate-abmoub emebged on the Deck*' ... ... 200 

-^Swinging theib Mighty Weapon, the Stobming Pabtt 

THUDDED Ain> CBASBED UPON THE GaTE *' ... ... 292 

*** Indeed, Eustace, tou hate done well to sat what is 
IN TOUB Mind * *' ... ... ... ... 360 



SIR NIGEL 

CHAPTER I 

THE HOUSE OF LOBING 

In the month of July of the year 1348, between the feasts 
of St. Benedict and of St Swithin, a strange thing came 
upon England, for out of the east there drifted a monstrous 
cloud, purple and piled, heavy with evil, climbing slowly up 
the hushed heaven. In the shadow of that strange cloud 
the leaves drooped in the trees, the birds ceased their calling, 
and the cattle and the sheep gathered cowering under the 
hedges. A gloom fell upon all the land, and men stood 
with their eyes upon the strange cloud and a heaviness 
upon their hearts. They crept into the churches, where the 
trembling people were blessed and shriven by the trembling 
priests. Outside no bird flew, and there ^came no rustling 
from the woods, nor any of the homely sounds of Nature. 
All was still, and nothing moved, save only the great cloud 
which rolled up and onward, with fold on fold from the 
black horizon. To tbe west was the light summer sky, to the 
east this brooding cloud-bank, creeping ever slowly across, 
until the last thin blue gleam faded away and the whole 
vast sweep of the heavens was one great leaden arch. 

Then the rain began to fall. All day it rained, and all 
the night and all the week and all the month, until folk 
had forgotten the blue heavens and the gleam of the sun- 
shine. It was not heavy, but it was steady and cold and 

I B 



2 SIR NIGEL 

unceasing, eo that the people were weaiy of its hissing and 
its splashing, with the slow drip from the eaves. Always 
the same thick evil cloud flowed from east to west with 
the rain beneath it. None could see for more than a 
bow-shot from their dwellings for the drifting veil of the 
rain-storms. Every morning the folk looked upward for a 
break, but their eyes rested always upon the same endless 
cloud, until at last they ceased to look up, and their hearts 
despaired of ever seeing the change. It was raining at 
Lammas-tide and raining at the Feast of the Assumption 
and still raining at Michaelmas. The crops and the hay, 
sodden and black, had rotted in the fields, for they were 
not worth the garnering. The sheep had died, and the 
calves also, so there was little to Idll when Martinmas 
came and it was time to salt the meat for winter. They 
feared a famine, but it was worse than famine which was 
in store for them. 

For the rain had ceased at last, and a sickly autumn 
sun shone upon a land which was soaked and sodden with 
water. Wet and rotten leaves reeked and festered under 
the foul haze which rose from the woods. The fields were 
spotted with monstrous fungi of a size and colour never 
matched before — scarlet and mauve and liver and black. 
It was as though the sick earth had burst into foul 
pustules ; mildew and lichen mottled the walls, and with 
that filthy crop Death sprang also from the water-soaked 
earth. Men died, and women and children, the baron of 
the castle, the franklin on the farm, the monk in the 
abbey, and the villein in his wattle-and-daub cottage. All 
breathed the same polluted reek and all died the same 
death of corruption. Of those who were stricken none 
recovered, and the illness was ever the same—gross boils, 
raving, and the black blotches which gave its name to the 
disease. All through the winter the dead rotted by the 
wayside for want of some one to bury them. In many a 
village no single man was left alive. Then at last the 



THE HOUSE OF LORING 3 

spring came^ with sunBhine and health and lightness and 
laughter— the greenest, sweetest, tendeiest spring that 
England had ever known. But only half of England could 
know it-r-the other half had passed away with the great 
purple cloud. 

Yet it was there, in that steam of death, in that reek 
of corruption, that the brighter and freer England was 
bom. There in that dark hour the first streak of the new 
dawn was seen. For in no way save by a great upheaval 
and change could the nation break away from that iron 
feudal system which held her limbs. But now it was a 
new country which came out from that year of death. The 
barons were dead in swaths. No high turret nor cunning 
moat could keep out that black commoner who struck 
them down. Oppressive laws slackened for want of those 
who could enforce them, and once slackened could never 
be enforced again. The labourer would be a slave no 
longer. The bondsman snapped his shackles. There was 
much to do and few left to do it. Therefore the few 
should be free men, name their own price, and work where 
and for whom they would. It was the black death which 
cleared the way for the great rising thirty years later 
which left the English peasant the freest of his class in 
Europe. 

But there were few so far-sighted that they could see 
that here as ever good was coming out of evil. At the 
moment misery and ruin were brought into every family. 
The dead cattle, the ungamered crops, the untilled lands— 
every spring of wealth had dried up at the same moment. 
Those who were rich became poor; but those who were 
poor already, and especially those who were poor with the 
burden of gentility upon their shoulders, found themselves 
in a perilous state. All through England the smaller 
gentry were ruined, for they had no trade save war, and 
they drew their living from the work of others. On many 
» manor-house there came evil times, and on none more 



4 SIR NIGEL 

than on the Manor of Tilford, where for many generations 
the noble family of the Lorings had held their home. 

There was a time when the Lorings had held the 
conntry &om the North Downs to the Lakes of Frensham, 
and when their grim castle-keep rising above the green 
meadows which border the Kiver Wey had been the 
strongest fortalice betwixt Guildford Castle in the east 
and Winchester in the west. But there came that Barons* 
War, in which the King used his Saxon subjects as a whip 
with which to scourge his Norman barons, and Castle 
Loring, like so many other great strongholds, was swept 
from tJie face of the land. From that time the Lorings, 
with estates sadly curtailed, lived in what had been the 
dower-house, with enough for their needs, but shorn of all 
their splendour. 

And then came their lawsuit with Waverley Abbey^ 
when the Cistercians laid claim to their richest land, with 
peccary, turbary, and feudal rights over the remainder. It 
straggled on for years, this great lawsuit, and when it was 
finished the men of the Church and the men of the Law 
had divided all that was richest of the estate between 
them. There was still left the old manor-house, from 
which with each generation there came a soldier to uphold 
the credit of the name, and to show the five scarlet roses 
on the silver shield where it had always been shown — ^in 
the van. There were twelve bronzes in the little chapel, 
where Mathew the priest said mass every morning, all of 
men of the house of Loring. Two lay with their legs 
crossed, as being from the Crusades. Six others rested 
their feet upon lions, as having died in war. Four only 
lay with the effigy of their hounds to show that they had 
passed in peace. 

Of this famous but impoverished family, doubly im- 
poverished by law and by pestilence, two members were 
living in the year of grace 1349 — Lady Ermyntrude Loring 
and her grandson NigeL Lady Ermyntrude's husband 



THE HOUSE OF LORING 5 

had fallen before the Scottish speannen at Stirling, and 
her son Eustace, Nigel's father, had found a glorious death, 
nine years before this chronicle opens, upon the poop of a 
Norman galley at the sea-fight of Sluys. The lonely old 
woman, fierce and brooding like the &lcon mewed in her 
chamber, was soft only toward the lad whom she had 
brought up. All the tenderness and love of her nature,- 
so hidden from others that they could not imagine their 
existence, were lavished upon him. She could not bear 
him away from her, and he, with that respect for authority 
which the age demanded, would not go without her blessing 
and consent. 

So it came about that Nigel, with his lion heart and 
with the blood of a hundred soldiers thrilling in his veins, 
still at the age of two-and-twenty, wasted the weary days 
reclaiming his hawks with leash and lure or training the 
alana and spaniels who shared with the family the big 
earthen-floored hall of the manor-house. 

Day by day the aged Lady Ermyntrude had seen him 
wax in strength and in manhood, small of stature, it is 
true, but with muscles of steel and a soul of fire. From 
all parts, horn the warden of Guildford Castle, from the 
tilt-yard of Famham, tales of his prowess were brought 
back to her, of his daring as a rider, of his debonair 
courage, of his skill with all weapons ; but still she, who 
had both husband and son torn from her by a bloody 
death, could not bear that this, the last of the lonngs, the 
final bud of so famous an old tree, shoidd share the same 
fate. With a weary heart, but with a smiling face, he 
bore with his uneventful days, while she would ever put 
off the evil time, until the harvest was better, until the 
monks of Waverley should give up what they had taken, 
xmtil his uncle should die and leave money for his outfit, 
or any other excuse with which she could hold him to her 
side. 

And, indeed, there was need for a man at Tilford, for 



6 SIR NIGEL 

the strife betwixt the Abbey and the xnanor-boofle had 
never been appeased, and still on one pretext or another 
the monks would clip off yet one more slice of their 
neighbour's land. Over the winding river, across the 
green meadows, rose the short square tower and the high 
grey walls of the ^rim Abbey, with' its bell tolling by day 
and night, a voice of menace and of dread to the little 
household. 

It is in the heart of the great Cistercian monastery 
that this chronicle of old days must take its start, as we 
trace the feud betwixt the monks and the house of Loring 
with those events to which it gave birth, ending with the 
coming of Chandos, the strange spear-running of Tilford 
Bridge, and the deeds with which Kigel won fame in the 
wars. Elsewhere, in the chronicle of the White Company, 
it has been set forth what manner of man was Nigel 
Loring. Those who love him may read herein the things 
which went to his making. Let us go back together and 
gaze upon this green stage of England, the scenery, hill, 
plain and river even as now, the actors in much our very 
selves, in much also so changed in thought and act that 
they might be dwellers in another world to ours. 



CHAPTER II 

HOW THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY 

The day was the first of May, which was the Festival of 
the Blessed AposUes Philip and James. The year was the 
1349th from man's salvation. 

From tierce to sezt^ and then again from sext to nones, 
Abbot John of the Honse of Waverley had been seated in 
his study while he conducted the many high duties of his 
office. All round for many a mile on every side stretched 
the fertile and flourishing estate of which he was the 
master. In the centre lay the broad Abbey buildings, 
with church and cloisters, hospitium, chapter-house and 
frater-house, all buzzing with a busy life. Through the 
open window came the low hum of the voices of the 
Imthren as they walked in pious converse in the ambu* 
latory below. From across the cloister there rolled the 
distant rise and fall of a Gr^rian chant, where the pre- 
centor was hard at work upon the choir, while down in the 
chapter-house sounded the strident voice of Brother Peter, 
expounding the rule of Saint Bernard to the novices. 

Abbot John rose to stretch his cramped Umbs. He 
looked out at the greensward of the cloister, and at the 
graceful line of open Gothic arches which skirted a covered 
walk for the brethren within. Two and two in their black- 
and-white garb, with slow step and heads inclined,* they 
paced round and round. Several of the more studious had 
brought their illuminating work from the scriptorium, and 
sat in the warm sunshine, with their little platters of pig- 
ments and packets of gold-leaf before them, their shoulders 

7 



8 SIR NIGEL 

rounded aud their faces sunk low over the white sheets 
of vellum. There, too, was the copper-worker with his 
burin and graver. Learning and art were not traditions 
with the Cistercians as with the parent Order of the 
Benedictines, and yet the library of Waverley was well 
filled both with precious books and with pious students. 

But the true glory of the Cistercian lay in his outdoor 
work, and so ever and anon there passed through the 
cloister some sun-burned monk, soiled mattock or shovel in 
hand, with his gown looped to his knee, fresh from the fields 
or the garden. The lush green water-meadows speckled 
with the heavy-fleeced sheep, the acres of corn-land re- 
claimed from heather and bracken, the vineyards on the 
southern slope of Crooksbury Hill, the rows of Hankley 
fish-ponds, the Frensham marshes drained and sown with 
vegetables, the spacious pigeon-cotes, all circled the great 
Abbey round with the visible labours of the Order. 

The Abbot's full and florid face shone with a quiet 
content as he looked out at his huge but well-ordered 
household. Like every head of a prosperous Abbey, 
Abbot John, the fourth of the name, was a man of varied 
accomplishment. Through his own chosen instruments 
he had to minister a great estate, and to keep order and 
decorum among a large body of men living a celibate life. 
He was a rigid disciplinarian toward all beneath him, a 
supple diplomatist to all above. He held high debate with 
neighbouring abbots and lords, with bishops, with papal, 
legates, and even on occasion with the King's majesty 
himself. Many were the subjects with which he must be 
oonversant. Questions of doctrine, questions of building, 
points of forestry, of agriculture, of drainage, of feudal 
law, all came to the Abbot for settlement. He held the 
scales of Justice in all the Abbey banlieue which stretched 
over many a mile of Hampshire and of Surrey. To the 
monks his displeasure might mean fasting, exUe to some 
sterner community, or even imprisonment in chains. Over 



HOW THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY 9 

the laymen also he could hold any punishment save only 
corporeal death, instead of which he had in hand the far 
more dreadful weapon of spiritual excommunication. 

Such were the powers of the Abbot, and it is no 
wonder that there were masterful lines in the ruddy 
features of Abbot John, or that the brethren, glancing up, 
should put on an even meeker carriage and more demure 
expression as they saw the watchful face in the window 
above them. 

A knock at the door of his study recalled the Abbot 
to his immediate duties, and he returned to his desk. 
Already he had spoken with his cellarer and prior, 
almoner, chaplain, and lector, but now in the tall and 
gaunt monk who obeyed his summons to enter he 
recognized the most important and also the most im- 
portunate of his agents, Brother Samuel the sacrist, whose 
office, corresponding to that of the layman's bailiff, placed 
the material interests of the monastery and its dealings 
with the outer world entirely under his control, subject 
only to the check of the Abbot. Brother Samuel was 
a gncurled and stringy old monk, whose stem and sharp- 
featured face reflected no light from above, but only that 
sordid workaday world toward which it was for ev^ turned. 
A huge book of accounts was tucked under one of his 
arms, while a great bunch of keys hung from the other 
hand, a badge of his office, and also, on occasion of im- 
patience, a weapon of offence, as many a scarred head 
among rustics and lay brothers could testify. 

The Abbot sighed wearily, for he suffered much at the 
hands of his strenuous i^ent. 

" Well, Brother Samuel, what is your will ? " he asked. 

"Holy father, I have to report that I have sold the 
wool to Master Baldwin of Winchester at two shillings a 
bale more than it fetched last year, for the murrain among 
the sheep has raised the price.'' 

" You have done well, brother." 



lo SIR NIGEL 

" I have also to tell you that I have distrained Wat 
the wanener from his oottage ; for his Christinas rent is 
still unpaid, nor the hen-rents of last year/' 

''He has a wife and four children, brother/' He was 
a good, easy man, the Abbot, though liable to be over* 
borne by his sterner subordinate. 

'* It is true/ holy father ; but if I should pass him, then 
how am I to ask the rent of the foresters of Puttenham, 
or the hinds in the village ? Such a thing spreads from 
house to house, and where then is the wealth of Waverley 7 *' 

" What else. Brother Samuel ? " 

" There is the matter of the fish-ponds/' 

The Abbot's face brightened. It was a subject upon 
which he was an authority. If the rule of his Order had 
robbed him of the softer joys of life, he had the keener 
zest for those which remained. 

" How have the char prospered, brother ? " 

" They have done well, holy father; but the carp have 
died in the Abbot's pond." 

" Carp prosper only upon a gravel bottom. They must 
be put in also in their due proportion, three milters to one 
spawner, brother sacrist, and the spot must be free from 
wind, stony and sandy, an ell deep, with willows and grass 
upon the banks. Mud for tench, brother, gravel for carp/' 

The sacrist leaned forward with the face of one who 
bears tidings of woe. 

" There are pike in the Abbot's pond," said he. 

" Pike 1 " cried the Abbot, in horror. " As well shut up 
a wolf in our sheepfold. How came a pike in the pond ? 
There were no pike last year, and a pike does not fall with 
the rain nor rise in the springs. The pond must be drained, 
or we shall spend next Lent upon stock-fish, and have the 
brethren down with the great sickness ere Easter Sunday 
has come to absolve us from our abstinence." 

" The pond shall be drained, holy father ; I have already 
ordered it. Then we shall plant pot-herbs on the mud 



HOW THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY ii 

bottom, and after we have gathered them in, return the 
fish and water once more from the lower pond, eo that they 
may fatten among the rich stubbla" 

" Good I " cried the Abbot. " I would have three fish- 
stews in every well-ordered hoase--one dry for herbs, one 
shallow for the fry and the yearlings, and one deep for the 
breeders and the table-fish. But still, I have not heard 
you say how the pike came in the Abbot's pond ? " 

A spasm of anger passed over the fierce face of the 
sacrist, and his keys rattled as his bony hand clasped them 
more tightly. 

" Young Nigel Loring I " said he. " He swore that he 
would do us scathe, and in this way he has done it." 

" How know you this ? " 

" Six weeks ago he was seen day by day fishing for pike 
at the great Lake of Frensham. Twice at night he has 
been met with a bundle of straw under his arm on the 
Hankley Down. Well I wot that the straw was wet and 
that a live pike lay within it/' 

The Abbot shook his head " I have heard much of 
this youth's wild ways ; but now, indeed, he has passed all 
bounds, if what you say be truth. It was bad enough when 
it was said that he slew the king's deer in Woolmer Chase, 
or broke the head of Hobbs the chapman, so that he lay 
for seven days betwixt life and death in our infirmary, 
saved only by Brother Peter's skill in the pharmacies of 
herbs; but to put pike in the Abbot's pond — why should 
he play such a devil's prank ? " 

" Because he hates the House of Waverley, holy father ; 
because he swears that we hold his father^s land." 

"In which there is surely some truth." 

'* But, holy father, we hold no more than the law has 
allowed." 

"True, brother, and yet, between ourselves, we may 
admit that the heavier purse may weigh down the scales of 
Justice. When I have passed Uie old house and have seen 



12 SIR NIGEL 

that aged woman with her raddled cheeks and her balefal 
eyes look the curses she dare not speak, I have many a 
time wished that we had other neighbours." 

" That we can soon bring about, holy father. Indeed, it 
is of it that I wished to speak to you. Surely it is not hard 
for us to drive them from the country-side. There are 
thirty years' claims of escuage unsettled, and there is 
Sergeant Wilkins, the lawyer of Guildford, whom I will 
warrant to draw up such arrears of dues and rents and 
issues of hidage and fodder-corn that these folk, who are 
as beggarly as they are proud, will have to sell the roof- 
tree over them ere they can meet them. Within three 
days I will have them at our mercy." 

" They are an ancient family and of good repute. I 
would not treat them too harshly, brother." 

" Bethink you of the pike in the carp pond I " 

The Abbot hardened his heart at the thought. " It was 
indeed a devil's deed — ^when we had but newly stocked it 
with char and with carp. Well, well, the law is the law, 
and if you can use it to their hurt it is still lawful to 
do so. Have these claims been advanced ? " 

" Deacon, the bailiff, with his two varlets went down to 
the Hall yesternight on the matter of the escuage, and 
came screaming back with this young hot-head raging at 
their heels. He is small and slight, yet he has the strength 
of many men in the hour of his wrath. The bailiff swears 
that he will go no more, save with half a score of archers 
to uphold him." 

The Abbot was red with anger at this new offence. " I 
will teach him that the servants of Holy Church, even 
though we of the rule of Saint Bernard be the lowliest and 
humblest of her children, can still defend their own against 
the Croward and the violent I Go, cite this man before the 
Abbey court. Let him appear in the chapter-house after 
tierce to-morrow." 

But the wary sacrist shook his head, " Nay, holy father. 



HOW THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY 13 

the times are not yet ripe. Give me three days, I pray you, 
that my case against him may be complete. Bear in mind 
that the father and the grandfather of this unruly squire 
urere both famous men of their day and the foremost knights 
in the king's own service, living in high honour and dying 
in their knightly duty. The Lady Ermyntrude Loring was 
first lady to the king's mother. Boger Fitz-Allan of Fam- 
ham and Sir Hugh Walcott of Guildford Castle were each 
old comrades-in-arms of Nigel's father, and sib to him on 
the distaff side. Already there has been talk that we have 
dealt harshly with them. Therefore, my rede is that we be 
wise and wary and wait until his cup be indeed full." 

The Abbot had opened his mouth to reply, when the 
consultation was interrupted by a most unwonted buzz of 
excitement from among the monks in the cloister below. 
Questions and answers in excited voices sounded from one 
aide of the ambulatory to the other. Sacrist and Abbot 
were gazing at each other in amazemeut at such a breach 
of the discipline and decorum of their well-trained flock, 
when there came a swift step upon the stair, and a 
white-faced brother flung open the door and rushed into 
the room. 

" Father Abbot ! " he cried. " Alas, alas ! Brother John 
is dead, and the holy sub-prior is dead, and the Devil ia 
loose in the five-viigate field ! " 



CHAPTER III 

THE YELLOW HOBSS OF CBOOESBUBT 

In those simple times there was a great wonder and 
mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, with 
Heaven very close above bis head, and Hell below his 
very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, in the 
rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. The 
Devil, too, raged openly upon the earth ; he skulked behind 
the hedgerows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly in the 
night-time; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on the 
unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. 
A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered 
villainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an 
angel of grace who pointed to the steep and narrow track. 
How could one doubt these things, when Pope and priest 
and scholar and king were all united in believing them, 
with no single voice of question in the whole wide world 7 

Every book read^ every picture seen, every tale heard 
from nurse or mother, all taught the same lesson. And as 
a man travelled through the world his faith would grow the 
firmer, for go where he would there were the endless shrines 
of the saints, each with its holy relic in the centre, and 
around it the tradition of incessant miracles, with stacks 
of deserted crutches and silver votive hearts to prove them. 
At every turn he was made to feel how thin was the veil, 
and how easily rent, which screened him finom the awfiil 
denizens of the unseen world. 

Hence the wild announcement of the frightened monk 
ftMiDAd terrible rather than incredible to those whom be 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 15 

addreesed. The Abbot's ruddy face paled for a moment, it 
18 tme, but he placked the crucifix from his desk and rose 
valiantly to his feet. 

" Lead me to him I " said he. ** Show me the foul fiend 
who dares to lay his grip upon brethren of the holy house 
of Saint Bernard ! Bun down to my chaplain, brother ! 
Bid him bring the exorcist with him, and also the blessed 
box of relics, and the bones of Saint James from under the 
altar ! With these and a contrite and humble heart we 
may show front to all the powers of darkness." 

But the sacrist was of a more critical turn of mind. 
He clutched the monk's arm with a grip which left its 
five purple spots for many a day to come. 

*' Is this the way to enter the Abbot's own chamber 
without knock or reverence, or so much as a *Pax 
volnsGum ' ? " said he, sternly. " You were wont to be our 
gentlest novice, of lowly carriage in chapter, devout in 
psalmody, and strict in the cloister. Pull your wits 
together and answer me straightly. In what form has the 
foul fiend appeared, and how has he done this grievous 
scathe to our brethren ? Have you seen him with your 
own eyes, or do you repeat from hearsay ? Speak, man, 
or you stand on the penance-stool in the chapter-house 
this very hour I " 

Thus adjured, the frightened monk grew cakner in his 
bearing, though his white lips and his startled eyes, with 
the gasping of his breath, told of his inward tremors. 

"If it please you, holy father, and you, reverend 
sacrist, it came about in this way. James the sub-prior, 
and Brother John and I had spent our day from sext 
onward on Hankley cutting bracken for the cow-houses. 
We were coming back over the five-virgate field, and the 
holy sub-prior was telling us a saintly tale from the life 
of Saint Gregory, when there came a sudden sound like a 
rushing torrent, and the foul fiend sprang over the high 
wall which skirts the water-meadow and rushed upon us 



i6 SIR NIGEL 

with the speed of the wind. The lay brother he struck to 
the ground and trampled into the mire. Then, seizing 
the good sub-prior in his teeth, he rushed round the 
field, swinging him as though he were a fardel of old 
clothes. 

'' Amazed at such a sight, I stood without movement, 
and had said a credo and three aves, when the Devil 
dropped the sub-prior and sprang upon me. With the 
help of St. Bernard I clambered over the wall, but not 
before his teeth had found my leg, and he had torn away 
the whole back skirt of my gown." 

As he spoke he turned and gave corroboration to his 
story by the hanging ruins of his long trailing garment. 

" In what shape, then^ did Satan appear ? " the Abbot 
demanded. 

''As a great yellow horse, holy father — a monster 
horse, with eyes of fire and the teeth of a griffin." 

''A yellow horse I " The sacrist glared at the scared 
monk. *' You foolish brother 1 how will you behave when 
you have indeed to face the King of Terrors himself if 
you can be so frightened by the sight of a yellow horse 7 
It is the horse of Franklin Aylward, my father, which has 
been distrained by us because he owes the Abbey fifty 
good shillings, and con never hope to pay it. Such a 
horse, they say, is not to be found betwixt this and the 
king's stables at Windsor^ for his sire was a Spanish 
destrier, and his dam an Arab mare of the very breed 
which Saladin kept for his own use, and even, it has 
been said, under the shelter of his own tent. I took 
him in discharge of the debt, and I ohiered the varlets 
who had haltered him to leave him alone in the water- 
meadow, for I have heard that the beast has indeed a 
most evil spirit, and has killed more men than one." 

" It was an ill day for Waverley that you brought such 
a monster within its bounds," said the Abbot. '* If the 
sub-prior and brother John be indeed dead, then it would 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 17 

seem that if the horse be not the devil, he is at least the 
devil's instrument." 

" Horse or devil, holy father, I heard him shout with 
joy as he trampled upon brother John, and had you seen 
him tossing the sub-prior as a dog shakes a rat, you would 
perchance have felt even as I did." 

" C!ome, then," cried the Abbot, ''let us see with our 
own eyes what evil has been dona" 

And the three monks hurried down the stair whicH 
led to the cloisters. 

They had no sooner descended than their more pressing 
fears were set at rest, for at that very moment, limping, 
dishevelled and mud-stained, the two sufferers were being 
led in amid a crowd of sympathizing brethren. Shouts 
and cries from outside showed, however, that some further 
drama was in progress, and both Abbot and sacrist 
hastened onward as fast as the dignity of their office 
would permit, until they had passed the gates and gained 
the waU of the meadow. Looking over it, a remarkable 
sight presented itself to their eyes. 

Fetlock deep in the lush grass there stood a magnificent 
horse, such a horse as a sculptor or a soldier might thrill 
to see. His coloiur was a light chestnut, with mane and 
tail of a more tawny tint. Seventeen hands high, with a 
barrel and haunches which bespoke tremendous strength, 
be fined down to the most delicate lines of dainty breed 
in neck and crest and shoulder. He was indeed a glorious 
sight as he stood there, his beautiful body leaning back 
from his wide-spread and propped forelegs, his head craned 
high, his ears erect, his mane bristling, his red nostrils 
opening and shutting with wrath, and his flashing eyes 
turning from side to side in haughty menace and defiance. 

Scattered round in a respectful circle, six of the Abbey 
lay servants and foresters, each holding a halter, were 
creeping toward him« Every now and then, with a 
beautifd toes and swerve and plunge, the great creature 

c 



i8 SIR NIGEL 

would torn upon one of his would-be captors, and with 
outstretched head, flying mane and flashing teeth, would 
chase him screaming to the safety of the waU, while the 
others would close swiftly in behind, and cast their ropes 
in the hope of catching neck or leg, but only in their turn 
to be chased to the nearest refuge. 

Had two of these ropes settled upon the horse, and had 
their throwers found some purchase of stump or boulder 
by which they could hold them, then the man's brain 
might have won its wonted victory over swiftness and 
strength. But the brains were themselves at fault which 
imagined that one such rope would serve any purpose 
save to endanger the thrower. 

Yet so it was, and what might have been foreseen 
occurred at the very moment of the arrival of the monks. 
The horse, having chased one of his enemies to the wall, 
remained so long snorting his contempt over the coping 
that the others were able to creep upon him from behind. 
Several ropes were flung, and one noose settled over the 
proud crest and lost itself in the waving mane. In an 
instant the creature had turned, and the men were flying 
for their lives ; but he who had cast the rope lingered, 
uncertain what use to make of his own success. That 
moment of doubt was fatal. With a yell of dismay, the 
man saw the great creature rear above him. Then with a 
crash the fore-feet fell upon him and dashed him to the 
ground. He rose screaming, was hurled over once more, 
and lay a quivering, bleeding heap, while the savage horse, 
the most cruel and terrible in its anger of all creatures on 
earth, bit and shook and trampled the writhing body. 

A loud wail of horror rose from the lines of tonsured 
heads which skirted the high wall — a wail which suddenly 
died away into a long, hushed silence, broken at last by a 
rapturous cry of thanksgiving and of joy. 

On the road which led to the old dark manor-house 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 19 

upon the side of the hill a youth had been riding. His 
moimt was a sony one, a weedy, shambling, long-haired 
colt, and his patched tunic of faded pnrple with stained 
leather belt presented no very smart appearance ; yet in 
the bearing of the man, in the poise of his head, in his 
easy, graceful carriage, and in the bold glance of his large 
blae eyes, there was that stamp of distinction and of 
breed which would have given him a place of his own in 
any assembly. He was of small stature, but his frame 
was singularly elegant and graceful. His face, though 
tanned with the weather, was delicate in features, and 
most eager and alert in expression. A thick fringe of 
crisp yellow curls broke from under the dark flat cap 
which he was wearing, and a short golden beard hid the 
outline of his strong, square chin. One white osprey 
feather thrust through a gold brooch in the front of his 
cap gave a touch of grace to his sombre garb. This and 
other points of his attire, the short hanging mantle, the 
leather-sheathed hunting-knife, the cross-belt which sus- 
tained a brazen horn, the soft doe-skin boots and the 
prick spurs, would all disclose themselves to an observer ; 
but at the first glance the brown face set in gold, and the 
dancing light of the quick, reckless, laughing eyes, were 
the one strong memory left behind. 

Such was the youth who, cracking his whip joyously, 
and followed by half a score of dogs, cantered on his rude 
pony down the Tilford Lane, and thence it was that, with 
a smUe of amused contempt upon his face, he observed the 
comedy in tiie field and the impotent efiTorts of the servants 
of Waverley. 

Suddenly, however, as the comedy turned swiftly to 
black tragedy, this passive spectator leaped into quick 
strenuous life. With a spring he was off his pony, and 
with another he was over the stone wall and fiying swiftly 
across the field. Looking up from his victim, l^e great 
ydlow horse saw this other enemy approach, and spuming 



20 SIR NIGEL 

the prostrate but still writhing body with his heels^ 
dashed at the newcomer. 

But this time there was no hasty flight, no rapturous 
pursuit to the wall. The little man braced himself straight, 
flung up his metaloheaded whip, and met the horse with 
a crashing blow upon the head, repeated again and again 
with every attack In vain the horse reared and tried to 
overthrow its enemy with swooping shoulders and pawing 
hoofs. Cool, swift, and alert, the man sprang swiftly aside 
from under the very shadow of death, and then again came 
the swish and thud of the unerring blow from the heavy 
handle. 

The horse drew off, glared with wonder and fury at 
this masterful man, and then trotted round in a circle, with 
mane bristling, tail streaming, and ears on end, snorting 
in its rage and pain. The man, hardly deigning to glance 
at his fell neighbour, passed on to the wounded forester, 
raised him in his arms, with a strength which could not 
have been expected in so slight a body, and carried him, 
groaning, to the wall, where a dozen hands were out- 
stretched to help him over. Then, at his leisure, the 
young man also climbed the wall, smiling back with cool 
contempt at the yellow horse, which had come raging after 
him once more. 

As he sprang down, a dozen monks surrounded him to 
thank him or to praise him; but he would have turned 
sullenly away without a word had he not been stopped 
by Abbot John in person. 

•* Nay, Squire Loring," said he, " if you be a bad friend 
to our Abbey, yet we must needs own that you have 
played the part of a good Christian this day, for if there 
be breath left in our servant's body it is to you next to our 
blessed patron Saint Bernard that we owe it." 

" By Saint Paul ! I owe you no good-will. Abbot John," 
said the young man. "The shadow of your Abbey has 
ever fallen across the house of Loring. As to any small 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 21 

deed that I may have done this daj, I ask no thanks for 
it. It is not for yon nor for your house that I have done 
it, but only because it was my pleasure so to do/' 

The Abbot flushed at the bold words, and bit his lip 
with vexation. 

It was the sacrist, however, who answered : " It would 
be more fitting and more gracious," said he, " if you were 
to speak to the holy Father Abbot in a manner suited to 
his high rank and to the respect which is due to a Prince 
of the Church." 

The youth turned his bold blue eyes upon the monk, 
and his sunburned face darkened with anger. 

" Were it not for the gown upon your back, and for your 
silvering hair, I would answer you in another fashion," said 
be. ** You are the lean wolf which growls ever at our door, 
greedy for the little which hath been left to us. Say and 
do what you will with me, but by Saint Paul I if I find 
that Dame Ermyntrude is bated by your ravenous pack I 
will beat them ofif with this whip from the little patch 
which still remains of all the acres of my fathers." 

** Have a care, Nigel Loring, have a care I " cried the 
Abbot, with finger upraised. " Have you no fears of the 
law of England?" 

"A just law I fear and obey." 

" Have you no respect for Holy Church ? " 

** I respect all that is holy in her. I do not respect 
those who grind the poor or steal their neighbour's 
land." 

''Bash man, many a one has been blighted by her ban 
for less than you have now said I And yet it is not for us 
to judge you harshly this day. You are young, and hot 
words come easily to your lips. How fares the forester?" 

'' His hurt is grievous. Father Abbot, but he will live," 
said a brother, looking up from the prostrate form. ** With 
a blood-letting and an electuary, I will warrant him sound 
within a month." 



22 SIR NIGEL 

" Then bear him to the hospital. And now, brother, 
about this terrible beast who still gazes and snorts at ns 
over the top of the wall as though his thoughts of H0I7 
Church were as uncouth as those of Squire Nigel himself, 
what are we to do with him ? " 

'' Here is Franklin Aylward,'' said one of the brethren. 
" The horse was his, and doubtless he will take it back to 
his farm." 

But the stout red-faced farmer shook his head at the 
proposal. "Not I, in faith I " said he. "The beast hath 
chased me twice round the paddock ; it has nigh slain my 
boy Samkin. He would never be happy till he had ridden 
it, nor has he ever been happy since. There is not a hind 
in my employ who will enter his stalL 111 faze the day 
that ever I took the beast firom the Castle stud at Guild- 
ford, where they could do nothing with it and no rider 
could be found bold enou^ to mount it I When the 
sacrist here took it for a fiffcy-shiUing debt he made his 
own bargain and must abide by it He comes no more 
to the Crooksbury farm.'' 

"And he stays no more here/' said the Abbot "Brother 
sacrist, you have raised the Devil, and it is for you to lay 
it again." 

"That I will most readily," cried the sacrist "The 
pittance-master can stop the fifty shillings from my very 
own weekly dole, and so the Abbey be none the poorer. 
In the mean time here is Wat with his arbalist and a bolt 
in his girdle. Let him drive it to the head through this 
cursed creature, for his hide and his hoofs are of more 
value than his wicked self." 

A hard brown old woodman who had been shooting 

vermin in the Abbey groves stepped forward with a giin 

of pleasure. After a lifetime of stoats and foxes, this was 

~ ^4 a noble quarry which was to fall before him. 

1 a bolt on the nut of his taut crossbow, he had 

it to his shoulder and levelled it at the fierce, proud. 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 23 

diflhevelled head which tossed in sayage freedom at the 
other side of the wall. His finger was crooked on the 
spring, when a blow from a whip struck the bow upward 
and the bolt- flew harmless over the Abbey oiohard, while 
the woodman shrank abashed from Nigel Loring^s angry 
eyes. 

'' Keep your bolts for your weasels/' said he. " Would 
you take life from a creature whose only fault is that its 
spirit is so high that it has met ncme yet who dare control 
it? You would slay such a horse as a king might be 
proud to mounts and all because a country franklin, or a 
monk, or a monk's variet, has not the wit nor the hands 
to master him ? " 

The sacrist turned swiftly on the Squire. " The Abbey 
owes you an ofiering for this day's work, however rude 
your words may be," said he. " If you think so much of 
the horse, you may desire to own it. If I am to pay for 
it, then with the holy Abbot's permission it is in my gift, 
and I bestow it freely upon you." 

The Abbot plucked at his subordinate's sleeve* " Be- 
think you, brother sacrist," he whispered, " shall we not 
have this man's blood upon our heads ? " 

*' His pride is as stubborn as the horse's, holy father," 
the sacrist answered, his gaunt face breaking into a mali- 
cious smile. " Man or beast, one will break the other, and 
the world will be the better for it. If you forbid me " 

*' Nay, brother, you have bought ^e horse, and yon 
may have the bestowal of it" 

" Then I give it— hide and hoofs, tail and temper-<»to 
Nigel Loring, and may it be as sweet and as gentle to him 
as he hath been to the Abbot of Waverley I " 

The sacrist spoke aloud amid the tittering of the monks, 
for the man concerned was out of earshot. At the first 
words which had fihown him the turn which affairs had 
taken he had run swiftly to the spot where he had left his 
pony. From its mouth he removed the bit and the stoat 



24 SIR NIGEL 

bridle which held it. Then leaving the creature to nibble 
the grass by the wayside, he sped back whence he came. 

" I take your gift, monk," said he, " though I know 
well why it is that you give it. Yet I thank you, for 
there are two things upon earth for which I have ever 
yearned, and which my thin purse could never buy. The 
one is a noble horse, such a horse as my father's son 
should have betwixt his thighs, and here is the one of all 
others which I would have chosen, since some small deed 
is to be done in the winning of him, and some honour- 
able advancement to be gained. How is the horse called ? " 

^ Its name," said the franklin, ** is Pommers. I warn 
you, young sir, that none may ride him, for many have 
tried, and the luckiest is he who has only a staved rib to 
show for it.*' 

" I thank you for your rede," said Nigel, " and now I 
see that this is indeed a horse which I would journey far 
to meet. I am your man, Pommers, and you are my horse, 
and this night you shall own it, or I will never need horse 
again. My spirit against thine, and Ood hold thy spirit 
high, Pommers, so that the greater be the adventure, and 
the more hope of honour gained I ** 

While he spoke the young Squire had climbed on to 
the top of the wall and stood there balanced, the very 
image of grace and spirit and gallantry, his bridle hanging 
from one hand and his whip grasped in the other. With 
a fierce snort, the horse made for him instantly, and his 
white teeth flashed as he snapped ; but again a heavy blow 
from the loaded whip caused him to swerve, and even at 
the instant of the swerve, measuring the distance with 
steady eyes, and bending his supple body for the spring, 
Nigel bounded into the air and fell with his legs astride 
the broad back of the yellow horsa For a minute, with 
neither saddle nor stirrups to help him, and the beast 
ramping and rearing like a mad thing beneath him, he 
was bard pressed to hold bi^ -^wn. His 1^ were like two ' 




"WITH KETTHER SADDLE NOR STIRRUPS TO HELP HIM, 
PRESSED TO HOLD UIS OWN.'* 



HE WAS HARD 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 25 

bands of steel welded on to the swelling arches of the 
great horse's ribs, and his left hand was buried deep in the 
tawny mane.' 

Never had the dull round of the lives of the gentle 
brethren of Waverley been broken by so fiery a scene. 
Springing to right and swooping to left, now with its 
tangled wicked head betwixt its fore-feet, and now pawing 
eight feet high in the air, with scarlet, furious nostrils and 
maddened eyes, the yellow horse was a thing of tenor 
and of beauty. But the lithe figure on his back, bending 
like a reed in the wind to every movement, firm below, 
pliant above, with calm inexorable face, and eyes which 
danced and gleamed with the joy of contest, still held its 
masterful place for all that the fiery heart and the iron 
muscles of the great beast could do. 

Once a long drone of dismay rose from the monks, as, 
rearing higher and higher yet, a last mad effort sent the 
creature toppling over backward upon its rider. But, swift 
and cool, he had writhed from under it ere it fell, spumed 
it with his foot as it rolled upon the earth, and then seizing 
its mane as it rose, swung himself lightly on to its back 
once more. Even the grim sacrist could not but join the 
cheer, as Pommers, amazed to find the rider still upon his 
back, plunged and curveted down the field. 

But the wild horse only swelled into a greater fury. 
In the sullen gloom of its untamed heart there rose the 
furious resolve to dash the life from this clinging rider, 
even if it meant destruction to beast and man. With red, 
blazing eyes it looked round for death. On three sides the 
five-virgate field was bounded by a high wall, broken only 
at one spot by a heavy four-foot wooden gate. But on the 
fourth side was a low gray building, one of the granges of 
the Abbqr, presenting a long flank unbroken by door or 
window. The horse stretched itself into a gallop, and 
headed straight for that craggy thirty-foot walL He would 
break in red ruin at the base of it if he could but dash 



26 SIR NIGEL 

for ever ihe life of this man, who daimed masteiy over that 
which had never found its master yet. 

The great haimches gathered under it, the eager hoofs 
drummed the grass, as faster and still more last the frantic 
horse bore himself and his rider toward the walL Would 
Nigel spring off? To do so would be to bend his will to 
that of the beast beneath him. There was a better way 
than that Cool, quick and decided, the man swifbly passed 
both whip and bridle into the left hand which still held the 
mane. Then with the right he slipped his short majitle 
from his shoulders, and lying forward along the creature's 
strenuous, rippling back, he cast the flapping cloth over 
the horse's eyes. 

The result was but too successful, for it nearly brought 
about the downfall of the rider. When those red eyes, 
straining for death, were suddenly shrouded in unexpected 
darkness, the amazed horse propped on its fore-feet and 
came to so dead a stop that Nigel was shot forward on to 
its neck, and hardly held himself by his hair-entwined 
hand. Ere he had slid back into position the moment of 
danger had passed, for the horse, its purpose all blurred in 
its mind by this strange thing which had befallen, wheeled 
round once more, trembling in every fibre, and tossing its 
petulant head until at last the mantle had been slipped 
from its eyes and the chilling darkness had melted into the 
homely circle of sunlit grass once more. 

But what was this new outrage which had been inflicted 
upon it ? What was this defiling bar of iron which was 
locked hard i^ainst its mouth 7 What were these straps 
which galled the tossing neck, this band which spanned 
its brow ? In those instants of stillness ere the mantle 
had been plucked away Nigel had lain forward, had slipped 
the snaffle between the champing teeth, and had deftly 
secured it. 

Blind, frantic fury surged in the yellow horse's heart 
once more at this new degradation, this badge of serfdom 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 27 

aad injhmy. His spirit rose high and menacing at the 
touch. He loathed this place, these people, all and every- 
thing which threatened his freedom. He would have done 
with them for ever; he would see them no more I Let him 
away to the uttermost parts of the earth, to the great plains 
where freedom is I Anywhere over the far horizon where 
he could get away from the defiling bit and the insufiferable 
mastery of man 1 

He turned with a rush, and one magnificent deer-like 
bound carried him over the four-foot gate. Nigel's hat 
had flown off, and his yellow curls streamed behind him 
as he rose and fell in the leap. They were in the water- 
meadow now, and the rippling stream twenty feet wide 
gileamed in front of them, running down to the main 
current of the Wey. The yellow horse gathered his 
haunches under him and flew over like an arrow. He 
took off firom behind a boulder and cleared a furze-bush 
on the fSarther side. Two stones still mark the leap from 
hoof-mark to hoof-mark, and they are eleven good paces 
apart Under the hanging branch of the great oak tree 
on the fSsffther side (that Qutrcus TU/ordiens still shown 
Bs the bound of the Abbey's immediate precincts) the 
great horse passed. He had hoped to sweep off his lider, 
but Nigel sank low on the heaving back, with his face 
buried in the flying mane. The rough bough rasped him 
rudely, but never shook his spirit nor his grip. Bearing, 
plunging, and struggling, Pommers broke throu^ the 
sapling grove and was out on the broad stretch of Hankley 
Down. 

And now came such a lide as still lingers in the 
gossip of the lowly country folk, and forms the rude jingle 
of that old Surrey ballad, now nearly forgotten, save for 
the refrain— 

Tlie Doe that aped cm Hinde Head, 

The Keftril on the winde, 
And Nigel on the Tellow Hone 

Can lea?e the world hehinde. 



28 SIR NIGEL 

Before them lay a rolling ocean of dark heather, knee- 
deep, swelling in billow on billow up to the clear-cut hill 
before them. Above stretched one unbroken arch of 
peaceful blue, with a sun which was sinking down towards 
the Hampshire hills. Through the deep heather, down 
the gullies, over the watercourses, up the broken slopes, 
Pommers flew, his great heart bursting with rage, and 
every fibre quivering at the indignities which he had 
endured. 

And still, do what he would, the man clung fast to his 
he&ving sides and to his flying mane, silent, motionless, 
inexorable, letting him do what he would, but fixed as 
Fate upon his purpose. Over Hankley Down, through 
Thursley Marsh, with the reeds up to his mud-splashed 
withers, onward up the long slope of the Headland of the 
Hinds, down by the Nutcombe Gorge, slipping, blundering, 
bounding, but never slackening his fearful speed, on went 
the great yellow horse. The villagers of Shottermill heard 
the wild clatter of hoofs, but ere they could swing the ox- 
hide curtains of their cottage doors, horse and rider were 
lost amid the high bracken of the Haslemere Valley. On 
he went, and on, tossing the miles behind his flying hoofs. 
No marsh-land could clog him, no hill could hold him 
back. Up the slope of linchmere and the long ascent 
of Femhurst he thundered as on the level, and it was not 
until he had flown down the incline of Henley Hill, and 
the grey castle tower of Midhurst rose over the coppice in 
front, that at last the eager outstretched neck sank a little 
on the breast, and the breath came quick and fast. Look 
where he would, in woodland and on Down, his straining 
eyes could catch no sign of those plains of freedom which 
he sought 

And yet another outrage ! It was bad that this creature 
should still ding so tight upon his back, but now he would 
even go to the intolerable length of checking him and 
guiding him on the way that he would have him go. There 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 2^ 

was a sharp pluck at his mouthy and his head was turned 
north once more. As well go that way as another; but 
the man was mad indeed if he thought that such a horse as 
Pommers was at the end of his spirit or his strengtL He 
would soon show him that he was unconqu^ed, if it 
strained his sinews or broke his heart to do so. Back, then, 
he flew up the long, long ascent. Would he ever get to 
the end of it? Yet he would not own that he could 
go no farther while the man still kept his grip. He 
was white with foam and caked with mud. His eyes 
were gorged with blood, his mouth open and gasping, 
his nostrils expanded, his coat stark and reeking. On 
he flew down the long Sunday Hill, until he reached 
the deep Eingsley Marsh at the bottom. No, it was 
too much I Flesh and blood could go no further. As 
he struggled out from the reedy slime, with the heavy 
black mud still cUnging to his fetlocks, he at last eased 
down with sobbing breath, and slowed the tumultuous 
gallop to a canter. 

Oh, crowning infamy ! Was there no limit to these 
degradations ? He was no longer even to choose his own 
pace. Since he had chosen to gallop so far at his own will 
he must now gallop further still at the will of another. A 
spur struck home on either flank. A stinging whip-lash 
fell across his shoulder. He bounded his own height in the 
air at the pain and the shame of it. Then, forgetting his 
weary limbs, forgetting his panting, reeking sides, forget- 
ting everything save this intolerable insult and the burn- 
ing spirit within, he plunged off once more upon his 
furious gallop. He was out on the heather slopes again, 
and heading for Weydown Common. On he flew and 
on. But again his brain failed him, and again his 
limbs trembled beneath him, and yet again he strove 
to ease his pace, only to be driven onward by the cruel 
spur and the faUing lash. He was blind and giddy with 
fatigue. 



30 SIR NIGEL 

He saw no longer where he placed his feet, he cared 
no longer whither he went, but his one mad longing was 
to get away from this dieadfnl thing, this torture which 
clung to him and would not let him ga Through Thursley 
village he passed, his eyes straining in his agony, his heart 
bursting within him, and he had won his way to the crest 
of Thuisley Down, still stung forward by stab and blow, 
when his spirit weakened, his giant strength ebbed out of 
him, and with one deep sob of agony the yellow horse 
sank among the heather. So sudden was the fall that 
Nigel flew forward over his shoulder, and beast and man 
lay prostrate and gasping, while the last red lim of the 
sun sank behind Butser and the first stars gleamed in a 
violet sky. 

The young Squire was the first to recover, and kneeling 
by the panting, overwrought horse, he passed his hand 
gently over the tangled mane and down the foam-flecked 
face. The red eye rolled up at him ; but it was wonder, 
not hatred, a prayer and not a threat, which he could 
read in it As he stroked the reeking muzzle, the horse 
whinnied gently and thrust his nose into the hollow of his 
hand. It was enough. It was the end of the contest^ the 
acceptance of new conditions by a chivalrous foe from a 
chivalrous victor. 

'' You are my horse, Pommers," Nigel whispered, and 
he laid his cheek against the craning head. *' I know you, 
Pommers, and you know me, and with the help of Saint 
Paul we shall teach some other folk to know us both. 
Now let us walk together as far as this moorland pond, 
for indeed I wot not whether it is you or I who need 
the water most." 

And so it was that some belated monks of Waverley, 
passing homeward from the outer farms, saw a strange 
sight, which they carried on with them so that it reached 
that very night the ears both of sacrist and of Abbot. For, 
as they passed through Tilford, they had seen horse and 



THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 31 

man walking side by side and head by head up the manor- 
house lane. And when they had raised their lanterns on 
the pair« it was none other than the young Squire himself 
who was leading home> as a shepherd leads a lamb, the 
fearsome yellow horse of Crooksbury. 



CHAPTER IV 

HOW THE SUMMONEB CAME TO THE MANOR-HOUSE 07 
TILFORD 

Bt the date of this chronicle, the ascetic stemness of the 
old Norman castles had been humanized and refined, so 
that the new dwellings of the nobility, if less imposing in 
appearance, were much more oomfortable as places of 
residence. A gentle race had built their houses rather 
for peace than for war. He who compares the savage 
bareness of Pevenseyor Guildford with the piled grandeur 
of Bodmin or Windsor cannot fail to understand the change 
in manners which they represent 

The earlier castles had a set purpose, for they were 
built that the invaders might hold down the country ; but 
when the Conquest was once firmly established, a castle 
had lost its meaning, save as a refuge from justice or as a 
centre for civil strife. On the marches of Wales and of 
Scotland the castle might continue to be a bulwark to the 
kingdom, and there still grew and flourished ; but in all 
other places they were rather a menace to the Eing^s 
majesty, and as such were discouraged and destroyed. By 
the reign of the third Edward the greater part of the old 
fighting castles had been converted into dwelling-houses 
or had been ruined in the civil wars, and left where their 
grim grey bones are still littered upon the brows of our 
hills. The new buildings were either great country-houses, 
capable of defence, but mainly residential, or they were 
manor-houses with no military significance at all. 

Such was the Tilford Manor-house, where the last 

32 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 33 

survivors of the old and magnificent house of Loring still 
strolled hard to keep a footing and to hold off the monks 
and the lawyers from the few acres which were left to 
them. The mansion was a two-storied one, framed in 
heavy beams of wood, the interstices filled with rude 
blocks of stone. An outside staircase led up to several 
sleeping-rooms above. Below, there were only two apart- 
ments, the smaller of which was the bower of the aged 
Lady Ermyntrude. The other was the hall, a very large 
room, which served as the living-room of the family and 
as the common dinmg-room of themselves and of their 
little group of servants and retainers. The dwellings of 
these servants, the kitchens, the offices, and the stables 
were all represented by a row of penthouses and sheds 
behind the main building. Here Uved Charles, the page ; 
Peter, the old falconer; Red Swire, who had followed 
Nigel's grandfather to the Scottish wars; Weathercote, 
the broken minstrel ; John, the cook, and other survivors 
of more prosperous days, who still clung to the old house 
as the bamades to some wrecked and stranded vesseL 

One evening, about a week after the breaking of the 
yellow horse, Nigel and his grandmother sat on eithw side 
of the large empty fireplace in this spacious apartment 
The supper had been removed, and so had the trestle 
tables upon which it had been served, so that the room 
seemed bare and empty. The stone floor was strewed 
with a thick layer of green ru^es, which was swept out 
every Saturday, and carried with it all the dirt and debris 
of the week. Several dogs were now crouched among 
these rushes, gnawing and cracking the bones which had 
been thrown from the table. A long wooden buffet loaded 
with plates and dishes filled one end of the room, but 
there was little other furniture, save some benches against 
the walls, two dorseret chairs^one small table littered with 
chessmen, and a great iron coffer. In one comer was a 
high wickerwor)^ staod, and on it two stately falcons were 

D 



34 SIR NIGEL 

perched, silent and motionless, save for an occasional 
twinkle of their fierce yellow eyes. 

But if the actual fittings of the room would have 
appeared scanty to one who had Uved in a more luxurious 
age, he would have been surprised on looking up to see 
the multitude of objects which were suspended above hia 
head. Over the fireplace were the coats-of-arms of a 
number of houses allied by blood or by marriage to the 
Lorings. The two cresset-lights which flared upon each 
side gleamed upon the blue lion of the Percies, the red 
birds of de Valence, the black engrailed cross of de Mohun, 
the silver star of de Yere, and the ruddy bars of FitzAlan, 
all grouped round the famous red roses on the silver shield 
which the Lorings had borne to glory upon many a bloody 
field. Then from side to side the room was spanned by 
heavy oaken beams, from which a great number of objects 
were hanging. There were mail-shirts of obsolete pattern, 
several shields, one or two rusted and battered helmets, 
bow-staves, lances, otter-spears, harness, fishing-rods, and 
other implements of war or of the chase, while higher 
still amid the black shadows could be seen rows of hams, 
flitches of bacon, salted geese, and those other forms of 
preserved meat which played so great a part in the house- 
keeping of the Middle Ages. 

Dame Ermyntrude Loring, daughter, wife, and mother 
of warriors, was herself a formidable figure. Tall and 
gaunt, with hard craggy features and intolerant dark eyes, 
even her snow-white hair and stooping back could not 
entirely remove the' sense of fear which she inspired in 
those around her. Her thoughts and memories went back 
to harsher times, and she looked upon the England around 
her as a degenerate and effeminate land which had fallen 
away from the old standard of knightly courtesy and 
valour. 

The rising power of the people, the growing wealth of 
the Church, the increasing luxury in life a4d mannerSj and 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 35 

the gentler tone of the age were all equally abhorrent to 
her, 80 that the dread of her fierce face, and even of the 
heavy oak stafiT with which she supported her failing limbs, 
was widespread through all the country round. 

Yet if she was feared she was also respected, for in 
days when books were few and readers scarce, a long 
memory and a ready tongue were of the more value ; and 
where, save from Dame Ermyntrude, could the young un- 
lettered Squires of Surrey and Hampshire hear of their 
grandfathers and their battles, or leam that lore of heraldry 
and chivalry which she handed down firom a ruder but a 
more martiid age 7 Poor as she was, there was no one in 
Surrey whose guidance would be more readily sought upon 
a question of precedence or of conduct than the Dame 
Ermyntrude Loring. 

She sat now with bowed back by the empty fireplace, 
and looked across at Nigel with all the harsh lines of her 
old ruddled face softening into love and pride. The young 
Squire was busy cutting bird-bolts for his crossbow, and 
whistling softly as he worked. Suddenly he looked up 
and caught the dark eyes which were fixed upon him. 
He leaned forward and patted the bony hand. 

" What hath pleased you, dear dame ? I tead pleasure 
in your eyes." 

** I have heard to-day, Nigel, how you came to win that 
great war-horse which stamps in our stable." 

'' Nay, dame ; I had told you that the monks had given 
it to me." 

" You said so, fair son, but never a word more. Yet 
the horse which you^brought home was a very different 
horse, I wot, to that which was given you. Why did you 
not tell me ? " 

" I should think it shame to talk of such a thing." 

*' So would your father before you, and his father no 
less. They woiild sit silent among the knights when the 
wine went round and listen to every man's deeds ; but if 



36 SIR NIGEL 

perchance there was any one who spoke louder than the 
rest and seemed to be eager for honour, then afterwards 
your father would pluck him softly by the sleeve and 
whisper in his ear to learn if there was any small vow of 
which he could relieve him, or if he would deign to per- 
form some noble deed of arms upon his person. And if 
the man were a braggart and would go no further, your 
father would be silent and none would know it. But if 
he bore himself well, your father would spread his fame 
far and wide, but never make mention of himself." 

Nigel looked at the old woman with shining eyes. " I 
love to hear you speak of him," said he. " I pray you to 
tell me once more of the manner of his death." 

" He died as he had lived, a very courtly gentleman. 
It was at the great sea-battle upon the Norman coast, and 
your father was in command of the after-guard in the 
King's own ship. Now the French had taken a great 
English ship the year before, when they came over and 
held the narrow seas and burned the town of Southampton. 
This ship was the Christopher, and they placed it in the 
front of their battle ; but the English closed upon it and 
stormed over its side, and slew all who were upon it. 

"But your father and Sir Lorredan of Genoa, who 
commanded the Christopher, fought upon the high poop, so 
that all the fleet stopped to watch it, and the King himself 
cried aloud at the sight, for Sir Lorredan was a famous 
n^ian-at-arms and bore himself very stoutly that day, and 
many a knight envied your father that he should have 
chanced upon so excellent a person. But your father bore 
him back and struck him such a blow with a mace that 
he turned the helmet half round on his head, so that he 
could no longer see through the eyeholes, and Sir Lorredan 
threw down his sword and gave himself to ransom. But 
your father took him by the helmet and twisted it until 
be had it straight upon his head. Then, when he could 
see once again, he himded him his sword, and prayed him 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 37 

that he would rest himself and then continue^ for it was 
great profit and joy to see any gentleman carry himself so 
well. So they sat together and rested by the rail of the 
poop; but even as they raised their hands again your 
&ther was struck by a stone from a mangonel and so 
died." 

*' And this Sir Lonedan/' cried Nigel» " he died also, 
as I understand ? " 

'' I fear that he was slain by the archers, for they loved 
your father, and they do not see these things with our 
eyes." 

" It was a pity," said Nigel ; " for it is clear that he 
was a good knight and bore himself very bravely." 

" Time was, when I was young, when commoners dared 
not have laid their grimy hands upon such a man. Men 
of gentle blood and coat-armour made war upon each 
other, and the others, spearmen or archers, could scramble 
amongst themselves. But now all are of a level, and only 
here and there one like yourself, fair son, who reminds me 
of the men who are gone." 

Nigel leaned forward and took her hands in his. 
" What I am you have made me," said he. 

" It is true, Nigel. I have indeed watched over you 
as the gardener watches his most precious blossom, for in 
you alone are all the hopes of our ancient house, and soon 
— very soon — you will be alone." 

" Nay, dear lady, say not that." 

" I am very old, Nigel, and I feel the shadow closing 
in upon me. My heart yearns to go, for all whom I have 
known and loved have gone before me. And you — it 
will be a blessed day for you, since I have held you back 
from that world into which your brave spirit longs to 
plunge." 

"Nay, nay, I have been happy here with you at 
Tilford." 

" We are very poor, Nigel. I do not know where we 



38 SIR NIGEL 

may find the money to fit yon for the wars. Yet we have 
good friends. There is Sir John Chandos, who has won 
snch credit in the French wars, and who rides ever by the 
King's bridle-arm. He was your father's friend, and they 
were squires together. If I sent you to court with a 
message to him he would do what he could." 

Nigel's fair face flushed. "Nay, dame Ermjmtrude, I 
must find my own gear, even as I have found my own 
horse, for I had rather ride into battle in this tunic than 
owe my suit to another." 

'* I feared that you would say so, Nigel ; but indeed I 
know not how else we may get the money," said the old 
woman, sadly. " It was different in the days of my father. 
I can remember that a suit of mail was but a small matter 
in those days, for in every English town such things could 
be made. But year by year, since men have come to take 
more care of their bodies, there have been added a plate 
of proof here and a cunning joint there, and all must be 
from Toledo or Milan, so that a knight must have much 
metal in his purse ere he puts any on his limbs." 

Nigel looked up wistfully at the old armour which was 
sluDg on the beams above him. " The ash spear is good," 
said he, "and so is the oaken shield with facings of steel. 
Sir Bodger FitzAlan handled them and said that he had 
never seen better. But the armour " 

Lady Ermyntrude shook her old head and laughed. 
" You have your father's great soul, Nigel, but you have 
not his mighty breadth of shoulder and length of limb. 
There was not in all the King's great host a taller or a 
stronger man. His harness would be little use to you. 
No, fair son, I rede you that when the time comes you 
sell this crumbling house and the few acres which are 
still left, and so go forth to the wars in the hope that 
with your own right hand you will plant the fortunes of 
a new house of Loring." 

A shadow of anger passed over Nigel's fresh young 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 39 

face. ** I know not if we may hold off these monks and 
their lawyers much longer. This very day there came a 
man from Guildford with claims from the Abbey extending 
back before my father's death." 

" Where are they, fair son ? " 

''They are flapping on the furze-bushes of Hankley, 
for I sent his papers and parchments down wind as fast 
as ever falcon flew/' 

''Nay! you were mad to do that, Nigel. And the 
man, where is he ? " 

"Red Swire and old Oeorge the Archer threw him 
into the Thursley bog.'' 

" Alas I I fear me such things cannot be done in these 
days, though my father or my husband would have sent 
the rascal back to Guildford without his ears. But the 
Church and the Law are too strong now for us who are 
of gentler blood. Trouble will come of it, Nigel, for the 
Abbot of Waverley is not one who will hold back the 
shield of the Ghurdi from those who are her servants." 

" The Abbot would not hurt us. It is that grey lean 
wolf of a sacrist who hungers for our land. Let him do 
his worst I fear him not" 

" He has such an engine at his back, Nigel, that even 
the bravest must fear him. The ban which blasts a man's 
soul is in the keeping of his Church, and what have we to 
place against it ? I pray you to speak him fair, Nigel." 

"Nay, dear lady, it is both my duty and my pleasure 
to do what you bid me ; but I would die ere I ask as a 
favour that which we can claim as a right Never can I 
cast my eyes from yonder window that I do not see the 
swelling down-lands and the rich meadows, glade and 
dingle, copse and wood, which have been ours since 
Norman William gave them to that Loring who bore 
his shield at Senlac Now by trick and fraud they have 
passed away from us, and many a franklin is a richer man 
than I ; but never shall it be said that I saved the rest by 



40 SIR NIGEL 

bending my neck to their yoke. Let them do their worst, 
and let me endure it or fight it as best I may." 

The old lady sighed and shook her head. " You speak 
as a Loring should, and yet I fear that some great trouble 
will befall us. But let us talk no more of such matters, 
since we cannot mend them. Where is your citole, Nigel ? 
Will you not play and sing to me ? " 

The gentleman of those days could scarce read and 
write ; but he spoke in two languages, played at least one 
musical instrument as a matter of course, and possessed a 
number of other accomplishments, from the imping of 
hawk's feathers, to the mystery of venery, with know- 
ledge of every beast and bird, its time of grace and when 
it was seasonable. As far as physical feats went, to vault 
barebacked upon a horse, to hit a running hare with a 
crossbow-bolt, or to climb the angle of a castle courtyard, 
were feats which had come by nature to the young Squire ; 
but it was very different with music, which had called for 
many a weary hour of irksome work. Now at last he 
could master the strings, but both his ear and his voice 
were not of the best, so that it was well, perhaps, that 
there was so small and so prejudiced an audience to the 
Norman-French. chanson, which he sang in a high reedy 
voice with great earnestness of feeling, but with many 
a slip and quaver, waving his yellow head in cadence 
to the music — 

** A sword I A sword ! Ah, give me a sword ! 

For the world is aU to win. 
Though the way he hard and the door he harred. 

The strong man enters in. 
If Chance and Fate stiU hold the gate, 

Giro me the iron key, 
And tnrret high my pinme shall fly, 

Or yon may weep for me t 

**AhoneI Ahorse! Ah, give me a horse 1 
To hear mo ont afar, 
Where blackest need and grimmest deed 
And sweetest perils are. 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 41 

Hold thon my ways from glutted days 

IHiere poiaoned leisiire lies. 
And point the path of tears and wrath 

Which monnte to high emprise I 

" A heart I A heart ! Ah, give me a heart 

To rise to circunstanoe ! 
Serene and high and bold to try 

The haaard of the chance^ 
With strength to wait, but fixed as fate 

To plan and dare and do. 
The peer of all, and only thiall. 

Sweet lady mine, to yon 1 " 

It may have been that the eentiment went for more 
than the music, or it may have been the nicety of her 
own ears had been dulled by age, but old Dame Ermyn- 
trude clapped her lean hands together and cried out in 
shrill applause. 

'* Weathercote has indeed had an apt pupil 1 " she said. 
" I pray you that you will sing again." 

'' Nay, dear dame, it is turn and turn betwixt you and 
me. I beg that you will recite a romance, you who know 
them alL For all the years that I have listened I have 
never yet come to the end of them, and I dare swear that 
there are more in your head than in all the great books 
which they showed me at Guildford Castle. I would fain 
hear ' Doon of Mayence,' or • The Song of Boknd,' or * Sir 
Isumbras.' " 

So the old dame broke into a long poem, slow and duU 
in the inception, but quickening as the interest grew, until 
with darting hands and glowing face she poured forth the 
verses which told of the emptiness of sordid life, the beauty 
of heroic death, the high sacredness of love and the bondage 
of honour. Nigel, with set, still features and brooding 
eyes, drank in the fiery words, until at last they died 
upon the old woman's lips and she sank back weary in 
her chair. Nigel stooped over her and kissed her brow. 

** Your words will ever be as a star upon my path/' 



42 SIR NIGEL 

said he. Then canying over the small table and the 
chessmen, he proposed that they shoiQd play their usual 
game befoie they sought their rooms for the night. 

But a sudden and rude inteiruption broke in upon their 
gentle contest. A dog pricked its ears and barked. The 
others ran growling to the door. And then there came a 
sharp clash of arms, a dull heavy blow as from a club or 
sword pommel, and a deep voice from without summoned 
them to open in the king's name. The old dame and 
Nigel had both sprung to their feet, their table overturned 
and their chessmen scattered among the rushes. Nigel's 
hand had sought his crossbow, but Jthe Lady Ermyntrude 
grasped his arm. 

"Nay, fair son! Have you not heard that it is in 
the King's name?" said she. ''Down, Talbot! Down, 
Bayard ! Open the door and let his messenger in ! " 

Nigel undid the bolt, and the heavy wooden door swung 
outward upon its hinges. The light from the flaring cres- 
sets beat upon steel caps and fierce bearded faces, with the 
glimmer of drawn swords and the yellow gleam of bow- 
staves. A dozen armed archers forced their way into the 
room. At their head were the gaunt sacrist of Waverley 
and a stout elderly man clad in a red-velvet doublet and 
breeches, much stained and mottled with mud and day. 
He bore a great sheet of parchment with a fringe of dangling 
seals, which he held aloft as he entered. 

" I call on Nigel Loring!" he cried. "I, the officer of 
the King's law and the lay summoner of Waverley, call 
upon the man named Nigel Loring I " 

•a am he." 

^Yes, it is he!" cried the sacrist. ''Archers, do as 
you were ordered 1 " 

In an instant the band threw themselves upon him like 
the hounds on a stag. Desperately Nigel strove to gain 
his sword, which lay upon the iron coffer. With the con- 
vulsive strength which comes from the spirit rather than 




*» BESPEBXTEliY NIGEL STROVE TO GAIN HIS SWORD. 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 43 

from the body, he bore them all in that direction, but the 
sadist snatched the weapon from its place, and the rest 
dragged the writhing Squire to the ground and swathed 
him in a cord 

" Hold him fast, good archers I Keep a stout grip on 
him ! " cried the summoner. " I pray you, one of you, 
prick off these great d(>gs which snarl at my heels. Stand 
off, I say, in the name of the king! Watkin, come betwixt 
me and these creatures, who have as little regard for the 
law as their master." 

One of the archers kicked off the faithful dogs. But 
there were others of the household who were equally ready 
to show their teeth in defence of the old house of Loring. 
From the door which led to their quarters there emerged 
the pitiful muster of Nigel's threadbare retainers. There 
was a time when ten knights, forty men-at-arms, and two 
hundred archers would march behind the scarlet roses. 
Now at this last rally, when the young head of the house 
lay bound in his own hall, there mustered at his call the 
page Charles with a cudgel, John the cook with his longest 
spit. Bed Swire the aged man-at-arms with a formidable 
axe swung over his snowy head, and Weathercote the min- 
strel with a boar-spear. Yet this motley array was fired 
with the spirit of the house, and under the lead of the fierce 
old soldier they would certainly have flung themselves upon 
the ready swords of the archers, had the Lady Ermyntrude 
not swept between them. 

"Stand back, Swirel " she cried. "Back, Weathercote! 
Charles, put a leash on Talbot, and hold Bayard back I " 
Her black eyes blazed upon the invaders until they shrank 
from that baleful gaze. " Who are you, you rascal robbers, 
who dare to misuse the king's name and to lay hands upon 
one whose smallest drop of blood has more worth than all 
your thrall and caitiff bodies ? *' 

"Nay, not 80 fast, dame, not so fast, I pray youl" cried 
the stout summoner, whose face had resumed its natural 



44 SIR NIGEL 

colour, now that he had a woman to deal with. '' There is 
a law of England, mark you, and there are those who serve 
and uphold it, who axe the true men and the king's own 
lieges. Such a one am I. Then, again, there are those 
who take such as me and transfer, carry or convey us into 
a bog or morass. Such a one is this graceless old man with 
the axe, whom I have seen already this day. There are also 
those who tear, destroy, or scatter the papers of the law, of 
which this young man is the chief. Therefore I would rede 
you, dame, not to rail against us, but to understand that 
we are the king's men on the king's own service." 

" What, then, is your errand in this house at this hour 
of the night?" 

The summoner cleared his throat pompously, and turn- 
ing his parchment to the light of the cressets he read out 
a long document in Norman-French, couched in such a style 
and such a language that the most involved and foolish 
of our forms were simplicity itself compared to those by 
which the men of the long gown made a mystery of that 
which of all things on earth should be the plainest and the 
most simple. Despair fell cold upon Nigel's heart and 
blanched the face of the old dame as they listened to the 
dread catalogue of claims and suits and issues, questions 
of peccary and turbary, of house-bote and fire-bote, which 
ended by a demand for all the lands, hereditaments, tene- 
ments, messuages and curtilages, which made up their 
worldly all. 

Nigel, still bound, had been placed with his back against 
the iron coffer, whence he heard with diy lips and moist 
brow this doom of his house. Now he broke in on the 
recital with a vehemence which made the summoner jump-^ 

'' You shall rue what you have done this night 1 " he 
cried. *' Poor as we axe, we have our friends who will not 
see us wronged, and I will plead my cause before the 
king's own majesty at Windsor, that he, who saw the 
father die, may know what things are done in his royal 



HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO TILFORD 45 

name against the son. But these matters are to be settled 
in course of law in the king's courts, and how will you 
excuse yourself for this assault upon my house and person? " 

" Nay, that is another matter/' said the sacrist. " The 
question of debt may indeed be an affair of a civil, court. 
But it is a crime against the law and an act of the Devil 
which comes within the jurisdiction of the Abbey Court of 
Waverley when you dare to lay hands upon the summoner 
or his papers." 

"Indeed, he speaks truth/' cried the official. "I know 
no blacker sin." 

" Therefore/' said the stem monk, " it is the order of 
the holy father Abbot that you sleep this night in the 
Abbey ceU, and that to-morrow you be brought before him 
at the court held in the chapter-house so that you receive 
the fit punishment for this and the many other violent and 
froward deeds which you have wrought upon the servants 
of Holy Church. Enough is now said, worthy master 
sunmioner. Archers, remove your prisoner ! " 

As Nigel was lifted up by four stout archers, the Dame 
Ermyntrude would have rushed to his aid, but the sacrist 
thrust her back. 

"Stand off, proud woman ! Let the law take its course, 
and learn to humble your heart before the power of Holy 
Church. Has your life not taught its lesson, you, whose 
horn was exalted among the highest and will soon not 
have a roof above your grey hairs ? Stand back, I say, 
lest I lay a curse upon you ! " 

The old dame flamed suddenly into white wrath as 
she stood before the angry monk — 

" listen to me while I lay a curse upon you and yours ! " 
she cried, as she raised her shrivelled arms and blighted 
him with her flashing eyes : " As you have done to the 
house of Loring, so may G^ do to you, imtil your power 
is swept firom the land of England, and of your great 
Abbey of Waverley there is nothing left but a pile of grey 



46 SIR NIGEL 

stones in a green meadow! I see it! I see it! With 
my old eyes I see it ! From scullion to abbot and from 
cellar to tower, may Waverley and all within it droop and 
wither from this night on ! " 

The monk, hard as he was, quailed before the firantic 
figure and the bitter, burning words. Already the sum* 
moner and the archers with their prisoner were clear of the 
house. He turned, and with a clang he shut the heavy 
door behind him. 



CHAPTER V 

HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT OF WAVERLEY 

The law of the Middle Ages, shrouded as it was in old 
Norman-French dialect, and abounding in uncouth and 
incomprehensible terms, in deodands and heriots, in infang 
and outfang, was a fearsome weapon in the hands of those 
who knew how to use it It was not for nothing that the 
first act of the rebel commoners was to hew off the head of 
the Lord Chancellor. In an age when few knew how to 
read or to write, these mystic phrases and intricate forms* 
with the parchments and seals which were their outward 
expression, struck cold terror into hearts which were 
steeled against mere physical danger. 

Even young Nigel Loring's blithe and elastic spirit was 
chilled as he lay that night in the penal cell of Waverley, 
and pondered over the absolute ruin which threatened his 
house from a source against which all Us courage was of 
no avail. As well take up sword and shield to defend 
himself against the black death, as against this blight of 
Holy Church. He was powerless in the grip of the Abbey. 
Already they had shorn off a field here and a grove there, 
and now in one sweep they would take in the rest, and 
where then was the home of the Lorings, and where should 
lady Ermyntrude lay her aged head, or his old retainers, 
broken and spent, eke out the balance of their days. He 
shivered as he thought of it. 

It was very well for him to threaten to carry the 
matter before the king, but it was years since Boyal Edward 
had heard the jame of Loring, and Nigel knew that the 

47 



48 SIR NIGEL 

memory of princes was a short one. Besides, the Church 
was the rulhig power in the palace as well as in the cottage, 
and it was only for very good cause that a king could be 
expected to cross the purposes of so high a prelate as the 
Abbot of Waverley, as long as they came within the scope 
of the law. Where, then, was he to look for help ? With 
the simple and practical piety of the age, he prayed for the 
aid of his own particular saints: of Saint Paul, whose 
adventures by land and sea had always endeared him ; of 
Saint Geoige, who had gained much honourable advance* 
ment from the Dragon ; and of Saint Thomas, who was a 
gentleman of coat-armour, who would understand and help 
a person of gentle blood. Then, much comforted by his 
naive orisons, he enjoyed the sleep of youth and health 
until the entrance of the lay brother with the bread an(|^ 
small beer, which served as breakfast in the morning. 

The Abbey court sat in the chapter-house at the 
canonical hour of tierce, which was nine in the forenoon. 
At all times the function was a solemn one, even when 
the culprit might be a villein who was taken poaching on 
the Abbey estate, or a chapman who had given false 
measure from his biased scales. But now, when a man of 
noble birth was to be tried, the whole legal and ecdesias- 
tical ceremony was carried out with every detail, grotesque 
or impressive, which the full ritual prescribed. Mid the 
distant roll of church music and the slow tolling of the 
Abbey bell, the white-robed brethren, two and two, walked 
thrice round the hall singing the Bmedicite and the Vent, 
Creator before they settled in their places at the desks on 
either side. Then in turn each high officer of the Abbey 
from below upward, the almoner, the lector, the chaplain, 
the subprior and the prior, swept to their wonted places. 

Finally there came the grim sacrist, with demure 

triumph upon his downcast features, and at his heela 

Abbot John himself, slow and dignified, with pompous 

>nd solemn, composed face, his irou-b^ecl rosaiy 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 49 

swiDging from his waists his breviary in his hand, and his 
lips muttering as he hurried through his office for the day. 
He knelt at his high prie-dieu ; the brethren, at a signal 
from the prior, prostrated themselves upon the floor, and 
the low deep voices rolled in prayer, echoed back from 
the arched and vaulted roof like the wash of waves from 
an ocean cavern, finally the monks resumed their seats ; 
there entered clerks in seemly black with pens and parch- 
ment; the red-velveted summoner appeared to tell his 
tale; Nigel was led in with archers pressing close around 
him; and then, with much calliug of old French and 
much legal incantation and mystery, the court of the 
Abbey was open for business. 

It was the sacrist who first advanced to the oaken desk 
reserved for the witnesses and expounded in hard, dry, 
mechanical fashion the many claims which the House of 
Waverley had against the family of Loring. Some genera- 
tions back, in return for money advanced or for spiritual 
favour received, the Loring of the day had admitted that 
his estate had certain feudal duties toward the Abbey. 
The sacrist held up the crackling yellow parchment with 
swinging leaden seals on which the claim was based. 
Amid the obligations was that of escuage, by which the 
price of a knight's fee should be paid every year. No such 
price had been paid, nor had any service been done. The 
accumulated years came now to a greater sum than the 
fee -simple of the estate. There were other claims also. 
The sacrist called for his books, and with thin, eager fore- 
finger he tracked them down ; dues for this, and tallage 
for that, so many shillings this year, and so many nobles 
that one. Some of it occurred before Nigel was bom ; 
some of it when he was but a child. The accounts had 
been checked and certified by the seigeant of the law. 

Nigel listened to the dread recital, and felt like some 
young stag who stands at bay with brave pose and heart 

£ 



50 SIR NIGEL 

of fire, but who sees himself compassed round and knows 
clearly that there is no escape. With his bold young face, 
his steady blue eyes, and the proud poise of his head, he 
was a worthy scion of the old house, and the sun, shining 
through the high oriel window, and diowing up the stained 
and threadbare condition of his once rich doublet, seemed 
to illuminate the fallen fortunes of his family. 

The sacrist had finished his exposition, and the sergeant- 
at-Iaw was about to conclude a case which Nigel could in 
no way controvert, when help came to him from an un- 
expected quarter. It may have been a certain malignity 
with which the sacrist urged his suit, it may have been a 
diplomatic dislike to driving matters to extremes, or it 
may have been some genuine impulse of kindliness, for 
Abbot John was choleric but easily appeased. Whatever 
the cause, the result was that a white plump hand, raised 
in the air with a gesture of authority, showed that the case 
was at an end. 

" Our brother sacrist hath done his duty in urging this 
suit," said he, " for the worldly wealth of this Abbey is 
placed in his pious keeping, and it is to him that we 
should look if we suffered in such ways, for we are but 
the trustees of those who come after us. But to my 
keeping has been consigned that which is more precious 
still, the inner spirit and high repute of those who follow 
the rule of Saint Bernard. Now, it has ever been our 
endeavour, since first our saintly founder went down into 
the valley of Clairvaux and built himself a cell there, that 
we should set an example to all men in gentleness and 
humility. For this reason it is that we build our houses 
in lowly places, that we have no tower to our Abbey 
churches, and that no finery and no metal, save only iron 
or lead, come within our walls. A brother shall eat from 
a wooden platter, drink from an iron cup, and light 
himself from a leaden sconce. Surely it is not for such 
an order who await the exaltation which is promised to 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 51 

the humble, to judge their own case and so acquire the 
lands of their neighbour! If our cause be just, as indeed 
I belleye that it is, then it were better that it be judged 
at the king's assizes at Guildford, and so I decree that 
the case be now dismissed from the Abbey court so that 
it can be heard elsewhere.'' 

Nigel breathed a prayer to the three sturdy saints who 
had stood by him so manfully and well in the hour of his 
need. 

"Abbot John," said he, "I never thought that any 
man of my name would utter thanks to a Cistercian of 
Waverley ; but, by Saint Paul ! you have spoken like a man 
this day, for it would indeed be to play with cogged dice 
if the Abbey's case is to be tried in the Abbey court." 

The eighty white- clad brethren looked with half-resent- 
ful, half-amused eyes as they listened to this frank address 
to one who, in their small lives, seemed to be the direct 
vicer^ent of Heaven. The archers had stood back from 
Nigel, as though he were at liberty to go, when the loud 
voice of the summoner broke in upon the silence — 

" If it please you, holy father Abbot," cried the voice, 
" this decision of yours is indeed secundum legem and intra 
tires so far as the civil suit is concerned which lies between 
this person and the Abbey. That is your affair ; but it is 
I, Joseph the summoner, who have been grievously and 
criminally mishandled, my writs, papers, and indentures 
destroyed, my authority flouted, and my person dragged 
through a bog, quagmire or morass, so that my velvet 
gabardine and silver badge of office were lost and are, as 
I verily believe, in the morass, quagmire or bog afore- 
mentioned, which is the same bog, morass " 

" Enough ! " cried the Abbot, sternly. " Lay aside this 
foolish fashion of speech, and say straitly what you desire." 

" Holy father, I have been the officer of the king's 
law no less than the servant of Holy Church, and I have 
been let, hindered, and assaulted in the performance of 



52 SIR NIGEL 

my lawful and proper duties, whilst my papers, drawn in 
the king's name, have been shended and rended and cast 
to the wind. Therefore I demand justice upon this man 
in the Abbey court, the said assault having been com- 
mitted within the banliene of the Abbey's jurisdiction." 

" What have you to say to this, brother sacrist ? " 
asked the Abbot in some perplexity. 

** I would say, father, that it is within our power to 
deal gently and charitably with all that concerns onr- 
solves, but that where the king's officer is concerned, wo 
are wanting in our duty if we give him less than the 
protection that he demands. I would remind you also, 
holy father, that this is not the first of this man's violence, 
but that he has before now beaten our servants, defied our 
authority, and put pike in the Abbot's own fish-pond." 

The prelate's heavy cheeks flushed with anger as this 
old grievance came fresh into his mind. His eyes 
hardened as he looked at the prisoner. *' Tell me. Squire 
Nigel, did you indeed put pike in the pond ? " 

The young man drew himself proudly up. "Ere I 
answer such a question, father Abbot, do you answer one 
from me, and tell me what the monks of Waverley have 
ever done for me that I should hold my hand when I 
could injure them ? " 

A low murmur ran round the room, partly wonder at 
his frankness, and partly anger at his boldness. 

The Abbot settled down in his seat as one who has 
made up his mind. " Let the case of the summoner be 
laid before me," said he. " Justice shall be done, and the 
offender shall be punished, be he noble or simple. Let the 
plaint be brought before the court." 

The tale of the summoner, though rambling and filled 
with endless legal reiteration, was only too clear in its 
essence. Bed Swire, with his angry face framed in white 
bristles, was led in, and confessed to his ill-treatment of 
the official A second culprit, a little wiry, nut-brown 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 53 

archer firom Churt, had aided and abetted in the deed. 
Both of them were ready to declare that young Squire 
Nigel Loring knew nothing of the matter. But then there 
was the awkward incident of the tearing of the writs. 
Nigel, to whom a lie was an impossibility, had to admit 
that with his own hands he had shredded those august 
documents. As to an excuse or an explanation, he was 
too proud to advance any. A doud gathered over the brow 
of the Abbot, and the sacrist gazed with an ironical smile 
at the prisoner, while a solemn hush fell over the chapter- 
house as the case ended and only judgment remained. 

" Squire Nigel," said the Abbot, " it was for you, who 
are, as all men know, of ancient lineage in this land, to 
give a fair example by which others should set their 
conduct. Instead of this, your manor-house has ever been 
a centre for the stirring up of strife, and now not content 
with your harsh showing toward us, the Cistercian monks 
of Waverley, you have even marked your contempt for the 
king's law, and through your servants have mishandled 
the person of his messenger. For such offences it is in my 
power to call the spiritual terrors of the Church upon your 
head, and yet I would not be harsh with you, seeing that 
you are young, and that even last week you saved the life 
of a servant of the Abbey when in peril. Therefore it is 
by temporal and carnal means that I will use my power 
to tame your overbold spirit, and to chasten that head- 
strong and violent humour which has caused such scandal 
in your dealings with our Abbey. Bread and water for 
six weeks from now to the Feast of Saint Benedict, with a 
daily exhortation from our chaplain, the pious Father 
Ambrose, may still avail to bend the stiff neck and to 
soften the hard heart." 

At this ignominious sentence, by which the proud heir 
of the house of Loring would share the fate of the meanest 
village poacher, the hot blood of Nigel rushed to his face, 
and his eye glanced round him with a gleam which said 



54 SIR NIGEL 

more plainly than words that there could be no tame 
acceptance of such a doom. Twice he tried to sT^oak, and 
twice his anger and his shame held the words in his throat. 

" I am no subject of yours, proud Abbot ! " he cried at 
last. " My house has ever been vavasor to the king. I 
deny the power of you and your court to lay sentence 
upon me. Punish these your own monks, who whimper 
at your frown, but do not dare to lay your hand upon 
him who fears you not, for he is a free man, and the peer 
of any save only the king himself." 

The Abbot seemed for an instant taken aback by these 
bold words, and by the high and strenuous voice in which 
they were uttered. But the sterner sacrist came as ever 
to stiffen his will. He held up the old parchment in his 
hand. 

" The Lorings were indeed vavasors to the king," said 
he ; *' but here is the veiy seal of Eustace Loring, which 
shows that he made himself vassal to the Abbey, and held 
his land from it." 

" Because he was gentle," cried Nigel, " because he had 
no thought of trick or guile." 

"Nay!" said the summoner. "If*my voice may be 
heard, father Abbot, upon a point of the law, it is of no . 
weight what the causes may have been why a deed is 
subscribed, signed or confirmed, but a court is concerned 
only with the terms, articles, covenants, and contracts of 
the said deed." 

'' Besides," said the sacrist, " sentence is passed by the 
Abbey court, and there is an end of its honour and good 
name if it be not upheld." 

" Brother sacrist," said the Abbot, angrily, " methinks 
you show overmuch zeal in this case, and certes, we are 
well able to uphold the dignity and honour of the Abbey 
court without any rede of thine. As to you, worthy 
summoner, you will give your opinion when we crave for 
it, and not before, or you may yourself get some touch of 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 55 

the power of onr tribunal. But your case hath been tried. 
Squire Loring, and judgment given. I have no more to say," 

He motioned with his hand, and an archer laid his 
grip upon the shoulder of the prisoner. But that rough 
plebeian touch woke every passion of revolt in Nigel's 
spirit. Of all his high line of ancestors, was there one 
who had been subjected to such ignominy as this ? Would 
they not have preferred death? And should he be the 
first to lower their spirit or their traditions? With a 
quick, lithe movement, he slipped under the arm of the 
archer, and plucked the short, straight sword from the 
soldier's side as he did so. The next instant he had 
wedged himself into the recess of one of the narrow 
windows, and there were his pale, set face, his burning 
eyes, and his ready blade turned upon the assembly. 

" By Saint Paul! " said he, " I never thought to find 
honourable advancement under the roof of an abbey, but, 
perchance, there may be some room for it ere you hale me 
to your prison." 

The chapter-house was in an uproar. Never in the long 
and decorous history of the Abbey had such a scene been 
witnessed within its walls. The monks themselves seemed 
for an instant to be affected by this spirit of daring revolt. 
Their own lifelong fetters hung more loosely as they 
viewed this unheard-of defiance of authority. They broke 
from their seats on either side, and huddled half-scared, 
half-fascinated, in a large half-circle round the defiant 
captive, chattering, pointing, grimacing, a scandal for all 
time. Scourges should fall and penance be done for many 
a long week before the shadow of that day should pass 
from Waverley. But meanwhile there was no effort to 
bring them back to their rule. Everytliing was chaos and 
disorder. The Abbot had left his seat of justice and 
hurried angrily forward, to be engulfed and hustled in the 
crowd of his own monks like a sheep-dog who finds 
himself entangled amid a fiock. 



56 SIR NIGEL 

Only the sacrist stood dear. He had taken shelter 
behind the half-dozen archers^ who looked with some 
approyal and a good deal of indecision at this bold fugitive 
finnn justice. 

"On him!" cried the sacrist ''Shall he defy the 
authority of the conrt, or shall one man hold six of you 
at bay ? Close in upon him and seize him. You, Bad- 
dlesmere, why do you hold back 7 " 

The man in question, a tall, bushy-bearded fellow, 
clad like the others in green jerkin and breeches, with 
high brown boots, advanced slowly, sword in hand, against 
KigeL His heart was not in the business, for these clerical 
courts were not popular, and every one had a tender heart 
for the fallen fortunes of the house of Loring and wished 
well to its young heir. 

"Ciome, young sir, you have caused scathe enough," 
said he. " Stand forth and give yourself up ! " 

'' C!ome and fetch me, good fellow," said Nigel, with a 
dangerous smila 

The archer ran in. There was a rasp of steel, a blade 
flickered like a swift dart of flame, and the man staggered 
back, with blood running down his forearm and dripping 
from his fingers. He wrung them and growled a Saxon 
oath. 

^By the black rood of Bromeholm! *' he cried, '' I had 
as soon put my hand down a fox's earth to dx^ up a 
vixen fix)m her cubs." 

"Stand oflF!" said Nigel, curtly. "I would not hurt 
you; but, by Saint Paul! I will not be handled, or some 
one will be hurt in the handling." 

So fierce was his eye and so menacing his blade as he 
crouched in the narrow bay of the window that the little 
knot of archers were at a loss what to do. The Abbot had 
forced his way through the crowd, and stood, purple with 
outraged dignity, at their side. 

'3 outside the law," said he. ''He hath shed 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT $7 

blood in a court of justice^ and for sucli a sin there is no 
forgiveness. I will not have my court so flouted and set 
at naught. He who draws the sword, by the sword also 
let him perish. Forester Hugh, lay a shaft to your bow 1 " 

The man, who was one of the Abbe/s lay servants, put 
his weight upon his long bow and slipped the loose end of 
the string into the upper notch. Then, drawing one of the 
terrible three-foot arrows, steel-tipped and gaudily winged, 
firom his waist, he laid it to the string. 

" Now draw your bow and hold it ready I " cried the 
furious Abbot " Squire Nigel, it is not for Holy Church 
to shed blood, but there is naught but violence which will 
prevail against the violent, and on your head be the sin. 
Cast down the sword which you hold in your hand ! " 

" Will you give me freedom to leave your Abbey ? '* 

"When you have abided your sentence and purged 
your sin." 

" Then I had rather die where I stand than give up my 
sword," 

A dangerous flame Ut in the Abbot's eyes. He came 
of a fighting Norman stock, like so many of those fierce 
prelates who, bearing a mace lest they should be giulty of 
effusion of blood, led their troops into battle, ever remem- 
bering that it was one of their own cloth and dignity who, 
crosier in hand, had turned the long-drawn bloody day of 
Hastings. The soft accent of the churchman was gone, 
and it was the hard voice of the soldier which said — 

" One minute I give you, and no more. Then when I 
cry ' Loose 1 ' drive me an arrow through his body." 

The shaft was fitted, the bow was bent, and the stem 
eyes of the woodman were fixed on his mark. Slowly the 
minute passed, while Nigel breathed a prayer to his three 
soldier saints, not that tiiey should save his body in this 
life, but that they should have a kindly care for his soul 
in the next. Some thought of a fierce wildcat sally crossed 
his mind, but once out of his comer he was lost indeed. 



58 SIR NIGEL 

Yet at the last he would have rushed among his enemies, 
and his body was bent for the springs when with a deep 
sonorous hum, like a breaking harp-string, the cord of the 
bow was cloven in twain, and the arrow tinkled upon the 
tiled floor. At the same moment a young curly-headed 
bowman, whose broad shoulders and deep chest told of 
immense strength, as clearly as his frank, laughing face 
and honest hazel eyes did of good humour and courage^ 
sprang forward, sword in hand, and took his place by Nigel's 
side. 

" Nay, comrades ! " said he. " Samkin Aylward cannot 
stand by and see a gallant man shot down like a bull at 
the end of a baiting. Five against one is long odds, but 
two against four is better; and, by my finger-bones ! Squire 
Nigel and I leave this room t(^ether, be it on our feet 
or no." 

The formidable appearance of this ally and his high 
reputation among his fellows gave a further chill to the 
lukewarm ardour of the attack. Aylward's left arm was 
passed through his strung bow, and he was known from 
Woolmer Forest to the Weald as the quickest, surest archer 
that ever dropped a running deer at ten-score paces. 

^Nay, Baddlesmere, hold your fingers from your string- 
case, or I may chance to give your drawing hand a two 
months' rest," said Aylward. " Swords, if you will, com- 
rades, but no man strings his bow till I have loosed mine." 

Yet the angry hearts of both Abbot and sacrist rose 
higher with a fresh obstacle. 

" This is an ill day for your father, Franklin Aylward, 
who holds the tenancy of Crooksbury," said the sacrist. 
'" He will rue it that ever he begot a son who will lose him 
his acres and his steading." 

" My father is a bold yeoman, and would rue it even 
more that ever his son should stand by while foul work 
was afoot," said Aylward, stoutly. " Fall on, comrades 1 
We are waiting." 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 59 

Encouraged by promises of reward if they should fall 
in the service of the Abbey, and by threats of penalties if 
they should hold back, the four archers were about to dose, 
when a singular interruption gave an entirely new turn to 
the proceedings. 

At the door of the chapter-house, while these fiery 
doings had been afoot, there had assembled a mixed crowd 
of lay brothers, servants, and varlets who had watched the 
development of the drama with the interest and delight 
with which men haQ a sudden break in a dull routine. 
Suddenly there was an agitation at the back of this group, 
then a swirl in the centre, and finally the front rank was 
violently thrust aside, and through the gap there emerged 
a strange and whimsical figure, who firom the instant of 
his appearance dominated both chapter-house and Abbey, 
monks, prelates, and archers, as if he were their owner and 
their master. 

He was a man somewhat above middle age, with thin, 
lemon-coloured hair, a curling moustache, a tufted chin of 
the same hue, and a high craggy face, all ruiming to a great 
hook of the nose, like the beak of an eagle. His skin was 
tanned a brown-red by much exposure to the wind and 
sun. In height he was tall, and his figure was thin and 
loose-jointed, but stringy and hard-bitten. One eye was 
entirely covered by its lid, which lay fiat over an empty 
aocket, but the other danced and sparkled with a most 
roguish light, darting here and there with a twinkle of 
humour and criticism and intelligence, the whole fire of 
his soul bursting through that one narrow cranny. 

His dress was as noteworthy as his person. A rich 
purple doublet and cloak was marked on the lapels with a 
strange scarlet device shaped like a wedge. Costly lace 
hung round his shoulders, and amid its soft folds there 
smouldered the dull red of a heavy golden chain. A 
knight's belt at his waist and a knight's golden spurs 
twinkling from his doeskin riding-boots proclaimed his 



6o SIR NIGEL 

rank, and on the wrist of his left gauntlet there sat a 
demure little hooded falcon of a breed which in itself was 
a mark of the dignity of the owner. Of weapons he had 
none, but a mandoline was slung by a black silken band 
over his back, and the high brown end projected above his 
shoulder. Such was the man, quaint, critical, masterful, 
with a touch of what is formidable behind it, who now 
surveyed the opposing groups of armed men and angry 
monks with an eye which commanded their attention. 

"Excusezl" said he, in a lisping French. ''JSxcusez, 
mes amis I I had thought to arouse you from prayer or 
meditation, but never have I seen such a holy exercise as 
this under an abbey's roof, with swords for breviaries and 
archers for acolytes. I fear that I have come amiss, and 
yet I ride on an errand from one who permits no delay." 

The Abbot, and possibly the sacrist also, had begun to 
realize that events had gone a great deal farther than they 
had intended, and that without an extreme scandal it was 
no easy matter for them to save their dignity and the good 
name of Waverley. Therefore, in spite of the debonair, not 
to say disrespectful, bearing of the newcomer, they rejoiced 
at his appearance and intervention. 

'*I am the Abbot of Waverley, fair son," said the 
prelate. '' If your message deal with a public matter it 
may be fitly repeated in the chapter-house ; if not I will 
give you audience in my own chamber ; for it is clear to 
me that you are a gentleman of blood and coat-armour 
who would not lightly break in upon the business of our 
court— a business which, as you have remarked, is little 
welcome to men of peace like myself and the brethren of 
the rule of Saint Bernard." 

"Pardieul Father Abbot," said the stranger. "One 
had but to glance at you and your men to see that the 
business was indeed little to your taste, and it may be 
even less so when I say that rather than see this young 
person in the window, who hath a noble bearing, further 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRffiD BY THE ABBOT 6i 

molested by these archers, I will adventure my person on 
his behalf." 

Ihe Abbot's smile turned to a frown at these frank 
words. " It would become you better, sir, to deliver the 
message of which you say that you are the bearer, than 
to uphold a prisoner against the rightful judgment of a 
court" 

The stranger swept the court with his questioning eya 
" The message is not for you, good father Abbot It is 
for one I know not I have been to lus house, and 
they have sent me hither. The name is Nigel Lbring.'' 

" It is for me, fair sir." 

^' I had thought as much. I knew your father, Eustace 
Loring, and though he would have made two of you, yet 
he has left his stamp plain enough upon your face." 

''You know not the truth of this matter," said the 
Abbot. '' If you are a loyal man, you will stand aside, 
for this young man hath grievously offended against the 
law, and it is for the king's lieges to give us their 
support." 

"And you have haled him up for judgment," cried the 
stranger, with much amusement. ''It is as though a 
rookery sat in judgment upon a falcon. I warrant that 
you have found it easier to judge than to punish. Let 
me tell you, father Abbot, that this standeth not aright. 
When powers such as these were given to the like of you, 
they were given that you might check a brawling under- 
ling or correct a drunken woodman, and not that you 
might drag the best blood in England to your bar and set 
your archers on him if he questioned your findings." 

The Abbot was little used to hear such words of 
reproof uttered in so stem a voice under his own abbey 
roof and before his listening monks. 

"You may perchance find that an Abbey court has 
more powers than you wot of. Sir Enight," said he, " if 
knight indeed you be who are so uncourteous and short in 



62 SIR NIGEL 

your speech. Ere we go further, I would ask your name 
and style ? " 

The stranger laughed. '^ It is easy to see that you are 
indeed men of peace/' said he proudly. ''Had I shown 
this sign/' and he touched the token upon his lapels, 
" whether on shield or pennon, in the marches of France 
or Scotland, there is not a cavalier but would have known 
the red pile of Chandos." 

Chandos, John Chandos, the flower of English chivalry, 
the pink of knight-errantry, the hero already of fifty 
desperate enterprises, a man known and honoured from 
end to end of Europe ! Nigel gazed at him as one who 
sees a vision. The archers stood back abashed, while the 
monks crowded closer to stare at the famous soldier of 
the French wars. The Abbot abated his tone, and a smile 
came to his angry face. 

"We are indeed men of peace, Sir John, and little 
skilled in warlike blazonry/' said he; **yet stout as are 
our Abbey walls, they are not so thick that the fame of 
your exploits has not passed through them and reached 
our ears. K it be your pleasure to take an interest in 
this young and misguided squire, it is not for us to thwart 
your kind intention or to withhold such grace as you 
request. I am glad indeed that he hath one who can set 
him so fair an example for a friend." 

" I thank you for your courtesy, good father Abbot," 
said Chandos, carelessly. " This young squire has, how- 
ever, a better friend tiian myself, one who is kinder to 
those he loves and more terrible to those he hates. It is 
from him I bear a message." 

" I pray you, fair and honoured sir," said Nigel, ** that 
you will tell me what is the message that you bear/' 

"The message, mon ami, is that your friend comes 
into these parts and would have a night's lodging at the 
manor-house of Tilford for the love and respect that he 
bears your family." 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 63 

"Nay, he is most welcome/' said Nigel, "and yet I 
hope that he is one who can relish a soldier's fare and 
sleep nnder a humble roof, for indeed we can but give our 
best, poor as it is." 

"He is indeed a soldier and a good one," Chandos 
answered, laughing, "and I warrant he has slept in 
rougher quarters than Tilford Manor-house/' 

"I have few Mends, fair sir," said Nigel, with a 
puzzled face. "I pray you give me this gentleman's 
name." 

"His name is Edward/' 

"Sir Edward Mortimer of Kent, perchance, or is it 
Sir Edward Brocas of whom the Lady Ermyntrude talks?" 

"Nay, he is known as Edward only, and if you ask a 
second name it is Plantagenet, for he who comes to seek 
the shelter of your roof is your liege lord and mine, the 
King's high majesty, Edward of England/' 



CHAPTER VI 

IN WHICH LADY KRMTNTKUDE OPENS THE IRON COFFER 

As in a dream Nigel heard these stupendous and incredible 
words. As in a dream also he had a vision of a smiling 
and conciliatoiy Abbot, of an obsequious sacrist, and of a 
band of archers who cleared a path for him and for the 
king's messenger through the motley crowd who had choked 
the entrance of the Abbey court. A minute later he was 
walking by the side of Chandos through the peaceful 
cloister, and in front, in the open archway of the great 
gate, was the broad yellow road between its borders of 
green meadow-land. The spring air was the sweeter and 
the more fragrant for that chill dread of dishonour and 
captivity which had so recently frozen his ardent heart. 
He had already passed the portal when a hand plucked at 
his sleeve, and he turned to find himself confronted by 
the brown honest face and hazel eyes of the archer who 
had interfered in his behal£ 

"Well," said Aylward, "what have you to say to me, 
young sir ? " 

" What can I say, my good fellow, save that I thank 
you with all my heart ? By Saint Paul ! if you had been 
my blood brother you could not have stood by me more 
stoutly." 

" Nay ! but tins is not enough." 

Nigel coloured with vexation, and the more so as 
Chandos was listening with his critical smile to their 
conversation. 

" If you had heard what was said in the court/' said 
64 



LADY ERMYNTRUDE'S COFFER 65 

he, ''you will xmderstand that I am not blessed at this 
moment with much of this world's gear. The black 
death and the monks have between them been heavj 
upon our estate. Willingly would I give you a handful 
of gold for your assistance, since that is what you seem 
to crave; but indeed I have it not, and so once moie I 
say that you must be satisfied with my thanks." 

"Your gold is nothing to me," said Ay 1 ward, shortly,' 
" nor would you buy my loyalty if you filled my wallet 
with rose nobles, so long as you were not a man after my 
own heart. But I have seen you back the yellow horse, 
and I have seen you face the Abbot of Waverley, and 
you are such a master as I would very gladly serve if you 
have by chance a place for such a man. I have seen your 
following, and I doubt hot that they were stout fellows in 
your grandfather's time ; but which of them now would 
draw a bow-string to his ear ? Through you I have left 
the service of the Abbey of Waverley, and where can I 
look now for a post ? If I stay here I am all undone like 
a fretted bow-string." 

*'Nay, there can be no difGlculty there/' said Chandos. 
** Pardieul a roistering, swaggering dare-devil archer is 
worth his price on the French border. There are two 
hundred such who march behind my own person, and I 
would ask nothing better than to see you among them." 

"I thank you, noble sir, for your offer," said Aylward, 
** and I had rather follow your banner than many another 
one, for it is well-known that it goes ever forward, and I 
have heard enough of the wars to know that there are small 
pickings for the man who lags behind. Yet, if the squire 
will have me, I would choose to fight under the five roses 
of Loring, for though I was bom in the hundred of Ease- 
bourne and the rape of Chichester, yet I have grown up 
and learned to use the longbow in these parts, and as the 
free son of a free franklin I had rather serve my own 
neighbour than a stranger." 

P 



66 SIR NIGEL 

'' My good fellow/' said Nigel, " 1 have told you that I 
could in no wise reward you for such service." 

" If you will but take me to the wars I will see to my 
own reward/' said Aylward. " Till then I ask for none, 
save a comer of your table and six feet of your floor, for 
it is certain that the only reward I would get from the 
Abbey for this day's work would be the scourge for my 
back and the stocks for my ankles. Samkin Aylward is 
your man, Squire Nigel, from this hour on, and by these 
ten finger-bones he trusts the Devil will fly away with him 
if ever he gives you cause to regret it I " So saying he 
raised his hand to his steel cap in salute, slung his great 
yellow bow over his back, and followed on some paces in 
the rear of his new master. 

^Pardieu! I have arrived h la bonne heure*' said 
Chandos. *' I rode from Windsor and came to 3rour manor- 
house, to find it empty save for a fine old dame, who told 
me of your troubles. From her I walked across to the 
Abbey, and none too soon, for what with cloth-yard shafts 
for your body, and bell, book, and candle tov your soul, it 
was no very cheerful outlook But here is the very dame 
herself, if I mistake not." 

It was indeed the formidable figure of the Lady Ermyn- 
trude, gaunt, bowed, and leaning on her staff, which had 
emerged from the door of the manor-house and advanced 
to greet them. She croaked with laughter, and shook her 
stick at the great building as she heard of the discomfiture 
of the Abbey court. Then she led the way into the hall, 
where the best which she could provide had been laid out 
for their illustrious guest. There was Chandos blood in 
her own veins, traceable back through the de Greys, de 
Multons, de Valences, de Montagues, and other high and 
noble strains, so that the meal had been eaten and cleared 
before she had done tracing the network of intermarriages 
and connections, with quarterings, impalements, lozenges 
and augmentations by which the blazonry of the two families 



LADY ERMYNTRUDFS COFFER 67 

might be made to show a common oiigixL Back to the 
Conquest and before it there was not a noble family-tree 
every twig and bud of which was not familiar to the Dame 
Ermyntrnde. 

And now^ when the trestles were cleared and the three 
were left alone in the hall, Chandos broke his message to 
the lady. " King Edward hath ever borne in mind that 
noble blight, your son, Sir Eustace,'' said he. " He will 
journey to Southampton next week, and I am his harbinger. 
He bade me say, noble and honoured lady, that he would 
come from OnUdford in an easy stage so that he might 
spend one night under your roof.'' 

The old dame flushed with pleasure, and then turned 
white with vexation at the words. 

''It is in truth great honour to the house of Loring,'' said 
she, '' yet our roof is now humble and, as you have seen, our 
fare is plain. The king knows not that we are so poor. 
I fear lest we seem churlish and niggard in his eyes." 

But Chandos reasoned away her fears. The king's 
retinue would journey on to Famham Caatle» There were 
no ladies in his party. Though he was king, still he was 
a hardy soldier, and cared litUe for his ease. In any case, 
since he had declared his coming, they must make the best 
of it Finally, with all delicacy, Chandos oflTered his own 
purse if it would help in the matter. But already the Lady 
Ermyntrude bad recovered her composure. 

"ITay, fair kinsman, that may not be," said she. ''I 
will make such preparation as I may for the king. He 
will bear in mind that if the house of Loring can give 
nothing else^ they have always held their blood and their 
lives at his disposal." 

Chandos was to ride on to Famham Castle and beyond, 
but he expressed lus desire to have a warm bath ere he left 
Tilford, for, like most of his fellow-knights, he was much 
addicted to simmering in the hottest water that he could 
possibly endure. The bath therefore, a high hooped 



68 SIR NIGEL 

arrangement like a broader but shorter chnm, waa carried 
into the privacy of the guest-chamber, and thither it was 
.that Nigel was stimmoned to hold him company while he 
stewed and sweltered in his tub. 

Nigel perched himself upon the side of the high bed, 
swinging his legs over the edge and gazing with wonder 
and amusement at the quaint face, the ruffled yellow hair, 
and the sinewy shoulders of the fieanous warrior, dimly 
seen amid a pillar of steam. He was in a mood for talk ; 
so Nigel, \ritii eager lips, plied him with a thousand ques- 
tions about the wars, hanging upon every word which 
came back to him, like those of the andent oracles, out 
of the mist and the cloud. To Chandos himself, the old 
soldier for whom war had lost its freshness, it was a 
renewal of his own ardent youth to listen to Nigel's rapid 
questions and to mark the rapt attention with which he 
listened. 

"Tell me of the Welsh, honoured sir?" asked the 
squira ^* What manner of soldiers are the Welsh ? " 

''They are very valiant men of war," said Chandos, 
splashing about in his tub. " There is good skirmishing 
to be had in their valleys if you ride with a small following. 
They flare up like a furze-bush in the flames, but if for a 
short space you may abide the heat of it, then there is a 
chance that it may be cooler." 

"And the Scotch?" asked NigeL "You have made 
war upon them also, as I understand." 

" The Scotch knights have no masters in the world, and 
he who can hold his own with the best of them, be it a 
Douglas, a Murray, or a Seaton, has nothing more to learn. 
Though you be a hard man, you will always meet as hard 
a one if you ride northward. If the Welsh be like the 
furze-fire, then, pardieu! the Scotch are the peat, for they 
will smoulder and you will never come to the end of them. 
I have had many happy hours on the marches of Scotland, 
for even if there be no war the Fercies of Alnwick or the 



LADY ERMYNTRUDE'S COFFER 69 

Governor of Carlisle can still raise a little bickering with 
the border clans." 

" I bear in mind that my father was wont to say that 
they were very stout spearmen/* 

" No better in the world, for their spears are twelve foot 
long and they hold them in very thick array ; but their 
archers are weak, save only the men of Ettrick and Selkirk, 
who come from the forest. I pray you to open the lattice, 
Nigel, for the steam is overthick. Now, in Wales it is 
the spearmen who are weak, and there are no archers in 
these islands like the men of Gwent with their bows of 
elm, which shoot -with such power that I have known a 
cavalier to have his horse killed when the shaft had passed 
through his mail breeches, his thigh, and his saddle. And 
yet, what is the most strongly shot arrow to these new balls 
of iron driven by the fire-powder which will crush a man's 
armour as an ^g is crushed by a stone 7 Our &thers knew 
them not/' 

" Then the better for us," cried Nigel, " since there is 
at least one honourable venture which is all our own/' 

Chandos chuckled and turned upon the flushed youth 
a twinkling and sympathetic eye. " You have a fashion 
of speech which carries me back to the old men whom I 
met in my boyhood," said he. " There were some of the 
real old knight-errants left in those days, and they spoke 
as you do. Young as you are, you belong to another aga 
Where got you that trick of thought and word ? " 

''I have had only one to teach me, the Lady Ermyn- 
trade/' 

" Pardim / she has trained a proper young hawk ready 
to stoop at a lordly quarry," said Chandos. " I would that 
I had the first unhooding of you. Will you not ride with 
me to the wars?" 

The tears brimmed over from Nigel's eyes, and he 
wrung the gaunt hand extended from the bath. ''By 
Saint Paul I what could I ask better in the world ? I 



70 SIR NIGEL 

fear to leave her, for she has none other to caie for her. 
But if it can in any vnj be arranged " 

"The king's hand may smooth it ont Say no mors 
pntil he is here. Bat if you wish to lide with me " 

''What oonld man wish for more f Is there a squire 
in England who would not serve under the banner of 
ChandosI Whither do you go» fair sirf And when do 
you go t Is it to Scotland ? Is it to Ireland ? Is it to 
France t But alas, alas ! " 

The eager face had clouded. For the instant he had 
forgotten that a suit of armour was as much beyond his 
means as a service of gold plate. Down in a twinkling 
came all his high hopes to the ground Oh, these sordid 
material things, which come between our dreams and their 
fulfilment I The squire of such a knight must dress with 
the best. Yet all the fee simple of Tilford would scarce 
suffice for one suit of plata 

Chandos, with lus quick wit and knowledge of the 
world, had guessed the cause of this sudden changa 

''If you fight under my banner it is for me to find the 
weapons," said he. " Nay, I will not be denied." 

But Nigel shook his head sadly. "It may not be. 
The Lady Ermyntrude would sell this old house and every 
acre round it^ ere she would permit me to accept* this 
gracious bounty which you offer. Yet I do not despair, 
for only last week I won for myself a noble war-horse for 
which I paid not a penny, so perchance a suit of armour 
may also come my way." 

" And how won you the horse ?** 

" It was given me by the monks of Waverley.'* 

^ This is wonderfuL Pardieu / I should have expected, 
from what I have seen, that they would have given you 
little save their malediction." 

"They had no use for the horse, and they gave it 
to me." 

" Then we have only to find some one who has no use 



LADY ERMYNTRUDE'S COFFER 71 

for a suit of armour and will give it to you. Yet I trust 
that you will think better of it and let me, since that 
good lady proves that I am your kinsman, fit you for 
the wars.'" 

''I thank you, noble sir, and if I should turn to any one 
it would indeed be to you ; but there are other ways which 
I would try first But I pray you, good Sir John, to tell 
me of some of your noble spear-runnings against the French, 
for the whole land zings with the tale of your deeds, and 
I have heard that in one morning three champions have 
fallen before your lanca Was it not so ? " 

''That it was indeed so these scars upon my body will 
prove ; but these were the follies of my youth." 

'* How can you call them follies ? Are they not the 
means by which honourable advancement may be gained 
and one's lady exalted t " 

'' It is right that you should think so, Nigel At your 
age a man should have a hot head and a high heart. I 
also had both, and fought for my lady's glove or for my 
TOW or for the love of fighting. But as one grows older 
and commands men one has other tilings to think at One 
thinks less of one's own honour and more of the safety of 
the army. It is not your own spear, your own sword^ 
your own arm, ^^lich will turn the tide of fight ; but a 
cool head may save a stricken field He who knows when 
his horsemen should charge and when they should fight 
on foot^ he who can mix his archers with his men-at-arms 
in such a fashion that each can support the other, he who 
can hold up his reserve and pour it into the battle when 
it may turn the tide, he who lias a quick eye for boggy 
land and broken ground*-*that is the man who is of 
more worth to an army than Boland, Oliver, and all the 
paladins." 

'' Yet if his knights tail him, honoured sir, all his bead- 
work will not prevalL" 

*" True enough, Nigel ; so may every squire ride to the 



n SIR NIGEL 

wars with his soul on fire, as yours is now. But I must 
linger no longer, for the king's service must be done. 
I will dress, and when I have bid farewell to the noble 
Dame Ermyntrude I virill on to Farnham; but you will 
see me here again on the day that the king comes." 

So Chandos went his way that eyening, walking his 
horse through the peaceful lanes and twanging his citole 
as he went, for he loved music and was famous for his 
merry songs. The cottagers came from their huts and 
laughed and clapped as the rich full voice swelled and sank 
to the cheery tinkling of the strings. There were few who 
saw him pass that would have guessed that the quaint 
one-eyed man with the yellow hair was the toi^hest 
fighter and craftiest man of war in Europe. Once only, 
as he entered Farnham, an old broken man-at-arms ran 
out in his rags and clutched at his horse as a dog gambols 
round his master. Chandos threw him a kind word and a 
gold coin as he passed on to the castle. 

In the mean while yoimg Nigel and the Lady Ermyn- 
trude, left alone with tiieir difficulties, looked blankly in 
each other's faces. 

" The cellar is well-nigh empty," said NigeL '* There 
are two firkins of small beer and a tun of canaxy. How can 
we set such drink before the king and his court ? " 

** We must have some wine of Bordeaux. With that 
and the mottled cow's calf and the fowls and a goose, we 
can set forth a. sufficient repast if he stays only for the one 
night. How many will be with him ? " 

" A dozen, at the least." 

The old dame wrung her hands in despair. 

''Nay, take it not to heart, dear ladyl" said Nigel. 
''We have but to say the word and the king would stop 
at Waverley, where he and his court would find all that 
they could wish." 

« Never ! " cried the Lady Ermyntrude. " It would be 
shame and disgrace to us for ever if the king were to pass 



LADY ERMYNTRUDE'S COFFER 73 

oar door when he has gracionsly said that he was fain to 
enter in. 'S&j, I will do it Never did I think that I 
would be forced to this, but I know that he would wish it> 
and I wiU do it" 

She went to the old iron cofifer.and taking a small key 
from her girdle she unlocked it. The rusty hinges, scream- 
ing shrilly as she threw back the lid, proclaimed how 
seldom it was that she had penetrated into the sacred 
recesses of her treasure-chest. At the top were some relics 
of old finely : a silken doak spangled with gold stars, a 
coif of silver filigree, a roll of Venetian lace. Beneath 
were little packets tied in silk which the old lady handled 
with tender care; a man's hunting-glove, a child's shoe, 
a love-knot done in faded-green ribbon, some letters in 
rude rough script, and a vemide of Saint Thomas. Then 
from the very bottom of the box she drew three objects, 
swathed in silken cloth, which she uncovered and laid 
upon the table. The one was a bracelet of rough gold 
studded with uncut rubies, the second was a gold salver, 
and the third was a high goblet of the same metal. 

" Tou have heard me speak of these, Nigel, but never 
before have you seen them, for indeed I have not opened 
the hutch for fear that we might be tempted in our great 
need to turn them into money. I have kept them out of 
my sight and even out of my thoughts. But now it is 
the honour of the house which calls, and even these must 
go. This goblet was that which my husband. Sir Nele 
Loring, won after the intaking of Belgrade, when he and 
his comrades held the lists from matins to vespers against 
the flower of the French chivalry. The salver was given 
him by the Earl of Pembroke in memory of his valour 
upon the field of Falkirk." 

" And the bracelet, dear lady ? " 

" You will not laugh, Nigel ? " 

" Nay, why should I laugh ? " 

" The bracelet was the prize for the Queen of Beauty 



74 SIR NIGEL 

which WIS given to ma before all the high-bom ladies of 
England bj Sir Nele Loring a month before our marriage. 
Ihe Qneen of Beaniy, Nigel— I» old and twisted, as you 
see me. Five strong men went down before his Imce 
ere he won that trinket for me. And now in my last 

'Nay, dear and hononied lady^ we will not part 
with it.- 

"Yes, Nigel, he wonld have it so. 1 can hear his 
whisper in my ear. Honour to him was everything— the 
rest nothing. Take it firom me, Nigel, ere my heart 
weakens. To-moirow yon will ride with it to Gnildford ; 
yott will see Thorold the goldsmith; and yon will raise 
enough money to pay for all that we shall need for the 
king's coming.** 

She tamed her face away to hide the quivering of her 
wrinkled features, and the crash of the iron lid covwed 
the sob which burst firom her overwrought souL 



CHAPTER VII 

HOW mOEL WENT MABKBXINO TO OUILDFOBD 

It was on a bright June morning that young Nigel, with 
youth and springtime to make his heart light, rode upon 
his errand from Tilford to Guildford town. Beneath him 
was his great yellow war-horse, caracoling and curveting 
as he went, as blithe and Tree of spirit as bis master. In 
all England one would scarce have found upon that 
morning so high-mettled and so debonair a pair. The 
sandy road wound through groves of fir, where the breeze 
came soft and fragrant with resinous gums, or over heathery 
downs, which rolled away to north and to south, vast and 
untenanted, for on the uplands the soil was poor and water 
scarce. Over Crooksbury CSommon he passed, and then 
across the great Heath of Puttenham, following a sandy 
path which wound amid the bracken and the heather, for 
he meant to strike the Pilgrims' Way where it turned 
eastward from Famham and from Seale. Ab he rode he 
continually felt his saddle-bag with his hand, for in it, 
securely strapped, he had placed the precious treasures of 
the Lady Ermyntrude. As he saw the grand tawny neck 
tossing before him, and felt the easy heave of the great 
horse and heard the mufiled drumming of his hoofs, he 
could have sung and shouted with the joy of living. 

Behind him, upon the little brown pony which had 
been Nigel's former mount, rode Samkin Ay] ward, the 
bowman, who had taken upon himself the duties of 
personal attendant and body-guard. His great shoulders 
and breadth of frame seemed dangerously top-heavy upon 

75 



76 SIR NIGEL 

the tdny steed, but he ambled along, whistling a meny 
Ult, and as lighthearted as his master. There was no 
ooontryman who had not a nod and no woman who had 
not a smile for the jovial bowman, who rode for the most 
part with his face over his shoulder, staring at the last 
petticoat which had passed him. Once only he met with 
a harsher greeting. It was from a taU, white-headed, red- 
faced man whom they met upon the moor. 

" Good morrow, dear father I " cried Aylward. " How 
is it with you at Crooksbury? And how are the new 
black cow and the ewes from Alton, and Mary the dairy- 
maid, and all your gear ? " 

" It ill becomes you to ask, you ne'er-do-weel," said 
the old man. '' You have angered the monks of Waverley, 
whose tenant I am, and they would drive me out of my 
farm. Yet there are three more years to run, and do what 
they may I will bide .till then. But little did I think that 
I should lose my homestead through you, Samkin, and big 
as you are I would knock the dust out of that green jerkin 
with a good hazel switch if I had you at Crooksbury." 

** Then you shall do it to-monow morning, good father, 
for I will come and see you then. But indeed I did not 
do more at Waverley than you would have done yourself. 
Look me in the eye, old hot-head, and tell me if you would 
have stood by while the last Loring — ^look at him as he 
rides with his head in the air and lus soul in the clouds — 
was shot down before your very eyes at the bidding of that 
fat monk ! If you woidd, then I disown you as my father." 

'' Nay, Samkin, if it was like that, dien perhaps what 
you did was not so far amiss. But it is hard to lose the old 
farm when my heart is buried deep in the good brown soil." 

'' Tut, man 1 there are three years to run, and what may 
not happen in three years ? Before that time I shall have 
gone to the wars, and when I have opened a French strong 
box or two you can buy the good brown soil and snap 
your fingers at Abbot John and his bailifiOs. Am I not as 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING ^^ 

proper a man as Tom Withstaff of Churt ? And yet he 
came back after six months with his pockets full of rose 
nobles and a French wench on either arm." 

''Ood preserve us from the wenches, SanJdnl But 
indeed I think that if there is money to be gathered you 
are as likely to get your fist full as any man who goes to 
the war. But hasten, lad, hasten ! Already your young 
master is over the brow." 

Thus admonished, the archer waved his gauntleted hand 
to his &ther, and digging his heels into the sides of his 
little pony soon drew up with the squire. Nigel glanced 
over his shoulder and slackened speed until the pony's 
head was up to his saddle. 

" Have I not heard, archer," said he> '' that an outlaw 
has been loose in these parts ? " 

''It is true, fair sir. He was villein to Sir Peter 
Mandeville, but he broke his bonds and fled into the 
forests. Men caU him the ' Wild Man of Futtenham.' '' 

" How comes it that he has not been hunted down ? 
If the man be a draw-latch and a robber it would be an 
honourable deed to dear the country of such an evil." 

" Twice the seijeants-at-arms from Guildford have come 
out against him, but the fox has many earths, and it would 
puzzle you to get him out of them." 

*' By Saint Paul I were my errand not a pressing one I 
would be tempted to turn aside and seek him. Where 
lives he, then ? " 

" There is a great morass beyond Pattenham, and across 
it there are caves in which he and his people lurk." 

"His people? He hatha band?" 

*' There are several with him." 

" It sounds a most honourable enterprise," said NigeL 
^ When the king hath come and gone we will spare a day 
for the outlaws of Puttenham. I fear there is little chance 
for us to see them on this journey." 

"Xhe^ prey upon the pilgrims who pass along the 



78 SIR NIGEL 

Winchester Boad, and they are well loved by the folk in 
these parts, for they rob none of them and have an open 
hand for all who will help them/' 

" It is right easy to have an open hand with the money 
that you have stolen/' said Nigel ; ''but I fear that they 
will not try to rob two men with swords at their girdles 
like you and me, so we shall have no profit from them." 

They had passed over the wild moors and had oome 
down now into the main road by which the pilgrims from 
the west of England made their way to the national shrine 
of Canterbury. It passed from Winchester, and up the 
beautiful valley of the Itchen until it reached Famham, 
where it forked into two branches, one of which ran along 
the Hog's Back, while the second wound to the south and 
came out at St. Catharine's Hill» where stands the Pilgrim's 
shrine, a grey old ruin now, but once so august, so crowded, 
and so affluent. It was this second branch upon which 
Nigel and Aylward found themselves as they rode to 
Guildford. 

^'No one, as it chanced, was going the same way as 
themselves, but they met one large drove of pilgrims 
returning from their journey, with pictures of Saint Thomas 
and snails' shells or little leaden ampulte in their hats 
and bundles of purchases over their shoulders. They were 
a grimy, ragged, travel-stained crew, the men walking, the 
women borne on asses. Man and beast, they limped 
along as if it would be a glad day when they saw their 
homes once more. These and a few beggars or minstrels, 
who crouched among the heather on either side of the 
track in the hope of receiving an occasional farthing from 
the passer-by, were the only folk they met until they had 
reached the village of Puttenham. Already there was a 
hot sun and just breeze enough to send the dust flying 
down the road, so they were glad to clear their thioata 
with a glass of beer at the ale-stake In the villi^, where 
the fair alewife gave Nigel i^ cold farewell because he had 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 79 

no attentions for her, and Aylward a box on the ears 
becanse he had too many. 

On the farther side of Puttenham the road runs through 
thick woods of oak and beech, with a tangled undergrowth 
of fern and bramble. Here they met a patrol of sergeants- 
«t-arm8, tall fellows, well-mounted, dad in studded-leather 
caps and tunics, with lances and swords. They walked 
their horses slowly on the shady side of the road, and 
stopped as the trayellers came up, to ask if they had been 
molested on the way« 

"Have a care," they added, "for the *Wild Man* and 
his wife are out. Only yesterday they slew a merchant 
firom the west and took a hundred crowns.'* 

** His wife, you say 1 " 

^ Yes, she is ever at his side, and has saved him many 
a time, for if he has the strength it is she who has the wit. 
I hope to see their heads together upon the green grass 
one of these mornings." 

The patrol passed downward toward Famham, and so, 
as it proved, away from the robbers, who had doubtless 
watched them closely from the dense brushwood which 
skirted the road. Coming round a curve, Nigel and 
Aylward were aware of a tall and graceful woman who 
sat, wringing her hands and weeping bitterly^ upon the 
bank by the side of the track. At such a sight of beauty 
in distress Nigel pricked Pommers with the spur and in 
three bounds was at the side of the unhappy lady. 

** What ails you, fair dame 1 " he asked. '' Is there 
any small matter in which I may stand your friend, or is 
it possible that any one hath so hard a heart as to do you 
an iiguiy ? " 

She rose and turned upon him a &ce full of hope and 
entreaty. 

"Oh, save my poor, poor &ther I" she cried. "Have 
you perchance seen the way-wardens ? They passed us^ 
and I fear they ore beyond call." 



8o SIR NIGEL 

"YeB, they have ridden onward, but we may serve as 
weU;' 

"Then, hasten, hasten, I pray yon! Even now they 
may be doing him to death. They have dragged him into 
yonder grove and I have heard his voice growing ever 
weaker in the distance. Hasten, I implore you ! " 

Nigel sprang from his horse and tossed the rein to 
Aylward. 

"Nay, let us go together. How many robbers were 
there, lady?" 

" Two stout fellows." 

** Then I come also." 

"Nay, it is not possible," said Nigel. "The wood is 
too thick for horses, and we cannot leave them in the 
road." 

" I will guard them," cried the lady. 

'^Pommers is not so easily held. Do you bide here, 
Aylward, until you hear from me. Stir not, I command 
you!" 

So saying, Nigel, with the light of adventure gleaming 
in his joyous eyes, drew his sword and plunged swiftly 
into the forest. 

Far and fast he ran, from glade to glade, breaking 
through the bushes, springing over the brambles, light as 
a young deer, peering this way and that, straining his ears 
for a sound, and catching only the cry of the wood-pigeons. 
Still on he went, with the constant thought of the weeping 
woman behind and of the captured man in front. It was 
not until he was footsore and out of breath that he stopped 
with his hand to his side, and considered that his own 
business had still to be done, and that it was time once 
more that he should seek the road to Guildford. 

Meantime Aylward had found his own rough means of 
consoling the woman in the road, who stood sobbing with 
her face against the side of Pommers' saddle. 

" Nay, weep not, my pretty one," said he. " It brings 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 8i 

the tears to my own eyes to see them stream from 
thine." 

"Alas! good archer, he was the hest of fathers, so 
gentle and so kind 1 Had yon bnt known him, yon must 
have loved him." 

"Tut, tut I he will suffer no scathe. Squire Nigel 
will bring him back to you anoiL" 

" No, no, I shall never see him more. Hold me, archer, 
or I fall!" 

Aylward pressed his ready arm round the supple 
waist. The fainting woman leaned with her hand upon 
his shoulder. Her pale face looked past him, and it was 
some new light in her eyes, a flash of expectancy, of 
triumph, of wicked joy, which gave him sudden warning 
of his danger. 

He shook her off and sprang to one side, but only just 
in time to avoid a crashing blow from a great club in the 
hands of a man even taller and stronger than himself. 
He had one quick vision of great white teeth clinched 
in grim ferocity, a wild flying beard and blazing wild- 
beast eyes. The next instant he had closed, ducking 
his head beneath another swing of that murderous 
cudgeL 

With his arms round the robber's burly body and his 
face buried in his bushy beard, Aylward gasped and strained 
and heaved. Back and forward in the dusty road the two 
men stamped and staggered, a grim wrestling-match, with 
life for the prize. Twice the great strength of the outlaw 
had Aylward nearly down, and twice with his greater yoiith 
and skill the archer restored his grip and his balance. Then 
at last his turn came. He slipped his leg behind the other's 
knee, and, giving a mighty wrench, tore him across it. 
With a hoarse shout the outlaw toppled backward, and 
had hardly reached the ground before Aylward had his 
knee upon his chest and his short sword deep in his beard 
and pointed to his throat. 





82 SIR NIGEL 

" By these ten finger-boriea ! " he gasped, " one more 
struggle and it is your last 1 " 

The man lay still enough, for he was half-stunned by 
the crashing fall. Aylward looked round him, but the 
woman had disappeared. At the first blow struck she 
had vanished into the forest He began to have fears 
for his master, thinking that he perhaps had been lured 
into some death-trap; but his forebodings were soon at 
rest, for Nigel himself came hastening down the road, 
which he had stnick some distance from the spot where 
he left it. 

" By Saint Paul I " he cried, " who is this man on whom 
you are perched, and where is the lady who has honoured 
us so far as to crave our help ? Alas, that I have been 
unable to find her father ! " 

"As well for you, fair sir," said Aylward, *^for I am of 
opinion that her father was the DeviL This woman is, 
as I believe, the wife of the *Wild Man of Puttenham,' 
and this is the 'Wild Man' himself who set upon me and 
tried to brain me with his club.'' 

The outlaw, who had opened his eyes, looked with a 
scowl from his captor to the newcomer. 

'• You are in luck, archer," said he, " for I have come to 
grips with many a man, but I cannot call to mind any 
who have had the better of me." 

" You have indeed the grip of a Lear," said Aylward ; 
*' but it was a coward deed that your wife should hold me 
while you dashed out my brains with a stick. It is also 
a most villainous thing to lay a snare for wayfarers by 
asking for their pity and assistance, so that it was our 
own soft hearts which brought us into such danger. The 
next who hath real need of our help may sufler for your 
sins." 

*' When the hand of the whole world is 
said the outlaw, in a surly voice, '* youj 
you can." 




" You well deserve to be hanged, if only because you 
have brought this woman, who is fair and gentle-spoken, 
to suoh a life," said NigeL '' Let us tie him by the wrists 
to my stirrup leather, Aylward, and we will lead him into 
Guildford." 

The archer drew a spare bowstring from his case and 
had bound the prisoner as directed, when Nigel gave a 
sudden start and cry of alarm. 

" Holy Mary I " he cried. " Where is the saddle-bag ? " 

It had been cut away by a sharp knife. Only the two 
ends of a strap remained. Aylward and Nigel stared at 
each other in blank dismay. Then the young squire shook 
his clenched hands and pulled at his yellow curls in his 
despair. 

" The Lady Ermyntrude's bracelet 1 My grandfather's 
cup I " he cried. " I would have died ere I lost them I 
What can I say to her ? I dare not return imtil I have 
found them. Oh, Aylward, Aylward I how came you to 
let them be taken ? " 

The honest archer had pushed back his steel cap and 
was scratching his tangled head. 

"Nay, I know nothing of it. You never said that 
there was aught of price in the bag, else had I kept 
a better eye upon it. Certes ! it was not this fellow 
who took it, since I have never had my hands from 
him. It can only be the woman who fled with it while 
we fought." 

Nigel stamped about the road in his perplexity. " I 
would follow her to the world's end if I knew where I 
could find her, but to search these woods for her is to look 
for a mouse ia a wheat-field. Good Saint Georg**, thou 
who didat ovprf^AiA*:* ti,** Dragon, I pray you by that most 
hoooarahk aohievement tiiat you will bo 

wilb alao, grenf. Saint Juliau, patron 

:m\ ' 1 miles shall burn 

^Imiv viU but bring me 




84 SIR NIGEL 

back my saddle-bag. What would I not give to have it 
back?" 

"Will you give me my life?** asked the outlaw, 
" Promise that I go free, and you shall have it back, if 
it be indeed true that my wife has taken it" 

''Nay, I cannot do that," said NigeL ''My honour 
would surely be concerned, since my loss is a private one ; 
but it would be to the public scathe that you should go 
firee. By Saint Paul ! it would be an ungentle deed if in 
order to save my own I let you loose upon the gear of a 
hundred others." 

" I will not ask you to let me loose," said the *' Wild 
Man." " If you will promise that my life be spared I 
will restore your bag." 

" I cannot give such a promise, for it will lie with the 
sheriff and reeves of Guildford." 

" Shall I have your word in my favour ? " 

" That I could promise you, if you will give back the 
bag, though I know not how far my word may avail But 
your words are vain, for you cannot think that we will be 
so fond as to let you go in the hope that you return ? " 

" I would not ask it," said the " Wild Man," " for I can 
get your bag and yet never stir firom the spot where I 
stand. Have I your promise upon your honour and all 
that you hold dear that you will ask for grace ? " 

" You have." 

"And that my wife shall be unharmed ? " 

"I promise it" 

The outlaw laid back his head and uttered a long shrill 
cry like the howl of a wolf. There was a silent pause, and 
then, clear and shrill, there rose the same cry no great 
distance away in the forest. Again the "Wild Man" 
called, and again Ms mate replied. A third time he sum- 
moned, as the deer bells to the doe in the greenwood. 
Then with a rustle of brushwood and snapping of twigs 
the woman was before them once more, tall, pale, graceful, 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 85 

wonderfuL She glanced neither at Aylward nor Nigel, 
but ran to the side of her husband. 

** Dear and sweet lord," she cried, " I trust they have 
done you no hurt I waited by the old ash, and my heart 
sank when you came not/' 

'' I have been taken at last, wife." 

" Oh, cursed, cursed day I Let him go, kind, gentle 
sirs, do not take him from me 1 " 

" They will speak for me at Guildford," said the " WHd 
Man." " They haye sworn it. But hand them first the 
bag that you have taken." 

She drew it out from under her loose cloak. " Here it 
is, gentle sir. Indeed it went to my heart to take it, for 
you had mercy upon me in my trouble. But now I am, 
as you see, in real and very sore distress. Will you not 
have mercy now ? Take ruth on us, fair sir ! On my 
knees I beg it of you, most gentle and kindly squire ! " 

Nigel had clutched his bag, and right glad he was to 
feel that the treasures were all safe within it 

" My promise is given," said he. " I will say what I 
can ; but the issue rests with others. I pray you to stand 
up, for indeed I cannot promise more." 

"Then I must be content," said she, rising, with a 
composed face. '' I have prayed you to take ruth, and 
indeed I can do no more ; but ere I go back to the forest 
I would rede you to be on your guard lest you lose your 
bag once more. Wot you how I took it, ardier ? Nay, it 
was simple enough, and may happen again, so I make it 
clear to you. I had this knife in my sleeve, and though 
it is small it is very sharp. I slipped it down like this. 
Then, when I seemed to weep with my face againjst the 
saddle, I cut down like this " 

Li an instant she had shorn through the stirrup leather 
which bound her man, and he, diving under the belly of 
the horse, had slipped like a snake into the brushwood. 
In passing he had struck Fommers from beneath, and the 



86 SIR NIGEL 

great horse, enraged and insulted, was rearing high, with 
two men hanging to his bridle. When at last he had 
calmed there was no sign left of the *' Wild Man " or of 
his wife. In vain did Aylward, an arrow on his string, 
run here and there among the great trees and peer down 
the shadowy glades. When he returned he and his master 
cast a shame-faced glance at each other. 

** I trust that we are better soldiers than jailers," said 
Aylward, as he climbed on his pony. 

But Nigel's frown relaxed into a smil& " At least wo 
have gained back what we lost," said he. " Here I place 
it on the pommel of my saddle, and I shall not take my 
eyes from it until we are safe in Guildford town«" 

So they jogged on together until passing Saint Catha- 
rine's shrine they crossed the winding Wey once more, 
and so found themselves in the steep high street with its 
heavy-eaved gabled houses, its monkish hospitium upon 
the left, where good ale may still be quaffed, and its great 
square-keeped castle upon the right, no grey and grim 
skeleton of ruin, but very quick and alert, with blazoned 
banner flying free, and steel caps twinkling from the 
battlement. A row of booths extended from the castle 
gate to the high street, and two doors from the Church of 
the Trinity was that of Thorold the goldsmith, a rich 
burgess and Mayor of the town. 

He looked long and lovingly at the ridi rubies and at 
the fine work upon the goblet. Then ho stroked his flowing 
grey beard as he pondered whether he should offer fifty 
nobles or sixty, for he knew well that he could sell them 
again for two hundred. If he offered too mudi his profit 
would be reduced. If he offered too little the youth 
might go as far as London with them, for they were rare 
and of great worth. The young man was iU-dad, and his 
eyes were anxious. Perchance he was hard pressed and 
was ignorant of the value of what he bore. He would 
sound him. 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 87 

" These things are old and out of fashion, fair sir/' said 
he. " Of the stones I can scarce say if they are of good 
quality or not, but they are dull and rough. Yet, if your 
price be low I may add them to my stock, though indeed 
this booth was made to sell and not to buy. What do 
you ask ? " 

Nigel bent his brows in perplexity. Here was a game 
in which neither his bold heart nor his active limbs could 
help him. It was the new force mastering the old : the 
man of commerce conquering the man of war — wearing 
him down and weakening him through the centuries until 
he had him as his bond-servant and his thrall. 

" I know not what to ask, good sir," said NigeL ** It 
is not for me, nor for any man who bears my name, to 
chaffer and to haggle. You know the worth of these 
things, for it is your trade to do so. The Lady Ermyn- 
trude lacks money, and we must have it against the king's 
coming, so give me that which is right and just, and we 
will say no mora" 

The goldsmith smiled. The business was growing 
more simple and more profitable. He had intended to 
offer fifty, but surely it would be sinful waste to give 
more than twenty-five. 

" I shall scarce know what to do with them when I 
have them/' said he. " Yet I should not grudge twenty 
nobles if it is a matter in which the king is con- 
cerned." 

Nigel's heart turned to lead. This sum would not buy 
one-half what was needful. It was clear that the Lady 
Ermyntrude had overvalued her treasures. Yet he could 
not return empty-handed, so if twenty nobles was the real 
worth, as this good old man assured him, then he must be 
thankful and take it. 

"I am concerned by what you say/' said he. "You 
know more of these things than I can do. However, I 
wiUtake " 



88 SIR NIGEL 

" A hundred and fifty," whispered Ayl ward's voice in 
his ear. 

*' A hundred* and fifty," said Nigel, only too relieved to 
have found the humblest guide upon these unwonted paths. 

The goldsmith started. This youth was not the simple 
soldier that he had seemed. That frank face, those blue 
eyes, were traps for the unwary. Never had he been more 
taken aback in a bargain. 

'' This is fond talk and can lead to nothing, fair sir," 
said he, turning away and fiddling with the keys of his 
strong boxes. " Yet I have no wish to be hard on you. 
Take my outside price, which is fifty nobles." 

"And a hundred," whispered Aylward. 

" And a hundred," said Nigel, blushing at his own greed. 

"Well, well, take a hundred!" cried the merchant. 
" Fleece me, skin me, leave me a loser, and take for your 
wares the full hundred ! " 

" I should be shamed for ever if I were to treat you so 
badly," said Nigel. "You have spoken me fair, and I 
would not grind you down. Therefore, I will gladly take 
one hundred " 

" And fifty " whispered Aylward. 

" And fifty," said Nigel. 

"By Saint John of Beverley!" cried the merchant 
" I came hither from the North Country, and they are said 
to be shrewd at a deal in those parts ; but I had rather 
baigain with a synagogue full of Jews than with you, for 
all your gentle ways. Will you indeed take no less than 
a hundred and fifty? Alas I you pluck from me my 
profits of a month. It is a fell morning's work for me. I 
would I had never seen you ! " With groans and lamen- 
tations he paid the gold pieces across the counter, and 
Nigel, hardly able to credit his own good fortune, gathered 
them into the leather saddle-bag. 

A moment later with flushed face he was in the street 
and pouring out his thanks to Aylward. 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 89 

"Alas, my fair lord! the man has robbed us now/' 
said the archer. " We could have had another twenty had 
we stood fast." 

*' How know you that, good Aylward ? " 

*'By his eyes, Squire Loring. I wot I have little 
store of reading where the parchment of a book or the 
pricking of a blazon is concerned, but I can read men's 
^es, and I never doubted that he would give what he has 
given." 

The two travellers had dinner at the monk's hospitium, 
Nigel at the high table and Aylward among the common- 
alty. Then again they roamed the high street on business 
intent. Nigel bought taffeta for hangings, wine, preserves, 
fruit, damask table-linen, and many other articles of need. 
At last he halted before the armourer's shop at the castle- 
yard, staring at the fine suits of plate, the engraved pec- 
torals, the plumed helmets, the cunningly jointed goi^ets, 
as a child at a sweet-shop. 

" Well, Squire Loring," said Wat the armourer, looking 
sidewise from the furnace where he was tempering a sword- 
blade, " what can I sell you this morning ? I swear to you 
by Tubal Cain, the father of all workers in metal, that you 
might go from end to end of Cheapside and never see a 
better suit than that which hangs from yonder hook 1 " 

" And the price, armourer ? " 

" To any one else, two hundred and fifty rose nobles. 
To you two hundred." 

" And why cheaper to me, good fellow ? " 

** Because I fitted your father also for the wars, and a 
finer suit never went out of my shop. I warrant that it 
turned many an edge before he laid it aside. We worked 
in mail in those days, and I had as soon have a well-made 
thick-meshed mail as any plates ; but a young knight will 
be in the fashion Uke any dame of the court, and so it 
must be plate now, even though the price be trebled." 

** Your rede is that the mail is as good ! " 



90 SIR NIGEL 

" I am well sure of it." 

" Hearken then, armourer ! I cannot at this moment 
buy a suit of plate, and yet I sorely need steel harness on 
account of a small deed which it is in my mind to do. 
Now I have at my home at Tilford that very suit of mail 
of which you speak, with which my fatiier first rode to the 
wars. Ck>uld you not so alter it that it should guard my 
limbs also ? " 

The armourer looked at Nigel's small upright figure 
and burst out laughing. 

'* You jest. Squire Loring ! The suit was made for one 
who was far above the common stature of man." 

"Nay, I jest not. If it will but carry me through one 
spear-running it will have served its purpose." 

The armourer leaned back on his anvil and pondered, 
while Nigel stared anxiously at his sooty faoa 

Bight gladly would I lend you a suit of plate for this 
one venture. Squire Loring, but I know well that if you 
should be overthrown your harness becomes prize to the 
victor. I am a poor man with many children, and I dare 
not risk the loss of it. But as to what you say of the old 
suit of mail, is it indeed in good condition ? " 

" Most excellent, save only at the neck, which is much 
frayed." 

'' To shorten the limbs is easy. It is but to cut out a 
length of the mail and then loop up the links. But to 
shorten the body — nay, that is beyond the armourer's art." 

" It was my last hope. Nay, good armourer, if you 
have indeed served and loved my gallant father, then I 
beg you by his memory that you wiU help me now." 

The armourer threw down his heavy hammer with a 
crash upon the floor. 

"It is not only that I loved your father. Squire 
Loring, but it is that I have seen you, half armed as you 
were, ride against the best of them at the Castle tilt-yard. 
Last Martinmas my heart bled for you when I saw how 



HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING 91 

Borry was your harness, and yet you held your own agamst 
the stout Sir Oliver with his Milan suit. When go you to 
Tilford?" 

" Even now." 

" Heh, Jenkin, fetch out the cob ! " cried the worthy 
Wat. " May my right hand lose its cunning if I do not send 
you into battle in your father's suit I To-morrow I must 
be back in my booth, but to-day I give to you without fee 
and for the sake of the good- will which I bear to your 
housa I will ride with you to Tilford, and before night 
you shall see what Wat can do." 

So it came about that there was a busy evening at the 
old Tilford Manor-house, where the Lady Ermyntrude 
planned and cut and hung the curtains for the hall, and 
stocked her cupboards with the good things which Nigel 
had brought firom Guildford 

Meanwhile the squire and the armourer sat with their 
heads touching and the old suit of mail with its gorget of 
overlapping plates laid out across their knees. Again and 
again old Wat shrugged his shoulders, as one who has 
been asked to do more than can be demanded from mortal 
man. At last, at a suggestion from the squire, he leaned 
back in his chair and laughed long and loudly in his bushy 
beard, while the Lady Ermyntrude glared her black dis- 
pleasure at such plebeian 'merriment. Then taking his 
line chisel and his hammer from his pouch of tools, the 
armourer, still chuckling at his own thoughts, began to 
drive a hole through the centre of the steel tunic. 



CHAPTER VIII 

HOW THE KING HAWKBD ON CROOKSBUEY HEATH 

Thb king and his attendants had shaken off the crowd 
who had followed them from Guildford along the Pilgrim's 
Way, and now, the mounted archers having beaten off the 
more persistent of the spectators, they rode at their ease 
in a long, straggling, gUttering train over the dark un- 
dulating plain of heather. 

In the van was the king himself, for his hawks were 
with him and he had some hope of sport. Edward at that 
time was a well-grown, vigorous man in the very prime of 
his years, a keen sportsman, an ardent gallant and a 
chivalrous soldier. He was a scholar too, speaking Latin, 
French, German, Spanish, and even a little English. 

So much had long been patent to the world, but only 
of recent years had he shown other and more formidable 
characteristics: a restless ambition which coveted his 
neighbour's throne, and a wise foresight in matters of 
commerce, which engaged him now in transplanting Flemish 
weavers and sowing the seeds of what for many years was 
the staple trade of England. Each of these varied qualities 
might have been read upon his face. The brow, shaded 
by a crimson cap of maintenance, was broad and lofty, 
lie large brown eyes were ardent and bold. His chin 
was clean-shaven, and the close-cropped dark moustache 
did not conceal the strong mouth, firm, proud, and kindly, 
but capable of setting tight in merciless ferocity. His 
complexion was tanned to copper by a life spent in field 
sports or in war, and he rode his magnificent black horse 

92 



THE KING'S HAWKING 93 

carelessly and easily, as one ^ho has grown up in the 
saddle. His own colour was black also, for his active, 
sinewy figure was set off by close-fitting v^Lvet of that 
hue, Ixroken only by a belt of gold, and by a golden border 
of open pods of the broom-plant 

With his high and noble bearing, his simple yet rich 
attire and his splendid mount, he looked every inch a king. 
The picture of gallant man on gallant horse was completed 
by the noble Falcon of the Isles which fluttered along 
some twelve feet above his head, *' waiting on," as it was 
termed, for any quarry which might arise. The second 
bird of the cast was borne upon the gauntleted wrist of 
Saoul the chief falconer in the rear. 

At the right side of the monarch and a little behind 
him rode a youth some twenty years of age, tall, slim, and 
dark, with noble aquiline features and keen penetrating 
eyes which sparkled with vivacity and affection as he 
answered the remarks'of the king. He was clad in deep 
crimson diapered with gold, and the trappings of his white 
palfrey were of a magnificence which proclaimed the rank 
of its rider. On his face, still free from moustache or 
beard, there sat a certain gravity and majesty of expression 
which showed that, young as he was, great affairs had been 
in his keeping, and that his thoughts and interests were 
those of the statesman and the warrior. That great day 
when, little more than a schoolboy, he had led the van of 
the victorious army which had crushed the power of 
France at Cr^y had left this stamp upon his features; 
but stem as they were they had not assumed that tinge of 
fierceness which in after years was to make *' The Black 
Prince " a name of terror on the marches of France. Not 
yet had the first shadow of fell disease come to poison his 
nature ere it struck at his life, as he rode that spring day, 
light and debonair, upon the heath of Crooksbury. 

On the left of the king, and so near to him that great 
intimacy was implied, rode a man about his own age^ with 



94 SIR NIGEL 

the broad face, the projecting jaw, and the flattish noee 
which are often the outward indications of a pognadous 
natnre. Hifl complexion was crimson, his large blue eyes 
somewhat prominent, and his whole appearance full- 
blooded and choleric. He was short, but massively built, 
and evidently possessed of immense strength. His voice, 
however, when he spoke was gentle and lisping, while his 
manner was quiet and courteous. Unlike the kiag or 
the prince, he was clad in light armour and carried a 
sword by his side and a mace at his saddle-bow, for he 
was acting as captain of the king^s guard, and a dozen 
other knights in steel followed in the escort No hardier 
soldier could Edward have at his side, if, as was always 
possible in those lawless times, sudden danger were to 
threaten, for this was the famous knight of Hainault, now 
naturalized as an Englishman, Sir Walter Manny, who 
bore as high a reputation for chivahx>us valour and for 
gallant temerity as Chandos himself 

Behind the knights, who were forbidden to scatter and 
must always follow the king's person, there was a body 
of twenty or thirty hobelers or mounted bowmen, together 
with several squires, unarmed themselves but leading 
spare horses upon which the heavier part of their knights' 
equipment was carried. A straggling tail of falconers, 
harbingers, varlets, body-servants and huntsmen holding 
hounds in leash completed the long and many-coloured 
train which rose and dipped on the low undulations of 
the moor. 

Many weighty things were on the mind of Edward the 
king. There was tince for the moment with France, but 
it was a truce broken by many small deeds of arms, raids, 
surprises, and ambushes upon either side, and it was 
certain that it would soon dissolve again into open war. 
Money must be raised, and it was no light matter to raise 
it, now that the Commons had once already voted the 
tenth lamb and the tenth sheaf. Besides, the Black 



THE KING'S HAWKING 95 

Death had rained the country, the arable land was all 
turned to pasture, the labourer, laughing at statutes, 
would not work under fourpence a day, and all society 
y^2a chaos. In addition, the Scotch were growling over 
the border, there was the perennial trouble in half- 
conquered Ireland, and his allies abroad in Flanders and 
in Brabant were clamouring for the arrears of their 
subsidies. 

All this was enough to make even a victorious monarch 
full of care ; but now Edward had thrown it all to the 
winds and was as light-hearted as a boy upon a holiday. 
No thought had he for the dunning of Florentine bankers 
or the vexatious conditions of those busybodies at West- 
minster. He was out with his hawks, and his thoughts 
and his talk should be of nothing else. The varlets beat 
the heather and bushes as they passed, and whooped 
loudly as the birds flew out. 

" A magpie I A magpie I " cried the falconer. 

" Nay, nay, it is not worthy of your talons, my brown- 
eyed queen," said the king, looking up at the great bird 
which flapped from side to side above his head, waiting 
for the whistle which should give her the signal ''The 
tercels, falconer — a cast of tercels ! Quick, man, quick I 
Hal the rascal makes for wood! He puts int Well 
flown, brave peregrine I He makes his point. Drive 
him out to thy comrade. Serve him, varlets 1 Beat the 
bushes I He breaks! He breaks! Nay, come away 
then I You will see master magpie no more.** 

The bird had indeed, with the cunning of its race, 
flapped its way through brushwood and bushes to the 
thicker woods beyond, so that neither the hawk amid the 
cover nor its partner above nor the clamorous beaters 
could harm it. The king laughed at the mischance and 
rode on. Continually birds of various sorts were flushed, 
and each was pursued by the appropriate hawk, the snipe 
by the tercel, the partridge by the goshawk, even the lark 



96 SIR NIGEL 

by the little merlin. Bat the king soon tired of this 
petty sport and went slowly on his way, stUl with the 
magnificent silent attendant flapping above lus head. 

''Is she not a noble biid, fair son?" he asked, glancing 
up as her shadow fell upon him. 

'' She is indeed, sire. Sorely no finer ever came from 
the isles of the north." 

*' Perhaps not, and yet I have had a hawk from Barbary 
as good a footer and a swifter flyer. An Eastern bird in 
yarak has no peer." 

" I had one once from the Holy Land/' said de Manny. 
'' It was fierce and keen and swift as the Saracens them- 
selves. They say of old Saladin that in his day his breed 
of birds, of hounds, and of horses had no eqnal on earth." 

^ I trust, dear father, that the day may come when we 
shall lay our hands on all three," said the Prince, looking 
with shining eyes upon the king. *' Is the Holy Land to 
lie for ever in the grasp of these unbelieving savages, or 
the Holy Temple to be defiled by their foul presence? 
Ah ! my dear and most sweet lord, give to me a thousand 
lances with ten thousand bowmen like those I led at 
Cr6cj, and I swear to you by (jod's soul that within a 
year I will have done homage to you for the Kingdom of 
Jerusalem ! " 

The king laughed as he turned to Walter Manny. 
" Boys will still be boys," said he. 

" The French do not count me such ! " cried the young 
prince, flushing with anger. 

" Kay, fair son, there is no one sets you at a higher 
rate than your father. But you have the nimble mind and 
quick fancy of youth, turning over from the thing that is 
half done to a further task beyond. How would we fare 
in Brittany and Normandy while my young paladin, with 
his lances and his bowmen, was besi^ing Ascalon or 
battering at Jerusalem ? " 

" Heaven would help in Heaven's work." 



THE KING'S HAWKING 97 

''From what I have heard of the past/' said the king, 
dryly, " I cannot see that Heaven has counted for much 
as an ally in these wars of the East. I speak with rever* 
ence, and yet it is but sooth to say that Bichard of the 
Lion Heart, or Louis of France, might have found the 
smallest earthly principality of greater service to him than 
aU the celestial hosts. How say you to that, my lord 
bishop?" 

A stout churchman, who had ridden behind the king 
on a solid, bay cob, well suited to his weight and dignity, 
jogged up to the monarch's elbow. 

" How say you, sire ? I was watching the goshawk 
on the partridge, and heard you not." 

" Had I said that I would add two manors to the see 
of Chichester, I warrant that you would have heard me, 
my lord bishop." 

"Nay, fair lord, test the matter by saying so," cried 
the jovial bishop. 

The king laughed aloud. "A fair counter, your 
reverence. By the rood! you broke your lance that 
passage. But the question I debated was this : How is it 
that since the Crusades have manifestly been fought in 
God's quarrel, we Christians have had so little comfort or 
support in fighting them ? After all our efforts and the 
loss of more men than could be counted, we are at last 
driven from the country, and even the militcuy orders, 
which were formed* only for that one purpose, can scarce 
hold a footing in the islands of the Greek sea. There is 
not one seaport nor one fortress in Palestine over which the 
flag of the Cross still waves. Where, then, was our ally ? " 

"Nay, sire, you open a great debate which extends far 
beyond this question of the Holy Land, though that may, 
indeed, be chosen as a fair example. It is the question of 
all sin, of all suffering, of all injustice— why it should 
pass without the rain of fire and the lightnings of Sinai 
The wisdom of God is beyond our understanding." 

H 



98 SIR NIGEL 

The king shragged his dhoulders. " This is an easy 
answer, my lord bishop. You are a prince of the Church. 
It would fare ill with an earthly prince who conld give no 
better answer to the affairs which concerned his realm." 

" There are other considerations which might be urged, 
most gracious sire. It is true that the Crusades were a 
holy enterprise which might well expect the immediate 
blessing of God; but the Crusaders — is it certain that 
they deserved such a blessing ? Have I not heard that 
their camp was the most dissolute ever seen ? ** 

** Camps are camps all the world over, and you cannot 
in a moment diange a bowman into a saint. But the 
holy Louis was a crusader after your own heart. Yet his 
men perished at Mansurah, and he himself at Tunis." 

"Bethink you also that this world is but the ante* 
chamber of the next " said the prelata *' By suffering and 
tribulation the soul is cleansed, and the true victor may 
be he who, by the patient endurance of misfortune, merits 
the happiness to come." 

^ If that be the true meaning of the Church's blessing, 
then I hope that it will be long before it rests upon our 
banners in France," said the king. ''But methinks that 
when one is out with a brave horse and a good hawk, one 
might find some other subject than theology. Back to the 
birds, bishop, or Baoul, the falconer, will come to interrupt 
thee in thy cathedral" 

Straightway the conversation came back to the mystery 
of the woods and the mysteiy of the rivers, to the dark- 
eyed hawks and the yellow-eyed, to hawks of the lure and 
hawks of the fist. The bishop was as steeped in the lore 
of falconry as the king, and the others smiled as the two 
wrangled hard over disputed and technical questions : if 
an eyas trained in the mews can ever emulate the passage 
hawk taken wild, or how long the young hawks should be 
placed at back, and how long weathered before they are 
fully reclaimed. 



THE KING'S HAWKING 99 

Monarch and prelate were still deep in this learned 
discussion, the bishop speaking with a freedom and assur- 
ance which he would never have dared to use in affairs of 
Chnrch and state, for in all ages there is no such leveler 
as sport. Suddenly, however, the prince, whose keen eyes 
had swept firom time to time over the great blue heaven,' 
tittered a peculiar caU and reined up his palfrey, pointing 
at the same time into the air. 

''A heron!*' he cried. "A heron on passagel" 

To gain the fuU sport of hawking, a heron must not be 
put up from its feeding-ground, where it is heavy with its 
meal, and has no time to get its pace on before it is 
pounced upon by the more active hawk, but it must be 
aloft, travelling from point to point, probably from the 
fish-stream to the heronry. Thus, to catch the bird on 
passage was the prelude of all good sport. The object to 
which the prince had pointed was but a black dot in the 
southern sky, but his strained eyes had not deceived him,' 
and both bishop and king agreed that it was indeed a 
heron, which grew larger every instant as it flew in their^ 
direction. 

" Whistle him off, sire I Whistle off the gerfalcon !''' 
cried the bishop. 

"Nay, nay, he is overfar. She would fly at check." 

''Now, sire, now I " cried the prince, as the great bird, 
with the breeze behind him, came sweeping down the sky. 

The king gave the shrill whistle, and the well-trained 
hawk raked out to the right and to the left to make sure 
which quarry she was to follow. Then, spying the heron, 
she shot up in a swift, ascending curve to meet him. 

"Well flown, Margot 1 Good bird! " cried the king^ 
clapping his hands to encourage the hawk, while the 
&looners broke into the shrill whoop peculiar to the sport. 

Going on her curve, the hawk would soon have crossed 
the path of the heron ; but the latter, seeing the danger in 
his front, and confident in his own great strength df wing 



100 SIR NIGEL 

and lightness of body, proceeded to mount higher in the 
air, flying in such small rings that, to the spectators, it 
almost seemed as if the bird was going perpendicularly 
upward. 

" He takes the air ! " cried the king. ^ But strong as 
he flies, he cannot outfly Maigot. Bishop, I lay you ten 
gold pieces to one that the heron is mine." 

" I cover your wager, sire," said the bishop. ** I may 
not take gold so won, and yet I warrant that there is an 
altar^loth somewhere in need of repairs." 

" You have good store of altar-cloths, bishop, if all the 
gold I have seen you win at tables goes to the mending of 
them," said the king. *' Ah I by the rood, rascal, rascal I 
See how she flies at check 1 " 

The quick eyes of the. bishop had perceived a drift of 
rooks which on their evening flight to the rookery were 
passing along the very line which divided the hawk from 
the heron. A rook is a hard temptation for a hawk to 
resist. In an instant the inconstant bird had foigotten all 
about the great heron above her, and was circling over tiie 
rooks, flying westward with them as she singled out the 
plumpest for her stoop. 

" There is yet time, sire ! Shall I cast off her mate 7 " 
cried the falconer. 

" Or shall I show you, sire, how a peregrine may win 
where a gerfalcon fails ? " said the bishop. '* Ten golden 
pieces to one upon my bird." 

" Done with you, bishop ! " cried the king, his brow 
dark with vexation. " By the rood 1 if you were as learned 
in the fathers as you are in hawks, you would win to the 
throne of Saint Peter ! Cast off your peregrine, and make 
your boasting good." 

Smaller than the royal gerfalcon, the bishop's bird was 
none the less a swift and beautiful creature. From her 
perch upon his wrist she had watched with fierce, keen 
eyes the birds in the heaven, mantling herself from time 



THE KING'S HAWKING loi 

to time in her eagerness. Now, when the button was 
undone, and the leash uncast, the peregrine dashed off 
with a whir of her sharp-pointed wings, whizzing round 
in a great ascending circle which mounted swiftly upward, 
growing ever smaller as she approached that lofty point 
where, a mere speck in the sky, the heron sought escape 
from its enemies. Still higher and higher the two birds 
mounted, while the horsemen, their faces upturned, strained 
their eyes in their efforts to follow them. 

** She lings ! She still rings ! " cried the bishop. ** She 
is above him ! She has gained her pitch." 

"Nay, nay, she is far below," said the king. 

"By my soul, my lord bishop is right 1" cried the 
prince. " I believe she is above. See ! See ! She swoops 1 '* 

" She binds 1 She binds I " cried a dozen voices as the 
two dots blended suddenly into one. 

There could be no doubt that they were falling rapidly. 
Already they grew larger to the eye. Presently the heron 
disengaged himself and flapped heavily away, the worse 
for that deadly embrace, while the peregrine, shaking her 
plumage, ringed once more so as to get high above the 
quarry and deal it a second and more fatal blow. The 
bishop smiled, for nothing, as it seemed, could hinder his 
victory. 

"Thy gold pieces shall be well spent, sire,'' said he. 
" What is lost to the Church is gained by flie loser." 

But a most unlooked-for chance deprived the bishop's 
altar-cloth of its costly mending. The king's gerfalcon 
having struck down a rook, and finding the sport but tame, 
bethought herself suddenly of that noble heron, which she 
stiU perceived fluttering over Crooksbury Heath. How 
could she have been so weak as to allow these silly, 
chattering rooks to entice her away from that lordly bird ? 
Even now it was not too late to atone for her mistake. In 
a great spiral she shot upward until she was over the 
heron. But what was this ? Every fibre of her, from her 



102 SIR NIGEL 

crest to her deck feathers, quivered with jealousy and rage 
at the sight of this creature, a mere peregrine^ who had 
dared to come between a royal gerfalcon and her quairy. 
With one sweep of her great wings she shot up until she 

was above her rival. The next instant 

' " They crab I They crab I " cried the king, with a roar 
of laughter, following them with his eyes as they hurtled 
down through the air. 

I ^ Mend thy own altar-cloths, bishop. Not a groat shall 
you have from me this journey. Pull them apart, falconer, 
lest they do each other an injury. And now, masters, let 
us on, for the sun sinks toward the west." 
^ The two hawks, which had come to the ground inter* 
locked with clutching talons and ru£9ed plumes, were torn 
apart and brought back bleeding and panting to their 
perches, while the heron, after its perilous adventure, 
flapped its way heavily onward to settle safely in the 
heronry of Waverley. The cartSge, who had scattered in 
the excitement of the chase, came together again, and the 
journey was once more resumed. 

A horseman who had been riding toward them across 
the moor now quickened his pace and closed swiftly upon 
them. As he came nearer, the king and the prince cried 
out joyously and waved their hands in greeting. 

** It is good John Chandos I " cried the king. *' By the 
rood, John, I have missed your merry songs this week or 
inorel Glad I am to see that you have your citole slimj 
to your back. Whence come you, then ? " 

'* I come from Tilf ord, sire, in the hope that I should 
meet your majesty." 

** It was well thought of. Come, ride here between the 
prince and me, and we will believe that we are back in 
France with our war harness on our backs once more. 
What is your news, Master John ? " 

Ghandos's quaint face quivered with suppressed amuse- 
ment and his one eye twinkled like a star. 



THE KING'S HAWKING 103 

" Have you had sport, my li^e ? " 

'' Poor sport, John. We flew two hawks on the same 
heron. They crabbed, and the bird got frea Bat why do 
you smile so ? " 

'^Because I hope to show you better sport ere you 
come to Tilford." 

"For the hawk? For the hound ? " 

^ A nobler sport than either." 

** Is this a riddle, John ? Whafr mean you ? " 

''Kay, to tell all would be to spoil all I say again 
that there is rare sport betwixt here and Tilford, and I beg 
you, dear lord, to mend your pace that we make the most 
of the daylight'' 

Thus adjured, the king set spurs to his horse, and the 
whole cavalcade cantered over the heath in the direction 
which Chandos showed. Presently as they came over a 
slope they saw beneath them a winding river with an old 
high-backed bridge across it. On the farther side was 
a viUage-green with a fringe of cottages and one dark 
manor-house upon the side of the hill. 

"This is Tilford/' said Chandos. ''Yonder is the house 
of the Lorings." 

The king's expectations had been aroused and his face 
showed his disappointment. 

"Is this the sport that you have promised tis, SKr 
John 1 How can you make good your words ? " 

" I will make them good, my liege." 

" Where, then, is the sport t " 

On the high crown of the bridge a rider in armour was 
seated, lance in hand, upon a great yellow steed. Chandos 
touched the king's arm and pointed. 

" That is the sport," said he. 



CHAPTER IX 

HOW NIGEL HELD THE BBIDGE AT TILFOBD 

The king looked at the motionless figure, at the little 
ciowd of hushed expectant rustics beyond the bridge, and 
finally at the £ace of Chandos, which shone with amusement. 

*' What is this, John 1 " he asked. 

*' Ton remember Sir Eustace Loring, sire ? " 

" Indeed I could never foiget him nor the manner of 
his death." 

*' He was a knight-errant in his day/' 

" That indeed he was — ^none better have I known." 

<< So is his son Nigel, as fierce a young war-hawk as ever 
yearned to use beak and daw ; but held feist in the mews 
up to now. This is his trial flight. There he stands at 
the bridge-head, as was the wont in our father's time, 
ready to measure himself against all comers." 

Of all Englishmen there was no greater knight-errant 
than the king himself, and none so steeped in every quaint 
usage of chivalry ; so that the situation was after his own 
heart. 

" He is not yet a knight 7 " 

" No, sire, only a squire." 

"Then he must bear himself bravely tins day if he is 
to make good what he has done. Is it fitting that a young 
untried squire should venture to couch his lance agaiast 
the best in England 1 " 

''He hath given me his cartel and challenge," said 
Chandos, drawing a paper firom his tunic. " Have I your 
permission, sire, to issue it ? " 

104 



HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE 105 

" Surely, John, we have no cavalier more versed in the 
laws of chivalry than yourself. You know this young 
man, and you are aware how far he is worthy of the high 
honour which he asks. Let ns hear his defiance." 

The knights and squires of the escort, most of whom 
were veterans of the French war, had been gazing with 
interest and some surprise at the steel-clad figure in front 
of them. Now at a call from Sir Walter Manny they 
assembled round the spot where the king and Chandos 
had halted. Chandos cleared his throat and read from 
his paper — 

"*A tons seiffnmrSf chevcUiers et escuyers' so it is 
headed, gentlemen. It is a message from the good Squire 
Nigel Loring of Tilford, son of Sir Eustace Loring, of 
honourable memory. Squire Loring awaits you in arms, 
gentlemen, yonder upon the crown of the old bridge. 
Thus says he : ' For the great desire that I, a most humble 
and unworthy squire, entertain, that I may come to the 
knowledge of the noble gentlemen who ride with my royal 
master, I now wait on the Bridge of the Way in the hope 
that some of them may condescend to do some small deed 
of arms upon me, or that I may deliver them from any 
vow which they may have taken. This I say out of no 
esteem for myself, but solely that I may witness the noble 
bearing of these famous cavaliers and admire their skill 
in the handling of arms. Therefore, with the help of 
Saint Geoige, I will hold the bridge with sharpened lances 
against any or all who may deign to present themselves 
whUe daylight lasts.'" 

" What say you to this, gentlemen ? " asked the king, 
looking round with laughing eyes. 

" Truly it is issued in very good form," said the prince. 
*" Neither Clarideuz nor Bed Dragon nor any herald that 
ever wore tabard could better it Did he draw it of his 
own hand ? " 

" He hath a grim old grandmother who is one of the 



io6 SIR NIGEL 

ancient, breed/' said Ghandos. '^I doubt not that the 
Dame Ermyntrade hath drawn a challenge or two before 
now. But hark ye, sire, I would have a word in your 
ear — and yours too, most noble prince." 

Leading them aside, Ghandos whispered some explana* 
tions, which ended by them all three bursting into a shout 
of laughter. 

''By the roodl no honourable gentleman should be 
reduced to such straits," said the king. " It behoves me 
to look to it. But how now, gentlemen ? This worthy 
cavalier still waits his answer/' 

The soldiers had all been buzzing together; but now 
Walter Manny turned to the king with the result of their 
counsel. 

" If it please your majesty/' said he, " we are of opinion 
that this squire hath exceeded aU bounds in desiring to 
break a spear with a belted knight ere he has given his 
proofs. We do him sufficient honour if a squire ride 
against him, and with your consent I have chosen my 
own body-squire, John Widdicombe, to clear tiie path for 
us across the bridge." 

" What you say, Walter, is right and fair/' said the 
king, ''^faster Ghandos, you will tell our champion 
yonder what hath been arranged. Tou will advise him 
also that it is our royal wiU that this contest be not 
fought upon the bridge, since it is very clear that it must 
end in one or both going over into the river, but that he 
advance to the end of the bridge and fight upon the plain. 
You will tell him also that a blunted lance is sufficient 
for such an encounter, but that a hand-stroke or two 
with sword or mace may well be exchanged, if both riders 
should keep their saddles. A blast upon Baoul's horn 
shall be the signal to close." 

Such ventures as these where an aspirant for fame 
would wait for days at a cross-road, a ford, or a bridge, 
until some worthy antagonist should ride that way, were 



HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE 107 

very common in the old days of adventoroos knight 
errantry, and were still familiar to the minds of all men, 
because the stories of the romancers and the songs of 
the tronv^ies were fall of such incidents. Their actual 
occurrence, however, had become rare. There was the 
more curiosity, not unmixed with amusement, in the 
thoughts of the courtiers as they watched Chandos ride 
down to the bridge and commented upon the somewhat 
lingular figure of the challenger. His build was strange, 
and so also was his figure, for the limbs were short for so 
tall a man. His head also was sunk forward as if he were 
lost in thought or overcome with deep dejection. 

''This is surely the Cavalier of the Heavy Heart,'' 
said Manny. '* What trouble has he, that he should hang 
his head?'' 

" Perchance he hath a weak neck," said the king. 

''At least he hath no weak voice," the prince remarked, 
as Nigel's answer to Chandos came to their ears. '' By our 
lady, he booms like a bittern." 

As Chandos rode back again to the king, Nigel ex- 
changed the old ash spear which had been his father's 
for one of the blunted tournament lances which he took 
&om the hands of a stout archer in attendance. He then 
rode down to the end of the bridge where a hundred-yard 
stretch of greensward lay in front of him. At the same 
moment the squire of Sir Walter Manny, who had been 
hastily armed by his comrades^ spurred forward and took 
up his position. 

The king raised his hand ; there was a clang from the 
falconer's horn, and the two riders, with a thrust of their 
heels and a shake of theur bridles, dashed furiously at each 
other. In the centre the green strip of marshy meadow« 
land, with the water squirting from the galloping hoofs, 
and the two crouching men, gleaming bright in the evening 
sun ; on one side the half circle of motionless horsemen, 
some in steel, some in velvet, silent and attentive, dogs, 






io8 SIR NIGEL 

hawks, and horses, all turned to stone ; on the othet the 
old peaked bridge, the blue lazy river, the gronp of open* 
mouthed rustics, and the dark old manor-house with one 
grim face which peered from the upper window. 

A good man was John Widdicombe, but he had met a 
better that day. Before that yellow whirlwind of a horse 
and that rider who was welded and riveted to his saddle 
his knees could not hold their grip. Nigel and Pommers 
were one flying missile, with all their weight and strength 
and energy centered on the steady end of the lance. Had 
Widdicombe been struck by a thunderbolt he oould not 
have flown faster or farther from his saddle. Two full 
somersaults did he make, his plates clanging Uke cymbals, 
ere he lay prone upon his back. 

For a moment the king looked grave at that prodigious 
fall. Then smiling once more as Widdicombe staggered 
to his feet, he clapped his hands loudly in applause. 
"A fair course and fairly run!" he cried. "The five 
scarlet roses bear themselves in peace even as I have 
seen them in war. How now, my good Walter ? Have 
you another squire, or will you clear a path for us 
yourself?" 

Manny's choleric &ce had turned darker as he observed 
the mischance of his representative. He beckoned now to 
a tall knight, whose gaunt and savage faoe looked out from 
his open bassinet as an eagle might from a 6age of steeL 

'' Sir Hubert," said he, " I b^ in mind the day when 
you overbore the Frenchman at Caen. Will you not be 
our champion now 1 " 

*' When I fought the Frenchman, Walter, it was with 
naked weapons," said the knight, sternly. " I am a soldier 
and I love a soldier's work, but I care not for these tilt- 
yard tricks which were invented for nothing but to tickle 
the fancies of foolish women." 

" Oh, most ungallant speech 1 " cried the king, ** Had 
^ * 'nsort heard you she would have arraigned you 




*HAD WIDDICOMBE BEEN STRUCK BY A THUNDERBOLT, HE COULD NOT HAVE 
FLOWN FASTER OR FARTHER FROM HIS SADDLE." 



HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE 109 

to appear at a Court of Love with a jury of yirgins to 
answer for your sins. But I pray you to take a tilting 
spear, good Sir Hubert ! " 

" I had as soon take a peacock's feather, my fair lord ; 
but I will do it, if you ask me. Here, page, hand me one 
of those sticks, and let me see what I can do." 

But Sir Hubert de Buigh was not destined to test 
either his skill or his luck. The great bay horse which 
he rode was as unused to this warlike play as was its 
master, and had none of its master^s stoutness of heart ; 
so that when it saw the levelled lance, the gleamiug figure 
and the frenzied yellow horse rushing down upon it, it 
swerved, turned and galloped furiously down the river- 
bank. Amid roars of laughter from the rustics on the 
one side and from the courtiers on the other, Sir Hubert 
was seen tugging vainly at his bridle, and bounding 
onward, clearing gorse-bushes and heather clumps, until 
he was but a shimmering, quivering gleam upon the dark 
hillsida Nigel, who had pulled Pommers on to his very 
haunches at tiie instant that his opponent turned, saluted 
with his lance and trotted back to the bridge-head, where 
he awaited his next assailant 

''The ladies would say that a judgment hath fallen 
upon our good Sir Hub^ for his impious words/' said 
the king. 

"Let us hope that his charger may be broken in ere he 
venture to ride out between two annies," remarked the 
prince. " They might mistake the hardness of his horse s 
mouth for a softness of the rider's heart. See where he 
rides, still clearing every bush upon his path." 

"By the roodl" said the king, "if the bold Hubert 
has not increased his repute aa a jouster he has gained 
great honour as a horseman. But the bridge is still 
closed, Walter. How say you now? Is this young 
squire never to be unhorsed, or is your king himself to 
lay lance in rest ere the way can be cleared ? By the 



no SIR NIGEL 

head of Saint Thomas ! I am in the veiy mood to nm a 
coiuse with this gentle youth." 

^ Nay, nay, sire, too much honour hath already been 
done him ! " said Manny, looking angrily at the motions- 
less horseman. " That this untried boy should be able to 
say that in one evemng he has unhorsed my squire, and 
seen the back of one of the bravest knights in England, is 
surely enough to turn his foolish head Fetch me a spear, 
Bobert I I will see what I can make of him/' 

The famous knight took the spear when it was brought 
to him as a master-workman takes a tooL He balanced 
it^ shook it once or twice in the air, ran his eyes down it 
fbr a flaw in the wood, and then finally, having made sure 
of its poise and wei^t^ laid it carefully in rest under his 
arm. Then, gathering up his bridle so as to have his horse 
under perfect command, and covering himself with the 
shield, which was slung round his neck, he rode out to do 
battle. 

Now, Nigel, young and inexperienced, all Nature's aid 
will not help you against the mixed craft and streDgth of 
such a warrior. The day will come when neither Manny 
nor even Chandos could sweep you from your saddle ; but 
now, even had you some less cumbrous armour, your 
chance were smsdL Tour downfall is near ; but as you 
see the famous black chevrons on a golden ground, your 
gallant heart, which never knew fear, is only filled with 
joy and amazement at the honour done you. Your down* 
ML is near, and yet in your wildest dreams you would 
never guess how strange your downfall is to be. 

Again, with a dull thunder of hoofs, the horses gallop 
over the soft water-meadow. Again, with a dash of metal, 
the two riders meet. It is Nigel now, taken dean in the 
face of his helmet with the blunted spear, who flies back- 
ward off his horse and £b11s clanging on the grass. 

But, good heavens ! what is this t Manny has thrown 
\ands in horror, and the lance has dropped from 



HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE in 

his nerveless fingers. From all sides, with cries of dismay, 
with oaths and shouts and ejaculations to the saints, tbe 
horsemen ride wildly in. Was ever so dreadfiil, so sudden, 
so complete, an end to a gentle passage at arms ? Surely 
their eyes must be at fault ? Some wizard's trick has been 
played upon them to deceive theur senses. But no, it was 
only too dear. There on the greensward lay the trunk 
of the stricken cavalier, and there, a good dozen yards 
beyond, lay his helmeted head. 

" By the Virgin 1 " cried Manny, wildly, as he jumped 
from his horse, '*I would give my last gold piece tbat the 
work of this evening should be undone I How came it f 
What does it mean ? Hither, my lord bishop, for surely 
it smacks of witchcraft and tbe DeviL" 

With a white face the bishop had sprung down beside 
the prostrate body, pushing through the knot of horrified 
knights and squires. ^ 

''I fear that the last offices of the Holy Church come 
too late," said he, in a quivering voice. '' Most unfortunate 
young man i How sudden an end I 1% medio vita, as 
the Holy Book has it — one moment in the pride of his 
youth, the next his head torn from his body. Now God 
and Ids saints have mercy upon me and guard me from 
eviL- 

The last prayer was shot out of the bishop with an 
energy and earnestness unusual in his orisons. It was 
caused by the sudden outcry of one of the squires, who, 
having lifted the helmet from the ground, cast it down 
again with a scream of horror. 

''It is empty!" he cried. ''It weighs as light as a 
feather." 

" Tore God, it is true ! " cried Manny, laying his hand 
on it " There is no one in it. With what have I fought, 
father bishop ? Is it of this world or of the next ? " 

The bishop had clambered on his horse the better to 
consider the point 



112 SIR NIGEL 

" If the foul fiend is abroad/' said he, *' my place is 
over yonder by the king's side. Certes, that sulphur- 
coloured horse hath a very devilish look. I could have 
sworn that I saw both smoke and flame from its nostrila. 
The beast is fit to bear a suit of armour which rides and 
fights, and yet hath no man within it." 

"Nay, not too fast, father bishop," said one of the 
knights. '' It may be all that you say and yet come from 
a human workshop. When I made a campaign in South 
Germany I have seen at Nuremberg a cunning figure, 
devised by an armourer, which could both ride and wield 
a sword. If this be such a one " 

" I thank you all for your very gentle courtesy," said 
a booming voice from the figure upon the ground. 

At the words even the valiant Manny sprang into his 
saddla Some rode madly away from the horrid trunk. 
A few of the boldest lingered. 

** Most of all," said the voicOi ** would I thank the most 
noble knight. Sir Walter Manny, that he should deign to 
lay aside his greatness and condescend to do a deed of 
arms upon so humble a squire." 

" 'Fore God ! " said Manny, " if this be the Devil, then 
the Devil hath a very courtly tongue. I will have him 
out of his armour, if he blast me ! " 

So saying, be sprang once more from his horse and 
plunging his hand down the slit in the collapsed goiget, 
he closed it tightly upon a fistful of Nigel's yellow curls. 
The groan that came forth was enough to convince him that 
it was indeed a man who lurked within. At the same 
time his eyes fell upon the hole in the mail corselet which 
had served the squire as a visor, and he burst into deep^ 
chested mirth. The king, the prince, and Chandos, who 
had watched the scene from a distance, too much amused 
by it to explain or interfere, rode up weary with laughter, 
now that all was discovered. 

" Let him out I " said the king, with his hand to his 



HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE 113 

8id& ''I pray yon to tinlace him and let him ont! I 
have shared in many a spear-mnning, bnt never have I 
been nearer falling from my horse than as I watched this 
one. I feared the fall had struck him senseless^ since he 
lay so stilL" 

Nigel had indeed lain with all the breath shaken from 
his body, and as he was aware that his helmet had been 
carried off, he had not understood either the alarm or the 
amusement that he had caused. Now, freed from the great 
hauberk in which he had been shut like a pea in a pod, 
he stood blinking in the light, blushing deeply with shame 
that the shifts to which his poverty had reduced him should 
be exposed to all these laughing courtiers. It was the 
king who brought him comfort. 

"Tou have shown that you can use your father's 
weapons," said he, " and you have proved also that you 
are the worthy bearer of his name and his arms, for you 
have within you that spirit for which he was famous. . But 
I wot that neither he nor you would suffer a train of 
hungry men to starve before your door ; so lead on, I pray 
you, and if the meat be as good as this grace before it, then 
it wUl be a feast indeed." 



CHAPTER X 

HOW THB KING OBEETED HIS BENESGHAIi OF CALAIS. 

It would have fared ill with the good name of Tilfoid 
Manor-house and with the housekeeping of the aged Dame 
Ermyntrude had the king's whole retinue, with his outer 
and inner marshal, his justiciar, his chamberlain, and his 
guard, all gathered under the one roof. But by the fore- 
sight and the gentle management of Chandos this calamity 
was avoided, so that some were quartered at the great 
Abbey and others passed on to enjoy the hospitality of Sir 
Boger FitzAlan at Famham Castle. Only the king him* 
self, the prince, Manny, Chandos, Sir Hubert de Buigh, 
the bishop, and two or three more remained behind as die 
guests of die Lorings. 

But small as was the party, and humble the surround- 
ings, the king in no way relaxed that love of ceremony, of 
elaborate form and of brilliant colouring which was one 
of his characteristics. The sumpter-mules were unpacked, 
squires ran hither and thither, baths smoked in the bed- 
chambers, silks and satins were unfolded, gold chains 
gleamed and clinked, so that when, at last, to the long 
blast of two court trumpeters, the company took their seats 
at the board, it was the brightest, fairest scene which those 
old black rafters had ever spanned. 

The great influx of foreign knights who had come in 
their splendour from all parts of Christendom to take part 
in the opening of the Bound Tower of Windsor six years 
before, and to try their luck and their skill at the tourna- 
ment connected with it, had deeply modified the English 

114 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS 115 

fashions of dress. The old tunic, orer-timic, and cyclas 
were too sad and simple for the new fashions, so now 
strange and brilliant cote-hardies, pourpoints, courtepies, 
paltocks, hanselines, and many other wondrous garments, 
party-coloured or diapered, with looped, embroidered or 
escalloped edges, flamed and glittered round the king. He 
himself, in black velvet and gold, formed a dark rich 
centre to the finery around him. On his right sat the 
prince, on his left the bishop, while Dame Ermyntrude 
marshaled the forces of the household outside, alert and 
watchful, pouring in her dishes and her flagons at the right 
moment, rallying her tired servants, encouraging the van, 
hurrying the rear, hastening up her reserves, the tapping 
of her oak stick heard wherever the pressure was the 
greatest. 

Behind the king, clad in his best, but looking drab and 
sorry amid the brilliant costumes round him, Nigel him- 
self, regardless of an aching body and a twisted knee, 
waited upon his royal guests, who threw many a merry 
jest at him over their shoulders as they still chuckled at 
the adventure of the bridge. 

*" By the rood I " said King Edward, leaning back, with 
a chicken-bone held daintily between the courtesy fingers 
of his left hand, •' the play is too good for this country 
stage. You must to Windsor with me, Nigel, and bring 
with you this great suit of harness in which you lurk. 
There you shaU hold the lists with your eyes in your 
midriff, and unless some one cleave you to tiie waist I see 
not how any harm can befall you. Never have I seen so 
small a nut in so great a shell.'' 

" The prince, looking back with laughing eyes, saw by 
NigeVs flushed and embarrassed face that his poverty 
hung heavily upon him. 

"Nay," said he kindly, "such a workman is surely 
worthy of better tools." 

"And it is for his master to see that he has them/' 



ii6 SIR NIGEL 

added the king. " The court armourer will look to it that 
the next time your helmet is carried away, Nigel, your 
head shall be inside it." 

Nigel, red to the roots of his flaxen hair, stammered 
out some words of thanks. 

John Chandos, however, had a fresh suggestion, and 
he cocked a roguish eye as he made it — 

" Surely, my liege, your bounty is little needed in this 
case. It is the ancient law of arms that if two cavaliers 
start to joust, and one either by maladdress or misadven- 
ture fail to meet the shock, then his arms become the 
property of him who still holds the lists. This being so, 
methinks. Sir Hubert de Burgh, that the fine hauberk of 
Milan and the helmet of Bordeaux steel in which you 
rode to Tilford should remain with our young host as 
some small remembrance of your visit.'' 

The suggestion raised a general chorus of approval and 
laughter, in which all joined, save only Sir Hubert him- 
self, who, flushed with anger, fixed his baleful eyes upon 
Chandos's mischievous and smiling faca 

'' I said that I did not play that foolish game, and I 
know nothing of its laws," said he ; '' but you know well, 
John, that if you would have about with sharpened spear 
or sword, where two ride to the ground, and only one 
away from it, you have not far to go to find it." 

" Nay, nay, would you ride to the ground ? Surely you 
had best walk, Hubert," said Chandos. " On your feet I 
know well that I should not see your back as we iiave seen 
it to-day. Say what you will, your horse has played you 
fiEklse, and I clcdm your suit of harness for Nigel Loring." 

" Your tongue is overlong, John, and I am weary of 
its endless clack I " said Sir Hubert, his yellow moustache 
bristling from a scarlet face. " If you daim my harness, 
do you yourself come and take it. If there is a moon 
in the sky you may try this very night when the board is 

Ared." 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS II7 

'' Nay, fair sirs/' cried the king, smiling from one to 
the other, " this matter must be followed no farther. Do 
you fill a bumper of Gascony, John, and you also, Hubert. 
Now pledge each other, I pray you, as good and loyal 
comrades who would scorn to fight save in your king's 
quaireL We can spare neither of you while there is so 
much work for brave hearts over the sea. As to this 
matter of the harness, John Chandos speaks truly where 
it concerns a joust in the lists, but we hold that such a 
law is scarce binding in this, which was but a wayside 
passage and a gentle trial of arms. On the other hand, 
in the case of your squire. Master Manny, there can be 
no doubt that his suit is forfeit." 

''It is a grievous hearing for him, my liege," said 
Walter Manny ; " for he is a poor man, and hath been at 
sore pains to fit himself for the wars. Yet what you say 
shall be done, fair sire. So, if you will come to me in the 
morning, Squire Loring, John Widdicombe's suit will be 
handed over to you." 

*' Then, with the king's leave, I will hand it back to 
him," said Nigel, troubled and stammering ; " for indeed 
I had rather never ride to the wars than take bom a brave 
man his only suit of plate.'* 

"There spoke your £ather^s spirit I" cried the king. 
''By the rood I Nigel, I like you full welL let the 
matter bide in my hands. But I marvel much that Sir 
Aymery the Lombard hath not come to us yet from 
Windsor." 

From the moment of his arrival at Tilford, again and 
again King Edward had asked most eagerly whether Sir 
Aymery had come, and whether theie was any news of 
him, so that the courtiers glanced at each other in wonder. 
For Aymeiy was known to all of them as a famous mer* 
cenaiy of Italy, lately appointed Governor of Calais, and 
this sudden and urgent summons from the king might 
well mean some renewal of the war with France, which 



Ii8 SIR NIGEL 

was the dearest wish of every soldier. Twice the king 
bad stopped his meal and sat with sidelong head, his wine* 
cup in his hand, listening attentively when some sound 
like the clatter of hoofs was heard &om outside ; but the 
third time there could be no mistake. The tramp and 
jingle of the horses broke loud upon the ear, and ended 
in hoarse voices calling out of the darkness, which were 
answered by the archers posted as sentries without the 
door. 

" Some traveller has indeed arrived, my liege," said 
NigeL "What is your royal will?" 

"It can be but Aymery," the king answered, " for it 
was only to him that I left the message that he should 
follow me hither. Bid him come in, I pray you, and 
make him very welcome at your board." 

Nigel cast open the door, plucking a torch from its 
bracket as he did so. Half a dozen men-at-aims sat on 
their horses outside, but one had dismounted, a shorty 
squat, swarthy man with a rat face and quick, restless 
brown eyes, which peered eagerly past Nigel into the red 
glare of the well-lit hall. 

"I am Sir Aymery of Pavia," he whispered. "For 
God's sake, tell me 1 is the king within ? " 

" He is at table, fair sir, and he bids you to enter." 

" One moment, young man, one moment, and a secret 
word in your ear. Wot you why it is that the king haa 
sent for me ? " 

Nigel read terror in the dark cunning eyes which 
glanced in sidelong fashion into his. 

" Nay, I know not." 

" I would I knew— I would I was sure ere I sought his 
presence." 

"You have but to cross the threshold, fair sir, and 
doubtless you will learn from the king's own lips." 

Sir Aymery seemed to gather himself as one who braces 
for a spring into ice-cold water. Then he crossed with a 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS irg 

quick stride from the darkness into Uie light. The king 
stood up and held out his hand, with a smile upon his long 
hiindsome face, and yet it seemed to the Italian that it 
was the lips which smiled but not the eyes. 

" Welcome I " cried Edward. " Welcome to our worthy 
and faithful Seneschal of Calais I Come, sit here before 
me at the board, for I have sent for you that I may hear 
your news from over the sea, and thank you for the care 
that you have taken of that which is as dear to me as wife 
or child. Set a place for Sir Aymery there, and give him 
food and drink, for he has ridden fast and far in our 
service to-day." 

Throughout the long feast which the skill of the Lady 
Ermyntrude had arranged, Edward chatted lightly with the 
Italian as well as with the barons near him. Finally, when 
the last dish was removed and the gravy-soaked rounds of 
coarse bread which served as plates had been cast to the 
dogs, the wine-flagons were passed round, and old Weather- 
cote the minstrel entered timidly with his harp in the 
hope that he might be allowed to play before the king's 
majesty. But Edward had other sport afoot. 

" I pray you, Nigel, to send out the servants so that we 
may be alone. I would have two men-at-arms at every 
door lest we be disturbed in our debate, for it is a matter 
of privacy. And now. Sir Aymery, these noble lords as 
well as I, your master, would fain hear from ypur own lips 
how all goes forward in France." 

The Italian's &ce was calm, but he looked restlessly 
from one to another along the line of his listeners. 

" So far as I know, my liege, all is quiet on the Fiench 
marches," said he. 

" You have not heard, then, that they have mustered 
or gathered to a head with the intention of breaking the 
truce and making some attempt upon our dominions ? " 

** Nay, sire, I have heard nothing of it." 

" You set my mind much at ease, Aymery," said the 



120 SIR NIGEL 

king ; " for if nothing has come to your ears, then surely 
it cannot he. It was said that the wild Knight de 
Chargny had come down to St. Omer with his eyes upon 
my precious jewel and his mailed hands ready to grasp it." 

" Nay, sire, let him come. He wUl find the jewel safe 
in its strong box, with a goodly guard over it." 

" You are the guard over my jewel, Aymery." 

*' Yes, sire, I am the guard." 

*' And you are a faithful guard and one whom I can 
trust, are you not? You would not barter away that 
which is so dear to me when I have chosen you out of all 
my army to hold it for me ? " 

"Nay, sire, what reasons can there be for such 
questions? They touch my honour very nearly. You 
know that I would part with Calais only when I parted 
with my soul." 

" Then you know nothing of de Chargny's attempt ? " 

"Nothing, sire." 

"Liar and ^allain I " yelled the king, springing to his 
feet and dashing his fist upon the table until the glasses 
rattled again. "Seize him, archers! Seize him this 
instant I Stand close by either elbow, lest he do himself a 
mischief I Now, do you dare to tell me to my face, you 
perjured Lombard, that you know nothing of de Chargny 
and his plans ? " 

" As God is my witness, I know nothing of him I " 

The man's lips were white, and he spoke in a thin, 
sighing, reedy voice, his eyes wincing away from the fell 
gaze of the angry king. 

Edward laughed bitterly, and drew a paper from his 
breast. 

" You are the judges in this case, you, my fair son, and 
you, Chandos, and you, Manny, and you. Sir Hubert, and 
vou^also, my lord bishop. By my sovereign power I 

'-e you a court that you may deal justice upon this man, 
y God's eyes I will not stir from this room until I 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS 121 

have sifted the matter to the bottom. And first I would 
read you this letter. It is superscribed to Sir Aymery of 
Pavia, nammS Le Lombard, Ch&teau de Calais. Is not 
that your name and style, you rogue ? " 

"It is my name, sire; but no such letter has come 
to me." 

" Else had your villainy never been disclosed. It is 
signed ' Isadore de Chargny.' What says my enemy de 
Chaigny to my trusted servant ? Listen I ' We could not 
come with the last moon, for we have not gathered 
sufficient strength, nor have we been able to coUect the 
twenty thousand crowns which are your price. But with 
the next turn of the moon in the darkest hour, we will 
come, and you will be paid your money at the small 
postern gate with the rowan bush beside it.' Well, rogue, 
what say you now ? " 

" It is a foigery I " gasped the Italian. 

" I pray you that you will let me see it, sire," said 
Chandos. " JDe Chaigny was my prisoner, and so many 
letters passed ere his ransom was paid that his script is 
well-known to me. Yes, yes, I will swear that this is 
indeed his. If my salvation were at stake I could swear it.** 

" If it were indeed written by de Chargny it was to 
dishonour me," cried Sir Aymery. 

" Nay, nay I ** said the yotmg prince. ** We all know 
de Chaigny and have fought against him. Many faults 
he has, a boaster and a brawler, but a braver man and one 
of greater heart and higher of enterprise does not ride 
beneath the lilies of France. Such a man would never 
Btoop to write a letter for the sake of putting dishonour 
upon one of knightly rank. I, for one, will never believe it" 

A gruff murmur from the others showed that they were 
of one mind with the prince. The light of the torches 
from the walls beat upon the line of stem faces at the high 
table. They had sat like flint, and the Italian shrank 
from their inexorable eyes. He looked swiftly round, but 



122 SIR NIGEL 

aimod men choked every entrance. The sliadow of death 
had fallen athwart his soul. 

'* This letter," said the king, " was given by de Chaigny 
to one Dom Beauvais, a priest of St Omer, to carry into 
Calais. The said priest, smelling a reward, brought it to 
one who is my faithful servant, and so it came to me. 
Straightway I sent for this man that he should come to 
me. Meanwhile the priest has returned so that de 
Chaigny may think that his message is indeed delivered." 

''I know nothing of it," said the Italian, doggedly, 
licking his dry lips. 

A dork flush mounted to the king's forehead, and his 
eyes were gorged with his wrath. 

" No more of this, for God's dignity 1" he cried. "Had 
we this fellow at the Tower, a few turns of the rack would 
tear a confession from his craven souL But why should 
we need his word for his own guilt 7 You have seen, my 
lords, you have heard ? How say you, fair son ? Is the 
man guilty ? " 

"Sire, he is guilty." 

"And you, John? And you, Waltw? And you, 
Hubert? And you, my lord bishop? You are all of 
one mind, then. He is guilty of the betrayal of his trust 
And the punishment ? " 

" It can only be death," said the prince, and each in 
turn the others nodded their agreement. 

" Aymery of Pavia, you have heard your doom," said 
Edward, leaning his chin upon his hand and glooming at 
the cowering Italian. " Step forward, you archer at the 
door— you with the black beard. Draw your sword! 
Nay, you white-faced rogue, I would not dishonour this 
roof-tree by your blood. It is your heels, not your head, 
that we want Hack off these golden spurs of knighthood 
with your sword, archer ! Twas I who gave them, and I 
who take them back. Ha ! they fly across the hall, and 
with them every bond betwixt you and the worshipful 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS 123 

order whose sign and badge they are ! Now lead him out 
on the heath afar bom the house where his carrion can 
best lie, and hew his scheming head from his body as a 
warning to all such traitors ! " 

* The Italian, who had slipped from bis chair to his knees, 
uttered a cry of despair, as an archer seized him by either 
shoulder. Writhing out of their grip, he threw himself 
upon the floor and clutched at the king's feet* 

'' Spare me, my most dread lord, spare me, I beseech 
youl In the name of Christs passion, I implore yonr 
grace and pardon I Bethink you, my good and dear lord, 
how many years I have served under your banners and how 
many services I have rendered. Was it not I who found 
the ford upon the Seine two days before the great battle t 
Was it not I also who marshalled the attack at the in- 
taking of Calais ? I have a wife and four children in Italy, 
great king, and it was the thought of them which led me 
to fall from my duty, for this money would have allowed 
me to leave the wars and to see them once again. Mercy, 
my liege, mercy, I implore ! " 

The English are a rough race, but not a cruel one. 
The king sat with a face of doom ; but the others looked 
askance and fidgeted in their seats. 

"Indeed, my fair li^," said Chandos, "I pray you 
that you will al^te somewhat of your anger." 

Edward shook his head curtly. " Be silent, John. It 
shall be as I have said." 

" I pray you, my dear and honoured liege, not to act 
with overmuch haste in the matter," said Manny. " Bind 
him and hold him until the morning, for other counsels 
may prevaiL" 

" Nay, I have spoken. Lead him out I " 

But the trembling man clung to the king's knees in 
such a fashion that the archers could not disengage his 
convulsive grip. 

" Listen to me a moment, I implore you ! Give me 



124 SIR NIGEL 

but one minute to plead with you, and then do what you 
wiU." 

The king leaned back in his chair. " Speak and have 
done/* said he. 

" You must spare me, my noble liege. For your own 
sake I say that you must spare me, for I can set you in 
the way of such a knightly adventure as will gladden your 
heart. Bethink you, sire, that this de Chargny and his 
comrades know nothing of their plans having gone awry. 
If I do but send them a message they will surely come to 
the postern gate. Then, if we have placed our bushment 
with skill, we shall have such a capture and such a ransom 
as will fill your coffers. He and his comrades should be 
worth a good hundred thousand crowns. " 

Edward spumed the Italian away from him with his 
foot until he sprawled among the rushes, but even as he 
lay there like a wounded snake his dark eyes never left 
the king's face. 

''You double traitor! You would sell Calais to de 
Chargny, and then in turn you would sell de Chargny to 
ma How dare you suppose that I or any noble knighft 
had such a huckster's soul as to think only of ransoms 
where honour is to be won ? Could I or any true man be 
so caitiff and so thrall ? You have sealed your own doom. 
Lead him out I " 

" One instant, I pray you, my fidr and most sweet lord,'' 
cried the prince. " Assuage your wrath yet a little while, 
for this man's rede deserves, perhaps, more thought than 
we have given it. He has turned your noble soul sick with 
his talk of ransoms ; but look at it, I pray you, from the 
side of honour, and where could we find such hope of wor- 
shipf ully winning worship ? I pray you to let me put my 
body in this adventure, for it is one from which, if rightly 
handled, much advancement is to be gained." 

Edward looked with sparkling eyes at th^ noble youth 
at his sida 



THE SENESCHAL OF CALAIS 125 

" Never was hound more keen on the track of a stricken 
hart than you on the hope of honour, fair son/' said he. 
" How do you conceive the matter in your mind ? " 

'' De Chaigny and his men will be such as are worth 
going far to meet, for he will have the pick of France under 
his banner that night. If we did as this man says and 
awaited him with the same number of lances, then I cannot 
think that there is any spot in Christendom where one 
would rather be than in Calais that night." 

" By the rood, fair son, you are right I " cried the king, 
his face shining with the thought. " Now, which of you, 
John Chandos or Walter Manny, will take the thing in 
chaige ? " He looked mischievously from one to the other, 
like a master who dangles a bone between two fierce old 
hounds. All they had to say was in their burning, longing 
eyes. '' Nay, John, you must not take it amiss ; but it is 
Walter's turn, and he shall have it/' 

" Shall we not all go under your banner, sire, or that of 
the prince ? " 

" Nay, it is not fitting that the royal banners of England 
should be advanced in so small an adventure. And yet, 
if you have space in your ranks for two more cavaliers, 
both the prince and I would ride with you that night/' 

The young man stooped and kissed his father's hand. 

" Take this man in your charge, Walter, and do with 
him as you wilL Guard well, lest he betray us once again. 
Take him from my sight, for his breath poisons the room. 
And now, Nigel, if that worthy greybeard of thine would 
fain twang his harp or sing to us — but what in God's 
name would you have ? " 

He had turned, to find his young host upon his knee 
and his flaxen head bent in entreaty. 

" What is it, man ? What do you crave ? " 

"A boon, fair liege ! " 

"Well, well, am I to have no peace to- night, with 
a traitor kneeling to me in front, and a true man on his 



126 SIR NIGEL 

knees behind? Out with it, Nigel. What wonld you 
have?'* 

" To come with you to Calais." 

" By the rood ! your request is fair enough, seeing that 
our plot is hatched beneath your very roof. How say you, 
Walter? Will you take him, armour and all?" asked 
King Edward. 

" Say rather will you take me ? " said Chandos. " We 
are two rivals in honour, Walter, but I am very sure that 
you would not hold me back." 

" Nay, John, I will be proud to have the best lance in 
Christendom beneath my banner." 

'' And I to follow so knightly a leader. But Nigel 
Loring is my squire, and so he comes with us also." 

" Then that is settled," said the king, ''and now there 
is no need for hurry, since there can be no move until the 
moon has changed. So I pray you to pass the flagon once 
again, and to drink with me to the good knights of France. 
May they be of great heart and high of enterprise when 
we all meet once more within the castle wall of Calais I " 



CHAPTER XI 

IN THS HALL OF THE KNIGHT OF DUPFUN 

The king had come and had gone. Tilford Manor-houee 
stood once more dark and silent, but joj and contentment 
reigned within its walls. In one night every trouble had 
fallen away like some dark curtain which had shut out the 
sun. A princely sum of money had come from the king's 
treasurer, given in such fashion that there could be no 
refosal. With a bag of gold pieces at his saddle-bow, 
Nigel rode once more into Ouildford, and not a beggar on 
the way who had not cause to bless his nama 

There he had gone first to the goldsmith and had 
bought back cup and salver and bracelet, mourning with 
the merchant over the evil chance that gold and gold-work 
had for certain reasons which only those in the trade could 
fully understand gone up in value during the last week, 
so that already fifty gold pieces had to be paid more than 
the price which Nigel had received. In vain the faithful 
Aylward fretted and fumed and muttered a prayer that 
the day would come when he might feather a shaft in the 
merchant's portly paunch. The money had to be paid. 

Thence Nigel hurried to Wat the armourer^s, and there 
he bought that very suit for which he had yearned so short 
a time before. Then and there he tried it on in the booths 
Wat and his boy walking round him with spanner and 
wrench, fixing bolts and twisting rivets. 

" How is that, my fair sir ? " cried the armourer, as he 
drew the bassinet over the head and fastened it to the 
camail which extended to the s^jouldcrs. "I swear by 

W7 



128 • SIR NIGEL 

Tubal Cain that it fits you as the shell fits the crab ! A 
finer suit never came from Italy or Spain." 

Nigel stood in front of a burnished shield which served 
as a mirror, and he turned this way and that, preening 
himself like a little shining bird. His smooth breastplatei 
his wondrous joints with their deft protection by the disks 
at knee and elbow and shoulder, the beautifully flexible 
gauntlets and sollerets, the shirt of mail and the close- 
fitting greave-plates were all things of joy and of beauty 
in his eyes. He sprang about the shop to show his light- 
ness, and then, running out, he placed his hand on the 
pommel and vaulted into Pommers' saddle, while Wat and 
his boy applauded in the doorway. 

Then, springing ofif and running into the shop again, he 
clashed down upon his knees before the image of the Virgin 
upon the smithy wall. There from his heart he prayed that 
no shadow or stain should come upon his soul or his honour 
while these arms encased his body, and that he might be 
strengthened to use them for noble and godly ends. A 
strange turn this to a religion of peace, and yet for many 
a century the sword and the faith had upheld each other, 
and in a darkened world the best ideal of the soldier had 
turned in some dim groping fashion toward the light. 
^Bmedictfis danUnus deus metis qui docet manus meas ad 
Prodium et digitaa meos ad belltm,!*' There spoke the 
soul of the knightly soldier. 

So the armour was trussed upon the armourer's mule 
and went back with them to Tilford, where Nigel put it 
on once more for the pleasure of the Lady Ermyntrude, 
who clapped her skinny hands and shed tears of mingled 
pain and joy — ^pain that she should lose him, joy that he 
should go 80 bravely to the wars. As to her own future, 
it had been made easy for her, since it was arranged that 
a steward should look to the Tilford estate while she had 
at her disposal a suite of rooms in royal Windsor, where, 
with other venerable dames of her own age and standing, 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN '129 

she could spend the twilight of her days discussing long- 
forgotten scandals and whispering sad things about the 
grandfathers and grandmothers of the young courtiers all 
around them. There Nigel might leave her with an easy 
mind when he turned his face to France. 

But there was one more visit to be paid, and one more 
farewell to be spoken ere Nigel could leave the moorlands 
where he had dwelt so long. That evening he donned his 
brightest tunic, dark purple velvet of Genoa, with trimming 
of miniver, his hat with the snow-white feather curling 
round the front, and his belt of embossed silver round his 
loins. Mounted on lordly Fommers, with his hawk upon 
wrist and his sword by his side, never did fairer young 
gallant or one more modest in mind set forth upon such an 
errand. It was but the old Enight of Dupplin to whom he 
would say farewell ; but the Knight of Dupplin had two 
daughters, Edith and Mary, and Edith was the fairest maid 
in all the heather-country. 

Sir John Buttesthom, the Knight of Dupplin, was so 
called because he had been present at that strange battle, 
some eighteen years before, when the full power of Scotland 
had been for a moment beaten to the ground by a handful 
of adventurers and mercenaries, marching under the banner 
of no nation, but fighting in their own private quarrel. 
Their exploit fills no pages of history, for it is to the 
interest of no nation to record it, and yet the rumour and 
fame of the great fight bulked large in those times, for it 
was on that day when the flower of Scotland was left dead 
upon the field, that the world first understood that a new 
force had arisen in war, and that the English archer, with 
his robust courage and his skill with the weapon which 
he had wielded from his boyhood, was a power with which 
even the mailed chivalry of Europe had seriously to reckon; 

Sir John after his return from Scotland had become 
the king^s own head huntsman, famous through all England 
for his knowledge of venery, until at last, getting 

K 



130 SIR NIGEL 

ovBrheavy for his horses^ he had settled in modest comfort 
into the old house of Cioefozd upon the eastern slope of the 
Hindhead hilL Here, as his faoe grew redder, and his 
beard more white, he spent the evening of his days amid 
hawks and hounds, a flagon of spiced wine ever at his 
elbow, and his swollen foot perched upon a stool before 
him. There it was that many an old comrade broke his 
journey as he passed down the rude road which led firom 
London to Portsmouth, and thither also came the young 
gallants of the country to hear the stout knight's tedes of 
old wars, or to learn from him that lore of the forest and 
the chase which none could teach so well as he. 

But sooth to say, whatever the old knight might think, 
it was not merely his old tales and older wine which drew 
the young men to Cosford, but rather the fiair face of his 
younger daughter, or the strong soul and wise counsel of 
the elder. Never had two more different branches sprung 
from the same trunk. Both were tall and of a queenly 
graceful figure. But there all resemblance b^gan and 
ended. 

Edith was yellow as the ripe com, blue-qred, winning, 
mischievous, with a chattering tongue, a meny laugh, and 
a smile which a dozen of young gallants, Nigel of Tflford 
at their head, could share equally among them. Like a 
young kitten she played with all tiie things that she found 
in life, and some there were who thought that already the 
claws could be felt amid the patting of her velvet touch. 

Mary was dark as night, grave-featured, plain-visaged, 
with steady brown eyes looking bravely at the world from 
under a strong black arch of brows. None could call her 
beautiful, and when her fair sister cast her arm round her 
and placed her cheek against hers, as was her wont when 
company was there, the fairness of the one and the plain- 
ness of the other leaped visibly to the eyes of all, each the 
dearer for that hard contrast. And yet, here and there, 
there was one who, looking at her strange, strong face, and 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN 131 

at ihe passing gleams far down in her dark eyes, felt that 
this silent woman, with her proud bearing and h^ queenly 
grace, had in her something of strength, of reserve, and of 
mystery which was more to them than all the dainty glitter 
of her sister. 

Such were the ladies of Cosford toward whom Nigel 
Loring rode that night with doublet of Genoan velvet and 
the new white feather in his cap. 

He had ridden over Thursley Itidge past that old stone 
where in days gone by at the place of Thor the wild Saxons 
worshipped their war-god. Nigel looked at it with a wary 
eye and spurred Fommers onward as he passed it, for still 
it was said that wild fires danced round it on the moonless 
nights, and they who had ears for such things could hear 
the scream and sob of those whose lives had been ripped 
from them that the fiend might be honoured. Thor's Stone, 
Thor's Jumps, Thor's Punch-bowl — the whole countryside 
was one grim monument to the God of Battles, though the 
pious monks had changed his uncouth name for that of 
the Devil his father, so that it was the Devil's Jumps and 
the Devil's Punch-bowl of which they spoke. Nigel glanced 
back at the old gray boulder, and he felt for an instant a 
shudder pass through his stout heart. Was it the chill of 
the evening air, or was it that some inner voice had 
whispered to him of the day when he also might lie bound 
on such a rock and have such a bloodstained pagan crew 
howling around him ? 

An instant later the rock and his vague fear and all 
things else had passed from his mind, for there, down the 
yellow sandy path, the setting sun gleaming on her golden 
hair, her lithe figure bending and swaying with every 
heave of the cantering horse, was none other than the 
same fair Edith, whose face had come so often between 
him and his sleep. His blood mshed hot to his face at 
the sight, for fearless of all else, his spirit was attracted 
and yet daunted by the delicate mystery of woman. To 



132 SIR NIGEL 

his pure and knightly soul not Edith alone, but every 
woman, sat high and aloof, enthroned and exalted, with a 
thousand mystic excellencies and virtues which raised her 
far above the rude world of man. There was joy in con- 
tact with them ; and yet there was fear, fear lest his own 
unworthiness, his untrained tongue or rougher ways should 
in some way break rudely upon this delicate and tender 
thing. Such was his thought as the white horse cantered 
toward him ; but a moment later his vague doubts were 
set at rest by the frank voice of the young girl, who waved 
her whip in merry greeting. 

"Hail and well met, Nigel!" she cried. "Whither 
away this evening ? Sure I am that it is not to see your 
friends of Cosford, for when did you ever don so brave a 
doublet for us ? Come, Nigel, her name, that I may hate 
her forever!" 

" Nay, Edith," said the young squire, laughing back 
at the laughing girl. " I was indeed coming to Cosford." 

"Then we shall ride back together, for I will go no 
farther. How think you that I am looking ? " 

Nigel's answer was in his eyes as he glanced at the 
fair flushed face, the golden hair, the sparkling eyes, and 
the daintily graceful figure set off in a scarlet-and-black 
riding-dress. 

" You are as fair as ever, Edith." 

"Oh cold of speech! Surely you were bred for the 
cloisters and not for a lady's bower, NigeL Had I asked 
such a question from young Sir George Brocas or the 
Squire of Femhurst, he would have raved from here to 
Cosford. They are both more to my taste than you are, 
Nigel." 

" It is the worse for me, Edith," said Nigel, ruefully. 

" Nay, but you must not lose heart." 

" Have I not already lost it ? " said he. 

" That is better," die cried, laughing. " You can be 
quick enough when you choose. Master Malapert. But 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN 133 

yoa are more fit to speak of high and weary nlatters with 
my sister Mary. She will have none of the prattle and 
courtesy of Sir George, and yet I love them well. But 
tell me, Nigel, why do you come to Cosford to-night ? '* 

"TobidyoufarewelL" 

"Me alone?" 

" Nay, Edith, you and your sister Mary and the good 
knight, your father.'' 

" Sir George would have said that he had come for me 
alone. Indeed you are but a poor courtier beside him. 
But is it true, Nigel, that you go to France ? " 

"Yes, Edith.'' 

" It was so rumoured after the king had been to Tilford. 
The stoiy goes that the king goes to France and you in 
his train. Is that true ? " 

" Yes, Edith, it is true." 

" Tell me, then, to what part you go, and when ? " 

" That, alas ! I may not say." 

"Oh, in sooth I" She to»9ed her fair head and rode 
onward in silence, with compressed lips and angry eyes. 

Nigel glanced at her in surprise and dismay. " Surely, 
Edith," said he, at last, " you have overmuch regard for my 
honour that you should wish me to break the word that I 
have given ? " 

" Your honour belongs to you, and my likings belong 
to me," said she. " You hold fast to the one, and I will 
do the same by the other." 

They rode in silence through Thursley village. Then 
a thought came to her mind, and in an instant her anger 
was foigotten and she was hot on a new scenti 

"What would you do if I were injured, Nigel? I 
have heard my father say that, small as you are, tiiere is 
no man in these parts could stand against you. Would 
you be my champion if I suffered wrong ? " 

" Surely I or any man of gentle blood would be the 
champion of any woman who had suffered wrong." 



134 SIR NIGEL 

'' You or any and I or any — ^what sort of speech is 
that ? Is it a compliment, think you, to be mixed with a 
drove in that fashion ? My question was of you and me. 
If I were wronged would you be my man ? " 

*' Try me and see, Edith ! " 

" Then I will do so, Nigel. Either Sir George Brocas 
or the Squire of Fernhurst would gladly do what I ask, 
and yet I am of a mind, Nigel, to turn to you." 

" I pray you to tell me what it is." 

" You know Paul de la Fosse of Shalford ? " 

" You mean the smaU man with the twisted back 7 " 

*' He is no smaller than yourself, Nigel, and as to his 
back there are many folk that I know who would be glad 
to have his face." 

''Nay, I am no judge of that, and I spoke out of no 
discourtesy. What of the man ? " 

" He has flouted me, Nigel, and I would have revenge." 

" What— on that poor twisted creature ? " 

" 1 tell you that he has flouted me ! " 

"But how?" 

" I should have thought that a true cavalier would 
have flown to my aid, withouten aU these questions. But 
I will teU you, since I needs must. Enow then that he 
was one of those who came around me and professed to be 
my own. Then, merely because he thought that there 
were others who were as dear to me as himself he left me, 
and now he pays court to Maude Twynham, the little 
freckle-faced hussy in his village." 

" But how has this hurt you, since he was no man of 
thine?" 

'* He was one of my men, was he not ? And he has 
made game of me to his wench. He has told her things 
about me. He has made me foolish in her eyes. Yes, 
yes, I can read it in her saffron face and in her watery 
gaze when we meet at the church door on Sundays. She 
smiles — ^yes, smiles at me I Nigel, go to him I Do not 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN 135 

slay him, nor even wound him, but lay his face open with 
thy riding-whip, and then come back to me and tell me 
how I can serve you." 

Nigel's face was haggard with the strife within, for 
desire ran hot in every vein, and yet reason shrank with 
horror. 

*' By Saint Paul ! Edith," he cried, " I see no honour 
nor advancement of any sort in this thing which you have 
asked me to do. Is it for me to strike one who is no 
better than a cripple ? For my manhood I could not do 
such a deed, and I pray you, dear lady, that you will set 
me some other task." 

Her eyes flashed at him in contempt. "And you are 
a man-at-arms ! " she cried, laughing in bitter scorn. 
" YovL are afraid of a little man who can scarce walk. 
Yes, yes, say what you will, I shaU ever believe that you 
have heard of his skill at fence, and of his great spirit, 
and that your heart has failed you ! You are rights Nigel. 
He is indeed a perilous man. Had you done what I 
asked he would have slain you, and so you have shown 
your wisdom." 

Nigel flushed and winced under the words, but he said 
no more, for his mind was fighting hard within him, 
striving to keep that high image of woman which seemed 
for a moment to totter on the edge of a fall. Together in 
silence, side by side, the little man and the stately woman, 
the yellow charger and the white jennet, passed up the 
sandy winding track with the gorse and the bracken head- 
high on either side. Soon a path branched off through a 
gateway marked with the boar-heads of the Buttesthoxns, 
and there was the low widespread house heavily timbered, 
loud with the barking of dogs. The ruddy knight limped 
forth with outstretched hand and roaring voice — 

'' What how, Nigel ! Good welcome and all hail 1 1 
had thought that you had given over poor friends like us, 
now that the king had made so much of you. The horses 



136 SIR NIGEL 

valets, or my crutch will be across you ! Hush, Lydiard ! 
Down, Pelamon ! I can scarce hear my voice for your 
yelping. Mary, a cup of wine for young Squire Loring 1 '* 

She stood framed in the doorway, tall, mystic, silent, 
with strange, wistful face and deep soul shining in her 
dark questioning eyes. Nigel kissed the hand that she 
held out, and all his faith in woman and his reverence 
came back to him as he looked at her. Her sister had 
slipped behind her, and her fair elfish face smiled her 
forgiveness of Nigel over Mary's shoulder. 

The Enight of Dupplin leaned his weight upon the 
young man's arm and limped his way across the great 
high-roofed hall to his capacious oaken chair. 

" Come, come, the stool, Edith I " he cried. *' As God 
is my help, that girl's mind swarms with gallants as a 
granary with rats. Well, Nigel, I hear strange tales of 
your spear-running at Tilford and of the visit of the king. 
How seemed he? And my old friend Chandos — ^many 
happy hours in the woodlands have we had together — and 
Manny too, he was ever a bold and a hard rider — ^what 
news of them all ? " 

Nigel told the old knight all that had occurred, 
saying little of his own *8uccess and much of his own 
failure, yet the eyes of the dark woman humed the brighter 
as she sat at her tapestry and listened. 

Sir John, followed the story with a running fire of 
oaths, prayers, thumps with his great fist, and flourishes of 
his crutch. 

" Well, well, lad, you could scarce expect to hold your 
saddle against Manny, and you have carried yourself well. 
We are proud of you, Nigel, for you are our own man, 
reared in the heather-country. But indeed I take shame 
that you are not more skilled in the mystery of the woods, 
seeing that I have had the teaching of you, and that no 
one in broad England is my master at the craffc. I pray 
you to fill your cup again whilst I make use of the little 
time that is left to us." 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN 137 

And straightway the old knight began a long and weary 
lecture upon the times of grace and when each beast and 
bird was seasonable, with many anecdotes, illustrations, 
warnings and exceptions, drawn from his own great ex- 
perience. He spoke also of the several ranks and grades 
of the chase : how the hare, hart, and boar must ever take 
precedence over the buck, the doe, the fbx, the marten 
and the roe, even as a knight banneret does over a knight, 
while these in turn are of a higher class to the badger> 
the wildcat, or the otter, who are but the common populace 
of the world of beasts. Of blood-stains also he spoke- 
how the skilled hunter may see at a glance if blood be 
dark and frothy, which means a mortal hurt, or thin and 
clear, which means that the arrow has struck a bone. 

" By such signs,** said he, "you will surely know whether 
to lay on the hounds and cast down the blinks which 
hinder the stricken deer in its flight. But above all I 
pray you, Nigel, to have a care in the use of the terms of 
the craft, lest you should make some blunder at table, so 
that those who are wiser may have the laugh of you, and 
we who love you may be shamed." 

"Nay, Sir John," said Nigel. "I think that after 
your teaching I can hold my place with the others." 

The old knight shook his white head doubtfully. 
" There is so much to be learned that there is no one who 
can be said to know it all," said he. " For example, Nigel, 
it is sooth that for every collection of beasts of the forest, 
and for every gathering of birds of the air, there is their own 
private name so that none may be confused with another." 

"I know it, fair sir." 

"You know it, Nigel, but you do not know each 
separate name, else are you a wiser man than I had 
thought you. In truth none can say that they know all, 
though I have myself pricked oflf eighty and six for a wager 
at court, and it is said that the chief huntsman of the 
Duke of Burgundy has counted over a hundred — but it is 



138 SIR NIGEL 

in my mind that he may have fonnd them as he went, for 
there was none to say him nay. Answer me now, lad, how 
wonld you say if yon saw ten badgers together in the forest?" 

" A cete of badgers, fair sir/' 

" Good, Nigel — good, by my fetith I And if you walk 
in Woolmer Forest and see a swarm of foxes, how would 
you call it 7 " 

" A skulk of foxes/' 

"And if they be lions?" 

'* Nay, fair sir, I am not like to meet several lions in 
Woolmer Forest/' 

" Ay, lad, but there are other forests besides Woolmer, 
and other lands besides England, and who can tell how far 
afield such a knight errant as Nigel of Tilford may go, 
when he sees worship to be won ? We will say that you 
were in the deserts of Nubia» and that afterward at the 
oourt of the great Sultan you wished to say that you had 
seen several lions, which is the first beast of the chase, 
being the king of all animals. How then would you say it ? " 

Nigel scratched his head. " Surely, fair sir, I would 
be content to say that I had seen a number of lions, if indeed 
I could say aught after so wondrous an adventure." 

'* Nay, Nigel, a huntsman would have said that he had 
seen a pride of lions, and so proved that he knew the 
language of the chase. Now, had it been boars instead of 
lions ? " 

" One says a singular of boars." 

" And if they be swine ? " 

" Surely it is a herd of swine." 

" Nay, nay, lad, it is indeed sad to see how little you 
know. Your hands, Nigel, were always better than your 
head. No man of gentle birth would speak of a hei^ of 
swine ; that is the peasant speech. If you drive them it 
is a herd. If you hunt them it is other. What call you 
them, then, Edith ? " 

" Nay, I know not," said the girl, listlessly. A crumpled 



# 



THE KNIGHT OF DUPPLIN 139 

note brought in by a varlet was clinched in her right band 
and her blue eyes looked afar into the deep shadows of 
the roof. 

•* But you can tell us, Mary ? " 

" Surely, sweet sir, one talks of a sounder of swine/' 

The old Knight laughed exultantly. " Here is a pupil 
who never brings me shame ! " he cried. ** Be it lore of 
chivalry or heraldry or woodcraft or what you will, I can 
always turn to Mary. Many a man can she put to the blush." 

" Myself among them," said NigeL 

** Ah, lad, you are a Solomon to some of them. Hark 
ye! only last week that jack-fool, the young Lord of 
Brocas, was here talking of having seen a covey of pheasants 
in the wood. One such speech would have been the ruin 
of a young squire at the court. How would you have 
said it, Nigel?" 

" Surely, fair sir, it should be a nye of pheasants." 

" Good, Nigel — a nye of pheasants, even as it is a gaggle 
of geese or a badling of ducks, a fall of woodcock or a 
wisp of snipe. But a covey of pheasants ! What sort of 
talk is that ? I made him sit even where you are sitting, 
Nigel, and I saw the bottom of two pots of Bhenish ere 
I let him up. Even then I fear that he had no great profit 
from his lesson, for he was casting his foolish eyes at Edith 
when he should have been turning his ears to her father. 
But where is the wench ? " 

"She hath gone forth, father." 

"She ever doth go forth when there is a chance of 
learning aught that is useful indoors. But supper will 
soon be ready, and there is a boar's ham fresh from the 
forest with which I would ask your help, Nigel, and a 
side of venison from the king's own chase. The tineman 
and verderers have not foi^gotten me yet, and my larder is 
ever full. Blow three moots on the horn, Mary, that the 
varlets may set the table, for the growing shadow and my 
loosening belt warn me that it is time." 



CHAPTER XII 

HOW NIGEL FOUGHT THB TWISTED MAN OP SHALFORD 

In the days of which you read all classes, save perhaps 
the very poor, fared better in meat and in drink than they 
have ever done since. The country was covered with 
woodlands— there were seventy separate forests in England 
alone, some of them covering half a shire. Within these 
forests the great beasts of the chase were strictly preserved, 
but the smaller game, the hares, the rabbits, the birds, 
which swarmed round the coverts, found their way readily 
into the poor man's pot. Ale was very cheap, and cheaper 
still was the mead which every peasant could make for 
himself out of the wild honey in the tree trunks. There 
were many tea-like drinks also, which were brewed by the 
poor at no expense : mallow tea» tansy tea, and others the 
secret of which has passed. 

Amid the richer classes there was rude profusion, great 
joints ever on the sideboard, huge pies, beasts of the field 
and beasts of the chase, with ale and rough French or 
Rhenish wines to wash them down. But the very rich 
had attained to a high pitch of luxury in their food, and 
cookery was a science in which the ornamentation of the 
dish was almost as important as the dressing of the food. 
It was gilded, it was silvered, it was painted, it was 
surrounded with flame. From the boar and the peacock 
down to such strange food as the porpoise and the hedge- 
hog, every dish had its own setting and its own saucOi 
very strange and very complex, with flavourings of dates, 
currants, cloves, vinegar, sugar and honey, of cinnamon, 

140 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 141 

ground gii^er^ sandalwood, sa£fron, brawn and pines. It 
was the Nonnan tradition to eat in moderation, but to 
have a great profusion of the best and of the most delicate 
from which to choose. From them came this complex 
cookery, so unlike the rude and often gluttonous simplicity 
of the old Teutonic stock. 

Sir John Buttesthom was of that middle class who 
fared in the old fashion, and his great oak supper-table 
groaned beneath the generous pasties, the mighty joints 
and the great flagons. Below were the household, above 
on a raised dais the family table, with places ever ready 
for those frequent guests who dropped in from the high 
ioad ontside. Such a one had just come, an old priest, 
journeying from the Abbey of Chertsey to the Priory of 
Saint John at Midhurst. He passed often that way, and 
never without breaking his journey at the hospitable board 
of Cosford. 

" Welcome again, good Father Athanasius ! " cried the 
burly knight. " Come sit here on my right and give me 
the news of the countryside, for there is never a scandal 
but the priests are the first to know it." 

The priest, a kindly, quiet man, glanced at an empty 
place upon the farther side of his host. 

" Mistress Edith ? " said he. 

" Ay, ay, where is the hussy ? " cried her father, im- 
patiently. "Mary, I beg you to have the horn blown 
again, that she may know that the supper is on the table. 
What can the little owlet do abroad at this hour of the 
night?" 

There was trouble in the priest's gentle eyes as he 
touched the knight upon the sleeve. "I have seen 
Mistress Edith within this hour," said he. "I fear that 
she will hear no horn that you may blow, for she must be 
at Milford ere now." 

"At Milford? What does she there?" 

"I pray you, good Sir John, to abate your voice 



142 SIR NIGEL 

some what^ for indeed this matter is for our private discourse^ 
since it touches the honour of a lady." 

"Her honour?" Sir John's ruddy face had turned 
redder still, as he stared at the troubled features of the 
priest. *• Her honour, say you — the honour of my daughter? 
Make good those words, or never set your foot over the 
threshold of Cosford again ! " 

" I trust that I have done no wrong, Sir John, but 
indeed I must say what I have seen, else would I be a 
false firiend and an unworthy priest." 

" Haste, man, haste I What in the Devil's name have 
you seen ? " 

"Enow you a little man, partly misshapen, named 
Paul de la Fosse?" 

"I know him welL He is a man of noble family and 
coat-armour, being the yoxmger brother of Sir Eustace de 
la Fosse of Shalford. Time was when I had thought that 
I might call him son, for there was nev^ a day that he 
did not pass with my girls, but I fear that his crooked 
back sped him ill in his wooing." 

" Alas, Sir John ! It is his mind that is more crooked 
than his back. He is a perilous man with women, for 
the Devil hath given him such a tongue and such an eye 
that he charms them even as the basilisk. Marriage may 
be in their mind, but never in his, so that I could count a 
dozen and more whom he has led to their undoing. It is 
his pride and his boast over the whole countryside." 

" Well, well, and what is this to me or mine ? " 

"Even now. Sir John, as I rode my mule up the road 
I met this man speeding toward his home. A woman 
rode by his side, and though her face was hooded I heard 
her laugh as she passed me. That laugh I have heard 
before, and it was under this very roof, from the lips of 
Mistress Edith." 

The knight's knife dropped from his hand. But the 
debate had been such that neither Mary nor Nigel could 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 143 

fail to have heard it. Mid the rough laughter and clatter 
of voices from below the little group at the high table had 
a privacy of their own. 

''Fear not, father/' said the girl — "indeed, the good 
Father Athanasius hath fallen into error, and Edith will 
be with us anon. I have heard her speak of this man 
many times of late, and always with bitter words." 

" It is true, sir,'* cried Nigel, eagerly. " It was only 
this very evening as we rode over Thursley Moor that 
Mistress Edith told me that she counted him not a fly, and 
that she would be glad if he were beaten for his evil deeds." 

But the wise priest shook his silvery locks. ''Nay, 
there is ev^ danger when a woman speaks like that. Hot 
hate is twin brother to hot love. Why should she speak 
so if there were not some bond between them ? " 

"And yet," said Nigel, " what can have changed her 
thoughts in three short hours ? She was here in the hall 
with us since I came. By Saint Paul, I will not believe it ! " 

Mary's face darkened. "I call to mind," said she, 
"that a note was brought her by Hannekin the stable 
varlet when you were talking to us, fair sir, of the terms 
of the chase. She read it and went forth." 

Sir John sprang to his feet, but sank into his chair 
again with a groan. 

"Would that I were dead," he cried, "ere I saw dis- 
honour come upon my house, and am so tied with this 
accursed foot that I can neither examine if it be true, nor 
yet avenge it ! If my son Oliver were here, then all would 
be welL Send me this stable varlet that I may question 
him." 

" I pray you, fair and honoured sir," said Nigel, " that 
you will take me for your son this night, that I may 
handle this matter in the way which seems best. On 
jeopardy of my honour I will do all that a man may." 

"Nigel, I thank you. There is no man in Christendom 
to whom I would sooner turn." 



144 SIR NIGEL 

'' But I would learn your mind in (me matter^ fail sir. 
ThiB man, Ftal de la Fosse, owns faroad acres^ as I nnder- 
stand, and comes of noble blood. There is no reason, if things 
be as we fear, Ihat he should not many yonrdanghter?" 

" Nay, she conld not wish for b^ter." 

''ItisweH And first I would question this Hannekin; 
but it shall be done in such a fiishion that none shall 
know, for indeed it is not a matter for the gossip of 
servants. But if you will show me the man. Mistress 
^lary, I will take him out to tend my own horse, and so I 
shall learn all that he has to telL" 

Nigel was absent for some time, and when he returned 
the shadow upon his face brought little hope to the anxious 
hearts at the high table. 

" I have locked him in the stable-loft, lest he talk too 
much,'' said he, ''for my questions must have shown him 
whence the ¥rind blew. It was indeed from this man that 
the note came, and he had brought with him a spare horse 
for the lady." 

The old Ejoight groaned, and his face sank upon his 
hands. 

"Nay, father, they watch you!" whispered Mary. 
" For the honour of our house let us keep a bold face to 
all." Then, raising her young clear voice, so that it 
sounded through the room : " If you ride eastward, Nigel, 
I would fain go with you, that my sister may not come 
back alone." 

" We will ride together, Mary," said Nigel, rising ; then, 
in a lower voice : " But we cannot go alone, and if we 
take a servant all is known. I pray you to stay at home 
and Jeave the matter with me." 

" Nay, Nigel, she may sorely need a woman's aid, and 
what woman should it be save her own sister ? I can take 
my tire-woman vrtth us." 

" Nay, I shall ride with you myself if your impatience 
can keep within the powers of my mule," said the old priest. 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 145 

" But it is not your road, father ? " 

'' The only road of a true priest is that which leads to 
the good of others. Come, my children, and we will go 
together." 

And so it was that stout Sir John Buttesthom, the 
aged Knight of Dupplin, was left alone at his own high 
table, pretending to eat, pretending to drink, fidgeting in 
his seat, trying hard to seem unconcerned with his mind 
and body in a fever, while below him his varlets and 
handmaids laughed and jested, clattering their cups and 
clearing their trenchers, all unconscious of the dark shadow 
which threw its gloom over the lonely man upon the date 
above. 

Meantime the Lady Mary upon the white jennet which 
her sister had ridden on the same evening, Nigel on his 
war-horse, and the priest on the mule, clattered down the 
rude winding road which led to London. The country 
on either side was a wilderness of heather moors and of 
morasses from which came the strange crying of night- 
fowL A half-moon shone in the sky between the rifts of 
hurrying clouds. The lady rode in silence, absorbed in the 
thought of the task before them, the danger and the shame. 

Nigel chatted in a low tone with the priest. From 
him he learned more of the evil name of this man whom 
they followed. His house at Shalford was a den of 
profligacy and vica No woman could cross that threshold 
and depart unstained. In some strange fashion, inexplic- 
able and yet common, the man, with all his evil soul and 
his twisted body, had yet some strange fascination for 
women, some mastery over them which compelled them 
to his will. Again and again he had brought ruin to a 
household, again and again his adroit tongue and his 
cunning wit had in some fashion saved him from the 
punishment of his deeds. His family was great in the 
county, and his kinsmen held favour with the king, so 



146 SIR NIGEL 

that his neighbours feared to push things too far against 
him. Such was the man, malignant and ravenous, who 
had stooped like some foul night-hawki and borne away 
to his evil nest the golden beauty of Cosford. Nigel said 
little as he listened, but he raised his hunting-dagger to 
his tightened lips, and thrice he kissed the cross of its 
handle* 

They had passed over the moors, and through the 
village of Milford and the little township of Godalming, 
until their path turned southward over the Pease marsh, 
and crossed the meadows of Shalford. There on the dark 
hillside glowed the red points of light which marked the 
windows of the house which they sought. A sombre, 
arched avenue of oak trees led up to it, and then they 
were in the moon-silvered clearing in front 

From the shadow of the arched door there sprang two 
rough serving-men, bearded and gruff, great cudgels in 
their hands, to ask them who they were and what their 
errand. The Lady Mary had slipped from her horse, and 
was advancing to the door, but they rudely barred her 
way. 

''Nay, nay, our master needs no morel" cried one 
with a hoarse laugh. '' Stand back, mistress, whoever you 
be I The house is shut, and our lord sees no guests 
to-night." 

''Fellow/^ said Nigel, speaking low and clear, ''stand 
back from us I Our errand is with your master." 

"Bethink you, my children," cried the old priest, 
" would it not be best, perchance, that I go in to him, and 
see whether the voice of the Church may not soften this 
hard heart ? I fear bloodshed if you enter." 

"Nay, father, I pray you to stay here for the nonce," 
said NigeL "And you, Mary, do you bide with the good 
priest, for we know not what may be within." 

Again he turned to the door, and again the two men 
barred his passage. 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 147 

'' Stand back, I saj, back for your lives I " said NigeL 
''By Saint Paul I I should think it shame to soil my 
sword with such as yon, but my soul is set, and no man 
shall bar my path tUs night." 

The men shrank from the deadly menace of that gentle 
voice. 

" Hold ! " said one of them, peering through the dark- 
ness, " is it not Squire Loring of Tilford ? " 

'' That is indeed my name." * 

" Had you spoken it, I for one would not have stopped 
your way. Put down your staff, Wat, for this is no 
stranger, but the Squire of Tilford." 

'' As well for him," grumbled the other, lowering his 
cudgel with an inward prayer of thanksgiving. '' Had it 
been otherwise I should have had blood upon my soul 
to-night. But our master said nothing of neighbours 
when he ordered us to hold the door. I will enter and 
ask him what is his will." 

But already Nigel was past them, and had pushed 
open the outer door. Swift as he was, the lady Mary 
was at his very heels, and the two passed together into 
the hall beyond. 

* It was a great room, draped and curtained with black 
shadows, with one vivid circle of light in the centre, 
where two oil lamps shone upon a small table. A meal 
was laid upon the taUe, but only two were seated at it, 
and there were no servants in the room. At the near end 
was Edith, her golden hair loose and streaming down over 
the scarlet and black of her riding-dress. 

At the farther end the light beat strongly upon the 
harsh face and the high-drawn misshapen shoulders of 
the lord of the house. A tangle of black hair surmounted 
a high, rounded forehead, the forehead of a thinker, with 
two deep-set^ cold, grey eyes twinkling sharply from under 
tufted brows. His nose was curved and sharp, like the 
beak ' of some cruel bird, but below the whole of his 



148 SIR NIGEL 

cleanshaven, powerful face was marred by the loose, slabbing 
mouth and the round folds of the heavy chin. His knife 
in one hand and a half-gnawed bone in the other, he 
looked fiercely up, like some beast disturbed in his den, as 
the two intruders broke in upon his hall. 

Nigel stopped midway between the door and the table. 
His eyes and those of Paul de la Fosse were riveted upon 
each other. But Mary, with her woman's soul flooded 
over with love and pity, had rushed forward and cast her 
arms round her younger sister. Edith had sprung up firom 
her chair, and with averted hce tried to push the other 
away from her. 

" Edith, Edith 1 By the virgin, I implore you to come 
back with us, and to leave this wicked man ! " cried Mary. 
" Dear sister, you would not break our father's heart, nor 
bring his gray head in dishonour to the grave! Come 
back ! Edith, come back and all is well." 

But Edith pushed her away, and her fair cheeks were 
flushed with her anger. 

"What right have you over me, Mary, you who are 
but two years older, that you should follow me over the 
countryside as though I were a runagate villein and you 
my mistress 7 Do you yourself go back, and leave me to 
do that which seems best in my own eyes." 

But Mary still held her in her arms, and still strove 
to soften the hard and angry heart 

" Our mother is dead, Edith. I thank God that she 
died ere she saw you under this roof ! But I stand for her, 
as I have done all my life, since I am indeed your elder. 
It is with her voice that I b% and pray you that you will 
not trust this man further, and that you will come back 
ere it be too late 1 " 

Edith writhed from her grasp, and stood flushed and 
defiant, with gleaming, angry eyes fixed upon her sister. 

" You may speak evil of him now," said she, " but there 
was a time when Paul de la Fosse came to Cosford, and 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 149 

who so gentle and soft-spoken to him then as wise, grava 
sister Maiy? But he has learned to love another; so 
now he is the wicked man, and it is shame to be .seen 
under his roof! From what I see of my good, pious 
sister and her cavalier, it is sin for another to ride at 
night with a man at your side, but it comes easy enough 
to you. Look at your own eye, good sister, ere you would 
take the speck from that of another." 

Mary stood irresolute and greatly troubled, holding 
down her pride and her anger, but uncertain how best to 
deal with this strong, wayward spirit. 

" It is not a time for bitter words, dear sister," said 
she, and again she laid her hand upon her sister's sleeve. 
** All that you say may be true. There was, indeed, a 
time when this man was Mend to us both, and I know 
even as you do the power which he may have to win a 
woman's heart. But I know him now, and you do not. 
I know the evil that he has wrought, the dishonour that 
he has brought, the perjury that Ues upon his soul, the 
confidence betrayed, the promise unfulfilled — all this I 
know. Am I to see my own sister caught in the same 
well-used trap? Has it shut upon you, child? Am I, 
indeed, already too late ? For God's sake, tell me, Edith, 
that it is not so ! " 

Edith plucked her sleeve from her sister, and made 
two swift steps to the head of the table. Paul de la Fosse 
still sat silent with his eyes upon Nigel. Edith laid her 
hand upon his shoulder. 

"This is the man I love, and the only man that I have 
ever loved. This is my husband," said she. 

At the word Maiy gave a cry of joy. 

"And is it so?" she cried. "Nay, then all is in 
honour, and God will see to the rest. If you are man and 
wife before the altar, then, indeed, why should I, or any 
other, stand between you ? Tell me that it is indeed so, and 
I return this moment to make your &ther a happy man." 



ISO SIR NIGEL 

Edith pouted like a naughty child. '' We are man and 
wife in the eyes of God. Soon also we shall be wedded 
before aU the world. We do but wait until next Monday, 
when Paul's brother, ^o is a priest at Saint Albans, will 
come to wed us. Already a messenger has sped for him, 
and he will come, will he not, dear love ? " ' 

'' He will come," said the master of Shalford, still with 
his eyes fixed upon the silent Kigel. v 

'' It is a lie; he will not come," said a voice from the 
door. 

It was the old priest, who had followed the others as 
far as the threshold. 

" He will not come," he repeated, as he advanced into 
the room. ** Daughter, my daughter, hearken to the words 
of one who is indeed old enough to be your earthly father. 
This lie has served before. He has ruined others before 
you with it. The man has no brother at Saint Albans. I 
know his brothers well, and there is no priest among them. 
Before Monday, when it is aU too late, you will have found 
the truth as others have done before you. Trust him not^ 
but come with us ! " 

Paul de la Fosse looked up at her with a quick smile 
and patted the hand upon his shoulder. 

"Do you speak to them, Edith," said he. 

Her eyes flashed with scorn as she surveyed them each 
in turn, the woman, the youth, and the priest. 

" 1 have but one word to say to them," said she. ** It 
is that they go hence and trouble us no more. Am I not 
a free woman? " Have I not said that this is the only man 
I ever loved ? I have loved him long. He did not know 
it, and in despair he turned to another. Now he knows all, 
and never again can doubt come between us. Therefore 
I will stay here at Shalford and come to Cosford no more 
save upon the arm of my husband. Am I so weak that I 
would believe the tales you tell against him ? Is it hard 
for a jealous woman and a wandering priest to agree upon 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 151 

a lie? Ko, no, Mary, you can go hence and take your 
cavalier and your priest with you, for here I stay, true to 
my love and safe in my trust upon his honour 1 '" 

" Well spoken, on my faith, my golden bird I " said the 
little master of Shalford. ** Let me add my own word to 
that which has been said. You would not grant me any 
virtue in your unkindly speech, good Lady Maiy, and yet 
you must needs confess tiiAt at least I have good store of 
patience, since I have not set my dogs upon your Mends 
who have come between me and my ease. But even to 
the most virtuous there comes at last a time when poor 
human frailty may prevail, and so I pray you to remove 
both yourself, your priest, and your vaUant knight errant, 
lest perhaps there be more haste and less dignity when 
at last you do take your leave. Sit down, my fair love, 
and let us turn once more to our supper." He motioned 
her to her chair, and he filled her wine-cup as well as 
his own. 

Nigel had said no word since he had entered the room, 
but his look had never lost its set purpose, nor had his 
brooding eyes ever wandered from the sneering face of the 
deformed master of Shalford. Now he turned with swift 
decision to Maiy and to the priest. 

"That is over," said he, in a low voice. "You have 
done all that you could, and now it is for me to play my 
part as well as I am able. I pray you, Mary, and you, 
good father, that you will await me outside." 

" Nay, Nigel, if there is danger " 

"It iseasier for me, Mary, if you are not there. I pray 
you to go. I can speak to this man more at my ease." 

She locked at him with questioning eyes and then 
obeyed. 

Nigel plucked at the priest's gown. "I pray you, 
father, have you your book of offices with you ? " 

" Surely, Nigel, it ia ever in my breast." 

" Have it ready, father 1 " 



152 SIR NIGEL 

'* For what, my son ? " 

''There are two places you may mark: there is the 
service of marriage, and there is the prayer for the dying. 
Gro with her, father, and be ready at my calL" 

He closed the door behind them and was alone with 
this ill-matched coupla They both turned in their chairs 
to look at him, Edith with a defiant face, the man with 
a bitter smile upon his lips and malignant hatred in 
his eyes. 

''What,'' said he, "the knight errant still lingers? 
Have we not heard of his thirst for glory ? What new 
venture does he see that he should tarry here ? " 

Nigel walked to the table. " There is no glory and 
little venture,'' said he ; " but I have come for a purpose 
and I must do it. I learn from your own lips, Edith, that 
you will not leave this man." 

" If you have ears you have heard it." 

" You are, as you have said, a free woman, and who 
can gainsay you ? But I have known you, Edith, since 
we played as boy and girl on the heather-hills together. 
I will save you from this man's cunning and from your 
own foolish weakness." 

"What would you do?" 

" There is a priest without. He will marry you now. 
I will see you married ere I leave this halL" 

" Or else ? " sneered the man. 

" Or else you never leave this hall alive. Nay, call not 
for your servants or your dogs ! By Saint Paul ! I swear 
to you that this matter lies between us three, and that if 
any fourth comes at your call, you, at least, shall never 
live to see what comes of it ! Speak then, Paul of Shalford ! 
Will you wed this woman now, or will you not ? " 

Edith was on her feet with outstretched arms between 
them. 

"Stand back, Nigel I He is small and weak. You 
would not do him a hurt I Did you not say so this very 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 153 

day ? For God's sake, Nigel, do not look at him so 1 There 
is death in your eyes." 

"A snake may be small and weak, Edith, yet every 
honest man would place his heel upon it. Do you stand 
back yourself, for my piu*pose is set" 

" Paul ! " She turned her eyes to the pale, sneering 
faca "Bethink you, Paul! Why should you not do 
what he asks ? What matter to you whether it be now 
or on Monday ? I pray you, dear Paul, for my sake let 
him have his way! Your brother can read the service 
again if it so please him. Let us wed now, Paul, and then 
all is well." 

He had risen firom his chair, and he dashed aside her 
appealing hands. 

" You foolish woman," he snarled, " and you, my saviour 
of fair damsels, who are so bold against a cripple, you have 
both to learn that if my body be weak, there is the soul of 
my breed within it ! To marry because a boasting, ranting, 
country squire would have me do so — ^no, by the soul of 
God, I will die first ! On Monday I will marry, and no 
day sooner, so let that be your answer." 

" It is the answer that I wished," said Nigel, "for indeed 
I see no happiness in this marriage, and the other may well 
be the better way. Stand aside, Edith 1 " He gently forced 
her to one side and drew his swonL 

De la Fosse cried aloud at the sight. " I have no sword. 
You would not murder me ? " said he, leaning back with 
haggard face and burning eyes against his chair. The 
bright steel shone in the lamp-li^t Edith shrank back, 
her hand over her face. 

" Take this sword I " said Nigel, and he turned the hilt 
to the cripple. " Now ! " he added, as he drew his hunting- 
knife. " KiU me if you can, Paul de la Fosse, for as Grod 
is my help I will do as much for you ! " 

The woman, half swooning and yet spellbound and 
fSascinated, looked on at that strange combat. For a moment 



154 SIR NIGEL 

the cripple stood with an air of doubt, the sword grasped 
in Ms nerveless fingers. Then, as he saw the tiny blade in 
Nigel's hand, the greatness of tiie advantage came home to 
him, and a cruel smile tightened his loose lips. Slowly, 
step by step he advanced, his chin sunk upon his chest, his 
eyes glaring from under the thick tangle of his brows like 
fires through the brushwood. Nigel waited for him, his left 
hand forward, his knife down by his hip, his face grave, 
still, and watchfuL 

Nearer and nearer yet, with stealthy step, and then 
witha bound and aery of hatred and rage, Paul de la Fosse 
had sped his blow. It was well judged and well swung, 
but point would have been wiser than edge against that 
supple body and those active feet. Quick as a flash, Nigel 
had sprung inside the sweep of the blade, taking a flesh 
wound on his left forearm, as he pressed it under the hilt. 
The next instant the cripple was on the ground and Nigel's 
dagger was at his throat. 

" You dog I " he whispered. " I have you at my mercy I 
Quick ere I strike, and for the last time t Will you marry 
or no?" 

The crash of the fall and the sharp point upon his 
throat had cowed the man's spirit. He looked up with a 
white face, and the sweat gleamed upon his forehead. 
There was terror in his eyes. 

" Nay, take your knife from me 1 " he cried. " I cannot 
die like a calf in the shambles." 

" Will you marry ? " 

*' Yes, yes ; I will wed her 1 After all, she is a good 
wench, and I might do worse. Let me up ! I tell you I 
will marry her 1 What more would you have ? " 

Nigel stood above him with his foot upon the misshapen 
body. He had picked up his sword, and the point rested 
upon the cripple's breast. 

" Nay, you will bide where you are 1 If you are to 
live — and my conscience cries loud against it— at least 




•a 6TBANGE SIGHT IT WAS THAT MET THE3I NOW IN THE CHICLE OF LIGHT." 



THE TWISTED MAN OF SHALFORD 155 

your wedding will be such as your sins have deserved. 
Lie there, like the crushed worm that you are ! " Then he 
raised his voice. " Father Athanasius ! " he cried. " What 
hoi Father Athanasius ! " 

The old priest ran to the cry, and so did the Lady Mary. 
A strange sight it was that met them now in the circle of 
light, the frightened girl, half-unconscious against the table, 
the prostrate cripple, and Nigel with foot and sword upon 
his body. 

"Your book, father 1" cried Nigel. "I know not if 
what we do is good or ill ; but we must wed them, for 
there is no way out." 

^ut the girl by the table had given a great cry, and she 
was clinging and sobbing with her arms round her sister's 
neck. 

" Oh, Mary, I thank the Virgin that you have come 1 
I thank the Virgin that it is not too late ! What did he 
say ? He said that he was a de la Fosse, and that he 
would not be married at the sword-point. My heart went 
out to him when he said it. But I, am I not a Buttesthom, 
and shall it be said that I would marry a man who could 
be led to the altar with a knife at his throat ? No, no ; I 
see him as he is ! I know him now, the mean spirit, the 
lying tongue! Can I not read in his eyes that he has 
indeed deceived me, that he would have left me as you say 
that he has left others ? Take me home, Mary, my sister, 
lor you have plucked me back this night from the very 
mouth of Hell I" 

And so it was that the master of Shalford, livid and 
brooding, was left with his wine at his lonely table, while 
the golden beauty of Cosford, hot with shame and anger, 
her fair face wet with tears, passed out safe from the house 
of infamy into the great calm and peace of the starry night. 



CHAPTER XIII 

HOW THE COMfiADES JOURNEYED DOWN THE OLD, OLD ROAD 

And now the season of the moonless nights was drawing 
nigh and the king^s design was ripe. Very secretly his 
preparations were made. Already the garrison of CalaiB, 
which consisted of five hundred archers and two hundred 
men-at-arms, could, if forewarned, resist any attack made 
upon it. But it was the king's design not merely to resist 
the attack, but to capture the attackers. Above all it was 
his wish to find the occasion for one of those adventurous 
passages of arms which had made his name famous 
throughout Christendom as the very pattern and leader of 
knight-errant chivalry. 

But the affair wanted careful handling. The arrival of 
any reinforcements, or even the crossing of any famous 
soldier, would have alarmed the French, and warned them 
that their plot had been discovered. Therefore it was in 
twos and threes in the creyers and provision ships which 
were continually passing from shore to shore that the 
chosen warriors and their squires were brought to Calais. 
There they were passed at night through the water-gate 
into the castle where they could lie hidden, unknown to 
the townsfolk, until the hour for action had come. 

Nigel had received word from Chandos to join him at 
" The Sign of the Broom-Pod " in Winchelsea. Three days 
beforehand he and Aylward rode from Tilford all armed 
and ready for the wars. Kigel was in hunting-costume, 
blithe and gay, with his precious armour and his small 
baggage trussed upon the back of a spare horse which 

IS6 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 157 

Aylward led by the bridle. The archer had himself a good 
black mare, heavy and slow, but strong enough to be fit to 
carry his powerful frame. In his brigandine of chain mail 
and his steel cap, with straight strong sword by his side, 
his yellow long-bow jutting over his shoulder, and his 
quiver of arrows supported by a scarlet baldric, he was 
such a warrior as any knight might well be proud to have 
in his train. All Tilford trailed behind them, as they rode 
slowly over the long slope of heath land which skirts the 
flank of Crooksbury HiU. 

At the summit of the rise Nigel reined in Pommers and 
looked back at the little village behind him. There was 
the old dark manor-house, with one bent figure leaning 
upon a stick and gazing dimly after him from beside the 
door. He looked at the high-pitched roof, the timbered 
walls, the long trail of swirling blue smoke which rose 
finom the single chimney, and the group of downcast old 
servants who lingered at the gate-^ohn the cook, Weather- 
cote the minstrel, and Sed Swire the broken soldier. Over 
the river amid the trees he could see the grim, gray tower 
of Waverley, and even as he looked, the iron beU, which 
had so often seemed to be the hoarse threatening cry of an 
enemy, clanged out its call to prayer. Nigel doffed his 
velvet cap and prayed also— prayed that peace might 
remain at home, and good warfare, in which honour and 
fame should await him, might still be found abroad. Then, 
waving his hand to the people, he turned his horse's head 
and rode slowly eastward. A moment later Aylward 
broke from the group of archers and laughing girls who 
clung to his bridle and his stirrup straps, and rode on, 
blowing kisses over his shoulder. So at last the two 
comrades, gentle and simple, were fairly started on their 
venture. 

There are two seasons of colour in those parts: the 
yellow, when the countryside is flaming with the gorse- 
blossoms, and the crimson, when all the long slopes are 



158 SIR NIGEL 

Bmouldering with the heather. So it was now. Nigel 
looked back from time to time, as he rode along the narrow 
track where the ferns and the ling brushed his feet on 
either side, and as he looked it seemed to him that, wander 
where he might, he would never see a fairer scene than 
that of his own home. Far to the westward, glowing in 
the morning light, rolled billow after .billow of ruddy 
heather land, until they meiged into the dark shadows of 
Woolmer Forest and the pale clear green of the Butser 
chalk downs. Never in his life had Nigel wandered far 
beyond these limits, and the woodlands, the down, and the 
heather were dear to his soul. It gave him a pang in his 
heart now as he turned his face away from them ; but if 
home lay to the westward, out there to the east and south 
was the great world of adventure, the noble stage where 
each of his kinsmen in turn had played his manly part and 
left a proud name behind. 

How often he had longed for this day ! And now it had 
come with no shadow cast behind it. Dame Ermyntrude 
was under the king^s protection. The old servants had 
their future assured. The strife with the monks of 
Waverley had been assuaged. He had a noble horse 
under him, the best of weapons, and a stout follower at 
his back. Above all he was bound on a gallant errand 
with the bravest knight in England as his leader. All 
these thoughts suiged together in his mind, and he whistled 
and sang, as he rode, out of the joy of his heart, while 
Pommers sidled and curveted in sympathy with the mood 
of his master. Presently, glancing back, he saw &om 
Aylward's downcast eyes and puckered brow that the 
archer was clouded with trouble. He reined his horse to 
let him come abreast of him. 

" How now, Aylward ? " said he. " Surely of all men 
in England you and I should be the most blithe this 
morning, since we ride forward with all hopes of honour- 
able advancement. By Saint Paul! ere we see these 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 159 

heather hills once more we shall either worshipfolly wiu 
worship, or we shall yenture our persons in the attempt 
These be glad thoughts, and why should you be down- 
cast?" 

Aylward shrugged his broad shoidders, and a wry 
smile dawned upon his rugged face. 

" I am indeed as limp as a wetted bowstring/' said he. 
" It is the nature of a man that he should be sad when he 
leaves the woman he loves/' 

'' In truth, yes ! " cried Nigel, and in a flash the dark 
eyes of Mary Buttesthom rose before him, and he heard 
her low, sweet, earnest voice as he had heard it that night 
when they brought her trailer sister back from Shalford 
Manor, a voice which made all that was best and noblest 
in a man thrill within his soul. "Tet, bethink you, 
archer, that what a woman loves in man is not his gross 
body, but rather his soul, his honour, his fame, the deeds 
with which he has made his life beautiful. Therefore you 
are winning love as well as glory when you turn to the 
wars." 

" It may be so," said Aylward ; *' but indeed it goes to 
my heart to see the pretty dears weep, and I would fain 
weep as well to keep them company. When Mary— or 
was it Dolly ? — ^nay, it was Martha, the red-headed girl 
from the Mill — ^when she held tight to my baldric it was 
like snapping my heart-string to pluck myself loose." 

"You speak of one name and then of another/' said 
Nigel. '' How is she called, then, this maid whom you 
love?" 

Aylward pushed back his steel cap and scratched his 
bristling head with some embarrassment. 

" Her name," said he, ** is Mary Dolly Martha Susan 
Jane Cicely Theodosia Agnes Johanna Kate." 

Nigel laughed as Aylward rolled out this prodigious 
title. 

'' I had no right to take you to the wars," said he ; ''for 



i6o SIR NIGEL 

by Saint Paul ! it is very clear that I have widowed half 
the parish. But I saw your aged father the franklixL 
Bethink you of the joy that will fill his heart when he 
hears that you have done some small deed in France, and 
so won honour in the eyes of alL'' 

"I fear that honour will not help him to pay his 
arrears of rent to the sacrist of Waverley/' said Aylward. 
*' Out he will go on the roadside, honour and all, if he does 
not find ten nobles by next Epiphany. But if I could 
win a ransom or be at the storming of a rich city, then 
indeed the old man would be proud of me. * Thy sword 
must help my spade, Samkin,' said he as he kissed me 
good-bye. Ah ! it would indeed be a happy day for him 
and for all if I could ride back with a saddle-bag full of 
gold pieces, and please (jod, I shall dip my hand in some- 
body's pocket before I see Crooksbuiy Hill once more I ** 

Nigel shook his head, for indeed it seemed hopeless to 
try to bridge the gulf between them. Already they had 
made such good progress along the bridle-path through 
the heather that the little hill of Saint Catharine and the 
ancient shrine upon its summit loomed up before them. 
Here they crossed the road from the south to London, and 
at the crossing two wayfarers were waiting who waved 
their hands in greeting, the one a tall, slender, dark 
woman upon a white jennet, the other a very thick and 
red-faced old man, whose weight seemed to curve the back 
of the stout gray cob which he bestrode. 

" What how, Nigel 1 " he cried. " Mary has told me 
that you make a start this morning, and we have waited 
here this hour and more on the chance of seeing you pass. 
Come, lad, and have a last stoup of English ale, for many 
a time amid the sour French wines you will long for the 
white foam under your nose, and the good homely twang 
of it." 

Nigel had to decline the draught, for it meant riding 
into Guildford town, a mile out of his course, but very 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD i6i 

gladly he agreed with Mary that they should climb the 
path to the old shrine and offer a last orison together. 
The knight and Aylward waited below with the horses ; 
and so it came about that Nigel and Mary found them- 
selves alone under the solemn old Gothic arches, in front 
of the dark shadowed recess in which gleamed the golden 
reliquary of the saint. In silence they knelt side by side 
in prayer, and then came forth once more out of the 
gloom and the shadow into the fresh sunlit summer 
morning. They stopped ere they descended the path, 
and looked to right and left at the fair meadows and the 
blue Wey curling down the valley. 

" What have you prayed for, Nigel ? " said she. 

" I have prayed that God and His saints will hold my 
spirit high and will send me back from France in such a 
fashion that I may dare to come to you and to claim you 
for my own." 

" Bethink you well what it is that you say, Nigel," 
said she. '' What you are to me only my own heart can 
tell; but I would never set eyes upon your face again 
rather than abate by one inch that height of honour and 
worshipful achievement to which you may attain/' 

" Nay, my dear and most sweet lady, how should you 
abate it, since it is the thought of you which will nerve 
my arm and uphold my heart ? " 

''Think once more, my fair lord, and hold yourself 
bound by no word which you have said. Let it be as the 
breeze which blows past our faces and is heard of no more. 
Your soul yearns for honour. To that has it ever turned. 
Is there room in it for love also ? or is it possible that 
both shall live at their highest in one mind ? Do you 
not call to mind that Galahad and other great knights of 
old have put women out of their lives that they might 
ever give their whole soul and strength to the winning oi 
honour ? May it not be that I shall be a drag upon you, 
that your heart may shrink from some honourable task^ 

M 



i62 SIR NIGEL 

lest ife should bring risk and pain to me? Think well 
before you answer, my fair lord, for indeed my y^ry heart 
would break if it should ever haj^ien that through love 
of me your high hopes and great promise should miss 
fulfilment." 

Nigel looked at her with sparkling eyes. The soul 
which shone through her dark face had transformed it for 
the moment into a beauty, more lofty and more rare than 
that of her shallow sister. He bowed before the majesty 
of the woman, and pressed his lips to her hand. 

" You are like a star upon my path which guides me 
on the upward way,'* said he. " Our souls are set together 
upon the finding of honour, and how shaU we hold each 
oUier back when our purpose is the same ?" 

She shook her proud head. " So it seems to you now, 
fair lord, but it may be otherwise as the years pass. How 
shaU you prove that I am indeed a help and not a hind- 
rance?" 

" I will prove it by my deeds, fair and dear lady," said 
Nigel. ** Here at the shrine of the holy Catharine, on 
this, the Feast of Saint Margaret, I take my oath that I 
will do three deeds in your honour as a proof of my high 
love before I set eyes upon your fiice again, and these 
three deeds shall stand as a proof to you that if I love 
you dearly, still I will not let the thought of you stand 
betwixt me and honourable achievement ! " 

Her face shone with her love and her prida "I also 
make my oath," said she, '' and I do it in the name of the 
holy Catharine whose shrine is hard by. I swear that I 
will hold myself for you until these three deeds be done 
and we meet once more; also that if— which may dear 
Christ forfend I — ^you fall in doing them then I shall take 
the veil in Shalford nunnery and look upon no man's face 
again ! Give me your hand, NigeL" 

She had taken a little bangle of gold filigree work from 
her arm and fastened it upon his sunburnt wrist, reading 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 163 

aloud to him the engraved motto in old French : " Fats ce 
que dots, advUgne que pownu-^esi commaiM an chevalier.'* 
Then for one moment they fell into each other's arms and 
"with kiss npon kiss, a loving man and a tender woman, 
they swore their troth to each other. But the old knight 
was calling impatiently from below, and together they 
hurried down the winding path to where the horses waited 
imder the sandy blufil 

As far as the Shalford crossing Sir John rode by 
Nigel's arm, and many were the last injunctions which he 
gave him concerning woodcraft, and great his anxiety lest 
he confuse a spay with a brocket, or either with a hind. 
At last, when they came to the reedy edge of the Wey, the 
old knight and his daughter reined up their horses. Nigel 
looked back at them ere he entered the dark Chantry 
woods, and saw them still gazing after him and waving 
their hands. Then the path wound among the trees and 
they were lost to sight; but long afterwards when a 
clearing exposed once more the Shalford meadows Nigel 
saw that the old man upon the gray cob was riding slowly 
toward Saint Catharine's Hill, but that the girl was still 
where he had seen her last, leaning forward in her saddle 
and straining her eyes to pierce the dark forest which 
screened her lover from her view. It was but a fleeting 
glance through a break in the foliage, and yet in after 
days of stress and toil in far distant lands it was that one 
little picture — ^the green meadow, the reeds, the slow 
blue winding river, and the eager bending graceful figure 
upon the white horse — which was the clearest and 
the dearest image of that England which he had left 
behind him. 

But if Nigel's friends had learned that this was the 
morning of his leaving, his enemies too were on the alert 
The two comrades had just emerged from the Chantry 
woods and were beginning the ascent of that curving path 
which leads upward to the old Chapel of the Martyr, 



i64 SIR NIGEL 

when, with a hiss like an aogry snake a long white arrow 
streaked under Pommers and struck quivering in the 
grassy tur£ A second whizzed past Nigel's ear, as he 
tried to turn, but Aylward struck the great war-horse a 
sharp blow over the haunches, and it had galloped some 
hundreds of yards before its rider could pull it up^ 
Aylward followed as hard as he could ride, bending low 
over his horse's neck, while arrows whizzed all around 
him. 

'' By Saint Paul I " said Nigel, tugging at his bridle 
and white with anger, *' they shall not chase me across the 
country as though I were a frighted doe. Archer, how 
dare you to lash my horse when I would have turned and 
ridden in upon them ? " 

" It is well that I did so," said Aylward, "or by these 
ten finger-bones ! our journey would have b^gun and ended 
on the same day. As I glanced round I saw a dozen of 
them at the least amongst the brushwood. See now how 
the light glimmers upon their steel caps yonder in the 
bracken under the great beech-trea Nay, I pray you, my 
fair lord, do not ride forward. What chance has a man in 
the open against all these who lie at their ease in the 
underwood ? If you wiU not think of yourself, then con- 
sider your horse, which would have a cloth-yard shafib 
feathered in its hide ere it could reach the wood." 

Nigel chafed in impotent anger. "Am I to be shot at 
like a popinjay at a fair, by any reaver or outlaw that 
seeks a mark for his bow ? " he cried. " By Saint Paul ! 
Aylward, I will put on my harness and go further into 
the matter. Help me to untruss, I pray you I " 

"Nay, my fair lord, I will not help you to your own 
downfall. It is a match with cogged dice betwixt a horse- 
man on the moor and archero amid the forest But these 
men are no outlaws, or they would not dare to draw their 
bows within a league of the sheriff of Quildford." 

" Indeed, Aylward, I think that you speak truth," said 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 165 

NigeL " It may be that these are the men of Paul de la 
Fosse of Shalfoid, whom I have given little cause to love 
me. Ah ! there is indeed the very man himself/* 

They sat their horses with their backs to the long slope 
which leads up to the old chapel on the hilL In front of 
them was the dark ragged edge of the wood, with a sharp 
twinkle of steel here and there in its shadows which spoke 
of these lurking foes. But now there was a long moot upon 
a horn, and at once a score of russet-clad bowmen ran for- 
ward from amid the trees, spreading out into a scattered 
line and closing swiftly in upon the travellers. In the 
midst of them, upon a great gray horse, sat a small mis- 
shapen man, waving and cheering as one sets hounds on a 
badger, turning his head this way and that as he whooped 
and pointed, urging his bowmen onward up the slope. 

** Draw them on, my fair lord I Draw them on until 
we have them out on the down ! " cried Aylward, his eyes 
shining with joy. *' Five hundred paces more, and then 
we may be on terms with them. Nay, linger not, but keep 
them always just clear of arrow-shot until our turn has 
come." 

Nigel shook and trembled with eagerness, as with his 
hand on his sword-hilt he looked at the line of eager 
hurrying men. But it flashed through his mind what 
Chandos had said of the cool head which is better for the 
warrior than the hot heart. Aylward's words were true 
and wise. He turned Pommers' head therefore, and amid 
a cry of derision from behind them the comrades trotted 
over the down. The bowmen broke into a run» while 
their leader screamed and waved more madly than before. 
Aylward cast many a glance at them over his shoulder. 

" Yet a little farther ! Yet a little farther still I " he 
muttered. " The wind is toward them and the fools have 
forgot that I can overshoot them by fifty paces. Now, my 
good lord, I pray you for one instant to hold the horses, 
for my weapon is of more avail this day than thino can be. 



166 SIR NIGEL 

They may make sorry cheer ere they gain the shelter of 
the wood once more." 

He had sprang firom his horse, and with a downward 
wrench of his arm and a push with his knee he slipped 
the string into the upper nock of his mighty war-bow. 
Then in a flash he notched his shaft and drew it to the 
pile, his keen blue eyes glowing fiercely behind it from 
under his knotted brows. With thick legs planted sturdily 
apart, his body laid to the bow^ his left ann motionless as 
wood, his right bunched into a double curve of swelling 
muscles as he stretched the white well-waxed string, he 
looked so keen and fierce a fighter that the advancing line 
stopped for an instant at the sight of him. Two or three 
loosed ofif their arrows, but the shafts flew heavily against 
the head wind, and snaked along the hard turf some score 
of paces short of the mark. One only, a short bandy- 
legged man, whose squat figure spoke of enormous muscular 
strength, ran swiftly in and then drew so strong a bow that 
the arrow quivered in the ground at Aylward's very feet. 

" It is Black Will of Lynchmere," said the bowman. 
'' Many a match have I shot with him, and I know well 
that no other man on the Surrey marches could have sped 
such a shaft. I trust that you are houseled and shriven, 
Will, for I have known you so long that I would not have 
your damnation upon my souL" 

He raised his bow as he spoke, and the string twanged 
with a rich, deep musical note. Aylward leaned upon his 
bow-stave as he keenly watched the long swift flight of his 
shaft, skinning smoothly down the wind. 

" On him, on him ! No, over him, by my hilt 1 " he 
cried. ''There is more wind than I had thought Nay, 
nay, friend, now that I have the length of you, you can 
scarce hope to loose again." 

Black Will had notched an arrow and was raising his 
bow when Aylward's second shaft passed through the 
shoulder of his drawing arm. With a shout of anger 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 167 

and pain he dropped his weapon, and dancing in his fniy 
he shook his fist and roared curses at his rivaL 

'' I could slay him ; but I will not, for good bowmen 
are not so common," said Aylward. "And now, fair sir, 
we must on, for they are spreading round on either side, 
and if once they get behind us, then indeed our journey 
has come to a sudden end* But ere we go I would send a 
shaft through yonder horseman who leads them on." 

" Nay, Aylward, I pray you to leave him," said Nigel. 
'' Villain as he is, he is none the less a gentleman of coat- 
armour, and should die by some other weapon than 
thine." 

" As you will," said Aylward, with a clouded brow. " I 
have been told that in the late wars many a French prince 
and baron has not been too proud to take his death-wound 
from an English yeoman's shaft, and that nobles of England 
have been glad enough to stand by and see it done." 

Nigel shook his head sadly. "It is sooth you say, 
archer, and indeed it is no new thing, for that good knight 
Sichard of the Lion Heart met his ^nd in such a lowly 
fashion, and so also did Harold the Saxon. But this is a 
private matter, and I would not have you draw your bow 
against him. Neither can I ride at him myself, for he is 
weak in body, though dangerous in spirit. Therefore, we 
will go upon our way, since there is neither profit nor 
honour to be gained, nor any hope of advancement." 

Aylward, having unstrung his bow, had remounted his 
horse during this conversation, and the two rode swiftly 
past the little squat Chapel of the Martyr and over the 
brow of the hilL From the summit they looked back. 
The injured archer lay upon the ground, with several of 
his comrades gathered in a knot around him. Others ran 
aimlessly up the hill, but were abeady far behind. The 
leader sat motionless upon his horse, and as he saw them 
look back he raised his hand and shrieked his curses at 
them. An instant later the curve of the ground had hid 



i68 SIR NIGEL 

them from view. So, amid love and hate, Nigel bade 
adieu to the home of his youth. ' 

And now the comrades were journeying upon that old, 
old road which runs across the south of England and yet 
never turns tovrard London, for the good reason that the 
place was a poor hamlet when first the road was laid. From 
Winchester, the Saxon capital, to Canterbury, the holy city 
of Kent, ran that ancient highway, and on from Canterbury 
to the narrow straits where, on a clear day, the farther shore 
can be seen. Along this track as far back as history can 
trace the metals of the west have been carried and passed 
the pack-horses which bore the goods which Gaul sent in 
exchange. Older than the Christian faith, and older than 
the Somans, is the old road. North and south are the woods 
and the marshes, so that only on the high dry turf of the 
chalk land could a clear track be found. ^Die Pilgrim's 
Way, it still is called ; but the pilgrims were the last who 
ever trod it, for it was ah^ady of immemorial ago before 
the death of Thomas a Becket gave a new reason why folk 
should journey to the scene of Us murder. 

From the hill of Weston Wood the travellers could see 
the long white band which dipped and curved and rose over 
the green downland, its course marked even in the hollows 
by the line of the old yew-trees which flanked it. Neither 
Nigel nor Aylward had wandered far from their own 
country, and now they rode with light hearts and eager 
eyes taking note of all the varied pictures of nature and of 
man which passed beforo them. To their left was a hilly 
country, a land of rolling heaths and woods, broken here 
and there into open spaces round the occasional farmhouse 
of a franklin. Hackhurst Down, Dimley Hill, and Ban- 
more Common swelled and sank, each mei^g into the 
other. But on the right, after passing tho village of Shere 
and the old church of Gromshall, the wholo south country 
lay like a map at their feet. There was tho huge wood of 
the Weald, one unbroken forest of oak-trees stretching 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 169 

away to the South Downs, which rose olive-green against 
the deep blue sky. Under this great canopy of trees 
strange folk lived and evil deeds were done. In its re- 
cesses were wild tribes, little changed from their heathen 
ancestors, who danced round the altar of Thor, and well 
was it for the peaceful traveller that he could tread the 
high open road of the chalk land with no need to wander 
into so dangerous a tract, where soft clay, tangled forest, 
and wild men all barred his progress. 

But apart from the rolling country upon the left and 
the great forest-hidden plain upon the right, there was 
much upon the road itself to engage the attention of the 
wayfarers. It was crowded with people. As far as their 
eyes could carry they could see the black dots scattered 
thickly upon the thin white band, sometimes single, some- 
times several abreast, sometimes in moving crowds, where 
a drove of pilgrims held together for mutual protection, or 
a nobleman showed his greatness by the number of retainers 
who trailed at his heels. At that time the main roads were 
very crowded, for there were many wandering people in 
the land. Of aU sorts and kinds, they passed in an un- 
broken stream before the eyes of Nigel and of Aylward, 
alike only in the fact that one and all were powdered from 
their hair to their shoes with the grey dust of the chalk. 

There were monks joumejring firom one cell to another, 
Benedictines with their black gowns looped up to show 
their white skirta Carthusians in white, and pied Cis- 
tercians. Friars also of the three wandering orders — 
Dominicans in black, Carmelites in white, and Franciscans 
in gray. There was no love lost between the cloistered 
monks and the &ee friars, each looking on the other as a 
rival who took from him the oblations of the faithful ; so 
they passed on the high road as cat passes dog, with eyes 
askance and angry faces. 

Then, besides the men of the Church, there were the men 
of trade, the merchant in dusty broadcloth and Flanders 



I/O SIR NIGEL 

hat, riding at the head of his line of pack-horses. He 
carried CSomish tin, West-country wool, or Sussex iron if 
he traded eastward, or if his head should be turned west- 
ward then he bore with him the velvets of Genoa, the 
ware of Venice, the wine of France, or the armour of Italy 
and Spain. Pilgrims were everywhere, poor people for the 
most part, plodding wearily along with trailing feet and 
bowed heads, thick staves in their hands and bundles over 
their shouldera Here and there on a gaily caparisoned 
palfrey, or in the greater luxury of a horse-litter, some 
West-country lady might be seen making her easy way to 
the shrine of Saint Thomas. 

Besides all these a constant stream of strange vagabonds 
drifted along the road ; minstrels who wandered from fair 
to fair, a foul and pestilent crew ; jugglers and acrobats^ 
quack doctors and tooth-drawers, students and beggars, 
free workmen in search of better wages, and escaped bonds- 
men who would welcome any wages at all. Such was the 
throng which set the old road smoking in a haze of white 
dust from Winchester to the narrow sea. 

But of all the wayfarers those which interested Nigel 
most were the soldiers. Several times they passed little 
knots of archers or men-at-arms, veterans from France, 
who had received their discharge and were now making 
their way to their southland homes. They were half 
drunk all of them, for the wayfarers treated them to beer 
at the frequent inns and ale-stakes which lined the road, 
60 that they cheered and sang lustily as they passed. 
They roared rude pleasantries at Aylward, who turned in 
his saddle and shouted his opinion of them until they were 
out of hearing. 

Once, late in the afternoon, they overtook a body of a 
hundred archers all marching together with two knights 
riding at their head. They were passing from Guildford 
Castle to Beigate Castle, where they were in garrison. 
Nigel rode with the knights for some distance, and hinted 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 171 

that if either was in search of honourable advancement, or 
wished to do some small deed, or to relieve himself of any 
vow, it might be possible to find some means of achieving 
it. They were both, however, grave and elderly men, intent 
upon their business and with no mind for fond wayside ad- 
ventures, so Nigel quickened his pace and left them behind. 

They had left Boxhill and Headley Heath upon the left, 
and the towers of Beigate were rising amid the trees in 
firont of them when they overtook a large, cheery, red-faced 
man, with a forked beard, riding upon a good horse and 
exchanging a nod or a merry word with aU who passed him. 
With him they rode nearly as far as Bletchingley, and 
Nigel laughed much to hear him talk ; but always under 
the raillery there was much earnestness and much wisdom 
in all his words. He rode at his ease about the country, 
he said, having sufficient money to keep him from want 
and to furnish him for the road. He could speak all the 
three languages of England, the north, the middle, and the 
south, so that he was at home with the people of every shire 
and could hear their troubles and their joys. In all parts 
in town and in country there was unrest, he said ; for the 
poor folk were weary of their masters both of the Church 
and State, and soon there would be such doings in England 
as had never been seen before. 

But above all this man was earnest against the Church : 
its enormous wealth, its possession of nearly one-third of 
the whole land of the country, its insatiable greed for more 
at the very time when it claimed to be poor and lowly. 
The monks and friars, too, he lashed with his tongue : their 
roguish ways, their laziness, and their cunning. He showed 
how their wealth and that of the haughty lord must always 
be founded upon the toil of poor humble Peter the Plow- 
man, who worked and strove in rain and cold out in the 
fields, the butt and laughing-stock of every one, and still 
bearing up the whole world upon his weary shoulders. He 
had set it all out in a fair parable ; so now as he rode he 



172 SIR NIGEL 

repeated some of the verses, chanting them and marking 
time with his forefinger, while Nigel and Aylward on either 
side of him with their heads inclined inward listened 
with the same attention but with very different feelings — 
Nigel shocked at such an attack upon authority, and 
Aylward chuckling as he heard the sentiments of his class 
so shrewdly expressed. At last the stranger halted his 
horse outside the ** Five Angels " at Gatton. 

'' It is a good inn, and I know the ale of old," said he. 
''When I had finished that 'Dieam of Piers the Flow- 
man,' which I have recited to you, the last verses were 
thus: 

** * Now have I brought my little booke to an ende 
God*t bleedng be on him who a drinke will me ecnde '^ 

I pray you come in with me and share it." 

" Nay," said Nigel, " we must on our way, for we have 
far to go. But give me your name, my Mend, for indeed 
we have passed a merry hour listening to your words." 

''Have a care!" the stranger answercd, shaking his 
head. " Tou and your class will not spend a merry hour 
when these words are turned into deeds, and Peter the 
Plowman grows weary of swinking in the fields and takes 
up his bow and his staff in order to set this land in order." 

" By Saint Paul I I expect that we shall bring Peter 
to reason, and also those who have put such evil thoughts 
into his head," said Nigel. " So once more I ask your 
name, that I may know it if ever I chance to hear that 
you have been hanged ? " 

The stranger laughed good-humouredly. "You can 
call me Thomas Lackland," said he. " I should be Thomas 
Lack-brain if I were indeed to give my true name, since a 
good many robbers, some in black gowns and some in 
steel, would be glad to help me upward in the way you 
speak of. So good-day to you, squire, and to you idso^ 
archer; and may you find your way back with whole 
u the wars I" 



^ 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 173 

That night the comrades slept in Godstone Priory, and 
early next morning they were well upon their road down 
the Pilgrims' Way. At Titsey it was said that a band of 
villains were out in Westerham Wood and had mnrdered 
three men the day before ; so that Nigel had high hopes of 
an encounter; but the brigands showed no sign, though 
the travellers went out of their way to ride their horses 
along the edges of the forest. Farther on they found 
traces of their work, for the path ran along the hillside at 
the base of a chalk quarry, and there in the cutting a man 
was lying dead. From his twisted limbs and shattered 
frame it was easy to see that he had been thrown over 
from above, while his pockets turned outward showed the 
reason for his murder. The comrades rode past without 
too close a survey, for dead men were no very uncommon 
objects on the king's highway, and if sheriff or bailiff 
should chance upon you near the body you might find 
yourself caught in the meshes of the law. 

Near Sevenoaks their road turned out of the old 
Canterbury way and pointed south toward the coast, 
leaving the chalk lands and coming down into the clay of 
the Weald. It was a wretched, rutted mule-track running 
through thick forests with occasional clearings in which 
lay the small Kentish villages, where rude shock-headed 
peasants with smocks and galligaskins stared with bold, 
greedy eyes at the travellers. Once on the right they 
caught a distant view of the Towers of P^nshurst, and 
once they heard the deep tolling of the bells of Bayham 
Abbey, but for the rest of their day's journey savage 
peasants and squalid cottages were all that met their eyes, 
with endless droves of pigs who fed upon the litter of 
acorns. The throng of travellers who crowded the old 
road were all gone, and only here and there did they meet 
or overtake some occasional merchant or messenger bound 
for Battle Abbey, Pevensey Castle or the towns of the 
south. 



174 SIR NIGEL 

That night they slept in a sordid inn, overran with rats 
and with fleas, one mile south of the hamlet of Mayfield. 
Aylward scratched vigorously and cursed with fervour. 
Nigel lay without movement or sound. To the man who 
had learned the old rule of chivalry there were no small 
ills in life. It was beneath the dignity of his soul to 
stoop to obsarve them. Ciold and heat, hunger and thirst, 
such things did not exist for the gentleman. The aimour 
of his soul was so complete that it was proof not only 
against the great ills of life but even against the small 
ones; so the flea-bitten Nigel lay grimly still while 
Aylward writhed upon his couch. 

They were now but a short distance from their destina- 
tion ; but they had hardly started on their journey through 
the forest next morning, when an adventure befell them 
which filled Nigel with the wildest hopes. 

Along the narrow winding path between the great oak- 
trees there rode a dark, sallow man in a scarlet tabard who 
blew so loudly upon a silver trumpet that they heard the 
clanging call long before they set eyes on him. Slowly he 
advanced, pulling up every fifty paces to make the forest 
ring with another warlike blast. The comrades rode 
forward to meet him. 

" I pray you," said Nigel, " to tell me who you are and 
why you blow upon this trumpet" 

The fellow shook his head, so Nigel repeated the 
question in French, the common language of chivalry> 
spoken at that age by every gentleman in Western Europe. 

The man put his lips to the trumpet and blew another 
long note before he answered. 

''I am Gaston de Castrier," said he, "the humble 
squire of the most worthy and valiant knight Baoul de 
Tubiers, de Pestels, de Gnmsard, de Mersac, de Leoy, de 
Bastanac, who also writes himself Lord of Pons. It is his 
order that I ride always a mile in front of him to prepare 
all to receive him, and he desires me to blow upon a 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 175 

trumpet not out of vainglory, but out of greatness of 
spirit, so that none may be ignorant of his comiug should 
they desire to encounter him." 

Nigel sprang from his horse with a cry of joy, and 
began to unbutton his doublet. 

''Quick, Aylward, quick I" he said. "He comes, a 
knight errant comes ! Was there ever such a chance of 
worshipfully vanning worship? Untruss the harness 
whilst I loose my clothes ! Good sir, I b^ you to warn 
your noble and valiant master that a poor squire of 
England would implore him to take notice of him and to 
do some small deed upon him as he passes." 

But already the Lord of Pons had come in sight. He 
was a huge man upon an enormous horse, so that together 
they seemed to fill up the whole long dark archway under 
the oaks. He was clad in full armour of a brazen hue,' 
with only his face exposed, and of this face there was little 
visible save a pair of arrogant eyes and a great black 
beard, which flowed through the open visor and down over 
his breastplate. To the crest of his helmet was tied a 
small brown glove, nodding and swinging above him. He 
bore a long lance with a red square banner at the end, 
charged with a black boar's head, and the same symbol 
was engraved upon his shield. Slowly he rode through 
the forest, ponderous, menacing, with dull thudding of his 
charger's hoofs and constant clank of metal, while always 
in front of him came the distant peal of the silver trumpet 
calling all men to admit his majesty and to clear his path 
ere they be cleared from it. 

Never in his dreams had so perfect a vision come to 
cheer Nigel's heart, and as he struggled with his clothes, 
glancing up continually at this wondrous traveller, be 
pattered forth prayers of thanksgiving to the good Saint 
Paul who had shown such loving-kiudness to his unworthy 
servant and thrown him in the path of so excellent and 
debonair a gentleman. 



176 SIR NIGEL 

But alas ! how often at the last instant the cup is 
dashed from the lips ! This joyful chance was destined to 
change suddenly to unexpected and grotesque disaster — 
disaster so strange and so complete that through all his 
life Nigel flushed crimson when he thought of it. He was 
busily stripping his hunting-costume, and with feverish 
haste he had doffed boots, hat, hose, doublet and cloak, so 
that nothing remained save a pink jupon and pair of silken 
drawers. At the same time Aylward was hastily un- 
buckling the load with the intention of handing his 
master his armour piece by piece, when the squire gave 
one last challenging peal from his silver trumpet into the 
very ear of the spare horse. 

In an instant it had taken to its heels, the precious 
armour upon its back, and thundered away down the road 
which they had traversed. Aylward jumped upon his 
mare, drove his prick spurs into her sides, and galloped 
afber the runaway as hard as he could ride. Thus it came 
about that in an instant Nigel was shorn of all his little 
dignity, had lost his two horses, his attendant, and his 
outfit, and found himself a lonely and unarmed man stand- 
ing in his shirt and drawers upon the pathway down which 
the burly figure of the Lord of Pons was slowly advancing. 
The knight errant, whose mind had been filled by the 
thought of the maiden whom he had left behind at St. 
Jean — the same whose glove dangled from his helmet — 
had observed nothing that had occurred. Hence, all that 
met his eyes was a noble yellow horse, which was tethered 
by the track, and a small young man, who appeared to be 
a lunatic, since he had undressed hastily in the heart of 
the forest, and stood now with an eager anxious face clad 
in his underlinen amid the scattered debris of his garments. 
Of such a person the high Lord of Pons could take no 
notice, and so he pursued his inexorable way, his arrogant 
eyes looking out into the distance and his thoughts set 
intently upon the maiden of St. Jean. He was dimly aware 



THE OLD, OLD ROAD 177 

that the little crazy man in the undershirt ran a long way 
beside him in his stockings, begging, imploring, and arguing. 

''Just one hour, most fair sir, just one hour at the 
longest, and a poor squire of England shall ever hold him- 
self your debtor! Do but condescend to rein your horse 
until my harness comes back to me I Will you not stoop 
to show me some small deed of arms ? I implore you, fair 
sir, to spare me a little of your time and a handstroke or 
two ere you go upon your way ! " 

Lord de Pons motioned impatiently with his gauntleted 
hand, as one might brash away an importunate fly, but 
when at last Nigel became desperate in his clamour he 
thrust his spurs into his great war-horse, and, clashing like 
a pair of cymbals, he thundered off through the forest. So 
he rode upon his majestic way, until two days later he was 
slain by Lord Si^nald Cobham in a field near Weybridge. 

When after a long chase Aylward secured the spare 
horse and brought it back, he found his master seated upon 
a fedlen tree, his face buried in his hands and his mind 
clouded with humiliation and grief. Nothing was said, 
for the matter was beyond words, and so in moody silence 
they rode upon their way. 

But soon they came upon a scene which drew Nigel's 
thoughts away from his bitter trouble, for in front of them 
there rose the towers of a great building with a small gray 
sloping village around it, and they learned from a passing 
hind that this was the hamlet and Abbey of Battle. 
Together they drew rein upon the low ridge and looked 
down into that valley of death from which even now the 
reek of blood seems to rise. Down beside that sinister 
lake and amid those scattered bushes sprinkled over the 
naked flank of the long ridge was fought that long-drawn 
struggle between two most noble foes with broad England 
as the prize of victory. Here, up and down the low hill, 
hour by hour the grim struggle had waxed and waned, 
until ihe Saxon army had died where it stood, king, court, 

V 



1/8 SIR NIGEL 

honfle-carl, and fyrdsiDAn, each in their ranks even as they 
had fonght. And now, after all the stress and toil, the 
tyranny, the savage revolt, the fieroe suppression, God 
had made His purpose complete, for here were Nigel the 
Korman and Aylward the Saxon with good-fellowship in 
their hearts and a common respect in their minds, with 
the same banner and the same caose, riding forth to do 
battle for their old mother England. 

And now the long ride drew to an end. In front of 
them was the blue sea, flecked with the white sails of 
ships. Once more the rcMid passed upward from the heavy- 
wooded plain to the springy turf of the chalk downs. Far 
to the light rose the grim fortalice of Pevensey, squat and 
powerful, like one great block of rugged stone, the parapet 
twinkling with steel caps and crowned by the royal banner 
of England. A flat expanse of reeded marshland lay before 
them, out of which rose a single wooded hiU, crowned with 
towers, with a bristle of masts risii^ out of the green plain 
some distance to the south of it. Nigel looked at it with 
his hand shading his eyes, and then urged Pommers to a 
trot. The town was Winchelsea, and there amid that 
cluster of houses on the hill the gallant Chandos must be 
awaiting him. 



CHAPTER XIV 

HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERBET 

The7 passed a feny, wound upward by a curying path, 
and then, having satisfied a guard of men-at-aimB» were 
admitted through the frowning aroh of the Pipewell Grate. 
There waiting for them, in the middle of the main street, 
the sun gleaming upon his lemon-coloured beard, and 
puckering his single eye, stood Chandos himself, his legs 
apart, his hands behind his back, and a welcoming smile 
upon his quaint high-nosed face. Behind him a crowd of 
little boys were gazing with reverent eyes at the fiunous 
soldier. 

'^ Welcome, Nigel!" said he, "and you also, good 
archerl I chanced to be walking on the city wall, and I 
thought from the colour of your horse that it was indeed 
you upon the Udimore Boad. How have you fared, young 
squire enant ? Have you held bridges or rescued damsels 
or slain oppressors on your way from lilford ? " 

'' Nay, my fair lord, I have accomplished nothing; but I 
once had hopes " Nigel flushed at the remembrance. 

" I win give you more than hopes, Nigel. I will put 
you where you can dip both aims to the elbow into danger 
and honour, where peril will sleep with you at night and 
rise with you in the morning, and the very air you breathe 
be laden with it Are you ready for that, young sir?" 

^ I can but pray, fair lord, that my spirit will rise to it." 

Chandos smiled his approval and laid his thin brown 
hand on the youth's shoulder. 

" Good ! " said he. *' It is the mute hound which bites 
179 



i8o SIR NIGEL 

the hardest. The babbler is ever the hang-back. Bide 
with me here, Nigel, and walk upon the ramparts. Archer, 
do you lead the horses to the Sign of the Broom Pod in 
the high street, and tell my varlets to see them aboard the 
cog Thomas before nightfalL We sail at the second hour 
after curfew. Come hither, Nigel, to the crest of the 
comer turret, for from it I will show you what you have 
never seen." 

It was but a dim and distant white cloud upon the 
blue water seen far off over the Dungenesa Point, and yet 
the sight of it flushed the young squire's cheeks and sent 
the blood hot through his veins. It was the fringe of 
France, that land of chivalry and glory, the stage where 
name and fame were to be won. With burning eyes he 
gazed across at it, his heart rejoicing to think that the 
hour was at hand when he might tread that sacred soil 
Then his gaze crossed the immense stretch of the blue sea, 
dotted over with the sails of fishing-boats, until it reeri»d 
upon the double harbour beneath packed with vessels of 
every size and shape, from the pessoners and creyers which 
plied up and down the coast to the great cogs and galleys 
which were used either as war-sliips or merchantmen as 
the occasion served. One of them was at that instant 
passing out to sea, a huge galleass, with trumpets blowing 
and nakers banging, the flag of Saint Geoige flaunting 
over the broad purple sail, and the decks sparkling from 
end to end with steeL Nigel gave a cry of pleasure at the 
splendour of the sight. 

"Aye, lad," said Chandos, "it is the Trinity of Eye, 
the very ship on which I fought at Sluys. Her deck ran 
blood from stem to stem that day. But turn your eyes 
this way, I beg you, and tell me if you see aught strange 
about this town." 

Nigel looked down at the noble straight street, at the 
Houndcl Tower, at the fine church of Saint Thomas, and 
the other fair buildings of Winchelsea. 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET i8i 

"It is all new/' said he — ''church, ca8tle> houses, all 
are new." 

"You are right, fair son. My grandfather can call to 
mind the time when only the conies lived upon this rock. 
The town was down yonder by the sea, until one night 
the waves rose upon it and not a house was left. See, 
yonder is Rye, huddling also on a hill, the two towns like 
poor sheep when the waters are out. But down there 
under the blue water and below the Camber Sand lies the 
true Winchelsea — ^tower, cathedral, walls and all, even as 
my grandfather knew it, when the first Edward was young 
upon the throne." 

For an hour or more Chandos paced upon the ramparts 
with his young squire at his elbow, and talked to him of 
his duties and of the secrets and craft of warfare, Nigel 
drinking in and storing in his memory every word from so 
revered a teacher. Many a time in after life, in stress 
and in danger, he strengthened himself by the memory of 
that slow walk with the blue sea on one side and the fair 
town on the other, when the wise soldier and noble-hearted 
knight poured forth his precept and advice as the master- 
workman to the apprentice. 

"Perhaps, fair son," said he, "you are like so many 
other lads who ride to the wars, and know so much already 
that it is waste of breath to advise them ? " 

" Nay, my fair lord, I know nothing save that I would 
fain do my duty and either win honourable advancement 
or die worshipfol on the field." 

"You are wise to be humble," said Chandos; "for 
indeed he who knows most of war knows best that there 
is much to learn. As there is a mystery of the rivers and 
a mystery of woodcraft, even so there is a mystery of war- 
fare by which battles may be lost and gained; for all 
nations are brave, and where the brave meets the brave, it 
is he who is crafty and war-wise who will win the day. 
The best hound will run at fault if he be ill laid on^ and 



i82 SIR NIGEL 

the best hawk will fly at check if he be badly loosed, and 
even so the bravest anny may go awry if it be ill handled. 
There are not in Christendom better knights and squires 
than those of the French, and yet we have had the better 
of them, for in our Scottish wars and elsewhere we have 
learned more of this same mystery of which I speak.'' 

''And wherein lies our wisdom, honoured sir?" asked 
NigeL '' I also would fain be war-wise, and learn to fight 
with my wits as well as with my sword/' 

Chandos shook his head and smiled. ''It is in the 
forest and on the down that you learn to fly the hawk 
and loose the hound," said ha " So also it is in camp and 
on the field that the mystery of war can be learned. There 
only has every great captain come to be its master. To 
start he must have a cool head, quick to think, soft as wax 
before his purpose is formed, hard as steel when once he 
sees it before him. Ever alert he must bo, and cautious 
also, but with judgment to turn his caution into rashness 
where a large gain may be put against a small stake. An 
eye for country also, for the trend of the rivers, the slope 
of the hills, the cover of the woods, and the light green of 
the bog-land." 

Poor Nigel, who had trusted to his lance and to 
Pommers to break his path to glcny, stood aghast at this 
list of needs. 

" AlasI " he cried. " How am I to gain all this ?— I, 
who could scarce learn to read or write, though the good 
Father Matthew broke a hazel stick a day across my 
shoulders ? " 

" You will gain it, fair son, where others have gained 
it before you. You have that which is the first thing of 
all, a heart of fire from which other colder hearts may 
catch a spark. But yon must have knowledge also of 
that which warfare has taught us in olden times. We 
know, par exemple, that horsemen alone cannot hope to 
win against good foot-soldiers. Haa it not been tried at 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 183 

Conrtrai, at Stirling, and again under my own eyes at 
Ct6cj, where the chivaby of France went down before our 
bowmen ? " 

Nigel stared at him with a perplexed brow. "Fair 
sir, my heart grows heavy as I hear you. Do you then 
say that our chivalry can make no head against archers, 
billmen, and the like ? " 

" Nay, Nigel, for it has also been very clearly shown 
that the best foot-soldiers unsupported cannot hold their 
own against the mailed horsemen." 

''To whom, then, is the victory ? '' asked Nigel. 

** To him who can mix his horse and foot, using each 
to strengthen the other. Apart they are weak. Together 
they axe strong. The archer who can weaken the enemy's 
line, the horseman who can break it when it is weakened, 
as was done at Falkirk and Dupplin, there is the secret of 
our strength. Now, touching this same battle oi Falkirk, 
I pray you for one instant to give it your attention." 

With his whip he began to trace a plan of the Scottish 
battle upon the dust, and Nigel, with knitted brows, was 
trying hard to muster his small stock of brains, and to 
profit by the lecture, when their conversation was inter- 
rupted by a strange, new arrival. 

It was a very stout little man, wheezy and purple with 
haste, who scudded down the rampart as if he were blown 
by the wind, his grizzled hair flying, and his long black 
gown floating behind him. He was clad in the dress of a 
respectable citizen, a black jerkin trimmed with sable, a 
black velvet beaver hat and a white feather. At the 
sight of Chandos he gave a cry of joy, and quickened his 
pace, so that when he did at last reach him he could only 
stand gasping and waving his hands. 

"Give yourself time, good Master Wintersole, give 
yourself time I " said Chandos, in a soothing voice. 

" The papers 1 " gasped the little man. " Oh, my Lord 
Chandos, the papers ! " 



i84 SIR NIGEL 

" What of the papers, my worthy sir T* 

** I swear by our good patron Saint Leonard, it is no 
fault of mine I I had locked them in my coffer. But the 
lock was forced and the coffer rifled." 

A shadow of anger passed over the soldier's keen 
face. 

*' How now, Master Mayor ? Pull your wits together, 
and do not stand there babbling like a three-year child. 
Do you say that some one hath taken the papers ? " 

*' It is sooth, fair sir I Thrice I have been mayor of 
the town, and fifteen years burgess and jurat, but never 
once has any public matter gone awry through me. Only 
last month there came an order from Windsor on a Tues- 
day for a Friday banquet, a thousand soles, four thousand 
plaice, two thousand mackerel, five hundred crabs, a thou- 
sand lobsters, five thousand whiting " 

'' I doubt not, Master Mayor, that you are an excellent 
fishmonger; but the matter concerns the papers I gave 
into your keeping. Where are they ? " 

" Taken, fair sir— gone ! " 

*' And who hath dared to take them ? " 

" Alas ! I know not It was but for as long as you 
would say an angelus that I left the chamber, and when I 
came back there was the coffer, broken and empty, upon 
my table." 

« Do you suspect no one ? " 

'' There was a varlet who hath come with the last few 
days into my employ. He is not to be found, and I have 
sent horsemen along both the Udimore Boad and that to 
Bye, that they may seize him. By the help of Saint 
Leonard they can scarce miss him, for one can tell him a 
bow-shot off by Ids hair." 

'' Is it red ? " asked Chandos, eagerly. " Is it fox-red, 
and the man a small man pocked with sun spots, and very 
quick in his movements ? " 

" It is the man himself." 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 185 

Ghandos shook his clinched hand with annoyance, and 
then set o£f swiftly down the street. 

*' It is Peter the Red Ferret once more ! " said he. '' I 
knew him of old in France, where he has done ns more 
harm than a company of men-at-aims. He speaks English 
as he speaks French, and he is of such daring and cunning 
that nothing is secret from him. In all France there is 
no more dangerous man, for though he is a gentleman of 
blood and coat armour, be takes the part of a spy, because 
it hath the more danger and therefore the more honour." 

" But, my fair lord," cried the mayor, as he hunied 
along, keeping pace with the long strides of the soldier, 
'' I knew that you warned me to take all care of the 
papers ; but surely there was no matter of great import in 
it ? It was but to say what stores were to be sent after 
you to Calais ? " 

" Is that not everything ? " cried Chandos, impatiently. 
" Can you not {9ee, oh foolish Master Wintersole, that the 
French suspect we are about to make some attempt, and 
that they have sent Peter the Red Ferret, as they have 
sent him many times before, to get tidings of whither we 
are bound ? Now that he knows that the stores are for 
Calais, then the French near Calais will take his warning, 
and so the king's whole plan came to nothing." 

" Then he will fly by water. We can stop him yet. 
He has not an hour's start." 

'' It may be that a boat awaits him at Rye or Hy the ; 
but it is more like that he has all ready to depart from 
here. Ah, see yonder ! I'll warrant that the Red Ferret 
is on board I " 

Chandos had halted in front of his ion, and now he 
pointed down to the outer harbour, which lay two miles 
o£f across the green plain. It was connected by a long 
winding canal with the inner dock at the base of the hill, 
upon which the town was built. Between the two horns 
formed by the short curving piers a small schooner was 



i86 SIR NIGEL 

running out to aea, dipping and rising before a sharp 
southerly bieeza 

*' It is no Winchelsea boat/' said the mayor. " She is 
longer and broader in the beam than ours." 

''Horses! Ining horses 1" cried Ohandos. ^'Ciome, 
Nigel, let us go further into the matter." 

A busy crowd of varlets, archers, and men-at-arma 
swarmed round the gateway of the Sign of the Broom 
Pod, singing, shouting, and jostling in rough good-fellow- 
ship. The sight of the tall thin figure of Ghandos brought 
order among them, and a few minutes later the horses 
were ready and saddled. A breakneck ride down a steep 
declivity, and then a gallop of two miles over the sedgy 
plain carried them to the outer harbour. A dozen vessels 
were lying there, ready to start for Bordeaux or Bochelle, 
and the quay was thick with sailors, labourers, and towns- 
men, and heaped with wine-barrels and wool«packs. 

" Who is warden here ? " asked Chandos, springing from 
his horse. 

' ''Badding! Where is C!ock Badding? Badding is 
wardm ! " shouted the crowd. 

A moment later a short swarthy man, bull-necked and 
deep-chested, pushed through the people. He was clad in 
rough russet wool with a scarlet doth tied round his black 
cuily head. His sleeves were rolled up to his shoulders, 
and his brown arms, all stained with grease and tar, were 
like two thick gnarled branches from an oaken stump. 
His savage brown face was fierce and frowning, and was 
split from chin to temple with the long white wale of an 
ill-healed wound. 

" How now, gentles, will you never wait your turn ? " 
he rumbled, in a deep angry voice. ''Can you not see 
that we are warping the Bose of Ouienne into midstream 
for the ebb-tide T Is this a time to break in upon us 7 
Tour goods will go aboard in due season, I promise you; 
80 ride back into the town and find such pleasure as you 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 187 

mnj, while I and my mates do oar work without let or 
hincbunce/' 

"It is the gentle ChandosI'' cried some one in the 
crowd. " It is the good Sir John." 

The tough harbour-master changed his gruffiiess to 
smiles in an instant. 

"Nay, Sir John, what would you? I pray you to 
hold me excused if I was short of speech, but we port- 
wardens are sore plagued with foolish young lordlings, who 
get betwixt us and our work and blame us because we do 
not turn an ebb-tide into a flood, or a south wind into a 
north. I pray you to tell me how I can serve you." 

"That boat I" said Chandos, pointing to the already 
distant sail rising and falling on the waves. "What 
is it?" 

Cock Badding shaded his keen eyes with his strong 
brown hand. 

" She has but just gone out," said he. ** She is La 
Pitcdle, a small wine-sloop from Gascony, home-bound and 
laden with bairel-staves." 

^ I pray you did any man join her at the very last ? " 

" Nay, I know not I saw no one." 

"But I know," cried a seaman in the crowd. " I was 
standing at the wharf-side and was nigh knocked into the 
water by a little red-headed fellow, who breathed as though 
he had run from the town. Ere I had time to give him a 
cuff he had jumped aboard, the ropes were cast off, and 
her nose was seaward." 

In a fisw words Chandos made all clear to Badding* 
the crowd pressing eagerly round. 

"Ay,ay I" caied a 8eaman,"the good Sir John is right. 
See how she points. It is Picardy and not Gascony that 
she will fetch this journey in spite of her wine-staves." 

"Then we must lay her aboardl " cried Cook Badding. 
" Come, lads, here is my own Marie Base ready to cast otL 
Who's for a trip with a fight at the end of it ? " 



I 



fSS SIR NIGEL 

There was a rash for the boat; but the stout little 
seaman picked his men. " Gro back, Jeny ! Your heart 
is good, but you are overfat for the work. You, Luke, 
and you, Thomas, and the two Deedes, and William of 
Sandgate. You will work the boat And now we need a 
few men of their hands. Do you come, little sir ? " 

"I pray you, my dear lord, to let me go!" cried 
NigeL 

" Yes, Nigel, you can go, and I will bring your gear 
over to Calais this night" 

" I will join you there, fair sir, and with the help of 
Saint Paul I will bring this Red Ferret with me." 

''Aboard, aboard I Time passes ! " cried Badding, im- 
patiently, while already his seamen were hauling on the 
line and raising the mainsail. ^' Now then, sirrah I who 
are you ? " 

It was Aylward, who had followed Nigel, and was 
pushing his way aboard. 

" Where my master goes I go also," cried Aylward, 
"so stand clear, master-shipman, or you may come by a 
hurt." 

" By Saint Leonard ! archer," said Cock Badding, " had 
I more time I would give you a lesson ere I leave land. 
Stand back and give place to others I " 

"Nay, stand back and give place to me!" cried 
Aylward, and seizing Badding round the waist he slung 
him into the dock. 

There was a cry of anger from the crowd, for Badding 
was the hero of all the Cinque Ports and had never yet 
met his match in manhood. The epitaph still lingers in 
which it was said that he " could never rest until he had 
foughten his filL" When, therefore, swimming like a duck, 
he reached a rope and pulled himself hand over hand up 
to the quay, all stood aghast to see what fell fate would 
befall this bold stranger. But Badding laughed loudly, 
dashing the salt water from his eyes and hair. 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 189 

"You have fairly won your place, archer," said he. 
" You are the very man for our work. Where ia Black 
Simon of Norwich ? " 

A toll dark young man with a long, stem, lean face 
came forward. "I am with you. Cock," said he, "and I 
thank you for my place." 

"You can come, Hugh Baddlesmere, and you, Hal 
Masters, and you, Dicon of Eye. That is enough. Now 
ofT, in God's name, or it will be night ere we can come up 
with them I" 

Already the head-sails and the mainsail had been raised, 
while a hundred willing hands poled her off from the 
wharf. Now the wind caught her; heeling over, and 
quivering with eagerness like an unleashed hound she 
flew through the opening and out into the channel. She 
was a famous little schooner, the Marie Hose of Winchelsea, 
and under her daring owner Cock Badding, half trader 
and half pirate, had brought back into port many a rich 
cargo taken in mid-channel, and paid for in blood rather 
than money. Small as she was, her great speed and the 
fierce character of her master had made her a name of 
terror along the French coast, and many a bulky East- 
lander or Fleming as he passed the narrow seas had 
scanned the distont Kentish shore, fearing lest that ill- 
omened purple sail with a gold Christopher upon it should 
shoot out suddenly from the dim gray clifib. Now she 
was clear of the land, with the wind on her larboard 
quarter, every inch of canvas set, and her high sharp bows 
smothered in foam, as she dug through the waves. 

Cock Badding trod the deck with head erect and jaunty 
bearing, glancing up at the swelling sails and then ahead 
at the little tilted white triangle, which stood out clear 
and hard against the bright blue sky. Behind was the 
lowland of the Camber marshes, with the bluffs of Bye 
and Winchelsea, and the line of cliffs behind them. On 
the larboard bow rose the great white walls of Folkestone 



190 SIR NIGEL 

and of Dover, and far on the distant sky-line the gray 
shimmer of those French difib for which the fugitives 
were making. 

" By Saint Paul ! '* cried Nigel, looking with eager eyes 
over the tossing waters, ''it seems to me. Master Badding; 
that already we draw in upon them." 

The master measured the distance with his keen steady 
gaze, and then looked up at the sinking sun. *' We have 
still four hours of daylight/' said he; ''but if we do not 
lay her aboard ere darkness fi&Us she will save herself, for 
the nights are as black as a wolfs mouth, and if she alter 
her course I know not how we may follow her.^' 

" Unless, indeed, you might guess to which port she 
was bound and reach it before her." 

"Well thought of, little master I "cried Badding. "If 
the news be for the French outside Calais, then Amble- 
teuse would be nearest to Saint Omer. But my sweeting 
sails three paces to that lubber's two, and if the wind 
holds we shall have time and to spare. How now, archer ? 
You do not seem so eager as when you made your way 
aboard this boat by slinging me into Uie sea." 

Aylwaid sat on the upturned keel of a skiff which lay 
upon the deck. He groaned sadly and held his green fSftoe 
between his two hands. 

" I would gladly sling you into the sea once more, 
master-shipman," said he, " if by so doing I could get off 
this most accursed vessel of thine. Or if you would wish 
to have your turn, then I would thank you if you would 
lend me a hand over the side, for indeed I am but a 
useless weight upon your deck. little did I think that 
Samkin Aylwaid could be turned into a weakling by an 
hour of salt water. Alas the day that ever my foot 
wandered ttoxa the good red heather of Crooksbury 1 " 

Oock Badding laughed loud and long. " Nay, take it 
not to heart, archer," he cried; "for better men than you 
or I have groaned upon this deck* The prince himself 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 191 

with ten of his chosen knights crossed with me once, 
and eleven sadder faoes I never saw. Yet within a month 
they had shown at Cr6cy that they were no weaklings, as 
you will do also, I dare swear, when the time comes. 
Keep that thick head of thine down upon the planks, and 
all will be well anon. But we raise her, we raise her with 
every blast of the wind i " 

It was indeed evident, even to the inexperienced eyes 
of Nigel, that the Marie Base was closing in swiftly upon 
the stranger. She was a heavy, bluff- bowed, broad-stemed 
vessel which laboured clumsily through tiie seas. The 
swifts fierce little Winchelsea boat swooping and hissing 
through the waters behind her was like some keen hawk 
whizzing down wind at the back of a flapping heavy-bodied 
duck. Half an hour before La Pucelie had been a distant 
patch of canvas. Now they could see the black hull, and 
soon the cut of her sails and the lines of her bulwarks. 
There were at least a dozen men upon her deck, and the 
twinkle of weapons from among th^n showed tiiat th^ 
were preparing to resist. Cock Badding b^gan to muster 
his own forces. 

He had a crew of seven rough, hardy mariners, who 
had been at his back in many a skirmish. They were 
armed with short swords, but Cock Badding carried a 
weapon peculiar to himself, a twenty-pound blacksmith's 
hammer, the memory of which, as " Badding's cracker," 
still lingers in the Cinque Ports. Then there were the 
eager Nigel, the melancholy Aylward, Black Simon, who 
was a tried swordsman, and three archers, Baddlesmere, 
Masters, and Dicon of Bye, all veterans of the French 
War. The numbers in the two vessels might be about 
equal ; but Badding as he glanced at the bold harsh faces 
which looked to him for orders had little fear for the 
result. 

Glancing round, however, he saw something which 
was more dangerous to his plans than the resistance of 



192 SIR NIGEL 

the enemy. The wind, which had become more fiifol and 
feebler, now fell suddenly away, until the sails hnng limp 
and straight above them. A belt of calm lay along the 
horizon, and the waves aionnd had smoothed down into a 
long oily swell on which the two little vessels rose and 
felL llie great boom of the Marie Base rattled and jarred 
with eveiy lurch, and the high thin prow pointed skyward 
one instant and seaward the next in a way that drew 
fiesh groans fiom the unhappy Aylward. In vain Cock 
Badding pulled on his sheets and tried hard to husband 
every little wandering gust which ruflBed for an instant 
the sleek rollers. The French master was as adroit a 
sailor, and his boom swung round also as each breath of 
wind came up from astern. 

At last even these fitful pu£b died finally away, and a 
cloudless sky overhung a glassy sea. The sun was almost 
upon the horizon behind Dungeness Point» and the whole 
western heaven was bright with the glory of the sunset^ 
which blended sea and sky in one blaze of ruddy light 
like rollers of molten gold, the long swell heaved up 
Channel from the great ocean beyond. In the nudst of 
the immense beauty and peace of nature the two little 
dark specks with the white sail and the purple rose and 
fell, so small upon the vast shining bosom of the waters, 
and yet so charged with all the unrest and the passion of 
life. 

The experienced eye of the seaman told him that it 
was hopeless to expect a breeze before nightfalL He 
looked across at the Frenchman, which lay less than a 
quarter of a mile ahead, and shook his gnarled fist at the 
line of heads which could be seen looking back over her 
stem. One of them waved a white kerchief in derision, 
and Cock Badding swore a bitter oath at the sight. 

" By Saint Leonard of Winchelsea," he cried, " I will 

rub my side up against her yet ! Out with the skiff, lads, 

\d two of you to the oars, Make fast the line to the 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 193 

mast, Will. Do you go in the boat, Hugh, and FU make 
the second. Now, if we bend our backs to it we may have 
Aem yet ete night cover them." 

The little skiff was swiftly lowered over the side and 
the slack end of the cable fastened to the after thwart. 
Cock Badding and his comrades pulled as if they would 
snap their oars, and the little vessel began slowly to lurch 
forward over the rollers. But the next moment a larger 
skiff had splashed over the side of the Frenchman, and no 
less than four seamen were hard at work under her bows. 
If the Marie Base advanced a yard the Frenchman was 
going two. Again Cock Badding raved and shook his fist. 
He clambered aboard, his face wet with sweat and dark 
with anger. 

'' Curse them ! they have had the best of us ! " he cried. 
" I can do no more. Sir John has lost his papers, for 
indeed now that night is at hand I can see no way in 
which we can gain them " 

Nigel had leaned against the bulwark during these 
events, watching with keen attention the doings of the 
sailors, and praying alternately to Saint Paul, Saint 
George, and Saint Thomas for a slant of wind which 
would put them alongside their enemy. He was silent ; 
but his hot heart was simmering withiii him. His spirit 
had risen even above the discomfort of the sea, and his 
mind was too absorbed in his mission to have a thought 
for that which had laid Aylward flat upon the deck. He 
had never doubted that Cock Badding in one way or 
another would accomplish his end, but when he heard his 
speech of despair he bounded off the bulwark and stood 
before the seaman with his face flushed and all his soul 
afire. 

"By Saint Paul! master-shipman," he cried, "we 
should never hold up our heads in honour if we did not 
go further into the matter ! Let us do some small deed 
this night upon the water, or let us never see land again, 





194 SIR NIGEL 

for indeed we could not wish fairer prospect of winning 
honourable advancement" 

'^With your leave, little master, you speak like a 
fool/' said the gruff seaman. " You and all your kind are 
as children when once the blue water is beneath you. 
Can you not see that there is no wind, and that the 
Frenchman can warp her as swiftly as we 7 What then 
would you do ? " 

Nigel pointed to the boat which towed astom. " Let 
us venture forth in her/' said he, *' and let us take this 
ship or die worshipful in the attempt." 

His bold and fiery words found their echo in the brave 
rough hearts around him. There was a deep-chested shout 
from both archers and seamen. Even Aylwaid sat up, 
with a wan smile upon his green fisuoe. 

But Cock Badding shook his head. "I have never 
met the man who could lead where I would not follow/' 
said he ; " but by Saint Leonard I this is a mad business, 
and I should be a fool if I were to risk my men and my 
ship. Bethink you, little master, that the skiff can hold 
only five, though you load her to the water's edge. If 
there is a man yonder, there are fourteen, and you have to 
climb their side from the boat. What chance would you 
have ? Tour boat stove and you in the water — there is 
the end of it. No man of mine goes on such a fool's 
errand, and so I swear ! " 

" llien, Master Badding, I must crave the loan of your 
skiff, for by Saint Paul! the good Lord Chandos' papers 
are not to be so lightly lost. If no one else will come, 
then I will go alone." 

The shipman smiled at the words ; but the smile died 
away from his lips when Nigel, with features set Uke ivoiy 
and eyes as hard as steel, pulled on the rope so as to bring 
the skiff under the counter. It was vexy clear that he 
would do even as he said. At the same time Aylwaid 
raised his bulky form from the deck, leaned for a moment 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 195 

against the bulwarks, and then tottered aft to his master's 
side. 

** Here is one that will go with yon," said he, *' or he 
would never dare show his face to the girls of Tilford 
again. Ck>me, archers, let ns leave tiiese salt herrings in 
their pickle tub and try our luck out on the water." 

The three archers at once ranged themselves on the 
same side as their comrade. They were bronzed, bearded 
men, short in stature, as were most Englishmen of that 
day, but hardy, strong, and skilled with their weapons. 
Each drew his string from its waterproof case and bent 
the huge arc of his war-bow as he fitted it into the 
nocks. 

" Now, master, we are at your back/^ said they, as they 
pulled and tightened their sword-belts. 

But already Cock Badding had been carried away by 
the hot lust of battle, and had thrown aside every fear and 
doubt which had clouded him. To see a fight and not to 
be in it was more than he could bear. 

" Nay, have it your own way ! " he cried, " and may 
Saint Leonard help us, for a madder venture I have never 
seen ! And yet it may be worth the trial. But if it be 
done let me have the handling of it, little master, for you 
know no more of a boat than I do of a war-horse. The 
skiff can bear five and not a man more. Now, who will 
come ? " 

They had all caught fire, and there was not one who 
would be left out. 

Badding picked up his hammer. '* I will come myself," 
said he, " and you also, little master, since it is your hot 
head that has planned it Then there is Black Simon, the 
best sword of the Cinque Ports. Two archers can pull on 
the oars, and it may be that they can pick off two or three 
of these Frenchmen before we close with them. Hugh 
BaddlesmerC; and you, Dicon of Bye— into the boat with 
youf" 



196 SIR NIGEL 

*' What ? " cried Aylward. " Am I to be left behind ? 
I, who am the squire's own man 7 HI fare the bowman 
who oomes betwixt me and yonder boat I " 

" Nay, Aylward/* said his master, " I order that you 
stay, for indeed you are a sick man/' 

"But now that the waves have sunk I am myself 
again. Nay, fair sir, I pray that you will not leave me 
behind/' 

" You must needs take the space of a better man ; for 
what do you know of the handling of a boat/' said Bedding, 
shortly. " No more fool's talk, I pray you, for the night 
will soon falL Stand aside I ** 

Aylward looked hard at the French boat " I could 
swim ten times up and down Frensham pond/' said he, 
"and it will be strange if I cannot go as far as that By 
these finger-bones, Samkin Aylward may be there as soon 
as you!" 

The little boat with its five occupants pushed ofiT from 
the side of the schooner, and dipping and rising, made its 
slow way toward the Frenchman* Badding and one archer 
had single oars, the second archer was in the prow, while 
Black Simon and Nigel huddled into the stem with the 
water lapping and hissing at their very elbows. A shout 
of defiance rose from the Frenchman, and they stood in a 
line along the side of their vessel shaking their fists and 
waving their weapons. Already the sun was level with 
Dongeness, and the gray of evening was blurring sky and 
water into one dim haze. A great silence hung over the 
broad expanse of nature, and no sound broke it save the 
dip and splash of the oars and the slow deep surge of 
the boat upon the swell. Behind them their comrades 
of the Marie Sou stood motionless and silent, watching 
their progress with eager eyes. 

They were near enough now to have a good look at the 
Frenchmen. One was a big swarthy man with a long 
Monv beard. He had a red cap and au axe over his 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 197 

shoulder. There were ten other hardy-looking fellows, 
all of them well armed^ and there were three who seemed 
to be boys. 

''Shall we try a shaft npon them?'* asked Hugh 
Baddlesmere. " They are well within onr bowshot." 

" Only one of you can shoot at a time, for you have no 
footing/' said Badding. " With one foot in the prow and 
one over the thwart you will get your stance. Do what 
you may, and then we will close in upon them.'* 

The archer balanced himself in the rolling boat with 
the deftness of a man who has been trained upon the sea, 
for he was bom and bred in the Cinque Ports. Carefully 
he nocked his arrow, strongly he drew it, steadily he loosed 
it, but the boat swooped at the instant, and it buried itself 
in the waves. The second passed over the little ship, 
and the third stuck in her black side. Then in quick 
succession — so quick that two shafts were often in the air 
at the same instant — ^he discharged a dozen arrows, most 
of which just cleared the bulwarks and dropped upon the 
deck. There was a cry on the Frenchman, and the heads 
vanished from the side. 

"Enough!" cried Badding. *'One is down, and it 
may be two. Close in, close in, in God's name, before 
they rally ! " 

He and the other bent to their oars ; but at the same 
instant there was a sharp zip in the air and a hard clear 
sound like a stone striking a wall. Baddlesmere clapped 
his hand to his head, groaned and fell forward out of 
the boat, leaving a swirl of blood upon the surface. A 
moment later the same fierce hiss ended in a loud 
wooden crash, and a short, thick crossbow-bolt was buried 
deep in the boat 

" Close in, close in ! " roared Badding, tugging at his 
oar. "Saint Oeorge for England I Saint Leonard for 
Winchelsea! aosein!" 

But again that fatal crossbow twanged. Dicon of Bye 



198 SIR NIGEL 

fell back Mrith a shaft through his shoulder. '' God help 
me, I can no more ! " said he. 

Badding seized the oar from his hand ; but it was only 
to sweep the boat's head round and pull her back to the 
Marie Ease. The attack had fuled. 

" What now, master-shipman ? " cried Nigel. " What 
has befallen to stop us ? Surely the matter does not end 
here?" 

*'Two down out of five/' said Badding, ** and twelve at 
the least against us. The odds are too long, little master. 
Let us at least go back, fill up once more, and raise a man- 
telet against the bolts, for they have an arbalest which 
shoots both straight and hard. But what we do we must 
do quickly, for the darkness feills apace.'' 

Their repulse had been hailed by wild yells of delight 
from the Frenchmen, who danced with joy and waved 
their weapons madly over their heads. But before their 
rejoicings had finished they saw the little boat creeping 
out once more firom the shadow of the Marie Base, a great 
wooden screen in her bows to protect her from the arrows. 
Without a pause she came straight and fast for her enemy. 
The wounded ardier had been put on board, and Aylward 
would have had his place had Nigel been able to see him 
upon the deck. The third archer, Hal Masters, had sprung 
in, and one of the seamen, Wat Finnis of Hythe. With 
their hearts hardened to conquer or to die, the five ran 
alongside the Frenchman and sprang upon her deck. At 
the same instant a great iron weight crashed through the 
bottom of their skiff, and their feet had hardly left her 
before she was gone. There was no hope and no escape 
save victory. 

The crossbowman stood under the mast^ his terrible 
weapon at his shoulder, the steel string stretched taut, the 
heavy bolt shining upon the nut One life at least he 
would claim out of this little band. Just for one instant 
too long did he dwell upon his aim, shifting from the 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 199 

aeamaa to Cock Badding, whose formidable appearance 
showed him to be the better prize. In that second of 
time Hal Master^s string twanged and his long arrow 
sped throngh the arbalester's throat. He dropped on the 
deck, with blood pouring from his mouth. 

A moment later Nigel's sword and Badding's hammer 
had each claimed a victim and driven back the rush of 
assailants. The five were safe upon the deck, but it was 
hard for them to keep a footing there. The French sea- 
men, Bretons and Normans, were stout, powerful fellows, 
armed with axes and swords, fierce fighters and brave men. 
They swarmed round the little band, attacking them 
from all sides. Black Simon felled the black-bearded 
French captain, and at the same instant' was cut over 
the head and lay with his scalp open upon the deck. 
The seaman Wat of Hythe was killed by a crashing blow 
from an axe. Nigel was struck down, but was up again 
like a flash, and drove his sword through the man who 
had felled him« 

But Badding, Masters the archer, and he had been 
hustled back to the bulwark and were barely holding their 
own from minute to minute against the fierce crowd who 
assailed them, when an arrow coming apparently from the 
sea struck the foremost Frenchman to the heart. A 
moment later a boat dashed up alongside and four more 
men from the Marie Base scrambled on to the blood- 
stained deck. With one fierce rush the remaining French- 
men were struck down or were seized by their assailants. 
Nine prostrate men upon the deck showed how fierce had 
been the attack, how desperate the resistance. 

Badding leaned panting upon his blood-clotted hammer. 
"By Saint Leonaid!" he cried. «' I thought that this little 
master had been the death of us all. God wot you were 
but just in time, and how you came I know not. This 
archer has had a hand in it, by the look of him." 

Aylward, still pale from his sea-sickness and dripping 



200 SIR NIGEL 

from head to foot with water, had been the first man in 
the rescue party. 

Nigel looked at him in amazement '' I sought you 
aboard the ship, Aylward, but I could not lay eyes on 
you," said he. 

" It was because I was in the wator, fair sir, and by 
my hilt ! it suits my stomach better than being on it," he 
answered " When you first set forth I swam behind you, 
for I saw that the Frenchman's boat hung by a rope, and 
I thought that while you kept him in play I might gain 
it. I had reached it when you were driven back, so I hid 
behind it in the water and said my prayers as I have not 
said them for many a day. Then you came again, and no 
one had an eye for me, so I clambered into it, cut the rope, 
took the oars which I found there, and brought her back 
for more men." 

" By Saint Paul ! you have acted very wisely and 
well," said Nigel, " and I think that of all of us it is you 
who have won most honour this day. But of all these 
men dead and alive I see none who resembles that Bed 
Ferret whom my Lord Chandos has described and who has 
worked such despite upon us in the past. It would indeed 
be an evil chance if he has, in spite of all our pains, made 
his way to France in some other boat." 

'' That we shall soon find out," said Badding. " Come 
with me, and we will search the ship from truck to keel 
ere he escapes us." 

There was a scuttle at the base of the mast which led 
downr into the body of the vessel, and the Englishmen were 
approaching this when a strange sight brought them to a 
stand. A round brazen head had appeared in the square 
dark opening. An instant afterward a pair of shining 
shoulders followed. Then slowly the whole figure of a 
man in complete plate-armour emerged on the deck. In 
his gauntleted hand he carried a heavy steel mace. With 
this uplifted he moved towards his enemies^ silent save 




'THEN SLOWLY THE WHOLE FIGURE OP A MAN IN COMPLETE PLATE-ABMOUB 
EHKBGED ON TUE DECK." 



202 SIR NIGEL 

a gleam of light as he sought at all points for some opening 
in the brazen shell before him. 

It was dear to the man in armour that if he conld but 
pen his antagonist in a comer he would beat him down 
without fail. But it was not to be done. The unhampered 
man had the adyantage of speed. With a few quick steps 
he could always glide to either side and escape the clumsy 
rush. Aylward and Badding had sprung out to Nigel's 
assistance; but he shouted to them to stand back, with 
such authority and anger in his voice that their weapons 
dropped to their sides. With staring ^es and set features 
. they stood watching that unequal fight 

Once it seemed that all was over with the squire, for 
in springing back from his enemy he tripped over one of 
the bodies which strewed the deck and fell flat upon his 
back, but with a swift wriggle he escaped the heavy blow 
whidi thundered down upon him, and springing to his feet 
he bit deeply into the Frenchman's helmet with a sweeping 
cut in return. Again the mace fell, and this time Nigel 
had not quite cleared himself. His sword was beaten 
down and the blow fell partly upon his left shoulder. He 
staggered, and once more the iron club whirled upward to 
dash him ta the ground. 

Quick as a flash it passed through his mind that he 
could not leap beyond its reach. But he might get within 
it. In an instant he had dropped his sword, and springing 
in he had seized the brazen man round the waist. The 
mace was shortened and the handle jobbed down once 
upon the bare flaxen head. Then, with a sonorous dang, 
and a yell of delight from the spectators, Nigd, with one 
mighty wrench, tore his enemy from the deck and hurled 
bim down upon his back. His own head was whirling 
and he fdt that his senses were slipping away, but already 
his hunting-knife was out and pointing through the slit in 
the brazen helmet 

'' Give yourself up, fedr sir 1 " said he. 



HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 203 

*' Kever to fishermen and to archers I I am a gentleman 
of coat-armour. Kill me ! " 

" I also am a gentleman of coat-armour, I promise 
you quarter.'* 

" Then, sir, I surrender myself to you.'* 

The dagger tinkled dovm upon the deck. Seamen and 
archers ran forward, to find Nigel half senseless upon his 
face. They drew him ojBT, and a few defb blows struck off 
the helmet of his enemy. A head, sharp-featured, freckled 
and foxy-red, disclosed itself beneath it. Nigel raised 
himself on his elbow for an instant. 

" You are the Bed Ferret ? "said he. 

" So my enemies call me," said the Frenchman, with 
a smile. ** I rejoice, sir, that I have fiallen to so valiant 
and honourable a gentleman." 

^ I thank you, fair sir," said Nigel, feebly. "I also 
rejoice that I have encountered so debonair a person, and I 
shall ever bear in mind the pleasure which I have had 
from our meeting." 

So saying he laid his bleeding head upon his enemy's 
brazen front and sank into a dead faint. 



CHAPTER XV 

HOW THE RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 

The old chronicler in his " Oestes du Sieur Nigd " has 
bewailed his broken narrative, which rose from the fact 
that out of thirty-one years of warfare no less than seven 
were spent by his hero at one time or another in the 
recovery from his wounds or from those iUnesses which 
arose from privation and fatigue. Here at the very thres- 
hold of his career, on the eve of a great enterprise, this 
very fate befell him. 

Stretched upon a couch in a low-roofed and ill-furnished 
chamber, which looks down from under the machicolated 
comer turret upon the inner court of the Castle of Calais, 
he lay half-unconscious and impotent, while great deeds 
were doing under his window. Wounded in three places, 
and with his head splintered by the sharp pommel of the 
Ferret's mace, he hovered between life and death, his 
shattered body drawing him downward, his youthful spirit 
plucking him up. 

As in some strange dream he was aware of that deed 
of arms within the courtyard below. Dimly it came back 
to his memory afterwards, the sudden startled shout, the 
crash of metal, the slamming of great gates, the roar of 
many voices, the clang, clang, clang, as of fifty lusty 
smiths upon their anvils, and then at last the dwindling 
of the hubbub, the low groans and sudden shrill cries 
to the saints, the measured murmur of many voices, the 
heavy clanking of armoured feet. 

Sometime in that fell struggle he must have drawn his 
ao4 



'HOW RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 205 

weakened body as far as the narrow window, and hanging 
to the iron bars have looked down on the wild scene 
beneath him. In the zed glare of torches held from 
windows and from roof he saw the rush and swirl of men 
below, the ruddy light showing back firom Rowing brass 
and gleaming steel. As a wild vision it came to him 
afterwards, the beauty and the splendour, the flying 
lambrequins, the jeweled crests, the blazonry and richness 
of surcoat and of shield, where sable and gules, argent and 
vair, in every pattern of saltire, bend or chevron, glowed 
beneath him like a drift of many-coloured blossoms, tossing, 
sinking, stooping into shadow, springing into light. There 
glared the blood-red gules of Chandos, and he saw the tall 
figure of his master, a thunderbolt of war, raging in the 
van. There too were the three black chevrons on the 
golden shield which marked the noble Manny. That 
strong swordsman must surely be the royal Edward 
himself, since only he and the black-armoured swift-footed 
youth at his side were marked by no symbol of heraldry. 

'^ Manny I Manny I Geoige for England ! " rose the 
deep-throated bay, and ever the gallant counter-cry : " A 
Chargny I A Chargny I Saint Denis for France I " thun* 
dered amid the dash and thudding of the battle. 

Such was the vague whirling memory still lingering in 
Nigel's mind when at last the mists cleared away from it 
and he found himself weak but clear on the low couch in 
the comer turret. Beside him, crushing lavender between 
his rough fingers and strewing it over floor and sheets, 
was Aylward the archer. His longbow leaned at the foot 
of the bed, and his steel cap was balanced on the top of it, 
while he himself, sitting in his shirt-sleeves, fanned off 
the flies and scattered the fragrant herbs over his helpless 
master. 

" By my hilt ! *' he cried, with a sudden shout, every 
tooth in his head gleaming with joy, " I thank the Virgin 
f^nd all the saints for this blessed sight ! I had not daied 



2o6 SIR NIGEL 

to go back to Tilford had I lost yon. Three weeks have 
you lain ther^ and babbled like a babe^ but now I see in 
your eyes that you are your own man again/' 

''I have indeed had some small hurt/' said Nigel, 
feebly ; '' but it is shame and sorrow that I should lie 
here if there is work for my hands. Whither go you, 
archer ? " 

" To tell the good Sir John that you are mending/* 

''Nay, bide with me a little longer, Aylward. I can 
call to mind all that has passed. There was a bickering 
of small boats, was there not, and I chanced upon a most 
worthy person and exchanged handstrokes with him? 
He was my prisoner, was he not ? '^ 

"He was, fair sir/* 

"And where is he now ?'• 

" Below in the castle." 

A smile stole over Nigel's pale face; ^ I know what 
I will do with him,'' said he. 

" 1 pray you to rest, fair sir/' said Aylward, anxiously. 
*' The king's own leech saw you this morning, and he said 
that if the bandage was torn from your head you would 
surely die/' 

"Nay, good archer, I will not move. But tell me 
what befell upon the boat ? " 

" There is little to tell, fair sir. Had this Ferret not 
been his own squire and taken so long a time to don his 
harness it is likely that they would have had the better of 
us. He did not reach the battle till his comrades were 
on their backs. Him we took to the Marie Hose, because 
he was your man. The others were of no worth, so we 
threw them into the sea." * 

"The quick and the dead?" 

" Every man of them." 

" It was an evil deed/' 

Aylwaid shrogged his shoulders. "I tried to save 
one boy," said he ; " but Clock Badding woul4 no^ have it. 



HOW RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 207 

and he had Black Simon and the others at his back. ' It 
is the cnstom of the Narrow Seas/ said they : ' To-day for 
them ; to-morrow for ns/ Then they tore him from his 
hold and cast him screaming over the side. By my hilt I 
I have no love for the sea and its customs, so I care not 
if I never set foot on it again when it has once borne me 
back to England." 

" Nay, there are great happenings npon the sea, and 
many worthy people to be fonnd npon ships/' said Nigel. 
** In all parts, if one goes far enough upon the water, one 
would find those whom it would be joy to meet. If one 
crosses over the Narrow Sea, as we have done, we come on 
the French who are so needful to us ; for how else would 
we win worship ? Or if you go south, then in time one 
may hope to come to the land of the unbelievers, where 
there is fine skirmishing and much honour for liim who 
will venture his person. Bethink you, archer, how fair a 
life it must be when one can ride forth in search of 
advancement with some hope of finding many debonair 
cavaliers upon the same quest, and then if one be over- 
borne one has died for the faitli, and the gates of heaven 
are open before you. So also the sea to the north is a 
help to him who seeks honour, for it leads to the country 
of the Eastlanders and to those parts where the heathen 
still dwell who turn their faces from the blessed Gospel. 
There also a man might find some small deeds to do, and 
by Saint Paul ! Aylward, if the French hold the truce and 
the good Sir John permits us, I would fain go down into 
those parb9. The sea is a good friend to the cavalier, for 
it takes him where he may fulfil his vows/' 

Aylward shook his head, for his memories were too 
recent ; but he said nothing, because at this instant the 
door opened and Chandos entered. With joy in his face 
he stepped forward to the couch and took Nigel's hand in 
his. Then he whispered a word in Aylward's ear, who 
hurried from the room. 



2o8 SIR NIGEL 

'' Pardieu ! this is a good sight/' said the knight " I 
trast that yott will soon be on your feet again." 

" I crave your pardon, my honoured lord, that I have 
been absent from your side/' said Nigel. 

*' In truth my heart was sore for you, Nigel ; for you 
have missed such a night as comes seldom in any man's 
life. All went even as we had planned. The postern 
gate was opened, and a party made their way in ; but we 
awaited them, and all were taken or slain. But the 
greater part of the French had remained without upon the 
plain of Nieullet, so we took horse and went out against 
them. When we drew near them they were surprised, 
but they made good cheer among themselves, calling out 
to each other : ' If we fly we lose all. It is better to fight 
on, in the hopes that the day may be ours.' This was 
heard by our people in the van, who cried out to them : 
'By Saint George! you speak truth. Evil befall him 
who thinks of flying ! ' So they held their ground like 
worthy people for the space of an hour, and there were 
many there whom it is always good to meet : Sir Geoffrey 
himself, and Sir Pepin de Werre, with Sir John de Landas, 
old Ballieul of the Yellow Tooth, and his brother Hector 
the Leopard. But above all Sir Eustace de Bibeaumont 
was at great pains to meet us worthily, and he was at 
handstrokes with the king for a long time. Then, when 
we had slain or taken them, all the prisoners were brought 
to a feast which was ready for them, and the knights of 
England waited upon them at the table and made good 
cheer with them. And all this, Nigel, we owe to 
you." 

The squire flushed with pleasure at the words. "Nay, 
most honoured lord, it was but a small thing which I have 
been able to do. But I thank God and our Lady that I 
have done some service, since it has pleased you to take 
me with you to the wars. Should it chance " 

But the words were cut short upon Nigel's lips, and he 



HOW RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 209 

lay back with amazed eyes staring from his pallid face. 
The door of his little chamber had opened, and who was 
this, the tall, stately man with the noble presence, the high 
forehead, the long, handsome face, the dark, brooding eyes 
— who but the noble Edward of England ? 

"Ha, my little cock of Tilford Bridge, I still bear you 
in mind," said he. " Bight glad I was to hear that you 
had found your wits again, and I trust that I have not 
helped to make you take leave of them once more." 

Nigel's stare of astonishment had brought a smile to 
the king's lips. Now the squire stammered forth some 
halting words of gratitude at the honour done to him. 

" Nay, not a word," said the king. " But in sooth it 
is a joy to my heart to see the son of my old comrade 
Eustace Loring carrying himself so bravely. Had this 
boat got before us with news of our coming, then all our 
labour had been in vain, and no Frenchman ventured to 
Calais that night. But, above all, I thank you for that 
you have delivered into my hands one whom I had vowed 
to punish in that he has caused us more scathe by fouler 
means than any living man. Twice have I sworn that 
Peter the Bed Ferret shall hang, for all his noble blood 
and coat-armour, if ever he should fall into my hands. Now 
at last his time has come ; but I would not put him to 
death until you, who had taken him, could be there to see 
it done. Nay, thank me not, for I could do no less, seeing 
that it is to you that I owe Imn." 

But it was not thanks which Nigel was trying to 
utter. It was hard to frame his words, and yet they must 
be said. 

" Sire," he murmured, " it ill becomes me to cross your 
royal will " 

The dark Plantagenet wrath gathered upon the king's 
high brow and gloomed in his fierce, deep*set eyes. 

" By Grod's dignity ! no man has ever crossed it yet and 
lived unscathed. How now^ young air, what mean such 



210 SIR NIGEL 

words, to which we are little wont ? Have a care, for this 
is no light thing which you venture." 

" Sire," said Nigel, " in all matters in which I am a free 
man I am ever your faithful liege, but some things there 
are which may not be done." 

" How ? " cried the king. " In spite of my will ? " 

*' In spite of your will, sire," said Nigel, sitting up on 
his couch, with white face and blazing eyes. 

" By the Virgin I " the angry king thundered, ** we are 
come to a pretty pass I Tou have been held too long at 
home, young man. The overstabled horse will kick. The 
unweathered hawk will fly at check. See to it. Master 
Chandos I He is thine to break, and I hold you to it that 
you break him. And what is it that Edward of England 
may not do. Master Loring ? " 

Nigel faced the king with a face as grim as his own. 
" Tou may not put to death the Bed Ferret" 

" Pardim ! And why 1 " 

'' Because he is not thine to slay, sire. Because he is 
mine. Because I promised him his life, and it is not for 
you, king though you be, to constrain a man of gentle blood 
to break his plighted word and lose his honour." 

Chandos laid his soothing hand upon his squire's 
shoulder. 

" Excuse him, sire ; he is weak from his wounds," said 
he. ** Perhaps we have stayed over-long, for the leech has 
ordered repose." 

But the angry king was not easily to be appeased. '' I 
am not wont to be so browbeat," said he, hotly* " This is 
your squire, Master John. How comes it that you can 
stand there and listen to his pert talk, and say no word to 
chide him ? Is this how you guide your household ? Have 
you not taught him that every promise given is subject to 
the king's consent, and that with him only lie the springs 
of life and death ? If he is sick, you, at least, are hale. 
Why stand you there in silence ? " 



HOW RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 211 

" My liege," said Cliandos, gravely, " I have served you 
for over a score of years, and have shed my blood through 
as many wounds in your cause, so that you should not take 
my words amiss. But, indeed, I should feel myself to be no 
true man if I did not tell you that my Squire Nigel, though 
perchance he has spoken more bluntly than becomes him, 
is none the less right in this matter, and that you are wrong. 
F6r bethink you, sire " 

'^ Enough!" cried the king, more furious than ever, 
''like master, like man, and I might have known why it 
is that this saucy squire dares to bandy words with his 
sovereign lord* He does but give out what he hath taken 
in. John, John, you grow overbold. But this I tell you, 
and you also, young man, that as Ood is my help, ere the 
sun has set this night the Bed Ferret will hang as a warning 
to all spies and traitors from the highest tower of Calais, 
that every ship upon the Narrow Seas, and every man for 
ten miles round may see him as he swings and know how 
heavy is the hand of the English king. Do you bear it in 
mind, lest you also may feel its weight ! " With a glare 
like an angry lion he Wked from the room, and the iron- 
clamped door clanged loudly behind him. 

Chandos and Nigel looked ruefully at each other. Then 
the knight patted his squire upon his bandaged head. 

" Tou have earned yourself right well, Nigel. I could 
not wish for better. Fear not All will be welL'' 

** My fair and honoured lord," cried Nigel, "I am heavy 
at heart, for indeed I could do no other, and yet I have 
brought trouble upon you." 

''Nay, the clouds will soon pass. If he does indeed 
slay this Frenchman, you have done all that lay within 
your power, and your mind may rest easy." 

" I pray that it will rest easy in Paradise," said Nigel ; 
" for at the hour that I hear that I am dishonoured and my 
prisoner slain, I tear this bandage from my head and so end 
all things. I will not live when once my word is broken." 



212 SIR NIGEL 

''Naj, fair son, you take this thing too heavily," said 
Chandos, with a grave face. " When a man has done all 
he may there remains no dishononr ; but the king hath a 
kind heart for all his hot head, and it may be that if I see 
him I will prevail upon hinu Bethink you how he swore 
to hang the six burghers of this very town, and yet he 
pardoned them. So keep a high heart, fair son, and I will 
come with good news ere evening." 

For three hours, as the sinking sun traced the shadow 
higher and ever higher upon the chamber wall, Nigel tossed 
feverishly upon his couch, his ears straining for the footfall 
of Aylward or of Chandos, bringing news of the fate of the 
prisoner. At last the door flew open, and there before him 
stood the one man whom he least expected, and yet would 
most gladly have seen. It was the Bed Ferret himself, 
free and joyous. 

With swift furtive steps he was across the room and 
on his knees beside the couch, kissing the pendent hand. 

** Tou have saved me, most noble sir I" he cried. " The 
gallows was fixed and the rope slung, when the good Lord 
Chandos told the king that you would die by your own 
hand if I were slain. ' Curse this mule-headed squire ! ' 
he cried. ' In God's name let him have his prisoner, and 
let Mm do what he will with him so long as he troubles 
me no more I ' So here I have come, fair sir, to ask you 
what I shall do." 

"I pray you to sit beside me and be at your ease," 
said NigeL " In a few words I will tell you what I would 
have you do. Tour armour I will keep that I may have 
some remembrance of my good fortune in meeting so 
valiant a gentleman. We are of a size, and I make little 
doubt that I can wear it Of ransom I would ask a 
thousand crowns." 

'^ Nay, nay I " cried the Ferret. " It would be a sad 
thing if a man of my position was worth less than, five 
thousand." 



HOW RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 213 

" A tliousand will suffice^ fair sir, to pay my charges 
for the war. - Tou will not again play the spy, nor do us 
harm until the truce is broken." 

" That I will swear." 

" And lastly there is a journey that you shall make." 

The Frenchman's face lengthened. " Where you order 
I must go," said he ; " but I pray you that it is not to the 
Holy Land." 

** Nay," said Nigel ; " but it is to a land which is holy 
to me. Tou will make your way back to Southampton." 

''I know it well I helped to bum it down some 
years ago." 

" I rede you to say nothing of that matter when you 
get there. You will then journey as though to London 
until you come to a fair town named Guildford." 

" I have heard of it. The king hath a himt there." 

" The same. You will then ask for a house named Cos- 
ford, two leagues from the town on the side of a long hill." 

" I will bear it in mind." 

'^At Cosford you will see a good knight named Sir 
John Buttesthorn, and you will ask to have speech with 
his daughter, the Lady Mary." 

" I will do so ; and what shall I say to the Lady Mary, 
who lives at Cosford on the slope of a long hill two leagues 
from the fair town of Guildford ? " 

"Say only that I sent my greeting, and that Saint 
Catharine has been my friend — only that and nothing 
more. And now leave me, I pray you, for my head is 
weary and I would fain have sleep." 

Thus it came about that a month later on the eve of 
the Feast of Saint Matthew, the Lady Mary, as she walked 
from Cosford gates, met with a strange horseman, richly 
clad, a serving-man behind him, looking shrewdly about 
him with quick blue eyes, which twinkled from a red and 
freckled face. At sight of her he doffed his hat and reined 
his horse. 



214 SIR NIGEL 

" This house should be Cosford," said he. " Are you by 
chance the Lady Mary who dwells there ? " 

The lady bowed her proud dark head. 

*' Then," said he, " Squire Nigel Loring sends you greet- 
ing and tells you that Saint Catharine has been his friend." 
Then, turning to his servant, he cried : *' Heh, Baoul, our 
task is done! Your master is a free man once more. 
Come, lad, come, the nearest port to France! Hola! 
Hola! Hola! And so without a word more the two, 
master and man, set spurs to their horses and galloped 
like madmen down the long slope of Hindhead, imtil as 
she looked after them they were but two dark dots in the 
distance, waist high in the ling and the bracken. 

She turned back to the house, a smile upon her face. 
Nigel had sent her greeting. A Frenchman had brought 
it. His bringing it had made him a free man. And Saint 
Catharine had been Nigel's fiiend. It was at her shrine 
that he had sworn that three deeds should be done ere he 
should set eyes upon her again. In the privacy of her 
room the Lady Mary sank upon her prie-dieu and poured 
forth the thanks of her heart to the Virgin that one deed 
was accomplished ; but even as she did so her joy was 
overcast by the thought of those two others which lay 
before him. 



CHAPTER XVI 

HOW THE king's COURT FEASTED IN CALAIS CASTLS 

It was a bright sunshiny morning when Nigel found 
himself at last able to leave his turret chamber and to 
walk upon the rampart of the castle. There was a brisk 
northern wind, heavy and wet with the salt of the sea, and 
he felt, as he turned his face to it, fresh life and strength 
surging in his blood and bracing his limbs. He took his 
hand from Aylward's supporting arm and stood with his 
cap off, leaning on the rampart and breathing in the cool 
strong air. Far off upon the distant sky-line, half hidden 
by the heave of the waves, was the low white fringe of 
cliffs which skirted England. Between him and them lay 
the broad blue Channel, seamed and flecked with flashing 
foam, for a sharp sea was running and the few ships in 
sight were labouring heavily. Nigel's eyes traversed the 
wide-spread view» rejoicing in the change from the grey 
wall of his cramped chamber. Finally they settled upon 
a strange object at his very feet 

It was a long trumpet-shaped engine of leather and 
iron bolted into a rude wooden stand and fitted with 
wheels. Beside it lay a heap of metal slugs and lumps 
of stona The end of the machine was raised and pointed 
over the battlement Behind it stood an iron box which 
Nigel opened. It was fiUed with a black coarse powder, 
like gritty charcoaL 

" By Saint Paul I " said he, passing his hands over the 
engine, " I have heard men talk of these things, but never 

215 



2i6 SIR NIGEL 

before have I seen one. It is none other than one of those 
wondrous new-made bombards." 

" In sooth it is even as you say/' Aylward answered, 
looking at it with contempt and dislike in his face. '' I 
have seen them here upon the ramparts, and have also 
exchanged a buffet or two with him who had chaige of 
them. He was jack-fool enough to think that with 
this leather pipe he could outshoot the best archer in 
Christendom. I lent him a cuff on the ear that laid him 
across his foolish engine." 

" It is a fearsome thing/' said Nigel, who had stooped 
to examine it. '^We live in strange times when such 
things can be made. It is loosed by fire, is it not, which 
springs from the black dust ? " 

" By my hilt ! fair sir, I know not And yet I call to 
mind that ere we fell out this foolish bombardman did say 
something of the matter. The fire-dust is within and so 
also is the balL Then you take more dust from this iron 
box and place it in the hole at the farther end — so. It is 
now ready. I have never seen one fired, but I wot that 
this one could be fired now." 

" It makes a strange sound, archer, does it not ? " said 
Nigel, wistfully. 

" So I have heard, fair sir— even as the bow twangs, 
so it also has a sound when you loose it." 

" There is no one to hear, since we are alone upon the 
rampart, nor can it do scathe since it points to sea. I 
pray you to loose it and I will listen to the sound." He 
bent over the bombard with an attentive ear, while 
Aylward, stooping his earnest brown face over the touch- 
hole, scraped away diligently with a flint and steeL A 
moment later both he and Nigel were seated some distance 
off upon the ground, while amid the roar of the discharge 
and the thick cloud of smoke they had a vision of the long 
black snake-like engine shooting back upon the recoil. 
For a minute or more they were struck motionless with 



HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED 217 

astonishment, while the reverberations died away and the 
smoke-wreaths curled slowly up to the blue heavena 

" Good lack 1 " cried Nigel at last, picking himself up 
and looking round him. " Good lack, and Heaven be my 
aid ! I thank the Virgin that all stands as it did before. 
I thought that the castle had fallen." 

"Such a bull's bellow I have never heard/' cried 
Aylward, rubbing his injured limbs. "One could hear 
it from Frensham Pond to Guildford Castle. I would not 
touch one again — ^not for a hide of the best land in 
Puttenham I " 

" It may fare ill with your own hide, archer, if you do," 
said an angry voice behind them. Ghandos had stepped 
from the open door of the comer turret and stood looking 
at them with a harsh gaza Presently, as the matter was 
made clear to him, his face relaxed into a smile. 

"Hasten to the warden, archer, and tell him how it 
befell. You will have the castle and the town in arms. 
I know not what the king may think of so sudden an 
alarm. And you, Nigel, how in the name of the saints 
came you to play the child like this ? " 

" I knew not its power, fair lord." 

" By my soul, Nigel, I think that none of us know its 
power. I can see the day when all that we delight in, 
the splendour and glory of war, may all go down before 
that which beats through the plate of steel as easily as the 
leathern jacket I have bestrode my war-horse in my 
armour and have looked down at the sooty, smoky bom- 
bardman beside me, and I have thought that perhaps I 
was the last of the old and he the first of the new ; that 
there would dome a time when he and his engines would, 
sweep you and me and the rest of us from the field" 

" But not yet, I trust, honoured sir ? " 

" No, not yet, Nigel. You are still in time to win your 
spurs even as your fathers did How is your strength ? " 

" I am ready for any task, my good and honoured lord'* 



2i8 SIR NIGEL 

" It is welly for work awaits us — good work, pressing 
work, work of peril and of honour. Your eyes shine and 
your face flushes, Nigel I live my own youth over again 
as I look at you. l^now then that though there is truce 
with the French here, there is not truce in Brittany, where 
the houses of Blois and of Montfort still struggle for the 
dukedom. Half Brittany fights for one, and half for the 
other. The French have taken up the cause of Blois, and 
we of Montfort, and it is such a war that many a great 
leader, such as Sir Walter Manny, has first earned his 
name there. Of late the war has gone against us, and the 
bloody hands of the Bohans, of Gap-tooth Beaumanoir, of 
Oliver the Flesher and others have been heavy upon our 
people. The last tidings have been of disaster, and the 
king's soul is dark with wrath for that bis friend and 
comrade Gilles de St. Pol has been done to death in the 
Castle of La Brohini^re. He will send succours to the 
country, and we go at their head. How like you that, 
Nigel?" 

" My honoured lord, what could I ask for better ? '' 

'' Then have your harness ready, for we start within the 
week. Our path by land is blocked by the French, and 
we go by sea. This night the king gives a banquet ere he 
returns to England, and your place is behind my chair. 
Be in my chamber that you may help me to dress, and so 
we will to tiie hall together." 

With satin and with samite, with velvet and with fur, 
the noble Chandos was dressed for the King's feast, and 
Nigel too had donned his best silk jupon, faced with the 
five scarlet roses, that he might wait upon him. In the 
great hall of Calais Castle the tables were set, a high table 
for the lords, a second one for the less distinguished 
knights, and a third at which the squires might feast when 
their masters were seated. 

Never had Nigel in his simple life at Tilford pictured 
a scene of such pomp and wondrous luxury. The giim 



HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED 219 

gray walls were covered from ceiling to floor with priceless 
tapestry of Arras, where hart, hounds and huntsmen circled 
the great hall with one long living image of the chase. 
Over the principal table drooped a line of banners, and 
beneath them rows of emblazoned shields upon the wall 
carried the arms of the high noblemen who sat beneath. 
The red light of cressets and of torches burned upon the 
badges of the great captains of England. The lions and 
lilies shone over the high dorseret chair in the centre, and 
the same august device marked with the cadency label 
indicated the seat of the prince, while glowing to right 
and to left were the long lines of noble insignia, honoured 
in peace and terrible in war. There shone the gold and 
sable of Manny, the engrailed cross of Suffolk, the red 
chevron of Stafford, the scarlet and gold of Audley, the 
blue lion rampant of the Fercies, the silver swallows of 
Arundel, the red roebuck of the Montacutes, the star of 
the de Veres, the silver scallops of Bussell, the pui^Ie 
lion of de Lacy, and the black crosses of Clinton. 

A friendly squire at Nigel's elbow whispered the names 
of the famous warriors beneath. 

" You are young Loring of Tilford, the squire of Chandos, 
are you not ? " said he. *' My name is Delves, and I come 
from Doddington in Cheshire. I am the squire of Sir 
James Audley, yonder round-backed man with the dark 
face and dose-cropped beaxd, who hath the Saracen head 
as a crest above him.'' 

** I have heard of him as a man of great valour/' said 
Nigel, gazing at him with interest. 

** Indeed, you may well say so, Master Loiing. He is 
the bravest knight in England, and in Christendom also, 
as I believe. No man hath done such deeds of valour." ' 

Nigel looked at his new acquaintance with hope in his 
eyes. 

"You speak as it becomes you to speak when you 
uphold your own master," said he. ** For the same reason. 



220 SIR NIGEL 

Master Delves, and in no spirit of ill-will to yon, it 
behoves me to tell yon that he is not to be compared in 
name or fame with the noble knight on whom I wait. 
Should you hold otherwise, then surely we can debate the 
matter in whatever way or time may please you best/* 

Delves smiled good-humouredly. " Nay, be not so hot," 
said he. ** Had you upheld any other knight, save perhaps 
Sir Walter Manny, I had taken you at your word, and 
your master or mine would have had place for a new 
squire. But indeed it is only truth that no knight is 
second to Chandos, nor would I draw my sword to lower 
his pride of placa Ha, Sir James' cup is low ! I must 
see to it 1 " He darted off, a flagon of Gascony in his 
hand. "The king hath had good news to-night," he 
continued when he returned. " 1 have not seen him in so 
merry a mind since the night when we took the IVench- 
men and he laid his pearl chaplet upon the head of 
de Bibeaumont. See how he laughs, and the Prince also. 
That laugh bodes some one little good, or I am the more 
mistaken. Have a care 1 Sir John's plate is empty." 

It was Nigel's tlim to dart away; but ever in the 
intervals he returned to the corner whence he could look 
down the hall and listen to the words of the older squire. 
Delves was a short, thick-set man past middle age, weather- 
beaten and scarred, with a rough manner and bearing 
which showed that he was more at his ease in a tent than 
a hall. But ten years of service had taught him much, 
and Nigel listened eagerly to his talk. 

"Indeed the king hath some good tidings," he con* 
tinned. " See now, he has whispered it to Chandos and 
to Manny. Manny spreads it on to Sir Beginald Cobham, 
and he to Robert Enolles, each smiling like the devil over 
a friar." 

"Which is Sir Bobert Enolles?" asked Nigel, with 
interest. " I have heard much of him and his deeds." 

" He is the tall hard-faced man in yellow silk, he with 



HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED 221 

the hairless cheeks and the split lip. He is little older 
than yourself, and his father was a cobbler in Chester, yet 
he has already won the golden spurs. See how he dabs 
Us great hand in the dish and hands forth the gobbets. 
He is more used to a camp-kettle than a silver plate. 
The big man with the black beard is Sir Bartholomew 
Berghersh, whose brother is the Abbot of Beaulieu. Haste, 
haste I for the boar's head is come and the plates to be 
cleaned." 

The table manners of our ancestors at this period would 
have furnished to the modem eye the strangest mixture of 
luxury and of barbarism. Forks were still unknown, and 
the courtesy fingers, the index and the middle of the left 
hand, took their placa To use any others was accounted 
the worst of manners. A crowd of dogs lay among the 
rushes growling at each other and quarrelling over the 
gnawed bones which were thrown to them by the feasters. 
A slice of coarse bread served usually as a plate, but the 
king's own high table was provided with silver platters> 
which were wiped by the squire or page after each course. 
On the other hand, the table-linen was costly, and the 
courses, served with a pomp and dignity now unknown, 
comprised such a variety of dishes and such complex 
marvels of cookery as no modem banquet could show. 
Besides all our domestic animals and every kind of game, 
such strange delicacies as hedgehogs, bustards, porpoises, 
squirrels, bittems, and cranes lent variety to the feast. 

Each new course, heralded by a flourish of silver 
trumpets, was borne in by liveried servants walking two 
and two, with rubicund marshals stmtting in front and 
behind, bearing white wands in their hands, not only as 
badges of their office, but also as weapons with which to 
repel any impertinent inroad upon the dishes in the journey 
firom the kitchen to the hall. Boars' heads, enarmed and 
endored with gilt tusks and flaming mouths, were followed 
by wondrous pasties moulded to the shape of ships, castles 



222 SIR NIGEL 

and other devioes, with sngar aeamen or soldiers who lost 
their own bodies in their fruitless defence against the 
hungry attack. Finally came the great net, a silver 
vessel upon wheels laden with fruit and sweetmeats which 
rolled with its luscious cai^ down the line of guests. 
Flagons of Oascony, of Bhine wine, of Canary and of 
Bochelle were held in readiness by the attendants; but 
the age, though luxurious, was not drunken, and the 
sober habits of the Norman had happily prevailed over 
the license of those Saxon banquets, where no guest might 
walk from the table without a slur upon his host Honour 
and hardihood go iU with a shaking hand or a binned eye. 

While wine, fruit, and spices were handed round the 
high tables the squires had been served in turn at the 
farther end of the halL Meanwhile round the king there 
had gathered a group of statesmen and soldiers, talking 
eagerly among themselves. The Earl of Stafford, the Earl 
of Warwick, the Earl of Arundel, Lord Beauchamp and 
Lord Neville were assembled at the back of his chair, with 
Lord Percy and Lord Mowbray at either side. The little 
group blazed with golden chains and jeweled chaplets, 
flame-coloured paltocks and purple tunics. 

Of a sudden the king said something over his shoulder 
to Sir William de Pakyngton the herald, who advanced 
and stood by the royal chair. He was a tall and noble- 
featured man, with long grizzled beard which rippled down 
to the gold-linked belt girdling his many-coloured tabard. 
On his head he had placed the heraldic barret-cap which 
bespoke his dignity, and he slowly raised his white wand 
high in the air, while a great hush fell upon the hall. 

''My lords of England," said he, "knight bannerets, 
knights, squires, and all others here present of gentle 
birth and coat-armour, know that your dread and sovereign 
loid, Edward, King of England and of France, bids me 
give you greeting and commands you to come hither that 
he may have speech with you." 



HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED 223 

In- an instant the tables were deserted and the whole 
company had dnstered in front of the king's chair. Those 
who had sat on either side of him crowded inward, so that 
his tall dark figure upreared itself amid the dense circle of 
his guests. 

With a flush upon his olive cheeks and with pride 
smouldering in his dark eyes, he looked round him at the 
eager faces of the men who had been his comrades from 
Sluys and Cadsand to Cr^ and Calais. They caught fire 
from that warlike gleam in his masterful gaze, and a 
sudden wild, fierce shout pealed up to the vaulted ceiling, 
a soldierly thanks for what was passed and a promise for 
what was to come. The king's teeth gleamed in a quick 
smile, and his large white hand played with the jeweled 
dagger in his belt. 

" By the splendour of God ! " said he, in a loud clear 
voice, " I have little doubt that you will rejoice with me 
this night, for such tidings have come to my ears as may 
well bring joy to every one of you. You know well that 
our ships have suffered great scathe from the Spaniards, 
who for many years have slain without grace or ruth all 
of my people who have fallen into their cruel hands. Of 
late they have sent their ships into Flanders, and thirty 
great cogs and galleys lie now at Sluys well-filled with 
archers and men-at-arms and ready in all ways for battle. 
I have it to-day from a sure hand that, having taken their 
merchandise aboard, these ships will sail upon the next 
Sunday, and will make their way through our Narrow 
Sea. We have for a great time been long-suffering to 
these people, for which they have done us many contraries 
and despites, growing ever more arrogant as we grow more 
patient. It is in my mind therefore that we hie us to* 
morrow to Winchelsea, where we have twenty ships, and 
make ready to sally out upon them as they pass. May 
God and Saint Geoi^ defend the rightl " 

A second shout, fiir louder and fiercer than the flzst^ 



224 SIR NIGEL 

came like a thunderclap after the king's wordfl. It was 
the bay of a fierce pack to their trusted huntsman* 

Edward laughed again as he looked round at the gleam- 
ing eyes, the waving arms, and the flushed joyful faces of 
bis liegemen. 

" Who hath fought against these Spaniards ? '* he asked. 
" Is there any one here who can tell us what manner of 
men they be ? " 

A dozen hands went up into the air; but the king 
turned to the Earl of Suffolk at his elbow. 

" You have fought them, Thomas ? " said he. 

" Yes, sire, I was in the great sea-fight eight years ago 
at the Island of Guernsey, when Lord Lewis of Spain held 
the sea against the Earl of Pembroke." 

" How found you them, Thomas ? " 

'* Very excellent people, sire, and no man could ask for 
better. On every ship they have a hundred crossbowmen 
of Grenoa, the best in the world, and their spearmen also are 
very hardy men. They would throw great cantles of iron from 
the tops of the masts, and many of our people met their 
death through it. If we can bar their way in the Narrow 
Sea, then there will be much hope of honour for all of us." 

"Your words are very welcome, Thomas," said the 
king, " and I make no doubt that they will show them- 
selves to be very worthy of what we prepare for them. 
To you I give a ship, that you may have the handling of 
it. You also, my dear son, shall have a ship, that evermore 
honour may be thine." 

" I thank you, my fair and sweet father," said the prince, 
with joy flushing his handsome boyish face. 

** The leading ship shall be mine. But you shall have 
one, Walter Manny, and you, Stafford, and you, Arundel, 
and you, Audley, and you. Sir Thomas Holland, and you, 
Brocas, and you, Berkeley, and you, Beginald. The rest 
shall be awarded at Winchelsea, whither we sail to-morrow. 
Nay, John, why do you pluck so at my sleeve ? " 



HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED 225 

Ghandos was leaning forward, with an anxioos face. 
^' Sorely, my honoured lord, I have not served you so long 
and so faithfully that you should foiget me now* Is there, 
then, no ship for me ? " 

The king smiled, but shook his head. ^'Nay, John, 
have I not given you two hundred archers and a hundred 
men-at*anns to take with you into Brittany? I trust 
that your ships will be lying in Saint Malo Bay ere the 
Spaniards are abreast of Winchelsea. What more would 
you have, old war-dog? Wouldst be in two battles at 
once?" 

'* I would be at your side, my li^ge, when the lion 
banner is in the wind once more. I have ever been there. 
Why should you cast me now ? I ask little, dear lord — a 
galley, a baUnger, even a pinnace, so that I may only be 
there." 

'^Nay, John, you shall come. I cannot find it in my 
heart to say you nay. I will find you place in my own 
ship, that you may indeed be by my side." 

Ghandos stooped and kissed the King's hand. ''My 
Squire ? " he asked. 

The king's brows knotted into a frown. ''Nay, let 
him go to Brittany with the others," said he, harshly. " I 
wonder, John, that you should bring back to my memory 
this youth whose pertness is too fresh that I should forget 
it. But some one must go to Brittany in your stead, 
for the matter presses and our people are hard put to it 
to hold their own." He cast his eyes over the assembly, 
and they rested upon the stern features of Sir Bobert 
Enolles. 

" Sir Bobert," he said, " though you are young in years . 
you are already old in war, and I have heard that you are 
as prudent in council as you are valiant in the field. To 
you I commit the chaige of this venture to Brittany in 
place of Sir John Ghandos, who will follow thither when 
our work has been done upon the waters. Three ships 

Q 



226 SIR NIGEL 

lie in Calais port and three hundred men are ready to 
your hand. Sir John mVL tell you what our mind is in 
the matter. And now^ my Mends and good comrades, 
you will haste you each to his own quarters^ and you will 
make swiftly such preparations as are needful, for, as God 
is my aid, I will sail with you to Winchelsea to-morrow ! ^ 
Beckoning to Ghandos, Manny and a few of his chosen 
leaders, the king led them away to an inner chamber, 
where they might discuss the plans for the future. At 
the same time the assembly broke up, the knights in 
silence and dignity, the squires in mirth and noise, but all 
joyful at heart for the thought of the great days which lay 
bdtore thenu 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 

Morning had not yet dawned when Nigel was in the 
chamber of Ghandos preparing him for his departure and 
listening to the last cheery words of advice and direction 
from his noble master. That same monung, before the sun 
was halfway up the heaven, the king's great nef Philippa, 
bearing within it the most of those present at his banquet 
the night before, set its huge sail, adorned with the lions 
and the lilies, and turned its brazen beak for England* 
Behind it went five smaller cogs crammed with squires, 
archers, and men-at-arms. 

Nigel and his companions lined the ramparts of the 
castle and waved their caps as the blufiT, burly vessels, 
with drums beating and trumpets clanging, a hundred 
knightly pennons streaming from their decka and the red 
cross of England over all, rolled slowly out to the open 
sea. ' Then, when they had watched them until they were 
hull down, they turned, with hearts heavy at being left 
behind, to make ready for their own more distant venture. 

It took them four days of hard work ere their prepara- 
tions were complete, for many were the needs of a small 
force sailing to a strange country. Three ships had been 
left to them — the cog Thomas of Somney, the Oraee Dieu 
of Hythe, and the BaMisk of Southampton, into each of 
which one hundred men were stowed, besides the thirty 
seamen who formed the crew. In the hold were forty 
horses, among them Pommers, much wearied by his long 
idleness, and homesick for the slopes of Surrey, where his 

aa; 



228 SIR NIGEL 

great limbs might find the work he craved. Then the 
food and the water, the bow-staves and the sheaves of 
arrows, the horseshoes, the nails, the hammers, the knives, 
the axes, the ropes, the vats of hay, the green fodder, and 
a score of other things, were packed aboard. Always by 
the side of the ships stood the stem young knight Sir 
Bobert, checking, testing, watching, and controlling, saying 
little, for he was a man of few words, but with his eyes, 
his hands, and if need be his heavy dog-whip, wherever 
they were wanted. 

The seamen of the Basilisk, being from a free port, had 
the old feud against the men of the Cinque Forts, who 
were looked upon by the other mariners of England as 
being unduly favoured by the king. A ship of the West 
Country coidd scarce meet with one from the Narrow Seas 
without blood flowing. Hence sprang sudden broils on 
the quay side, when with yell and blow the Thomasfis and 
OroM Dims, Saint Leonard on their lips and murder in 
their hearts, would fall upon the Basilisks. Then amid 
the whirl of cudgels and the clash of knives would spring 
the tiger figure of the young leader, lashing mercilessly to 
right and left like a tamer among his wolves, until he had 
beaten them howling back to their work. Upon the 
morning of the fourth day all was ready, and the ropes 
being cast off, the three little ships were warped down the 
harbour by their own pinnaces until they were swallowed 
up in the swirling folds of a Channel mist. 

Though small in numbers, it was no mean force which 
Edward had despatched to succour the hard-pressed 
English garrisons in Brittany. There was scarce a man 
among them who was not an old soldier, and their leaders 
were men of note in council and in war. Ejiolles flew his 
flag of the black raven aboard the BaMisk, With him 
were Nigel and his own squire, John Hawthorn. Of his 
Hundred men, forty were Yorkshire dalesmen and forty 
ere men of Lincoln, aU noted archers, with old Wat of 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 229 

Carlisle, a grizzled veteran of border warfare, to lead 
them. 

Already Aylward by his skill and strength had won his 
way to an nnder-officership among them, and shared with 
Long Ned Widdington, a huge north countryman, the 
reputation of coming next to famous Wat Carlisle in all 
that makes an archer. The men-at-arms, too, were war-* 
hardened soldiers, with Black Simon of Norwich, the same 
who had sailed fiom Winchelsea, to lead them. With his 
heart filled with hatred for the French who had slain all 
who were dear to him, he followed like a bloodhound over 
land and sea to any spot where he might glut his vengeance. 
Such also were the men who sailed in the other ships — 
Cheshire men from the Welsh borders in the cog Thomas, 
and Cumberland men, used to Scottish warfare, in the 
Oraee Dieu. 

Sir James Astley hung his shield of cinquefuil ermino 
over the quarter of the Thomas. Lord Thomas Percy, a 
cadet of Alnwick, famous already for the high spirit of 
that house which for ages was the bar upon the landward 
gate of England, showed his blue lion rampant as leader 
of the Oraee Dieu, Such was the goodly company Saint 
Male bound, who warped from Calais harbour to plunge 
into the thick reek of a Channel mist. 

A slight breeze blew from the eastward, and the high- 
ended, round-bodied craft rolled slowly down the Channel. 
The nust rose a little at times, so that they had sight of 
each other dipping and rising upon a sleek, oily sea, but 
again it would sink down, settling over the top, shrouding 
the great yard, and finally frothing over the deck until 
even the water alongside had vanished from their view and 
they were afloat on a little raft in an ocean of vapour. A 
thin cold rain was falling, and the archers were crowded 
under the shelter of the overhanging poop and forecastle 
where some spent the hours at dice, some in sleep, and 
many in trimming their arrows or polishing their weapons. 



230 SIR NIGEL 

At the farther end, seated on a barrel as a throne of 
honour, with trays and boxes of feathers around him, was 
Bartholomew the bowyer and fletcher, a fat, bald-headed 
man, whose task it was to see that every man's tackle was as 
it should be, and who had the privil^e of seUiug such extras 
as they might need. A group of archers with their staves 
and quivers filed before him with complaints or requests, 
while half a dozen of the seniors gathered at his back and 
listened with grinning faces to his comments and rebukes. 

** Canst not string it ? " he was saying to a young bow- 
man. " Then surely the string is overshort or the stave 
overlong. It could not by chance be the fault of thy own 
baby arms more fit to draw on thy hosen than to dress a 
warbow. Thou lazy lurdan, thus is it strung!" He 
seized the stave by the centre in his right hand, leaned 
the end on the inside of his right foot, and then, pulling 
the upper nock down with the left hand, slid the eye 
of the string easily into place. ''Now I pray thee to 
unstring it again," handing it to the bowman. 

The youth, with an effort, did so ; but he was too slow 
in disengaging his fingers, and the string sliding down with 
a snap from the upper nock caught and pinched them 
sorely against the stave. A roar of laughter, like the clap 
of a wave, swept down the deck as the luckless bowman 
danced and wrung his hand. 

"Serve thee well right, thou redeless fool!" growled 
the old bowyer. " So fine a bow is wasted in such hands. 
How now, Samkin ? I can teach you little of your trade, 
I trow. Here is a bow dtessed as it should be ; but it 
would, as you say, be the better for a white band to mark 
the true nocking point in the centre of this red wrapping 
of silk. Leave it and I will tend to it anon. And you, 
Wat ? A fresh head on yonder stele ? Lord, that a man 
should carry four trades under one hat, and be bowyer, 
fletcher, strhiger, and head-maker I Four men's work for 
old Bartholomew and one man's pay I " 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 231 

'* Nay, say no more about that/' growled an old wizened 
bowman, wiUi a brown parchment skin and little beady 
eyes. " It is better in these days to mend a bow than to 
bend one. You who never looked a Frenchman in the 
face are pricked off for ninepence a day, and I who have 
fought five stricken fields, can earn but fourpence." 

" It is in my mind, John of Tuxford, that you have 
looked in the face more pots of mead than Frenchmen," 
said the old bowyer. ^I am swinking fix)m dawn to 
night, while you are guzzling in an ale-stake. How now, 
youngster ? Overbowed ? Put your bow in the tiller. It 
draws at sixty pounds — ^not a peimyweight too much for 
a man of your inches. Lay more body to it, lad, and it will 
come to you. If your bow be not stiff, how can you hope 
for a twenty-score flight 7 Feathers ? Ay, plenty, and of 
the best Here are peacock at a groat eacL Surely a 
dandy archer like you, Tom Beverley, with gold earrings 
in your ears, would have no feathering but peacocks ? " 

''So the shaft fly straight, I care not of the feather,'' 
said the bowman, a tall young Yorkshireman, counting out 
pennies on the palm of his homy hand. 

" Gray goose-feathers are but a farthing. These on the 
left are a half-penny, for they are of the wild-goose, and 
the second feather of a fenny goose is worth more than the 
pinion of a tame one. These in the brass tray are dropped 
feathers, and a dropped feather is better than a plucked 
one. Buy a score of these, lad, and cut them saddle- 
backed or swine-backed, the one for a dead shaft and the 
other for a smooth flyer, and no man in the company will 
swing a better-fletched quiver over his shoulder. 

It chanced that the opinion of the bowyer on this and 
other points differed from that of Long Ned of Widding- 
ton, a surly straw-bearded Yorkshireman, who had listened 
with a sneering face to his counsel Now he broke in 
suddenly upon the bowyer^s talk. 

''You would do better to sell bows than to try to teaob 



232 SIR NIGEL 

others how to use them/' said he; ''for indeed, Bartholo* 
mew, that head of thine has no more sense within it than 
it has hairs without. If you had drawn string for as many 
months as I have years yon would know that a straight- 
cut feather flies smoother than a swine-backed, and pity it 
is that these young bowmen have none to teach them 
better!" 

This attack upon his professional knowledge touched 
the old bowyer on the raw. His fat face became suffused 
with blood and his eyes glared with fury as he turned upon 
the archer. 

"You seven-foot barrel of lies I" he cried. "All- 
hallows be my aid, and I will teach you to open your 
slabbing mouth against me ! Pluck forth your sword and 
stand out on yonder deck, that we may see who is the man 
of us twain. May I never twirl a shaft over my thumb- 
nail if I do not put Bartholomew's mark upon your thick 
head!" 

A score of rough voices joined at once in the quarrel, 
some upholding the bowyer and others taking the part of 
the North Countryman. A red-headed Dalesman snatched 
up a sword, but was felled by a blow from the fist of his 
neighbour. Instantly, with a buzz like a swarm of angry 
hornets, the bowmen were out on the deck ; but ere a blow 
was struck Knolles was among them with granite face and 
eyes of fire. 

"Stand apart, I say I I will warrant you enough 
fighting to cool your blood ere you see England once more. 
Loring, Hawthorn, cut any man down who raises his hand. 
Have you aught to say, you fox-haired rascal ? " He thrust 
his &ce within two inches of that of the red man who had 
first seized his sword. The fellow shrank back, cowed^ 
from his fierce eyes. " Now stint your noise, all of you, 
and stretch your long ears. Trumpeter, blow once more 1 " 

A bugle call had been sounded every quarter of an 
bour» so as to keep in touch with the other two vessels, who 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 233 

were inylsible in the fog. Now the high clear note rang 
out once more, the call of a fierce sea-creature'to its mates, 
but no answer came back from the thick wall which pent 
them in. Again and again they called, and again and 
again with bated breath they waited for an answer. 

" Where is the shipman ? " asked KnoUes. " What is 
your name, fellow 7 Do you dare call yourself master- 
mariner ? " 

"My name is Nat Dennis, &ir sir/' said the grey- 
bearded old seaman. *'It is thirty years since first I 
showed my cartel and blew trumpet for a crew at the 
water-gate of Southampton. If any man may call himself 
master-mariner, it is surely L" 

" Where are our two ships t ** 

" Nay, sir, who can say in this fog ? ** 

"Fellow, it was your place to hold them together." 

*'I have but the eyes God gave me, fair sir, and they 
cannot see through a cloud." 

" Had it been fair, I who am a soldier, could have kept 
them in company. Since it was foul, we looked to you, 
who are called a mariner, to do so. You have not done 
it. You have lost two of my ships ere the venture is 
begun." 

"Nay, fair sir, I pray you to consider—" 

" Enough words I " said Knolles, sternly. " Words will 
not give me back my two hundred men. Unless I find 
them before I come to Saint Malo, I swear by Saint 
Wilfrid of Bipon that it will be an evil day for you! 
Enough I 60 forth, and do what you may ! " 

For five hours, with a light breeze behind them, they 
lurched through the heavy fog, the cold rain still matting 
their beards and shining on their faces. Sometimes they 
could see a circle of tossing water for a bow-shot or so in 
each direction, and then the wreaths would crawl in upon 
them once more and bank them thickly round. They had 
long ceased to blow the trumpet for their missing comrades, 



234 SIR NIGEL 

bnt had hopes when dear weather came to find them fitiU 
in sight. By the shipman's reckoning they were now 
abont midway between the two shores. 

Nigel was leaning against the bulwarks, his thoughts 
away in the dingle at Ck)sford and out on the heather-dad 
slopes of Hindhead, when something struck his ear. It was 
a thin clear dang of metal, pealing out high above the dull 
murmur of the sea, the creak of the boom, and the flap of 
the sail He listened, and again it was borne to his ear. 

" Hark, my lord!" said he to Sir Bobert. ''Is there 
not a sound in the fog ? " 

They both listened together with sidelong heads. Then 
it rang clearly forth once more, but this time in another 
direction. It had been on the bow; now it was on the 
quarter. Again it sounded, and again. Now it had moved 
to the other bow; now back to the quarter again ; now it 
was near ; and now so far that it was but a faint tinkle on 
the ear. By this time every man on board, seamen, 
archers, and men-at-arms, were crowding the sides of the 
vessel. All round them there were noises in the darkness, 
and yet the wall of fog lay wet against their very faces. 
And the noises w^re such as were strange to their ears, 
always the same high musical dashing. 

The old shipman shook his head and crossed himself. 
" In thirty years upon the waters I have never heard the 
like," said he. " The Devil is ever loose in a fpg. Well 
is he named the Prince of Darkness.'' 

A wave of panic passed over the vessel, and these 
rough and hardy men, who feared no mortal foe, shook 
with terror at the shadows of their own minds. They 
stared into the cloud with blandied faces and fixed eye^^ 
as though each instant some fearsome shape might break 
in upon them. And as tiiey stared there came a gust of 
wind. For a moment the fog-bank rose and a circle of 
ocean lay before them. 

It was covered with vessds. On all sides they lay 



THE SPANIARDS ON* THE SEA 235 

thick upon its surface. They were huge caracks, high- 
ended and portly, with red sides and bulwarks carved and 
crusted with gold. Each had one great sail set, and was 
driving down channel on the same course as the Basilisk. 
Their decks were thick with men, and from their high 
poops came the weird clashing which filled the air. For 
one moment they lay there, this wondrous fleet, surging 
slowly forward, framed in gray vapour. The next the 
douds closed in and they had vanished from view. There 
was a long hush, and then a buzz of excited voices. 

" The Spaniards I " cried a dozen bowmen and sailors. 

" I should have known it," said the shipman. *' I call 
to mind on the Biscay coast how they would clash their 
cymbals after the fashion of the heathen Moor with whom 
they fight ; but what would you have me do, fair sir ? If 
the fog rises we are all dead mea'' 

" There were thirty ships at the least,'' said EnoUes, 
with a moody brow. " If we have seen them I trow that 
they have also seen us. They will lay us aboard." 

'* Nay, fair sir, it is in my mind that our ship is lighter 
and faster than theirs. If tiie fog hold another hour we 
should be through them." 

"Stand to your arms!'' yelled Enolles. ''Stand to 
your arms I They are on us ! " 

The Basilisk had indeed been spied from the Spanish 
Admiral's ship before the fog closed down. With so light 
a breeze, and such a fog, he could not hope to find her 
under sail. But by an evil chance not a bowshot from 
the great Spanish carack was a low gall^, thin and swift, 
with oars which could speed heitagainst wind or tide. She 
also had seen the Basilisk, and it was to her that the 
Spanish leader shouted his orders. For a few minutes she 
hunted through the fog, and then sprang out of it like a lean 
and stealthy beast upon its prey. It was the sight of the 
long dark shadow gliding after them which had brought 
that wild shout of alarm from the lips of the English 



236 SIR NIGEL 

knight. In another instant the starboard oars of the 
galley had been shipped, the sides of the two vessels grated 
together, and a stream of swarthy, red-capped Spaniards 
were swarming up the sides of tiie Basilisk and dropped 
with yells of triumph upon her deck. 

For a moment it seemed as if the vessel was captured 
without a blow being struck, for the men of the English 
ship had run wildly in all directions to look for their arms. 
Scores of archers might be seen under the shadow of the 
forecastle and the poop bending their bowstaves to string 
them with the cords from their leathern cases. Others 
were scrambling over saddles, barrels, and cases in wild 
search of their quivers. Each as he came upon his arrows 
pulled out a few to lend to his less fortunate comrades. 
In mad haste the men-at-arms also were feeling and 
grasping in the dark comers, picking up steel caps which 
would not fit them, hurling them down on the deck, and 
snatching eagerly at any swords or spears that came 
their way. 

The centre of the ship was held by the Spaniards, and 
having slain all who stood before them, they were pressing 
up to either end before they were made to understand that 
it was no fat sheep but a most fierce old wolf which they 
had taken by the ears. 

If the lesson was late, it was the more thorough. 
Attacked on both sides and hopelessly outnumbered, the 
Spaniards, who had never doubted that this little craft was 
a merchant-ship, were cut off to the last man. It was no 
fight, but a butcheiy. In vain the survivors ran screaming 
prayers to the saints and threw themselves down into the 
galley alongside. It also had been riddled with arrows 
from the poop of the Basilisk, and both the crew on the 
deck and the galley-slaves in the outriggers at either side 
lay dead in rows under the overwhelming shower from 
above. From stem to rudder every foot of her was furred 
with arrows. It was but a floating coffin piled with dead 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 237 

And dying men, which wallowed in the waves behind them 
as the Basilisk lurched onward and left her in the fog. 

In their first rash on to the Basilisk, the Spaniards had 
seized six of the crew and four unarmed archers. Their 
throats had been cut and their bodies tossed overboard 
Now the Spaniards who littered the deck, wounded and 
dead, were thrust over the side in the same fashion. One 
ran down into the hold and had to be hunted and killed 
squealing under the blows like a rat in the darkness. 
Within half an hour no sign was left of this grim meeting 
in the fog save for the crimson splashes upon bulwarks 
and deck. The archers, flushed and meny, were unstring- 
ing their bows once more, for in spite of the water glue 
the damp air took the strength from the cords. Some were 
hunting about for arrows which might have stuck inboard, 
and some tying up small injuries received in the scu£9e. 
But an anxious shadow still lingered upon the face of Sir 
Bobert, and he peered fixedly about him through the fog. 

''Go among the archers, Hawthorne," said he to his 
squire. " Charge them on their lives to make no sound I 
Tou also, Loring. 60 to the afterguard and say the same 
to them. We are lost if one of these great ships should 
spy us." 

For an hour with bated breath they stole through the 
fleet, still hearing the cymbals clashing all round them, for 
in this way the Spaniards held themselves together. Once 
the wild music came from above their very prow, and so 
warned them to change their course. Once also a huge 
vessel loomed for an instant upon their quarter, but they 
turned two points away from her, and she blurred and 
vanished. Soon the cymbals were but a distant tinkling, 
and at last they died gradually away. 

" It is none too soon," said the old shipman, pointing 
to a yellowish tint in the haze above them. *' See yonder I 
It is the sun which wins through. It will be here anon. 
Ahl said I not so?" 



238 SIR NIGEL 

A sickly sun, no larger and far dimmer than the moon, 
had indeed shown its face, with cloud-wreaths smoking 
across it. As they looked up it waxed larger and brighter 
before their eyes — a yellow halo spread round it, one ray 
broke through, and then a funnel of golden light poured 
down upon them, widening swiftly at the base. A minute 
later they were sailing on a dear blue sea with an azure 
doud-flecked sky above their heads, and such a scene 
beneath it as each of them would carry in his memory 
while memory remained. 

They were in mid-channeL The white and green 
coasts of Picardy and of Kent lay clear upon either side 
of them. The wide channel stretched in fronts deepening 
from the light blue beneath their prow to purple on the far 
sky-line. Behind them was that thick bank of doud from 
which they had just burst. It lay like a gray wall from east 
to west, and through it were breaking the high shadowy 
forms of the ships of Spain. Four of them had abready 
emerged, their red bodies, gilded sides and painted saiLs 
shining gloriously in the evening sun. Every instant a 
fresh golden spot grew out of the fog, which biased like 
a star for an instant, and then surged forward to show 
itself as the brazen beak of the great red vessel which bore 
it. Looking back, the whole bank of cloud was broken by 
the widespread line of noble ships which were bursting 
through it. The Basilisk lay a mile or more in front 
of them and two miles clear of their wing. Five miles 
fSEurther off, in the direction of the French coast, two other 
smaU ships were running down Channd. A cry of joy 
from Robert EnoUes and a hearty prayer of gratitude to 
the saints fix)m the old shipman hailed them as their 
missing comrades, the cog Thomas and the Oracs 
Dim. 

But fair as was the view of their lost Mends, and 
wondrous the appearance of the Spanish ships, it was not 
on those that tiie eyes of the men of the Basilisk were 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 239 

chiefly bent A greater sight lay before them—- « sight 
which brought them clustering to the forecastle with eager 
eyes and pointing fingers. The English fleet was coming 
forth firom the Winchelsea Coast. Already before the fog 
lifted a fast galleass had broi^ht the news down Channel 
that the Spanish were on the sea, and the king's fleet was 
under way. Novir their long array of sails, gay with the 
coats and colours of the towns which had furnished them^ 
lay bright against the Kentish coast from Dungeness Point 
to Bye. Nine and twenty ships were there from South- 
ampton, Shoreham, Winchelsea, Hastings, Bye, Hytha, 
Bomney, Folkestone, Deal, Dover, and Sandwich. With 
their g^reat sails slued round to catch the wind they ran 
out, while the Spanish, like the gallant foes that they 
have ever been, turned their heads landward to meet 
them. With flaunting banners and painted sails, blaring 
trumpets and clashing cymbalsi the two glittering fleets, 
dipping and rising on the long Channel swell, drew slowly 
tpgetiier. 

King Edward had been lying all day in his great ship 
the PhUippa, a mile out from the Camber Sands, waiting 
for the coming of the Spaniards. Above the huge sail 
which bore the royal arms flew the red cross of England* 
Along the bulwarks were shown the shields of fortjr 
knights, the flower of English chivalry, and as many 
pennons floated from the deck. The high ends of the ship 
glittered with the weapons of the men-at-arms, and the 
waist was crammed with the archers. From time to time 
a crash of nakers and blare of trumpets burst from the 
royal ship, and was answered by her great neighbours, 
the Lum on which the Black Prince flew his flag, the 
Christopher with the Earl of Suffolk, the Salle du Boi of 
Bobert of Namur, and the Otom Marie of Sir Thomas 
Holland Farther off lay the WhUe Sioan, bearing the 
arms of Mowbray, the Palmer of Deal, flying the Black 
Head of Audley, and the Kentish Man under the Lord 



240 SIR NIGEL 

Beauchamp. The rest Iay» anchored but ready, at the 
mouth of Winchelsea Greek. 

The king sat upon a keg in the fore part of his ship, 
with little John of Sichmond, who was no more than a 
school-boy, perched upon his knee. Edward was clad in 
the black velvet jacket which was his favourite garb, and 
wore a small brown beaver hat with a white plume at the 
sida A rich doak of fur turned up with miniver drooped 
from his shoulders. Behind him were a score of his 
knights, brilliant in silks and sarcenets, some seated on 
an upturned boat and some swinging their legs from the 
bulwark. 

In front stood John Chandos in a party-coloured jupon, 
one foot raised upon the anchor-stock, picking at the 
strings of his guitar and singing a song which he had 
learned at Marienbuig when la^t he helped the Teutonic 
knights against the heathen. The king, his knights, and 
even the archers in the waist below them, laughed at the 
merry lilt and joined lustily in the chorus, while the men 
of the neighbouring ships leaned over the side to hearken 
to the deep chant rolling over the waters. 

But there came a sudden intraruption to the song. A 
sharp, harsh shout came down from the lookout stationed 
in the circular top at the end of the mast. 

" I spy a sail — two sails I " he cried. 

John Bunco, the king's shipman, shaded his eyes and 
stared at the long fog-bank which shrouded the northern 
channel. Chandos, with his fingers over the strings of his 
guitar, the king, the knights, all gazed in the same direc- 
tion. Two sms^, dark shapes had burst forth, and then, 
after some minutes, a third. 

" Surely they are the Spaniards T " said the king. 

'' Kay, sire," the seaman answered, '' the Spaniards are 
greater ships and are painted red. I know not what these 
may be." 

"But I could hazard a guess!" cried Chandos. 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 241 

" Surely they are the three ships with my own men on 
their way to Brittany." 

" You have hit it, John/' said the king. ** But look, I 
pray you ! What in the name of the Virgin is that ? " 

Four brilliant stars of flashing light bad shone out 
from different points of the cloud-bank. The next instant 
as many tall ships had swooped forth into the sunshine. 
A fierce shout rang from the king*s ship, and was taken 
up all down the line, until the whole coast from Dunge- 
ness to Winchelsea echoed the warlike greeting. Uie 
king sprang up with a joyous face. 

" The game is afoot, my friends ! " said he. " Dress, 
John! Dress, Walter! Quick, all of you! Squires, 
bring the harness ! Let each tend to himself, for the time 
is short." 

A strange sight it was to see these forty nobles tearing 
off their clothes, and littering the deck with velvets and 
satins, while the squire of each, as busy as an ostler before 
a race, stooped and pulled, and strained and riveted, 
fastening the bassinets, the leg-pieces, the front and the 
back plates, until the silken courtier had become the man 
of steel. When their work was finished, there stood a 
stem group of warriors where the light dandies had sung 
and jested round Sir John's guitar. Below in orderly 
silence the archers were mustering under their officers, 
and taking their allotted stations. A dozen had swarmed 
up to their hazardous post in the little tower in the tops. 

" Bring wine, Nicholas ! " cried the king. *' Gentle* 
men, ere you close your visors I pray you to take a last 
rouse with me. You will be dry enough, I promise you^ 
before your lips are free once more. To what shall we 
drink, John?" 

" To the men of Spain," said Chandos, his sharp face 
peering like a gaunt bird through the gap in his helmet. 
" May their hearts be stout and their spirits high thia 
dayl" 

B 



242 SIR NIGEL 

''Well saidi John!" cried the king; and the knights 
laughed joyously as they drank. '' Now, fair sirs, let each 
to his post! I am wwien here on the forecastla Do 
you, John^ take charge of the afterguard. Walter, James, 
William, Fltzallan, Ooldesborough, Beginald— you will 
stay with me ! John, you may pick whom you will, and 
the others wiU bide with the archers. Kow, bear straight 
at the centre, master shipman. Ere yonder sun sets we 
will bring a red ship back as a gifb to our ladies, or nevw 
look upon a lady's face again." 

The art of sailing into a wind had not yet been 
invented, nor was there any fore-and-aft canvas, save for 
small head sails with which a vessel could be turned. 
Hence the English fleet had to take a long slant down 
channel to meet their enemies; but as the Spaniards 
coming before the wind were equally anxious to engage 
there was the less delay. With stately pomp and dignity 
the two great fleets approached. 

It chanced that one fine carack had outstripped its 
consorts and came sweeping along, all red and gold, with 
a fringe of twinkling steel, a good half-mile before the 
fleet. Edward looked at her with a kindling eye, for 
indeed she was a noble sight, with the blue water cream- 
ing under her gilded prow. 

" This is a most worthy and debonair vessel. Master 
Bunce," said he, to the shipman beside him. ** 1 would 
fain have a tilt with her. I pray you to hold us straight 
that we may bear her down." 

'^ If I hold her straight, then one or other must sink^ 
and it may be both," the seaman answered. 

" I doubt not that with the help of our lady we shall 
do our part," said the king. " Hold her straight, master- 
shipman, as I have told you." 

Now the two vessels were within arrow flight, and the 
bolts from the crossbowmen pattered upon the English 
ship. These short, thick, devil's darts were everywhere 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 243 

humming like great wasps througli the air, crashing against 
the bulwarks, beating upon the deck, ringing loudly on 
the armour of the knights, or with a soft, muffled thud 
sinking to the socket in a victim. 

The bowmen along either side of the PhUippa had 
stood motionless waiting for their orders, but now there 
was a sharp shout from their leader, and every string 
twanged together. The air was full of their harping, 
together with the swish of the arrows, the long-drawu 
keening of the bowmen, and the short, deep bark of the 
under-offioers. "Steady, steady! Loose steady! Shoot 
whoUy together I Twelve score paces I Ten score 1 Now 
eight! Shoot whoUy together!" Their gruff shouts 
broke through the high shnll cry like the deep roar of a 
wave through the howl of the wind. 

As the two great ships hurtled together the Spaniard 
turned away a few points so that the blow should be a 
glandng one. None the less it was terrific. A dozen 
men in the tops of the carack were balancing a huge stone 
with the intention of dropping it over on the English 
deck. With a scream of horror they saw the mast crack- 
ing beneath them. Over it went, slowly at first, then 
faster, until with a crash it came down on its side, sending 
them flying like stones from a sling far out into the sea. 
A swath of crushed bodies lay across the deck where the 
mast had fallen. But the English ship had not escaped 
unscathed. Her mast held, it is true, but the mighty 
shock not only stretched every man flat upon the deck, 
but had shaken a score of those who lined her sides into 
the sea. One bowman was hurled from the top, and his 
body fell with a dreadful crash at the very side of the 
prostrate king upon the forecastle. Many were thrown 
down with broken arms and legs from the high castles at 
either end into the waist of the ship. Worst of all, the 
seams had been opened by the crash, and the water was 
gushing in at a dozen places, 



244 SIR NIGEL 

But these were men of experience and discipline, men 
who had already fought together by sea and by land, so 
that each knew his place and his duty. Those who could 
staggered to their feet, and helped up a score or more of 
knights who were rolling and clashing in the scuppers, 
unable to rise for the weight of their armour. The bowmen 
formed up as before. The seamen ran to the gaping seams 
with oakum and with tar. In ten minutes order had been 
restored, and the Philippa, though shaken and weakened, 
was ready for battle once more. The king was glaring 
round him like a wounded boar. 

" Grapple my ship with that," he cried, pointing to the 
crippled Spaniard, ** for I would have possession of her I '' 

But already the breeze had carried them past it, and 
a dozen Spanish ships were bearing down full upon them. 

" We cannot win back to her, lest we show our flank 
to these others," said the shipman. 

" Let her go her way ! " cried the knights. '' You shall 
have better than her." 

*'By Saint George! you speak the truth," said the 
king, "for she is ours when we have time to take her. 
These also seem very worthy ships which are drawing up 
to us, and I pray you, master-shipman, that you will have 
a tilt with the nearest." 

A great carack was within a bowshot of them and 
crossing their bows. Bunco looked up at his mast, and he 
saw that already it was shaken and drooping. Another 
blow and it would be over the side, and his ship a helpless 
log upon the water. He jammed his helm round, there- 
fore, and ran his ship alongside the Spaniard, throwing out 
his hooks and iron chains as he did so. 

They, no less eager, grappled the Philippa both fore 
and aft, and the two vessels, linked tightly together, 
surged slowly over the long, blue rollers. Over their 
bulwarks hung a cloud of men locked together in a 
desperate struggle, sometimes sui^g forward on to the 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 245 

deck of the Spaniard, sometimes recoiling back on to the 
king's ship, reeling this way and that, with the swords 
flickering like silver flames above them, while the long* 
drawn cry of rage and agony swelled up like a wolfs 
howl to the calm, blue heaven above them. 

But now ship after ship of the English had come up, 
each throwing its iron over the nearest Spaniard and 
striving to board her high red sides. Twenty ships were 
drifting in furious single combat after the manner of the 
Philippa, until the whole surface of the sea was covered 
with a succession of these desperate duels. The dismasted 
carack, which the king's ship had left behind it, had been 
carried by the Earl of Suffolk's Christopher, and the water 
was dotted with the heads of her crew. An English ship 
had been sunk by a huge stone discharged from an engine, 
and her men also were struggling in the waves, none 
having leisure to lend them a hand. A second English 
ship was caught between two of the Spanish vessels and 
overwhelmed by a rush of boarders, so that not a man of 
her was left alive: On the other hand, Mowbray and 
Audley had each taken the caracks which were opposed 
to them, and the battle in the centre, after swaying this 
way and that, was turning now in favour of the Islanders. 

The Black Prince, with the Lion, the Grace Marie, and 
four other ships, had swept round to turn the Spanish 
flank ; but the movement was seen, and the Spaniards had 
ten ships with which to meet it, one of them their great 
carack, the St. logo di Compostella. To this ship the 
prince had attached his little cog, and strove desperately 
to board her ; but her side was so high and the defence so 
desperate that lus men could nevbr get beyond her bul- 
warks, but were hurled down again and again with a 
clang and dash to the deck beneath. Her side bristled 
with crossbowmen, who shot straight down on to the 
packed waist of the Lion, so that the dead lay there in 
heaps. But the most dangerous of all was a swarthy. 



246 SIR NIGEL 

black-bearded giant in the tops, who crouched 80 that 
none could see him, but rising eveiy now and then with 
a huge lump of iron between his hands, hurled it down 
with such force that nothing could stop it. Again and 
again these ponderous bolts crashed through the deck and 
hurtled down into the bottom of the ship, starting the 
planks and shattering all that came in their way. 

The prince, clad in the dark armour which gave him 
his name, was directing the attack from the poop when the 
shipman rushed wildly up to him with fear on his face. 

" Sire 1 " he cried. " The ship may not stand against 
these blows. A few more will sink her! Already the 
water floods inboard I " 

The prince looked up, and as he did so the shaggy 
beard showed once more, and two brawny arms swept 
downward. A great slug, whizzing down, beat a gaping 
hole in the deck, and fell rending and riving into the 
hold below. The master-mariner tore his grizzled hair. 

" Another leak I " he cried. " I pray to Saint Leonard 
to bear ua up this day 1 Twenty of my shipmen are bail- 
ing with buckets, but the water rises on them fast The 
vessel may not float another hour." 

The prince had snatched a crossbow from one of his 
attendants and levelled it at the Spaniard's tops. At the 
very instant when the seaman stood erect with a fresh 
bar in his hands, the bolt took him full in the face, and 
his body fell forward over the parapet, hanging there head 
downward. A howl of exultation burst from the English 
at the sight, answered by a wild roar of anger from the 
Spaniards. A seaman had run from the Lion's hold and 
whispered in the ear of the shipman. He turned an ashen 
face upon the prince. 

'' It is even as I say, sire. The ship is sinking beneath 
our feet I " he cried. 

'' The more need that we should gain another," said ha 
'' Sir Henry Stokes, Sir Thomas Stourton, William, John 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 247 

of Clifton, here lies our road! Advance my banner, 
Thomas de Mohonl On, and the daj is ouisl" 

By a desperate scramble, a dozen men, the prince at 
their head, gained a footing on the edge of the Spaniard's 
deck. Some slashed furiously to clear a space, others 
hung over, clutching the rail with one hand and pulling 
up their comrades from below. Every instant that they 
could hold their own their strength increased, till twenty 
had become thirty, and thirty forty, when of a sudden the 
newcomers, still reaching forth to their comrades below, 
saw the deck beneath them reel and vanish in a swirling 
sheet of foam. The prince's ship had foundered. 

A yell went up from the Spaniards as they turned 
furiously upon the small band who had reached their deck. 
Already the prince and his men had carried the poop, and 
from tiiat high station they beat back their swarming 
enemies. But crossbow darts pelted and thudded among 
their ranks, till a third of their number were stretched 
upon the planks. lined across the deck, they could hardly 
keep an unbroken front to the leaping, surging crowd who 
pressed upon them. Another rush, or another after that, 
must assuredly break them, for these dark men of Spain, 
hardened by an endless struggle with the Moors, were 
fierce and stubborn fighters. But hark to this sudden 
roar upon the further side of them 1 

''Saint George! Saint George! A EnoUes to the 
rescue I " 

A small craft had run alongside, and sixty men had 
swarmed on the deck of the St logo. Caught between 
two fires, the Spaniards wavered and broka The fight 
became a massacre. Down from the poop sprang the 
Prince's men. Up from the waist rushed the newcomers. 
There were five dreadful minutes of blows and scieanui 
and prayers, with struggling figures cUnging to the bul- 
warks and sullen splashes into ^e water below. Then it 
was over, and a crowd of weary, overstrained men leaned 



248 SIR NIGEL 

panting upon their weapons^ or lay breathless and ex- 
hausted upon the deck of the captared carack. 

The prince had pulled up his visor and lowered his 
beaver. He smiled proudly as he gazed around him and 
wiped his streaming face. 

** Where is the shipman ? " he asked. '' Let him lead 
us against another ship." 

" Nay, sire ; the shipman and all his men have sunk 
in the Lion," said Thomas de Mohun, a young knight of 
the west country, who carried the standard. " We have 
lost our ship and the half of our following. I fear that 
we can fight no more." 

'' It matters the less since the day is already ours," 
said the prince, looking over the sea. '' My noble fathei^s 
royal banner flies upon yonder Spaniard. Mowbray, 
Audley, Suffolk, Beauchamp, Namur, Tracey, Staffoid, 
Arundel, each has his flag over a scarlet carack, even as 
mine floats over this. See, yonder squadron is already far 
beyond our reach. But surely we owe thanks to you who 
came at so perilous a moment to our aid. Your face I 
have seen, and your coat-armour also, young sir, though 
I cannot lay my tongue to your name. Let me know it, 
that I may thank you." 

He had turned to Nigel, who stood flushed and joyous 
at the head of the boarders from the Basilisk. 

** I am but a squire, sire, and can claim no thanks, for 
there is nothing that I have done. Here is our leader." 

The prince's eyes fell upon the shield charged with the 
Black Baven and the stern young face of him who bore it 

" Sir Robert Knolles," said he. " I had thought you 
were on your way to Brittany." 

" I was so, sire, when I had the fortune to see this 
battle as I passed." 

The prince laughed. '' It would indeed be to ask too 
much, Bobert, that you should keep on your course when 
much honour was to be gathered so close to you. But 



THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 249 

now I pray yon that you will come back with us to 
Winchelsea, for well I know that my father would fain 
thank you for what you have done this day/' 

But Sobert KnoUes shook his head. ''I have your 
father's command, sire, and without his order I may not 
go against it. Our people are hard-pressed in Brittany, 
and it is not for me to linger on the way. I pray you, 
sire, if you must needs mention me to the king, to crave 
his pardon that I should have broken my journey thus." 

" You are right, Eobert. God-speed you on your way I 
And I would that I were sailing under your banner, for 
I see clearly that you will take your people where they 
may worshipfuUy win worship. Perchance I also may be 
in Brittany before the year is past" 

The prince turned to the task of gathering lus weaiy 
people together, and the Basilisks passed over the side 
once more and dropped down on to their own little ship. 
They poled her off from the captured Spaniard, and set 
their sail with their prow for the south. Far ahead of 
them were their two consorts, beating toward them in the. 
hope of giving help, while down Channel were a score 
of Spanish ships, with a few of the English vessels hang- 
ing upon their skirts. The sun lay low on the water, and 
its level beams glowed upon the scarlet and gold of 
fourteen great caracks, each flying the cross of Saint 
George, and towering high above the cluster of English 
ships which, with brave waving of flags and blaring of 
music, were moving slowly toward the Kentish coast. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

HOW BLACK 8IM0K CLAIMED FORFEIT FBOM THE 
Ema OF SABK 

Fob a day and a half the small fleet made good piogress, 
bat on the second morning, after sighting Cape de la 
Hagae, there came a brisk land wind which blew them 
out to sea. It grew into a squall with rain and fog so 
that they were two more days beating back. Next morning 
they found themselves in a dangerous rock-studded sea 
with a small island upon their starboard quarter. It was 
girdled with high granite cliffs of a reddish hue, and slopes 
of bright green grassland lay above them. A second 
smaller island lay beside it. Dennis the shipman shook 
his head as he looked. 

" That is Brechou/' said he, "* and the larger one is the 
Island of Sark. K ever I be cast away, I pray the saints 
that I may not be upon yonder coast I ^' 

EInolles gazed across at it ''You say well, master- 
shipman,^' said ha " It does appear to be a rooky and 
perilous spot." 

" Nay, it is the rocky hearts of those who dwell upon 
it that I had in my mind,'' the old sailor answered. ^ We 
are well safe in three goodly vessels, but had we been here 
in a small craft I make no doubt that they would have 
already had their boats out against us." 

"Who, then, are these people, and how do they live 
upon so small and windswept an island?" asked the 
soldier. 

''They do not live fix>m the island, fair sir, but firom 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT 251 

what they can gather upon the sea around it Thej are 
broken folk from all countries, justice-fliers, prison^ 
breakers, reavers, escaped bondsmen, murderers and staff- 
strikers who have made their way to this outland place 
and hold it agamst all comers. There is one here who 
could tell you of them and of their ways, for he was long 
time prisoner amongst them." The seaman pointed to 
Black Simon, the dark man from Norwich, who was 
leaning against the side lost in moody thought and staring 
with a brooding eye at the distant shore. 

" How now, fellow ? " asked KnoUes. " What is this 
I hear ? Is it indeed sooth that you have been a captive 
upon this island ? " 

''It is true, fair sir. For eight months I have been 
servant to the man whom they call their king. His name 
is La Muette, and he comes from Jersey, nor is there 
under God's sky a man whom I have more desire to see." 

" Has he, then, mishandled you ? " 

Black Simon gave a wry smile and pulled off his 
jerkin. His lean sinewy back was waled and puckered 
with white scars. 

"He has left his sign of hand upon me," said ha 
"He swore that he would break me to his will, and thus 
he tried to do it. But most I desire to see him because 
he hath lost a wager to me and I would fain be paid." 

" This is a strange saying," said Enolles. " What is 
tins wager, and why should he pay you ? " 

"It is but a small matter," Simon answered; "but I 
am a poor man and the payment would be welcome. 
Should it have chanced that we stopped at this island 
I should have craved your leave that I go ashore and ask 
for that which I have fairly won." 

Sir Bobert KnoUes laughed. "This business tickleth 
my fancy," said he. ^ As to stopping at the island, this 
shipman tells me that we must needs wait a day and a 
night, for that we have strained our planks. But if you 



252 SIR NIGEL 

should go ashore, how will you be sure that you will be 
free to depart, or that you will see this king of whom you 
speak?" 

Black Simon's dark face was shining with a fierce joy. 
" Fair sir, I will ever be your debtor if you will let me 
go. C!onceming what you ask, I know this island even as 
I know the streets of Norwich, as you may well believe, 
seeing that it is but a small place and I upon it for near 
a year. Should I land after dark, I could win my way to 
the king's house, and if he be not dead or distraught with 
drink I could have speech with him alone, for I know his 
ways and his hours and how he may be found. I would 
ask only that Aylward the archer may go with me, that I 
may have one friend at my side if things should chance to 
go awry." 

KnoUes thought awhile. '' It is much that you ask," 
said he, "for by God's truth I reckon that you and 
this friend of yours are two of my men whom I would 
bo least ready to lose. I have seen you both at grips 
with the Spaniards and I know you. But I trust you, 
and if we must indeed stop at this accursed place, then 
you may do as you wUL If you have deceived me, or if 
this is a trick by which you design to leave me, then God 
be your Mend when next we meet, for man will be of 
small avail r" 

It proved that not only the seams had to be calked 
but that the cog Thomas was out of fresh water. The 
ships moored therefore near the Isle of Brechou, where 
springs were to be found. There were no people upon 
this little patch, but over on the farther island many 
figures coidd be seen watching them, and the twinkle of 
steel from among them showed that they were armed men. 
One boat had ventured forth and taken a good look at 
them, but had hurried back with the warning that they 
were too strong to be touched. 

Black Simon found Aylward seated under the poop 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT 253 

with his back against Bartholomew the bowyer. He was 
whistling merrily as he carved a girl's face upon the horn 
of his bow. 

''My fiiend/' said Simon, ''will yon come ashore to- 
night — ^for I have need of your help ? *\ 

Aylward crowed Instily. " WiU I oome» Simon ? By 
my hilt, I shall be right glad to put i|iy foot on the good 
brown earth once more. AU my life I have trod it, and 
yet I would never have learned its worth had I not 
jonmeyed in these cursed ships. We will go on shore 
together, Simon, and we will seek out the women, if there 
be any there, for it seems a long year since I heard their 
gentle voices, and my eyes are weary of sndi faces as 
Bartholomew's or thine." 

Simon's grim features relaxed into a smile. " The only 
face that you will see ashore, Samkin, will bring you 
small comfort^" said he, " and I warn you that this is no 
easy errand, but one which may be neither sweet nor fair, 
for if these people take us our end will be a cruel one.'' 

" By my hilt," said Aylward, " I am with you, gossip, 
wherever you may go ! Say no more, therefore, for I am 
Weary of living like a cony in a hole, and I shall be right 
glad to stand by you in your venture." 

That night, two hours after dark, a small boat put 
forth from the Basilisk. It contained Simon, AylMrard, 
and two seamen. The soldiers carried their swords, and 
Black Simon bore a brown biscuit-bag over his shoulder. 
Under his direction the rowers skirted the dangerous surf 
which beat against the clifb until they came to a spot 
where an outlying reef formed a breakwater. Within was 
a belt of calm water and a shallow cover with a sloping 
beach. Here the boat was dragged up and the seamen 
were ordered to wait, while Simon and Aylward started 
on their errand. 

With the assured air of a man who knows exactly 
where he is and whither he is going, the man-at-arms 



254 SIR NIGEL 

began to clamber up a narrow fem-lined deft among the 
rocks. It was no easy ascent in the darkness, but Simon 
climbed on like an old dog hot upon a scent, and the 
panting Aylward straggled after as best he might At 
last they were at the snmmit and the archer threw himself 
down upon the grass. 

'' Nay, Simon, I have not enongh breath to blow out a 
candle," said he. '' Stint yoor haste for a minute, since 
we have a long night before us. Surely this man is a 
friend indeed, if you hasten so to see him." 

" Such a friend," Simon answered, *' that I have often 
dreamed of onr next meeting. Now before that moon has 
set it will have come." 

" Had it been a wench I could have understood it," 
said Aylward. " By these ten finger bones, if Mary of 
the mill or little Kate of Compton had waited me on the 
blow of this cliff, I should haTe come up it and never 
known it was there. But surely I see houses and hear 
voices over yonder in the shadow ? " 

" It is their town," whispered Simon. " There are a 
hundred as bloody-minded cut-throats as are to be found 
in Christendom beneath those roofs. Hark to that 1 " 

A fierce burst of laughter came out of the darkness, 
followed by a long cry of pain. 

♦' All-hallows be with us I " cried Aylward. '* What is 
that?" 

''As like as not some poor devil has fallen into their 
clutches, even as I did. Come this way, Samkin, for there 
is a peat-cutting where we may hide. Ay, here it is, but 
deeper and broader than of old. Now, follow me close, for 
if we keep within it we shall find ourselves a stone cast 
off the king's house." 

Together they crept along the dark cutting. Suddenly 
Simon seized Aylward by the shoulder and pushed him 
Into the shadow of the bank. Crouching in the darkness, 
they heard footsteps and voices upon the farther side 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT 255 

of the trench. Two men sauntered along it and stopped 
almost at the very spot where the comrades were lying. 
Aylward could see their dark figures outlined against the 
starry sky. 

''Why should you scold, Jacques/' said one of them, 
speaking a strange half-French, half-English lingo. "Ls 
didble t'emporte for a grumbling lascaL Tou won a woman 
and I got nothing. What more would you have ? " 

" Tou will have your chance oflf the next ship, man 
garfon, but mine is passed. A woman, it is true — an old 
peasant out of the fields, with a face as yellow as a kite's 
claw. But Gaston, who threw a nine against my eight, 
got as fair a little Normandy lass as ever your eyes have 
seen. Curse the dice, I say ! And as to my woman, I will 
sell her to you for a firkin of Gascony." 

*'I have no wine to spare, but I will give you a 
keg of apples," said the other. ''I had it out of the 
PUer and Patii, the Falmouth boat that struck in Creux 
Bay." 

" Well, well, your apples may be the worse for keeping, 
but so ia old Marie, and we can cry quits on that. Come 
round and drink a cup over the bargain." 

They shuffled onward in the darkness. 

"Heard you ever such villainy?" cried Aylward, 
breathing fierce and hard. '' Did you hear them, Simon ? 
A woman for a keg of apples I And my heart's root is 
sad for the other one, the girl of Normandy. Surely we 
can land to-morrow and bum all these water-rats out of 
their nest." 

''Nay, Sir Bobert will not waste time or strength ere 
he reach Brittany." 

*' Sure I am that if my little master Squire Loring had 
the handling of it, eveiy woman on this island would be 
free ere another day had passed." 

" I doubt it not," said Simon. ** He is one who makes 
an idol of woman, after the manner of those crazy knight 



2S6 SIR NIGEL 

orrants. But Sir Bobert is a true soldier and hath only 
his purpose in view." 

''Simon/' said Aylward, "the light is not overgood 
and the place is cramped for sword-play, but if you will 
step out into the open I will teach you whether my master 
is a true soldier or not." 

^ Tut, man ! you are as foolish yourself/' said Simon.. 
" Here we are with our work in hand, and yet you must 
needs fall out with me on our way to it. I say nothing 
against your master save that he hath the way of his 
fellows, who follow dreams and fancies. But KnoUes 
looks neither to right nor left, and walks forward to his 
mark. Now, let us on, for the time passes/' 

" Simon, your words are neither good nor fair. When 
we are back on shipboard we will speak further of this 
matter. Now lead on, I pray you, and let us see some 
more of this ten-devil island." 

For half a mile Simon led the way until they came to 
a large house which stood by itself. Peering at it from 
the edge of the cutting,. Aylward could see that it was 
made from the wreckage of many vessels, for at each 
comer a prow was thrust out. Lights blazed within, and 
there came the sound of a strong voice singing a gay song 
which was taken up by a dozen others in the chorus. 

" All is well, lad ! " whispered Simon, in great delight 
" That is the voice of the king. It is the very song he 
used to sing. ' Lea deux fitter de Pierre.' Tore God, my 
back tingles at the very sound of it. Here we will wait 
until his company take their leave." 

Hour after hour they crouched in the peat-cutting, 
listening to the noisy songs of the revelers within, some 
French, some English, and all growing fouler and less 
articulate as the night wore on. Once a quarrel broke 
out and the clamour was like a cageful of wild beasts 
at feeding-time. Then a health was drunk and there was 
much stamping and cheering. 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT 257 

Only once was the long vigil broken. A woman came 
forth from the house and walked up and down, with her 
face sunk npon her breast. She was taU and slender, but 
her features could not be seen for a wimple over her head. 
Weary sadness could be read in her bowed back and 
dragging steps. Once only they saw her throw her two 
hands up to Heaven as one who is beyond human aid* 
Then she passed slowly into the house again. A moment 
later the door of the hall was flimg open, and a shouting, 
stumbling throng came crowding forth, with whoop and 
yell, into the silent night. Linking arms and striking 
up a chorus, they marched past the peat-cutting, their 
voices dwindling slowly away as they made for their 
homes. 

" Now, Samikin, now ! " cried Simon, and jumping out 
from the hiding-place, he made for the door. It had not 
yet been fastened. The two comrades sprang inside. 
Then Simon drew the bolts so that none might interrupt 
them. 

A long table littered with flagons and beakers lay 
before them. It was lit up by a line of torches, whidi 
flickered and smoked in their iron sconces. At the farther 
end a solitary man was seated. His head rested upon 
his two hands, as if he were befuddled with wine, but at 
the harsh sound of the snapping bolts he raised his face 
and looked angrily around him. It was a strange, power- 
ful head, tawny and shaggy like a lion's, with a tangled 
beard and a large, harsh face, bloated and blotched with 
vice. He laughed as the newcomers entered, thinking 
that two of his boon companions had returned to finish a 
flagon. Then he stared hard, and he passed his hand over 
his eyes like one who thinks he may be dreaming. 

*'M(m Dim!'* he cried. "Who are you, and whence 
come you at this hour of the night ? Is this the way to 
break into our royal presence ? " 

Simon approached up one side of the table and Aylward 

s 



258 SIR NIGEL 

up the other. When they were dose to the king, the man- 
at-arms plucked a torch from its socket and held it to his 
own {ace. The king staggered back with a cry, as he 
gazed at that grim visage. 

" Le diaMe nair I '' he cried. " Simon, the Englishman ! 
What make you here ? " 

Simon put his hand upon his shoulder. *' Sit here ! " 
said he, and he forced the king into his seat. '' Do you sit 
on the farther side of him, Aylwaid. We make a merry 
group, do we not? Often have I served at this table, but 
never did I hope to drink at it. Fill your cup, Samkin, and 
pass the flagon." 

The king looked from one to the other with terror in 
his bloodshot eyes. 

"What would you do?" he asked. "Are you mad, 
that you should come here ? One shout and you are at 
my mercy." 

'' Nay, my friend, I have lived too long in your house 
not to know the ways of it No man-servant ever slept 
beneath your roof, for you feared lest your throat would 
be cut in the night-time. You may ^out and shout, if 
it so please you. It chanced that I was passing on my 
way from England in those ships which lie off La Brechou, 
and I thought I would come in and have speech with 
you." 

" Indeed, Simon, I am right glad to see you," jsaid the 
kiog, cringing away from the fierce eyes of the soldier. 
*' We were good friends in the past, were we not, and I 
cannot call to mind that I have ever done you injury. 
When you made your way to England by swimming to the 
Levantine there was none more glad in heart than I." 

" If I cared to doff my doublet I could show you the 
marks of what your friendship has done for me in the past^" 
said Simon. " It is printed on my back as clearly as on 
my memory. Why, you foul dog, there are the very rings 
upon the wall to which my hands were fastened, and there 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT ^59 

the stains upon the boards on which my blood has dripped I 
Is it not so, you king of butchers ? " 

The pirate chief turned whiter still. " It may be that 
life here was somewhat rough, Simon, but if I have 
wronged you in any way, I will surely make amends. 
What do you ask?" 

'' I ask only one thing, and I have come hither that I 
may get it. It is that you pay me forfeit for that you 
have lost your wager." 

*' My wager, Simon ! I call to mind no wager." 

*' But I will call it to your mind, and then I will take 
my payment. Often have you sworn that you would 
break my courage. 'By my head!' you have cried to 
me. ' You wiU crawl at my feet ! ' and again : * I will 
wager my head that I wiU tame you I ' Yes, yes, a score 
of times you have said so. In my heart, as I listened, I 
have taken up your gage. And now, dog, you have lost, 
and I am here to claim the forfeit." 

His long heavy sword flew from its sheath. The king, 
with a howl of despair, flung his arms round him, and 
they rolled together under the table. There was a sound 
like the worrying of dogs ending in a scream. Aylwaid 
sat with a ghastly face, and his toes curled with horror at 
the sight, for he was still new to scenes of strife and his 
blood was too cold for such a deed. When Simon rose ho 
tossed something into his bag and sheathed his bloody sword. 

'' Come, Samkin^ our work is well done," said he. 

" By my hilt, if I had known what it was I would 
have been less ready to come with you," said the archer, 
" Could you not have clapped a sword in his fist and let 
him take Ms chance in the hall 7 " 

"Nay, Samkin, if you had such memories as I, you 
would have wished that he should die like a sheep and not 
like a man. What chance did he give me when he had 
the power ? And why should I treat him better ? But^ 
Holy Virgin, what have we here ? " 



26o SIR NIGEL 

At the farther end of the table a woman was standing. 
An open door behind her showed that she had oome from 
the inner room of the house. Bj her tall figure the com- 
rades knew that she was the same that they had already 
seen. Her face had once been fair, but now was white 
and hsggaid, with wild dark eyes full of a hopeless terror 
and despair. Slowly she paced up the room, her gaze 
fixed not upon the comrades, but upon the dreadfid thing 
beneath the table. Then, as she stooped and was sure, she 
burst into loud laughter and clapped her hands. 

"Who shall say there is no God?" she cried. "Who 
shall say that prayer is unavailing ? Great sir, brave sir, 
let me kiss that conquering hand ! " 

"Nay, nay, dame, stand back! WeU, if you must 
needs have one of them, take this which is the clean one.'* 

" It is the other I crave — that which is red with his 
blood! Oh! joyful night when my lips have been wet 
with it I Now I can die in peace ! " 

" We must go, Aylward," said Simon. " In another hour 
the dawn will have broken. In daytime a rat could not 
cross this island and pass unseen. Come, man, and at once ! " 

But Aylward was at the woman's sida " Come with 
us, fair dame," said he. " Surely we can, at least, take 
you from this island, and no such change can be for the 
worsa" 

"Nay," said she, "the saints in Heaven cannot help 
me now until they take me to my rest* There is no place 
for me in the world beyond, and aU my Mends were slain 
on the day I was taken. Leave me, brave men, and let 
me care for myself. Already it lightens in the east, and 
black will be your fote if you are taken. Go, and may 
the blessing of one who was once a holy nun go with you 
and guard you from danger I " 

Sir Bobert EnoUes was pacing the deck in the early 
morning, when he heard the sound of oars, and these were 
his two night-birds climbing up the side. 



HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT 261 

''So, fellow/' said he, "have you had speech with the 
kingofSark?" 

"Fair sir, I have seen him." 

''And he has paid his forfeit ? " 

"He has paid it, sir ! " 

Enolles looked with curiosity at the bag which Simon 
bore. 

" What carry you there ? " he asked. 

" The stake that he has lost." 

"What was it, then? A goblet? A silver plate ? " 

Eor answer Simon opened his bag and shook it out on 
the deck. 

Sir Robert turned away with a whistle. " Tore God I " 
said he, "it is in my mind that I cany some hard men 
with me to Brittany." 



CHAPTER XIX 

HOW A SQUIBE OF ENGLAND MET A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 

Sir Bobert Enolles with his little fleet had sighted the 
Breton coast near Cancale ; they had rounded the Point da 
Grouin, and finally had sailed past the port of St Malo 
and down the long narrow estuary of the Banco until 
they were dose to the old walled city of Dinan, which 
was held by that Montfort faction whose cause the English 
had espoused. Here the horses had been disembarked, the 
stores were unloaded, and the whole force encamped out- 
side the city, while the leaders waited for news as to the 
present state of affairs, and where there was most hope 
of houour and profit 

The whole of France was feeling the effects of that 
war with England which had already lasted some ten 
years, but no province was in so dreadftil a condition as 
this imhappy land of Brittany. In Normandy or Picardy 
the inroads of the English were periodical with intervals 
of rest between ; but Brittany was torn asunder by con- 
stant civil war apart from the grapple of the two great 
combatants, so that there was no surcease of her sufferings. 
The struggle had begun in 1341 through the rival claims 
of Montfort and of Blois to the vacant dukedom. England 
had taken the part of Montfort, France that of Blois. 
Neither faction was stroi^ enough to destroy the other, and 
so after ten years of continual fighting, history recorded a 
long ineffectual list of surprises and ambushes, of raids 
and skirmishes, of towns taken and retaken, of alternate 
ud defeat, in which neither party could claim a 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 263 

supremacy. It mattered nothiDg that Montfort and Blois 
had both disappeared from the scene, the one dead and the 
other taken by the English. Their wives caught up the 
red swords which had dropped from the hands of their 
lords, and the long struggle went on even more savagely 
than before. 

In the south and east the Blois faction held the country, 
and Nantes the capital was garrisoned and occupied by a 
strong French army. In the north and west the Montfort 
party prevailed, for the island kingdom was at their back, 
and always fresh sails broke the northern sky-line bearing 
adventurers from over the channel 

Between these two there lay a broad zone comprising 
all the centre of the country which was a land of blood 
and violence, where no law prevailed save that of the 
sword. From end to end it was dotted with castles, some 
held for one side, some for the other, and many mere 
robber strongholds, the scenes of gross and monstrous 
deeds, whose brute owners, knowing that they could never 
be called to account, made war upon all mankind, and 
wrung with rack and with flame the last shilling from all 
who fell into their savage hands. The fields had long 
been untilled. Commerce was dead. From Bennes in 
the east to Hennebon in the west, and from Dinan in the 
north to Nantes in the south, there was no spot where a 
man's life or a woman's honour was safe. Such was the 
land, full of darkness and blood, the saddest, blackest 
spot in Christendom, into which EnoUes and his men 
were now advancing. 

But there was no sadness in the young heart of Nigel, 
as he rode by the side of Enolles at the head of a clump 
of spears, nor did it seem to him that Fate had led him 
into an unduly arduous path. On the contrary, he blessed 
the good fortune which had sent him into so delightful a 
country, and it seemed to him as he listened to dreadful 
stories of robber barons, and looked round at the black 



264 SIR NIGEL 

scars of war which lay branded upon the fair faces of 
the hills, that no hero or romancer or trouveur had ever 
journeyed through such a land of promise, with so fair a 
chance of knightly venture and honourable advance- 
ment. 

The Bed Ferret was one deed toward his vow. Surely 
a second, and perhaps a better, was to be found somewhere 
upon this glorious country-side. He had borne himself as 
the others had in the sea-fight, and could not count it to 
his credit where he had done no more than mere duty. 
Something beyond this was needed for such a deed as 
could be laid at the feet of the Lady Maiy. But surely 
it was to be found here in fermenting war-distracted 
Brittany. Then with two done it would be strange if 
he could not find occasion for that third one, which would 
complete his service and set him free to look her in the 
face once mora With the great yellow horse curveting 
beneath him, his Ouildford armour gleaming in the sun, 
his sword clanking against his stirrup-iron, and his father's 
tough ash-spear in his hand, he rode with a light heart and 
a smiling face, looking eagerly to right and to left for any 
chance which his good Fate might send. 

The road from Dinan to Gaulnes, along which the small 
army was moving, rose and dipped over undulating ground, 
with a bare marshy plain upon the left where the river 
Banco ran down to the sea, while upon the right lay a 
wooded country with a few wretched villages, so poor and 
sordid that they had nothing with which to tempt the 
spoiler. The peasants had left them at the first twinkle 
of a steel cap, and lurked at the edges of the woods, ready 
in an instant to dive into those secret recesses known only 
to themselves. These creatures suffered sorely at the 
hands of both parties, but when the chance came they 
revenged their wrongs on either in a savage way which 
brought fresh brutalities upon their heads. 

The newcomers soon had a chance of seeing to what 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 265 

lengths they woiQd go, for in the roadway near to Caulnes 
they came upon an English man-at-arms who had been 
waylaid and slain by them. How they had overcome him 
conld not be told, but how they had slain him within his 
armour was horribly apparent, for they had carried such a 
rock as eight men could lift, and had dropped it upon him 
as he lay, so that he was spread out in his shattered case 
like a crab beneath a stone. Many a fist was shaken at 
the distant woods and many a curse hurled at those who 
haunted them, as the column of scowling soldiers passed 
the murdered man whose badge of the Molene cross showed 
him to have been a follower of that House of B^itley, 
whose head. Sir Walter, was at that time leader of the 
British forces in the country. 

Sir Robert Enolles had served in Brittany before, and 
he marshaled his men on the march with the skill and 
caution of the veteran soldier, the man who leaves as little 
as possible to chance, having too steadfast a mind to heed 
the fool who may think him over cautious. He had re- 
cruited a number of bowmen and men-at-arms at Dinan ; 
so that his following was now close upon five hundred 
men. In front under his own leadership were fifty 
moimted lancers,. fully armed and ready for any sudden 
attack. Behind them on foot came the archers, and a 
second body of mounted men closed up the rear. Out 
upon either flank moved small bodies of cavalry, and a 
dozen scouts, spread fanwise, probed eveiy gorge and 
dingle in front of the column. So for three days he 
moved slowly down the Southern Road. 

Sir Thomas Percy and Sir James Astley had ridden to 
the head of the column, and Enolles conferred with them 
as they marched concerning the plan of their campaign. 
Percy and Astley were young and hot-headed, with wild 
visions of dashing deeds and knight errantry, but Eoiolles, 
with cold, clear brain and purpose of iron, held ever his 
object in view. 



266 SIR NIGEL 

" By the holy Dunstan and all the saints of lindis- 
fame ! " cried the fiery boiderer, *' it goes to my heart to 
ride forward when there are such honourable chances on 
either side of ns. Have I not heard that the French are 
at Evran beyond the river, and is it not sooth that yonder 
castle, the towers of which I see above the woods, is in 
the hands of a traitor, who is false to his liege lord of 
Montford. There is little profit to be gained upon this 
road, for the folk seem to have no heart for war. Had we 
ventured as far over the marches of Scotland as we now 
are in Brittany, we should not have lacked some honourable 
venture or chance of winning worship." 

''You say truth, Thomas," cried Astley, a red-faced 
and choleric young man. ''It is well certain that the 
French will not come to us, and surely it is the more 
needful that we go to them. In sooth, any soldier who 
sees us would smile that we should creep for three days 
along this road as though a thousand dangers lay before 
us, when we have but poor broken peasants to deal 
with/' 

But Bobert EnoUes shook his head« " We know not 
what are in these woods, or behind these hills," said he, 
" and when I know nothing it is my wont to prepare for 
the worst which may befalL It is but prudence so to do " 

" Your enemies might find some harsher name for it,^ 
said Astley, with a sneer. " Nay, you need not think to 
scare me by glaring at me. Sir Bobert, nor will your ill- 
pleasure change my thoughts. I have faced fiercer eyes 
than thine, and I have not feared." 

"Your speech. Sir James, is neither courteous nor 
good," said KnoUes, "and if I were a fiee man I would 
cram your words down your throat with the point of my 
dagger. But I am here to lead these men in profit and 
honour, not to quarrel with every fool who has not the wit 
to understand how soldiers should be led. Can you not 
see that if I make attempts here and there, as you would 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 267 

have me do, I shall have weakened my strength before I 
come to that part where it can best be spent ? " 

"And where is that?" asked Percy. "Tore God, 
Astley, it is in my mind that we ride with one who 
knows more of war than yon or I, and that we wonld be 
wise to be gnided by his rede. Tell us then what is in 
your mind." 

" Thirty miles from here," said KnoUes, " there is, as I 
am told, a fortaUce named Ploermel, and within it is one 
Bambro, an Englishman, with a good garrison. No great 
distance from him is the Castle of Josselin, where dwells 
Robert of Beaumanoir with a great following of Bretons. 
It is my intention that we should join Bambro, and so 
be in such strength that we may throw ourselves upon 
Josselin, and by taking it become the masters of all mid- 
Brittany, and able to make head against the Frenchmen 
in the south." 

" Indeed I think that you can do no better," said Percy, 
heartily, " and I swear to you on jeopardy of my soul that 
I will stand by you in the matter! I doubt not that 
when we come deep into their land they will draw together 
and do what they may to make head against us ; but up 
to now I swear by all the saints of Lindisfame that I 
should have seen more war in a summer's day in liddes- 
dale or at the Forest of Jedburgh than any tiiat Brittany 
has shown us. But see, yonder horsemen are riding in. 
They are our own hobbellers, are they not ? And who are 
these who are lashed to. their stirrups ? " 

A small troop of mounted bowmen had ridden out of 
an oak grove upon the left of the road. They trotted up 
to where the three knights had halted. Two wretched 
peasants whose wrists had been tied to their leathers 
came leaping and straining beside the horses in their effort 
not to be dragged off their feet. One was a tall, gaunt, 
yellow-haired man, the other short and swarthy, but both 
so crusted with dirt, so matted and tangled and ragged* 



268 SIR NIGEL 

that they were more like beasts of the wood than human 
beings. 

" What is this ? " asked Knolles. ''Have I not ordered 
you to leave the countryfolk at peace ? " 

The leader of the archers, old Wat of Carlisle, held up 
a sword, a girdle and a dagger. " If it please you, fair 
sir," said he, " I saw the glint of these, and I thought 
them no fit tools for hands which were made for the spade 
and the plough. But when we had ridden them down and 
taken them, there was the Bentley cross upon each, and 
we knew that they had belonged to yonder dead English- 
man upon the road. Surely then, these are two of the 
villains who have slain him, and it is right that we do 
justice upon them." 

Sure enough, upon sword, girdle and dagger shone the 
silver Molene cross which had gleamed on the dead man's 
armour. Knolles looked at them and then at the prisoners 
with a £&ce of stone. At the sight of those fell eyes they 
had dropped with inarticulate howls upon their knees> 
screaming out their protests in a tongue which none could 
understand. 

" We must have the roads safe for wandering English- 
men," said Knolles. " These men must surely die. Hang 
them to yonder tree." 

He pointed to a live oak by the roadside, and rode 
onward upon his way in converse with his fellow-knights. 
But the old bowman had ridden after him. 

" If it please you. Sir Robert, the bowmen would fain 
put these men to death in their own fashion," said he. 

'^ So that they die, I care not how," Knolles answered 
carelessly, and looked back no more. 

Human life was cheap in those stem days, when the 
foot-men of a stricken army or the crew of a captured 
ship were slain without any question or thought of mercy 
by the victors. War was a rude game, with death for the 
stake, and the forfeit was always claimed on the one side 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 269 

and paid on the other without doubt or hesitation. Only 
the knight might be spared, since his ransom made him 
worth more alive than dead. To men trained in such a 
school, with death for ever hanging over their own heads, 
it may well be believed that the slaying of two peasant 
murderers was a small matter. 

And yet there was special reason why upon this 
occasion the bowmen wished to keep the deed in their own 
hands. Ever since their dispute aboard the Basilisk, there 
had been ill-feeling between Bartholomew, the old bald- 
headed bowyer, and long Ned Widdington the dalesman, 
which had ended in a conflict at Dinan, in which not only 
they, but a dozen of their friends, had been laid upon the 
cobble-stones. The dispute raged round their respective 
knowledge and skill with the bow, and now some quick 
wit among the soldiers had suggested a grim fashion in 
which it should be put to the proof, once for all, which 
could draw the surer shaft. 

A thick wood lay two hundred paces from the road 
upon which the archers stood. A stretch of smooth grassy 
sward lay between. The two peasants were led out fifty 
yards from the road, with their faces toward the wood. 
There they stood, held on a leash, and casting many a 
wondering, frightened glance over their shoulders at the 
preparations which were being made behind them. 

Old Bartholomew and the big Yorkshireman had 
stepped out of the ranks and stood side by side, each with 
his strung bow in his left hand and a single arrow in his 
light. With care they had drawn on and greased their 
shooting-gloves and fastened their bracers. They plucked 
and cast up a few blades of grass to measure the wind, 
examined every small point of their tackle, turned their 
sides to the mark, and widened their feet in a firmer stance. 
From all sides came chaff and counsel from their comrades. 

"A three-quarter wind, bowyer 1 " cried one. " Aim 
a body's breadth to the right I " 



270 SIR NIGEL 

"But not thy body's breadth, bowyer," laughed 
another. *' Else may you be overwide." 

" Nay, this wind wSl scarce turn a well-drawn shaft," 
said a third. *' Shoot dead upon him and you will be dap 
in the clout." 

"Steady, Ned, for the good name of the dales," cried a 
Yorkshireman. ''Loose easy and pluck not, or I am five 
crowns the poorer man." 

"A week's pay on Bartholomew!" shouted another. 
" Now, old fat-pate, fail me not I " 

" Enough, enough I Stint your talkl" cried the old 
bowman, Wat of Carlisle. " Were your shafts as quick as 
your tongues theie would be no facing you. Do you 
shoot upon the little one, Bartholomew, and you, Ned, 
upon the other. Give them law until I cry the word, then 
loose in your own fashion and at your own time. Are you 
ready I Hola, there, Hay ward, Beddington, let them run ! " 

The leashes were torn away, and the two men, stooping 
their heads, ran madly for the shelter of the wood amid 
such a howl from the archers as beateis may give when 
the hare starts from its form. The two bowmen, each 
with his arrow drawn to the pile, stood like russet statues, 
menacing, motionless, their eager eyes fixed upon the 
fugitives, their bow-staves rising slowly as the distance 
between them lengthened. The Bretons were halfway to 
the wood, and still Old Wat was silent. It may have 
been mercy or it may have been mischief, but at least the 
chase should have a fair chance of life. At six score 
paces he turned his grizzled head at last. 

" Loose ! " he cried. 

At the word the Yorkshireman's bow-string twanged. 
It was not for nothing that he had earned the name of 
being one of the deadliest archers of the Nc^h, and had 
twice borne away the silver arrow of Selby. Swift and 
true flew the £atal shaft and buried itself to the feather in 
the curved back of the long yellow-haued peasant 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 271 

Without a sound he fell upon his face and lay stone-dead 
upon the grass, the one short white plume between his 
dark shoulders to mark where Death had smote him. 

The Yorkshireman threw his bowstave into the air and 
danced in triumph, while his comrades roared their fierce 
delight in a shout of applause, which changed suddenly 
into a tempest of hooting and of laughter. 

The smaller peasant, more cunning than his comrade, 
had run more slowly, but with many a backward glance. 
He had marked his companion's fate and had waited with 
keen eyes until he saw the bowyer loose his string. At 
the moment he had thrown himself flat upon the grass 
and had heard the arrow scream above him, and seen it 
quiver in the turf beyond. Instantly he had sprung to 
his feet again, and amid wild whoops and halloos from the 
bowmen had made for the shelter of the wood. Now he 
had reached it, and ten score good spaces separated him 
from the nearest of his persecutors. Surely they could 
not reach him here. With the tangled brushwood behind 
him he was as safe as a rabbit at the mouth of his burrow. 
In the joy of his heart he must needs dance in derision 
and snap his fingers at the foolish men who had let him 
slip. He threw back his head, howling at them Uke a 
dog, and at the instant an arrow struck him full in the 
throat and laid him dead among the bracken. There was 
a hush of surprised silence and then a loud cheer burst 
from the archers. 

" By the rood of Beverley I "" cried old Wat, " I have 
not seen a finer roving shaft this many a year. In my 
own best day I could not have bettered it. Which of you 
loosed it?" 

** It was Aylward of Tilford— Samkin Aylward," cried 
a score of voices, and the bowman, flushed at his own 
fame, was pushed to the front. 

" Indeed I would that it had been at a nobler mark,'' 
said he. ''He might have gone ficee for me, but I could 



272 SIR NIGEL 

Dot keep my fingers from the string when he turned to 
jeer at us." 

"I see well that you are indeed a master-bowman/' 
said old Wat, " and it is comfort to my soul to think that 
if I fall I leave such a man behind me to hold high the 
credit of our craft. Now gather your shafts and on, for 
Sir Robert awaits us on the brow of the hilL" 

All day Enolles and his men marched through the 
same wild and deserted country, inhabited only by these 
furtive creatures, hares to the strong and wolves to the 
weak, who hovered in the shadows of the wood. Ever 
and anon upon the tops of the hills they caught a glimpse 
of horsemen who watched them from a distance and 
vanished when approached. Sometimes bells rang an 
alarm from villages among the hills, and twice they passed 
castles which drew up their drawbridges at their approach, 
and lined their walls with hooting soldiers as they passed. 
The Englishmen gathered a few oxen and sheep from the 
pastures of each, but Enolles had no mind to break his 
strength upon stone waUs, and so he went upon his way." 

Once at St. Meen they passed a great nunnery, girt 
with a high gray lichened wall, an oasis of peace in this 
desert of war, the black-robed nuns basking in the sun or 
working in the gardens, with the strong gentle hand of 
Holy Church shielding them ever from evil The archers 
doffed caps to them as they passed, for the boldest and 
roughest dared not cross that line guarded by the dire ban 
and blight which was £he one only force in the whole 
steel-ridden earth which could stand between the weakling 
and the spoiler. 

The little army halted at St. Meen and cooked its 
midday meaL It had gathered into its ranks again and 
was about to start, when KnoUes drew Nigel to one side. 

'' Nigel," said he, " it seems to me that I have seldom 
set eyes upon a horse which hath more power and promise 
of speed than this great beast of thine." 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 273 

''It is indeed a noble steed, fair sir/' said Nigel. 
Between him and his yotrng leader there had sprang np 
great affection and respect since the day that they set foot 
in the Basilisk. 

*' It will be the better if you stretch his limbs, for he 
grows overheavy," said the knight. "Now, mark me, 
Nigel I Yonder betwixt the ash-tree and the rock what 
do you see on the side of the far hill ? " 

*' There is a white dot upon it. Surely it is a horsa'^ 

" I have marked it all morning, Nigel. This horseman 
has kept ever upon our flank, spying upon us or waiting 
to make some attempt upon us. Now I should be rig^t 
glad to have a prisoner, for it is my wish to know some- 
thing of this countryside, and these peasants can speak 
neither French nor English. I would have you linger 
here in hiding when we go forward. This man will still 
follow us. When he does so, yonder wood will lie betwixt 
you and him. Do you ride round it and come upon him 
fiom behind. There is broad plain upon his left, and 
we will cut him off upon the right If your horse be 
indeed the swifter, then you cannot faU to take him." 

Nigel had already sprung down and was tightening 
Fommers' girth. 

" Nay, there is no need of haste, for you cannot start 
until we are two miles upon our way. And above all I 
pray you, Nigel, none of your knight-errant ways. It is 
this man that I want, him and the news that he can bring 
ma Think little of your own advancement and much of 
the needs of the army. When you get him, ride west- 
wards upon the sun, and you cannot fail to find the road." 

Nigel waited with Pommers under the shadow of the 
nunnery wall, horse and man chafing with impatience, 
while above them six round-eyed, innocent nun-faces 
looked down on this strange and disturbing vision from 
the outer world. At last tiie long column wound itself 
out of sight round a curve of the road, and the white dot 

T 



274 SIR NIGEL 

was gone from the bare green flank of the hill. Nigel 
bowed his 8teel head to the nuns^ gave his bridle a shake, 
and bounded off upon his welcome mission. The round- 
eyed sisters saw yellow horse and twinkling man sweep 
round the skirt of the wood, caught a last glimmer of him 
through the tree-trunks, and paced slowly back to tiieir 
pruning and their planting, dieir minds filled with the 
beauty and the terror of that outer world beyond the high 
gray lichen-mottled wall. 

Everything fell out even as EnoUes had planned. As 
Nigel rounded the oak forest, there upon the farther side 
of it, with only good greensward between, was the rider 
upon the white horse. Already he was so near that Nigel 
could see him clearly, a young cavalier, proud in his bear- 
ing, clad in purple silk tunic with a red curling feather in 
his low black cap. He wore no armour, but his sword 
gleamed at his side. He rode easily and carelessly, as one 
who cares for no man, and his eyes were for ever fixed 
upon the English soldiers on the road. So intent was he 
upon them that he gave no thought to his own safety, and 
it was only when the low thunder of the great horse's 
hoofs broke upon his ears that he. turned in his saddle, 
looked very coolly and steadily at Nigel, then gave bis 
own bridle a shake and darted ofiE^ swift as a hawk, toward 
the hills upon the left. 

Pommers had met his match that day. The white 
horse, two parts Arab, bore the lighter weight, since Nigel 
was clad in full armour. For five miles over the open 
neither gained a hundred yards upon the other. They had 
topped the hill and flew down the farther side, the stranger 
continually turning in his saddle to have a look at his 
pursuer. There was no panic in his flight, but rather the 
amused rivalry with which a good horseman who is proud 
of his mount contends with one who has challenged him. 
Below the hill was a marshy plain, studded with great 
Druidic stones, some prostrate, some erect, some bearing 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 275 

others acro08 iheir tops like the huge doors of some vanished 
building. A path ran through the marshy with green rushes 
as a danger signal on either side of it Across this path many 
of the huge stones were lying, but the white horse cleared 
them in its stride, and Pommers followed close upon his 
heels. Then came a mile of soft ground where the lighter 
weight again drew to the fronts but it ended in a dry up- 
land, and once again Nigel gained. A sunken road crossed 
it, but the white cleared it with a mighty spring, and again 
the yellow followed. Two small hills lay before them 
with a narrow gorge of deep bushes between. Nigel saw 
the white horse bounding chest-deep amid the underwood. 

Next instant its hind legs were high in the air, and the 
rider had been shot from its back. A howl of triumph rose 
from amid the bushes, and a dozen wild figures, aimed with 
club and with spear, rushed upon the prostrate man. 

"A moi, Anglais, mai I " cried a voice, and Nigel saw 
the young rider stagger to his feet, strike round him with 
his sword, and then &31 once more before the rush of his 
assailants. 

There was a comradeship among men of gentle blood 
and bearing which banded them together against all 
ruffianly or unchivalrous attack. These rude fellows 
were no soldiers. Their dress and arms, their imcouth 
cries and wild assault, marked them as banditti — such men 
as had slain the Englishman upon the road. Waiting in 
narrow goiges with a hidden rope across the path, they 
watched for the lonely horseman as a fowler waits by his 
bird-trap, trusting that they could overthrow the steed 
and then slay the rider ere he had recovered from his fall. 

Such would have been the fate of the stranger, as of so 
many cavaliers before him, had Nigel not chanced to be 
dose upon his heels. In an instant Pommers had burst 
through the group who struck at the prostrate man, and in 
another two of the robbers had fallen before Nigel's sword. 
A spear rang on his breastplate, but one blow shore off its 



276 SIR NIGEL 

head, and a second that of the man who held it In vain 
they thrust at the steel-girt man. His sword played round 
them like lightning, and the fierce horse ramped and 
swooped above them with pawing iron-shod hooft and eyes 
of fire. With cries and shrieks they flew off to right and 
left amid the bushes, springing over boulders and darting 
under branches where no horseman could follow them. 
The foul crew had gone as swiftly and suddenly as it had 
come, and save for four ragged figures littered among the 
trampled bushes, no sign remained of their passing. 

Nigel tethered Pommers to a thorn-bush and then 
turned his attention to the injured man. The white horse 
had regained his feet, and stood whinnying gently as he 
looked down on his prostrate master. A heavy blow, half 
broken by his sword, had beaten him down and left a great 
raw bruise upon his forehead. But a stream gurgled through 
the gorge, and a capful of water dashed over his face 
brought the senses back to the injured man. He was a 
mere stripling, with the delicate features of a woman, and 
a pair of great violet-blue eyes, which looked up presently 
with a puzzled stare into Nigel's face. 

" Who are you ? " he asked. "Ah yes 1 I call you to 
mind. You are the young Englishman who chased me on 
the great yellow horse. By our Lady of Bocamadour, whose 
vemicle is round my neck! I could not have believed 
that any horse could have kept at the heels of Charlemagne 
80 long. But I will wager you a hundred crowns, English^ 
man, that I lead you over a five-mile coursa" 

"Nay," said Nigel, " we will wait till you can back a 
horse ere we talk of racing it. I am Nigel of Tilford, of 
the family of Loring, a squire by rank, and the son of a 
knight. How are you called, young sir ? " 

" I also am a squire by rank and the son of a knight. 
I am Baonl de la Boche Pierre de Bras, whose father writes 
himself Lord of Grosbois, a firee vavasor of the noble Count 
of Toulouse, with the right of fossa and of fiirca, the high 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 277 

justice, the middle and the low. He sat up and rubbed 
his eyes. ** Englishman, you have saved my life, as I 
would have saved yours, had I seen such yelping dogs set 
upon a man of blood and of coat-armour. But now I am 
yours, and what is your sweet will ? " 

''When you are fit to ride, you will come back with 
me to my people." 

''Alas I I feared that you would say so. Had I taken 
you, Nigel — ^that is your name, is it not ? — ^had I taken 
you, I would not have acted thup ? " 

" How, then, would you have ordered things ? " asked 
Nigel, much taken with the frank and debonair manner of 
his captive. 

"I would not have taken advantage of such a mis* 
chance as has befallen me which has put me in your power. 
I would give you a sword and beat you in fair fight, so 
that I might send you to give greeting to my dear lady 
and show her the deeds which I do for her fair sake." 

"Indeed, your words are both good and fair," said 
NigeL " By Saint Paul I I cannot call to mind that I 
have ever met a man who bore himself better. But since 
I am in my armour and you without, I see not how we 
can debate the matter." 

" Surely, gentle Nigel, you could doff your armour." 

" Then have I only my underclothes." 

" Nay, there shall be no unfairness there, for I also 
will very gladly strip to my underclothes." 

Nigd looked wistfully at the Prenchman ; but he shook 
his head. "Alas! it may not be," said he. "The last 
words that Sir Robert said to me were that I was to bring 
you to his side, for he would have speech with you. 
Would that I could do what you ask, for I also have a ftdr 
lady to whom I would fain send you. What use are you 
to me, Baoul, since I have gained no honour in the taking 
of you ? How is it with you now ? " 

The young Frenchman had risen to his feet, " Do not 



278 SIR NIGEL 

take my sword,"* he said. '' I am yours, rescue or no 
rescue. I think now that I could mount my horsey though 
indeed my head still rings like a cracked belL" 

Nigel had lost all traces of his comrades ; hut he 
remembered Sir Bobert's words that he should ride upon 
the sun with the certainty that sooner or later he would 
strike upon the road. As they jogged slowly along over 
undulating hiUs, the Frenchman shook off his hurt, and the 
two chatted merrily together. 

" I had but just come from France/' sidd he, ''and I 
had hoped to win honour in this countiy, for I have ever 
heard tiiai the English are veiy hardy men and excdlent 
people to fight with« My mules and my baggage are at 
Eyran; but I rode forth to see what I could see, and I 
chanced upon your army moving down the road, so I 
coasted it in the hopes of some profit or adventure. Then 
you came after me, and I would have given all the gold 
goblets upon my father's table if I had my harness so that 
I could have turned upon you« I have {>romiaed the 
Countess Beatrice that I will send her an l^glishman or 
two to kiss her hands." 

'' One might perchance have a worse fate," said NigeL 
*' Is this fair dame your betrothed ? " 

''She is my love," answered the Frenchman. "We 
are but waiting for the Count to be slain in the wars, and 
then we mean to marry. And this lady of thine, Nigd ? 
I would that I could see her/' 

*' Perchance you shall, fair sir," said Nigel, *' for all that 
I have seen of you fills me with desire to go further with 
you« It is in my mind that we might turn this thing to 
profit and to honour, for when Sir Bobert has spoken with 
you, I am free to do with you as I wHL" 

*• And what will you do, Nigel?" 

''We shall surely try some small deed upon each other, 
so that either I shall see the Lady Beatrice, or you the 
Lady Mary. Nay, thank me not, for like yourself, I hava 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 279 

come to this country in search of honour, and I know not 
where I may better find it than at the end of your sword- 
point. My good lord and master. Sir John Chandos, has 
told me many times ihBt never yet did he meet French 
knight nor squire that he did not find great pleasure and 
profit from their company, and now I very clearly see that 
he has spoken the truth." 

For an hour these two friends rode together, the French- 
man pouring forth the praises of his lady, whose glove he 
produced from one pocket, her garter from his vest, and 
her shoe from his saddle-bag. She was blond, and when 
he heard that Mary was dark, he would fain stop then 
and there to fight the question of colour. He talked too 
of his great ch&teau at Lauta, by the head waters of the 
pleasant Garonne; of the hundred horses in the stables» 
the seventy hounds in the kennels, the fifty hawks in the 
mewa. His English friend should come there when the 
wars were over, and what golden days would be theire t 
Nigel too, with his English coldness thawing before this 
young sunbeam of the South, found himself talking of the 
heather slopes of Surrey, of the forest of Woolmer,, even of 
the sacred chambers of Gosford. 

But as they rode onward toward the sinking sim, their 
thoughts far away in their distant homes, their horses 
striding together,thare came that which brought their minds 
back in an instant to the perilous hillsides of Brittany. 

It was the long blast of a trumpet blown from some- 
where on the jGEurtii^ side of a ridge toward which they 
were riding. A second long-drawn note from a distance 
answered it. 

** It is your camp," said the Frenchman. 

''Nay,'' said Nigel; ''we have pipes with us and a 
naker or two, but I have heard no trumpet-call from our 
ranks. It belioves us to take heed, for we know not what 
may be before us. Bide this way, I pray you, that we 
may look over and yet be ourselves unseen.*' 



280 SIR NIGEL 

Some scattered boulders crowned the height, and ficom 
behind them the two young squires could see the long 
rocky valley beyond. Upon a knoll was a small square 
building with a battlement round it Some distance firom 
it towered a great dark castle, as massive as the rocks on 
which it stood, with one strong keep at the comer, and four 
long lines of machicolated waUs. Above, a great banner 
flew proudly in the wind, with some device which glowed 
red in the setting sun. Nigel shaded his eyes and stared 
with wrinkled brow. 

** It is not the arms of England, nor yet the lilies of 
France, nor is it the ermine of Brittany," said he* ^' He 
who holds this castle fights for his own hand, since his 
own device flies above it. Surely it is a head gules on an 
argent field." 

" The bloody head on a silver tray I " cried the French- 
man. ** Was I not warned against him ? This is not a 
man, fidend NigeL It is a monster who wars upon English^ 
French, and all Christendom. Have you not heard of the 
butcher of La Brohini^ ? " 

*' Nay, I have not heard of him." 

''His name is accursed in France. Have I not been 
told also that he put to death this very year Giles de St. 
Pol, a friend of the English King ? " 

*' Yes, in veiy truth it comes back to my mind now 
that I h^urd something of this matter in Calais before we 
started." 

"Then there he dwells, and God guard you if ever 
you pass under yonder portal, for no prisoner has ever 
come forth alive ! Since these wars began he hath been 
a king to himself, and the plunder of eleven years lies in 
yonder cellars. How can justice come to him, when no 
man knows who owns the land? But when we have 
packed you all back to your island, by the Blessed Mother 
of GUxi, we have a heavy debt to pay to the man who 
dwells in yonder pile 1 " 



A SQUIRE OF FRANCE 281 

But even as they watched, the tnunpet-call burst forth 
once more. It came not firom the castle but from the 
farther end of the valley. It was answered by a second 
call from the walls. Than in a long, straggling line there 
came a wild troop of marauders streaming homeward from 
some foray. In die van, at the head of a body of spearmen, 
rode a tall and burly man, clad in brazen armour, so that 
he shone like a golden image in the slanting rays of the 
sun. His helmet had been loosened from his goiget and 
was held before him on his horse's neck. A great tangled 
beard flowed over his breastplate, and his hair hung down 
as far behind. A squire at his elbow bore high the banner 
of the bleeding head. Behind the spearmen were a line 
of heavily laden mules, and on either side of them a drove of 
poor country folk, who were being herded into the castle. 
Lastly came a second strong troop of mounted spearmen, 
who conducted a score or more of prisoners who marched 
together in a solid body. 

Nigel stared at them, and then springing on his horse, 
he urged it along the shelter of the ridge so as to reach 
unseen a spot which was dose to the castle gate. He 
had scarce taken up his new position when the cavalcade 
reached the drawbridge, and amid yells of welcome from 
those upon the wall, filed in a thin line across it. Nigel 
stared hard once more at the prisoners in the rear, and so 
absorbed was he by the sight that he had passed the rocks 
and was standing sheer upon the summit. 

" By Saint Paul ! " he cried, '' it must indeed be so. I 
see their russet jackets. They are English archers ! " 

As he spoke, the hindmost one, a strongly built, broad- 
shouldered man, looked round and saw the gleaming figure 
above him upon the hill, with open helmet, and the five 
roses glowing upon his breast With a sweep of his hands 
he had thrust his guardians aside, and for a moment was 
clear of the throng. 

''Squire LoringI Squire Loringl** he cried. ''It is 



282 SIR NIGEL 

I, Aylward the archer I It is I, Samkin Ayl ward I " The 
next miirnte a dozen hands had seized him, his cries were 
muffled with a gag, and he was hurled, the last of the 
band, tiirough the black and threatening archway of the 
gate. Then with a clang the two iron wings came to- 
gether, the portcullis swung upward, and captives and 
captors, robbers and booty, were all swallowed up within 
the grim and silent fortress. 



CHAPTER XX 

HOW THB KNGLISH ATTEMPTED THE CASTLE OF 
LA BROHINli^E 

Fob some minntes Nigel remained motionless upon the 
crest of the hill, his heart like lead within him, and his 
eyes fixed upon the huge gray walls which contained his 
unhappy henchman. He was roused by a sympathetic 
hand upon his shoulder, and the voice of his young 
prisoner in his ear. 

" Peste I " said he. *' They have some of your birds in 
their cage, have they not? What, then, my Mend? 
Keep your heart high I Is it not the chance of war, to-day 
to th^Qi, to-morrow to thee, and death at last for us all 7 
And yet I had rather they were in any hands than those 
of Oliver the Butcher/' 

" By Saint Paul, we cannot suffer it I '' cried Nigel, dis- 
tractedly. " This man has come with me from my own 
home. He has stood between me and death before now. 
It goes to my very heart that he should call upon me in 
vain. I pray you, Baoul, to use your wits, for mine are 
all curdled in my head. Tell me what I should do, and 
how I may bring him help." 

The Frenchman shrug^;ed his shouldera '' As easy to 
get a lamb unscathed out of a wolves' lair as a prisoner 
safe from La Brohini^. Nay, Nigel, whither do you go ? 
Have you, indeed, taken leave of your wits ? " 

The squire had spurred his horse down the hillside, 
and never halted until he was within a bowshot of the 

a83 



284 SIR NIGEL 

gate. The French prisoner followed hard behind him 
with a buzz of reproaches and expostulations. 

"You are mad, Nigel 1" he cried. "What do you 
hope to do, then 7 Would yon cany the castle with your 
own hands ? Halt, man, halt, in the name of the Yiigin ! " 

But Nigel had no plan in his head, and only obeyed 
the fevered impulse to do something to ease his thoughts. 
He paced his horse up and down, waving his spear, and 
shouting insults and challenges to the garrison. Over the 
high wall a hundred jeering faces looked down upon him. 
So rash and wild was his action that it seemed to those 
within to mean some trap, so the drawbridge was still held 
high, and none ventured forth to seize him. A few long- 
range arrows pattered on the rocks, and then, with a deep, 
booming sound, a huge stone, hurled from a mangonel, 
sang over the head of the two squires, and crashed into 
splinters among the boulders behind them. The French- 
man seized Nigel's bridle, and forced him feurther from the 
gateway. 

*'By the dear Virgin!" he cried, "I care not to have 
those pebbles about my ears, yet I cannot go back alone, 
so it is very clear, my crazy comrade, that you must come 
also. Now we are beyond their reach! But see, my 
friend Nigel, who are those who crown the height ? " 

The sun had sunk behind the western ridge, but the 
glowing sky was fringed at its lower edge by a score of 
ruddy, twinkling points. A body of horsemen showed 
hard and black upon the bare hiU. Then they dipped 
down the slope into the valley, while a band of footmen 
followed behind. 

" They are my people," cried Nigel, joyously. " Come, 
my friend, hasten, that we may take counsel what we 
shaU do." 

Sir Bobert EnoUes rode a bowshot in firont of his men, 
and his brow was as black as night. Beside him, with 
crestfallen face, his horse bleeding, his armour dinted and 



THE CASTLE OF LA BROHINlkRE 285 

soiled, was the hot-headed knight, Sir James Astley. A 
fierce discussion raged between them. 

" I have done my devoir as best I might/' said Astley. 
^' Alone I had ten of them at my sword point. I know 
not how I have lived to tell it/' 

" What is your devoir to me ? Where are my thirty 
bowmen ? " cried Enolles, in bitter wrath. " Ten lie dead 
upon the ground, and twenty are worse than dead in 
yonder castle. And all because you must needs show all 
men how bold you are, and ride into a bushment such as 
a child could sea Alas for my own folly that ever I 
should have trusted such a one as you with the handling 
of men I " 

" By God, Sir Bobert, you shall answer to me for those 
words ! " cried Astley, with a choking voice. " Never has 
a man dared to speak to me as you have done this day/' 

'' As long as I hold the king's order I shall be master, 
and by the Lord I will hang you, James, on a near tree if 
I have further cause of offence ! How now, Nigel ? I see 
by yonder white horse that you, at least, have not failed 
me. I will speak with you anon. Percy, bring up your 
men, and let us gather round this castle, for, as I hope for 
my soul's salvation, I will not leave it until I have my 
aichers, or the head of him who holds them/' 

That night the English lay thick round the fortress of 
La Brohini&re, so that none might come forth from it. 
But if none could come forth it was hard to see how any 
could win their way in, for it was full of men, the walls 
were high and strong, and a deep, dry ditch girt it round. 
But the hatred and fear which its master had raised over 
the whole countryside could now be plainly seen, for 
during the night the brushwood men and the villagers 
came in from all parts with offers of such help as they 
could give for the intaking of the castle. Ejiolles set 
them cutting bushes and tying them into faggots. When 
morning came be rode out before the wall, and he held 



286 SIR NIGEL 

oounsel with his knights and squires as to how he shoold 
enter in. 

'' By noon/' said he« " we shall have so many faggots 
that we may make our way over the ditch. Then we will 
beat in the gates and so win a footing." 

The young Frenchman had come with Nigel to the 
conference, and now, amid the silence which followed the 
leader's proposal, he asked if he might be heard. He was 
clad in the brazen armour which Nigel had taken from 
the Bed Ferret 

''It may be that it is not for me to join in your 
counsel/' said he, "seeing that I am a prisoner and a 
Frenchman. Bat this man ia the enemy of all, and we of 
France owe him a debt even as you do, since many a good 
Frenchman has died in his ceUara For this reason I crave 
to be heard." 

<' We will hear you/' said Knolles. 

^'I have come from Evran yesterday," said he. ''Sir 
Henry Spiimefort, Sir Peter La Boye, and many oth^ 
brave knights and squires lie there, with a good company 
of men, all of whom would very gladly join with you to 
destroy this butcher and his castle, for it is well known 
amongst us that his deeds are neither good nor fair. 
There are also bombards which we could drag over the 
hills, and so beat down this iron gate. If you so order it, 
I will ride to Evran and bring my companions back with 
me. 

"Indeed, Bobert/' said Percy, "it is in my mind that 
this Frenchman speaks very wisely and well." 

"And when we have taken the castle — ^what then?" 
asked Knolles. 

" Then you could go upon your way, fair sir, and we 
upon ours. Or if it please you better you could draw 
together on yonder hill, and we on this one, so that the 
valley lies between us. Then, if any cavalier wished to 
advance himself, or to shed a vow and exalt his lady, an 



THE CASTLE OF LA BROHINlfeRE 28; 

opening might be found for him. Surely it would be 
shame if so many brave men drew together, and no small 
deed were to come of it." 

Nigel clasped his captive's hand to show his admiration 
and esteem, but Knollcs shook his head. 

" IMngs are not ordered thus, save in the tales of the 
minstrels/' said he. '' I have no wish that your people at 
Evran should know our numbers or our plans. I am not 
in this land for knight errantry, but I am here to make 
head against the king's enemies. Has no one aught else 
to say?" 

Percy pointed to the small outlying fortalice upon the 
knoll, on which also flew the flag of the bloody head. 

*' This smaller castle, Sobert, is of no great strength, 
and cannot hold more than fifty men. It is built, as I 
conceive it, that no one should seize the high ground, and 
shoot down into the other. Why should we not turn all 
our strength upon it^ since it is the weaker of the 
twain?" 

But again the young leader shook his head. " If I 
should take it," said he, "I am still no nearer to my 
desire, nor will it avail me in getting back my bowmen. 
It may cost a score of men, and what profit shall I have 
from it ? Had I bombards, I might place them on yonder 
hill, but having none it is of little use to me." 

''It may be," said Nigel, ''that they have scant food 
or water, and so must come forth to fight us." 

"I have made inquiry of the peasants," Enolles 
answered, " and they are of one mind that there is a well 
within the castle, and good store of food. Nay, gentle- 
men, there is no way before us save to take it by arms, 
and no spot where we can attempt it save through the 
great gate. Soon we will have so many faggots that we 
can cast them down into the ditch, and so win our way 
across. I have ordered them to cut a pine-tree on the 
hill and shear the branches, so that we may beat down 



288 SIR NIGEL 

the gate with it. But what is now axxnaa, and why do 
they run forward to the castle ? '' 

A buzz had risen from the soldiers in the camp, and 
they all crowded in one direction, mshing toward the 
castle walL The knights and sqaires rode after them, 
and when in view of the main gate, the cause of the dis- 
turbance lay before them. On the tower above the portal 
three men were standing in the garb of English archers, 
ropes round their necks and their hands bound behind 
them. Their comrades surged below them with cries of 
recognition and of pity. 

" It is Ambrose I " cried one. ^ Surely it is Amhroso 
of Ingleton." 

*' Yes, in truth, I see his yellow hair. And the other, 
him with the beard, it is Lockwood of Skipton. Alas for 
his wife who keeps the booth by the bridge-head of 
Bibble ! I wot not who the third may be." 

'' It is little Johnny Alspaye, the youngest man in the 
company," cried old Wat, with the tears running down 
lus cheeks. *' 'Twas I who brought him firom his home. 
Alas! alas I Foul fare the day that ever I coaxed him 
from his mother's side that he might perish in a far land." 

There was a sudden flourish of a trumpet, and the 
drawbridge felL Across it strode a portly man with a 
faded herald's coat. He halted warily upon the fEurther 
side, and Ms voice boomed like a drum. 

" I would speak with your leader," he cried. 

EnoUes rode forward. 

** Have I your knightly word that I may advance un* 
scathed with all courteous entreaty as befits a herald f" 

EnoUes nodded his head. 

The man came slowly and pompously forward. " I am 
the messenger and liege servant," said he, " of the high 
baron, Oliver de St. Yvon, Lord of La Brohinibre. He bids 
me to say that if you continue your journey and molest 
him no further, he will engage upon his part to make no 



THE CASTLE OF LA BROHINlfeRE 289 

further attack upon you. As to the men whom he holda, 
he will enroll them in his own honourable service, for he 
has need of longbowmen, and has heard much of their 
skilL But if you constrain him or cause him further dis- 
pleasure by remaining before his castle, he hereby gives 
you warning that he will hang these three men over his 
gateway, and every morning another three, until all have 
been slain. This he has sworn upon the rood of Calvary, 
and as he has said so he will do upon jeopardy of his 
soul." 

Bobert Enolles looked grimly at the messenger. '' You 
may thank the saints that you have had my promise," 
said he, ''else would I have stripped that lying tabard 
from thy back and the skin beneath it from thy bones, 
that thy master might have a fitting answer to his message. 
Tell him that I hold him and all that are within his castle 
as hostage for the lives of my men, and that should he 
dare to do them scathe, he and every man that is with 
him shall hang upon his battlements. Go, and go quickly^ 
lest my patience faiL" 

There was that in KnoUes' cold gray eyes and in his 
manner of speaking those last words which sent the portly 
envoy back at a quicker gait than he had come. As he 
vanished into the gloomy arch of the gateway, the draw- 
bridge swung up with creak and rattle behind him. 

A few minutes later a rough-beaided fellow stepped 
out over the portal where the condemned archers stood, 
and seizing the first by the shoulders he thrust him over 
the walL A cry burst frt)m the man's lips, and a deep 
groan from those of his comrades below, as he fell with 
a jerk which sent him halfway up to tiie parapet again, 
and then, after dancing like a child's toy, swung slowly 
backward and forward with limp limbs and twisted neck. 

The hangman turned and bowed in mock reverence to 
the spectators beneath him. He had not yet learned in 
a la]i4 of puny archers how sure and how strong is the 

u 



290 SIR NIGEL 

English bow. Half a dozen men^ old Wat among them, 
had run forward toward the walL They were too late to 
save their comrades, but at least their deaths were speedily 
avenged. The man was in the act of pushing off the 
second prisoner when an arrow crashed through his head, 
and he fell stone dead upon the parapet. But even in 
falling he had given the fatal thrust, and a second russet 
figure swung beside the first against the dark background 
of the castle walL 

There only remained the young lad, Johnny Alspaye^ 
who stood shaking with fear, an abyss below him, and the 
voices of those who would hurl him over it behind. There 
was a long pause before any one would come forth to daie 
those deadly arrows. Then a fellow, crouching double, 
ran forward from the shelter, keeping the young archer^s 
body as a shield between him and danger. * 

''Aside, John I Aside I" cried his comrades from 
below. 

The youth sprang as far as the rope would allow him, 
and slipped it half over his face in the efibrt Three 
arrows flashed past his side, and two of them buried them- 
selves in the body of the man behind. A howl of delight 
burst from the spectators as he dropped first upon bia 
knees and then upon his face. A life for a life was no 
bad bargain. 

But it was only a short respite which the skill of his 
comrades had given to the young archer. Over the parapet 
there appeared a ball of brass, then a pair of great brazen 
shoulders, and lastly the full figure of an armoured man. 
He walked to the edge, and they heard his hoarse gu£hw 
of laughter as the arrows clanged and clattered against his 
impenetrable maiL He slapped his breastplate as he 
jeered at them. Well he knew that at the distance no 
dart ever sped by mortal hands oould cleave through his 
plates of metaL So he stood, the great burly Butcher of 
La Brohini^, with head uptossed, laughing in8olentl7 at 



THE CASTLE OF LA BROHINI^RE 291 

his foes. Then, with slow and ponderous tread, he walked 
toward his boy victim, seized him by the ear, and dragged 
him across so that the rope might be straight Seeing 
that the noose had slipped across the face, he tried to push 
it down, but the mail glove hampering him, he pulled it 
off, and grasped the rope above the lad's head with his 
naked hand. 

Quick as a flash old Wat's arrow had sped, and the 
Butcher sprang back with a howl of pain, his hand 
skewered by a cloth-yard shaft. As he shook it furiously 
at his enemies a second grazed his knuckles. With a 
brutal kick of his metal-shod feet he hurled young Alspaye 
over the edge, looked down for a few moments at his 
death agonies, and then walked slowly from the parapet, 
nursing his dripping hand, the arrows still ringing loudly 
upon his backpiece as he went. 

The archers below, enraged at the death of their com- 
rades, leaped and howled like a pack of ravening wolves. 

''By Saint Dunstan," said Percy, looking round at 
their flushed faces, ''if ever we are to carry it, now is the 
moment, for these men will not be stopped if hate can 
take them forward." 

"You are right, Thomas I" cried Enolles. "Gather to- 
gether twenty men-at-arms, each with his shield to cover 
him. Astle^, do you place the bowmen so that no head 
may show at window or parapet. Nigel, I pray you to 
order the countiyfolk forward with their fardels of faggots. 
Let the others bring up the lopped pine-tree, which lies 
yonder behind the horse-lines. Ten men-at-arms can bear 
it on the right, and ten on the left, having shields over 
their heads. Ilie gate once down, let every man rush in. 
And God help the better cause 1 " - 

Swiftly, and yet quietly, the dispositions were made, 
for these were old soldiers whose daily trade was war. In 
little groups the archers formed in front of each sUt or 
crevice in the walls, while others scanned the battlements 



292 SIR NIGEL 

with waiy eyes, and sped an arrow at every &ce which 
gleamed for an instant above them. The garrison shot 
forth a shower of crossbow bolts and an occasional stone 
from their engine, but so deadly was the hail which 
rained upon them that they had no time to dwell upon 
their aim, and their discharges were wild and haimlesa 
Under cover of the shafts of the bowmen, a line of peasants 
ran unscathed to the edge of the ditch, each hurling in 
the bundle which he bore in his arms, and then hurrying 
back for another one. In twenty minutes a broad path- 
way of faggots lay level with the ground upon one side 
and the gate upon the other. With the loss of two 
peasants slain by bolts and one archer crushed by a stone, 
the ditch had been filled up. All was ready for the 
battering-ram. 

With a shout, twenty picked men rushed forward with 
the pine-tree under their arms, the heavy end turned 
toward the gate. The arbalesters on the tower leaned 
over and shot into the midst of them, but could not stop 
their advance. Two dropped, but the others raising their 
shields ran onward still shouting, crossed the bridge of 
faggots, and came with a thundering crash against the 
door. It splintered from base to arch, but kept its 
place. 

Swinging their mighty weapon, the storming party 
thudded and crashed upon tiie gate, every blow loosening 
and widening the cracks which rent it from end to en<L 
The three knights, with Nigel, the Frenchman Saoul, and 
the other squires, stood beside the ram, cheering on the 
men, and chanting to the rhythm of the swing with a loud 
" Hal " at every blow. A great stone loosened from the 
parapet roared through the air and struck Sir James 
Astley and another of the attackers, but Nigel and the 
Frenchman had taken their places in an instant, and the 
ram thudded and smashed with greater energy than ever. 
Another blow and another I the lower part was staving 




'swinging their mighty weapon, the storming party thudded and 
crashed upon the gate." 



THE CASTLE OP LA BROHINlfeRE ^93 

Inward, but the great central bar still held firm. Surely 
another minute would beat it from its sockets. 

But suddenly from above there came a great deluge of 
liquid. A hogshead of it had been tilted from the battle- 
ment until soldiers, bridge, and ram were equally drenched 
in yellow slime. Knolles rubbed his gauntlet in it, held 
it to his visor, and smelled it. 

''Back, backl'' he cried* ''Back before it is too 
late!" 

There was a small barred window above their heads at 
the side of the gate. A ruddy glare shone through it, and 
then a blazing torch was tossed down upon them. In a 
moment the oil had caught and the whole place was a 
sheet of flame. The fir-tree that they carried, the faggots 
beneath them, their very weapons, were all in a blaze. 

To right and left the men sprang down into the dry 
ditch, rolling with screams upon the ground in their 
endeavour to extinguish the flames. The knights and 
squires protected by their armour strove hard, stamping 
and slapping, to help those who had but leather jacks to 
shield their bodies. From above a ceaseless shower of 
darts and of stones were poured down upon them, while 
on the other hand the archers, seeing the greatness of tha 
danger, ran up to the edge of the ditch, and shot fast and 
true at every face which showed above the wall. 

Scorched, wearied and bedraggled, the remains of the 
storming party clambered out of the ditch as best they 
cotQd, clutching at the friendly hands held down to them, 
and so limped their way back amid the taunts and howls 
of their enemies. A long pile of smouldering cinders was 
all that remained of their bridge, and on it lay Astley and 
six other red-hot men glowing in their armour. 

Enolles clinched his hands as he looked back at the 
ruin that was wrought, and then surveyed the group of 
men who stood or lay around him nursing their burned 
limbs and scowling up at the exultant figures who waved 



294 SIS. NIGEL 

on the castle wall. Badly scorched himself, the young 
leader had no thought for his own injuries in the rage and 
grief which racked his soul. 

''We will build another bridge/' he cried. ''Set the 
peasants binding faggots once more." 

But a thought had flashed through Nigel's mind. " See, 
fair sir/' said he. " The nails of yonder door are red-hot 
and the wood as white as ashes. Surely we can break 
our way through it/' 

" By the Viigin, you speak truly ! " cried the French 
squire. " If we can cross the ditch the gate will not stop 
us. Come, Nigel, for our fair ladies' sakes, I will race 
you who will reach it first, England or IVance/' 

Alas for all the wise words of the good Chandos ! Alas 
for all the lessons in order and discipline learned from the 
wary KnoUes. In an instant, forgetful of all things but 
this noble challenge, Nigel was running at the top of his 
speed for the burning gate. Close at his heels was the 
Frenchman, blowing and gasping, as he rushed along in 
his brazen armour. Behind came a stream of howling 
archers and men-at-arms, Uke a flood which has broken 
its dam. Down they slipped into the ditch, rushed acrofis 
it, and clambered on each other's backs up the opposite 
side. Nigel, Baoul, and two archers gained a foothold in 
front of the burning gate at the same moment. With 
blows and kicks they burst it to pieces, and dashed with 
a yell of triumph through the dark archway beyond. For 
a moment they thought with mad rapture that the castle 
was carried. A dark tunnel lay before them, do¥m which 
they rushed. But alas 1 at the farther end it was blocked 
by a second gateway as strong as that which had been 
burned. In vain they beat upon it with their swords and 
axes. On each side the tunnel was pierced with slits, and 
the crossbow bolts discharged at only a few yards' distance 
crashed through armour as if it were cloth, and laid man 
after man upon the stones. They raged and leaped before 



THE CASTLE OF LA BROHINIERE 295 

the great iron-damped barner, but the wall itself was as 
easy to tear down. 

It was bitter to draw back ; but it was madness to 
remain. Nigel looked round and saw that half his men 
were down. At the same moment Baoul sank with a 
gasp at his feet, a bolt driven to its socket through the 
links of the camail which guarded lus neck. Some of the 
archers, seeing that certain death awaited them, weie 
already running back to escape from the fatal passage. 

" By Saint Paul I " cried Nigel, hotly. " Would you 
leave our wounded where this butcher may lay his hands 
upon them? Let the archers shoot inwards and hold 
them back from the slits. Now let each man raise one of 
our comrades, lest we leave our honour in the gate of this 
castle." 

With a mighty effort he had raised Baoul upon his 
shoulders and staggered with him to the edge of the ditch. 
Several men were waiting below where the steep bank 
shielded them from the arrows, and to them Nigel handed 
down Us wounded friend, and each archer in turn did the 
same. Again and again Nigel went back, until no one 
lay in the tunnel save seven who had died there. Thirteen 
wounded were laid in the shelter of the ditch, and there 
they must remain until night came to cover them. Mean^ 
while the bowmen on the farther side protected them from 
attack, and also prevented the enemy from all attempts 
to build up tho outer gate. The gaping smoke-blackened 
arch was all that they could show for a loss of thirty men^ 
but that at least Knolles was determined to keep. 

Burned and bruised, but unconscious of either pain or 
&tigue for the turmoil of his spirit within him, Nigel 
knelt by the Frenchman and loosened his helmet The 
girlish face of the young squire was white as chalk, and 
the haze of death was gathering over his violet eyes, but 
a faint smile played round lus lips as he looked up at his 
English comrade. 



296 SIR NIGEL 

" I shall never see Beatrice again/' he whispered. *' I 
pray 70a, Nigel, that when there is a truce you will 
journey as far as my father^s ch&teau and tell him how 
his son died. Young Gaston will rejoice, for to him come 
the land and the coat, the war-cry and the profit See 
them, Nigel, and tell them that I was as forward as the 
others." • 

"Indeed, Baoul, no man cotQd have carried himself 
with more honour or won more worship than you have 
done this day. I will do your behest when the time 
comes." 

"Surely you are happy, Nigel," the dying squire 
murmured, " for this day hois given you one more deed 
which you may lay at the feet of your lady-love." 

"It might have been so had we carried the gate»" 
Nigel answered sadly; "but, by Saint Paul! I cannot 
coimt it a deed where I have come back with my purpose 
unfulfilled. But this is no time, Baoul, to talk of my 
small affairs. If we take the castle, and I bear a good 
part in it, then perchance all this may indeed avail." 

The Frenchman sat up with that strange eneigy which 
comes often as the harbinger of death. 

"You will win your Lady Mary, Nigel, and your 
great deeds will be not three but a score, so that in all 
Christendom there shall be no man of blood and coat- 
armour who has not heard your name and your fame. 
This I tell you— I, Baoul de la Boche Pierre de Bras, 
dying upon the field of honour. And now kiss me, sweet 
friend, and lay me back, for the mists close round me and 
I am gone 1 " 

With tender hands the squire lowered his comrade's 
head, but even as he did so there came a choking rush of 
blood, and the soul had passed. So died a gallant cavalier 
of France, and Nigel, as he knelt in the ditch beside 
him, prayed that his own end might be as noble and as 
debonair. 



CHAPTER XXI 

HOW THE SECOND ME8SENGEB WENT TO COSTOBD 

Under cover of night the wounded men were lifted from 
the ditch and carried back, while pickets of archers were 
advanced to the very gate so that none should rebuild it. 
Nigel, sick at heart over his own failure, the death of his 
prisoner, and his fears for Aylward, crept back into the 
camp, but his cup was not yet full, for Knolles was waiting 
for him with a tongue which cut like a whip-lash. Who 
was he, a raw squire, that he should lead an attack without 
orders ? See what his crazy knight errantry had brought 
about Twenty men liad been destroyed by it and nothing 
gained. Their blood was on his head. Chandos should 
hear of his conduct. He should be sextt back to England 
when the castle had fallen. 

Such were the bitter words of Knolles, the more bitter 
because Nigel felt in his heart that he had indeed done 
wrong, and that Chandos would have said the same, 
though, perchance, in kinder words. He listened in silent 
respect, as his duty was, and then, having saluted his 
leader, he withdrew apart, threw himself down among the 
bushes, and wept the hottest tears of his life, sobbing 
bitterly, with his &ce between his hands. He had striven 
hard, and yet everything had gone wrong with him. He 
was bruised, burned, and aching from head to foot Tet 
so high is the spirit above the body that all was nothing 
compared to the sorrow and shame which racked his souL 

But a little thing changed the current of his thoughts 
and brought some peace to his mind. He had slipped off 

297 



298 SIR NIGEL 

his mail gauntlets, and as he did so his fingers lighted 
upon the tiny bangle which Mary had fastened there when 
they stood together upon St. Catharine's Hill on the Guild- 
ford Boad. He remembered the motto curiously worked 
in filigree of gold. It ran : " FaU ce que dois^ adviegne que 
pourra — c^est cammandi cm chevalier," 

The words rang in his weary brain. He had done 
what seemed right, come what might It had gone awry, 
it is true ; but all things human may do that. If he had 
carried the castle, he felt that Elnolles would have forgiven 
and forgotten all else. If he had not carried it, it was no 
fault of his. No man could have done more. If Mary 
could see she would surely have approved. Dropping 
into sleep, he saw her dark face, shining with pride and 
wijth pity, stooping over him as he lay. She stretched out 
her hand in his dream and touched him on the shoulder. 
He sprang up and rubbed his eyes, for fact had woven 
itself into dream in the strange way that it does, and 
some one was indeed leaning over him in the gloom, and 
shaking him from his slumbers. But the gentle voice 
and soft touch of the Lady Mary had changed suddenly 
to the harsh accents and rough grip of Black Simon, the 
fierce Norfolk man-at-arms. 

** Surely you are the Squire Loring," he said, peering 
close to his face in the darkness. 

"I am he. What then?" 

'' I have searched through the camp for you, but when 
I saw the great horse tethered near these bulges, I thought 
you would be found hard by. I would have a word with 
you." 

" Speak on." 

** This man Aylwaid the bowman was my friend, and 
it is the nature that God has given me to love my friends 
even as I hate my foes. He is also thy servant, and it has 
seemed to me that you love him also." 

» I have good cause so to do." 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 299 

'' Then you and I, Sqtdre Loring, have more reason to 
strive on his behalf thajx any of these others, who think 
more of taking the castle than of saving those who are 
captives ¥dthin. Do you not see that such a man as this 
robber lord would, when all else had failed him, most 
surely cut the throats of his prisoners at the last instant 
before the castle fell, knowing well that, come what 
might, he would have short shrift himself? Is that not 
certain?" 

'' By Saint Paul I I had not thought of it." 

" I was with you, hammering at the inner gate," said 
Simon, " and yet once when I thought that it was giving 
way, I said in my heart, 'Good-bye, SamkinI I shall 
never see you more.' This Baron has gall in his soul, even 
as I have myself, and do you think that I would give up 
my prisoners alive, if I were constrained so to do ? No, 
no ; had we won our way this day, it would have been the 
death-stroke for them all." 

" It may be that you are right, Simon," said Nigel, 
'' and the thought of it should assuage our grief. But if 
we cannot save them by taking the castle, then surely they 
are lost indeed." 

'* It may be so, or it may not," Simon answered slowly. 
"It is in my mind that if the castle were taken very 
suddenly, and in such a fashion that they could not foresee 
it, then perchance we might get the prisoners before they 
could do them scathe." 

Nigel bent forward eagerly, his hand on the soldier's 
arm. 

" Ton have some plan in your mind, Simon. Tell me 
what it is." 

" I had wished to tell Sir Bobert, but he is preparing 
the assault for to-morrow, and will not be turned from his 
purpose. I have indeed a plan, but whether it be good or 
not I cannot say, until I have tried it. But first I will 
tell you what put it into my thoughts. Enow, then, that 



300 SIR NIGEL 

this morning when I was in yonder ditch I marked one of 
their men upon the wall. He was a big man with a white 
face, red hair, and a touch of Saint Anthony's fire upon 
the cheek." 

" But what has this to do with Aylward ? " 

** I will show yoiu This evening, after the assault, I 
chanced to walk with some of my fellows round yonder 
small fort upon the knoll to see if we could spy a weak 
spot in it. Some of them came to the wall to curse us, 
and among them whom should I see but a big man with a 
white face, red hair, and a touch of Anthony's fire upon 
his cheek I What make you of that, Squire Nigel ? " 

''That this man had crossed from the castle to the 
fort." 

" In good sooth, it must indeed be so. There are not 
two such ken-speckled men in the world. But if he crossed 
from the castle to the fort, it was not above the ground, 
for our own people were between." 

"By Saint Paull I see your meaning!" cried NigeL 
" It is in your mind that there is a passage under the earth 
from one to the other/' 

" I am well sure of it." 

"Then if we should take the small fort we may pass 
down this tunnel, and so carry the great castle also." 

" Such a thing might happen," said Simon, " and yet 
it is dangerous also, for surely those in the castle would 
hear our assault upon the fort and so be warned to bar the 
passage s^ainst us, and to slay the prisoners before we 
could come." 

" What, then, is your rede ? " 

" Could we find where the tuimel lay. Squire Nigel, I 
know not what is to prevent us from digging down upon 
it and breaking into it so that both fort and castle axe at 
our mercy before either knows that we are there." 

Nigel clapped his hands with joy. " 'Fore God I " he 
cried. " It is a most noble plan I But alas ! Simon, I see 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 301 

not how we can tell the course of this passage or where we 
shonld dig." 

" I have peasants yonder with spades/' said Simon« 
*' There are two of my friends, Harding of Barnstable and 
West-country John, who are waiting for us with their 
gear. If you will come to lead us, Squire Nigel, we are 
ready to venture our bodies in the attempt." 

What would EnoUes say in case they failed? The 
thought flashed through Nigel's mind, but another came 
swiftly behind it. He would not venture further unless 
he found hopes of success. And if he did venture further 
he would put his life upon it. Giving that, he made 
amends for all errors. And if, on the other hand, success 
crowned their efforts, then Knolles would forgive his 
failure at the gateway. A minute later, every doubt 
banished from his mind, he was making his way through 
the darkness under the guidance of Black Simon. 

Outside the camp the two other men-at-arms were 
waiting for them, and the four advanced together. Presently 
a little group of figures loomed up in the darkness. It 
was a cloudy night, and a thin rain was falling, which 
obscured both the castle and the fort ; but a stone had 
been placed by Simon in the daytime which assured that 
they were between the two. 

'' Is blind Andreas there ? " asked Simon. 

'' Yes, kind sir, I am here," said a voice. 

** This man," said Simon, " was once rich and of good 
repute, but he was beggared by this robber lord, who after- 
wards put out his eyes so that he has lived for many years 
in darkness at the charity of others." 

" How can he help us in our enterprise if he be indeed 
bUnd?" asked Nigel. 

'' It is for that very reason, fair lord, that he can be of 
greater service than any other man," Simon answered; 
" for it often happens that when a man has lost a sense 
the good God will strengthen those that remain. Hence 



302 SIR NIGEL 

it is that Andreas has such ears that he can hear the sap 
in the trees or the cheep of the monse in its borrow. He 
has come to help ns to find the tnnneL" 

"And I have found it/' said the blind man, proudly. 
" Here I have placed my staff upon the line of it Twice 
as I lay there with my ear to the ground I have heard 
footsteps pass beneath me." 

'' I trust you make no mistake, old man/' said NigeL 

For answer the blind man raised his stafT and smote 
twice upon the ground, once to the right and once to the 
left. The one gave a dull thud, the other a hollow boom. 

" Can you not hear that ? " he asked. *' Will you ask 
me now if I make a mistake ? " 

" Indeed, we are much beholden to you ! " cried NigeL 
" Let the peasants dig, then, and as silently as they may. 
Do you keep your ear upon the ground, Andreas, so that 
if any one pass beneath us we shall be warned." 

60, amid the driving rain, the little group toiled in the 
darkness. The blind man lay silent, flat upon his face, 
and twice they heard his warning hiss and stopped their 
work, while some one passed beneath. In an hour they 
had dug down to a stone arch which was clearly the outer 
side of the tunnel roof. Here was a sad obstacle, for it 
might take long to loosen a stone, and if their work was 
not done by the break of day then their enterprise was 
indeed hopeless. They loosened the mortar with a dagger, 
and at last dislodged one small stone which enabled them 
to get at the others. Presently a dark hole blacker than 
the night around them yawned at their feet, and their 
swords could touch no bottom to it. They had opened 
the tunneL 

"I would fain enter it first," said Nigel. "I pray you 
to lower me down." They held him to the full length of 
their arms, and then letting him drop they heard him land 
safely beneath them. An instant later the blind man 
started up with a low cry of alarm. 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 303 

"I hear steps coming/' said he. ''They are far off, 
but they draw nearer." 

Simon thrust his head and neck down the hole. '' Squire 
Nigel/' he whispered, " can you hear me ? " 

" I can hear you, Simon." 

" Andreas says that some one comes." 

"Then cover over the hole/' came the answer. "Quick, 
I pray you, cover it over 1 " 

A mantle was stretched across it, so that no glimmer 
of light should warn the newcomer. The fear was that 
he might have heard the sound of Nigel's descent But 
soon it was clear that he had not done so^ for Andreas 
announced that he was still advancing. FtesenUy Nigel 
could hear the distant thud of his feet. If he bore a 
lantern all was lost. But no gleam of light appeared 
in the black tunnel, and still the footsteps drew 
nearer. 

Nigel breathed a prayer of thanks to all his guardian 
saints as he crouched close to the slimy wall and waited 
breathless, his dagger in his hand. Nearer yet and nearer 
came the steps. He could hear the stranger^s coarse 
breathing in the darkness. Then as he brushed past Nigel 
bounded upon him with a tiger spring. There was one 
gasp of astonishment, and not a soimd more, for the 
squire's grip was on the man's throat and his body was 
pinned motionless against the walL 

*' Simon ! Simon ! " cried Nigel, loudly. 

The mantle was moved from the hole. 

*'Have you a cord? Or your belts linked together 
may serve/* 

One of the peasants had a rope, and Nigel soon felt it 
dangling against his hand. He listened and there was no 
sound in the passage. For an instant he released his 
captive's throat. A torrent of prayers and entreaties came 
forth. The man was shaking like a leaf in the wind. 
Nigel pressed the point of his dagger against his face and 



304 SIR NIGEL 

dared him to open his lips. Then he slipped ihe rope 
beneath his arms and tied ife 

** Poll him up 1 " he whispered^ and for an instant the 
gray glimmer above him was obscnred. 

" We have him, fair sir," said Simon* 

*' Then drop me the rope and hold it £aatJ* 

A moment later Nigel stood among the group of men 
who had gathered round their captive. It was too dark 
to see him, and they dare not strike flint and steeL 

Simon passed his hand roughly over him and felt a fat 
clean-shaven face, and a cloth gabardine which hung to 
the ankles. "Who ore you?" he whispered. "Speak the 
truth and speak it low, if you would ever speak 
again." 

The man's teeth chattered in his head with cold and 
fright. 

*' 1 speak no English/' he murmured. 

" French, then," said Nigel. 

'' I am a holy priest of God. You court the ban of 
holy Church when you lay hands upon me. I pray you 
let me go upon my way, for there are those whom I would 
shrive and houseL If they should die in sin, their 
damnation is upon you." 

" How are you called, then T '* 

" I am Dom Peter de Cervolles." 

"De Gervolles, the arch-priest, he who heated the 
brazier when they burned out my eyes," cried old Andreas. 
'* Of all the devils in hell there is none fouler than this 
one. Friends, friends, if I have done aught for you this 
night, I ask but ona reward, that ye let me have my will 
of this man." 

But Nigel pushed the old man back. " There is no 
time for this," he said. " Now, hark you, priest — if priest 
indeed you be — ^your gown and tonsure will not save you 
if you play us false, for we are here of a set purpose, and 
we will go forward with it, come what may, Aqsw^ 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 305 

me and answer me truly or it will be an ill night for you. 
In what part of the castle does this tunnel enter ? '* 

" In the lower cellar." 

"Whatisattheend?" 

•' An oaken door." 

« Is it barred?" 

" Yes, it is barred." 

** How would you have entered ? " 

" I would have given the password." 

" Who then would have opened ? " 

" There is a guard within-" 

** And beyond him?" 

'' Beyond him are the prison cells and the jailers." 

" Who else would be afoot ? " 

"No one save a guard at the gate and another on the 
battlement" 

" What, then, is the password ? *' 

The man was silent. 

" The password, fellow 1 " 

The cold points of two daggers pricked his throat, but 
still he would not speak. 

"Where is the blind man?" asked NigeL "Here, 
Andreas, you can have him and do what you will with 
him." 

" Nay, nay," the priest whimpered. " Keep him oflf 
me. Save me from blind Andreas! I will tell you 
everjrthing." 

" The password, then, this instant 7 " 

"ItiB'Benediciur" 

" We have the password, Simon," cried Nigel. " Come, 
then, let us on to the farther end. These peasants will 
guard the priest, and they will remain here lest we wish 
to send a message." 

" Nay, fair sir, it is in my mind that we can do better," 
said Simon. " Let us take the priest with us, so that he 
who is within may know his voice." 

X 



306 SIR NIGEL 

'at is well thought of/' said Nigel, ''and fiist let us 
pray together, for indeed this night may well be our last" 

He and the three men-at-arms knelt in the rain and 
sent up their simple orisons, Simon still clutchii]^ tight to 
his prisoner's wrist. 

The priest fumbled in his breast, and drew something 
forth. 

" It is the heart of the blessed oonfessor Saint Enogat^" 
said he. " It may be that it will ease and assoil your 
souls if you would wish to handle it" 

The four Englishmen passed the flat silver case firom 
hand to hand, each pressing his lips devoutly upon it 
Then they rose to their feet Nigel was the first to Iowa 
himself down the hole ; then Simon; then the priest, who 
was instantly seized by tiae other two. The men-at-arms 
followed them. They had scarcely moved away from the 
hole when Nigel stopped. 

" Surely some one else came after us,** said he. 

They listened, but no whisper or rustle came fiom 
behind them. For a minute they paused and then 
resumed their journey through the dark. It seemed a 
long, long way, though in truth it was but a few hundred 
yards before they came to a door with a glimmer of yellow 
light around it, which barred their passage. Nigel stradc 
upon it with his hand. 

There was the rasping of a bolt and then a bud voioe : 
"Is that you, priest?'* 

"Yes, it is I," said the prisoner, In a quavering voice. 
"Open, Arnold." 

The voice was enough. There was no question of pass- 
words The door swung inward, and in an instant the 
janitor was cut down by Nigel and Simon. So sudden 
and so fierce was the attack that save for the thud of his 
body no sound was heard. A fiood of light burst outward 
into the passage, and the Englishmen stood with blinking 
eyes in its glare. 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 307 

In front of tbem lay a stone-flagged corridor^ across 
which lay the dead body of the janitor. It had doors on 
either side of it, and another grated door at the farther 
end. A strange hubbub, a kind of low droning and 
whining filled the air. The four men were standing 
listening, full of wonder as to what this might mean, when 
a sharp ciy came from behind them. The priest lay in a 
shapeless heap upon the ground, and the Uood was rushing 
from his gaping throat. Down the passage, a black 
shadow in the yeUow light, there fled a crouching man, 
who clattered with a stick as he went. 

" It is Andreas," cried West-country Will " He has 
slain him." 

" Then it was he that I heard behind us," said Nigel. 
'* Doubtless he was at our very heels in the darkness. I 
fear that the priest's cry has been heard." 

'' Nay," scdd Simon, '' there are so many cries that one 
more may well pass. Let us take this lamp from the wall 
and see what sort of devil's den we have around us." 

They opez^ the door upon the right, and so honible a 
smell issued from it that they were driven back from it 
The lamp which Simon held forward showed a monkey- 
like creature mowing and grimacing in a comw, man or 
woman none could tell, but driven crazy by loneliness and 
horror. In the other cell was a gray-bearded man fettered 
to the wall, looking blankly before him, a body without a 
soul, yet with life still in him, for his dull eyes turned 
slowly in their direction. But it was from behind the 
central door at the end of the passage that the chorus of 
sad cries came which filled the air. 

'' Simon," said Nigel, '* before we go farther we will 
take this outer door from its hinges. With it we wiU block 
this passage so that at the worst we may hold our ground 
here until help comes. Do you back to the camp as fast 
as your feet can bear you. The peasants will draw you 
upward through the hole. Give my greetings to Sir 



3o8 SIR NIGEL 

Bobert and tell him that the castle is taken witihont £a3 
if he comes this way with fifty men. Say that we have 
made a lodgment within the walls. And tell him also^ 
Simon, that I would counsel him to make a stir before the 
gateway so that the guard may be held there whilst we 
make good our footing behind them. Go, good Simon, and 
lose not a moment ! " 

But the man-at-arms shook his head. ^ It is I who 
have brought you here, fair sir, and here I bide through 
fair and foul. But you speak wisely and well, for Sir 
Bobert should indeed be told what is going forward now 
that we have gone so far. Harding, do you go with all 
speed and bear the gentle Nigel's message."' 

Beluctantly the man-at-arms sped upon his errand. 
They could hear the racing of his feet and the low jingle 
of his harness until they died away in the tunneL Then 
the three companions approached the door at the end. It 
was their intention to wait where they were until help 
should come, but suddenly amid the babel of cries within 
there broke forth an English voice, shouting in torment 

" My God I •' it cried, " I pray you, comrades, for a cup 
of water, as you hope for Christ's mercy ! " 

A shout of laughter and the thud of a heavy Uow 
followed the appeal. 

All the hot blood rushed to Nigel's head at the sound, 
buzzing in his ears and throbbing in his temples. There 
are times when the fiery heart of a man must overbear the 
cold brain of a soldier. With one bound he was at the 
door, with another he was through it, the men-at-arms 
at his heels. So strange was the scene before them that 
for an instant all three stood motionless with horror and 
surprise. 

It was a great vaulted chamber, brightly lit by many 
torches. At the farther end roared a great fire. In front 
of it three naked men were chained to posts in such a way 
that, flinch as they might, they could never get beyond 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 309 

the range of its scorching heat. Yet they were so far 
from it that no actual bom would be inflicted if they 
could but keep turning and shifting so as continually to 
present some fresh portion of their flesh to the flames. 
Hence they danced and whirled in front of the fire, tossing 
ceaselessly this way and that within the compass of their 
chains, wearied to death, their protruding tongues cracked 
and blackened with thirst, but unable for one instant to 
rest from their writhings and contortions. 

Even stranger was the sight at each side of the room, 
whence came that chorus of groans which had first struck 
upon the ears of Nigel and his companions. A line of 
great hogsheads were placed alongside the walls, and 
within each sat a man, his head protruding from the top. 
As they moved within there was a constant splashing and 
washing of water. The white wan faces all turned 
together as the door flew open, and a cry of amazement 
and of hope took the place of those long-drawn moans of 
despair. 

At the same instant two fellows clad in black, who had 
been seated with a flagon of wine between them at a table 
near the fire, sprang wildly to their feet, staring with blank 
amazement at this sudden inrush. That instant of delay 
deprived them of their last chance of safety. Midway 
down the room was a flight of stone steps which led to the 
main door. 

Swift as a wild cat Nigel bounded toward it and gained 
the steps a stride or two before the jailers. They turned 
and made for the other which led to the passage, but 
Simon and his comrades were nearer to it than they. Two 
sweeping blows, two dagger thrusts into writhing figures, 
and the ruffians who worked the will of the Butcher lay 
dead upon the floor of their slaughter-house. 

Oh, the buzz of joy and of prayer from all those white 
lips I Oh, the light of returning hope in all those sunken 
weary eyes I One wild shout would have gone up had 



310 SIR NIGEL 

not Nigel's outstretched hands and warning voice hushed 
them to silence. 

He opened the door hddnd him. A curving newel 
staircase wound upward into the darkness. He listened, 
hut no sound came down. There was a key in the outer 
lock of the iron door. He whipped it out and turned it 
on the inner side. The ground that they had gained was 
safe. Now they could turn to the relief of these poor 
fellows beside them. A few strong blows struck off the 
irons and freed the three dancers before the fire. With a 
husky croak of joy, they rushed across to their comrades' 
water-barrels, plunged their heads in like horses, and 
drank and drank and drank. Then in turn the poor 
shivering wretches were taken out of the barrels, their 
skins bleached and wrinkled with long soaking. Their 
bonds were torn from them ; but, cramped and fixed, their 
limbs refused to act, and they tumbled and twisted upon 
the floor in their efforts to reach Nigel and to kiss his 
hand. 

In a comer lay Aylward, dripping from Ids barrel and 
exhausted with cold and hunger. Nigel ran to his side 
and raised his head. The jug of wine from which the two 
jailers had drunk still stood upon their table. The squire 
placed it to the archer's lips, and he took a hearty pull 
at it. 

" How is it with you now, Aylward ? " 

•* Better, squire, better, but may I never touch water 
again as long as I live I Alas! poor Dicon has gone, and 
Stephen also — ^e life chilled out of them. The cold is in 
the very marrow of my bones. I pray you, let me lean 
upon your arm as far as the fire, that I may warm the 
frozen blood and set it running in my veins once more." 

A strange sight it was to see these twenty naked men 
crouching in a half-drcle round the fire with their trembling 
hands extended to the blaze. Soon their tongues at least 
were thawed, and they poured out the story of their 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 311 

tioubleB, with many a prayer and ejaculation to lihe saints 
for their safe delivery. No food had crossed their lips 
since they had been tdsen. The Butcher had commanded 
them to join his garrison and to shoot upon their com- 
rades from the waU. When they refused he had set aside 
three of them for execution. 

The others had been draped to the cellar, whither the 
leering tyrant had followed them. Only one question 
he had asked them, whether they were of a hot-blooded 
nature or of a cold. Blows were showered upon them 
until they answered. Three had said cold, and had been 
condemned to the torment of the fire. The rest who had 
said hot were delivered up to the torture of the wat^- 
cask. Every few hours this man or fiend had come down 
to exult over their sufferings and to ask them whether 
they were ready yet to enter his service. Three had con., 
sented and were gone. But the others had all of them 
stood firm, two of them even to their death. 

Such was the tale to which Nigel tod his comrades 
listened while they waited impatiently for the coming of 
KnoUes and bis men. Many an anxious look did they 
cast down the black tunnel, but no glimmer of light and 
no dash of steel came from its depths. Suddenly, how- 
ever, a loud and measured sound broke upon their ears. 
It was a dull metallic clang, ponderous and slow, growing 
louder and ever louder — the tread of an armoured man. 
The poor wretches round the fire, all unnerved by hunger 
and suffering, huddled together with wan, scared faces, 
their eyes fixed in terror on the door. 

"It is he I" they whispered. "It is the Butcher 
himself!" 

Nigel had darted to the door and listened intently. 
There were no footfalls save those of one man. Once 
sure of that, he softly turned the key in the lock. At the 
Bame instant there came a bull's bellow from without. 

"IvesI Bertrandl" criedthevoioa " Can you not hear 



312 SIR NIGEL 

me coming, you dronkea varlets ? You shall cool yotur 
own heads in the water-casks, you lazy lascals I What, 
not even now ! Open, you dogs. Open, I say P* 

He had thrust down the latch, and with a kick he 
flung the door wide and rushed iuward. For an instant 
he stood motionless, a statue of dull yellow metal, his 
eyes fixed upon the empty casks and the huddle of naked 
men. Then, with the roar of a trapped lion, he turned, 
but the door had slammed behind him, and Black Simon, 
with grim figure and sardonic face, stood between. « 

The Butcher looked round him helplessly, for he was 
unarmed save for his dagger. Then his eyes fell upon 
Nigel's roses. 

'* You are a gentleman of coat-armour,'' he cried. '* I 
surrender myself to you." 

" I will not take your surrender, you black vilLain," 
said Nigel. "Draw and defend yourself. Simon, give 
him your sword," 

** Nay, this is madness," said the blunt man-at-arms. 
"Why should I give the wasp a sting ? " 

" Give it him, I say. I cannot kill him in cold blood." 

" But I can I " yelled Aylward, who had crept up from 
the fire. " Come, comrades I By these ten finger-bones I 
has he not taught us how cold blood should be warmed ? " 

like a pack of wolves they were on him, and he 
clanged upon the floor with a dozen frenzied naked figures 
clutching and clinging above him. In vain Nigel tried to 
pull them off. They were mad with rage, these tortured 
starving men, their eyes fijced and glaring, their hair on 
end, their teeth gnashing with fury, while they tore at the 
howling, writhing man. Then, with a rattle and clatter, 
they pulled him across the room by his two ankles and 
dragged him into the fira 

Nigel shuddered and turned away his eyes as he saw 
the brazen figure roll out and stagger to his knees, only to 
be hurled once more into the heart of the blaze. His 



THE SECOND MESSENGER 313 

prisoners screamed with joy and clapped their hands as 
they pushed him back with their feet until the armour 
was too hot for them to toucL Then at last he lay still 
and glowed darkly red, while the naked men danced in a 
wild half-circle round the fire. 

But now at last the supports had coma Lights flashed 
and armour gleamed down the tunnel. The cellar filled 
with armed men, while from above came the cries and 
turmoil of the feigned assault upon the gate. Led by 
Knolles and Nigel, the storming party rushed upward and 
seized the court-yard. The guard of the gate taken in the 
rear threw down their weapons and cried for mercy. The 
gate was thrown open and the assailants rushed in, with 
hundreds of furious peasants at their heels. Some of the 
robbers died in hot blood, many in cold ; but aU died, for 
KnoUes had vowed to give no quarter. Day was just 
breaking when the last fugitive had been hunted out and 
slain. From all sides came the yells and whoops of the 
soldiers, with the riding and riving of doors as they 
burst into the store-rooms and treasure-chambers. There 
was a joyous scramble among them, for the plunder of 
eleven years, gold and jewels, satins and velvets, rich plate 
and noble hangings were all to be had for the taking. 

The rescued prisoners, their hunger appeased and their 
clothes restored, led the search for booty. Nigel, leaning 
on his sword by the gateway, saw Aylwatd totter past, a 
huge bundle under each arm, another slung over his back, 
and a smaller packet hanging from his mouth. He dropped 
it for a moment as he passed his young master. 

'* By these ten finger-bones I I am right glad that I 
came to the war, and no man could ask for a more goodly 
life," said he. " I have a present here for every girl in 
Tilford, and my father neod never fear the frown of 
the Sacrist of Waverley again. But how of you. Squire 
Loring ? It standeth not aright that we should gather 
the harvest whilst you, who sowed it« go forth empty- 



314 SIR NIGEL 

handed. CSome, gentle sir, take these things that I hai^ 
gathered, and I will go hack and find more." 

Bat Nigel smiled and shook his head. "You have 
gained what your heart desired, and peiohance I have 
done so also,"* said he. 

An instant later EnoUes strode up to him with out- 
stretched hand. 

" I ask your pardon^ Nigel/' said he. '' I have spoken 
too hotly in my wrath." 

"Nay, fair sir, I was at foult* 

'' If we stand here now within this oasde, it is to you 
that I owe it The king shall know of it, and Chandos 
also. Can I do aught else, Nigel, to prove to you the 
high esteem in which I hold you?" 

The squire flushed with pleasurei "Do you send a 
messenger home to England, &ir sir, with news of these 
doings f " 

" Surely, I must do so. But do not tell me, Nigd, 
that you would be that messenger. Ask me some other 
favour, for indeed I cannot let you go." 

"Now, Gk)dforbidl" cried NigeL "By Saint Paul! I 
would not be so caitiff and so thrall as to leave you whan 
some small deed might still be done. But I would fain 
send a message by your messenger." 

"To whom?" 

"It is to the Lady Mary, daughter of old Sir John 
Buttesthom, who dwells near Guildford." 

" But you will write the message, NigeL Such greet- 
ings as a cavalier sends to his lady-love should be under 
seaL" 

" Nay, he can carry my message by word of mouth.** 

"Then I shall tell him, for he goes this moniing. 
What message, then, shall he say to the lady ? " 

"He will give her my veiy humble greetmg, and be 
will say to her that for tiie second time Saint Catharine 
has been our friend." 



CHAPTER XXII 

HOW BOBEBT OF BSAX7KAH0IB CAHB TO FLOBBMEL 

Sib IlOBEBT Knolles and hia men passed onward that 
day, looking back many a time to see the two dark 
colmnns of smoke, one thicker and one more slender, 
which arose from the castle and from the fort of La 
Brohiniire. There was not an archer nor a man-at-arms 
who did not bear a great bundle of spoil upon his back, 
and EnoUes frowned darkly as he looked upcm them. 
Gladly would he have thrown it all down by the roadside, 
but he had tried such matters before, and he knew that it 
was as safe to tear a half-gnawed bone from a bear as their 
blood-won plunder from such men as these. In any case 
it was but two days' march to Ploermel, where he hoped 
to bring his journey to an end. 

That night they camped at Mauron, where a small 
English «nd Breton ganison held the castle. Bight glad 
were the bowmen to see some of their own countrymen 
once more, and they spent the night oyer wine and dice, 
a crowd of Breton girls assisting, so that next morning 
their bundles were much lighter, and most of the plunder 
of La Brohini^re was left with the men and women of 
Mauron. Next day their march lay with a fair sluggish 
river upon their rij^t, and a great rolling forest upon their 
left, which covered the whole country. At last, toward 
evening, the towers of Ploermel rose before them, and they 
saw against a darkening sky the Bed Cross of England 
waving in the wind. So blue was the river Due which 
skirted the road, and so green its banks, that they might 

3>5 



3i6 SIR NIGEL 

indeed hsva been back beside their own homely stzeams, 
the Ozfoid Thames or the Midland Trent, but ever as the 
darlnieaB deepened there came in wild gusts the howling 
of wolves from the forest to remind them that they were 
in a land of war. So bosy had men heea for many years 
in hunting one another that the beasts of the chase had 
grown to a monstrous degree, untQ the streets of the 
towns were no longer safe firom the wild inroads of the 
fierce creatures, the wolves and the bears, who swarmed 
around them. 

It was nigfatfiakll when the little army entered the outer 
gate of the Castle of Ploermel and encamped in the broad 
bailey-yard. Ploermel was at that time the centre of 
British power in Mid-Brittany, as Hennebon was in the 
West, and it was held by a garrison of five hundred men 
under an old soldier, Sichard of Bambro*, a rugged North- 
umbrian, trained in that great school of warriors, the 
border wars. He who had ridden the marches of the most 
troubled frontier in Europe, and served his time against 
the liddlesdale and Nithsdale raiders, was hardened for a 
life in the field 

Of late, however, Bambro* had been unable to under- 
take any enterprise, for his reinforcements had fedled him, 
and amid his following he had but three English knights 
and seventy men. The rest were a mixed crew of Bretons, 
Hainaulters, and a few German mercenary soldiers, brave 
men individually, as those of that stock have ever been, 
but lacking interest in the cause, and bound together by 
no common tie of blood or tradition. 

On the other hand, the surrounding castles, and espe- 
cially that of Josselin, were held by strong forces of en- 
thusiastic Bretons, infiamed by a common patriotism, and 
full of warlike ardour. Bobert of Beaumanoir, the fierce 
seneschal of the house of Bohan, pushed constant forays 
and excursions against Ploermel, so that town and castle 
were both in daily dread of being surrounded and besieged. 



ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR 317 

Several small parties of the English faction had been cut 
off and slain to a man, and so straitened were the others 
that it was difficult for them to gather provisions from the 
country round. 

Such was the state of Bambro's garrison when on that 
March evening Enolles and his men streamed into the 
bailey-yard of his castle. 

In the glare of the torches at the inner gate Bambro' 
was waiting to receive them, a dry, hard, wizened man, 
small and fierce, with beady black eyes and quick, furtive 
ways. Beside him, a strange contrast, stood his squire, 
Croquart, a German, whose name and fame as a man-at- 
arms were widespread, though, like Robert Enolles him- 
self, he had begun as a humble page. He was a very 
tall man, with an enormous spread of shoulders, and a 
pair of huge bands with which he could crack a horse- 
shoe. He was slow and lethargic, save in moments of 
excitement, and his calm blond face, his dreamy blue eyes, 
and his long fair hair gave him so gentle an appearance that 
none save those who had seen him in his berserk mood, 
raging, an iron giant, in the forefront of the battie, could 
ever guess how terrible a warrior he might be. Little 
knight and huge squire stood together under the arch of 
the donjon and gave welcome to the newcomers, while a 
swarm of soldiers crowded round to embrace their com- 
rades and to lead them off where they might feed and 
make merry together. 

Supper had been set in the hall of Ploermel, wherein 
the knights and squires assembled. Bambro' and Croquart 
were there with Sir Hugh Galverly, an old friend of 
Enolles and a fellow-townsman, for both were men of 
Chester. Sir Hugh was a middle-sized flaxen man, with 
hard gray eyes and fierce, large-nosed face, sliced across 
with the sear of a sword-cut. There, too, were Oeofirey 
D*Ardaine, a young Breton seigneur ; Sir Thomas Belford, 
a burly thick-set Midland Englishman; Sir Thomaa 



3i8 SIR NIGEL 

Walton^ whose suiooat of scarlet martlets showed thai 
he was of the Surrey Waltons; James Mardiall and 
John Bussell, young English squires ; and the two brothera^ 
Richard and Hugh Le G«lliard, who were of Gascon blood. 
Besides these were several squires unknown to fame, and 
of the newcomers, Sir Robert Enolles, Sir Thomas Percy, 
Nigel Loring, and two other squires, Allington and 
Parsons. These were the company who gathered in the 
torchlight round the table of the Seneschal of Ploennel, 
and kept high revel with joyous hearts because they 
thought that much honour and noble deeds lay before 
them.^ 

But one sad face there was at the board, and that 
belonged to him at the head of it. Sir Richard Bambro' 
sat with his chin leaning upon his hand and hia eyes 
downcast upon the doth, while aU round him rose the 
merry clatter of voices, every one planning some fi:Q8h 
ent^rise which might now be attempted. Sir Robert 
Enolles was for an immediate advance upon Josselin. 
Calverly thought that a raid might be luade into the 
South, where the main French power lay. Others spoke 
of an attack upon Yannes. 

To all these eager opinions Bambro' listened in a moody 
silence, which he broke at last by a fierce execration 
which drew a hushed attention &om the company. 

''Say no more, fetir sirs,'' he cried, ''for indeed your 
words are like so many stabs in my heart. All this and 
more we might indeed have done. But of a truth yon are 
too late." 

"Too late?" cried KnoUes. "What mean you, 
Richard?" 

"Alas that I should have to say it, but yon and all 
these fair soldiers might be back in England once more 
for all the profit that I am like to have fix)m your coming. 
Saw you a rider on a white horse ere you reached the 
Castle t" 



i:- 



ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR 319 

1 " Nay, I saw him not/' 

; " He came by the western road from HenneboiL Would 

^ that he had broken his neck ere be came hera Not an 

hour ago he left his message^ and now hath ridden on 
I to warn the garrison of Malestroit. A truce has been 
} proclaimed for a year betwixt the French king and the 
, English, and he who breaks it forfeits life and estate/' 

"A truce r* Here was an end to all their fine dreams. 
f They looked blankly at each other all round the table, 
,; while Oroquart brought his great fist down upon the board 
^ until the glasses rattled again« Enolles sat with clinched 

hands as if he were a figure of stone, while Nigel's heart 
i. turned cold and heavy within him. A truce 1 Where, 

then, was his third deed, and how might he return without 

J it? 

I Even as they sat in moody silence there was the call 

; of a bugle £rom somewhere out in the darkness. 

Sir Richard looked up with surprise. " We are not 

^ wont to be summoned after once the portcullis is down/' 

said he. '' Truce or no truce, we must let no man within 

our walls until we have proved him. Croquart, see to it 1 " 

The huge German left the room. The company were 

still seated in despondent silence when he returned. 

"Sir Richard/' said he, "the brave knight Robert of 
Beaumanoir and his Squire William de Montaubon are 
without the gate, and would fain have speech with you." 

Bambro' started in his chair. What could the fierce 

leader of the Bretons, a man who was red to the elbow 

with English blood, have to say to them? On what 

errand had he left bis castle of Joseelin to pay this visit 

^ to his deadly enemies ? " 

"Are they armed? " he asked. 
* " They are unarmed." 

^ " Then admit them and bring them hither, but double 

' the guards, and take all heed against surprise." 
' Places were set at the &rther end of the table for 



320 SIR NIGEL 

these most unexpected guests. Presently the door was 
swung open, and Croquart, with all form and courtesy, 
announced the two Bretons, who entered with the proud 
and lofty air of gallant warriors and high-bred genUemeaa. 

Beaumanoir was a tall, dark man, with raven hair and 
long, swarthy beard. He was strong and straight as a 
young oak, with fiery black eyes, and no flaw in bis 
comely features, save that Ids front teeth had been dashed 
from their sockets. His squire, William of Montaubon, 
was also tall, with a thin, hatchet face, and two small 
gray eyes set very close upon either side of a long, fieroe 
nose. In Beaumanoir's expression one read only gallantzy 
and firankness ; in Montaubon's there was gallantry alBo, 
but it was mixed with the cruelty and cunning of the 
wolf. Thej bowed as they entered, and the little Engliah 
seneschal advanced witl^ outstretched hand to meet them. 

"Welcome, Bobert, so long as you are beneath this 
roof," said he. '' Perhaps the time may come in another 
place when we may speak to each other in anotbor 
fashion." 

'' So I hope, Richard," said Beaumanoir ; " but, indeed, 
we of JosseUn bear you in high esteem, and are much 
beholden to you and to your men for all that you have 
done for us. We could not wish better neighbours, nor 
any from whom more honour is to be gained. I learn that 
Sir Robert ElnoUes and others have joined you, and we are 
heavy hearted to think that the orders of our kings should 
debar us from attempting a venture." 

He and his squire sat down at the places set for them, 
and, filling their glasses, drank to the company. 

"What you say is true, Robert," said Bambro', "and 
before you came we were discussing the matter among 
ourselves, and grieving that it should be so. When heaxd 
you of the truce ? " 

" Yester evening a messenger rode from Nantes." 

^ Our news came to-night from Henneboo. The king's 



ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR 321 

own seal was on the order. So I fear that for a year, at 
least, you will bide at Josselin and we at Ploermel, and 
kill time as we may. Perchance we may hunt the wolf 
together in the great forest, or fly our hawks on the banks 
of the Duo." 

" Doubtless we shall do all this, Bichard," said Beau- 
manoir ; " but by Saint Cadoc it is in my mind that, with 
good- will upon both sides, we may please ourselves, and 
yet stand excused before our kings." 

Knights and squires leaned forward in their chairs, 
their eager eyes fixed upon him. He broke into a gap- 
toothed smile as he looked round at the circle, the wizened 
seneschal, the blond giant, Nigel's fresh young face, the 
grim features of Knolles, and the yellow, hawk-like 
Calverly, all burning with the same desire. 

" I see that I need not doubt the good-will," said he, 
** and of that I was very certain before I came upon this 
errand. Bethink you, then, that this order applies to war 
but not to challenges, spear-runnings, knightly exchanges, 
or the like. King Edward is too good a knight, and so is 
King John, that either of them should stand in the way of 
a gentleman who desires to advance himself, or to venture 
his body for the exaltation of his lady. Is this not so ? " 

A murmur of eager assent rose from the table. 

" If you, as the garrison of Ploermel, nxarch upon the 
garrison of Josselin, then it is* very plain that we have 
broken the truce, and upon our heads be it. . But if there 
be a private bickering betwixt me, for exam*ple, and this 
young squire whose eyes show that he is very eager for 
honour, and if, thereafter, others on each side join in and 
dght upon the quarrel, it is in no sense war, but rather 
our own private business which no king can alter." 

" Indeed, Robert," said Bambro', " all that you say is 
very good and fair." 

Beaumanoir leaned forward toward Nigel, his brimming 
glass in his hand. 



322 SIR NIGEL 

" Tour name, squire ? " said he. 

" My name is Nigel Loring." 

'' I see that you are young and eager, so I choose yon, as 
I would fain have been chosen when I was of yonr age." 

''I thank you, fair sir," said Nigel. "It is great 
honour that one so famous as yourself should condescend 
to do some small deed upon me/' 

'* But we must have cause for quarrel, NigeL Now, 
here I drink to the ladies of Brittany, who, of all ladies 
upon this earth, are the most fair and the most virtuous, 
BO that the least worthy amongst them is far above the 
best of England. What say you to that, young sir f '* 

Nigel dipped his finger in Ids glass, and, leaning over, 
ho placed its wet impress on the Breton's hand. 

" This in your face ! " said he. 

Beaumanoir swept off the red drop of moisture and 
smiled his approval. 

" It could not have been better done," said he. " Why 
spoil my velvet paltock, as many a hot-headed fool would 
have done. It is in my mind, young sir, that you will go 
far. And now, who follows up this quairel 7 " 

A growl ran round the tabla 

Beaumanoir ran his eye round and shook his head. 

" Alas ! " said he, " there are but twenty of you here, 
and I have thirty at Josselin who are so eager to advance 
themselves that, if I return without hope for all of them, 
there will be sore hearts amongst them. I pray you, 
Bichard, since we have been at these pains to arrange 
matters, that you in turn will do what you may. Can 
you not find ten more men ? " 

" But not of gentle blood." 

" Nay, it matters not, if they will only fight." 

" Of that there can be no doubt, for the castle is full 
of archers and men-at-arnis who would gladly play a part 
in the matter." 

*' Then choose ten," said Beaumanoir. 



ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR 323 

But for the fint time the wolf-like squire opened his 
thin lips. 

" Surely, my lord, you will not allow archers/' said he. 

" I fear not any man/' 

'' Nay, fair sir, consider that this is a trial of weapons 
betwixt us, where man faces man. You have seen these 
English archers, and you know how fast and how strong 
are their shafts. Bethink you that if ten of them were 
against us, it is likely that half of us would be down 
before ever we came to handstrokes." 

" By Saint Cadoc, William, I think that you are right," 
cried the Breton. " If we are to have such a fight as will 
remain in the memories of men, you will bring no archers 
and we no crossbows. Let it be steel upon steel. How 
say you, then ? " 

''Surely we can bring ten men-at-arms to make up 
the thirty that you desire, Robert It is agreed, then, that 
we fight on no quarrel of England and France, but over 
this matter of the ladies in which you and Squire Loriug 
have fallen out. And now the time ? " 

"At once." 

" Surely at once, or perchance a second messenger may 
come and this also be forbidden. We will be ready with 
to-morrow's sunrise." 

" Nay, a day later," cried the Breton squire. " Bethink 
you, my lord, that the three lances of Radenac would take 
time to come over." 

" They are not of our ganison, and they shall not 
haxe a place." 

" But, fair sir, of all the lances of Brittany " 

" Nay, William, I will not have it an hour later. To- 
morrow it shall be, Richard." 

"And where?" 

"I marked a fitting place even as I rode here this 
evening. If you cross the river and take the bridle-path 
through the fields which leads to JosseUn you come 



324 SIR NIGEL 

midway upon a mighty oak standing at the corner of a 
fair and level meadow. There let ns meet at midday 
to-morrow." 

" Agreed ! " cried Bambro'. " But I pray you not to 
rise, Bobert ! The night is still young, and the spices and 
hippocras will soon be SOTved. Bide with us, I pray you, 
for if you would fain hear the latest songs from England, 
these gentlemen have doubtless brought them. To some 
of us perchance it is the last night, so we would make it 
a full one." 

Bat the gallant Breton shook his head. '*It may 
indeed be the last night for many," said he, " and it is 
but right that my comrades should know it I have no 
need of monk or firiar, for I cannot think that harm 
vrill ever come beyond the grave to one who has bome 
himself as a knight should, but otha^s have other thou^ts 
upon these matters, and would fain have time for piayer 
and penitence. Adieu, fair sirs, and I drink a last glass 
to a happy meeting at the midway oak." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

HOW raiRTY OF JOSSELnr BNCOUNTKBED THIRTY OF 
PLOXRMSL 

All night the Castle of Ploermel rang with warlike pre- 
parations, for the smiths were hammering and filing and 
riveting, preparing the armour for the champions. In 
the stable yard hostlers were testing and grooming the 
great war-horses, while in the .chapel knights and squires 
were easing their souls at the knees of old Father Benedict. 

Down in the courtyard, meanwhile, the men-at-anns 
had been assembled, and the volunteers weeded out until 
the best men had been selected. Black Simon had 
obtained a place, and great was the joy which shone upon 
his grim visage. With him were chosen young Nicholas 
Dagsworth, a gentleman adventurer who was nephew 
to the famous Sir Thomas, Walter the German, Hulbitte 
— a huge peasant whose massive frame gave promise which 
his sluggish spirit fedled to fulfil — John Alcock, Bobin 
Adey and Baoul Provost. These with three others made 
up the required thirty. Great was the grumbling and 
evil the talk among the archers when it was learned 
that none of them were to be included, but the bow 
had been forbidden on either side. It is true that many 
of them were expert fighters both with axe and with sword, 
but they were unused to carry heavy armour, and a 
half-armed man would have short shrift in such a 
hand-to-hand struggle as lay before them. 

It was two hours after tierce, or one hour before noon, 
on the fourth Wednesday of Lent, in the year of Christ 

325 



326 SIR NIGEL 

1351, that the men of Ploermel rode forth from their castle- 
gate and crossed the bridge of the Due. In front was 
Bambro\ with his squire, Croquart, the latter on a great 
roan horse bearing the banner of Ploermel, which was 
a black rampant lion holding a blue flag upon a field 
of ermine. Behind him came Bobert EnoUes and Nigel 
Loring, with an attendant at their side, who carried 
the pennon of the black raven. Then rode Sir Thomas 
Percy, with his blue lion flaunting above him, and Sir 
Hugh Calverly, whose banner bore a silver owl, followed 
bj the massive Belford, who carried a huge iron club, 
weighing sixty pounds, upon his saddle-bow, and Sir 
Thomas Walton, the knight of Surrey. Behind them 
were four brave Anglo-Bretons, Perrot de Commelain, Le 
Gaillart, d'Aspremont and d*Ardaine, who fought against 
their own countrymen because they were partisans of the 
Countess of Montfort. Her engrailed silver cross upon a 
blue field was carried at their head. In the rear were 
five German or Hainault mercenaries, the tall Hulbitde, 
and the men-at-arms. Altogether of these combatants 
twenty were of English birth, four were Breton, and six 
were of German blood. 

So, with glitter of armour and flaunting of pennons, 
their war-horses tossii^; and pawing, the champions rode 
down to the midway oak. Behind them streamed 
hundreds of archers and men-at-arms, whose weapons had 
been wisely taken from them, lest a general battle should 
ensue. With them also went the townsfolk, men and 
women, together with wine-sellers, provision merchants, 
armourers, grooms, and heralds, with surgeons to tend the 
wounded and priests to shrive the dying. The path was 
blocked by this throng, but all over the face of the 
country, horsemen and footmen, gentle and simple, men 
and women, could be seen speeding their way to the scene 
of the encounter. 

The journey was not a long one, for presently, as they 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 327 

threaded their way through the fields, there appeared 
before them a great gray oak which spread its gnarled 
leafless branches over the comer of a green and level 
meadow. The tree was black with the peasants who had 
climbed into it, and all round it was a huge throng, 
chattering and calling like a rookery at sunset A storm 
of hooting broke out from them at the approach of the 
English, for Bambro' was hated in the country, where he 
raised money for the Montfort cause by putting every 
parish to ransom, and maltreating those who refused to 
pay. There was little amenity in the warlike ways which 
had been learned upon the Scottish border. The cham* 
pions rode onward without deigning to take notice of the 
taunts of the rabble, but the archers turned that way and 
soon beat the mob to silence. Then they resolved them- 
selves into the keepers of the ground, and pressed the 
people back until they formed a dense line along the 
edge of the field, leaving the whole space clear for 
the warriors. 

The Breton champions had not yet arrived, so the £ng* 
lish tethered their horses at one side of the ground, and then 
gathered round their leader. Every man had his shield 
slung round his neck, and had cut his spear to the length 
of five feet, so that it might be more manageable for fighting 
on foot. Besides the spear, a sword or a battle-axe hung at 
the side of each. They were clad from head to foot in 
armour, with devices upon the crests and surcoats to 
distinguish them from their antagonists. At present their 
visors were still up, and they chatted gaily with each 
other. 

" By Saint Dunstan I " cried Percy, slapping his gaunt- 
leted hands together and stamping his steel feet, " I shall 
be right glad to get to work, for my blood is chilled." 

" I warrant you will be warm enough ere you get 
through," said Calverly. 

" Or cold for ever. Candle shall burn and bell toll at 



328 SIR NIGEL 

Alnwick Chapel if I leaveltbis ground alive ; but come 
what may, fair sirs, it should be a famous joust, and one 
which will help us forward. Surely each of ua will 
have worshipfully won worship, if we chance to come 
through." 

''You say truth, Thomas," said Enolles, bracing 
his girdle. ''For my own part I have no joy in such 
encounters when there is warfare to be carried out, for it 
standeth not aright that a man should think of his own 
pleasure and advancement rather than of the king's 
cause and the weal of the army. But in times of truce I 
can think of no better way in which a day may be 
profitably spent Why so silent, Nigel ? " 

"Indeed, fair sir, I was looking towards Josselin, 
which lies, as I understand, beyond those woods. I see 
no sign of this debonair gentleman and of his following. 
It would be indeed grievous pity if any cause came to 
hold them back." 

Hugh Calverly laughed at the words. "You need 
have no fear, young sir," said he. " Such a spirit lies in 
Bobert de Beaumanoir that if he must come alone he 
would ride against us none the less. I warrant that if he 
were on a bed of death he would be borne here and die 
on the green field." 

" You say truly, Hugh," said Bambro'. " I know him 
and those who ride behind him. Thirty stouter men or 
more skilled in arms are not to be found in Christendom. 
It is in my mind that, come what may, there will be much 
honour for all of us this day. Ever in my head I have a 
rhyme which the wife of a Welsh archer gave me when I 
crossed her hand with a golden bracelet after the intaking 
of Bergerac. She was of the old blood of Merlin with the 
power of sight. Thus she said — 

■* Twixt the oak-tree and the riyer 
KnighUy fame and brare endearonr 
Ifake an henooied name for efer.*' 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 329 

Methinks I see the oak-tree, and yonder is the river. 
Surely this should betide some good to us.'' 

The huge Gennan squire betrayed some impatience 
during this speech of his leader. Though his rank was 
subordinate, no man present had more experience of 
warfare or was more famous as a fighter than he. He 
now broke brusquely into the talk. 

"We should be better employed in ordering our line 
and making our plans than in talking of the rhymes of 
Merlin or such old wives' tales," said he. " It is to our 
own strong arms and good weapons that we must trust 
this day. And first I would ask you, Sir Bichaid, what 
is your will if perchance you should fall in the midst of 
the fight?" 

Bambro' turned to the others. '' If such should be the 
case, fair sirs, I desire that my squire^ Croquartj should 
command." 

There was a pause, while the knights looked with 
some chagrin at each other. The silence was broken by 
Knolles. 

" I will do what you say, Bichard," said he, *' though 
indeed it is bitter that we who are knights should serve 
beneath a squire. Yet it is not for us to fall out among 
ourselves now at this last moment, and I have ever heard 
that Croquart is a very worthy and valiant man. There- 
fore, I will pledge you on jeopardy of my soul that I will 
accept him as leader if you fall." 

" So will I also, Richard,'' said Calverly. 

**And I tool" cried Belford. "But surely I hear 
music, and yonder are their pennons amid the trees." 

They all turned, leaning upon their short spears, and 
watched the advance of the men of Josselin, as their troop 
wound its way out from the woodlands. In front rode 
three heralds with tabards of the ermine of Brittany^ 
blowing loudly upon silver trumpets. Behind them a 
great man upon a white horse bore the banner of JosseUn^ 



330 SIR NIGEL 

which carries nine golden bezants npon a scarlet field. 
Then came the champions riding two and two, fifteen 
Inights and fifteen squires, each with his pennon dis- 
played. Behind them on a litter was borne an aged 
priest, the Bishop of Bennes, carrying in his hands the 
viaticum and the holy oils that he might give the last aid 
and comfort of the Church to those who were dying. The 
procession was terminated by hundreds of men and women 
from Josselin, Guegon, and Helleon, and by the entire 
garrison of the fortress, who came, as the English had 
done, without their arms. The head of this long oolomn 
had reached the field before the rear were clear of the 
wood, but as they arrived the champions picketed their 
horses on the farther side, behind which their banner was 
planted, and the people lined up until they had inclosed 
the whole lists with a dense wall of spectators. 

With keen eyes the English party had watched the 
armorial blazonry of their antagonists, for those fluttering 
pennons and brilliant surcoats carried a language which 
all men could read. In front was the banner of Beau- 
manoir, blue with silver frets. His motto, " Tayme qui 
ffCaymtl^ was carried on a second flag by a little page. 

'' Whose is the shield behind him — silver with scarlet 
drops ? " asked KnoUes. 

" It is his squire, William of Montaubon," Calverly 
answered. " And there are the golden lion of Rochefort 
and the silver cross of Du Bois the Strong. I would not 
wish to meet a better company than are before us this 
day. See, there are the blue rings of young Tintiniac, 
who slew my squire, Hubert, last Lammastide. With the 
aid of Saint George I will avenge him ere nightfall" 

" By the three kings of Almain," growled Croquart^ 
" we will need to fight hard this day, for never haVe I seen 
so many good soldiers gathered together. Yonder is Yves 
Cheruel, whom they call the man of iron ; Caro de Bodegat 
also, with whom I have had more than one bickering — 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 331 

that is he inrith the three ermine circles on the scarlet 
shield. There too is lefb-handed Alain de Karanais ; bear 
in mind that his stroke comes on the side where there 
is no shield." 

"Who is the small stout man/' asked Nigel — "he 
with the black and silver shield 7 By Saint Paul ! he 
seems a very worthy person and one from whom much 
might be gained, for he is nigh as broad as ho is long/' 

"It is Sir Bobert Baguenel/' said Calverly, whose 
long spell of service in Brittany had made him familiar 
with the people. " It is said that he can lift a horse upon 
his back. Beware a full stroke of that steel mace, for the 
armour is not made that can abide it But here is the 
good Beaumanoir, and surely it is time that we came to 
grips." 

The Breton leader had marshalled his men in a line 
opposite to the English, and now he strode forward and 
shook Bambro' by the hand. 

"By Saint Cadoc! this is a very joyous meeting, 
Eichard," said he, "and we have certainly hit upon a very 
excellent way of keeping a truce." 

" Indeed, Eobert/' said Bambro*, " we owe you much 
thanks, for I can see that you have been at great pains to 
bring a worthy company against us this day. Surely if 
all should chance to perish there will be few noble houses 
in Brittany who will not mourn." 

"Nay, we have none of the highest of Brittany," 
Beaumanoir answered. "Neither a Blois, nor a Leon, 
nor a Bohan, nor a Conan, fights in our ranks this day. 
And yet we are all men of blood and coat-armour, who 
are ready to venture our persons for the desire of our 
ladies and the love of the high order of knighthood. 
And now, Bichard, what is your sweet will concerning 
this fight?" 

" That we continue until one or other can endure no 
longer, for since it is seldom that so many brave men 



332 SIR NIGEL 

draw together it is fitting that we see as much as is 
possible of each other." 

" Bichaid, your words are fair and good. It shall be 
even as you say. For the rest, each shall fight as pleases 
him best from the time that the herald calls the word. 
If any man from without shall break in upon us he shall 
be hanged on yonder oak." 

*With a salute he drew down his visor and retomed to 
his own men, who were kneeling in a twinkling, many 
coloured group, while the old bishop gave them his 
blessing. 

The heralds rode round with a warning to the spectators. 
Then they halted at the side of the two bands of men, who 
now stood in a long line facing each other with fifty yards 
of grass between. The visors had been closed, and every 
man was now cased in metal from head to foot, some few 
glowing in brass, the greater number shining in steeL 
Only their fierce eyes could be seen smouldering in the 
dark shadow of their helmets. So for an instant they 
stood glaring and crouching. 

Then, with a loud cry of " AUez ! " the herald dropped 
his upraised hand, and the two lines of men shufl9^ as 
fast as their heavy armour would permit, until they met 
with a sharp clang of metal in the middle of the field. 
There was a sound as of sixty smiths working upon their 
anvils. Then the babel of yells and shouts from the 
spectators, cheering on this party or that, rose and swelled, 
until even the uproar of the combat was drowned in that 
mighty surge. 

So eager were the combatants to engage that in a few 
moments all order had been lost and the two bands were 
mixed up in one furious scrambling, clattering throng, 
each man tossed hither and thither, thrown against one 
adversary and then against another, beaten and husUed 
and bufieted, with only the one thought in his mind to 
*th his spear or to beat with his axe against 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 333 

any one who came within the narrow slit of vision left by 
his visor. 

But alas for Nigel and his hopes of some great deed ! 
His was at least the fate of the brave, for he was the first 
to falL With a high heart, he had placed himself in the 
line as nearly opposite to Beaumanoir as he could, and 
had made straight for the Breton leader, remembering 
that in the outset the quarrel had been so ordered that it 
lay between them. But ere he could reach his goal he 
was caught in the swirl of his own comrades, and, being 
the lighter man, was swept aside and dashed into the 
arms of Alain de Earanais, the left-handed swordsman, 
with such a crash that the two rolled upon the ground 
together. light-footed as a cat, Nigel had sprung up first, 
and was stooping over the Breton squire, when the 
powerful dwarf Baguenel brought his mace thudding 
down upon the exposed back of his helmet. With a 
groan, Nigel fell upon his face, blood gushing from his 
mouth, nose, and ears. There he lay, trampled over by 
either party, while that great fight for which his fiery 
soul had panted was swaying back and forward above his 
unconscious form. 

But Nigel was not long unavenged. The huge iron 
club of Belford struck the dwarf Baguenel to the ground, 
while Belford in turn was felled by a sweeping blow from 
Beaumanoir. Sometimes a dozen >^ere on the ground at 
one time, but so strong was the armour, and so deftly was 
the force of a blow broken by guard and shield, that the 
stricken men were often pulled to their feet once more 
by their comrades, and were able to continue the fight. 

Some, however, were beyond all aid. Groquart had 
cut at a Breton knight named Jean Bousselot, and had 
shorn away his shoulder-piece, exposing his neck and the 
upper part of his arm. Vainly he tried to cover this 
vulnerable surface with his shield. It was his right side, 
^d he could not stretch it far enough across, nor could 



334 SIR NIGEL 

he get away on account of the press of men around him. 
For a time he hdd his foemen at bay, but that bare patch 
of white shoulder was a mark for every weapon, until at 
last a hatchet sank up to the socket in the knight's chest. 
Almost at the same moment a second Breton, a young 
squire named Geoffirey Mellon, was slain by a thrust from 
Black Simon, which found the weak spot beneath the arm* 
pit. Three other Bretons, Evan Cheruel, Caro de Bodegat^ 
and Tristan de Festivien, the first two knights and the 
latter a squire, became separated from their comrades, and 
were beaten to the ground with English all around them, 
so that they had to choose between instant death and 
surrender. They handed their swords to Bambro', and 
stood apart, each of them sorely wounded, watching with 
hot and bitter hearts the miUe which still surged up and 
down the field. 

But now the combat had lasted twenty minutes without 
stint or rest, until the warriors were so exhausted with 
the burden of their armour, the loss of blood, the shock 
of blows, and their own furious exertions, that they could 
scarce totter or raise their weapons. There must be a 
pause if the combat was to have any decisive end. 

^'Cessez! Cessez! Jtetirez !'* cried the heralds, as they 
spurred their horses between the exhausted men. 

Slowly the gallant Boaumanoir led the twenty-five 
men who were left to their original station, where they 
opened their visors and threw themselves down upon the 
grass, panting like weary dogs, and wiping the sweat from 
their bloodshot eye& A pitcher of wine of Anjou was 
carried round by a page, and each in turn drained a cup^ 
save only Beaumanoir, who kept his Lent with sudi 
strictness that neither food nor drink might pass his lips 
before sunset. He paced slowly among lus men, croaking 
forth encouragement from his parched lips, and pointing 
out to them that among the English there was scarce a 
man who was not wounded, and some so sorely (hftt they 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 335 

oould hardly stand. If the fight so far had gone against 
them, there were still five hours of daylight, and much' 
might happen before the last of them was laid upon his 
back. 

Yarlets had rushed forth to draw away the two dead 
Bretons, and a brace of English archers had cairied Nigel 
' from the field. With his own hands, Aylward had un- 
laced the crushed helmet, and had wept to see the bloodless 
and unconscious face of his young master. He still 
breathed, however, and stretched upon the grass by the 
riverside the bowman tended him with rude surgery, until 
the water upon his brow and the wind upon his face had 
coaxed back the life into his battered frame. He breathed 
with heavy gasps, and some tinge of blood crept back into 
his cheeks, but still he lay unconscious of the roar of the 
crowd and of that great struggle which his comrades were 
now waging once again. 

The English had lain for a space, bleeding and breath- 
less, in no better case than their rivals, save that they 
were still twenty-nine in number. But of this muster 
there were not nine who were hale men, and some were 
so weak from loss of blood that they could scarce keep 
standing. Yet, when the signal was at last given to re- 
engage, there was not a man upon either side who did 
not totter to his feet and stagger forward toward his 
enemies. 

But the opening of this second phase of the combat 
brought one great misfortune and discouragement to the 
English. Bambro', like the others, had undone his visor, 
but with his mind full of many cares, he had neglected to 
make it fast again. There was an opening an inch broad 
between it and the beaver. As the two lines met, the 
left-handed Breton squire, Alan de Karanais, caught sight 
of Bambro's face, and in an instant thrust his short spear 
through the opening. The English leader gave a cry of 
pain and fell on his knees, but staggered to his feet again. 



336 SIR NIGEL 

too weak to raise his shield As he stood exposed, the 
Breton knight, GeofiQrey Dubois the Strong, struck him 
such a blow with his axe that he beat in the whole breast* 
plate with the breast behind it. Bambro' fell dead upon 
the ground, and for a few minutes a fierce fight raged 
round his body. 

Then the English drew back, sullen and dogged, heap- 
ing Bambro' with them, and the Bretons, breathing hard, 
gathered again in their own quarter. At the same in- 
stant the three prisoners picked up such weapons as were 
scattered upon the grass and ran oyer to join their own 
party. 

" Nay, nay ! " cried KnoUes, raising his visor and ad- 
vanciug. ''This may not be. You have been held to 
mercy when we might have slain you, and by the Virgin, 
I will hold you dishonoured, all three, if you stand not 
back." 

" Say not so, Bobert Enolles," Evan Cheruel answered. 
<' Never yet has the word dishonour been breathed with 
my name; but I should count myself /atTi^n^ if I did 
not fight beside my comrades when chance has made it 
right and proper that I should do so.'' 

''By Saint Cadoc! he speaks truly," croaked Beau- 
maooir, advancing in front of his men. " You are well 
aware, Bobert, that it is the law of war and the usage of 
chivalry that if the knight to whom you have surrendered 
be himself slain, the prisoners thereby become released.'' 

There was no answer to this, and Enolles, weaiy and 
spent, returned to his comrades. 

"I would that we had slain them," said ha "We 
have lost our leader, and they have gained three men 
by the same stroke." 

" If any more lay down their arms, it is my order that 
you slay them forthwith," said Croquart, whose bent sword 
and bloody armour showed how manfully he had borne 
himself in the fray. "And now, comrades, do not be 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 337 

heavy hearted because we have lost our leader. Indeed, 
his rhymes of Merlin have availed him little. By the 
three kings of Almain ! I can teach you what is better 
than an old woman's prophecies, and that is that you 
should keep your shoulders together and your shields so 
close that none can break between them. Then you will 
know what is on either side of you, and you can fix your 
eyes upon the front. Also, if any be so weak or wounded 
that he must sink his hands, his comrades on right and 
left can bear him up. Now advance all together in God's 
name, for the battle is still ours if we bear ourselves like 
men." 

In a solid line the English advanced, while the Bretons 
ran forward as before to meet them. The swiftest of these 
was a certain squire, Geoffiney Poulart, who bore a helmet 
which was fashioned as a cock's head, with high comb 
above, and long pointed beak in front pierced with the 
breathing-holes. He thrust with his sword at Calverly, 
but Belford, who was the next in the line, raised his giant 
dub and struck him a crushing blow from the side. He 
staggered, and then, pushing forth from the crowd, he ran 
roimd and round in circles as one whose brain is stricken, 
the blood dripping from the holes of his brazen beak. 
So for a long time he ran, the crowd laughing and cock- 
crowiog at the sight, until at last he stumbled and fell 
stone dead upon his face. But the fighters had seen 
nothing of his fate, for desperate and imceasing was the 
rush of the Bretons and the steady advance of the English 
line. 

For a time it seemed as if nothing would break it, 
but gap-toothed Beaumanoir was a general as well as a 
warrior. While his weary, bleeding, hard-breathing men 
stiU flung themselves upon the front of the line, he himself, 
with Raguenel, Tintiniao, Alain de Earanais, and Dubois, 
rushed round the flank and attacked the English with fury 
from behind. There was a long and desperate melie, until 

z 



338 SIR NIGEL 

onoe more the heralds, seeing the combatants stand gasping 
and unable to strike a blow, rode in and called yet another 
interval of trace. 

But in those few minutes while they had been assaulted 
upon both sides the losses of the English party had been 
heavy. The Anglo-Breton D'Ardaine had faJlen before 
Beaumanoir's sword, but not before he had cut deeply 
into his enemy's shoulder. Sir Thomas Walton, Sichard 
of Ireland one of the squires, and Hulbit^ the big peasant 
had all fallen before the mace of the dwarf Baguenel or 
the swords of his companions. Some twenty men were 
still left standing upon either side, but all were in the last 
state of exhaustion, gasping, rediing, hardly capable of 
striking a blow. 

It was strange to see them as they staggered, with many 
a lurch and stumble, toward each other once again, for 
they moved like drunken men, and the scales of their 
neck-armour and joints were as red as fishes' giUs when 
they raised them. They left foul wet footprints behind 
them on the green grass as they moved forward once more 
to their endless contest. 

Beaumanoir, faint with the drain of his blood and with 
a tongue of leather, paused as he advanced. 

'* I am fainting, comrades,*' he cried. " I must drink," 

^'DriDk your own blood, Beaumanoir ! " cried Dubds, 
and the weary men all croaked together in dreadful 
laughter. 

But now the English had learned from experience, and 
under the guidance of Croquart they fought no longer in 
a straight line, but in one so bent that at last it became a 
circle. As the Bretons still pushed and staggered against 
it they thrust it back on every side, until they had turned 
it into the most dangerous formation of all, a solid block 
of men, their faces turned outward, their weapons bristling 
forth to meet every attack. Thus the English stood, and 
no assault could move them. They could lean against each 



THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 339 

other back to back while they waited and allowed their 
foemen to tire themselyea out Again and again the 
gallant Bretons tried to make a way through* Again and 
again they were beaten back by a shower of blows. 

Beaumanoir, his head giddy with fatigue, opened his 
helmet and ga^ed in despair at this terrible, unbreakable 
drcla Only too clearly he could see the inevitable resxdt. 
His men were wearing themselves out. Already many of 
them could scarce stir hand or foot, and might be dead 
for any aid which they could give him in winning the 
fight Soon all would be in the same plight Then* these 
cursed English would break their circle to swarm over his 
helpless men and to strike them down. Do what he might 
he could see no way by which such an end might be pre- 
vented. He cast his eyes round in his agony, and there 
was one of his Bretons slinking away to the side of the 
lists. He could scarce credit his senses when he saw by 
the scarlet and silver that the deserter was bis own well- 
tried squire, William of Montaubon. 

" William ! William I " he cried. " Surely you would 
not leave me?" 

But the othei^s helmet was dosed and he could hear 
nothing. Beaumanoir saw that he was staggering away 
as swiftly as he could. With a cry of bitter despair, be 
drew into a knot as many of bis braves as could still 
move, and together they made a last rush upon Hie English 
spears. This time he was firmly resolved, deep in his 
gallant soul, that he would come no foot back, but would 
find his death there among his foemen or carve a path 
into the heart of their ranks. The fire in his breast spread 
from man to man of his followers, and amid the crashing 
of blows they still looked themselves against the English 
shields and drove hard for an opening in their ranks. 

But all was vain I Beaumanoi/s head reeled. His 
senses were leaving him. In another minute he and his 
men would have been stretched senseless before this 



340 SIR NIGEL 

terrible circle of steely when saddenly tbe whole anay fell 
in pieces before his eyes; his enemies, Croqnait, Elnolles, 
Calyerly, BeUbrd, all were stretched upon the ground to- 
gether, their weapons dashed fiom their hands and their 
bodies too exhausted to rise. The sonriying Bretons had 
but strength to fall upon them dagger in hand,* and to 
wring firom them their surrender with the sharp point 
stabbing through their visors. Then victOFS and vanquished 
lay groaning and pantmg in one helpless and blood-smeared 
heap. 

To Beaumanoir's simple mind it has seemed that at 
the supreme moment the Saints of Brittany had risen at 
their country's caH Already, as he lay gasping, his heart 
was pouring forth its thanks to his patron Saint Cadoa 
But the spectators had seen clearly enough the earthly 
cause of this sudden victory, and a hurricane of applause 
from one side, with a storm of hooting from the other, 
showed how different was the emotion which it raised 
in minds which sympathized with the victors or the 
vanquished. 

William of Montaubon, the cunning squire, had made 
his way across to the spot where the steeds were tethered, 
and had mounted his own great roussin. At first it was 
thought that he was about to ride firom the field, but the 
howl of execration from the Breton peasants changed 
suddenly to a yell of applause and delight as he turned 
the beast's head for the English circle and thrust his long 
prick spurs into its sida Those who faced him saw this 
sudden and unexpected appearance. Time was when both 
horse and rider must have winced away from the shower 
of their blows. But now they were in no state to meet 
such a rush. They could scarce raise their arms. Their 
blows were too feeble to hurt this mighty creature. In a 
moment it had plunged through the ranks, and seven of 
them were on the grass. It turned and rushed through 
them again, leaving five others helpless beneath its hoofs. 



THE BATTLE^ OF THE THIRTY 341 

No need to do more I Already Beaumanoir and his com- 
panions were inside the circle, the prostrate men were 
helpless, and Josselin had won. 

That night a train of crest-fallen archers, hearing many 
a prostrate fignre, marched sadly into Ploermel Castle. 
Behind them rode ten men, all weary, all wounded, and all 
with homing hearts against William of Montaubon for the 
foul trick that he had served them. 

But over at Josselin, yellow gorse-blossoms in their 
helmets, the victors were borne in on the shoulders of a 
shouting mob, amid the fanfare of trumpets and the beating 
of drums. Such wais the combat of the Midway Oak, 
where brave men met brave men, and such honour was 
gained that from that day he who had fought in the battle 
of the Thirty was ever given the highest place and the 
post of honour, nor was it easy for any man to pretend 
to have been there, for it has been said by that great 
chronicler who knew them all, that not one on either 
side failed to carry to his grave the marks of that stern 
encounter. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

HOW KIOEL WAS CALLED TO HIS KASTEB 

" My sweet ladye,"* wrote Nigel, in a script which it would 
take the eyes of love to read, ** there hath been a most 
noble meeting in the fourth sennight of Lent betwixt some 
of our own people and snndiy most worthy persons of this 
country, whidi ended, by the grace of our lady, in so fine 
a joust that no man living can call to mind so fair an 
occasion. Much honour was gained by the Sieur do 
Beaumonoir and also by an Almain named Croquart, with 
whom I hope to have some speech when I am hale again, 
for he is a most excellent person and very ready to advance 
himself or to relieve another from a vow. For myself I 
had hopeJ, with Oodde's help, to venture that third small 
deed which might set me free to haste to your sweet side, 
but things have gone awry with me, and I early met with 
such scathe and was of so small comfort to my Mends 
that my heart is heavy within me, and in sooth I fed 
that I have lost honour rather than gained it. Here I 
have lain since the Feast of the Virgin, and here I am 
like still to be, for I can move no limb, save only my 
hand; but grieve not, sweet lady, for Saint Catharine 
hath been our friend since in so short a tune I had two 
such ventures as the Bed Ferret and the intaking of the 
Beaver^s fortalice. It needs but one more deed, and 
aickerly when I am hale once more it will not be long ere 
I seek it out Till then, if my eyes may not rest upon 
you, my heart at least is ever at thy feet." 

So he wrote from his sick-room in the Castle of 
54a 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 343 

Ploermel late in the summer, but yet another summer had 
come before his crushed head had mended and his wasted 
limbs had gained their strength once more. With despair 
he heard of the breaking of the truce, and of the fight at 
MauroD, in which Sir Kobert EnoUes and Sir Walter 
Bentley crushed the rising power of Brittany — a fight in 
which many of the thirty champions of Josselin met their 
end. Then, when with renewed strength and high hopes 
in his heart he went forth to search for the famous 
Croquart, who proclaimed himself ever ready night or day 
to meet any man with any weapon, it was only to find 
that, in trying the paces of his new horse, the German had 
been oast into a ditch and had broken his neck. In the 
same ditch perished Nigel's last chance of soon accomplish- 
ing that deed which should free him from his vow. 

There was truce once more over all Christendom, and 
mankind was sated with war, so that only in far-o£F 
Prussia, where the Teutonic knights waged ceaseless battle 
with the Lithuanian heathen, could he hope to find hia 
heart's desire. But money and high knightly fame were 
needed ere a man could go upon the northern crusade, and 
ten years were yet to pass ere Nigel should look from the 
battlements of Marienberg on the waters of the Frische 
Hafif, or should endure the torture of the hot plate when 
bound to the Holy Woden stone of Memel. Meanwhile, 
he chafed his burning soul out through the long seasons of 
garrison life in Brittany, broken only by one visit to the 
ch&teau of the father of Baoul, when he carried to the 
Lord of Grosbois the news of how his son had fallen like 
a gallant gentleman under the gateway of La Bro- 
hini^re. 

And then, then at last, when all hope was well-nigh 
dead in his heart, there came one glorious July morning 
which brought a horseman bearing a letter to the Castle 
of Yannes, of which Nigel now was seneschal. It con* 
tained but few words, short and clear as the call of a 



3114 SIR NIGEL 

war-tnimpet It was Chandos who wrote. He needed bis 
squira at his aide, for his pennon was in the breeze once 
mdre. He ¥ra8 at Bordeaux. The prince was starting at 
once for Bergerac, whence he wotdd make a great raid 
into France. It would not end without a battle. They 
bad sent word of their coming, and the good French king 
bad promised to be at great pains to receive them. Let 
Nigel hasten at once. If the army had left, then let him 
follow after with all speed. Chandos had three other 
squires, but would very gladly see his fourth once again, 
for be bad heard much of him since be parted, and nothing 
which be might not have expected to bear of his fatber^s 
son. Such was the letter which made the summer sun 
shine brighter and the blue sky seem of a still fairer blue 
upon that happy morning in Yannes. 

It is a weary way from Yannes to Bordeaux. Coast- 
wise ships are bard to find, and winds blow north when 
all brave hearts would fain be speeding south. A full 
month has passed from the day when Nigel received Ms 
letter before he stood upon the quay-side of the Garonne 
amid the stacked barrels of Gascon wine and helped to 
lead Pommers down the gang-planks. Not Aylward 
himself had a worse opinion of the sea than the great 
yellow horse, ajid he whinnied mth joy as he thrust bis 
muzzle into his master's outstretched band, and stamped 
bis ringing hoofs upon the good firm cobblestones. Beside 
him, slapping his tawny shoulder in encouragement, was 
the lean spare form of Black Simon, who bad remained 
ever under Nigel's pennon. 

But Aylward, where was be ? Alas ! two years before 
be and the whole of Knolles' company of archers bad 
been drafted away on the kiog^s service to Guienne, and 
since be could not write the squire knew not whether be 
was alive or dead. Simon, indeed, bad thrice heard of 
him from wandering archers, each time that he was alive 
and well and newly married, but as the wife in one case 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 345 

was a fair maid, and in another a dark, while in the third 
she was a French widow, it was hard to know the truth. 

Already the army had heen gone a month, but news of 
it came daily to the town, and such news as all men could 
read, for through the landward gates there rolled one 
constant stream of waggons, pouring down the Liboume 
£oad, and bearing the booty of southern France. The 
town was full of foot soldiers, for none but mounted men 
had been taken by the prince. With sad faces and 
longing eyes they watched the passing of the train of 
plunder-laden carts, piled high with rich furniture, silks, 
velvets, tapestries, carvings, and precious metals, which 
had been the pride of many a lordly home in fair Auvei^ne 
or the wealthy Bourbonnais. 

Let no man think that in these wars England alone 
was face to face with France alone. There is glory and to 
spare without trifling with the truth. Two provinces in 
France, both rich and warlike, had become English through 
a royal marriage, and these, Ouienne and Gascony, famished 
many of the most valiant soldiers under the island flag. 
So poor a country as England could not afiford to keep a 
great force overseas, and so must needs have lost the war 
with France through want of power to uphold the struggle. 
The feudal system enabled an army to be drawn rapidly 
together mth small expense, but at the end of a few weeks 
It dispersed again as swiftly, and only by a well-filled 
money-chest could it be held together. There was no such 
chest in England, and the king was for ever at his wits' 
end how to keep his men in the field. 

But Guienne and Gascony were full of knights and 
squires who were always ready to assemble from their 
isolated castles for a raid into France, and these with the 
addition of those English cavaliers who fought for honour, 
and a few thousand of the formidable archers, hired for 
fourpence a day, made an army with which a short campaign 
could be oaziied on. Such were the materials of the 



346 SIR NIGEL 

prince's force, some eight thousand strong, who were now 
riding in a great circle through southern France, leaving a 
broad wale of blackened and ruined country behind them. 

But France, even with her south-western corner in 
English hands, was still a very warlike power, far richer 
and more populous than her rival Single provinces were 
so great that they were stronger than many a kingdom. 
Kormandy in the north. Burgundy in the east, Brittany 
in the west, and Languedoc in the south were each capable 
of fitting out a great army of its own. Therefore the 
brave and spirited John, watching from Paris this insol^it 
raid into his dominions, sent messengers in hot haste to 
all these great feudatories, as well as to Lorraine, Picaidy, 
Auveigne, Hainault, Yermandois, Champagne, and to the 
German mercenaries over his eastern border, bidding all 
of them to ride hard, with bloody spur, day and night, 
until they should gather to a head at Ghartres. 

There a great army had assembled early in September, 
while the prince, aU unconscious of its presence, sacked 
towns and besieged castles from Bouiges to Issodun, pass* 
ing Bomorantin, and so onward to Vierzon and to Tours. 
From week to week there were merry skirmishes at barriers, 
brisk assaults of fortresses in which much honour was won, 
knightly meetings with detached parties of Frenchm^i 
and occasional spear-runnings, where noble champions 
deigned to venture their persons. Houses, too, were to be 
plundered, while wine and women were in plenty. Never 
had either knights or archers had so pleasant and profitable 
an excursion, so that it was with high heart and much 
hope of pleasant days at Bordeaux with their pockets full 
of money that the army turned south from the Loire and 
b^an to retrace its steps to the seaboard city. 

But now its pleasant and martial promenade changed 
suddenly to very serious work of war. As the prince 
moved south he found that aU supplies had been cleared 
away from in front of him and that there was neither 



=^ 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 347 

fodder for the horses nor food for the men. Two hundred 
waggons laden with spoil rolled at the head of the army, 
but the starving soldiers would soon have gladly changed 
it all for as many loads of bread and of meat« The light 
troops of the French had preceded them, and burned or 
destroyed everything that could be of use. Now also for 
the first time the prince and his men became aware that a 
great army was moving upon the eastern side of them, 
streaming southward in the hope of cutting off their 
retreat to the sea. The sky glowed with their fires at 
night, and the autumn sun twinkled and gleamed from one 
end of the horizon to the other upon the steel caps and 
flashing weapons of a mighty host. 

Anxious to secure his plunder, and conscious that the 
levies of France were far superior in number to his own 
force, the prince redoubled his attempts to escape ; but his 
horses were exhausted and his starving men were hardly 
to be kept in order. A few more days would unfit them 
for battle. Therefore, when he found near the village of 
Maupertuis a position in which a smaU force might have 
a chance to hold its own, he gave up the attempt to out* 
march his pursuers, and he turned at bay, like a hunted 
boar, all tusks and eyes of flame. 

While these high events had been in progress, Nigel 
with Black Simon and four other men-at-arms from 
Bordeaux were hastening northward to join the army. 
As fjEur as Beigerac they were in a friendly land, but thence 
onward they rode over a blackened landscape with many 
a roofless house, its two bare gable-ends sticking upward — 
a " Knolles' mitre," as it was afterwards called, when Sir 
Bobert worked his stem will upon the country. For 
three days they rode northward, seeing many small parties 
of French in all directions, but too eager to reach the army 
to ease their march in the search of adventures. 

Then at last after passing Lusignan they began to come 
in touch with English foragers, mounted bowmen for the 



348 SIR NIGEL 

most part, who were endeayoniing to collect supplies 
either for the army or for themselves. From them Kigel 
learned that the prince, with Ohandos ever at his side, was 
hastening south and might be met within a short day's 
march. As he still advanced these English stragglers 
became more and more numerous, until at last he overtook 
a considerable column of archers moving in the same 
direction as his own party. These were men whose horses 
had failed them and who had therefore been left behind 
on the advance, but were now hastening to be in tune for 
the impending battle. A crowd of peasant girls accom- 
panied them upon their march, and a whole train of laden 
mules were led beside them. 

Nigel and his little troop of men-at-arms were riding 
past the archers when Black Simon, with a sudden 
exclamation, touched his leader upon the arm. 

" See yonder, fair sir," he cried, with gleaming eyes, 
** there where the wastrel walks with the great fardel upon 
his back ! Who is he who marches behind him ? " 

Nigel looked, and was aware of a stunted peasant who 
bore upon his rounded back an enormous bundle very 
much larger than himself. Behind him walked a burly 
broad-shouldered archer, whose stained jerkin and battered 
headpiece gave token of long and hard service. His bow 
was slung over his shoulder, and his arms were round the 
waists of two buxom Frenchwomen, who tripped along 
beside him with much laughter and many saucy answers 
flung back over their shoulders to a score of admirers 
behind them. 

" Aylward ! " cried Nigel, spurring forward. 

The archer turned his bronzed tace, stared for an 
instant with wild eyes, and then, dropping his two ladies, 
who were instantly carried ofT by his comrades, he rushed 
to seize the hand which his young master held down to 
him. 

"Now, by my hilt. Squire Nigel, this is the fairest 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 349 

sight of my lifetime 1 " he cried. " And jon, old leather- 
face! Nay, Simon, I woiQd pat my arms round your 
dried herring of a body, if I could but reach you. Here 
is Pommers too, and I read in his eye that he knows me 
well, and is as ready to put his teeth into me as when he 
stood in my father's stall." 

It was like a whiff of the heather-perfumed breezes of 
Hankley to see his homely face once more.' Nigel laughed 
with sheer joy as he looked at him. ' ' 

" It was an ill day when the king's service called you 
from my side," said he, " and by Saint Paul I I am right 
glad to set eyes upon you once more 1 I see well that yon 
are in no wise altered, but the same Aylward that I have 
ever known. But who is this varletwith the great bundle 
who waits upon your movements ? " 

" It is no less than a feather-bed, fair sir, which he 
bears upon his back, for I would fain bring it to Tilford, 
and yet it is overlarge for me when I take my place with 
my fellows in the ranks. But indeed this war has been a 
most excellent one, and I have already sent half a waggon- 
load of my gear back to Bordeaux to await my home- 
coming. Yet I have my fears when I think of all the 
rascal foot-archers who are waiting there, for some folk 
have no grace or honesty in their souls, and cannot keep 
their hands from that which belongs to another. But if 
I may throw my leg over yonder spare horse I vnll come 
on vdth you, fair sir, for indeed it would be joy to my 
heart to know that I was riding under your banner once 
again." 

So Aylward, having given instructions to the bearer of 
his feather-bed, rode away in spite of shrill protests from 
his French companions, who speedily consoled themselves 
with those of his comrades who seemed to have most to 
give. ' , ' 

Nigel's party was soon clear of the column of archers 
and riding hard in the direction of the prince's army. 



350 SIR NIGEL 

They passed by a narrow and winding track, through the 
great wood of Nouaille, and found before them a mazshj 
valley down which ran a sluggish stream. Along its 
farther bank hundreds of horses were being watered, and 
beyond was a dense block of waggons. Through these the 
comrades passed, and then topped a small mound, from 
which the whole strange scene lay spread before them. 

Down the valley the slow stream meandered, with 
marshy meadows on either side. A mile or two lower a 
huge drove of horses were to be seen assembled upon the 
bank. They were the steeds of the French cavalry, and 
the blue haze of a hundred fires showed where King John's 
men were camping. In front of the mound upon which 
they stood the English line was drawn, but there were few 
fires, for indeed, save their horses, there was little for them 
to cook. Their right rested upon the river, and their 
array stretched across a mile of ground, until the left was 
in touch with a tangled forest which guarded it from flank 
attack. In front was a long thick hedge and much broken 
ground, with a single deeply rutted country road cutting 
tiirough it in the middle. Under the hedge and along the 
whole front of the position lay swarms of archers upon the 
grass, the greater number slumbering peacefully with 
sprawling limbs in the warm rays of the September sun. 
Behind were the quarters of the various knights, and from 
end to end flew the banners and pennons marked with the 
devices of the chivalry of England and Guienne. 

With a glow in his heart Nigel saw those badges of 
famous captains and leaders, and knew that now at last he 
also might show his coat-armour in sudi noble company. 
There was the flag of Jean Gxailly, the Captal de Budi, 
five silver sheUs on a black cross, which marked the 
presence of the most fiunous soldier of Gascony, while 
beside it waved the red lion of the noble Knight of 
Hainault, Sir Eustace d'Ambretioourt These two coats 
Nigel knew, as did every warrior in Europe, but a dense 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 351 

grove of pennoned lances suirounded them, bearing charges 
which were strange to him, from which he understood that 
these belonged to the Guienne division of the army. 
Farther down the line the famous English ensigns floated 
on the wind, the scarlet and gold of Warwick, the silver 
star of Oxford, the golden cross of Suffolk, the blue and 
gold of Willoughby, and the gold-fretted scarlet of Audley. 
In the very centre of them all was one which caused all 
others to pass from his mind, for close to the royal banner 
of England, crossed with the label of the prince, there 
waved the war-worn flag with the red wedge upon the 
golden field which marked the quarters of the noble 
Chandos. 

At the sight Nigel set spurs to his horse, and a few 
minutes later had reached the spot. Chandos, gaunt from 
hunger and want of sleep, but with the old fire lurking in 
his eye, was standing by the prince's tent, gazing down at 
what could be seen of the French array, and heavy with 
thought. Nigel sprang from his horse and was within 
touch of his master when the silken hanging of the royal 
tent was torn violently aside and Edward rushed out. 

He was without Us armour and clad in a sober suit 
of black, but the high dignity of his bearing and the 
imperious anger which flushed his face proclaimed the 
leader and the prince. At his heels was a little white- 
haired ecclesiastic in a flowing gown c^ scarlet sendal, 
expostulating and arguing in a torrent of words. 

" Not another word, my Lord Cardinal," cried the angry 
prince. " I have listened to you overlong, and by God's 
dignity ! that which you say is neither good nor fair in 
my ears. Hark you, John, I would have your counsel. 
What think you is the message which my Lord Cardinal 
of Perigord has carried from the king of France? He 
says that of his clemency he will let my army pass back 
to Bordeaux if we will restore to him all that we have 
taken, remit all ransoms, and surrender my own person 



352 SIR NIGEL 

with that of a hundred nobles of England and Goienoe to 
be held as prisoners. What think yon, John t " 

Chandos smiled. ''Things are not done in that fashion," 
said he. 

'' But, my Lord Chandos/' cried the Cardinal. ** I have 
made it clear to the prince that indeed it is a scandal to 
all Christendom and a cause of mocking to the heathen, 
that two great sons of the Church should turn their swards 
thus upon each other." 

** Then bid the king of France keep dear of ns^" said 
the prince. 

'' Fair son, you are aware that you are in the heart c^ 
his country, and that it standeth not aright that he should 
sufifer you to go forth as you cama You have but a small 
army, three thousand bowmen and five thousand men-at- 
arms at the most, who seem in evil case for want of food 
and rest. The king has thirty thousand men at his back, 
of which twenty thousand are expert men-at-arms. It is 
fitting therefore that you make such terms as you may, 
lest worse befall/' 

" Give my greetrugs to the king of France and tell him 
that England will never pay ransom for me. But it seems 
to me, my Lord Cardinal, that you have our numbers and 
condition very ready upon your tongue, and I would fain 
know how the eye of a Churchman can read a line of 
battle so easily, I have seen that these knights of your 
household have walked freely to and fro within our camp, 
and I much fear that when I welcomed you as envoys I 
have in truth given my protection to spies. How say you, 
my Lord Cardinal ? " 

" Fair prince, I know not how you can find it in your 
heart or conscience to say such evil words." 

'' There is this red-bearded nephew of thine, Bobert de 
Duras. See where he stands yonder, counting and prying. 
Hark hither, young sir ! I have been saying to your uncle 
the Cardinal that it is in my mind that you and your 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 353 

comrades have earned news of our dispositions to the . 
Frenoh king. How say you ? " 

The knight tumed pale and sank his eyes. ''My 
lord/' he murmured, "it may be that I have answered 
some questions." 

"And how will such answers accord with your honour, 
seeing that we have trusted you since you came in the 
train of the cardinal ? " 

" My lord, it is true that I am in the train of the 
cardinal, and yet I am li^ge man of King John and a 
knight of France, so I pray you to assuage your wrath 
against me." 

The prince ground his teeth and his piercing eyes 
blazed upon the youth. 

" By my father's soul I I can scarce forbear to strike 
you to the earth I But this I promise you, that if you 
show that sign of the Red Griffin in the field and if you 
be taken alive in to-morrow's battle, your head shall most 
assuredly be shorn from your shoulders ! " 

" Fair son, indeed you speak wildly," cried the Cardinal. 
" I pledge you my word that neither my nephew Robert 
nor any of my train will take part in the battle. And 
now I leave you, sire, and may Grod assoil your soul, for 
indeed in all this world no men stand in greater peril 
than you and those who are around you, and I rede you 
that you spend the night in such ghostly exercises as may 
best prepare you for that which may befalL" So saying 
the cardinal bowed, and with his household walking 
behind him set off for the spot where they had left their 
horses, whence they rode to the neighbouring abbey. 

The angry prince tumed upon his heel and entered his 
tent once more, while Chandos, glancing round, held out 
a warm welcoming hand to Nigel. 

" I have heard much of your noble deeds," said ha 
"Already your name rises as a squire errant. I stood no 
higher, not so high, at your age.'' 

2a 



354 SIR NIGEL 

Nigel flushed with pride and pleasure. " Indeed, my 
dear lord, it is very little that I have done. Bat now that 
I am back at your side I hope that in troth I shall learn 
to bear myself in worthy fiashion, for where dse dionld I 
win honour if it be not under your banner?" 

''Truly, Kigel, yon have come at a yory good time far 
advancement. I cannot see how we can leave this spot 
without a great battle which will live in m^s minds for 
ever. In all our fights in Frsnoe I cannot call to mind any 
in which they have been so strong or we so weak as now« 
so that there will be the more honour to be gained. I 
would that we had two thousand more aiohera But I 
doubt not that we shall give them much trouble ere they 
drive us out from amidst these hedgea Have you seen 
thePrencht" 

'' Nay, fair sir, I have but this moment arrived." 

"I was about to ride forth myself to coast their army 
and observe their countenance, so come with me ere the 
night fall, and we shall see what we can of their order and 
dispositions/' 

There was a truce between the two forces for the day, 
on account of the ill-advised and useless interposition of 
the Cardinal of Perigord. Hence when Chandos and Nigel 
had pushed their horses through the loi^ hedge which 
fronted the position they fonnd that many small parties 
of the knights of either army were riding up and down on 
the plain outsida The greater number of these groups 
were French, since it was very necessary for them to know 
as much as possible of the English defences ; and many of 
their scouts had ridden up to within a hnndred yards of 
the hedge, where they were sternly ordered back by the 
pickets of archers on guard. 

Through these scattered knots of horsemen Chandos 
rode, and as many of them were old antagonists it was 
"Ha, John! " on the one side, and "Ha, Baoult" ""Ha, 
Nicholas!" ''Ha, GuichardI" upon the other, as they 



NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 355 

i brushed past them. Only one cavalier greeted them 

amiss, a large, red-faced man, the Lord Clermont, who 
by some strange chance bore upon his snrcoat a blue 
virgin standing amid golden sunbeams, which was the 
very device which Chandos had donned for the day. The 
fiery Frenchman* dashed across their path and drew his 
steed back on to its haunches. 

" How long is it, my Lord Chandos," said he, hotly, 
'* since you have taken it upon yourself to wear my arms ? " 

Chandos smiled. " It is surely you who have mine," 
said he, ''since this surcoat was worked for me by the 
good nuns of Windsor a long year ago." 

" If it were not for the truce," said Clermont, " I would 
soon show you that you have no right to wear it." 

" Look for it then in the battle to-morrow, and I also 
will look for yours," Chandos answered. " There we can 
very honourably settle the matter." 

But the Frenchman was choleric and hard to appease. 

" You English can invent nothing," Said he, " and you 
take for your own whatever you see handsome belonging 
to others." So, grumbling and fuming, he rode upon his 
way, while Chandos, laughing gaily, spurred onward across 
the plain. 

The immediate front of the English line was shrouded 
with scattered trees and bushes which hid the enemy ; but 
when they had cleared these a fair view of the great 
French army lay before them. In the centre of the huge 
camp was a long and high pavilion of red silk, with the 
silver lilies of the king at one end of it, and the golden 
oriflamme the battle-flag of old France, at the other. Like 
the reeds of a pool from side to side of the broad array, 
and dwindling away as far as their eyes could see, were 
the banners and pennons of high barons and famous 
knights, but above them all flew the ducal standards 
which showed that the feudal muster of all the warlike 
provinces of France was in the field before them. 



356 SIR NIGEL 

With a kindliog eye Chandos looked across at the 
proud ensigns of Nonnandy, of Boigundy, of Auyergne, ct 
Champagne, of Yermandois, and of Berry, fiannting and 
gleaming in the rays of the sinking san« Biding slowly 
down the line he marked with attentire gaze the camp 
of the cross-bowmen, the muster of the German mercenaries, 
the numbers of the foot-soldiers, the arms of every proud 
vassal or vavasor which might give some guide as to the 
power of each division. From wing to wing and round 
the flanks he went, keeping ever within crossbow-shot of 
the army, and then at last having noted all things in his 
mind he turned his horse's head and rode slowly back, 
heavy with thought, to the English lines. 



CHAPTER XXV 

HOW THE KINO OF FBANCB HELD COUNSEL AT MAUPERTUIS 

The morning of Sunday, the nineteenth of September, in 
the year of our Lord 1356, was cold and fine. A haze 
which rose from the marshy valley of Muisson covered 
both camps and set the starving Englishmen shivering, 
but it cleared slowly away as the sun rose. In the red 
silken pavilion of the French king — ^the same which had 
been viewed by Nigel and Chandos the evening before — 
a solemn mass was held by the Bishop of Chalons, who 
prayed for those who were about to die, with little thought 
in his mind that his own last hour was so near at hand. 
Then, when communion had been taken by the king and 
his four young sons the altar was cleared away, and a 
great red-covered table placed lengthwise down the tent, 
round which John might assemble his council and de- 
termine how best he should proceed. With the sUken 
roof, rich tapestries of Arras round the walls and eastern 
rugs beneatli the feet, his palace could furnish no fairer 
chamber. 

King John, who sat upon the canopied dais at the 
upper end, was now in the sixth year of his reign and the 
thirty-sixth of his Ufe. * He was a short burly man, ruddy- 
faced and deep-chested, with dark kindly eyes and a most 
noble bearing. It did not need the blue cloak sewed with 
silver lilies to mark him as the king. Though his reign 
had been short, his fame was already widespread over all 
Europe as a kindly gentleman and a fearless soldier— a fit 

357 



358 SIR NIGEL 

leader for a chivalrous nation. His elder son, the Duke 
of Normandy, still hardly more than a hoy, stood beside 
him, his hand upon the king's shoulder, and John half 
turned from time to time to fondle him. On the right, at 
the same high dais, was the king's younger brother, the 
Duke of Orleans, a pale heavy- featured man, with a languid 
manner and intolerant eyes. On the left was the Duke 
of Bourbon, sad-faced and absorbed, with that gentle 
melancholy in his eyes and bearing which comes often 
with the premonition of death. All these were in their 
armour, save only for their helmets, which lay upon the 
board before them. 

Below, grouped around the long red table, was an 
assembly of the most famous warriors in Europe. At the 
end nearest the king was the veteran soldier the Duke of 
Athens, son of a banished father, and now high constable 
of France. On one side of him sat the red-faced and 
choleric Lord Clermont, with the same blue virgin in 
golden rays upon his surcoat which had caused his quarrel 
with Chandos the night before. On the other was a 
noble-featured grizzly-haired soldier, Arnold d'Andreghen, 
who shared with Clermont the honour of being Marshal of 
France. Nezt to them sat Lord James of Bourbon, a 
brave warrior who was afterwards slain by the White 
Company at Brignais> and beside him a little group of 
German noblemen, including the Earl of Salzbuig and the 
Earl of Nassau, who had ridden over the frontier with 
their formidable -mercenaries at the bidding of the French 
king. The ridged armour and the hanging nasals of their 
bassinets were enough in themselves to tell every soldier 
that they were from beyond the Bhine. At the other side 
of the table was a line of proud and war-like Lords, 
Fiennes, Chatillon, Nesle, de Landas, de Beaujeu, with 
the fierce knight errant de Chaigny, he who had planned 
the surprise of Calais, and Eustace de Bibeaumont, who 
had upon thejsame occasion won the prize of valour from 



THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 359 

the hands of Edward of England. Such were the chiefs 
to whom the king now turned for assistance and 
advice. 

" You have already heard, my friends/' said he, " that 
the Ftince of Wales has made no answer to the proposal 
which we sent by the Lord Cardinal of Pengord. Certes 
this is as it should be, and though I have obeyed the call 
of Holy Church I had no fears that so excellent a prince 
as Edward of England would refuse to meet us in' battle. 
I am now of opinion that we should fall upon them at once, 
lest perchance the Cardinal's cross should again come 
betwixt our 8W(»ds and our enemies." 

A buzz of joyful assent arose from the meeting, and 
even from the attendant men-at-arms who guarded the 
door. When it had died away the Duke of Orleans rose 
in his place beside the king. 

*' Sire," said he, '' you speak as we would have you do, 
and I for one am of opinion that the Cardinal of Perigord 
has been an ill friend of France, for why should wo bargain 
for a part when we have but to hold out our hand in order 
to grasp the whole ? What need is there for words ? Let 
us spring to horse forthwith and ride over this handful 
of marauders who have dared to lay waste your fair 
dominions. If one of them go hence save as our prisoner 
we are the more to blame." 

" By Saint Denis, brother ! " said the king, smiling, 
''if words could slay you would have had them all upon 
their backs ere ever we left Chartres. You are new to war, 
but when you have had experience of a stricken field or 
two you know that things must be done with forethought 
and in order or they may go awry. In our father^s time 
we sprang to horse and spurred upon these English at 
Cr6cy and elsewhere as you advise, but we had little profit 
firom it, and now we are grown wiser. How say you, 
Sieur de KibeaimioDt ? You have coasted their lines and 
observed their countenance. Would you ride down upon 



36o SIR NIGEL 

them, as my brother has advised, or how would you order 
the matter ? " 

De Bibeaumont, a taU, dark-eyed, handsome man, 
paused ere he answered. 

" Sire," he said at last, " I have indeed ridden along their 
front and down their flanks in company with Lord Landas 
and Lord de Beaujeu, who are here at your council to 
witness to what I say. Indeed, sire, it is in my mind that 
though the English are few in number yet they are in such 
a position amongst these hedges and vines that you would 
be well-advised if you were to leave them alone, for th^ 
have no food and must retreat, so that you will be able 
to follow them and to fight them to better advantage." 

A murmur of disapproval rose from the company and 
the Lord Clermont, marshal of the army, sprang to his 
feet, his face red with anger. 

" Eustace, Eustace," said he, " I bear in mind the days 
when you were of great heart and high enterprise, but 
since King Edward gave you yonder chaplet of pearls you 
have ever been backward against the English ! " 

" My Lord Clermont," said de Bibeaumont, sternly, " it 
Is not for me to brawl at the king's council and in the 
face of the enemy, but we will go further into this matter 
at some other time. Meanwhile, the king has asked me 
for my advice and I have given it as best I might" 

" It had been better for your honour. Sir Eustace, had 
you held your peace," said the Duke of Orleans. " Shall 
we let them slip firom our fingers when we have them 
here and are fourfold their number ? I know not where 
we should dwell afterwards, for I am very sure that we 
should be ashamed to ride back to Paris, or to look our 
ladies in the eyes again." 

*' Indeed, Eustace, you have done well to say what is in 
your mind," said the king ; " but I have already said that 
we shall join battle this morning, so that there is no room 
here for further talk. But I would fain have heard from 




' ' INDEED, EUSTACE, YOO HAVE DONE WELL TO SAY WHAT W IN YOUR MIND.* 



THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 361; 

you how it would be wisest and best that we attack 
them?" 

"I will advise you, sire, to the best of my power. 
TTpon their right is a riyer with marshes around it, and 
upon their left a great wood, so that we can advance only 
upon the centre. Along their front is a thick hedge, and 
behind it I saw the green jerkins of their archers, as thick 
as the sedges by the river. It is broken by one road 
where only four horsemen could ride abreast, which leads 
through the position. It is clear, then, that if we are to 
drive them back we must cross the great hedge, and I am 
very sure that the horses will not face it with such a 
storm of arrows beating from behind it. Therefore, it is 
my counsel that we fight upon foot, as the English did at 
Cr&y, for indeed we may find that our horses will be 
more hindrance than help to us this day." 

'' The same thought was in my own mind, sire," said 
Arnold d'Andreghen, the veteran marshal. " At Crikj the 
bravest had to turn their backs, for what can a man do 
with a horse which is mad with pain and fear ? If we 
advance upon foot we are our own masters, and if we stop 
the shame is ours." 

"The counsel is good," said the Duke of Athens, 
turning his shrewd wizened face to the king ; " but one 
thing only I- would add to it. The strength of these 
people lies in their archers, and if we could throw them 
into disorder, were it only for a short time, we should win 
the hedge ; else they will shoot so strongly that we must 
lose many men before we reach it, for indeed we have 
learned t^at no armour will keep out their shafts when 
they are close." 

" Your words, fair sir, are both good and wise," said 
the king, " but I pray you to tell us how you would throw 
these archers into disorder ? " 

"I would choose three hundred horsemen, sire, the 
best and most forward in the army. With these I would 



362 SIR NIGEL 

ride up the narrow road, and so turn to right and lel^ 
fialling upon the archers behind the hedge It may be 
that the three hundred would suffer soiely, but what are 
they among so great a host, if a road may be cleared for 
their companions 7 " 

** I would say a word to that, sire," cried the German 
C!ount of Nassau* ** I have come here with my comrades 
to venture our persons in your quarrel ; but we daim the 
right to fight in our own fashion, and we would ooimt it 
dishonour to dismount from our steeds out of fear of the 
arrows of the English. Therefore, with your permissioii, we 
wiU ride to the front, as the Duke of Athens has advised, 
and so clear a path for the rest of you." 

" This may not be ! " cried the Lord Clermont, angrily. 
" It would be strange indeed if Frenchmen could not be 
found to clear a pal^ for the army of the King of France. 
One would think to hear you talk, my Lord Count, that 
your hardihood was greater than our own, but by our Lady 
of Bocamadour you will learn before nightfall that it is 
not sa It is for me, who am a marshal of France, to lead 
these three hundred, since it is an honourable yenture." 

" And I claim the same right for the same reason," 
said Arnold of Andieghen. 

The German count struck the table with lus mailed 
fist 

"Do what you like r' said he. "But Uus only I can 
promise you, that neither I nor any of my German riders 
will descend from our horses so long as they are able 
to carry us, for in our country it is only people of no 
consequence who fight upon their feet" 

The Lord Clermont was leaning angrily forward with 
some hot reply when King John intervened. 

" Enough, enough ! " he said. " It is for you to give 
your opinions, and for me to tell you what you will do* 
Lord Clermont, and you, Arnold, you will choose three 
hundred of the bravest cavaliers in tixe army and you will 



THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 363 

I 

endeavour to break these archers. As to you and your 
Germans, my Lord Nassau, you will remain upon horse- 
back, since you desire it, and you will foUow the marshals 
and support them as best you may. The rest of the 
army will advance upon foot, in three other divisions as 
arranged: yours, Charles," and he patted his son, the 
Duke of Normandy, affectionately upon the hand ; '' yours, 
Piiilip," he glanced at the Duke of Orleans ; " and the 
main battle which is my own. To you, Geofirey de 
Chaigny, I intrust the oriflamme this day. But who is 
this knight and what does ho desire ? " 

A young knight, ruddy-bearded and tall, a red griffin 
upon his surcoat, had appeared in the opening of the tent 
His flushed face and dishevelled dress showed that he had 
come in hasta 

'' Sire," said he, ** I am Bobert de Duras, of the house- 
hold of the Cardinal de Perigord. I have told you 
yesterday all that I have learned of the English camp^ 
This morning I was again admitted to it, and I have seen 
their waggons moving to the rear. Sire, they are in flight 
for Bordeaux." 

" Tore God, I knew it ! " cried the Duke of Orleans, in 
a voice of fury. " Whilst we have been talking they have 
slipped through our fiogers. Did I not warn you ? " 

'' Be silent, Philip I " said the king^ angrily. " But you, 
sir, have you seen this with your own eyes ? " 

** With my own eyes, sire, and I have ridden straight 
from their camp." 

King John looked at him with a stem gaze. *" I know 
not how it accords with your honour to carry such tidings 
in such a fashion," said he ; " but we cannot choose but 
take advantage of it. Fear not, brother Philip, it is in 
my mind that you will see all that you would wish of the 
Englishmen before nightfall Should we Ml upon them 
whilst they cross the ford it will be to our advantaga 
Now, fair sirs, I pray you to hasten to your posts and to 



364 SIR NIGEL 

cany out all that we have agreed. Advance the Qriflamme, 
Geoffrey, and do you marshal the divisions, Arnold. So 
may Grod and Saint Denis have us in their holy keeping 
this day!" 

The Prince of Wales stood upon that little knoll where 
Nigel had halted the day before. Beside him were Chandos, 
and a tall sun-burned warrior of middle age, the Gasoon 
Captal de Buch. The three men were all attentively 
watching the distant French lines, while behind them a 
column of waggons wound down to the ford of the Muiason. 

Close in the rear four knights in full armour with 
open visors sat their horses and conversed in undertones 
with each other. A glance at their shields would have 
given their names to any soldier, for they were all men of 
fame who had seen much warfare. At present they were 
awaiting their orders, for each of them commanded the 
whole or part of a division of the army. The youth upon 
the left, dark^ slim, and earnest, was William Montacute, 
Earl of Salisbury, only twenty-eight years of age, and yet 
a veteran of Cr^cy. How high he stood in reputation is 
shown by the fact that the command of the rear, the post 
of honour in a retreating army, had been given to him by 
the princa He was talking to a grizzled harsh-faced man, 
somewhat over middle age, with lion features and fierce 
light-blue eyes which gleamed as they watched the distant 
enemy. It was the famous Bobert de Ufford, Earl of 
Suffolk, who had fought without a break from Cadsand 
onward through the whole Continental War. The other 
tall silent soldier, with the silver star gleaming upon his 
Burcoat, was John de Yere, Earl of Oxford, and he listened 
to the talk of Thomas Beauchamp, a burly, jovial, ruddy 
nobleman and a tried soldier, who leaned forwcuxl and 
tapped his mailed hand upon the other's steel-clad thigh. 
They were old battle-companions, of the same age and 
in the very prime of life, with equal fame and equal 
experience of the wars. Such was the group of famous 



THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 365 

English soldiers who sat their horses behind the prince 
and waited for their orders. 

'' I would that you had laid hands upon him/' said the 
prince angrily, continuing his conversation with Chandos, 
*" and yet, perchance, it was wiser to play this trick and 
make tiiem think that we were retreating." 

'' He has certainly carried the tidings,** said Chandos, 
with a smile. '' No sooner had the waggons started than I 
saw him gallop down the edge of the wood." « 

" It was well thought of, John," the prince remarked, 
'' for it would indeed be great comfort if. we could turn 
their own spy against them. Unless they advance upon 
us, I know not how we can hold out another day, for there 
is not a loaf left in the army ; and yet if ve leave this 
position, where shall we hope to find such another ? " 

" They will stoop, fair sir, they will stoop to our lure. 
Even now Bobert de Duras will be telling them that the 
waggons are on the move, and they will hasten to overtake 
us lest we pass the ford. But who is this, who rides so 
fast ? Here perchance may be tidings." 

A horseman had spurred up to the knoll. He sprang 
from the saddle, and sank on one knee before the prince. 

" How now, my Lord Audley " said Edward. " What 
would you have ? " 

'' Sir," said the knight, still kneeling with bowed head 
before his leader, ** I have a boon to ask of you." - 

** Nay, James, rise ! Let me hear what I can do." 

The famous knight errant, pattern of chivalry for all 
time, rose and turned his swarthy face and dark earnest 
eyes upon his master. 

"Sir," said he, "I have ever served most loyally my 
lord your father and yourself, and shall continue so to do 
so long as I have life. Dear sir, I must now acquaint 
you that formerly I made a vow if ever I should be in 
any battle under your command that I would be fore* 
most or die in the attempt I b^ therefore that you will 



366 SIR NIGEL 

gittcioady pennit me to honourably quit my plaoe among 
the others, that I may post mysdf in snch mse as to 
aooomplish my vow." 

The prince smiled, for it was reaj sure that vow or no 
TOW, permission or no permission, Lord James Andley 
would still be in the van. 

''Go, James,'' said he, shaking his hand, "and God 
grant that this day you may shine in valour above all 
knights. But hark, John, what is that ? " 

Chandos cast up his fierce nose like the eagle which 
smells slaughter afar. 

*' Surely, sir, all is forming even as we had planned it" 

From far away there came a thunderous shout. Then 
another and yet another. 

" See, they are moving ! '' cried the Captal de Buch. 

All moming they had watched the gleam of the armed 
squadrons who were drawn up in front of the French 
camp. Now, while a great blare of trumpets was home to 
tiieir ears, the distant masses flickered and twinkled in the 
sunlight. 

*• Yes, yes, they are moving 1 " cried the prince. 

''They are moving! They are moving! " Down tiie 
line the murmur ran. And then, with a sudden impulse, 
the archers at the hedge sprang to their feet and the 
knights behind them waved their ^v^eapons in the air, 
while one tremendous shout of wariike joy carried their 
defiance to the approaching enemy. Then there fell such 
a silence that the pawing of the horses or the jingle of 
their harness struck loud upon the ear, until amid the 
hush there rose a low deep roar like the sound of the tide 
upon the beach, ever growing and deepening as the host of 
France drew near. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIBD DEED 

FouB archers lay behind a clump of bushes ten yards in 
front of the thick hedge which shielded their companions. 
Amid the long line of bowmen those behind them were 
their own company, and in the main the same who were 
with ElnoUes in Brittany. The four in front were their 
leaders : old Wat of Carlisle, Ned Widdington the red- 
headed dalesman, the bald bowyer Bartholomew, and 
Samkin Aylward, newly rejoined after a week's absence. 
All four were munching bread and apples, for Aylward 
had brought in a fall haversack, and divided them freely 
among his starving comrades. The old borderer and the 
Yorkshireman were gaant and hollow-eyed with privation^ 
while the bowyer's round face had fallen in so that the 
skin hung in loose pouches under his eyes and beneath 
Lis jaws. 

Behind them lines of haggard, wolfish men glared 
through tjxe underwood, silent and watchful save that they 
burst into a fierce yelp of welcome when Chandos and 
Nigel galloped up, sprang from their horses and took their 
station beneath them. All along the green fringe of 
bowmen might be seen the steel-clad figures of knights 
and squires who had pushed their way into the front line 
to share the fortune of the archers. 

''I call to mind that I once shot six ends with a 
Kentish woldsman at Ashford "^ b^gan the bowyer. 

'' Nay, nay, we have heard that story 1 " said old Wat, 
impatiently. '' Shut thy clap, Bartholomew, for it is no 

367 



368 SIR NIGEL 

time for redeless gossip ! Walk down the line. I pray yon, 
and see if there be no fiajed string, nor broken nock nor 
loosened whipping to be mended/' 

The stont bowyer passed down the firings of bowm^i, 
amid a running fire of rongh wit Here and there a bow 
was thrust out at him through the hedge for his 
professional advice. 

''Wax your heads! "he kept crying. ''Pass down the 
wax-pot and wax your heads. A waxed arrow will pass 
where a dry will be held. Tom Beyerley, you jack-fool ! 
where is your braoer-gnard ? Your string will flay your 
arm era you reach your up-shot this day. And yoa, 
Watkin, draw not to your mouth, as is your wont» but to 
your shoulder. You are so used to the wine-pot that the 
string must needs follow it. Nay, stand loose, and give 
space for your drawing arms, for they will be on us anon.'* 

He ran back and joined lus comrades in the firont, who 
had now risen to their feet. Behind them a half-mile of 
archers stood behind the hedge, each mth his great war- 
bow strung, half a dozen shafts loose behind him, and 
eighteen more in the quiver slung across his front With 
arrow on string, their feet firm-planted, their fierce eager 
faces peering through the branches, they awaited the 
coming storm. 

The broad flood of steel, after oozing slowly forward, 
had stopped about a mile from the EngUsh ftoat The 
greater part of the army had then descended from their 
horses, while a crowd of varlets and hostlers led them to 
the rear. The French formed themselves now into three 
great divisions, which shimmered in the sun like silver 
pools, reed-capped with many a thousand of banners and 
pennons. A space of several hundred yards divided each. 
At the same time two bodies of horsemen formed them- 
selves in front. The first consisted of three himdred men 
in one thick column, the second of a thousand, riding in a 
more extended line. 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 369 

The prince had ridden up to the line of archers. He 
was in dark armour, his visor open, and his handsome 
aquiline face all glowing with spirit and martial fire. The 
bowmen yelled at him, and he waved his hands to them 
as a huntsman cheers his hounds. 

"Well, John, what think you now?" he asked. 
'* What would my noble father not give to be by our side 
this day? Have you seen that they have leffc their 
horses?" 

" Yes, my fair lord, they have learned their lesson,** 
said Chandos. '' Because we have had good fortune upon 
our feet at Cr£cy and elsewhere, they think that they have 
found the trick of it. But it is in my mind that it is very 
different to stand when you are assailed, as we have done, 
and to assail others when you must drag your harness for 
a mile and come weary to the fray." 

" You speak wisely, John. But these horsemen who 
form in front and ride slowly toward us, what make you 
of them?" 

" Doubtless they hope to cut the strings of our bowmen 
and so clear a way for the others. But they are indeed a 
chosen band, for mark you, fair sir, are not those the 
colours of Clermont upon the left, and of d'Andreghen 
upon the right, so that both marshals ride with the 
vanguard ? " 

" By God's soul, John I " cried the prince, " it is very 
sure that you can see more with one eye than any man in 
this army with two. But it is even as you say. And this 
larger bcmd behind ? " 

" They should be (rermans, fair sir, by the fashion of 
their harness." 

The two bodies of horsemen had moved slowly over the 
plain, with a space of nearly a quarter of a mile between 
them. Now, having come two bowshots from the hostile 
line, they halted. All that they could see of the English 
was the long hedge, with an occasional twinkle of steel 

2b 



370 SIR NIGEL 

through its leafy branches, and behind that the spear-heads 
of the men*at-arms rising from amid the bmshwood and 
the vines. A lovely autumn countryside with changing 
many-tinted foliage lay stretched before them, all bathed 
in peaceful sunshine, and nothing save those flickering 
fitful gleams to tell of the silent and lurking enemy who 
barred their way. But the bold spirit of the French 
cavaliers rose the higher to the danger. The clamour of 
their war-cries filled the air, and they tossed tlieir 
pennoned spears over their heads in menace and defiance. 
From the English line it was a noble sight, the gallant 
pawing, curveting horses, the many-coloured twinkling 
riders, the swoop and wave and toss of plume and bann^. 

Then a bugle rang forth. WiUi a sudden yell eveiy 
spur struck deep, eveiy lance was laid in rest, and thie 
whole gallant Squadron flew like a glittering thunderbolt 
for the centre of the English line. 

A htmdred yards they had crossed, and yet another 
hundred, but there was no movement in front of them, 
and no sound save their own hoarse battle-cries and the 
thunder of their horses. Ever swifter and swifter they 
flew. From behind the hedge it was a vision of horses, 
white, bay, and black, their necks stretched, their nostrils 
distended, their bellies to the ground, while of the rider 
one could but see a shield with a plume-tufted visor above 
it, and a spear-head twinkling in front. 

Then of a sudden the prince raised his hand and gave 
a cry. Chandos echoed it, it swelled down the line, and 
with one mighty chorus of twanging strings and hissing 
shafts the long-pent storm broke at last. 

Alas for the noble steeds ! Alas for the gallant men ! 
When the lust of battle is over who would not grieve to 
see that noble squadron break into red ruin before the 
rain of arrows beating upon the faces and breasts of the 
horses ? The front rank crashed down, and the others 
piled themselves upon the top of them, unable to cheek 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 371 

their speed, or to swerve aside from the terrible waft of 
their shattered comrades which had so suddenly sprang 
up before them. Fifteen feet high was that blood-spurting 
mound of screaming, kicking horses and writhing, straggling 
men. Here and there on the flanks a horseman cleared 
himself and dashed for the hedge, only to have his steed 
slain under him and to be hurled from his saddle. Of all 
the three hundred gallant riders, not one ever reached that 
fatal hedge. 

But now in a long rolling wave of steel the German 
battalion roared swiftly onward. They opened in the 
centre to pass that terrible mound of death, and then 
spurred swiftly in upon the archers. They were brave 
men, well-led, and in their open lines they could avoid 
the clubbing together which had been the ruin of the 
vanguard; yet they perished singly even as the others 
had perished together. A few were slain by the arrows. 
The greater number had their horses killed under them, 
and were so shaken and shattered by the fall that they 
could not raise their Hmbs, overweighted with iron, from 
the spot where they lay. 

Three men riding together broke through the bushes 
which sheltered the leaders of tbe archers, cut down 
Widdington the Dalesman, spurred onward through the 
hedge, dashed over the bowmen behind it, and made for 
the prince. One fell with an airow through his head, a 
second was beaten from his saddle by Chandos, and the 
tbird was slain by the prince's own hand. A second band 
broke through near the river, but were cut off by Lord 
Audley and his squires, so that all were slain. A single 
horseman whose steed was mad with pain, an arrow in its 
eye and a second in its nostril, sprang over the hedge and 
clattered through the whole army, disappearing amid 
whoops and laughter into the woods behind. But none 
others won as far as the hedge. The 'whole front of the 
position was fringed with a litter of German wounded or 



372 SIR NIGEL 

dead, while one great heap in the centre marked the 
downfall of the gallant French three hundred. 

While these two waves of the attack had broken in 
fiK>nt of the English position, leaving this blood-stained 
wreckage behind them, the main divisions had halted and 
made their last preparations for their own assanlt. They 
had not yet bognn their advance, and the nearest was stUl 
half a mile distant, when the few survivors firom the 
forlorn hope, their maddened horses bristling with arrows, 
flew past them on either flank. 

At the same moment the English archers and men-af>> 
arms dashed through the hedge, and dragged all who were 
living out of that tangled heap of shattered horses and 
men. It was a mad wild rush, for in a few minutes the 
fight must be renewed, and yet there was a rich harvest of 
wealth for the lucky man who could pick a wealthy 
prisoner from amid the crowd. The nobler spirits dis- 
dained to think of ransoms while the fight was still 
unsettled ; but a swarm of needy soldiers, Gascons and 
English, dragged the wounded out by the leg or the arm, 
and with daggers at their throats demanded their names, 
title, and means. He who had made a good prize hurried 
him to the rear where his own servants could guard >iiTw^ 
while he who was disappointed too often drove the dagger 
home and then rushed once more into the tangle in the 
hope of better luck. Clermont, with an arrow through 
the sky-blue virgin on his surcoat, lay dead within tea 
paces of the hedge ; d' Andreghen was dragged by a penni* 
less squire firom under a horse and became his prisoner. 
The Earls of Salzburg and of Nassau were both found 
helpless on the ground and taken to ihe rear. Aylward 
cast his thick arms round Count Otto von Langenbeck, 
and laid him, helpless firom a broken 1^, behind his bush. 
Black Simon had made prize of Bernard, Count of Yenta- 
dour, and hurried him through the hedge. Everywhere 
there was rushing and shouting, brawling and bufieting, 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 373 

while amid it all a swarm of archers were seeking their 
shafts, plucking them from the dead, and sometimes even 
from the wounded. Then there was a sudden cry of 
warning. In a moment every man was back in his place 
once more, and the line of the hedge was clear. 

It was high time ; for already the first division of the 
French was close upon them. If the charge of the horse- 
men had been terrible from its rush and its fire, this steady 
advance of a huge phalanx of armoured footmen was even 
more fearsome to the spectator. They moved very slowly, 
on account of the weight of their armour, but their 
progress was the more regular and inexorable. With 
elbows touching — their shields slung in front, their short 
five-foot spears carried in their right hands, and their 
maces or swords ready at their belts, the deep column of 
men-at-arms moved onward. Again the storm of arrows 
beat upon them clinking and thudding on the armour. 
They crouched double behind their shields as they met it. 
Many fell, but still the slow tide lapped onward. Yelling, 
they surged up to the hedge, and lined it for half a mile, 
struggling hard to pierce it 

For five minutes the long straining ranks faced each 
other with fierce stab of spear on one side and heavy beat 
of axe or mace upon the other. In many parts the hedge 
was pierced or levelled to the ground, and the French 
men-at-arms were raging among the archers, hacking and 
hewing among the lightly armed men. For a moment it 
seemed as if the battle was on the turn. 

But John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, cool, wise, and crafty 
in war, saw and seized his chance. On the right flank a 
marshy meadow skirted the river. So soft was it that a 
heavy-armed man would sink to Us knees. At his order 
a spray of light bowmen was thrown out from the battle- 
line and forming upon the flank of the French poured 
their arrows into them. At the same moment Chandos, 
with Audley, Nigel, Bartholomew Burghersh, the Captal 



374 SIR NIGEL 

de Buch, and a scoie of other knights sprang upon their 
horses, and charging down the narrow lane rode over the 
French line in front of them. Once through it they 
spurred to left and right, trampling down the dismounted 
men-at-arms. 

A fearsome sight was Pommers that day, his red eyes 
rolling, his nostrils gaping, his tawny mane tossing, and 
his savage teeth gnashing in fury, as he tore and smashed 
and ground beneath his ramping hoofs all that came before 
him. Fearsome too was the rider, ioe-cool, alert, concen- 
trated of purpose, with heart of fire and muscles of steeL 
A very angel of battle he seemed as he drove his maddened 
horse through the thickest of the press ; but, strive as he 
would, the tall figure of his master upon his coal-black 
steed was ever half a length before him. 

Alreisuly the moment of danger was passed. The 
French line had given back. Those who had pierced the 
hedge had fallen like brave men amid the ranks of their 
foomen. The division of Warwick had hurried up firom 
the vineyards to fill the gaps of Salisbury's battle line. 
Back rolled the shining tide, slowly at first, even as it had 
advanced, but quicker now as the bolder fell and the 
weaker shredded out and shuffled with ungainly speed for 
a place of safety. Again there was a rush from behind 
the hedge. Again there was a reaping of that strange 
crop of bearded arrows which grew so thick upon the 
ground, and again the wounded prisoners were seized and 
dragged in brutal haste to the rear. Then the line was 
restored, and the English, weary, panting and shaken, 
awaited the next attack. 

But a great good fortune had come to them — so great 
that as they looked down the valley they could scarce 
credit their own senses. Behind the division of the 
dauphin, which had pressed them so hard, stood a second 
division hardly lees numerous, led by the Duke of Orleans. 
The fugitives from in front, blood-smeared and bedraggHed, 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 375 

blinded with sweat and with fear, rushed amid its ranks 
in their flight, and in a moment, without a blow being 
struck, had carried them off in their wild rout. This vast 
array, so solid and so martial, thawed suddenly away like 
a snow-wreath in the sun. It was gone, and in its place 
thousands of shining dots scattered over the whole plain 
as each man made his own way to the spot where he could 
find lus horse and bear himself from the field. For a 
moment it seemed that the battle was won, and a thunder- 
shout of joy pealed up firom the English line. 

But as the curtain of the duke's division was drawn 
away it was only to disclose stretching far behind it, and 
spanning the valley from side to side, the magnificent 
array of the French king, solid, unshaken, and preparing 
its ranks for the attack. Its numbers were as great as 
those of the English army ; it was unscathed by all that 
was past, and it had a valiant monarch to lead it to tlie 
charge. With the slow d^beration of the man who 
means to do or to die, its leader marshalled its ranks for 
the supreme effort of the day. 

Meanwhile during that brief moment of exultation 
when the battle appeared to be won, a crowd of hot-headed 
young knights and squires swarmed and clamoured round 
the prince, beseeching that he would allow them to ride 
forth. 

'* See this insolent fellow who bears three martlets upon 
a field gules ! " cried Sir Maurice Berkeley. " He stands 
betwixt the two armies as though he had no dread 
of us." 

" I pray you, sir, that I may ride out to him since 
he seems ready to attempt some small deed," pleaded 
Nigel 

'' Nay, fair BUS, it is an evil thing that we should break 
pur line, seeing that we still have much to do," said the 
prince. **See! he rides away, and so the matter is settled." 

"Nay, fair prince," said the young knight who had 



376 SIR NIGEL 

Bpoken first. ''My grey horse, Lebryte, could ran him 
down ere he could reach shdter. Never sinoe I left 
Severn side have I seen steed so fleet as mine. Shall I 
not show you V* In an instant he had spurred the chaiger 
and was speeding across the plain. 

The Frenchman, John de Helennes, a squire of Picard j, 
had waited with a burning heart, his soul sick at the flight 
of the division in which he had ridden. In the hope of 
doing some redeeming exploit, or of meeting his own 
death, he had loitered between the armies, but no move- 
ment had come from the English lines. Now he had 
turned his horse's head to join the king's array, when the 
low drumming of hoofs sounded behind him, and he turned 
to find a horseman hard upon lus heels. Each had drawn 
his sword, and the two armies paused to view the fight. 
In the first bout Sir Maurice Berkeley's lance was 
struck firom his hand, and as he sprang down to recover 
it the Frenchman ran him through the thigh, dismounted 
firom his horse, and received his surrender. As the un- 
fortunate Englishman hobbled away at the side of his 
captor a roar of laughter burst from both armies at the 
spectacle. 

'' By my ten finger-bones ! " cried Aylward, chuckling 
behind the remains of his bush, " he found more on his 
distafif that time than he knew how to spin. Who was 
the knight?" 

" By his arms," said old Wat, " he should either be a 
Berkeley of the West or a Popham of Kent." 

** I call to mind that I shot a match of six ends once 
with a Kentish woldsman '* b^an the fat bowyer. 

*' Nay, nay, stint thy talk, Bartholomew ! " cried old 
Wat. " Here is poor Ned with his head cloven, and it 
would be more fitting if you were saying aves for his 
soul, instead of all this bobance and boasting. How now, 
Tom of Beverley ? " 

*' We have suffered sorely in this last bout, Wat. There 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 377 

are forty of our men upon their backs, and the Dean 
foresters on the right are in worse case stilL" 

" Talking will not mend it, Tom, and if all but one 
were on their backs he must still hold his ground." 

While the archers were chatting, the leaders of the 
army were in solemn conclave just behind them. Two 
divisions of the French had been repulsed, and yet there 
was many an anxious face as the older knights looked 
across the plain at the unbroken array of the French king 
moving slowly toward them. The line of the archers was 
much thinned and shredded. Many knights and squires 
had been disabled in the long and fierce combat at the 
hedge. Others, exhausted by want of food, had no strength 
left and were stretched panting upon the ground. Some 
were engaged in canying the wounded to the rear and 
laying them under the shelter of the trees, while others 
were replacing their broken swords or lances firom the 
weapons of the slain. The Captal de Buch, brave and 
experienced as he was, frowned darkly and whispered his 
misgivings to Ghandos. 

But the prince's courage flamed the higher as the 
shadow fell, while his dark eyes gleamed with a soldier's 
pride as he glanced round him at his weary comrades, and 
then at the dense masses of the king^s battle which now, 
with a hundred trumpets blaring and a thousand pennons 
waving, rolled slowly over the plain. 

" Come what may, John, this has been a most noble 
meeting," said he. " They will not be ashamed of us in 
England. Take heart, my friends, for if we conquer we 
shall carry the glory ever with us; but if we be slain 
then we die most worshipf ully and in high honour, as we 
have ever prayed that we might die, and we leave behind 
us our brothers and kinsmen who will assuredly avenge us. 
It is but one more effort and all will be well. Warwick, 
Oxford, Salisbury, Suffolk, every man to the front ! My 
banner to the front also I Your horses^ fair sirs I The 



378 SIR NIGEL 

archers are spent, and our own good lances most win the 
field this daj. Advanoe, Walter, and may Ood and Saint 
George be with England I " 

Sir Walter Woodland, riding a high black horae, took 
station by the prince, with the royal banner resting in a 
socket by his saddle. From all sides the knights and 
squires crowded in upon it, until they formed a great 
squadron oontaining the survivors of the battalions of 
Warwick and Salisbury, as well as those of the painoe. 
Four htmdred men-at-arms who had been held in reserve 
were brought up and thickened the array, but even so 
Chandos's face was grave as he scanned it, and then turned 
his eyes upon the masses of the Frenchmen. 

"I like it not, fair sir. The weight is overgreat^'' he 
whispered to the prince. 

" How would you order it, John ? Speak what is in 
your mind." 

*' We should attempt something upon their flank whUst 
we hold them in front How say you, Jean ? " 

He turned to the Captal de Buch, whose dark, resolute 
face reflected the same misgivings. 

** Indeed, John, I think as you do," said he. ** The 
French king is a very valiant man, and so are those who 
are about him, and I know not how we may drive them 
back unless we can do as you advise. If you will give me 
only a hundred men I will attempt it." 

" Surely the task is mine, fair sir, since the thought 
has come from me," said Chandos. 

" Nay, John, I would keep you at my side. But you 
speak well, Jean, and you shall do even as you have said. 
Go, ask the Earl of Oxford for a hundred men-at-arms and 
as many hobbelers, that you may ride round the mound 
yonder, and so fall upon them unseen. Let all that are 
left of the archers gather on each side, shoot away their 
arrows, and then fight as best they may. Wait till they 
are. past yonder thorn-bush and then, Walter, bear my 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 379 

banner straight against that of the King of France. Fair 
sirs, may Qod and the thought of your ladies hold high 
your hearts ! " 

The French monarch, seeing that his footmen had made 
no impression upon the English, and also that the hedge 
had been well-nigh levelled to the ground in the course of 
the combat, so that it no longer presented an obstacle, had 
ordered his followers to remount their horses, and it was 
as a solid mass of cavalry that the chivalry of France 
advanced to their last supreme efiTort. The king was in 
the centre of the front line, Geofifrey de Chazgny with 
the golden oriflamme upon his right, and Eustace de 
Bibeaumont with the royal lilies upon the left^ At his 
elbow was the Duke of Athens, High Constable of France, 
and round him were the nobles of the court, fieiy and 
furious, yelling their war-cries, as they waved their 
weapons over their heads. Six thousand gallant men 
of the bravest race in Europe, men whose very names are 
like blasts of a battle-trumpet — Beaujeus and Ghatillons, 
TancarviUes and Yentadours — ^pressed hard behind the 
silver lilies. 

Slowly they moved at firsts walking their horses that 
they might be the fresher for the shock. Then they broke 
into a trot which was quickening into a gallop when the 
remains of the hedge in front of them was beaten in an 
instant to the ground and the broad line of the steel-clad 
chivalry of England swept grandly forth to the final shock. 
With loose rein and busy spur the two lines of horsemen 
galloped at the top of their speed straight and hard for 
each other. An instant later they mot with a thunder- 
crash which was heard by the buighers on the wall of 
Poictiers, seven good miles away. 

Under that frightful impact horses fell dead with 
broken necks, and many a rider, held in his saddle by 
the high pommel, fractured his thighs with the shock. 
Here and there a pair met breast to breast, the lunses 



38o SIR NIGEL 

rearing straight upward and falling back upon their 
masters. But for the most part the line had opened 
in the gallop, and the cavaliers, flying through the gaps, 
buried themselves in the enemy's ranka Then the flanks 
shredded out, and the thick press in the centre loosened 
until there was space to swing a sword and to guide a 
steed. For ten acres there was one wild tumultuous 
swirl of tossing heads, of gleaming weapons which rose 
and fell, of upthrown hands, of tossing plumes and of 
lifted shields, while the din of a thousand war-cries and 
the clash-clash of metal upon metal rose and swelled 
like the roar and beat of an ocean suige upon a rock* 
bound coast Backward and forward swayed the mighty 
throng, now down the valley and now up, as each side in 
turn put forth its strength for a fresh rally. Locked in 
one long deadly grapple, great England and gallant France 
¥rith iron hearts and souls of fire strove and strove for 
mastery. 

Sir Walter Woodland, riding hard upon his high black 
horse, had plunged into the swelter and headed for the 
blue and silver banner of King John, dose at his heels 
in a solid wedge rode the prince, Chandos, Nigel, Lord 
Beginald Cobham, Audley, with his four famous squires, 
and a score of the flower of the English and Gascon knight- 
hood. Holding together and bearing down opposition by 
a shower of blows and by the weight of their powerful 
horses, their progress was still very slow, for ever firesh 
waves of French cavaliers suiged up against them and 
broke in front only to close in again upon their rear. 
Sometimes they were swept backward by the rush, some- 
times they gained a few paces, sometimes they could but 
keep their foothold, and yet from minute to minute that 
blue and silver flag which waved above the press grew ever 
a little closer. A dozen furious hard-breathing French 
knights had broken into their ranks, and clutched at Sir 
Walter Woodland's banner, but Chandos and Nigel guarded 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 381 

it on one side, Audley with his squires on the other, so 
that no man laid his hand upon it and lived. 

But now there was a distant crash and a roar of " Saint 
George for Guienne 1 " from behind. The Captal de Buch 
had charged home. " Saint George for England I " yelled 
the main attack, and ever the counter-ciy came back to 
them from afar. The ranks opened in front of them* The 
French were giving way. A small knight with golden 
scroll-work upon his armour threw himself upon the 
prince and was struck dead by his mace. It was the 
Duke of Athens, Constable of IVance, but none had time 
to note it, and the fight rolled on over his body. Looser 
still were the French ranks. Many were turning their 
horses, for that ominous roar had shaken their resolution. 
Tlie little English wedge poured onward, the prince, 
Chandos, Audley, and Nigel ever in the van. 

A huge warrior in black, bearing a golden banner, 
appeared suddenly in a gap of the shredding ranks. He 
tossed his precious burden to a squire, who bore it away, 
like a pack of hounds on the very haunch of a deer 
the English rushed yelling for the oriflamme. But the 
black warrior flung himself across their path. '' Chargny ! 
Chaigny a la rectnisse ! " he roared with a voice of thunder. 
Sir Be^nald Gobham dropped before his battle-axe, so did 
the Gascon de CHsson. Nigel was beaten down on to the 
crupper of his horse by a sweeping blow ; but at the same 
instant Chandos's quick blade passed through the French- 
man's camail and pierced his throat. So died Geoffrey de 
Chargny; but the oriflamme was saved 

Dazed with the shock, Nigel still kept his saddle, and 
Fommers, his yellow hide mottled with blood, bore him 
onward with the others. The French horsemen were now 
in full flight ; but one stem group of knights stood firm, 
like a rock in a rushing torrent, beating off all, whether 
friend or foe, who tried to break the ranks. The oriflamme 
had gone, and so had the blue and silver banner, but here 



383 SIR NIGEL 

were desperate men xeady to figbt to the death. In thrir 
lanks honour was to be teaped. The prince and bis 
following hurled themselves npon them, while the rest 
of the English horsemen swept onward to secure the 
fagitiTes and to win their ransoms. Bat the nobler spirits 
— ^Andley, Chandos, and the others-- wonld have thought 
it shame to gain money while there was work to be done 
or hononr to be won. Furious was the wild attack, 
desperate the prolonged defenoei Men fell from their 
saddles for verj exhaustion. 

Nigel» still at his place near Chandos's elbow, was hotly 
attacked by a short broad-shouldered warrior upon a stout 
white cob, but Pommers reared with pawing forefeet and 
dashed the smaller horse to the ground. The fisJling rider 
clutched Nigel's arm and tore him from the saddle, so that 
the two rolled upon the grass under the stamping hoofs, 
the English squire on the top and his shortened sword 
glimmered before the visor of the gasping, breathless 
Frenchman. 

** Je me rends ! je me rends I " he panted. 

For a moment a vision of rich ransoms passed through 
Nigel's brain. That noble palfrey, that gold-flecked armour, 
meant fortune to the captor. Let others have it ! There 
was work still to be done. How could he desert the prince 
and his noble master for the sake of a private gain? Could 
he lead a prisoner to the rear when honour beckoned him 
to the van ? He staggered to his feet, seised Pommers by 
the mane, and swung himself into the saddle. 

An instant later he was by Chandos's side once more 
and they were bursting together through the last ranks of 
the gallant group who had fought so bravely to the end. 
Behind them was one long swath of the dead and the 
woimded. In front the whole wide plain was covered 
with the flying French and their pursuers. 

The prince reined up his steed and opened his visor, 
while his followers crowded round him with waving 
weapons and frenried shouts of victory. 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 383 

" What now, John 1 *' cried the smiling prinoe» wiping 
hiB streaming face with his unganntleted hand ''How 
fares it then ? '* 

*' I am little hurt, fair lord, save for a crushed hand and 
a spear-prick in the shoulder. But yon, sir ? I trust you 
haye no scathe ? " 

"In truth, John, with yon at one elbow and Lord 
Audley at the other, I know not how I could come to 
harm. But alas ! I fear that Sir James is sorely stricken.'' 

The gallant Lord Audley had dropped upon the ground 
and the blood oozed from every crevice of his battered 
armour. His four brave squires— Button of Dutton, 
Delves of Doddington, Fowlhurst of Crewe, and Hawk- 
stone of Wainhill — wounded and weary themselves, but 
with no thought save for their master, imlaced his helmet 
and bathed his pallid blood-stained face. 

He looked up at the prince with burning eyes. '' I 
thank you, sir, for deigning to consider so poor a knight 
as myself," said he, in a feeble voice. 

llie prince dismounted and bent over him. ''I am 
bound to honour you very much, James," said he, " for by 
your valour this day you have won glory and renown 
above us all, and your prowess has proved you to be the 
bravest knight." 

** My Lord," murmured the wounded man, *' you have a 
right to say what you please ; but I wish it were as you say." 

''James," said the prince, '' from this time onward I 
make you a knight of my own household, and I settle 
upon you five himdred marks of yearly income from my 
own estates in England." 

" Sir," the knight answered, '' God make me worthy of 
the good fortune you bestow upon me. Your knight I 
will ever be, and the money I will divide with your leave 
amongst these four squires who have brought me whatever 
glory I have won this day." So saying his head fell 
back, and he lay white and silent upon the grass. 



384 SIR NIGEL 

'' Bring water ! " said the prince. " Let the royal leedi 
see to him ; for I had rather lose many men than the good 
Sir James. Ha, Chandos, what have we here ? " 

A knight lay across the path with his helmet beaten 
down upon his shoulders. On his sorcoat and shield 
were the arms of a red griffin. 

'' It is Sobert de Duras the spy/' said Chandos. 

''Well for him that he has met his end," said the 
angry princa ''Put him on his shield, Hubert, and lei 
fonr archers bear him to the monastery. Lay him at the 
feet of the cardinal and say that by this sign I greet ^li™ . 
Place my flag on yonder high bush, Walter, and let my 
tent be raised there, that my friends may know where to 
seek me." 

The flight and pursuit had thundered far away, and 
the field was deseited save for the numerous groups of 
weary horsemen who were making their way back, driving 
their prisoners before them. The archers were scattered 
over the whole plain, rifling the saddle-bags and gathering 
the armour of those who had fallen, or searching for their 
own scattered arrows. 

Suddenly, however, as the prince was turning toward 
the bush which he had chosen for his headquarters, there 
broke out from behind him an extraordinary uproar and a 
group of knights and squires came pouring toward him^ 
all arguing, swearing and abusing each other in French 
and English at the tops of their voices. In the midst of 
them limped a stout little man in gold-spangled armour, 
who appeared to be the object of the contention, for one 
would drag him one way and one another, as though they 
would pull him limb from limb. 

'* Nay, fair sirs, gently, gently, I pray youl" he pleaded. 
"There is enough for all, and no need to treat me so rudely." 

But ever the hubbub broke out again, and swords 
gleamed as the angry disputants glared furiously at each 
other. The prince's eyes fell upon the small prisoner, 
and he staggered back with a gasp of astonishment 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 385 

" King John ! " he cried. 

A shout of joy rose from the warriors aroand him. 
** The king of France I The king of France a prisoner ! " 
they cried in an ecstasy. 

" Nay, nay, fair sirs, let him not hear that we rejoice ! 
Let no word bring pain to his soul ! ** Sunning forward 
the prince clasped the French king by the two handa 

" Most welcome, sire I " he cried. " Indeed it is good 
for us that so gallant a knight should stay with us for 
some short time, since the chance of war has so ordered it. 
Wine there ! Bring wine for the king ! " 

But John was flushed and angry. His helmet had 
been roughly torn ofif, and blood was smeared upon his 
cheek. His noisy captors stood around him in a circle, 
eyeing him hungrily like dogs who have been beaten from 
their quarry. There were Gascons and English, knights, 
squires, and archers, all pushing and straining. 

"I pray you, fair prince, to get rid of these rude 
fellows," said King John, " for indeed they have plagued 
me sorely. By Saint Denis ! my arm has been well-nigh 
pulled from its socket" 

"What wish you then?'' asked the prince, turning 
angrily upon the noisy swarm of Ids followers. 

" We took him, fair lord. He is ours ! " cried a score 
of voices. They closed in, all yelping together like a 
pack of wolves. " It was I, fair lord ! " — " Nay, it was 
I ! " — " You lie, you rascal, it was I ! " Again their fierce 
eyes glared and their blood-stained hands sought the hilts 
of their weapons. 

*'Nay, this must be settled here and now ! ** said the 
prince. " I crave your patience, fair and honoured sir, for 
a few brief minutes, since indeed much ill-will may spring 
from this if it be not set at rest. Who is this tall knight 
who can scarce keep his hands from the king's shoulder?" 

" It is Denis de Morbecque, my lord, a knight of Saint 
Omer, who is in our service, being an ouUaw from France." 

2c 



386 SIR NIGEL 

'' I call him to mind. How, then. Sir Denis ? Wh^ 
say you in this matter ? " 

'' He gave himself to me, &ir lord. He had fallen in 
the press, and I came upon him and seized him. I told 
him that I was a knight from Artois, and he gave me his 
glove. See here, I bear it in my hand.'' 

''It is true, fair lord! It is true!" cried a dozen 
French voices. 

''Nay, sir, judge not too soon i" shouted an English 
squire, pushing his way to the front " It was I who had 
him at my mercy, and he is my prisoner, for he spoke to 
this man only because he could tell by his tongue that he 
was his own countryman. I took him, and here axe a 
score to prove it" 

"It 18 true, fair lord ! We saw it, and it was even so ! " 
cried a chorus of Englishmen. 

At all times there are growling and snapping between 
the English and their allies of France. The prince saw 
how easily this might set a light to such a flame as oould 
not readily be quenched. It must be stamped out now 
ere it had time to mount 

" Fair and honoured lord," he said to the king, "again 
I pray you for a moment of patience. It is your word 
and only yours which can teU us what is just and right 
To whom were you graciously pleased to commit your 
royal person ? " 

King John looked up from the flagon which had been 
brought to him and wiped his Ups with the dawnings of a 
smile upon his ruddy face. 

" It was not this Englishman,'' he said, and a cheer 
burst £rom the Gascons, " nor was it this bastard French- 
man," he added. " To neither of them did I surrender." 
. There was a hush of surprise. 

" To whom then, sire ? " asked the prince. 

The king looked slowly round. " There was a devil of 
a yellow horse," said he. **My poor palfrey went over 



HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 387 

like a skittle-piii before a balL Of the rider I know 
nothisg save that he bore red roses on a silver shield. 
Ah ! by Saint Denis, there is the man himself, and there 
his thrice-accursed horse ! " 

His head swimming, and moving as if in a dream, 
Nigel found himself the centre of the circle of armed and 
angry men. 

The prince laid his hand upon his shoulder. '' It is 
the little cock of Tilford Bridge,** said he. "On my 
father's soul, I have ever said that you would win your 
way. Did you receive the king's surrender ? " 

" Nay, fair lord, I did not receive it." 

" Did you hear him give it ? " 

" I heard, sir, but I did not know that it was the king. 
My master Lord Chandos had gone on, and I followed 
after." 

*'And left him lying. Then the surrender was not 
complete, and by the laws of war the ransom goes to 
Denis de Morbecque, if his story be true." 

" It is true," said the king. " He was the second." 

"Then the ransom is yours, Denis. But for my part- 
I swear by my father's soul that I had rather have the 
honour this squire has gathered than all the richest 
ransoms of France." 

At these words spoken before that circle of noble 
warriors Nigel's heart gave one great throb, and he dropped 
upon his knee before the prince. 

"Fair lord, how can I thank you?" he murmured. 
" These words at least are more than any ransom." 

" Bise up ! " said the smiling prince, and he smote with 
his sword upon his shoulder. " Englcmd has lost a brave 
squire, and has gained a gallant knight. Nay, linger not, 
I pray I Rise up. Sir Nigel." 



CHAPTER XXVII 

HOW THE THIBD MESSENGEB CAME TO COSFORD 

Two months have passed, and the long slopes of Hindhead 
are rosset with the &ded ferns — the fuzzy brown pelt 
which wraps the chilling earth. With whoop and scream 
the wild November wind sweeps over the great rolling 
downs, tossing the branches of the Cosford beeches, and 
rattUng at the rude latticed windows. The stout old 
knight of Dnpplin, grown even a little stouter, with whiter 
beard to fringe an ever redder face, sits as of yore at the 
head of his own board. A well-heaped platter, flanked by 
a foaming tankard stands before him. At his right sits 
the Lady Mary, her dark, plain, queenly face marked deep 
with those years of weary waiting, but bearing the gentle 
grace and dignity which only sonow and restraint can 
give. On his left is Mathew, the old priest Long ago 
the golden-haired beauty had passed from Cosford to 
Femhurst, where the young and beautiful Lady Edith 
Brocas is the belle of all Sussex, a sunbeam of smiles and 
merriment, save perhaps when her thoughts for an instant 
fly back to that dread night when she was plucked from 
under the very talons of the foul hawk of Shalford. 

The old knight looked up as a fresh gust of wind with 
a dash of rain beat against, the window behind him. 

''By Saint Hubert, it is a wild night," said he. ''I 
had hoped to-morrow to have a flight at a heron of the 
pool or a mallard at the brook. How fares it with little 
Katherine the peregrine, Mary ? ** 

" I have joined the wing, father, and I have imped the 
388 



THE THIRD MESSENGER 389 

featliers ; but I fear it will bo Christmas ere she can fly 
again." 

''This is a hard saying," said Sir John; Tor indeed I 
have seen no bolder better bird. Her wing was broken 
by a heron's beak last Sabbath se'nnight, holy father, and 
Mary has the mending of it" 

''I trust, my son, that yon had heard mass ere yon 
turned to worldly pleasure upon God's holy day," Father 
Mathew answered. 

'' Tut, tut I " said the old kuight, laughing. "* Shall I 
make confession at the head of my own table ? I can 
worship the good God amongst His own works, the woods 
and the fields, better than in yon pile of stone and wood. 
But I call to mind a charm for a wounded hawk which 
was taught me by the fowler of Gaston de Foiz. How 
did it run ? * The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of 
David, has con(][uered.' Yes, those were the words to be 
said three times as you walk round the perch where the 
bird is mewed." 

The old priest shook his head. " Nay, these charms 
are tricks of the devil," said he. ''Holy Church lends 
them no countenance, for they are neither good nor fair. 
But how is it now with your tapestry. Lady Mary! 
When last I was beneath this roof you had half done in 
five fair colours the story of Theseus and Ariadne." 

" It is half done still, holy father." 

" How is this, my daughter ? Have you, then, so many 
calls?" 

" Nay, holy father, her thoughts are otherwhere," Sir 
John answered. " She will sit an hour at a time, the 
needle in her hand and her soul a hundred leagues from 
Cosford House. Ever since the prince's battle '* 

" Good father, I beg you " 

" Nay, Mary, none can hear me, save your own con- 
fessor, Father Mathew. Ever since the prince's battle, I 
say, when we heard that young Nigel had won such honour, 



390 SIR NIGEL 

she is brain-wode, and sits ever— well, even as 7011 see 
her now/* 

An intent look had come into Mary's eyes ; her gase 
was fixed npon the dark rain-splashed window. It was a 
face carved from ivory, white-lipped and rigid, on which 
the old priest looked. 

" What is it, my daughter ? What do you see I " 

" I see nothing, father." 

" What is it, then, that disturbs you ? " 

« I hear, father." 

"What do you hear?" 

" There are horsemen on the road." 

The old knight laughed. "So it goes on, father. 
What day is there that a hundred horsemen do not pass 
our gate, and yet every clink of hoofs sets her poor heart 
a-trembling. So strong and steadfast she has ever been, 
my Mary, and now no sound too slight to shake her to 
the soul ! Nay, daughter, nay, I pray you ! " 

She had half-risen from her chair, her hands clinched 
and her dark, startled eyes still fixed upon the 
window. t 

''I hear them, father! I hear them amid the wind 
and the rain! Yes, yes, they are turning— they have 
turned ! My God, they are at our very door !" 

"By Saint Hubert, the girl is right!" cried old Sir 
John, beating his fist upon the board. " Ho, varlets, out 
with you to the yard ! Set the muUed wine on the blase 
once morel There are travellers at the gate, and it is no 
night to keep a dog waiting at our iooir. Hurry. 
Hannekin! Hurry, I say, or I will haste you with my 
cudgel!" 

Plainly to the ears of all men could be heard the 
stamping of the horses. Mary had stood up, quivering ia 
every limb. An eager step at the threshold, the door was 
flung wide, and there in the opening stood Nigel, the rain 
gleaming upon his smiling face, his cheeks flushed witii 



Trft: THIRD MESSENGER 391 

the beating of the wind, his blue ejes shining with tender- 
ness and love. Something held her bj the throat, the 
light of the torches danced up and down ; but her strong 
spirit rose at the thought that others should see that inner 
holy of holies of her souL Theie is a heroism of women 
to which no valour of man can attain. Her eyes only 
carried him her message as she held out her hand« 
" Welcome, Nigel I " said she. 
He stooped and kissed it. 
'' Saint Catharine has brought me home," said he. 
A merry supper it was at Cosford Manor that night, 
with N%el at the head between the jovial old knight and 
the Lady Mary, while at the farther end Samkin Aylward 
wedged between two servant maids kept his neighbours in 
alternate laughter and terror as he told his tales of the 
French Wars. Nigel had to turn his doeskin heels and 
show his little golden spurs. As he spoke of what was 
passed Sir John clapped him on the shoulder^ while Mary 
took his strong right hand iu hers, and the good old priest, 
smiling, blessed them both. Nigel had drawn a little 
golden ring from his pocket, and it twiukled in the 
torchli^t. 

•' Did you say that you must go on your way, to-moirow, 
father ? " he asked the priest. 

" Indeed, fair son, the matter pressea" 
" But you may bide the morning ? " 
'' It will suffice if I start at noon." 
"Much may be done in a morning." He looked at 
Mary, who blushed and smiled. " By Saint Paul ! I have 
waited long enougL" 

" Good, good ! " chuckled the old knight, with wheezy 
laughter. " Even so I wooed your mother, Mary. Wooers 
were brisk in the olden time. To-morrow is Tuesday, and 
Tuesday is ever a lucky day. Alas ! that the good Dame 
Ermyntrude is no longer with us to see it done 1 The old 
houitd must run us down« Nigel, and I hear its bay upon 



392 SIR NIGEL 

my own heels ; but my heart will rejoice that before the 
end I may call yon 8on« Give me yonr hand, Maiy, and 
yonrs, Nigel. Now, take an dd man's blessing; and may 
God keep and guard you both, and give you your desot^ 
f(ir I believe on my soul that in all this broad land there 
dwells no nobler man nor any woman more fitted to be 
his mata^ 

Thexe let us leave them, their hearts fiiU of gentle 
joy, the golden future of hope and promise stretching out 
b^ore their youthful eyes. Alas for those green sping 
dreamings! How often do they &de and wither until 
they fall and rot, a dreary sight, by the wayside of life I 
But here, by God's blessing, it was not so, for they 
buigeoned and they grew, ever fairer and more noble, 
until the whole wide world might marvel at the beauty 
of it. 

It has been told elsewhere how as the years passed 
Nigel's name rose higher in honour; but still Mary's 
would keep pace with it, each helping and sustaining 
the other upon an ever higher path. In many lands did 
Nigel carve his fame, and ever as he returned spent and 
weary firom liis work he drank fresh strength and fire and 
craving for honour from her who glorified his home. At 
Twynham Castle they dwelled for many years, beloved 
and honoured by all. Then in the fulness of time ihey 
came back to the lilford Manor-house and spent their 
happy, healthy age amid those heather downs where Nigel 
had passed his first lusty youth, ere ever he turned his 
face to the wars. Thither also came Aylward when he 
had left the Pied Merlin where for many a year he 
sold ale to the men of the forest. 

But the years pass ; the old wheel turns and ever the 
thread runs out The wise and the good, the noble and the 
brave, they come fh)m the darkness, and into the darkness 
they gOy whence, whither, and why« who may say ? Here 



THE THIRD MESSENGER 393 

is the slope of Hindhead. The fern still glows rasset in 
November, the heather still bums red in July ; but where 
now is the Manor of Cosford 7 Where is the old house 
of Tilfoid? Where, but for a few scattered grey stones, 
is the mighty pile of Waverley ? And yet even gnawing 
Time has not eaten all things away. Walk with me 
toward Guildford, reader, upon the busy highway. Here, 
where the high green mound rises before us, mark yonder 
roofless shrine which still stands four-square to the winds. 
It is St. Catharine's, where Nigel and Maiy plighted their 
faith. Below lies the winding river, and over yonder you 
still see the dark Chantry woods which mount up to the 
bare summit, on which, roofed and whole, stands that 
Chapel of the Martyr where the comrades boat off the 
archers of the crooked Lord of Shalford. Down yonder 
on the flanks of the long chalk hills one traces the road 
by which they made their journey to the wars. And now 
turn hither to the north, down this sunken winding path ! 
It is all imchanged since NigeVs day. Here is the Church 
of Compton. Pass under the aged and crumbling arch. 
Before the steps of that ancient altar, unrecorded and 
unbrassed, lies the dust of Nigel and of Maiy. Near 
them is that of Maude their daughter, and of Alleyne 
Edricson, whose spouse she was; their children and 
children's children are lying by their side. Here too, 
near the old yew in the churchyard, is the little mound 
which marks where Samkin Aylward went back to that 
good soil from which he sprang. 

So lie the dead leaves ; but they and such as they 
nourish for ever that great old trunk of England, which 
still sheds forth another crop and another, each as strong 
and as fair as the last The body may lie in mouldering 
chancel, or in crumbling vault, but the rumour of noble 
lives, the record of valour and truth, can never die, but 
lives on in the soul of the people. Our own work lies 
ready to our hands; and yet our strength may be the 



394 SIR NIGEL 

greater and our faith the firmer if we spare an hour itooi 
present toils to look back upon the women who were 
gentle and strong, or the men who loved honour more 
than life on this gieen stage of England where for a few 
short years we play our little part. 



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