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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 20659

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The morning of departure arrived. The men-at-arms were drawn up in the court like so many statues of steel; Leonard Ashton sat on horseback, his eyes fixed on the door; Gaston d'Aubricour, wrapped in his gay mantle, stood caressing his Arab steed Brigliador, and telling him they should soon exchange the chilly fogs of England for the bright sun of Gascony; Ralph Penrose held his master's horse, and a black powerful charger was prepared for Eustace, but still the brothers tarried.

"My Eleanor, this should not be!" said Reginald as his wife clung to him weeping. "Keep a good heart. 'Tis not for long. Take heed of your dealings with cousin Fulk. She knows not what I say. Father Cyril, keep guard over her and my boy, in case I should meet with any mishap."

"I will, assuredly, my son," said the Chaplain, "but it is little that a poor Priest like me can do. I would that grant to the Clarenhams were repealed."

"That were soon done," said Reginald, "but it is no time for a loyal vassal to complain of grievances when his liege lord has summoned him to the field. That were to make the King's need be his law. No! no! Watch over her, good father, she is weak and tender. Look up, sweet heart, give me one cheerful wish to speed me on my journey. No? She has swooned. Eleanor! my wife-"

"Begone, begone, my son," said Father Cyril, "it will be the better for her."

"It may be," said Reginald, "yet to leave her thus- Here, nurse, support her, tend her well. Give her my tenderest greetings. Arthur, be duteous to her; talk to her of our return; farewell, my boy, and blessings on you. Eustace, mount."

Sir Reginald, sighing heavily, swung himself into the saddle; Eustace waited a moment longer. "Good Father, this was to have been in poor Eleanor's charge. It is the token, you know for whom."

"It shall reach her, my son."

"You will send me a letter whenever you can?"

"Truly, I will; and I would have you read and write, especially in Latin, when you have the chance-good gifts should not be buried. Bethink you, too, that you will not have the same excuse for sin as the rude ignorant men you will meet."

"Eustace!" hastily called Reginald, and with a hurried farewell to all around, the young Squire sprang on horseback, and the troop rode across the drawbridge. They halted on the mound beyond; Sir Reginald shook his pennon, till the long white swallow tails streamed on the wind, then placed it in the hands of Eustace, and saying, "On, Lances of Lynwood! In the name of God, St. George, and King Edward, do your devoir;" he spurred his horse forward, as if only desirous to be out of sight of his own turrets, and forget the parting, the pain of which still heaved his breast and dimmed his eye.

A few days brought the troop to Southampton, where John of Gaunt was collecting his armament, and with it they embarked, crossed to St. Malo, and thence proceeded to Bordeaux, but there found that the Prince of Wales had already set forth, and was waiting for his brother at Dax.

Advancing immediately, at the end of three days they came in sight of the forces encamped around that town. Glorious was the scene before them, the green plain covered in every direction with white tents, surmounted with the banners or pennons of their masters, the broad red Cross of St. George waving proudly in the midst, and beside it the royal Lions and Castles of the two Spanish monarchies. To the south, the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees began to gleam white like clouds against the sky, and the gray sea-line to the west closed the horizon. Eustace drew his rein, and gazed in silent admiration, and Gaston, riding by his side, pointed out the several bearings and devices which, to the warrior of that day, spoke as plainly (often more so) as written words. "See yonder, the tent of my brave countryman, the Captal de Buch, close to that of the Prince, as is ever his wont. No doubt he is willing to wipe away the memory of his capture at Auray. There, to the left, gules and argent, per pale, is the pennon of the stout old Englishman, Chandos. Ha! I see the old Free Companions are here with Sir Hugh Calverly! Why, 'twas but the other day they were starting to set this very Don Enrique on the throne as blithely as they now go to drive him from his."

While Gaston spoke, the sound of horses' feet approached rapidly from another quarter, and a small party came in sight, the foremost of whom checked his bridle, as, at Reginald's signal, his Lances halted and drew respectfully aside. He was a man about thirty-six years of age, and looking even younger, from the remarkable fairness and delicacy of his complexion. The perfect regularity of his noble features, together with the commanding, yet gentle expression of his clear light blue eyes, would, even without the white ostrich feather in his black velvet cap, have enabled Eustace to recognize in him the flower of chivalry, Edward, Prince of Wales.

"Welcome, my trusty Reginald!" exclaimed he. "I knew that the Lances of Lynwood would not be absent where knightly work is to be done. Is my brother John arrived?"

"Yes, my Lord," replied Reginald; "I parted from him but now as he rode to the castle, while I came to seek where to bestow my knaves."

"I know you of old for a prudent man," said the Prince, smiling; "the Provost Marshal hath no acquaintance with that gallant little band. Methinks I see there a fair face like enough to yours to belong to another loyal Lynwood."

"I could wish it were a little browner and more manly, my Lord," said Reginald. "It is my brother Eustace, who has been suffered (I take shame to myself for it) to tarry at home as my Lady's page, till he looks as white as my Lady herself."

"We will soon find a cure for that in the sun of Castile," said Edward. "You are well provided with Squires. The men of Somerset know where good training is to be found for their sons."

"This, my Lord, is the son of Sir Philip Ashton, a loyal Knight of our country."

"He is welcome," said the Prince. "We have work for all. Let me see you this evening at supper in my tent."

"Well, Eustace, what sayest thou?" said Gaston, as the Prince rode on.

"A Prince to dream of, a Prince for whom to give a thousand lives!" said Eustace.

"And that was the Prince of Wales!" said Leonard. "Why, he spoke just like any other man."

The two tents of the Lances of Lynwood having been erected, and all arrangements made, the Knights and Squires set out for the Prince's pavilion, the white curtains of which were conspicuous in the centre of the camp. Within, it was completely lined with silk, embroidered with the various devices of the Prince: the lions of England-the lilies of France-the Bohemian ostrich-plume, with its humble motto, the white rose, not yet an emblem of discord-the blue garter and the red cross, all in gorgeous combination-a fitting background, as it were, on which to display the chivalrous groups seen in relief against it.

At the upper end was placed a long table for the Prince and his guests, and here Sir Reginald took his seat, with many a hearty welcome from his friends and companions in arms, while Gaston led his comrades to the lower end, where Squires and pages were waiting for the provisions brought in by the servants, which they were to carry to their Knights. Gaston was soon engaged in conversation with his acquaintance, to some of whom he introduced Eustace and Leonard, but the former found far more interesting occupation in gazing on the company seated at the upper table.

The Black Prince himself occupied the centre, his brother John at his left hand, and at his right, a person whom both this post of honour and the blazonry of his surcoat marked out as the dethroned King of Castile. Pedro the Cruel had not, however, the forbidding countenance which imagination would ascribe to him; his features were of the fair and noble type of the old royal Gothic race of Spain; he had a profusion of flaxen hair, and large blue eyes, rather too prominent, and but for his receding forehead, and the expression of his lips, he would have been a handsome man of princely mien. Something, too, there was of fear, something of a scowl; he seemed to shrink from the open and manly demeanour of Edward, and to turn with greater ease to converse with John, who, less lofty in character than his brother, better suited his nature.

There, too, Eustace beheld the stalwart form and rugged features of Sir John Chandos; the slender figure and dark sparkling southern face of the Captal de Buch; the rough joyous boon-companion visage of Sir Hugh Calverly, the free-booting warrior; the youthful form of the young step-son of the Prince, Lord Thomas Holland; the rude features of the Breton Knight, Sir Oliver de Clisson, soon to be the bitterest foe of the standard beneath which he was now fighting. Many were there whose renown had charmed the ears of the young Squire of Lynwood Keep, and he looked on the scene with the eagerness with which he would have watched some favourite romance suddenly done into life and action.

"Eustace! What, Eustace, in a trance?" said d'Aubricour. "Waken, and carry this trencher of beef to your brother. Best that you should do it," he added in a low voice, taking up a flask of wine, "and save our comrade from at once making himself a laughing-stock."

The discontented glance with which Leonard's eyes followed his fellow Squires, did not pass unobserved by a person with whom d'Aubricour had exchanged a few words, a squarely-made, dark-visaged man, with a thick black beard, and a huge scar which had obliterated one eye; his equipment was that of a Squire, but instead of, like others of the same degree, attending on the guests at the upper table, he sat carelessly sideways on the bench, with one elbow on the board.

"You gaze after that trencher as if you wished your turn was come," said he, in a patois of English and French, which Leonard could easily understand, although he had always turned a deaf ear to Gaston's attempts to instruct him in the latter language. However, a grunt was his only reply.

"Or," pursued the Squire, "have you any fancy for carrying it yourself? I, for my part, think we are well quit of the trouble."

"Why, ay," said Leonard, "but I trow I have as much right to

serve at the Prince's table as dainty Master Eustace. My father had never put me under Sir Reginald's charge, had he deemed I should be kept here among the serving-men."

"Sir Reginald? Which Sir Reginald has the honour of your service?" asked the Squire, to whom Leonard's broad Somersetshire dialect seemed to present few difficulties.

"Sir Reginald Lynwood, he with the curled brown locks, next to that stern-looking old fellow with the gray hair."

"Ay, I know him of old. Him whom the Duke of Lancaster is pledging-a proud, strict Englishman-as rigid a service as any in the camp."

"I should think so!" said Leonard. "Up in the morn hours before the sun, to mass like a choir of novices, to clean our own arms and the Knight's, like so many horse-boys, and if there be but a speck of rust, or a sword-belt half a finger's length awry-"

"Ay, ay, I once had a fortnight's service with a Knight of that stamp, but a fortnight was enough for me, I promise you. And yet Gaston le Maure chooses to stay with him rather than lead a merry life with Sir Perduccas d'Albret, with all to gain, and nought to lose! A different life from the days he and I spent together of old."

"Gaston d'Aubricour is as sharp as the Knight himself," said Leonard, "and gibes me without ceasing; but yet I could bear it all, were it not for seeing Eustace, the clerk, preferred to me, as if I were not heir to more acres than he can ever count crowns."

"What may then be your name, fair youth, and your inheritance?" demanded the one-eyed Squire, "for your coat of arms is new in the camp."

"My name is Leonard Ashton; my father-" but Leonard's speech was cut short by a Squire who stumbled over his outstretched foot. Both parties burst into angry exclamations, Leonard's new acquaintance taking his part. Men looked up, and serious consequences might have ensued, had not Gaston hastened to the spot. "Shame on you, young malapert," said he to his hopeful pupil. "Cannot I leave you one moment unwatched, but you must be brawling in the Prince's own presence? Here, bear this bread to Sir Reginald instantly, and leave me to make your peace. Master Clifford," added he, as Leonard shuffled away, "'tis an uncouth slip whom Sir Reginald Lynwood has undertaken to mould into form, and if he is visited as he deserves for each piece of discourtesy, his life will not be long enough for amendment, so I must e'en beg you to take my apology."

"Most readily, Master d'Aubricour," replied Clifford; "there would not have been the least offence had the youth only possessed a civil tongue."

"Is not he the son of one of your wealthy Englishmen?" asked the one-eyed Squire, carelessly.

"Ha! Why should you think so?" said Gaston, turning sharply; "because he shows so much good nurture?"

"Because his brains are grown fat with devouring his father's beeves, fare on which you seem to thrive, le Maure," said the one-eyed, "though you were not wont to like English beef and English discipline better than Gascon wine and Gascon freedom. I begin to think that the cub of the Black Wolf of the Pyrenees is settling down into a tame English house-dog."

"He has teeth and claws at your service," replied Gaston.

"Ay?" said the Squire interrogatively; then, changing his tone, "But tell me honestly, Gaston, repent you not of having taken service with gallant Sir Perduccas?"

"Why, you have left him yourself."

"Yes, because we had sharp words on the spoil of a Navarrese village. My present leader, Sir William Felton, is as free and easy as d'Albret, or Aymerigot Marcel himself. And is not yon ungainly varlet the hope of some rich English house?"

"I must see their hopes meet with no downfall," said Gaston, walking away, and muttering to himself. "A plague upon it! To train two boys is more than I bargained for, and over and above to hinder this wiseacre Ashton from ruining himself, or being ruined by le Borgne Basque! What brought him here? I thought he was safe in Castile with the Free Companions. I would let the oaf take his course, for a wilful wrong-headed fool, but that it would scarce be doing good service to Sir Reginald."

The Knights had nearly finished their meal, and the Squires having served them with wine, returned to their own table, now freshly supplied with meat, which the yeomen in their turn carved for them. Gaston kept Leonard under his own eye till the party broke up.

On the way to the tent, he began to take him to task. "A proper commencement! Did you take the Prince's pavilion for one of your own island hostels, where men may freely brawl and use their fists without fear of aught save the parish constable?"

"What business had he to tread on my foot?" growled Leonard.

"What business had your foot there? Was not your office, as I told you, to stand ready to hand me whatever I might call for?"

"I was speaking a few words to another gentleman."

"The fewer words you speak to le Borgne Basque the better, unless you think it is Sir Reginald's pleasure that you should be instructed in all the dicing and drinking in this camp, and unless you wish that the crowns with which your father stored your pouch should jingle in his pockets. It is well for you the Knight marked you not."

"You held long enough parley with him yourself," said the refractory pupil.

"Look you, Master Leonard Ashton, I do not presume to offer myself as an example to you save, perhaps, in the matter of sitting a steed, or handing a wine-cup. I have no purse to lose, and I have wit to keep it if I had, or at least," as a recollection crossed him, "if I lost it, it should be to please myself, and not le Borgne Basque; above all, my name and fame are made, and yours-"

"What would you say of mine?" said Leonard, with sulky indignation. "The heir of Ashton is not to be evened to a wandering landless foreigner."

"It is not in sight of these mountain peaks," said Gaston, contemptuously, "that I am to be called a foreigner; and as to being landless, if I chose to take my stand on the old tower of Albricorte, and call myself Lord of the whole hill-side, I should like to see who would gainsay me. For name, I suspect you will find that many a man has trembled at the sound of Beranger d'Albricorte, to whom Ashton would be but that of an English clown. Moreover, in this camp I would have you to know that the question is, not who has the broadest lands, but who has the strongest arm. And, sir Squire, if you are not above listening to a piece of friendly counsel, to brag of those acres of yours is the surest way to attract spoilers. I had rather a dozen time trust Eustace in such company than you, not only because he has more wit, but because he has less coin."

"Who is this man? What is his name?" asked Eustace.

"Le Borgne Basque, I know no other," said Gaston. "We reck little of names here, especially when it may be convenient to have them forgotten. He is a Free Companion, a routier, brave enough, but more ready at the sack than the assault, and loving best to plunder, waste, and plunder again, or else to fleece such sheep as our friend here."

"How could such a man gain entrance to the Prince's pavilion?"

"Stout hearts and strong arms find entrance in most places," said Gaston; "but, as you saw, he durst not appear at the upper table."

The next morning the army began their march to the Pyrenees. They halted for some days at the foot of the hills, whilst negotiations were passing between the Black Prince and Charles the Bad, King of Navarre, who might easily have prevented their entrance into the Peninsula by refusing a passage through his mountain fastnesses.

When the permission was granted, they advanced with considerable danger and difficulty. The rugged paths were covered with snow and ice, which made them doubly perilous for the horses, and but for Gaston's familiarity with his native hills, Sir Reginald declared that he could never have brought his little troop across them in safety.

At length they emerged through the celebrated Pass of Roncesvalles, where Eustace in imagination listened to the echoes of the dying blast of Roland. On the following evening he had the delight of reading his history in the veritable pages of Archbishop Turpin, which precious work he found in the possession of Brother Waleran, a lay-friar, in the employment of Sir John Froissart the chronicler, who had sent him with the army as a reporter of the events of the campaign. This new acquaintance gave very little satisfaction to Sir Reginald, who was almost ready to despair of Eustace's courage and manhood when he found he had "gone back to his books," and manifested, if not so much serious displeasure, yet even more annoyance, on this occasion, than when, shortly after, he found that Leonard Ashton spent every moment at his own disposal in the company of le Borgne Basque. That worthy, meeting the young gentleman, had easily persuaded him that Gaston's cautions only proceeded from fears of stories that might with too much truth be told against himself, and by skilful flatteries of the young Englishman's self-importance, and sympathy with his impatience of the strict rule of the Knight of Lynwood, succeeded in establishing over him great influence.

So fared it with the two young Squires, whilst the army began to enter the dominions of the King of Castile. Here a want of provisions was severely felt, for such was the hatred borne to Pedro the Cruel, that every inhabitant of the country fled at his approach, carrying off, or destroying, all that could be used as food. It was the intention of Bertrand du Guesclin, the ally of Enrique of Trastamare, to remain quietly in his camp of Navaretta, and allow hunger to do its work with the invading force, but this prudent plan was prevented by the folly of Don Tello, brother of Enrique, who, accusing Bertrand of cowardice, so stung his fiery spirit that he resolved on instant combat, though knowing how little dependence could be placed on his Spanish allies.

The challenge of the Prince of Wales was therefore accepted; and never were tidings more welcome than these to the half-famished army, encamped upon the banks of the Ebro, on the same ground on which, in after years, English valour was once more to turn to flight a usurping King of Spain.

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