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   Chapter 4 No.4

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 20663

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The moon was at her height, and shone full into the half-opened tent of Sir Reginald Lynwood. At the further end, quite in darkness, the Knight, bare-headed, and rosary in hand, knelt before the dark-robed figure of a confessor, while at a short distance lay, on a couch of deer-skins, the sleeping Leonard Ashton. Before the looped-up curtain that formed the door was Gaston d'Aubricour, on one knee, close to a huge torch of pine-wood fixed in the earth, examining by its flaring smoky light into the state of his master's armour, proving every joint with a small hammer. Near him, Eustace, with the help of John Ingram, the stalwart yeoman, was fastening his charge, the pennon, to a mighty lance of the toughest ash-wood, and often looking forth on the white tents on which the moonbeams shed their pale, tranquil light. There was much to impress a mind like his, in the scene before him: the unearthly moonlight, the few glimmering stars, the sky-whose southern clearness and brightness were, to his unaccustomed eye, doubly wonderful-the constant though subdued sounds in the camp, the murmur of the river, and, far away in the dark expanse of night, the sparkling of a multitude of lights, which marked the encampment of the enemy. There was a strange calm awe upon his spirit. He spoke in a low voice, and Gaston's careless light-hearted tones fell on his ear as something uncongenial; but his eye glanced brightly, his step was free and bold, as he felt that this was the day that must silence every irritating doubt of his possessing a warrior-spirit.

The first red streak of dawn was beginning to glow in the eastern sky, when the note of a bugle rang out from the Prince's tent and was responded to by hundreds of other horns. That instant the quiet slumbering camp awoke, the space in front of every tent was filled with busy men, arming themselves, or saddling their horses. Gaston and Eustace, already fully equipped, assisted Sir Reginald to arm; Leonard was roused, and began to fasten on his armour; the men-at-arms came forth from their tent, and the horses were saddled and bridled; "And now," called Sir Reginald, "bring our last loaf, John Ingram. Keep none back. By this day's eve we shall have abundance, or else no further need."

The hard dry barley-bread was shared in scanty, but equal measure, and scarcely had it been devoured, before a second bugle blast, pealing through the camp, caused each mail-clad warrior to close his visor, and spring into the open plain, where, according to previous orders, they arrayed themselves in two divisions, the first commanded by the Duke of Lancaster and Sir John Chandos, the second by Prince Edward and Don Pedro.

After a pause, employed in marshalling the different bands, the host advanced at an even pace, the rising sun glancing on their armour, and revealing the multitude of waving crests, and streamers fluttering from the points of the lances, like the wings of gorgeous insects. Presently a wall of glittering armour was seen advancing to meet them, with the same brilliant display. It might have seemed some mighty tournament that was there arrayed, as the two armies stood confronting each other, rather than a stern battle for the possession of a kingdom; and well might old Froissart declare, "It was a pleasure to see such hosts."

But it would be presumptuous to attempt to embellish a tale after Froissart has once touched it. To him, then, I leave it to tell how the rank of banneret was conferred on the gallant old Chandos, how the Prince prayed aloud for a blessing on his arms, how he gave the signal for the advance, and how the boaster, Tello, fled in the first encounter. The Lances of Lynwood, in the division of the Duke of Lancaster, well and gallantly did their part in the hard struggle with the brave band of French, whose resistance was not overcome till the Black Prince himself brought his reserved troops to the aid of his brother.

With the loss of only one man-at-arms, the Lances of Lynwood had taken several prisoners. It was high noon, and the field was well-nigh cleared of the enemy, when Sir Reginald drew his rein at the top of a steep bank clothed with brushwood, sloping towards the stream of the Zadorra, threw up his visor, wiped his heated brow, and, patting his horse's neck, turned to his brother, saying, "You have seen sharp work in this your first battle-day, Eustace."

"It is a glorious day!" said Eustace. "See how they hurry to the water." And he pointed over the low shrubs to a level space on the bank of the river, where several fugitives, on foot and horseback, were crowding together, and pressing hastily forward.

"Ha!" cried Sir Reginald, "the golden circlet! Henry of Trastamare himself!" and at the same instant he sprang to the ground. "You," said he, "speed round the bushes, meet me at the ford they are making for." This was directed to Gaston, and ere the last words were spoken, both Sir Reginald and Eustace were already beginning to hurry down the bank. Gaston rose to his full height in his stirrups, and, looking over the wood, exclaimed, "The Eagle crest! I must be there. On, Ashton-Ingram, this way-speed, speed, speed!" and with these words threw himself from his horse, and dashed after the two brothers, as they went crashing, in their heavy armour, downwards through the boughs. In less than a minute they were on the level ground, and Sir Reginald rushed forward to intercept Don Enrique, who was almost close to the river. "Yield, yield, Sir King!" he shouted; but at the same moment another Knight on foot threw himself between, raising a huge battle-axe, and crying, "Away, away, Sir; leave me to deal with him!" Enrique turned, entered the river, and safely swam his horse to the other side, whilst his champion was engaged in desperate conflict.

The Knight of Lynwood caught the first blow on his shield, and returned it, but without the slightest effect on his antagonist, who, though short in stature, and clumsily made, seemed to possess gigantic strength. A few moments more, and Reginald had fallen at full length on the grass, while his enemy was pressing on, to secure him as a prisoner, or to seize the pennon which Eustace held. The two Squires stood with lifted swords before their fallen master, but it cost only another of those irresistible strokes to stretch Gaston beside Sir Reginald, and Eustace was left alone to maintain the struggle. A few moments more, and the Lances would come up-but how impossible to hold out! The first blow cleft his shield in two, and though it did not pierce his armour, the shock brought him to his knee, and without the support of the staff of the pennon he would have been on the ground. Still, however, he kept up his defence, using sometimes his sword, and sometimes the staff, to parry the strokes of his assailant; but the strife was too unequal, and faint with violent exertion, as well as dizzied by a stroke which the temper of his helmet had resisted, he felt that all would be over with him in another second, when his sinking energies were revived by the cry of "St. George," close at hand. His enemy relaxing his attack, he sprang to his feet, and that instant found himself enclosed, almost swept away, by a crowd of combatants of inferior degree, as well as his own comrades as Free Lances, all of whose weapons were turned upon his opponent. A sword was lifted over the enemy's head from behind, and would the next moment have descended, but that Eustace sprang up, dashed it aside, cried "Shame!" and grasping the arm of the threatened Knight, exclaimed, "Yield, yield! it is your only hope!"

"Yield? and to thee?" said the Knight; "yet it is well meant. The sword of Arthur himself would be of no avail. Tiphaine was right! It is the fated day. Thou art of gentle birth? I yield me then, rescue or no rescue, the rather that I see thou art a gallant youth. Hark you, fellows, I am a prisoner, so get off with you. Your name, bold youth?"

"Eustace Lynwood, brother to this Knight," said Eustace, raising his visor, and panting for breath.

"You need but a few years to nerve your arm. But rest a while, you are almost spent," said the prisoner, in a kind tone of patronage, as he looked at the youthful face of his captor, which in a second had varied from deep crimson to deadly paleness.

"My brother! my brother!" was all Eustace's answer, as he threw himself on the grass beside Gaston, who, though bleeding fast, had raised his master's head, and freed him from his helmet; but his eyes were still closed, and the wound ghastly, for such had been the force of the blow, that the shoulder was well-nigh severed from the collarbone. "Reginald! O brother, look up!" cried Eustace. "O Gaston, does he live?"

"I have crossed swords with him before," said the prisoner. "I grieve for the mishap." Then, as the soldiers crowded round, he waved them off with a gesture of command, which they instinctively obeyed. "Back, clowns, give him air. And here-one of you-bring some water from the river. There, he shows signs of life."

As he spoke, the clattering of horses' feet was heard-all made way, and there rode along the bank of the river a band of Spaniards, headed by Pedro himself, his sword, from hilt to point, streaming with blood, and his countenance ferocious as that of a tiger. "Where is he?" was his cry; "where is the traitor Enrique? I will send him to join the rest of the brood. Where has he hidden himself?"

The prisoner, who had been assisting to life the wounded man out of the path of the trampling horses, turned round, and replied, with marked emphasis, "King Henry of Castile is, thanks to our Lady, safe on the other side of the Zadorra, to recover his throne another day."

"Du Guesclin himself! Ah, dog!" cried Pedro, his eyes glaring with the malignity of a demon, and raising his bloody weapon to hew down Bertrand du Guesclin, for no other was the prisoner, who stood with folded arms, his dark eyes fixed in calm scorn on the King's face, and his sword and axe lying at his feet.

Eustace was instantly at his side, calling out, "My Lord King, he is my prisoner!"

"Thine!" said Pedro, with an incredulous look. "Leave him to my vengeance, and thou shalt have gold-half my treasury-all thy utmost wishes can reach-"

"I give him up to no

ne but my Lord the Prince of Wales," returned the young Squire, undauntedly.

"Fool and caitiff! out of my path! or learn what it is to oppose the wrath of Kings!" cried Pedro.

Eustace grasped his sword. "Sir King, you must win your way to him through my body."

At this moment one of the attendants whispered, "El Principe, Senor Rey," and, in a few seconds more, the Black Prince, with a few followers, rode towards the spot.

Hastily dismounting, Pedro threw himself on his knees to thank him for the victory; but Edward, leaping from his horse, raised him, saying, "It is not to me, but to the Giver of victories, that you should return thanks;" and Eustace almost shuddered to see him embrace the blood-thirsty monster, who, still intent on his prey, began the next moment, "Here, Senor Prince, is the chief enemy-here is the disturber of kingdoms-Du Guesclin himself-and there stands a traitorous boy of your country, who resolutely refuses to yield him to my just vengeance."

As Pedro spoke, the Prince exchanged with Sir Bertrand the courteous salutation of honourable enemies, and then said, in a quiet, grave tone, "It is not our English custom to take vengeance on prisoners of war."

"My Lord," said Eustace, stepping forward, as the Prince looked towards him, "I deliver the prisoner into your princely hands."

"You have our best thanks, Sir Squire," said the Prince. "You are the young Lynwood, if I remember right. Where is your brother?"

"Alas! my Lord, here he lies, sorely hurt," said Eustace, only anxious to be rid of prisoner and Prince, and to return to Reginald, who by this time had, by the care of Gaston, been recalled to consciousness.

"Is it so? I grieve to hear it!" said Edward, with a face of deep concern, advancing to the wounded Knight, bending over him, and taking his hand, "How fares it with you, my brave Reginald?"

"Poorly enough, my Lord," said the Knight, faintly; "I would I could have taken King Henry-"

"Lament not for that," said the Prince, "but receive my thanks for the prize of scarcely less worth, which I owe to your arms."

"What mean you, my Lord? Not Sir Bertrand du Guesclin; I got nothing from him but my death-blow."

"How is this then?" said Edward; "it was from your young brother that I received him."

"Speak, Eustace!" said Sir Reginald, eagerly, and half raising himself; "Sir Bertrand your prisoner? Fairly and honourably? Is it possible?"

"Fairly and honourably, to that I testify," said Du Guesclin. "He knelt before you, and defended your pennon longer than I ever thought to see one of his years resist that curtal-axe of mine. The routier villains burst on us, and were closing upon me, when he turned back the weapon that was over my head, and summoned me to yield, which I did the more willingly that so gallant a youth should have such honour as may be acquired by my capture."

"He has it, noble Bertrand," said Edward. "Kneel down, young Squire. Thy name is Eustace? In the name of God, St. Michael, and St. George, I dub thee Knight. Be faithful, brave and fortunate, as on this day. Arise, Sir Eustace Lynwood."

"Thanks, thanks, my gracious Prince," said Reginald, a light glancing in his fading eyes. "I should die content to see my brother's spurs so well earned."

"Die! Say not so, my faithful Reginald. Speed, Denis, and send hither our own leech! I trust you will live to see your son win his spurs as gallantly!"

"No, my good Lord, I am past the power of leech or surgeon; I feel that this is my death-wound. I am glad it was in your cause. All I desire is your protection for my wife-my boy-my brother-"

"Your brother has earned it already," said Edward. "Your child shall be as my own. But, oh! can nought be done? Hasten the surgeon hither! Cheer thee, Reginald!-look up! O! would that Du Guesclin were free, the battle unfought, so that thou wert but safe, mine own dear brother-in-arms!"

"Where is the Prince?" called a voice from behind. "My Lord, my Lord, if you come not speedily, there will be foul slaughter made among the prisoners by your Spanish butcher-King I would say."

"I come, I come, Chandos," answered Edward. "Fare thee well, my brave Reginald; and you, my new-made Knight, send tidings to my tent how it is with him."

He pressed Reginald's hand, and sighing deeply, mounted his horse, and rode off with Sir John Chandos, leaving the wounded Knight to the care of his own followers.

The stream of blood was flowing fast, life was ebbing away, and Sir Reginald's breath was failing, as Eustace, relieving Gaston from his weight, laid his head on his breast, and laved his brow with water from the river. "You have done gallantly, my brave brother; I did wrong to doubt your spirit. Thanks be to God that I can die in peace, sure that Arthur has in you a true and loving guardian. You are young, Eustace, but my trust in you is firm. You will train him in all Christian and godly ways-"

"It shall be the most sacred charge of my life," said Eustace, scarcely able to speak.

"I know it," said Reginald, and making an effort to raise his voice, he continued, "Bear witness, all of you, that I leave my son in the wardship of the King, and of my brother, Sir Eustace Lynwood. And," added he, earnestly, "beware of Fulk Clarenham. Commend me to my sweet Eleanor; tell her she is the last, as the first in my thoughts." Then, after a pause, "Is Gaston here?"

"Yes, Sir Reginald," said Gaston, leaning over him, and pressing the hand which he feebly raised.

"Gaston, farewell, and thanks to you for your true and loving service. Eustace will find wherewith to recompense you in some sort, in my chest at Bordeaux, and my brave Lances likewise. And, Gaston, go not back to the courses and comrades whence I took you. On the word of a dying man, it will be better for you when you are in this case. Leonard, strive to be a true and brave man, though I may not fulfil your father's trust. Eustace-my eyes grow dim-is this you supporting my head-are these your tears? Weep not for me, brother. Save for my poor Eleanor, I would not have it otherwise. Mercy is sure! Hold up the blessed rood-the sign of grace-you are half a clerk, repeat me some holy psalm or prayer."

Eustace raised the cross hilt of his sword, and with a broken voice, commenced the Miserere. Sir Reginald at first followed it with his lips, but soon they ceased to move, his head sank back, his hand fell powerless, and with one long gasping breath his faithful and noble spirit departed. For several moments Eustace silently continued to hold the lifeless form in his arms, then raising the face, he imprinted an earnest kiss on the pale lips, laid the head reverently on the ground, hung over it for a short space, and at last, with an effort, passed his hand over his face, and turned away.

His first look was towards d'Aubricour, who sat resting his head on his hand, his elbow supported on his knee, while with the other hand he dashed away his tears. His countenance was deathly pale, and drops of blood were fast falling from the deep gash in his side. "O Gaston!" exclaimed Eustace, with a feeling of self-reproach at having forgotten him, "I fear you are badly wounded!"

"You would think little of it, had you seen more stricken fields, young Knight," said Gaston, attempting to smile; "I am only spent with loss of blood. Bring me a draught of water, and I can ride back to the tent. But look to your prisoner, Sir Eustace."

Eustace turned to see what had become of his illustrious captive, and saw him at a little distance, speaking to a Knight on horseback. "Sir Eustace," said Bertrand, stepping towards him, "here is Sir William Beauchamp, sent by the Prince to inquire for your gallant brother, and to summon me to his tent. I leave you the more willingly that I think you have no mind for guests this evening. Farewell. I hope to be better acquainted."

Eustace had little heart to answer, but he took up Du Guesclin's sword, as if to return it to him. "Keep it, Sir Knight," said Bertrand, "you know how to wield it. I am in some sort your godfather in chivalry, and I owe you a gift. Let me have yours, that my side may not be without its wonted companion. Farewell."

"And, Sir Eustace Lynwood," said Sir William Beauchamp, riding up, "you will advance to Navaretta, where we take up our quarters in the French camp. I grieve for the loss which has befallen us this day; but I trust our chivalry has gained an equally worthy member."

Eustace bowed and, whilst Messire Bertrand mounted a horse that had been brought for his use, turned back to his own melancholy duties. The body of Sir Reginald was raised from the ground, and placed on the levelled lances of four of his men, and Eustace then assisted Gaston to rise. He tottered, leant heavily against the young Knight, and was obliged to submit to be lifted to the saddle; but neither pain, grief, nor faintness could check his flow of talk.

"Well, Eustace,-Sir Eustace, I would say,-you have seen somewhat of the chances of war."

"The mischances you mean, Gaston."

"I tell you, many a man in this host would have given his whole kindred for such luck as has befallen you. To cross swords with Du Guesclin is honour enough. This cut will be a matter of boasting to my dying day; but, to take him prisoner-"

"Nay, that was no merit of mine. Had not the rest come up, my wars had soon been over, and I had been spared this grief."

"I know what most youths would have done in your place, and been esteemed never the worse. Dropped the pennon at that first round blow that brought you to your knee, and called for quarter. Poor pennon, I deemed it gone, and would have come to your aid, but before I could recover my feet, the fight was over, and I am glad the glory is wholly yours. Knighted under a banner in a stricken field! It is a chance which befalls not one man in five hundred, and you in your first battle! But he heeds me not. He thinks only of his brother! Look up, Sir Eustace, 'tis but the chance of war. Better die under sword and shield, than like a bed-ridden old woman; better die honoured and lamented, than worn out and forgotten. Still he has not a word! Yea, and I could weep too for company, for never lived better Knight, nor one whom Squire had better cause to love!"

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