MoboReader> Literature > The Lances of Lynwood

   Chapter 5 No.5

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 19750

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


A battle in the days of chivalry was far less destructive than those of modern times. The loss in both armies at Navaretta did not amount to six hundred; and on Pedro's side but four Knights had fallen, of whom Sir Reginald Lynwood was the only Englishman.

On the following day all the four were buried in solemn state, at the church of the village of Navaretta, Sir Eustace following his brother's bier, at the head of all the men-at-arms.

On returning to his tent, Eustace found Gaston sitting on his couch, directing Guy, and old Poitevin, who had the blue crossletted pennon spread on the ground before him. Eustace expressed his wonder. "What," exclaimed Gaston, "would I see my Knight Banneret, the youngest Knight in the army, with paltry pennon! A banneret are you, dubbed in the open field, entitled to take precedence of all Knight Bachelors. Here, Leonard, bring that pennon to me, that I may see if it can be cut square."

"Poor Eleanor's pennon!" said Eustace, sadly.

"Nay, what greater honour can it have than in becoming a banner? I only grieve that this bloodstain, the noblest mark a banner can bear, is upon the swallow-tail. But what do I see? You, a belted Knight, in your plain Esquire's helmet, and the blood-stained surcoat! Ay, and not even the gilded spurs!" he exclaimed indignantly. "Would that I had seen you depart! But it was Leonard's fault. Why, man, knew you not your duty?"

"I am no Squire of Eustace Lynwood," said Ashton.

"Every Squire is bound to serve the Knight in whose company he finds himself," said d'Aubricour. "Know you not thus much of the laws of chivalry? Come, bestir yourself, that he may be better provided in future. You must present yourself to the Prince to-morrow, Sir Eustace."

"One of his Squires bade me to his presence," said the young Knight, "but I must now write these heavy tidings to my poor sister, and I am going to Father Waleran's tent to seek parchment and ink."

"And how send you the letter?"

"By the bearer of the Prince's letters to the King. Sir Richard Ferrars knows him, and will give them into his charge. So farewell, Gaston, keep quiet, and weary not yourself with my equipment."

With these words he left the tent, and Gaston, shaking his head, and throwing himself back on his deer-skins, exclaimed, "Tender and true, brave and loving! I know not what to make of Eustace Lynwood. His spirit is high as a Paladin's of old, of that I never doubted, yet is his hand as deft at writing as a clerk's, and his heart as soft as a woman's. How he sighed and wept the livelong night, when he thought none could hear him! Well, Sir Reginald was a noble Knight, and is worthily mourned, but where is the youth who would not have been more uplifted at his own honours, than downcast at his loss; and what new-made Knight ever neglected his accoutrements to write sad tidings to his sister-in-law? But," he continued, rising again, "Guy, bring me here the gilded spurs you will find yonder. The best were, I know, buried with Sir Reginald, and methought there was something amiss with one rowel of the other. So it is. Speed to Maitre Ferry, the armourer, and bid him come promptly."

"And lie you still on your couch meanwhile, Master d'Aubricour," said Guy, "or there will soon be another Squire missing among the Lances of Lynwood."

"I marvel at you, d'Aubricour," said Leonard, looking up from a pasty, which he was devouring with double relish, to make up for past privations, "I marvel that you should thus weary yourself, with your fresh wound, and all for nought."

"Call you our brave young banneret nought? Shame on thee! All England should be proud of him, much more his friend and companion."

"I wish Eustace Lynwood well with all my heart," said Leonard, "but I see not why he is to be honoured above all others. Yourself, Gaston, so much older, so perfect in all exercises, you who fought with this Frenchman too, of whom they make so much, the Prince might as well have knighted you, as Eustace, who would have been down in another moment had not I made in to the rescue. Methinks if I had been the Prince, I would have inquired upon whom knighthood would sit the best."

"And the choice would have been the same," said Gaston. "Not only was Sir Eustace the captor of Messire Bertrand, whereas my luck was quite otherwise; but what would knighthood have availed the wandering landless foreigner, as you courteously term me, save to fit me for the leadership of a band of routiers, and unfit me for the office of an Esquire, which I do, as you say, understand indifferently well."

"Is it not the same with him?" cried Leonard. "He does not own a palm's breadth of land, and for gold, all he will ever possess is on those broken spurs of his brother's."

"Listen to me, Leonard," said Gaston. "Rich or poor, Sir Eustace is the only fit leader of the Lances till the little boy is of age, but this he could not be without knightly rank. Even in this campaign, when I might have taken the command, I being disabled for the present, it must have devolved on him, who might not have been so readily obeyed."

"No, indeed," said Leonard. "Strange that the touch of the Prince's sword should make so great a difference between him and me."

"If it was the touch of the Prince's sword that did so," said Gaston.

"What else?" sharply retorted Leonard. "Not height nor strength! His hand and arm might belong to a girl, I could crush it in my grasp." So saying, he extended a huge, hard, red palm.

"Ay?" said Gaston; "I should like to see whether that great paw would have won Du Guesclin's sword."

"I tell you flatly," proceeded Ashton, "I might follow Sir Reginald, since he was a man of substance, honoured in our country, and my father meant to oblige and do him grace by placing me with him."

"Grace!" repeated Gaston.

"But," continued Ashton, angrily, "as to serving Eustace, the clerk, no older than myself, half a head shorter, and a mere landless upstart, that my father's son shall never do!"

"Say you so?" said Gaston. "I recommend you not to do so quite so loud, or perchance the landless upstart might hand your father's son over to the Provost Marshal, for preaching disaffection to his men. And, in good time, here comes the Master Armourer."

The rest of the day was spent by Gaston in the arrangement of the equipments, so important in his estimation, and scarcely another word was spoken save on the choice of helm and shield, and the adaptation of crests and blazonry. The next point for consideration was the disposal of the prisoners taken by the Lances of Lynwood in the early part of the battle. Two were Squires, the other four, rough-looking men-at-arms who protested that they could not pay one denier towards their ransom. Eustace liberated them, and was greatly inclined to do the same by the Squires; but Gaston assured him it would be doing wrong to the Prince's cause to set the rogues free without taking some good French crowns from them, and therefore, permitting him to name what ransom he thought fit, he returned to them their horses, and dismissed them to collect the sum.

Early the next morning, Gaston had the satisfaction of beholding his young banneret arrayed in knightly guise, the golden spurs on his heels, Du Guesclin's sword by his side, and his white mantle flung over his shoulder. Leonard was summoned to accompany him, but he growled out something so like an absolute refusal and utter disclaimer of all duty to Sir Eustace, that Gaston began to reproach him vehemently.

"Never mind, Gaston," said Eustace, "you never mend matters with him in that way, I shall do very well alone."

"So you shall never go," said Gaston, rising; "I will go myself, I have been longing to see you received by the Prince. Where is my sword?"

"Nay, Gaston," said Eustace, "that must not be. See how the hot sunbeams lie across that hill between us and the Prince's tent. You must not waste your strength if it is true that we are to journey to Burgos to-day."

"It shows how new your chivalry is, that you make so much of a mere scratch," said Gaston, hastily commencing his preparations; "Guy, go you and saddle Brigliador."

"No, do not touch Brigliador," said Eustace. "You deny it in vain, Gaston; your face betrays that you do not move without pain. I learnt some leech-craft among my clerkly accomplishments, and you had better take care that you do not have the benefit. Leonard, since it is the only way to quiet him, I order you to mount."

Leonard hung his head, and obeyed. They rode towards the village of Najara, where Eustace found the Prince entering the church, to hear morning mass. Giving his horse to John Ingram, he followed among the other Knights who thronged the little building.

The service at an end, he received more than one kind greeting from his brother's friends, and one of them, Sir Richard Ferrars, a fine old man, whose iron-gray locks contrasted with his ruddy complexion, led him forward to present him to the Prince of Wales.

"Welcome! our new-made Knight," said Edward. "Brave comrades, I present to you the youngest brother of our order, trusting you will not envy him for having borne off the fairest rose of our chaplet of Navaretta."

Bertrand du Guesclin, who stood among the throng of nobles around the Prince, was the first to come forward and shake Eustace by the hand, saying with a laugh, "Nay, my Lord, this is the first time the ugliest Knight in France has been called by such a name. However, young Sir, may you win and wear many another."

"That scarcely may be a sincere wish, Messire Bertrand," said the Duke of Lancaster, "unless you mean roses of love instead of roses of war. And truly, with his face, and the fame he owes to you, methinks he will not find our damsels at Bordeaux very hard of heart. See, he blushes,

as if we had guessed his very thought."

"Truly, my Lord John," said old Sir John Chandos sternly, "a man may well blush to hear a son of King Edward talk as if such trifling were the reward of knighthood. His face and his fame forsooth! as if he were not already in sufficient danger of being cockered up, like some other striplings on whom it has pleased his Highness to confer knighthood for as mere a chance as this."

"You have coloured his cheek in good earnest," said the Captal de Buch. "Consider, Chandos, this is no time to damp his spirit."

"It were a spirit scarce worth fostering, if it is to be damped by a little breath of the lips one way or the other," said Sir John, moving off, and adding, when out of Eustace's hearing, "A likely lad enough had he been under his brother's training, but they will spoil him, and I will have no hand in it."

Eustace had been accustomed to hold the warrior in such veneration, that he felt considerably hurt and mortified at the want of welcome which contrasted with the kindness of the rest; and he could hardly recover his self-possession sufficiently to inquire the pleasure of the Prince with regard to his brother's troop.

"Take command yourself," said Edward. "You surely have some Esquire or man-at-arms who can supply your own want of experience."

"My brother's Squire, Gaston d'Aubricour, is well learned in chivalry, my Lord," said Eustace, "and I will do my best, with his aid, to fulfil my trust."

"It is well," said Edward. "The Lances of Lynwood are too well trained easily to forget their duty, and I fear not but that you will do well. How old is your brother's young heir?"

"Eight years, my Lord."

"We will soon have him at Bordeaux," said Edward, "that he may grow up with my boys in the same friendship as their fathers. And now," added he, turning from Eustace to the assembled nobles around him, "let us part, and prepare for our further journey. In an hour's time the bugles shall summon you to depart for Burgos."

The Prince walked away towards his tent with the Captal de Buch, and Eustace looked round for his horse, which he saw at no great distance with Ingram, but Leonard Ashton was nowhere in sight. Eustace mounted, and rode towards his own tent, desiring the yeoman to seek Ashton out, while he himself proceeded slowly, musing, with feelings of considerable disappointment and vexation, on the reception he had met from Sir John Chandos, the man in the whole camp whose good opinion he would have most valued. "This is folly," thought he, however, rousing himself after a minute or two of such meditations. "What said the good old Baron but what I know full well myself, that I am far from meriting my new honours? On whom does it depend, but myself to win his praise? And by our Lady's grace, I will make him confess at last, that, young as I am, I can show that I deserve my spurs. What, ho! Ingram, where is Master Ashton?"

"Where you will little like to hear of him, Sir Knight," said the yeoman, galloping up on his tall Flemish horse. "At the wine-shop, yonder, in the village, with that ill-favoured, one-eyed Squire that you wot of. I called him as you desired, and all that I got for an answer was, that he would come at his own time, and not at your bidding."

"Said he so? the ungracious, headstrong fellow!" said Eustace, looking back wistfully. "And what to do! To ride back myself might be the means of getting the whole troop late in starting, and disorderly-yet, to leave him!" Eustace looked at John Ingram's comely and stolid face, and then almost smiled at himself for seeking counsel from him. "Ride you on, John," said he; "tell Master d'Aubricour of the order to depart-let all be in readiness by the time I return."

Then turning his horse quickly, Eustace rode back to the village. All was haste and confusion there-horses were being led forth and saddled, pages, grooms, and men-at-arms hurrying to and fro-bugles sounding-everything in the bustle incident to immediate departure. He could only make his way through the press slowly, and with difficulty, which ill suited with his impatience and perplexity. In front of the venta, a low white cottage, with a wooden balcony overspread with vines, there was a still closer press, and loud vehement voices, as of disputants, were heard, while the various men-at-arms crowded in so closely to see the fray, if such it were, as to be almost regardless of the horse, which Eustace was pressing forward upon them. He looked over their heads to see Leonard, but in vain. He thought of retreat, but found himself completely entangled in the throng. At that moment, a cry was heard, "The Provost Marshal!" The crowd suddenly, he knew not how, seemed to melt away from around him, in different directions, and he found himself left, on horseback, in the midst of the little village green, amongst scattered groups of disreputable-looking yeomen, archers, and grooms, who were making what speed they could to depart, as from the other side the Provost, the archers of the guard, and Sir John Chandos entered upon the scene.

"Ha! What is all this? Whom have we here?" exclaimed the old Baron. "Sir Eustace Lynwood! By my life, a fair commencement for your dainty young knighthood!"

"On my word, my Lord Chandos," said Eustace, colouring deeply, "I am no loiterer here; I came but to seek my Squire, Leonard Ashton, and found myself entangled in the crowd."

"Ay, ay! I understand," said Chandos, without listening to him; "I see how it will be. Off to your troop instantly, Master Knight. I suppose they are all seeking Squires in the wine-shops!"

"You do me wrong, my Lord," said Eustace; "but you shall be obeyed."

The bugles had already sounded before he reached his own quarters, where he found that, thanks to Gaston, all was right. The tent had been taken down and packed on the baggage mules, the men were mounted, and drawn up in full array, with his banner floating above their heads; and Gaston himself was only waiting his appearance to mount a stout mule, which Martin, the horse-boy, was leading up and down.

"This is well. Thanks, good Gaston," said Eustace, with a sigh of relief, as he took off his heavy helmet, which had become much heated during his hasty ride in the hot sun.

"No news of the truant?" asked Gaston. "Who but you would have thought of going after him? Well did I know you would never prosper without me at your elbow."

Eustace smiled, but he was too much heated and vexed to give a very cheerful assent. He had only time to load Ferragus with his armour, and mount a small pony, before the signal for the march was given, and all set forth. Early in the year as it was, the sun already possessed great force, and the dry rocky soil of Castile reflected his beams, so that, long before noon, it seemed to Eustace almost as if their march lay through an oven. Nor were his perplexities by any means at an end; the thirst, occasioned by the heat, was excessive, and at every venta, in the villages through which they passed, the men called loudly for liquor; but the hot, fiery Spanish wine was, as Eustace had already been cautioned by Father Waleran, only fit to increase the evil, by inflaming their blood. It was the Holy Week, which was to him a sufficient reason for refraining entirely, contenting himself with a drink of water, when it could be procured, which, however, was but rarely. He would willingly have persuaded his men to do the same, but remonstrance was almost without effect, and his dry lips refused to utter a prohibition, which would have been esteemed at once cruel and unreasonable. In his persuasions to Gaston he was, however, more in earnest, representing to him that he was increasing the fever of his wound; but the Squire was perfectly impracticable. At first, he answered in his usual gay, careless manner, that the scratch was nothing, and that, be what it might, he had as soon die of a wound as of thirst; but as the day wore on, it seemed as if the whole nature of the man were becoming changed. Sometimes he was boisterously loud in his merriment, sometimes sullen and silent; and when Eustace, unwearied, reiterated his arguments, he replied to him, not only with complete want of the deference he was usually so scrupulous in paying to his dignity, but with rude and scurril taunts and jests on his youth, his clerkly education, and his inexperience. Eustace's patience would scarcely have held out, but that he perceived that d'Aubricour was by no means master of himself, and he saw in his flushed brow, and blood-shot eye, reason to fear for the future effect of the present excess. There was suppressed laughter among the men at some of his sallies. Without being positively in disorder, the troop did not display the well-arrayed aspect which had always hitherto distinguished the Lances of Lynwood; and poor Eustace, wearied and worn out, his right-hand man failing him, dispirited by Chandos's reproach, and feeling all the cares of the world on his shoulders, had serious thoughts of going to the Prince, and resigning the command for which he was unfit.

At last he beheld the Cathedral of Burgos rising in the midst of the Moorish fortifications of the town, and, halting his men under the shade of a few trees, he rode on in search of the marshals of the camp, and as soon as the open space for his tents had been assigned, he returned to see them raised. Gaston, who had of late become more silent, was lifted from his mule, and assisted into the tent, where he was laid on his couch, and soon after, Eustace was relieved from his anxiety on Leonard Ashton's account, by his appearance. He came stumbling in without one word of apology, only declaring himself as weary as a dog, and, throwing himself down on a deer-skin on his own side of the tent, was fast asleep in another minute.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares