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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 20545

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


With the first dawn of morning, the chapel bell began to toll, and was replied to by the deeper sound of the bell of the parish church. Soon the court began to be filled with the neighbouring villagers, with beggars, palmers, mendicant friars of all orders, pressing to the buttery-hatch, where they received the dole of bread, meat, and ale, from the hands of the pantler, under the direction of the almoner of Glastonbury, who requested their prayers for the soul of the noble Sir Reginald Lynwood, and Dame Eleanor of Clarenham, his wife. The peasantry of Lynwood, and the beggars, whose rounds brought them regularly to the Keep of Lynwood, and who had often experienced the bounty of the departed lady, replied with tears and blessings. There were not wanting the usual though incongruous accompaniments of such a scene-the jugglers and mountebanks, who were playing their tricks in one corner.

Within the hall, all was in sad, sober, and solemn array, contrasting with the motley concourse in the court. Little Arthur, dressed in black, stood by the side of his uncle, to receive the greetings of his yeoman vassals, as they came in, one by one, with clownish courtesy, but hearty respect and affection, and great satisfaction at the unexpected appearance of the young Knight.

Next came in long file, mounted on their sleek mules, the twelve monks of Glastonbury, whom the Knight and his nephew reverently received at the door, and conducted across the hall to the chapel, where the parish Priest, Father Cyril, and some of the neighbouring clergy had been chanting psalms since morning light. On the way Sir Eustace held some conference with the chief, Brother Michael, who had come prepared to assist in conveying Arthur, if possible, to Glastonbury, but was very glad to find that the Knight was able to take upon himself the charge of his nephew, without embroiling the Abbey with so formidable an enemy as Lord de Clarenham.

The next arrival was Sir Philip Ashton and his son, who could hardly believe their eyes when Eustace met them. Leonard's manner was at first cordial; but presently, apparently checked by some sudden recollection, he drew back, and stood in sheepish embarrassment, fumbling with his dagger, while Sir Philip was lavishing compliments on Eustace, who was rejoiced when the sound of horses made it necessary to go and meet Lord de Clarenham at the door. Arthur looked up in Sir Fulk's face, with a look in which curiosity and defiance were expressed; while Fulk, on his side, was ready to grind his teeth with vexation at the unexpected sight of the only man who could interfere with his projects. Then he glanced at his own numerous and well-appointed retinue, compared them with the small number of the Lynwood vassals, and with another look at his adversary's youthful and gentle appearance, he became reassured, and returned his salutations with haughty ceremony.

The whole company moved in solemn procession towards the chapel, where the mass and requiem were chanted, and the corpse of the Lady Eleanor, inclosed in a stone coffin, was lowered to its resting-place, in the vault of her husband's ancestors.

It was past noon when the banquet was spread in the hall; a higher table on the dais for the retainers and yeomanry, the latter of whom were armed with dagger, short sword, or quarter-staff.

Sir Philip Ashton and Brother Michael were chiefly at the expense of the conversation, Eustace meanwhile doing the honours with grave courtesy, taking care to keep his nephew by his side. There was no one who did not feel as if on the eve of a storm; but all was grave and decorous; and at length Brother Michael and the monks of Glastonbury, rejoicing that they, at least, had escaped a turmoil, took their leave, mounted their mules, and rode off, in all correctness of civility toward the house of Lynwood, which, as Eustace could not help feeling, they thus left to fight its own battles.

"It waxes late," said Lord de Clarenham, rising; "bring out the horses, Miles; and you, my young kinsman, Arthur, you are to be my guest from henceforth. Come, therefore, prepare for the journey."

Arthur held fast by the hand of his uncle, who replied, "I thank you in my nephew's name for your intended hospitality, but I purpose at once to conduct him to Bordeaux, to be enrolled among the Prince's pages."

"Conduct him to Bordeaux, said the Knight?" answered Sir Fulk with a sneer; "to Bordeaux forsooth! It is well for you, my fair young cousin, that I have other claims to you, since, were you once out of England, I can well guess who would return to claim the lands of Lynwood."

"What claim have you to his wardship, Sir Fulk?" asked Eustace, coldly, disdaining to take notice of the latter part of this speech.

"As his feudal superior, and his nearest relation of full age," replied Clarenham.

"There are many here who can prove that it is twenty-one years past, since I was born on the feast of St. Eustace," replied the young Knight. "The house of Lynwood owns no master beneath the King of England, and the wardship of my nephew was committed to me by both his parents. Here is a witness of the truth of my words. Holy Father, the parchment!"

Father Cyril spread a thick roll, with heavy seals, purporting to be the last will and testament of Dame Eleanor Lynwood, bequeathing the wardship and marriage of her son to her beloved brother, Sir Eustace Lynwood, Knight Banneret, and, in his absence, to the Lord Abbot of Glastonbury, and Cyril Langton, Clerk.

"It is nought," said Clarenham, pushing it from him; "the Lady of Lynwood had no right to make a will in this manner, since she unlawfully detained her son from me, his sole guardian."

"The force of the will may be decided by the King's justices," said Eustace; "but my rights are not founded on it alone. My brother, Sir Reginald, with his last words, committed his son to my charge."

"What proof do you bring, Sir Eustace?" said Fulk. "I question not your word, but something more is needed in points of law, and you can scarcely expect the world to believe that Sir Reginald would commit his only child to the guardianship of one so young, and the next heir."

"I am here to prove it, my Lord," said Gaston, eagerly. "'To your care I commit him, Eustace,' said Sir Reginald, as he lay with his head on his brother's breast; and methought he also added, 'Beware of Clarenham.' Was it not so, friend Leonard?"

Leonard's reply was not readily forthcoming. His father was whispering in his ear, whilst he knit his brow, shuffled with his feet, and shrugged his shoulder disrespectfully in his father's face.

"Speak, Master Ashton," said Clarenham, in a cold incredulous tone, and bending on father and son glances which were well understood. "To your testimony, respectable and uninterested, credit must be added."

"What mean you by that, Sir Fulk de Clarenham?" cried Gaston; "for what do you take me and my word?"

"Certain tales of you and your companions, Sir Squire," answered Clarenham, "do not dispose me to take a Gascon's word for more than it is worth."

"This passes!" cried Gaston, striking his fist on the table; "you venture it because you are not of my degree! Here, ye craven Squires, will not one of you take up my glove, when I cast back in his teeth your master's foul slander of an honourable Esquire?"

"Touch it not, I command you," said Clarenham, "unless Master d'Aubricour will maintain that he never heard of a certain one-eyed Basque, and never rode on a free-booting foray with the robber Knight, Perduccas d'Albret."

"What of that?" fiercely cried Gaston.

"Quite enough, Sir Squire," said Fulk, coolly.

Gaston was about to break into a tempest of rage, when Eustace's calm voice and gesture checked him.

"Sir Fulk," said Eustace, "were you at Bordeaux, you would know that no man's word can be esteemed more sacred, or his character more high, than that of Gaston d'Aubricour."

"But in the meantime," said Clarenham, "we must be content to take that, as well as much besides, on your own assertion, Sir Eustace. Once more, Master Leonard Ashton, let me hear your testimony, as to the dying words of Sir Reginald Lynwood. I am content to abide by them."

"Come, Leonard," said his father, who had been whispering with him all this time, "speak up; you may be grieved to disappoint a once-friendly companion, but you could not help the defect of your ears."

"Sir Philip, I pray you not to prompt your son," said Eustace. "Stand forth, Leonard, on your honour. Did you or did you not hear the words of my brother, as he lay on the bank of the Zadorra?"

Leonard half rose, as if to come towards him, but his father held him fast; he looked down, and muttered, "Ay, truly, I heard Sir Reginald say somewhat."

"Tell it out, then."

"He thanked the Prince for knighting you-he prayed him to have charge of his wife and child-he bade Gaston not to return to evil courses," said Leonard, bringing out his sentences at intervals.

"And afterwards," said Eustace sternly-"when the Prince was gone? On your honour, Leonard."

Leonard almost writhed himself beneath the eyes that Eustace kept steadily fixed on him. "Somewhat-somewhat he might have said of knightly training for his son-but-but what do I know?" he added, as his father pressed hard on his foot; "it was all in your ear, for as he lay on your breast, his voice grew so faint, that I could hear little through my helmet."

"Nay, Master Ashton," said John Ingram, pressing forward, "if I remember right, you had thrown off your helmet, saying it was as hot as a copper cauldron; and besides, our good Knight, when he said those words touching Master Arthur, raised himself up somewhat, and spoke out louder, as if that we might all hear and bear witness."

"No witness beyond your own train, Sir Eustace?" said Clarenham.

"None," said Eustace, "excepting one whose word even you will scarcely dare to dispute, Sir Bertrand du Guesclin."

"I dispute no man's word, Sir Eustace," said Fulk; "I only say that until the claim which you allege be proved in the King's Court, I am the lawful guardian of the lands and person of the heir of Lynwood. The Lord Chancellor Wykeham may weigh the cred

it to be attached to the witness of this highly respectable Esquire, or this long-eared man-at-arms, or may send beyond seas for the testimony of Du Guesclin: in the meantime, I assume my office. Come here, boy."

"I will not come to you, Lord Fulk," said Arthur; "or when I do, it shall be sword in hand to ask for an account for the tears you have made my sweet mother shed."

"Bred up in the same folly!" said Fulk. "Once more, Sir Eustace, will you yield him to me, or must I use force?"

"I have vowed before his mother's corpse to shield him from you," returned Eustace.

"Think of the consequences, Sir Eustace," said Sir Philip Ashton, coming up to him. "Remember the unrepealed grant to the Clarenhams. The Lynwood manor may be at any moment resumed, to which, failing your nephew, you are heir. You will ruin him and yourself."

"It is his person, not his lands, that I am bound to guard," said Eustace. "Let him do his worst; my nephew had better be a landless man, than one such as Fulk would make him."

"Think," continued Sir Philip, "of the disadvantages to your cause of provoking a fray at such a time. Hold your hand, and yield the boy, at least till the cause come before the Chancellor."

"Never," said Eustace. "His parents have trusted him to me, and I will fulfil my promise. The scandal of the fray be on him who occasions it."

"Recollect, my Lord," said Ashton, turning to Fulk, "that this may be misrepresented. These young warriors are hot and fiery, and this young Knight, they say, has succeeded to all his brother's favour with the Prince."

"I will not be bearded by a boy," returned Clarenham, thrusting him aside. "Hark you, Sir Eustace. You have been raised to a height which has turned your head, your eyes have been dazzled by the gilding of your spurs, and you have fancied yourself a man; but in your own county and your own family, airs are not to be borne. We rate you at what you are worth, and are not to be imposed on by idle tales which the boastful young men of the Prince's court frame of each other. Give up these pretensions, depart in peace to your fellows at Bordeaux, and we will forget your insolent interference."

"Never, while I live," replied Eustace. "Vassals of Lynwood, guard your young Lord."

"Vassals of Lynwood," said Fulk, "will you see your young Lord carried off to perish in some unknown region, and yourselves left a prey to an adventurer and freebooter?"

"For that matter, my Lord," said an old farmer, "if all tales be true, Master Arthur is like to learn less harm with Sir Eustace than in your jolly household-I for one will stand by our good Lord's brother to the last. What say you, comrades?"

"Hurrah for the Lances of Lynwood!" shouted John Ingram, and the cry was taken up by many a gruff honest voice, till the hall rang again, and the opposing shout of "a Clarenham, a Clarenham!" was raised by the retainers of the Baron. Eustace, at the same moment, raised his nephew in his arms, and lifted him up into the embrasure of one of the high windows. Sir Philip Ashton still hung upon Clarenham, pleading in broken sentences which were lost in the uproar: "Hold! Hold! my Lord. Nay, nay, think but"-(here he was thrust roughly aside by Fulk)-"Sir Eustace, do but hear-it will be a matter for the council-in the name of the King-for the love of Heaven-Leonard, son Leonard! for Heaven's sake what have you to do with the matter? Down with that sword, and follow me! Dost not hear, froward boy? Our names will be called in question! Leonard, on your duty-Ha! have a care! there!"

These last words were broken short, as Gaston, rushing forwards to his master's side, overthrew the table, which carried Sir Philip with it in the fall, and he lay prostrate under the boards, a stumbling-block to a stream of eager combatants, who one after another dashed against him, fell, and either rose again, or remained kicking and struggling with each other.

After several minutes' confused fighting, the tumult cleared away, as it were, leaving the principals on each side opposite to each other, and as the fortune of the day rested on their conflict, all became gradually fixed in attention, resting upon their weapons, in readiness at any moment to renew their own portion of the combat.

Fulk, tall and robust, had far more the appearance of strength than his slenderly-made antagonist, but three years in the school of chivalry had not been wasted by Eustace, and the sword of Du Guesclin was in a hand well accustomed to its use. Old Ralph was uttering under his breath ecstatic exclamations: "Ha! Well struck! A rare foil-a perfect hit-Have a care-Ah! there comes my old blow-That is right-Old Sir Henry's master-stroke- There-one of your new French backstrokes-but it told-Oh! have a care-The Saints guard-Ay-There-Follow it up! Hurrah for Lynwood!" as Fulk tottered, slipped, sank on one knee, and receiving a severe blow on the head with the back of the sword, measured his length on the ground.

"Hurrah for Lynwood!" re-echoed through the hall, but Eustace cut short the clamour at once, by saying, "Peace, my friends, and thanks! Sir Fulk de Clarenham," he added, as his fallen foe moved, and began to raise himself, "you have received a lesson, by which I hope you will profit. Leave the house, whose mourning you have insulted, and thank your relationship that I forbear to bring this outrage to the notice of the King."

While Eustace spoke, Fulk had, by the assistance of two of his retainers, recovered his feet; but though unwounded, he was so dizzied with the blow as to be passive in their hands, and to allow himself to be led into the court, and placed on his horse. Before riding out of the gates, he turned round, and clenching his fist, glanced malignantly at Eustace, and muttered, "You shall aby it."

Another shout of "Down with the false Clarenham! Hurrah for the Lances of Lynwood, and the brave young Knight!" was raised in the court by the peasantry, among whom Fulk was so much hated, that not even regard for their future welfare could prevent them from indulging in this triumph. Probably, too, they expected the satisfaction of drinking the health of the victor, for there were many disappointed countenances when he spoke from the steps of the porch:-"Thanks for your good-will, my friends. Fare ye well, depart in peace, and remember your young Lord." Then turning to the parish Priest, he added, in a low voice, "See that they leave the Castle as soon as possible. The gates must be secured as soon as may be."

He turned back into the hall, and at the door was met by little Arthur, who caught hold of his hand, exclaiming, "So you have won me, and shall keep me forever, Uncle Eustace; but come in, for here is poor old Sir Philip, who was thrown down under the table in the scuffle, bemoaning himself most lamentably."

"Sir Philip hurt?" said Eustace, who, vexed as he was by Sir Philip's behaviour, preserved a certain neighbourly hereditary respect for him; "I trust not seriously," and he advanced towards the arm-chair, where Sir Philip Ashton was sitting, attended by Father Cyril and a man-at-arms, and groaning and complaining of his bruises, while at the same time he ordered the horses to be brought out as speedily as possible.

"Surely," said Eustace, "you should not be in such haste, Sir Philip. I grieve that you should have met with this mishap. But you had better remain here, and try what rest will do for you."

"Remain here!" said Sir Philip, almost shuddering. "Nay, nay, my young Sir, I would not have you to remain here, nor any of us, for longer space than the saddling of a horse. Alas! alas! my young friend, I grieve for you. I loved your father well.-Look from the window, Leonard. Are the horses led forth?"

"But why this haste?" asked Sir Eustace. "You are heavily bruised-best let Father Cyril look to your hurts."

"Thanks, Sir Eustace; but-Ah! my back!-but I would not remain under this roof for more than you could give me. I should but endanger myself without benefiting you. Alas! alas! that I should have fallen upon such a fray! I am sorry for you, my brave youth!"

"I thank you, Sir Philip, but I know not what I have done to deserve your concern."

"Hot blood! wilful blood!" said Sir Philip, shaking his head. "Are the horses come? Here! your hand, Leonard, help me to rise-Ah! ah! not so fast-Oh! I shall never get over it! There-mind you, I did all to prevent this unhappy business-I am clear of it! Fare you well, Sir Eustace-take an old man's advice, give up the boy, and leave the country before worse comes of it."

"What is likely to come of it?" said Eustace; "Clarenham made an uncalled-for, unjust, shameless attempt to seize the person of my ward. I repelled him by force of arms, and I think he would scarce like to call the attention of justice to his own share in the matter."

"Ah! well, you speak boldly, but before you have reached my years, you will have learnt what it is to have for your foe the most mighty man of the county-nay, of the court; for your foe, Lord de Clarenham, is in close friendship with the Earl of Pembroke. Beware, my young friend, beware!"

When the hall was clear of guests, a council was held between the Knight, the Priest, and the two Esquires. Its result was, that Arthur's person, as the most important point, should be secured, by his uncle carrying him at once to the Prince's protection at Bordeaux; but it was only with difficulty that Eustace was prevailed on to fly, as he said, from his accusers. The good Father had to say, with a smile, that after all there was as much need for patience and submission under the helm as under the cowl, before Eustace at length consented. Cyril meanwhile was to lay the case before the Chancellor, William of Wykeham, and Eustace gave him letters to the Duke of Lancaster and to Sir Richard Ferrars, in the hopes of their recommending his suit.

Eustace then received from the hands of the Priest a bag of gold coins, his portion as a younger son, part of which he gave to be distributed in alms, part he still confided to Father Cyril's keeping, and the rest he was to take away for present needs-and they parted for the last night of his brief stay at Lynwood Keep.

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