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   Chapter 14 No.14

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 20757

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The open space beyond the walls of Bordeaux presented a bright and lively scene. It was here that the pages of the Black Prince were wont to exercise those sports and pastimes for which the court of the palace scarce offered sufficient space, or which were too noisy for the neighbourhood of the ladies, and of the invalid Prince.

Of noble and often of princely birth were all who entered that school of chivalry, and, for the most part, the fine open countenances, noble bearing, and well-made figures of the boys, testified their high descent, as completely as the armorial bearings embroidered on the back and front of their short kirtles. Many different provinces had sent their noblest to be there trained in the service of the bravest Knights and Princes. There, besides the brown-haired, fair-skinned English boy, was the quick fiery Welsh child, who owned an especial allegiance to the Prince; the broad blue-eyed Fleming, whose parents rejoiced in the fame of the son of Philippa of Hainault; the pert, lively Gascon, and the swarthy Navarrese mountaineer-all brought together in close and ever-changing contrast of countenance, habits, and character.

Of all the merry groups scattered through that wide green space, the most interesting was one formed by three boys, who stood beneath a tree, a little from the rest. The two eldest might be from ten to eleven years old, the third two or three years younger, and his delicate features, fair pale complexion, and slender limbs, made him appear too weak and childish for such active sports as the rest were engaged in, but that the lordly glance of his clear blue eye, his firm tread, and the noble carriage of his shapely head, had in them something of command, which attracted notice even before the exceeding beauty of his perfectly moulded face, and long waving curls of golden hair.

So like him, that they might have passed for brothers, was one of the elder boys, who stood near-there was the same high white brow, proud lip, regular features, and bright eye; but the complexion, though naturally fair, was tanned to a healthy brown where exposed to the sun; the frame was far stronger and more robust; and the glance of the eye had more in it of pride and impatience, than of calm command so remarkable in the little one. The three boys were standing in consultation over an arrow which they had just discovered, stuck deep in the ground.

"'Tis my arrow, that I shot over the mark on Monday," said the elder.

"Nay, Harry," said the younger boy, "that cannot be; for remember Thomas Holland said your arrow would frighten the good nuns of St. Ursula in their garden."

"It must be mine," persisted Harry-"for none of you all can shoot as far."

"Yes, English Arthur can," said the little boy. "He shot a whole cloth-yard beyond you the day-"

"Well, never mind, Edward," said Harry, sharply-"who cares for arrows?-weapons for clowns, and not for Princes!"

"Nay, not so, Lord Harry," interrupted the third boy: "I have heard my uncle say, many a time, that England's archery is half her strength-and how it was our archers at the battle of Crecy-"

"I know all that-how the men of Genoa had wet bow-strings, and ours dry ones," said Henry; "but they were peasants, after all!"

"Ay; but a King of England should know how to praise and value his good yeomen."

Henry turned on his heel, and, saying, "Well, let the arrow be whose it will, I care not for it," walked off.

"Do you know why Harry of Lancaster goes, Arthur?" said Edward, smiling.

"No, my Lord," replied Arthur.

"He cannot bear to hear aught of King of England," was the answer. "If you love me, good Arthur, vex him not with speaking of it."

"Father Cyril would say, he ought to learn content with the rank where he was born," said Arthur.

"Father Cyril, again!" said Prince Edward. "You cannot live a day without speaking of him, and of your uncle."

"I do not speak of them so much now," said Arthur, colouring, "It is only you, Lord Edward, who never make game of me for doing so-though, I trow, I have taught Pierre de Greilly to let my uncle's name alone."

"Truly, you did so," said Edward, laughing, "and he has scarce yet lost his black eye. But I love to hear your tales, Arthur, of that quiet Castle, and the old Blanc Etoile, and your uncle, who taught you to ride. Sit down here on the grass, and tell me more. But what are you staring at so fixedly? At the poor jaded horse, that yonder man-at-arms is urging on so painfully?"

"'Tis-No, it is not-Yes, 'tis Brigliador, and John Ingram himself," cried Arthur. "Oh, my uncle! my uncle!" And, in one moment, he had bounded across the ditch, which fenced in their exercising ground, and had rushed to meet Ingram. "Oh, John!" exclaimed he, breathlessly, "have they done it? Oh, tell me of Uncle Eustace! Is he alive?"

"Master Arthur!" exclaimed Ingram, stopping his wearied horse.

"Oh, tell me, Ingram," reiterated Arthur, "is my uncle safe?"

"He is alive, Master Arthur-that is, he was when I came away, but as sore wounded as ever I saw a Knight. And the butcher of Brittany is upon them by this time! And here I am sent to ask succours-and I know no more whom to address myself, than the cock at the top of Lynwood steeple!"

"But what has chanced, John?-make haste, and tell me."

And John, in his own awkward and confused style, narrated how he had been entrapped by Sanchez, and the consequences of his excess. "But," said he, "I have vowed to our Lady of Taunton, and St. Joseph of Glastonbury, that never again-"

Arthur had covered his face with his hands, and gave way to tears of indignation and grief, as he felt his helplessness. But one hand was kindly withdrawn, and a gentle voice said, "Weep not, Arthur, but come with me, and my father will send relief to the Castle, and save your uncle."

"You here, Lord Edward?" exclaimed Arthur, who had not perceived that the Prince had followed him. "Oh yes, thanks, thanks! None but the Prince can save him. Oh, let me see him myself, and that instantly!"

"Then, let us come," said Edward, still holding Arthur's hand.

Arthur set off at such a pace, as to press the little Prince into a breathless trot by his side; but he, too, was all eagerness, and scorned to complain. They proceeded without interruption to the court of the palace. Edward, leading the way, hastened to his mother's apartments. He threw open the door, looked in, and, saying to Arthur, "He must be in the council chamber," cut short an exclamation of Lady Maude Holland, by shutting the door, and running down a long gallery to an ante-chamber, where were several persons waiting for an audience, and two warders, with halberts erect, standing on guard outside a closed door.

"The Prince is in council, my Lord."

Edward drew up his head, and, waving them aside with a gesture that became the heir of England, said, "I take it upon myself." He then opened the door, and, still holding Arthur fast by the hand, led him into the chamber where the Prince of Wales sat in consultation.

There was a pause of amazement as the two boys advanced to the high carved chair on which the Prince was seated-and Edward exclaimed, "Father, save Arthur's uncle!"

"What means this, Edward?" demanded the Prince of Wales, somewhat sternly. "Go to your mother, boy-we cannot hear you now, and-"

"I cannot go, father," replied the child, "till you have promised to save Arthur's uncle! He is wounded!-the traitors have wounded him!-and the French will take the Castle, and he will be slain! And Arthur loves him so much!"

"Come here, Edward," said the Prince, remarking the flushed cheek and tearful eye of his son, "and tell me what this means."

Edward obeyed, but without loosing his hold of his young friend's hand. "The man-at-arms is come, all heat and dust, on the poor drooping, jaded steed-and he said, the Knight would be slain, and the Castle taken, unless you would send him relief. It is Arthur's uncle that he loves so well."

"Arthur's uncle?" repeated the Prince-and, turning his eyes on the suppliant figure, he said, "Arthur Lynwood! Speak, boy."

"Oh, my Lord," said Arthur, commanding his voice with difficulty, "I would only pray you to send succour to my uncle at Chateau Norbelle, and save him from being murdered by Oliver de Clisson."

It was a voice which boded little good to Arthur's suit that now spoke. "If it be Sir Eustace Lynwood, at Chateau Norbelle, of whom the young Prince speaks, he can scarce be in any strait, since the garrison is more than sufficient."

The little page started to his feet, and, regarding the speaker with flashing eyes, exclaimed, "Hearken not to him, my Lord Prince! He is the cause of all the treachery!-he is the ruin and destruction of my uncle;-he has deceived you with his falsehoods!-and now he would be his death!"

"How now, my young cousin!" said Clarenham, in a most irritating tone of indifference-"you forget in what presence you are."

"I do not," replied Arthur, fiercely. "Before the Prince, Fulk Clarenham, I declare you a false traitor!-and, if you dare deny it, there lies my gloves!"

Fulk only replied by a scornful laugh, and, addressing the Prince, said, "May I pray of your Grace not to be over severe with my young malapert relation."

The Captal de Buch spoke: "You do not know what an adversary you have provoked, Fulk! The other day, I met my nephew, little Pierre, with an eye as black as the patch we used to wear in our young days of knight-errantry. 'What wars have you been in, Master Pierre?' I asked. It was English Arthur who had fought with him, for mocking at his talking of nothing but his uncle. But you need not colour, and look so abashed, little Englishman!-I bear no more malice than I hope Pierre does-I only wish I had as bold a champion! I remember thine uncle, if he is the youth to whom the Constable surrendered at Navaretta, and of whom we made so much."

"Too much then, and too little afterwards," said old Sir John Chandos.

"You do not know all, Chandos," said the Prince.

"You do not yourself know all, my Lord," said Arthur, turning eagerly. "Lord de Clarenham has deceived you, and led you to imagine that my uncle wished ill to me, and wanted to gain my lands; whereas it is he himself who wants to have me in his hands to bend me to his will. It

is he who has placed traitors in Chateau Norbelle to slay my uncle and deliver him to the enemy; they have already wounded him almost to death"-here Arthur's lips quivered, and he could hardly restrain a burst of tears-"and they have sent for Sir Oliver de Clisson, the butcher. Gaston will hold out as long as they can, but if you will not send succours, my Lord, he will-will be slain; and kind Gaston too;" and Arthur, unable to control himself any longer, covered his face with his hands, and gave way to a silent suppressed agony of sobs and tears.

"Cheer thee, my boy," said the Prince, kindly; "we will see to thine uncle." Then, looking at his nobles, he continued, "It seems that these varlets will allow us no more peace; and since there does in truth appear to be a Knight and Castle in jeopardy, one of you had, perhaps, better go with a small band, and clear up this mystery. If it be as the boy saith, Lynwood hath had foul wrong."

"I care not if I be the one to go, my Lord," said Chandos; "my men are aver kept in readiness, and a night's gallop will do the lazy knaves all the good in the world."

Arthur, brushing off the tears, of which he was much ashamed, looked at the old Knight in transport.

"Thanks, Chandos," said the Prince; "I would commit the matter to none so willingly as to you, though I scarce would have asked it, considering you were not quite so prompt on a late occasion."

"My Lord of Pembroke will allow, however, that I did come in time," said Sir John. "It was his own presumption and foolhardiness that got him into the scrape, and he was none the worse for the lesson he received. But this young fellow seems to have met with this mischance by no fault of his own; and I am willing to see him righted; for he is a good lad as well as a brave, as far as I have known him."

"How came the tidings?" asked the Prince. "Did not one of you boys say somewhat of a man-at-arms?"

"Yes, my Lord," said Arthur; "John Ingram, my uncle's own yeoman, has come upon Brigliador with all speed. I sent him to the guard-room, where he now waits in case you would see him."

"Ay," said old Chandos, "a man would have some assurance that he is not going on a fool's errand. Let us have him here, my Lord."

"Cause him to be summoned," said the Prince to Arthur.

"And at the same time," said Chandos, "send for my Squire, Henry Neville, to the ante-chamber. The men may get on their armour in the meantime."

In a few minutes John Ingram made his appearance, the dust not yet wiped from his armour, his hair hanging is disordered masses over his forehead, and his jaws not completely resting from the mastication of a huge piece of pasty. His tale, though confused, could not be for an instant doubted, as he told of the situation in which he had left Chateau Norbelle and its Castellane, "The best man could wish to live under. Well, he hath forgiven me, and given me his hand upon it."

"Forgiven thee-for what?" said the Prince.

"Ah! my Lord, I may speak of treason, but I am one of the traitors myself! Did not the good Knight leave me in charge to make my rounds constantly in the Castle, while he slept after his long watching? and lo, there comes that wily rascal, the Seneschal, Sanchez, with his ''Tis a cold night, friend John; the Knight wakes thee up early; come down to the buttery, and crack a cup of sack in all friendliness!' Down then go I, oaf that I was, thinking that, may be, our Knight was over strict and harsh, and pulled the reins so tight, that a poor man-at-arms must needs get a little diversion now and then-as the proverb says, 'when the cat's away, the mice may play.' But it was drugged, my Lord, else when would one cup of spiced wine have so overcome me that I knew nought till I hear Master d'Aubricour shouting treason in the courtyard like one frantic? But the Knight has forgiven me, and I have sworn to our blessed Lady of Taunton, and St. Joseph of Glastonbury, that not a draught of wine, spiced or unspiced, shall again cross my lips."

"A wholesome vow," said the Prince; "and her is a token to make thee remember it,"-and he placed in the hand of the yeoman a chain of some value. "Go to the guard-room, where you shall be well entertained till such time as we need thee again, as we may, if you have been, as you say, long in Sir Eustace Lynwood's service. But what now? Hast more to say?"

"I would say-so please you, my Lord-that I pray you but to let me ride back to Chateau Norbelle with this honourable Knight, for I owe all service to Sir Eustace, nor could I rest till I know how it fares with him."

"As you will, good fellow," said the Prince; "and you, Chandos, come with me to my chamber-I would speak with you before you depart."

"My Lord," said Arthur, "would you but grant me one boon-to go with Sir John to Chateau Norbelle?"

"You too? You would almost make me think you all drawn by witchcraft to this Castle!" But Arthur's eagerness extorted a consent, and he rode off amid Sir John Chandos's troop, boldly enough at first, but by and by so sleepily, that, as night advanced, Sir John ordered him to be placed in front of a trooper, and he soon lost all perception of the rough rapid pace at which they travelled. It was broad day when he was awakened by a halt, and the first thing he heard was, "There is St. George's pennon still safe!"

He sat upright, gazed eagerly forwards, and beheld a tall dark tower rising by the bank of a stream at some distance. "Chateau Norbelle?" he asked.

"Oh, ho! my little page," said Chandos. "You are alive again, are you? Ay, Chateau Norbelle it is-and we are in time it seems! But let us have you on your own steed again. And let us see-if Oliver be there himself, we shall have sharp work. Ay, keep you by the side of the old master leech there-he will be sure to keep out of peril. Now-close in-lances in rest-bows bent. Forward banner!"

Arthur, by no means approving of the companionship assigned him, contrived to wedge in his pony a little in the rear of Sir John's two Squires, as the whole squadron rode down the slope of the hill, and up the ascent on which the Castle stood. Loud cries and shrieks from within began to strike their ears-the clash of arms-all the tumult of attack and defence raging fearfully high and wild.

"Ho, ho! friend Oliver!-we have you in a trap!" said old Chandos, in high glee, as he drew up close without the walls. "Neville, guard the gates!"

He signed to about half his band to remain without, and cut off the retreat of the enemy. The Jew doctor chose his post in their rear, close to the Castle moat-but not so Arthur. Unnoticed and forgotten, he still kept close behind the Squire, who rode alongside of Sir John Chandos, as he crossed the drawbridge. The Castle gate was open, and showed a wild confused mass of struggling men and flashing arms. It was the last, most furious onset, when Clisson, enraged by the long resistance of so weak a garrison, was concentrating his strength in one effort, and, in the excitement of the assault, he had failed to remark that his sentinels had transgressed his orders, and mingled with the crowd, who were striving, by force of numbers, to overwhelm the small troop of defenders of the bartizan.

In rushed Chandos, shouting his war-cry!-In dashed his stout warriors, and loud and fierce pealed forth "St. George! St George!" drowning the now feebler note of "Montjoie, St. Denis!" and fearful were the shrieks of horror and of pain that rose mingled with it. Hemmed in, attacked in front and rear, their retreat cut off, the French looked in vain for escape; some went down beneath the tremendous charge of the English, some cried for mercy, and surrendered as prisoners. Oliver de Clisson himself, seeing that all was lost, swinging round his head his heavy battle-axe, opened for himself a way, and, with a few followers, broke through the men whom Chandos had left outside, and, cutting down a groom who was holding it, captured one of his led horses, on which he rode off at his leisure, confident in his own gigantic strength.

So little resistance had been offered, that Arthur's bold advance had involved him in little danger; he was borne onwards, and only was conscious of a frightful tumult, where all seemed to be striking and crushing together. At last, there was something of a lull; the cries of mercy, and offers to surrender, alone were heard. Arthur found his pony standing still, and himself pressed hither and thither by the crowd, from which he knew not how to escape.

Above these various sounds he heard an opening door-there was a press forward, which carried him with it. The heavy doors, shivered here and there by Clisson's axe, had been thrown wide open; but the crowd closed in-he saw no more. He threw himself from his pony, struggled forwards, and at last, emerging between the arms of two tall men, he beheld Sir John Chandos dismounting from his war-horse, which was held by a grim, bloody, dusty figure in broken armour, whose length of limb, and the crisp, black, curled hair that showed through the shattered helmet, proved that it could be no other than Gaston d'Aubricour.

Arthur darted forwards, his heart upon his lips; but neither Knight nor Squire had eye or ear for him; they were hastily exchanging queries about-he knew not what-they were not of his uncle; and, borne on by his impatience, he hurried past them up the narrow stone stair. More than one corpse-a ghastly sight-lay on the steps, but he hastened on; half a dozen men were standing on the stones at the top, all, like Gaston, dusty and gory, and leaning on their weapons, or on the wall, as if exhausted. They were looking intently at the court, and gave no heed to the boy, as he ran on into the hall. Two men lay there groaning before the fire. Arthur stood and looked round, hesitating whether to ask them for his uncle; but, perceiving the spiral stairs, quickly ascended. Far and far up he wound, till he came to a low-browed arch; he paused, and saw a large vaulted room, through the loop-hole window of which shone a yellow stream of golden sunshine. There was a low bed in one corner, and on it lay a motionless form. On tiptoe, and with a throbbing heart, the boy approached; he saw the face-it was ghastly pale. He stood transfixed-could it be?-yes, it must still be, his own Uncle Eustace.

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