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   Chapter 16 No.16

The Lances of Lynwood By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 26531

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

Four or five weeks had passed away since Sir John Chandos had quitted the Chateau Norbelle.

The Knight had nearly recovered his full strength, but still wore his broken arm in a scarf, when, one evening, as he was sitting on the battlements, delighting the ears of Arthur and of Gaston with an interminable romance of chivalry, three or four horseman, bearing the colours and badges of the Black Prince, were descried riding towards the Castle. Knight, Squire, and Page instantly descended to the courtyard, which, in short space, was entered by the messengers, the principal of whom, an elderly man-at-arms, respectfully saluted the Knight, and delivered to him a parchment scroll, tied with silk of scarlet and blue, supporting the heavy seal of the Prince of Wales and Duke of Aquitaine, and addressed to the hands of the honourable Knight Banneret Sir Eustace Lynwood, Castellane of the Chateau Norbelle. This document bore the signature of Edward himself, and contained his mandate to Eustace, to come immediately to his court at Bordeaux, leaving the command of the Chateau Norbelle to the bearer.

The old man-at-arms was closely questioned all the evening respecting the state of the court, but he could give little information. Sir John Chandos was at Bordeaux, and had daily attended the council, to which the Prince was devoting more attention than usual; a vessel had also arrived bearing letters from England to the Prince; this was all the information that could be obtained.

The next morning Eustace, with Gaston, Arthur, and Ingram, all full of expectation, and delighted at the change from the gloomy solitary old Castle, were all posting on their way back to Bordeaux. They slept at an hostel about twelve miles from the town, first, however, by desire of the Prince's messengers, sending Ingram on to announce their speedy arrival, and about ten in the morning rode into town.

There was evidently some grand spectacle at hand, for the Bordelais, gentle and simple, in holiday habits, were proceeding in the direction of the palace; but the Knight and his attendants had no time to wait for inquiries, and pressed on with the stream to the gates of the courtyard, where they found warders placed, to keep back the dense throng of people. At the mention of Sir Eustace's name they readily and respectfully admitted him and his companions into the court.

"Ha!" cried Gaston, "what means this? is there a tilt towards? This reminds me of the good old days, ere the Prince fell ill. The lists, the galleries, the ladies, the Prince's own chair of state, too! Oh, Sir Eustace, I could tear my hair that you cannot yet use your sword arm!"

"Can it be a challenge on the part of Fulk?" said Eustace, "or a reply to yours, Arthur? Yet that can hardly be. And see, there is no barrier in the midst, only a huge block. What can be intended?"

"I do not see Agnes among the ladies in the galleries," said Arthur, looking up as eagerly, and more openly, than his uncle was doing. "And oh, here comes the Princess,-yes, and Lord Edward and little Lord Richard with her! And here is the Prince himself leaning on the Earl of Cambridge! Uncle Eustace, Lord Edward is beckoning to me! May I run to him?"

"Come with me, since I must present myself," said Eustace, dismounting, as one of the Prince's Squires held his horse.

"And, oh! who is yonder dark-browed dwarfish Knight at the Prince's right hand?" cried Arthur.

Eustace could scarcely believe his eyes, as he looked where the boy pointed.

The royal party were now seated in full array on their raised platform; the Prince upon his chair of state, with more brightness in his eye and of vigour in his movements than when Eustace had last seen him; and at his side sat his wife,-her features still retaining the majestic beauty of Joan Plantagenet, the Fair Maid of Kent-but worn and faded with anxiety. She watched her princely Lord with an eye full of care, and could scarcely spare attention for the lovely child who clung to her side, and whose brilliantly fair complexion, wavy flaxen hair, high brow, and perfectly formed though infantine features, already promised that remarkable beauty which distinguished the countenance of Richard II. On the other side of the Prince sat his sister-in-law, the Countess of Cambridge, a Spanish Infanta; and her husband, Edmund, afterwards Duke of York, was beside the Princess of Wales. But more wonderful than all, among them stood the Constable of France. The two boys, Prince Edward and his cousin Henry of Lancaster, were stationed as pages on each side of the Princess, but as their play-fellow, Arthur, advanced with his uncle, they both sprang down the steps of the gallery to meet him, and each took a hand. Edward, however, first bethinking himself of the respect which, Prince as he was, he owed to a belted Knight, made his reverence to Sir Eustace, who, at a sign from the Prince of Wales, mounted the steps and bent his knee to the ground before him.

"Nay, Sir Eustace," said the Prince, bending forward, "it is rather I who should kneel to you for pardon; I have used you ill, Eustace, and, I fear me, transgressed the pledge which I gave to your brother on the plain of Navaretta."

"Oh, say not so, my gracious liege," said Eustace, as tears gathered in his eyes,-"it was but that your noble ear was deceived by the slanders of my foes!"

"True, Sir Eustace-yet, once, Edward of England would not have heard a slanderous tale against one of his well-proved Knights without sifting it well. But I am not as once I was-sickness hath unnerved me, and, I fear me, hath often led me to permit what may have dimmed my fame. Who would have dared to tell me that I should suffer my castles to be made into traps for my faithful Knights? And now, Sir Eustace, that I am about to repair my injustice towards you, let me feel, as a man whose account for this world must ere long be closed, that I have your forgiveness."

The Prince took the hand of the young Knight, who struggled hard with his emotion. "And here is another friend," he added-"a firmer friend, though foe, than you have found some others."

"Well met, my chivalrous godson," said the Constable du Guesclin, holding out his hand. "I rejoice that my neighbour, Oliver, did not put an end to your faits d'armes."

"I marvel-," Eustace hardly found words between wonder and condolence. The Prince caught the import of his hesitating sentences.

"He thinks you a prisoner, Sir Bertrand," he said. "No, Sir Eustace, Messire le Connetable is captive only in his good-will to you. I wrote, to pray him to send me his witness to those last words of your brother, since you had ever appealed to him, and he replied by an offer, which does us too much honour, to become our guest."

"I am no scribe, apart from my fairy Dame Tiphaine," said Du Guesclin, abruptly. "It cost me less pains to ride hither,-besides that I longed to renew my old English acquaintances, and see justice done to you, fair godson."

"Ha! Sir Bertrand, thou recreant!-so no other spell drew thee hither? Thou hast no gallantry even for such an occasion as this!" said a gay voice.

"How should the ill-favoured Knight deal in gallantries?" said Du Guesclin, turning. "Here is one far fitter for your Grace's eyes."

"And you, discourteous Constable, were keeping him for you own behoof, when all my maidens have been speaking for weeks of no name but the Knight of the beleaguered Castle!"

And Eustace had to kiss the fair hand of the Princess of Wales.

In the meantime, the three boys were whispering together. "It is all well, all gloriously well, is it not, Arthur, as I told you?" said Edward. "I knew my father would settle all in his own noble fashion."

"What said the master of the Damoiseaux?" asked Arthur, as the sight of that severe functionary revived certain half-forgotten terrors.

"Oh, he, the old crab-stock!" said Henry,-"he looked sour enough at first; but Edward kept your counsel well, till you were safe at a good distance from Bordeaux; and then, though he said somewhat of complaining to my Lord the Prince, it was too late to mend it. And when Sir John Chandos came back, and bade him be content, he vowed you were enough to spoil a whole host of pages; but did not we all wish some of our uncles would get themselves betrayed?"

"But what means all this preparation?" asked Arthur-"these lists! Oh, surely, there is not to be a tourney, which I have so longed to see!"

"No," said Edward, "that cannot be, my mother says, while my father is so weakly and ill. But there are the trumpets! you will soon see what will befall."

And, with a loud blast of trumpets, the gorgeously arrayed heralds rode into the court, followed by a guard of halberdiers, in the midst of whom rode a Knight in bright armour, his visor closed, but his shield and crest marking the Baron of Clarenham.

When the trumpets had ceased, and the procession reached the centre of the lists, they halted, and drew up in order,-the principal herald, Aquitaine, immediately in front of the Prince. After another short clear trumpet-blast, Aquitaine unrolled a parchment, and, in a loud voice, proclaimed the confession of Fulk, Baron of Clarenham, of his foul and unknightly conduct, in attempting to betray the person of the good Knight and true, Eustace Lynwood, Knight Banneret, with that of his Esquire, Gaston d'Aubricour, and of certain other trusty and well-beloved subjects of his liege Lord, King Edward of England, together with the fortalice, called Chateau Norbelle, in the county of Gascogne, appertaining to my Lord Edward, Prince of Wales and Duke of Aquitaine, into the hands of the enemy-having for that purpose tampered with and seduced Thibault Sanchez, Seneschal of the Castle, Tristan de la Fleche, and certain others, who, having confessed their crime, have received their deserts, by being hung on a gallows-upon which same gallows it was decreed by the authority of the Prince, Duke and Governor of Aquitaine, that the shield of Fulk de Clarenham should be hung-he himself being degraded from the honours and privileges of knighthood, of which he had proved himself unworthy-and his lands forfeited to the King, to be disposed of at his pleasure.

Clarenham was then compelled to dismount from his horse, and to, first one foot, and then the other, upon the block, where a broad red-faced cook, raising his cleaver, cut off the golden spurs. Sir John Chandos, as Constable of Aquitaine, then came forward, and, taking the shield from the arm of Clarenham, gave it, reversed, into the hands of one of the heralds, who carried it away. The belt, another token of knighthood, was next unbuckled, and Chandos, taking the sword, broke it in three pieces across his knee, saying, "Lie there, dishonoured steel!" and throwing it down by the spurs. Lastly, the helmet, with the baronial bars across the visor, was removed, and thrown to the ground, leaving visible the dark countenance, where the paleness of shame and the flush of rage alternated.

"And now, away with the traitor, away with the recreant Knight! out upon him!" cried in a loud voice Sir John Chandos, while the shout was taken up by a deafening multitude of voices-in the midst of which the degraded Knight and landless Baron made his way to the gate, and, as he passed out, a redoubled storm of shouts and yells arose from without.

"Out upon the traitor!" cried Harry of Lancaster with the loudest. "Away with him! But, Edward, and you too, Arthur, why shout you not? Hate you not traitors and treason?"

"I would not join my voice with the rabble," said Edward, "and it makes me sad to see knighthood fallen. What say you, Arthur?"

"Alas! he is my mother's kinsman," said Arthur, "and I loved his name for her sake as for that of Agnes too. Where is Agnes?"

"In the Convent of the Benedictine nuns," said Edward. "But in your ear, Arthur, what say you to our plan that she shall be heiress of her brother's lands, on condition of her wedding-guess whom?"

"Not mine uncle! Oh, Lord Edward, is it really so? How rejoiced old Ralph would be!"

"Speak not of it, Arthur-it was my mother who told me, when Agnes craved permission to go to the Convent, and I feared she would become one of those black-veiled nuns, and I should never see her more."

"Where is my uncle?" asked Arthur, gazing round. "I thought he was standing by the Lady Princess's chair-"

"He went to speak to Sir John Chandos but now," said Prince Henry, "but I see him not. Mark! what a lull in the sounds without!"

In fact, the various cries of execration which had assailed Fulk Clarenham on his exit from the gates of the Castle, after sounding more and more violent for some minutes, had suddenly died away almost into stillness-and the cause was one little guessed at within the court. The unhappy Fulk was moving onwards, almost as in a dream, without aim or object, other than to seek a refuge from the thousand eyes that marked his disgrace, and the tongues that upbraided him with it; but, in leaving the court, he entered upon a scene where danger, as well as disgrace, was to be apprehended. The rabble of the town, ever pleased at the fall of one whose station was higher th

an their own, mindful of unpaid debts, and harsh and scornful demeanour, and, as natives, rejoiced at the misfortune of a foreigner, all joined in one cry of-"Away with the recreant Englishman!-down with him!-down with him!" Every hand was armed with a stone, and brief would have been Fulk's space for repentance, had not the cry in its savage tones struck upon the ear of Eustace as he stood in the lists, receiving the congratulations of Sir John Chandos and of other Knights, who, with changed demeanour, came to greet the favoured hero.

"They will murder him," exclaimed Eustace; and breaking from his new friends, he made his way to the gate, and hurried into the town, just as Fulk had fallen to the ground, struck by a heavy stone hurled by the hand of no other than John Ingram. He rushed forward amid the hail of stones, and, as he lifted Clarenham's head, called out, "How is this! Brave men of Bordeaux, would you become murderers! Is this like honourable men, to triumph over the fallen!"

They held back in amazement for a second; then, as Eustace knelt by him and tried to recall his consciousness, murmurs arose, "Why interferes he with our affairs? He is English," and they all held together. "Another of the purse-proud English, who pay no debts, and ruin the poor Bordelais." "His blood we will have, if we cannot have his money. Away, Master Knight, be not so busy about the traitor, if you would not partake his fate."

Eustace looked up as the stones were uplifted, and more than one Free Companion had drawn his sword. "Hold," he exclaimed in a clear full-toned voice that filled every ear. "Hold! I am Eustace Lynwood, the Castellane of Chateau Norbelle!"

There was an instant silence. Every one pressed forward to see him, whose recent adventures had made him an object of much interest and curiosity, and the attention of the crowd was entirely diverted from the former unhappy subject of their pursuit. Whispers passed of "Noble Knight! flower of chivalry! how generous and Christian-like he bends over his enemy! Nay, if he revenge not himself, what right have we? And see, his arm is still in a scarf from the treachery of those villains! Well, I would yet give yon ruffian his desert."

By this time Eustace having observed Ingram among the crowd, summoned him to his side, and at the same time courteously craving the aid of one of the by-standers (who, of course, though collectively lions, were individually lambs), succeeded in conveying Clarenham, whose senses had so far returned that he was able to rise with their assistance, to the door of a monastery chapel, the porch of which opened upon the street.

"Holy Fathers," said Eustace, "I crave the protection of the Church for an unhappy, and, I trust, a penitent man, praying you will tend him well to aid and relief alike of body and soul, until you hear from me again."

With these words he quitted the chapel before his late enemy had sufficiently recovered his faculties to recognize his preserver.

Leonard Ashton, for whom Eustace inquired, had, it appeared, saved himself by making full confession, and had been sent home, in deep disgrace, though spared public dishonour.

It was some few days after these events that the presence of Lady Agnes de Clarenham was requested in the parlour of her nunnery, which was some miles distant from Bordeaux, by a person who, as the porteress informed her, was the bearer of a message from the Princess of Wales. She descended accordingly, but her surprise was great on beholding, instead of one of the female attendants of her mistress as she had expected, the slender figure of the young Knight with whom she had last parted at the hostelry.

Her first feeling was not one of kindness towards him. Agnes had indeed grieved and felt indignant when she saw him oppressed and in danger from her brother's treachery, but, in these days of favour, she could not regard with complacency the cause of her brother's ruin, and of the disgrace of her house. She started, and would have retreated, but that he prevented, by saying, in a tone which had in it more of sorrow than of any other feeling, "Lady Agnes, I pray you to hear me-for you have much to forgive."

"Forgive! Nay, Sir Eustace, it is you who have so much to forgive my unhappy house! Oh, can you," she added, as the countenance and manner recalling long past days made her forget her displeasure, "can you tell me where the wretched one has shrouded his head from the shame which even I cannot but confess he has merited?"

"I heard of the Bar-of your brother this very morn," said Eustace, "from one of the good brethren of the Convent where he has taken shelter, the Convent of the Augustine friars of St. Mary; they spoke of him as amended in health, and, though sorely dejected, returning, they hoped, to a better spirit.'

"Thanks, Sir Eustace, even so do I hope and pray it may be-since repentance is the only good which can yet be his. But tell me, Sir Eustace-for vague rumours only reach us in this lonely cell-was it true that the populace pursued the fallen one with clamours, and might even have slain him, but for his rescue by a gallant Knight, who braved their utmost fury?"

"It was even so, Lady," said Eustace, with some embarrassment.

"Oh! who was that noblest of Knights, that I may name him in my most fervent prayers? who has that strongest claim on the gratitude of the broken-hearted sister?"

"Nay, Lady, it was but common duty, the mere mercy of a Christian man, who could not see a fellow-creature die such a death, without attempting to save him."

"Oh, Sir Eustace! it is not like your former self to deny the greatness of a noble deed! I will not be robbed of my gratitude! Tell me the name of that most noble of men!"

He half smiled, then looking down, and colouring deeply: "Do you remember, Lady Agnes, the Knight whom you bound by a promise, that in case of the triumph of his cause-"

"Eustace, Eustace! Oh, I should have known that nothing was too great and high for you, that you would not disparage the nobleness of any other than yourself. Oh, how shall I ever render you my thanks! After such cruel treachery as that from which you have, and, I fear me, are still suffering! Alas! alas! that I should be forced to use such harsh words of my own brother!"

"I trust you may still be comforted, Lady," said Eustace. "From what the good Fathers tell me, there is hope that Fulk may yet be an altered man, and when the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which he has vowed, is concluded, may return in a holy temper."

"Return; but whither should he return?" said Agnes, in a broken, despondent tone,-"landless, homeless, desolate, outcast, what shelter is open to him? For if the porteress's tale spoke truth, his lands and manors are forfeited to the King."

"They are so, in truth; but there is one way, Agnes, in which they may still be restored to their true owner."

"How so? What mean you, Sir Eustace?"

"Agnes, I would not have broken upon your sorrow by speaking thus abruptly, but that the Prince's, or rather the King's desire was urgent, that the matter should be determined without loss of time. To you, in all justice, does he will that the castles and manors of Clarenham should descend, but on one condition."

Agnes raised her eyes, and, while she slowly shook her head, looked anxiously at him as he paused in considerable embarrassment.

"On condition that you, Lady Agnes, should permit the King and Prince to dispose of your fair hand in marriage."

Agnes gave a slight cry, and leant against the grate of the parlour. "Oh, that may never be, and-but how advantageth that poor Fulk?"

"Because, Lady Agnes-because it is to me that they would grant that hand which I have so long loved passionately and hopelessly. Agnes, it was not willingly, but at the command of the Prince, that I came hither with a suit which must seem to you most strangely timed, from one who has been the most unwilling cause of so much misery to you, whom, from earliest years, he has ever loved more than his own life. I know, too, that you cannot endure to rise on the ruin of your brother, nor could I bear to feel that I was living on the lands of a kinsman and neighbour whose overthrow I had wrought. But see you not, that jointly we can do what we never could do separately, that, the condition fulfilled, we could kneel before King Edward, and entreat for the pardon and restoration of Fulk, which, to such prayers, he would surely grant?"

Agnes' tears were gathering fast, and she spoke in a broken voice, as she said, "Eustace, you are the most generous of Knights," and then, ashamed of having said so much, covered her face with her veil and turned away. Eustace stood watching her, with his soul in his eyes; but before either had summoned courage to break the silence, the porteress came hurrying in, "Good lack! good lack! if ever my eyes saw the like-here is the Princess of Wales herself at the gate, and all her train-where is sister Katherine? where is the mother abbess? Alas, alas! that nought should be ready to receive her! Oh, and I have mislaid the key of the great gate!" While the good woman was bustling on in her career, Eustace had time to say, "Yea, Agnes, the Princess is come, in case you hear my suit favourably, to conduct you back to Bordeaux. Think of a true and devoted heart, think of Fulk ere you decide!" As he spoke, the whole train of black-veiled nuns came sweeping into the parlour, whence Agnes hastily escaped to collect her thoughts during the few instants before she could be summoned to attend the Princess, while Eustace walked into the Convent court, which was by this time filled by the gay party which accompanied the Princess.

Agnes quickly gained her cell, and sank down on her bed to make the most of the minutes that might be her own. Never, probably, had lady shorter time in which to decide, or did it seem more impossible to come to a resolution; but Agnes had known Eustace all her life, had never met one whom she thought his equal, found him raised a thousand-fold in her estimation by the events of the day, and could not bear to think of disappointing the hopes which had lighted up that bright eye and animated that whole face.

Then, too, why by her act completely ruin her brother? The thoughts flashed through her mind in rapid succession, and she did not rise with much reluctance when called to meet the Princess, though longing for more time, which after all would but have enabled her to harass herself more.

"Well, my gentle Agnes," said the Princess, "what say you? Come you back to the court, where my boys are wearing for their playfellow? Hasten, then sweet maiden, for I promised little Edward to bring you back, and I know not how to face his wrath if you come not."

Agnes, still almost dreaming, offered no opposition, but allowed her dress to be arranged, took leave of the abbess and her nuns, and shortly found herself, she scarcely knew how, mounted on her palfrey in the Princess's train, with Sir Eustace Lynwood at her side.

And old Ralph Penrose was one of the happiest of mankind, when he beheld his pupil return the first Knight in the county-the honoured of the Prince.

For the next seven years the Clarenham vassals rejoiced in the gentle, noble, and firm rule of their new Lord and Lady; yet it was remarked, with some surprise, that the title of Baron of Clarenham was dropped, and that Sir Eustace and Dame Agnes Lynwood, instead of living at their principal Castle, took up their abode at a small manor which had descended to the lady from her mother, while the Castle was placed under the charge of Gaston d'Aubricour, beneath whose care the fortifications assumed a more modern character, and the garrison learnt the newest fashions of handling their weapons.

At the end of that time Sir Eustace and his Lady travelled to the court, where, alas! of all the royal party who had rejoiced at their marriage, they found only the Young King Richard II. and his mother, the Princess Joanna, once the Fair Maid of Kent, but now sadly aged by time and sorrow, who received kindly, though tearfully, those who reminded her of those last bright days of her life at Bordeaux, and readily promised to forward their request at the council, "where, alas!" she said, shaking her head, "Lord Henry of Lancaster, now Earl of Bolingbroke, too often loved to oppose her and her son."

No one at the council could refuse, thought the amazement of all was great, when the request was made known that King Richard would be pleased to reinstate in his titles, lands, and manors, Fulk, late Baron of Clarenham, in consideration of his good services to Christendom, rendered on the coast of Africa under the banner of the Knights of St. John, whose Grand Master attested his courage and faithfulness.

Soon Clarenham Castle opened its gates to receive its humbled, repentant, and much-changed Lord, who was welcomed by all the gentle blood in the county-at the head of whom rode Sir Eustace with his Squire, and his nephew Arthur, now a gallant young man, only waiting the summons, promised him by the Princess, to receive knighthood at the same time as his royal master, Richard II.

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