Зображення сторінки


peror ?"

Till the harsh cold world has done its stern and eager look, as though he would worst,

read the very thoughts of each knight that And the tortured spirit hath groaned and pressed forward, Beauclerc, on his gallantburst.

ly caparisoned steed, entered the first

court-yard, followed by the empress, clad I am the light that's doomed to share in long garments, stiff with gold broidery, The meanest lot that man can bear; and mounted on her milk.white palfrey. I see the scanty portion spread,

“How name you this castle ?" said she, Where children struggle for scraps of addressing the knight at her gilded bridlebread;

rein. Where squalid forms and faces seem, “The royal castle of Wallingford, one Like phantoms in a hideous dream, of king Henry's staunchest strongholds, Where the rich may look with startled awe and most favorite places of abode," repliOn the work of poverty's vulture claw. ed the knight.

“Soothly it likes me not,” said the enOh! many a lesson the bosom learns

press, gazing at the giant outline of tower Of hapless grief while the rushlight burns; and battlement, that threw its dark shaMany a scene unfolds to me

dow against the clear frosty sky, like one That the heart of mercy would bleed to see. of those immense fortress towns to which Then scorn me not as a worthless thing, her eye had been so long accustomed in Nor turn with contempt from the song i Germany, and which had been the scene sing;

of so inany a triumph of iniquity. “MeBut scorn as ye will, or smile as you may; thinks I should be loath to choose this place Ye cannot revile the truth in my lay. as my abode," continued the empress.

Eliza Cook. “The deer' may not more gladly seek

covert from the hunter, nor the bird a refuge from the falcon, than thou Empress Maude, mayst one day hail the shelter of these walls,” said a voice close beside her.

“What meaneth this ?” cried the emWALLINGFORD CASTLE,

press, turning fiercely round. " Who dareth to speak of refuge and shelter to the

daughter of a king, the widow of an emThe faint and fast fading twilight of an “One who well may warn the highest of early spring, evening had well nigh dark-chance and change,” replied an old man, ened into night, ere the procession that whose tremulous voice and bent form told “dragged its slow length along” the nar- of extremest age, and whose long black row and rugged road that yet bore the robe marked him a servant of the church. right royal designation of "the king's "Away, old man, away with these illhighway" reached its final resting-place. omened forebodings,” cried the empress A picturesque procession was that, for angrily, waving her hand;“ preach to serf Beauclerc was splendid in all his doings; and vassal of chance and change, but not to and the twelfth century was an age in the widow of the kaisar.” which grandeur and magnificence were There was high feasting that night at considered as peculiarly befitting kings; Wallingford Castle. Stern, and so surrounded by chain-mailed knights, rude, as the exterior seemed, the inner preceded by billmen and bowmen, and apartments displayed a scene of gorgeous heralds in gorgeous tabards, and the chap- magnificence, that the royal state of the lains of the royal households, in their present day might scarcely equal. Silken snowy vestments, (for the semblance, at tapestry, the produce of Sicilian looms, least of religion, sound policy taught the concealed the stone walls ; silken carpets, astute Beauclerc to preserve,) the scholar brought from the land of the paynim, king, and the Empress Maude, his daugh. bespread the dais; huge silver candlesticks ter, journied onward from Northampton bore the huge perfumed wax candles ; to the castle of Wallingford. And twilight huge silver vases held the wines, and had yielded to night, and the hind had re-"ipocras ;" and huge silver dishes the tired to his straw bed, and Compline had mighty repast; while the drinking cups, been sung in every church, and the em- wrought in pure gold, and thickly studded phatic benediction, so characteristic of with gems, might have served for the table these unsettled times, “a good night and of the romance-famed Octavian, or decked qu et rest,” had been pronounced in every a cathedral high altar-a service, indeed, abbey, ere the peremptory blast of trum- to which some of them were' afterwards pets announced to the warriors of the tow assigned, through the pious care of the worer-guarded gate of Wallingford Castle, thy. abbót, Suger, who purchased them that "le tret hault e puissanz rey Henri" after Henry's death for the Abbey of St. demanded entrance.

Denis. Down thundered the drawbridge, up And there, beneath the cloth of estate, rose the huge portcullis, and the iron-stud- which displayed in gold embroidery two ded gates swung heavily back, as, with long-backed and marvellously ill-favored


lions, sate the scholar king with jewelled the future, who will not take warning collar and baldric and rich silken robes, from the past ?" said he. his sandalled feet resting on a silver foot “Away, I conjure thee !" cried Beauclerc stool ; and close beside, on a lower chair, still averting his eyes; "away, unless thou inheritrix alike of his pride and of his canst bring me back those whom the talents, sat the daughter, whose brow had waves roll over ?" been spanned by the diadem ofthe Cæsars; “Hadst thou but listened, had he but and who when a child of scarcely seven listened to my warning, the white ship had years, had been led in imperial pomp to not sunk with its precious freight,” was Mentz, to become the bride ofthe emperor, the solemn reply. Henry the Fifth.

Beauclerc clasped his hands despairingFor some time did Henry sit silent, and ly, and could his prisoned brother have with eyes fixed on the ground; at length seen the agony of that moment, he would he raised them, and casting a gloomy look have felt that his long captivity was almost around, said, " Where is Ďurand ?" avenged. “Old man, whoever thou art,

The attendant churchmen crossed them- and whencever thou camest,” said he selves when they heard that question, and "answer me but this one question, (for even the warrior barons looked grave; well I know that all things are foreseen by for Magister Durandus was considered as thee,) and great shall be thy guerdon." more than half a Saracen, and popular "I claim no knowledge save what the report gave him the character of a mighty book of long experience can presentmagician. But popular report, or clerical read not the stars—I possess no charmed censure, the scholar king heeded not : his mirrors. Would ye see forbidden knowstern and iron rule had forced noble, and ledge, ask it of Durand,” said the old man even prelate, to bow to his bidding and if sternly. it were the general belief that Beauclerc to “ old man, who canst thou be that darest his lawful knowledge had added unlawful, to trifle with the will of Beauclere ?" it was a belief that even the very highest! "One who would fain do him service, dared not to breathe to his neighbor, for that through his means this poor land may secret, certain, and deadly, was Beau- have rest. King Henry, soughtest thou clerc's revenge.

her peace alone, when yesterday thy “Where is Durand ?" said he again, and nobles sware sealty to thy daughter ? Emhis fierce eye flashed with rage.

press Maude, didst thou stedfastly purpose “Wherefore seekest thou Durand ?" said to establish her peace when the crown of a voice at the end of the hall.

England was promised to thy brow ?" Beauclerc started at the sound. Who "She who hath worn the diadem of the questions us ?” said he.

Cæsars, may well bear the crown of The old man, who had before addressed England,” replied the haughty empress. the daughter, now advanced to the very The crown may be too heavy for thy edge of the dais, and throwing back the brow, proud empress, and these very walls churchman's hood, calmly answered, may witness thy vain regrets for that which “Knowest thou not ?"

thou mayest no longer retain,” was the "Away, ill-omened messenger,” cried solemn reply. Beauclerc in a passion ofrage yet averting “What! shall not my crown be secured his eyes ;“ away to the grave, fiend, to my daughter—to my only child ? cried whence thou camest."

Beauclerc, a thousand vague but agonising “Would that the grave were indeed my thoughts arising in his mind ;“ speak, old resting-place," replied the old man; and man—wherefore this foreboding of ill ? the heart-broken tone in which he uttered | wherefore camest thou with thy gloomy the words struck each one with pity and warnings ?" with awe.

“ That this land may have rest and Who could that old man be-who with peace. Empress Maude, seek her peace beard and hair flowing like snow-drists and it shall be well with thee; scorn her over the dark robe, and with features fixed welfare, and bitterly shalt thou remember in that immovable rigidity that seemed to my warning of to-night." belong to the grave, stood there unawed, The old man turned round, and all uneven unnerved, at the very footstool of heeding of the summons of Beauclerc, deBeauclerc ? Was he that wandering parted. Hebrew whom legend had recorded as “Knowest thou how yonder man gained condemned to a pilgrimage, that should admittance ?" said Beauclerc, to the first end but at the day of doom? Or was it knight who approached the dais at his indeed a visitant from the grave ? one of call. the progenitors of the dukes of Normandy, To the question no satisfactory answer come to warn his descendant of impending could be given, and as it was repeated to ill ? Still Beauclerc sat as spell-bound, and another and another, still the mystery his nobles stood marvelling around. to seemed to deepen; for too well did Beausee that haughty monarch, who on the clerc perceive that the belief that the aged battle field never knew fear, quail beneath visitant was no mortal being had taken the fixed gaze of that lone old man. possession of their minds. “Whence can

“Wherefore seeketh he knowledge of|he be? who is he ?” murmured Beauclerc

to himself; "twice before have I seen him, perceptibly over the apartment. As that when he came with warnings, alas, un- light smoke cleared away, a tremulous heeded; but this last warning !- who is motion appeared on the face of the mirhe that shall snatch the crown from her ror, clouds following clouds passed along brow?"

the surface, and at length a crowd of menWith violent effort, unperceived, how-at-arms became clearly visible, the lion ever, by his surrounding vassals,, (for standard of England floating above, and Beauclerc was a perfect master of dupli- in the midst a knight, on his well-appointcity,) did the monarch assume a calm and ed destrere, with the strawberry-leaf even cheerful air. He commanded the crown on his brow. minstrels and jongleurs to appear, and “ Who is he who dareth to take my summoned master Sampson de Nanteuil crown ?" cried Beauclerc; but the shaand Geoffroy Gaimar to his presence, and dows had passed away, when the latter, in right courtly strains, Long and sternly did the empress gaze assured to his patron and his daughter on the mirror, for anxiety to learn her futhe praise and admiration of all posterity, ture destiny had now banished all fear a purse of bezants, bright and unclipped, from her mind; and curiosity to know rewarded the politic trouvère, and the whether that mysterious old man's words smile of the monarch showed to all around would indeed come true, took possession how little the visit of the mysterious old of every feeling. man had availed to awaken fear or care. “What wouldst thou learn ?" said Du

But when, dismissing his menie, Beau- rand to her. clerc retired to his chamber, the forboding He said that I should seek the shelter words of the old man returned with full of this castle gladly as the deer takes reforce to his mind.—"Call Durand hither,” fuge from the hunter,” replied the empress said he, to his favorite attendant, and the with a smile of scorn ; “in what guise dreaded magister, Durandus, soon appear- shall I revisit it ?" ed at the summons. The conference was Again shadows flitted over the duli surJong, but none knew its import; and at face of the mirror ;-they cleared slowly length the same messenger was sent to away, and a reflection of the very room in the chamber of the empress, to require her which they stood appeared. But neither instant attendance.

Durand nor the empress in imperial robes Marvelling at the summons, and not was seen, but a half-clothed figure, lying without some vague foreboding of ill, did beside a coarse and mire-bestained cloak, the widow of the kaisar repair to her fa- and wringing, with bleeding hands, the ther's presence; nor did that vague though wet from her long unfilleted tresses. strong foreboding pass away when she " St. Mary !” exclaimed the empress, gazed on the anxious countenance of her “what serf is this ?" father, on the strange garb and repulsive The figure turned slowly round, and the features of the imagined magician who features, wan and woe-worn, were her stood beside him, and on the dim mirror own! placed just opposite, but which gave no That night both Beauclerc and the emreflection.

press sought rest in vain, and with the “The mirror will not answer our inqui earliest dawn the scholar-king was seated ries,” said Beauclerc; "it is thou, my with Durand in his cabinet, engaged in daughter, who must ask; for the answer anxious search into futurity._“I will see is for thee."

this old man,” said the king ; "he alone But the Empress Maude drew back, nor can show that future which your skill but until urged by her father, in a tone which seeks in vain”—and the offended astrolo. she well knew brooked no delay, did ger withdrew. she place herself before the dreaded mir. Seven days passed away in the chase ror.

and feasting, and then the command was “What said the old man of shelter, and given for the royal household to departin this very castle ?" said Beauclerc. "I have seen him," said Beauclerc, to his

Recalled to her self-possession by her daughter, ere she mounted her palfrey, pride, a smile of scorn passed over the "and do thou take heed to his counsels brow of the empress.--"1 heeded not,” |’tis a holy man! and, on my blessing, said she.

again I charge thee, take heed to his coun: " Would that I might see what shall be sels when I am dead.” twelve months after my death,” said Beau The empress looked with amazement clerc.

on the solemn, the awe-stricken counteAsk it of the mirror, empress,” said nance of her father.—“Who is that old Durand; "the star of Beauclerc is not in man, then ?said she. the ascendant, and the mirror will return “That secret, which he hath revealed to no answer to him."

me,” said Beauclerc, solemnly, “must neThe question was repeated three times, ver be disclosed-suffice it for thee, that audibly and distinctly, by the empress, he is one who well may foretel chance and and the words of incantation were whis- change to those who dream not of them, pered by Durand, and a light smoke, and well may he counsel the young, over breathing sweet odors, spread itself im- whose head the snows of ninety winters


have passed-surely not in vain hath his ready to marshall the company; but ere life been lengthened!"

the kingly sturgeon was brought in on his The monarch quitted his daughter's huge silver dish, ere the bishop rose to side, the seneschal lifted his long white pronounce the blessing, a secret messenwand, and gave the word to the men-at- ger whispered that danger was at handarms who formed the vanguard to go for- was at the door; for Maude of Boulogne, ward, and the long train filed away be at the head of the Kentish auxiliaries, had neath the massive gateway. “Lady Ma- crossed the river, the citizens had joyfully ry!" said the empress, "if ever I enter opened the gates, and were even now prothis ill-omened castle again, it shall indeed ceeding to Baynard's castle, to take capbe through dire necessity. But away tive the empress. And there she stood, with such thoughts-what hath the widow thunder struck at the intelligence, beneath of the kaisar, the heiress of England's the gorgeous canopy, surrounded but by a crown, to do with sorrow ?"

few faithful knights, while the golden cups,

and the silver dishes, even the perfumed Years passed away. Beauclerc slum napery was stripped from the tables by bered in royal state in his favorite Abbey those whom but the moment before she of Reading, and Stephen, not the empress, had deemed her true and faithful servants; had been called to assume the crown by there she stood, uncertain what to do, and the united voice of nobles and people. He looking to heaven in despair, when a voice had been defeated, driven from the throne, whispered, “Follow me." and was now held in stern captivity, and There was surely a strange authority the crown which Beauclerc fondly hoped in that voice, for, willingly as the little would encircle his daughter's brow, was child obeys the voice of its parent, did the at last, in the cathedral of Winchester, haughty empress turn and follow. Greatplaced on her head by Stephen's thrice- ly marvelled her faithful knights who that perjured brother, Henry of Blois. And in old man could be who had just before right royal state did the Empress Maude brought intelligence of coming danger, proceed from Winchester to Oxford, and and who now seemed prepared to provide from Oxford to London, to receive the an escape from it; and more did they homage of her citizens. But when, in marvel, when following, they saw him rich attire and bearing splendid gifts, the lead the empress along the covered way, fathers of the city knelt at her silver foot- and open the small wicket gate that led stool, and prayed that boon so dear to the toward the west, just beyond the boundaLondoner for many centuries," the good ry of the massive city wall; and greater old laws of King Edward," she spurned still was their marvelling when just bethem from her presence, and shamed not side the gate they beheld a gallant black to call them traitors. Angrily, and brea- palfrey, unbedecked indeed with broiderthing no impotent threats, they withdrew, ed howsings, or silver-belled bridle-rein, all but one, and he approached even near- but of surpassing beauty, and saw the old er to her foot-stool. Empress Maude,” man give the bridle to the empress, saysaid he “remember thou art now Queen ing, "Ride for your life.” of England, pledged to uphold her welfare “By St. Mary and St. Michael,” cried -take heed that ye fulfil it, or woe unto Hugh d'Abrincis," that old man is a fear

ful magician; alas ! my lady and empress, The empress turned angrily round, but woe worth the day that ye mounted that she said not, “Who art thou ?" for the dæmon steed.” well-remembered features of the old man “ Then onward, and seize him,” cried at the Castle of Wallingford met her eye, Fitz Warine; but the old man had vanishand her father's warning words rushed ed away, and eager to escape, for the foeon her mind.

men were now at the gates, they mounted But the admonition of that old man too their flectest horses, and fled by that wicksoon passed from her memory, for she et gate. was girt about with evil counsellors; and A gallant steed was that black palfreylittle did she deem, after she had returned no dæmon steed, but foaled in the land of a second scornful reply to the demands of the east; and onward he bounded like a the citizens, that that very night Waleran shaft from the bow, while the Empress Fitz-Aylward, whom she had despatch- Maude's pursuers urged their heavy wared with intelligence to her brother-in-steeds after her in vain. Onward-onlaw, Earl Robert of Gloster, had cross- ward-fled the daughter of Beauclerced the river, and proceeded to the ar- onward, hoping, yet far from fearing, she my of William D’Ypres, and there given might never reach her nearest strong. into the hands of Stephen's wife, Maude hold; but still onward bounded her coalof Boulogne, herself, the invitation of black steed, even more than fifty miles bethe Londoners that she should enter the fore sun-set. It was sexts when she fled city, and hold it for her captive lord. from Baynard's castle, and the bells were Little dreamed the empress of this: a gal-chiming for vespers when she entered the lant feast was prepared at Baynard's castle of Oxford. castle, and threescore servitors, each of “Cause proclamation to be made, and gentle birth, in vair-lined mantles, stood seek diligently after the old man, who this


[ocr errors]




day hath saved me from captivity,” said hope of obtaining more from the wasted the empress to Eudo de Marmion, as she country round, when Eudo de Marmion dismounted from her weary palfrey ; " tell appeared, and with him the mysterious old him the gratitude of a queen, of an em- man. press, awaits him.”. Eudo de Marmion, “O welcome, holy man,” cried the emand two score knights, made diligent press; "wherefore hast thou staid so long search, and caused proclamation to be away, when the gratitude of an empress made, even to the morrow of Lammas, but awaited thee ?" the old man was not to be found.

“I ask no reward, and therefore I sought

none,” said the old man, calmly; "and I Still was Stephen kept in dungeon deep, now come but to bid thee avail thyself of and in fetters, for in warfare it was indeed this short truce, for instant flight.” a barbarous age! and heeding little the “Flight!" said Earl Robertof Gloucester, defection of London, while Winchester, angrily;

" wherefore dost thou counsel with its impregnable castle, and the royal Aight " treasury, remained to her, Émpress Mau * Because that alone remains; Earl de haughtily rejected all overtures for his Robert, Empress Maude, look on the deliberation, even although it was offered solations of these seven last weeks alone, that he should yield up his claim to the and say, shall such things continue? But crown, and quit the land; and she even I need not say this-look to your garrison, refused her trustiest ally, the bishop of murmuring even now, for lack, not of payWinchester, the boon that his nephew ment, but provision-look at your stores, Eustace should possess his mother's es- have ye wherewith to supply them ?” tates. And now did the perjured bishop

" What knowest thou of the stores in this bethink himself of his brother pining in castle ?” said Earl Milo. captivity, and he renounced his allegiance “Well know I that threescore loaves, to the empress.

and fourscore barrels of meal will ill supSad were it to tell of the events of the ply five hundred men, even to the feast of events of the next seven weeks-when the St. Michael,” said the old man. golden harvest was trodden down be “How couldst thou know the stores in neath the iron feet of armed men-when this castle ?” cried Earl Robert in amazethe citizens of Winchester saw their fair ment, for the aged stranger had stated their city exposed to a close seige, during exact amount. which two abbeys and forty parish chur. “Well do I know every part of this casches,* besides numberless dwelling-hou- tle,” replied the old man solemly, “not the ses, were consumed by fire; and when store houses alone, but every postern gate, the desolation was so wide-spreading, every secret passage—the winding stair and so complete, that in the forcible words that leads to the covered way, the marble of the venerable Saxon Chronicle, “ To slab that covers the descent to the treatill the ground was to plough the sea, the sury.” earth bare no corn, for the land was laid “St. Michael !, holy man-how knowest waste by such deeds, and men openly said thou all this ?” cried Earl Robert, in unthat Christ and his saints were asleep." controlled astonishment.

At length came the eve of Holyrood “Because I myself have ere now deday, and pleasant was the chime of the scended by it; a life, not always passed vesper-bell, for it told alike to besieger and within the boundary of a cloister, and besieged, of welcome rest, and an un- lengthened out even to one hundred broken truce for forty-eight hours; and years, must needs have discovered many Henry of Blois himself, in mitred pomp, things." proclaimed from the cathedral high altar, “ And thou counsellest us to give up the * The peace of God, in going, in remain-place-to flee ?" inquired Earl Robert, ing, and in returning, until the morrow of earnestly ; for he felt that it was no ordiHolyrood."

nary being who, with the weight of one In the council-room of the castle, in anxi- hundred years on his brow stood before ous debate with the empress, sat her bro- him. ther, Earl Robert of Gloucester, her uncle, "I do. Take advantage of this short king David of Scotland, and Earl Milo of truce-send the empress forward at nightHereford, and Earl Reineld of Cornwall, fall with a convoy of trusty knights-then and Earl Ranulph of Chester-all wise and do you, Earl Robert, follow with the garwary statesmen, and stalwart warriors; rison, well prepared to give battle if pursuit and they were deliberating whether they should be made.” should not be compelled, though sorely

" Counselled like one who hath known unwilling, to raise the siege; for there was the battle-field,” cried Earl Reineld of scant provision in the castle, and little Cornwall

, gazing with admiration on that

wan and feeble old man; “surely those * This number appears incredibly large; it is, lips, that can so wisely counsel, have however, expressly mentioned by more than one cheered on many a gallant company to contemporary chronicler, and it must be borne in the fray.mind that althis period Winchester certainly was

"I have known the battle-field,” replied superior to London in wealth and population. the old man, sadly.

« НазадПродовжити »