> Is wing'd to heaven by good men's sighs and tears!—
> Anselm parts otherwise.
> Old Play
During the interval of quiet which followed the first success of th_esiegers, while the one party was preparing to pursue their advantage, an_he other to strengthen their means of defence, the Templar and De Bracy hel_rief council together in the hall of the castle.
"Where is Front-de-Boeuf?" said the latter, who had superintended the defenc_f the fortress on the other side; "men say he hath been slain."
"He lives," said the Templar, coolly, "lives as yet; but had he worn th_ull's head of which he bears the name, and ten plates of iron to fence i_ithal, he must have gone down before yonder fatal axe. Yet a few hours, an_ront-de-Boeuf is with his fathers—a powerful limb lopped off Prince John'_nterprise."
"And a brave addition to the kingdom of Satan," said De Bracy; "this comes o_eviling saints and angels, and ordering images of holy things and holy men t_e flung down on the heads of these rascaille yeomen."
"Go to—thou art a fool," said the Templar; "thy superstition is upon a leve_ith Front-de-Boeuf's want of faith; neither of you can render a reason fo_our belief or unbelief."
"Benedicite, Sir Templar," replied De Bracy, "pray you to keep better rul_ith your tongue when I am the theme of it. By the Mother of Heaven, I am _etter Christian man than thou and thy fellowship; for the 'bruit' goet_hrewdly out, that the most holy Order of the Temple of Zion nurseth not a fe_eretics within its bosom, and that Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is of th_umber."
"Care not thou for such reports," said the Templar; "but let us think o_aking good the castle.—How fought these villain yeomen on thy side?"
"Like fiends incarnate," said De Bracy. "They swarmed close up to the walls, headed, as I think, by the knave who won the prize at the archery, for I kne_is horn and baldric. And this is old Fitzurse's boasted policy, encouragin_hese malapert knaves to rebel against us! Had I not been armed in proof, th_illain had marked me down seven times with as little remorse as if I had bee_ buck in season. He told every rivet on my armour with a cloth-yard shaft, that rapped against my ribs with as little compunction as if my bones had bee_f iron—But that I wore a shirt of Spanish mail under my plate-coat, I ha_een fairly sped."
"But you maintained your post?" said the Templar. "We lost the outwork on ou_art."
"That is a shrewd loss," said De Bracy; "the knaves will find cover there t_ssault the castle more closely, and may, if not well watched, gain som_nguarded corner of a tower, or some forgotten window, and so break in upo_s. Our numbers are too few for the defence of every point, and the me_omplain that they can nowhere show themselves, but they are the mark for a_any arrows as a parish-butt on a holyday even. Front-de-Boeuf is dying too, so we shall receive no more aid from his bull's head and brutal strength. Ho_hink you, Sir Brian, were we not better make a virtue of necessity, an_ompound with the rogues by delivering up our prisoners?"
"How?" exclaimed the Templar; "deliver up our prisoners, and stand an objec_like of ridicule and execration, as the doughty warriors who dared by _ight-attack to possess themselves of the persons of a party of defenceles_ravellers, yet could not make good a strong castle against a vagabond troo_f outlaws, led by swineherds, jesters, and the very refuse of mankind?—Sham_n thy counsel, Maurice de Bracy!—The ruins of this castle shall bury both m_ody and my shame, ere I consent to such base and dishonourable composition."
"Let us to the walls, then," said De Bracy, carelessly; "that man neve_reathed, be he Turk or Templar, who held life at lighter rate than I do. Bu_ trust there is no dishonour in wishing I had here some two scores of m_allant troop of Free Companions? —Oh, my brave lances! if ye knew but ho_ard your captain were this day bested, how soon should I see my banner at th_ead of your clump of spears! And how short while would these rabble villain_tand to endure your encounter!"
"Wish for whom thou wilt," said the Templar, "but let us make what defence w_an with the soldiers who remain—They are chiefly Front-de-Boeuf's followers, hated by the English for a thousand acts of insolence and oppression."
"The better," said De Bracy; "the rugged slaves will defend themselves to th_ast drop of their blood, ere they encounter the revenge of the peasant_ithout. Let us up and be doing, then, Brian de Bois-Guilbert; and, live o_ie, thou shalt see Maurice de Bracy bear himself this day as a gentleman o_lood and lineage."
"To the walls!" answered the Templar; and they both ascended the battlement_o do all that skill could dictate, and manhood accomplish, in defence of th_lace. They readily agreed that the point of greatest danger was that opposit_o the outwork of which the assailants had possessed themselves. The castle, indeed, was divided from that barbican by the moat, and it was impossible tha_he besiegers could assail the postern-door, with which the outwor_orresponded, without surmounting that obstacle; but it was the opinion bot_f the Templar and De Bracy, that the besiegers, if governed by the sam_olicy their leader had already displayed, would endeavour, by a formidabl_ssault, to draw the chief part of the defenders' observation to this point, and take measures to avail themselves of every negligence which might tak_lace in the defence elsewhere. To guard against such an evil, their number_nly permitted the knights to place sentinels from space to space along th_alls in communication with each other, who might give the alarm wheneve_anger was threatened. Meanwhile, they agreed that De Bracy should command th_efence at the postern, and the Templar should keep with him a score of men o_hereabouts as a body of reserve, ready to hasten to any other point whic_ight be suddenly threatened. The loss of the barbican had also thi_nfortunate effect, that, notwithstanding the superior height of the castl_alls, the besieged could not see from them, with the same precision a_efore, the operations of the enemy; for some straggling underwood approache_o near the sallyport of the outwork, that the assailants might introduce int_t whatever force they thought proper, not only under cover, but even withou_he knowledge of the defenders. Utterly uncertain, therefore, upon what poin_he storm was to burst, De Bracy and his companion were under the necessity o_roviding against every possible contingency, and their followers, howeve_rave, experienced the anxious dejection of mind incident to men enclosed b_nemies, who possessed the power of choosing their time and mode of attack.
Meanwhile, the lord of the beleaguered and endangered castle lay upon a bed o_odily pain and mental agony. He had not the usual resource of bigots in tha_uperstitious period, most of whom were wont to atone for the crimes they wer_uilty of by liberality to the church, stupefying by this means their terror_y the idea of atonement and forgiveness; and although the refuge whic_uccess thus purchased, was no more like to the peace of mind which follows o_incere repentance, than the turbid stupefaction procured by opium resemble_ealthy and natural slumbers, it was still a state of mind preferable to th_gonies of awakened remorse. But among the vices of Front-de-Boeuf, a hard an_riping man, avarice was predominant; and he preferred setting church an_hurchmen at defiance, to purchasing from them pardon and absolution at th_rice of treasure and of manors. Nor did the Templar, an infidel of anothe_tamp, justly characterise his associate, when he said Front-de-Boeuf coul_ssign no cause for his unbelief and contempt for the established faith; fo_he Baron would have alleged that the Church sold her wares too dear, that th_piritual freedom which she put up to sale was only to be bought like that o_he chief captain of Jerusalem, "with a great sum," and Front-de-Boeu_referred denying the virtue of the medicine, to paying the expense of th_hysician.
But the moment had now arrived when earth and all his treasures were glidin_rom before his eyes, and when the savage Baron's heart, though hard as _ether millstone, became appalled as he gazed forward into the waste darknes_f futurity. The fever of his body aided the impatience and agony of his mind, and his death-bed exhibited a mixture of the newly awakened feelings o_orror, combating with the fixed and inveterate obstinacy of hi_isposition;—a fearful state of mind, only to be equalled in those tremendou_egions, where there are complaints without hope, remorse without repentance, a dreadful sense of present agony, and a presentiment that it cannot cease o_e diminished!
"Where be these dog-priests now," growled the Baron, "who set such price o_heir ghostly mummery?—where be all those unshod Carmelites, for whom ol_ront-de-Boeuf founded the convent of St Anne, robbing his heir of many a fai_ood of meadow, and many a fat field and close—where be the greedy hound_ow?—Swilling, I warrant me, at the ale, or playing their juggling tricks a_he bedside of some miserly churl.—Me, the heir of their founder —me, who_heir foundation binds them to pray for—me —ungrateful villains as the_re!—they suffer to die like the houseless dog on yonder common, unshriven an_nhouseled!—Tell the Templar to come hither—he is a priest, and may d_omething —But no!—as well confess myself to the devil as to Brian de Bois- Guilbert, who recks neither of heaven nor of hell.—I have heard old men tal_f prayer—prayer by their own voice—Such need not to court or to bribe th_alse priest—But I—I dare not!"
"Lives Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said a broken and shrill voice close by hi_edside, "to say there is that which he dares not!"
The evil conscience and the shaken nerves of Front-de-Boeuf heard, in thi_trange interruption to his soliloquy, the voice of one of those demons, who, as the superstition of the times believed, beset the beds of dying men t_istract their thoughts, and turn them from the meditations which concerne_heir eternal welfare. He shuddered and drew himself together; but, instantl_ummoning up his wonted resolution, he exclaimed, "Who is there? —what ar_hou, that darest to echo my words in a tone like that of the night- raven?—Come before my couch that I may see thee."
"I am thine evil angel, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," replied the voice.
"Let me behold thee then in thy bodily shape, if thou best indeed a fiend,"
replied the dying knight; "think not that I will blench from thee.—By th_ternal dungeon, could I but grapple with these horrors that hover round me, as I have done with mortal dangers, heaven or hell should never say that _hrunk from the conflict!"
"Think on thy sins, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said the almost unearthly voice,
"on rebellion, on rapine, on murder!—Who stirred up the licentious John to wa_gainst his grey-headed father—against his generous brother?"
"Be thou fiend, priest, or devil," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "thou liest in th_hroat!—Not I stirred John to rebellion—not I alone—there were fifty knight_nd barons, the flower of the midland counties—better men never laid lance i_est—And must I answer for the fault done by fifty?—False fiend, I defy thee!
Depart, and haunt my couch no more—let me die in peace if thou be mortal—i_hou be a demon, thy time is not yet come."
"In peace thou shalt NOT die," repeated the voice; "even in death shalt tho_hink on thy murders—on the groans which this castle has echoed— on the bloo_hat is engrained in its floors!"
"Thou canst not shake me by thy petty malice," answered Front-de-Boeuf, with _hastly and constrained laugh. "The infidel Jew—it was merit with heaven t_eal with him as I did, else wherefore are men canonized who dip their hand_n the blood of Saracens?—The Saxon porkers, whom I have slain, they were th_oes of my country, and of my lineage, and of my liege lord. —Ho! ho! tho_eest there is no crevice in my coat of plate —Art thou fled?—art tho_ilenced?"
"No, foul parricide!" replied the voice; "think of thy father! —think of hi_eath!—think of his banquet-room flooded with his gore, and that poured fort_y the hand of a son!"
"Ha!" answered the Baron, after a long pause, "an thou knowest that, thou ar_ndeed the author of evil, and as omniscient as the monks call thee!—Tha_ecret I deemed locked in my own breast, and in that of one besides—th_emptress, the partaker of my guilt.—Go, leave me, fiend! and seek the Saxo_itch Ulrica, who alone could tell thee what she and I alone witnessed. —Go, _ay, to her, who washed the wounds, and straighted the corpse, and gave to th_lain man the outward show of one parted in time and in the course o_ature—Go to her, she was my temptress, the foul provoker, the more fou_ewarder, of the deed —let her, as well as I, taste of the tortures whic_nticipate hell!"
"She already tastes them," said Ulrica, stepping before the couch of Front-de- Boeuf; "she hath long drunken of this cup, and its bitterness is now sweetene_o see that thou dost partake it. —Grind not thy teeth, Front-de-Boeuf—rol_ot thine eyes —clench not thine hand, nor shake it at me with that gesture o_enace!—The hand which, like that of thy renowned ancestor who gained th_ame, could have broken with one stroke the skull of a mountain-bull, is no_nnerved and powerless as mine own!"
"Vile murderous hag!" replied Front-de-Boeuf; "detestable screech-owl! it i_hen thou who art come to exult over the ruins thou hast assisted to lay low?"
"Ay, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," answered she, "it is Ulrica!—it is the daughte_f the murdered Torquil Wolfganger!—it is the sister of his slaughtere_ons!—it is she who demands of thee, and of thy father's house, father an_indred, name and fame —all that she has lost by the name of Front-de- Boeuf!—Think of my wrongs, Front-de-Boeuf, and answer me if I speak not truth.
Thou hast been my evil angel, and I will be thine—I will dog thee till th_ery instant of dissolution!"
"Detestable fury!" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf, "that moment shalt thou neve_itness—Ho! Giles, Clement, and Eustace! Saint Maur, and Stephen! seize thi_amned witch, and hurl her from the battlements headlong—she has betrayed u_o the Saxon!—Ho! Saint Maur! Clement! false-hearted, knaves, where tarry ye?"
"Call on them again, valiant Baron," said the hag, with a smile of grisl_ockery; "summon thy vassals around thee, doom them that loiter to the scourg_nd the dungeon—But know, mighty chief," she continued, suddenly changing he_one, "thou shalt have neither answer, nor aid, nor obedience at their hands.
—Listen to these horrid sounds," for the din of the recommenced assault an_efence now rung fearfully loud from the battlements of the castle; "in tha_ar-cry is the downfall of thy house—The blood-cemented fabric of Front-de- Boeuf's power totters to the foundation, and before the foes he most despised!
—The Saxon, Reginald!—the scorned Saxon assails thy walls! —Why liest tho_ere, like a worn-out hind, when the Saxon storms thy place of strength?"
"Gods and fiends!" exclaimed the wounded knight; "O, for one moment'_trength, to drag myself to the 'melee', and perish as becomes my name!"
"Think not of it, valiant warrior!" replied she; "thou shalt die no soldier'_eath, but perish like the fox in his den, when the peasants have set fire t_he cover around it."
"Hateful hag! thou liest!" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf; "my followers bear the_ravely—my walls are strong and high—my comrades in arms fear not a whole hos_f Saxons, were they headed by Hengist and Horsa!—The war-cry of the Templa_nd of the Free Companions rises high over the conflict! And by mine honour, when we kindle the blazing beacon, for joy of our defence, it shall consum_hee, body and bones; and I shall live to hear thou art gone from earthl_ires to those of that hell, which never sent forth an incarnate fiend mor_tterly diabolical!"
"Hold thy belief," replied Ulrica, "till the proof reach thee —But, no!" sh_aid, interrupting herself, "thou shalt know, even now, the doom, which al_hy power, strength, and courage, is unable to avoid, though it is prepare_or thee by this feeble band. Markest thou the smouldering and suffocatin_apour which already eddies in sable folds through the chamber?—Didst tho_hink it was but the darkening of thy bursting eyes—the difficulty of th_umbered breathing?—No! Front-de-Boeuf, there is another cause—Rememberes_hou the magazine of fuel that is stored beneath these apartments?"
"Woman!" he exclaimed with fury, "thou hast not set fire to it? —By heaven, thou hast, and the castle is in flames!"
"They are fast rising at least," said Ulrica, with frightful composure; "and _ignal shall soon wave to warn the besiegers to press hard upon those wh_ould extinguish them.—Farewell, Front-de-Boeuf!—May Mista, Skogula, an_ernebock, gods of the ancient Saxons—fiends, as the priests now cal_hem—supply the place of comforters at your dying bed, which Ulrica no_elinquishes!—But know, if it will give thee comfort to know it, that Ulric_s bound to the same dark coast with thyself, the companion of thy punishmen_s the companion of thy guilt.—And now, parricide, farewell for ever!—May eac_tone of this vaulted roof find a tongue to echo that title into thine ear!"
So saying, she left the apartment; and Front-de-Boeuf could hear the crash o_he ponderous key, as she locked and double-locked the door behind her, thu_utting off the most slender chance of escape. In the extremity of agony h_houted upon his servants and allies—"Stephen and Saint Maur!—Clement an_iles!—I burn here unaided!—To the rescue—to the rescue, brave Bois-Guilbert, valiant De Bracy!—It is Front-de-Boeuf who calls!—It is your master, y_raitor squires!—Your ally —your brother in arms, ye perjured and faithles_nights!—all the curses due to traitors upon your recreant heads, do yo_bandon me to perish thus miserably!—They hear me not—they cannot hear me—m_oice is lost in the din of battle.—The smoke rolls thicker and thicker—th_ire has caught upon the floor below—O, for one drought of the air of heaven, were it to be purchased by instant annihilation!" And in the mad frenzy o_espair, the wretch now shouted with the shouts of the fighters, now muttere_urses on himself, on mankind, and on Heaven itself. —"The red fire flashe_hrough the thick smoke!" he exclaimed; "the demon marches against me unde_he banner of his own element —Foul spirit, avoid!—I go not with thee withou_y comrades —all, all are thine, that garrison these walls—Thinkest tho_ront-de-Boeuf will be singled out to go alone?—No—the infidel Templar—th_icentious De Bracy—Ulrica, the foul murdering strumpet—the men who aided m_nterprises—the dog Saxons and accursed Jews, who are my prisoners—all, al_hall attend me—a goodly fellowship as ever took the downward road —Ha, ha, ha!" and he laughed in his frenzy till the vaulted roof rang again. "Wh_aughed there?" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf, in altered mood, for the noise o_he conflict did not prevent the echoes of his own mad laughter from returnin_pon his ear —"who laughed there?—Ulrica, was it thou?—Speak, witch, and _orgive thee—for, only thou or the fiend of hell himself could have laughed a_uch a moment. Avaunt—avaunt!———"
But it were impious to trace any farther the picture of the blasphemer an_arricide's deathbed.