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Chapter 9

  • > ————In the midst was seen
  • >
  • > A lady of a more majestic mien,
  • >
  • > By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign Queen.
  • >
  • > * * * * *
  • >
  • > And as in beauty she surpass'd the choir,
  • >
  • > So nobler than the rest was her attire;
  • >
  • > A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
  • >
  • > Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
  • >
  • > A branch of Agnus Castus in her hand,
  • >
  • > She bore aloft her symbol of command.
  • >
  • > The Flower and the Leaf
  • William de Wyvil and Stephen de Martival, the marshals of the field, were th_irst to offer their congratulations to the victor, praying him, at the sam_ime, to suffer his helmet to be unlaced, or, at least, that he would rais_is visor ere they conducted him to receive the prize of the day's tourne_rom the hands of Prince John. The Disinherited Knight, with all knightl_ourtesy, declined their request, alleging, that he could not at this tim_uffer his face to be seen, for reasons which he had assigned to the herald_hen he entered the lists. The marshals were perfectly satisfied by thi_eply; for amidst the frequent and capricious vows by which knights wer_ccustomed to bind themselves in the days of chivalry, there were none mor_ommon than those by which they engaged to remain incognito for a certai_pace, or until some particular adventure was achieved. The marshals, therefore, pressed no farther into the mystery of the Disinherited Knight, but, announcing to Prince John the conqueror's desire to remain unknown, the_equested permission to bring him before his Grace, in order that he migh_eceive the reward of his valour.
  • John's curiosity was excited by the mystery observed by the stranger; and, being already displeased with the issue of the tournament, in which th_hallengers whom he favoured had been successively defeated by one knight, h_nswered haughtily to the marshals, "By the light of Our Lady's brow, thi_ame knight hath been disinherited as well of his courtesy as of his lands, since he desires to appear before us without uncovering his face. —Wot ye, m_ords," be said, turning round to his train, "who this gallant can be, tha_ears himself thus proudly?"
  • "I cannot guess," answered De Bracy, "nor did I think there had been withi_he four seas that girth Britain a champion that could bear down these fiv_nights in one day's jousting. By my faith, I shall never forget the forc_ith which he shocked De Vipont. The poor Hospitaller was hurled from hi_addle like a stone from a sling."
  • "Boast not of that," said a Knight of St John, who was present; "your Templ_hampion had no better luck. I saw your brave lance, Bois-Guilbert, rol_hrice over, grasping his hands full of sand at every turn."
  • De Bracy, being attached to the Templars, would have replied, but wa_revented by Prince John. "Silence, sirs!" he said; "what unprofitable debat_ave we here?"
  • "The victor," said De Wyvil, "still waits the pleasure of your highness."
  • "It is our pleasure," answered John, "that he do so wait until we lear_hether there is not some one who can at least guess at his name and quality.
  • Should he remain there till night-fall, he has had work enough to keep hi_arm."
  • "Your Grace," said Waldemar Fitzurse, "will do less than due honour to th_ictor, if you compel him to wait till we tell your highness that which w_annot know; at least I can form no guess —unless he be one of the good lance_ho accompanied King Richard to Palestine, and who are now straggling homewar_rom the Holy Land."
  • "It may be the Earl of Salisbury," said De Bracy; "he is about the sam_itch."
  • "Sir Thomas de Multon, the Knight of Gilsland, rather," said Fitzurse;
  • "Salisbury is bigger in the bones." A whisper arose among the train, but b_hom first suggested could not be ascertained. "It might be the King—it migh_e Richard Coeur-de-Lion himself!"
  • "Over God's forbode!" said Prince John, involuntarily turning at the same tim_s pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by a flash of lightning;
  • "Waldemar!—De Bracy! brave knights and gentlemen, remember your promises, an_tand truly by me!"
  • "Here is no danger impending," said Waldemar Fitzurse; "are you so littl_cquainted with the gigantic limbs of your father's son, as to think they ca_e held within the circumference of yonder suit of armour?—De Wyvil an_artival, you will best serve the Prince by bringing forward the victor to th_hrone, and ending an error that has conjured all the blood from hi_heeks.—Look at him more closely," he continued, "your highness will see tha_e wants three inches of King Richard's height, and twice as much of hi_houlder-breadth. The very horse he backs, could not have carried th_onderous weight of King Richard through a single course."
  • While he was yet speaking, the marshals brought forward the Disinherite_night to the foot of a wooden flight of steps, which formed the ascent fro_he lists to Prince John's throne. Still discomposed with the idea that hi_rother, so much injured, and to whom he was so much indebted, had suddenl_rrived in his native kingdom, even the distinctions pointed out by Fitzurs_id not altogether remove the Prince's apprehensions; and while, with a shor_nd embarrassed eulogy upon his valour, he caused to be delivered to him th_ar-horse assigned as the prize, he trembled lest from the barred visor of th_ailed form before him, an answer might be returned, in the deep and awfu_ccents of Richard the Lion-hearted.
  • But the Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply to the compliment of th_rince, which he only acknowledged with a profound obeisance.
  • The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed, the anima_tself being fully accoutred with the richest war-furniture; which, however, scarcely added to the value of the noble creature in the eyes of those wh_ere judges. Laying one hand upon the pommel of the saddle, the Disinherite_night vaulted at once upon the back of the steed without making use of th_tirrup, and, brandishing aloft his lance, rode twice around the lists, exhibiting the points and paces of the horse with the skill of a perfec_orseman.
  • The appearance of vanity, which might otherwise have been attributed to thi_isplay, was removed by the propriety shown in exhibiting to the bes_dvantage the princely reward with which he had been just honoured, and th_night was again greeted by the acclamations of all present.
  • In the meanwhile, the bustling Prior of Jorvaulx had reminded Prince John, i_ whisper, that the victor must now display his good judgment, instead of hi_alour, by selecting from among the beauties who graced the galleries a lady, who should fill the throne of the Queen of Beauty and of Love, and deliver th_rize of the tourney upon the ensuing day. The Prince accordingly made a sig_ith his truncheon, as the Knight passed him in his second career around th_ists. The Knight turned towards the throne, and, sinking his lance, until th_oint was within a foot of the ground, remained motionless, as if expectin_ohn's commands; while all admired the sudden dexterity with which h_nstantly reduced his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and hig_xcitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue.
  • "Sir Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since that is the only title b_hich we can address you, it is now your duty, as well as privilege, to nam_he fair lady, who, as Queen of Honour and of Love, is to preside over nex_ay's festival. If, as a stranger in our land, you should require the aid o_ther judgment to guide your own, we can only say that Alicia, the daughter o_ur gallant knight Waldemar Fitzurse, has at our court been long held th_irst in beauty as in place. Nevertheless, it is your undoubted prerogative t_onfer on whom you please this crown, by the delivery of which to the lady o_our choice, the election of to-morrow's Queen will be formal an_omplete.—Raise your lance."
  • The Knight obeyed; and Prince John placed upon its point a coronet of gree_atin, having around its edge a circlet of gold, the upper edge of which wa_elieved by arrow-points and hearts placed interchangeably, like th_trawberry leaves and balls upon a ducal crown.
  • In the broad hint which he dropped respecting the daughter of Waldema_itzurse, John had more than one motive, each the offspring of a mind, whic_as a strange mixture of carelessness and presumption with low artifice an_unning. He wished to banish from the minds of the chivalry around him his ow_ndecent and unacceptable jest respecting the Jewess Rebecca; he was desirou_f conciliating Alicia's father Waldemar, of whom he stood in awe, and who ha_ore than once shown himself dissatisfied during the course of the day'_roceedings. He had also a wish to establish himself in the good graces of th_ady; for John was at least as licentious in his pleasures as profligate i_is ambition. But besides all these reasons, he was desirous to raise u_gainst the Disinherited Knight (towards whom he already entertained a stron_islike) a powerful enemy in the person of Waldemar Fitzurse, who was likely, he thought, highly to resent the injury done to his daughter, in case, as wa_ot unlikely, the victor should make another choice.
  • And so indeed it proved. For the Disinherited Knight passed the gallery clos_o that of the Prince, in which the Lady Alicia was seated in the full prid_f triumphant beauty, and, pacing forwards as slowly as he had hitherto rod_wiftly around the lists, he seemed to exercise his right of examining th_umerous fair faces which adorned that splendid circle.
  • It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties who underwen_his examination, during the time it was proceeding. Some blushed, som_ssumed an air of pride and dignity, some looked straight forward, and essaye_o seem utterly unconscious of what was going on, some drew back in alarm, which was perhaps affected, some endeavoured to forbear smiling, and ther_ere two or three who laughed outright. There were also some who dropped thei_eils over their charms; but, as the Wardour Manuscript says these were fai_nes of ten years standing, it may be supposed that, having had their ful_hare of such vanities, they were willing to withdraw their claim, in order t_ive a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age.
  • At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the Lady Rowena wa_laced, and the expectation of the spectators was excited to the utmost.
  • It must be owned, that if an interest displayed in his success could hav_ribed the Disinherited Knight, the part of the lists before which he pause_ad merited his predilection. Cedric the Saxon, overjoyed at the discomfitur_f the Templar, and still more so at the, miscarriage of his two malevolen_eighbours, Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, had, with his body half stretche_ver the balcony, accompanied the victor in each course, not with his eye_nly, but with his whole heart and soul. The Lady Rowena had watched th_rogress of the day with equal attention, though without openly betraying th_ame intense interest. Even the unmoved Athelstane had shown symptoms o_haking off his apathy, when, calling for a huge goblet of muscadine, h_uaffed it to the health of the Disinherited Knight. Another group, statione_nder the gallery occupied by the Saxons, had shown no less interest in th_ate of the day.
  • "Father Abraham!" said Isaac of York, when the first course was run betwix_he Templar and the Disinherited Knight, "how fiercely that Gentile rides! Ah, the good horse that was brought all the long way from Barbary, he takes n_ore care of him than if he were a wild ass's colt—and the noble armour, tha_as worth so many zecchins to Joseph Pareira, the armourer of Milan, beside_eventy in the hundred of profits, he cares for it as little as if he ha_ound it in the highways!"
  • "If he risks his own person and limbs, father," said Rebecca, "in doing such _readful battle, he can scarce be expected to spare his horse and armour."
  • "Child!" replied Isaac, somewhat heated, "thou knowest not what tho_peakest—His neck and limbs are his own, but his horse and armour belon_o—Holy Jacob! what was I about to say! —Nevertheless, it is a good youth—See, Rebecca! see, he is again about to go up to battle against th_hilistine—Pray, child—pray for the safety of the good youth,—and of th_peedy horse, and the rich armour.—God of my fathers!" he again exclaimed, "h_ath conquered, and the uncircumcised Philistine hath fallen before hi_ance,—even as Og the King of Bashan, and Sihon, King of the Amorites, fel_efore the sword of our fathers!—Surely he shall take their gold and thei_ilver, and their war-horses, and their armour of brass and of steel, for _rey and for a spoil."
  • The same anxiety did the worthy Jew display during every course that was run, seldom failing to hazard a hasty calculation concerning the value of the hors_nd armour which was forfeited to the champion upon each new success. Ther_ad been therefore no small interest taken in the success of the Disinherite_night, by those who occupied the part of the lists before which he no_aused.
  • Whether from indecision, or some other motive of hesitation, the champion o_he day remained stationary for more than a minute, while the eyes of th_ilent audience were riveted upon his motions; and then, gradually an_racefully sinking the point of his lance, he deposited the coronet Which i_upported at the feet of the fair Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena the Queen of Beauty and of Lov_or the ensuing day, menacing with suitable penalties those who should b_isobedient to her authority. They then repeated their cry of Largesse, t_hich Cedric, in the height of his joy, replied by an ample donative, and t_hich Athelstane, though less promptly, added one equally large.
  • There was some murmuring among the damsels of Norman descent, who were as muc_nused to see the preference given to a Saxon beauty, as the Norman noble_ere to sustain defeat in the games of chivalry which they themselves ha_ntroduced. But these sounds of disaffection were drowned by the popular shou_f "Long live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and lawful Queen of Love and o_eauty!" To which many in the lower area added, "Long live the Saxon Princess!
  • long live the race of the immortal Alfred!"
  • However unacceptable these sounds might be to Prince John, and to those aroun_im, he saw himself evertheless obliged to confirm the nomination of th_ictor, and accordingly calling to horse, he left his throne; and mounting hi_ennet, accompanied by his train, he again entered the lists. The Princ_aused a moment beneath the gallery of the Lady Alicia, to whom he paid hi_ompliments, observing, at the same time, to those around him —"By m_alidome, sirs! if the Knight's feats in arms have shown that he hath limb_nd sinews, his choice hath no less proved that his eyes are none of th_learest."
  • It was on this occasion, as during his whole life, John's misfortune, no_erfectly to understand the characters of those whom he wished to conciliate.
  • Waldemar Fitzurse was rather offended than pleased at the Prince stating thu_roadly an opinion, that his daughter had been slighted.
  • "I know no right of chivalry," he said, "more precious or inalienable tha_hat of each free knight to choose his lady-love by his own judgment. M_aughter courts distinction from no one; and in her own character, and in he_wn sphere, will never fail to receive the full proportion of that which i_er due."
  • Prince John replied not; but, spurring his horse, as if to give vent to hi_exation, he made the animal bound forward to the gallery where Rowena wa_eated, with the crown still at her feet.
  • "Assume," he said, "fair lady, the mark of your sovereignty, to which non_ows homage more sincerely than ourself, John of Anjou; and if it please yo_o-day, with your noble sire and friends, to grace our banquet in the Castl_f Ashby, we shall learn to know the empress to whose service we devote to- morrow."
  • Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native Saxon.
  • "The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which to reply t_our courtesy, or to sustain her part in your festival. I also, and the nobl_thelstane of Coningsburgh, speak only the language, and practise only th_anners, of our fathers. We therefore decline with thanks your Highness'_ourteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow, the Lady Rowena will take upo_er the state to which she has been called by the free election of the victo_night, confirmed by the acclamations of the people."
  • So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's head, in toke_f her acceptance of the temporary authority assigned to her.
  • "What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the Saxo_anguage, in which, however, he was well skilled. The purport of Cedric'_peech was repeated to him in French. "It is well," he said; "to-morrow w_ill ourself conduct this mute sovereign to her seat of dignity.—You, a_east, Sir Knight," he added, turning to the victor, who had remained near th_allery, "will this day share our banquet?"
  • The Knight, speaking for the first time, in a low and hurried voice, excuse_imself by pleading fatigue, and the necessity of preparing for to-morrow'_ncounter.
  • "It is well," said Prince John, haughtily; "although unused to such refusals, we will endeavour to digest our banquet as we may, though ungraced by the mos_uccessful in arms, and his elected Queen of Beauty."
  • So saying, he prepared to leave the lists with his glittering train, and hi_urning his steed for that purpose, was the signal for the breaking up an_ispersion of the spectators.
  • Yet, with the vindictive memory proper to offended pride, especially whe_ombined with conscious want of desert, John had hardly proceeded three paces, ere again, turning around, he fixed an eye of stern resentment upon the yeoma_ho had displeased him in the early part of the day, and issued his command_o the men-at-arms who stood near—"On your life, suffer not that fellow t_scape."
  • The yeoman stood the angry glance of the Prince with the same unvarie_teadiness which had marked his former deportment, saying, with a smile, "_ave no intention to leave Ashby until the day after to-morrow—I must see ho_taffordshire and Leicestershire can draw their bows—the forests of Needwoo_nd Charnwood must rear good archers."
  • "I," said Prince John to his attendants, but not in direct reply, —"I will se_ow he can draw his own; and woe betide him unless his skill should prove som_pology for his insolence!"
  • "It is full time," said De Bracy, "that the
  • 'outrecuidance'[[13]](footnotes.xml#footnote_13) of these peasants should b_estrained by some striking example." Waldemar Fitzurse, who probably though_is patron was not taking the readiest road to popularity, shrugged up hi_houlders and was silent. Prince John resumed his retreat from the lists, an_he dispersion of the multitude became general. In various routes, accordin_o the different quarters from which they came, and in groups of variou_umbers, the spectators were seen retiring over the plain. By far the mos_umerous part streamed towards the town of Ashby, where many of th_istinguished persons were lodged in the castle, and where others foun_ccommodation in the town itself. Among these were most of the knights who ha_lready appeared in the tournament, or who proposed to fight there the ensuin_ay, and who, as they rode slowly along, talking over the events of the day, were greeted with loud shouts by the populace. The same acclamations wer_estowed upon Prince John, although he was indebted for them rather to th_plendour of his appearance and train, than to the popularity of hi_haracter. A more sincere and more general, as well as a better-merite_cclamation, attended the victor of the day, until, anxious to withdra_imself from popular notice, he accepted the accommodation of one of thos_avilions pitched at the extremities of the lists, the use of which wa_ourteously tendered him by the marshals of the field. On his retiring to hi_ent, many who had lingered in the lists, to look upon and form conjecture_oncerning him, also dispersed. The signs and sounds of a tumultuous concours_f men lately crowded together in one place, and agitated by the same passin_vents, were now exchanged for the distant hum of voices of different group_etreating in all directions, and these speedily died away in silence. N_ther sounds were heard save the voices of the menials who stripped th_alleries of their cushions and tapestry, in order to put them in safety fo_he night, and wrangled among themselves for the half-used bottles of wine an_elics of the refreshment which had been served round to the spectators.
  • Beyond the precincts of the lists more than one forge was erected; and thes_ow began to glimmer through the twilight, announcing the toil of th_rmourers, which was to continue through the whole night, in order to repai_r alter the suits of armour to be used again on the morrow. A strong guard o_en-at-arms, renewed at intervals, from two hours to two hours, surrounded th_ists, and kept watch during the night.