Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

assembled every Sabbath day for public worship together; and there we loved to be among them, in that venerable house of God, whose lofty arches looked as though they were striving ever upwards towards heaven, as we ourselves should do.

One brilliant morning, soon after my arrival, the conversation at breakfast turned on pic-nics; whereon Emmie's and May's eyes brightened, especially when their mamma began to propose an excursion to the cave where the generous robber hid Queen Margaret of Anjou and her son till they could safely cross the Border.

Of course we all know that old story under one form or another, though nowhere is it told so well as in the old Chronicle quoted by Miss Strickland.* The particulars, says Miss Strickland, were related by Margaret herself to the Duchess de Bourbon at St. Pol, in the presence of George Chastellain, the herald of the Golden Fleece, by whom it has been recorded in his Chronicles of the Dukes of Burgundy.

We may therefore believe the substance of his narrative to be authentic, when he relates how she and her company were overtaken and attacked by a party of plunderers who robbed them of all their valuables, and even threatened their lives. While they were quarrelling over their booty she appealed to a squire who was the only person remaining near her, and implored him to assist her escape. The squire, who was luckily provided, says Miss Strickland, with a steed that would not only carry double but threefold, mounted her behind him and the boy-prince before him, and rode off, while the robbers were still too much engaged with their prey to observe the escape of their prisoners.

*This scene occurred in the neighbourhood of Hexham Forest, and thither the fugitives directed their flight. ..... Hexbam Forest was then a sort of “dead man's ground” which few travellers ventured to cross except in large parties well armed; for it was the resort of the ferocious banditti of the northern marches, who were the scourge and terror of both the Scotch and English border.'

Here the queen and her young son wandered, faint with hunger, till, by the light of the moon, they saw a man of fierce aspect approaching them. Margaret's courage rose with the greatness of the danger. She appealed to him for protection, and confided to him their rank and extremity. Touched with compassion, he led them to his secret retreat, a cave on the south bank of the rapid little stream which washes the foot of Blackhill; and here he and his wife bestowed on them such humble hospitality as they could shew.

This cave, then, was the projected object of our excursion.

‘But it is about four miles from hence,' said my friend, and the carriage cannot take us all the way, because it lies in a wood, on the other side of a rocky stream.'

'All the better,' I said; 'it sounds delightfully romantic.' * Chronique des Ducs de Bourgogne, par George Chastellain. See Miss Strickland's Life of Margaret of Anjou.

"Well, then, we will see what Cook can give us for our provision basket, for we cannot get back to dinner. We must have a pic-nic in the wood, and come home to a dinner-tea.'

Of course Emmie and May thought this would be delightful ; so they took good care to get through their lessons in time, and at eleven o'clock the pony-carriage came round, and we all started off in high spirits for Queen Margaret's Cave.

We were not sorry to be out of the town; for the streets are so crowded and narrow that it seems next to impossible that the wheels of two vehicles meeting each other should not lock ; and it is the Hexham custom for coals to be discharged in front of the houses, where they lie in heaps till carried into the coal-hole in baskets at the owner's leisure and pleasure, so that it is an awkward thing to pilot one's way among them, and there are always a number of poor, dirty little children rolling about upon them, or in the dust or mud. I could not help remarking to my companion that I thought a Bible-woman seemed wanted.

Indeed we do want one,' she replied, but she must be a northcountry woman, or our people would consider her a foreigner. They would not understand her, and she would not understand them.'

Once out of the town, we proceeded at a brisk pace till we reached a tough bit of hill up a rough uneven road. We were all glad to alight and walk up till the carriage overtook us at the top. This was repeated several times before we reached our destination, for the country round Hexham is much like Brittany, being a sort of sea of hills, a succession of wavy ridges, with very narrow wooded valleys or glens running between, and here and there a little table-land on the heights. Soon, however, having descried the ‘Black House,' a lonely habitation across some fields, we made our way thither and obtained leave to put up the horse, after which we hastened on to the woods, where Emmie and May often lingered behind gathering blackberries, till an Australian 'cooey' from their mamma brought them up to us again.

More and more beautiful became each turn in the green cool wood, affording glimpses of many a glade worthy of an artist's study. At length we reached a slippery slope, 'whose grassless floor of red-brown hue' 'by sheddings from the pining umbrage was tinged perennially.' And down it we had to slide, slip, or stumble, catching at any fir-stem or branch that happened to offer. Of course, if the cave had been easy of access, the robber would not have chosen it.

When we reached the bottom we saw a brawling stream serpentining through a narrow gorge over a rugged bed, strewn everywhere with boulders fallen from the precipitious banks, which were clothed to the water's edge with a profusion of rare ferns, and crested with straggling brambles and larches, except in patches where the bare rock shone out, amid the green, red, and golden hues of autumn foliage.

•Mamma! Mamma! look at May!' cried Emmie, already at the opposite bank.

[ocr errors]

6

'O Mamma, Mamma! I shall be inl' screamed May in alarm, as she stood poised on two slippery stones in the middle of the stream, which bears the rough name of Devilswater.

The hot weather had reduced the little stream almost to a brook, and my friend, not frightened at her little girl's predicament, calmly went to her aid, and we all soon found ourselves safe on the other side.

And now where is the cave?'

Well, I hardly know,' was the rather unpromising answer. It is not visible till we get close to it, and lies half way up the bank.' Up that perpendicular rock!'

Yes-really to see it.'

Mamma,' exclaimed May, who had been there before, 'isn't that it ? That long narrow hole must be the entrance. 'I will go first and see,' answered the mamma.

It is an odd thing, but no one likes remaining behind when another goes to see,' so we all began climbing too.

* This is it,' called Mamma, looking round for a moment and then disappearing. We toiled up, and found ourselves facing a horizontal slit in the rock, which proved to be the entrance to a low, dark, dusty cavern.

As my friend emerged on hands and knees, I felt quite inclined to turn about and go down again, thinking how many a pleasure is greatest in anticipation !

Are you not going in ?' said the children in disappointment. 'Oh! you must not come to Queen's Margaret's Cave and not go in!'

So in I went, and turned about in a stooping attitude in the dusky den, disturbing some creature within-bat, owl, or fox, as was variously suggested. So this was Queen Margaret's Cave, where she and her young son were thankful to rest their weary heads. According to Miss Strickland, 'its dimensions are thirty-four by fourteen feet: the height will barely allow a full-grown person to stand upright. A massive pillar of rude masonry, in the centre of the cave, seems to mark the boundary of a wall, which, it is said, once divided it into two distinct apartments. When warmed and cheered by fire and lamp it would not appear quite so dismal a den as at present. Such was the retreat in which the queen and prince remained perdu for two days of agonizing susponse. On the third morning their host encountered Sir Pierre de Bréze and an English gentleman, who, having escaped the robbers at Hexham, had been making anxious search for her and the Prince.'

Margaret's spirits revived at the sight of her friends, and on quitting her humble hosts, she loaded them with grateful thanks. The outlaw's wife was offered money, but this she refused to take.

After seeing the cave, we had our pic-nic, which, of course, was delightful.

B. B.

25

THE CHILD'S CRUSADE.

BY EVELYN TOD.

CHAPTER 1.

RAOUL AND ALOYS.

Tue Sire de Cervoles sat at meat in his castle-hall one summer evening in the year 1212; on his left hand was his fair daughter Blanche, the darling of her father, and on his right hand was a guest, the Chevalier Guillaume de Nogent, fresh from Paris, and bringing all the news of the court. A goodly train of retainers crowded the lower end of the board, and high-born pages and squires were waiting round, for the Sire de Cervoles was a powerful man and a rich; on the back of his chair perched a noble falcon, and at his feet, or round the fire, lay five or six fine deer-hounds.

It was not very often that De Cervoles had a guest with him, and he was eagerly talking, asking questions, and discussing politics ; for though more than sixty, he had lost none of his youthful keenness or exciteability. The pretty Demoiselle de Cervoles yawned once or twice during the conversation, and amused herself by feeding her lap-dog with scraps ; but at last her attention was roused by Messire Guillaume's saying, 'Have you heard of this last piece of madness ? the new Crusade, I mean ?'

The old noble's face clouded, and the chaplain began a reproof to De Nogent for speaking lightly of the service of Heaven; but the offender cut him short : ‘Nay, mistake me not, good Father; far be it from me to scoff at the Holy Wars; but this is a thing they call the Child's Crusade, led by a boy who declares himself commissioned to deliver the Sepulchre of Our Lord.' And crossing himself, De Nogent went on with his account of that strange wild enterprise, begun and conducted by a child, and followed by children, in the belief that only by innocent hands could the Sepulchre be freed. He told the tale without any sympathy, almost in a mocking tone ; De Nogent was shrewdly suspected of despising the real Crusaders in his heart, and much more would he deride such folly as this.

And this boy finds followers ?' asked the old noble slowly.

• Yea, and many too,' said the knight, with a smile. Children are children ; but what most I marvel at, is that grown men should let their sons go on such a bootless undertaking. Yet I know myself, that Messire Jeban de Marteille, a wise man enough, sent his heir to join the young prophet's ranks—'tis a mad world.'

* But in the name of the Saints,' cried De Cervoles, "how do the poor things mean to fight the Saracens, if ever they get to Palestine? Why, it will be another Massacre of the Innocents.'

Miracles have been began Blanche, an imaginative girl, who was at once inclined to believe the tale.

“Miracles have been, Blanche,' said her father quickly; but we have no right to count upon them. Look at Peter the Hermit's men. They expected Heaven to guide them, and send them quails and manna; and they left their bones in Hungary. War must be made by warriors,

say I'

*Ah! by-the-bye,' exclaimed De Nogent, 'have you heard aught of poor Gualtier de la Ferté ?'

The Sire de Cervoles shook his head. “Nothing. It is no great marvel, after all; men have died by the hundred in Palestine, and never been heard of more. And Gualtier was not one who would spare himself.'

• I wish to Heaven he had never gone with Reginald de Dampierre on that luckless Crusade,' said De Nogent. *If ever I liked a man, I liked De la Ferté.'

Never had lord truer vassal, or knight truer friend, than I had of Gualtier,' said De Cervoles. “But we must not speak too much of him.'

He put his hand on the shoulder of a page who stood near, a small delicate-looking boy of eleven years, and drawing him towards him, said, * This is Gualtier's only son.' Then, as he saw the child's eyes droop and glisten, he added, “Cheer up, Aloys; grief should not last for ever ; and thy father died a noble death, fighting against the Infidel.'

‘Dost thou remember thy father, my boy ? asked De Nogent, looking with interest on the fair young face. 'Hardly, I should think; it must be ten years since the Count set forth.'

• My mother used to speak to me of him, Messire; I cannot remember him,' murmured Aloys shyly; and when the Sire released him, he shrank back at once among his fellow pages.

* Poor child, he heard his mother talking of her husband, and hoping that he would come back to her,' said De Cervoles, in a low tone, and thus he learnt to look for his father's return, and to dream of him. The boy is over fanciful and melancholy, and so we speak as little about Gualtier as we can.'

. And his mother-what became of her ?' asked De Nogent. 'I well remember Gualtier's wedding, and a lovely bride she was.'

• Dead too; her heart was broken,' said the Sire. ''Tis a sad tale, altogether.'

There was no more said on the subject, and the two men began to discourse of other matters—the invasion of Spain by the Moors, the famine in Sicily, and the heresies of the Albigenses, which were then being rooted out by force of arms. But long after the tables were drawn, and the Sire and his guest had turned to the fire, little Aloys de la Ferté stood musing alone in a dark recess of the hall. His meditations were undisturbed till another of the pages left the fire, and came up to him. Asleep, Loy?'

« AnteriorContinuar »