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“ Fare thee well, good Naylis,” said Reginald; “ bid my father be of good cheer, and do honour to his son's bridal! Ha! ha! thou hast still thy misdoubtings and thine apprehensions I know thy mind!”-“ Would thou didst know thine own but half as well !” muttered the old man, as he turned slowly round, followed by the Norman attendants. The steeds, as if rejoicing to be again in motion, arched their proud necks, and Aung back their thick manes in the wind : the clattering of their hoofs arose, and sank, and died into silence.
Reginald, and the Knave, Robin, journeyed some miles without converse. The latter seemed to be thinking of nothing but his new doublet, and the former seemed to be thinking of nothing at all. After a considerable pause the Knight began the conversation," I am doubting, Robin,-”.
“ It is a wise man that solveth his own doubts !" returned his attendant.
“ I am doubting, Robin,” continued Reginald, “ whether thou or I be the greater fool!”
“ A gibe, a gibe !” cried the jester, “ thy reasons, most convincing disputant? thy proofs, most inventive master? thine arguments, most incontrovertible Knight? Marry, an thou make me the greater fool, it will ill become the servant to be greater than his master.” . “ Imprimis ! thou art a fool by thy name, which is Witless!”
“ I will have license to make reply,” said the jester; “ Thou art a fool, to call a wise man by a fool's name.”
“ Secondly," resumed Reginald, “ thou art a fool by thy face!”
“ Who is to choose," said his antagonist, “ between the folly that is seen on the face, and the folly which is spoken from the tongue ?”
• Thirdly, thou art foolish in thy designs.”
“ By Saint Swithin,” cried the respondent, “ thou hast the better of me there, for designs formest thou none."
“ Fourthly, thou art a fool by thine occupation!”
“ There thou hast spoken well,” said the Page; “ I am serving-man to Sir Reginald d'Arennes.”
" Finally, Robin,” said Reginald, relapsing into taciturnity, “ thou knowest that thou art a fool positive!”
“ Thou hast the better of me again, Reginald,” said the complaisant lacquey, “ for thou art greatly a fool, and surpassingly a fool, but never a positive one.”
Reginald did not hear the import of his follower's reply; or at least made no answer to it. They proceeded for some minutes in silence, at a brisk pace, when Reginald suddenly stopped, and exclaimed, “ We have wandered from our track!”
fourth tiwhen thou didst dom llage the fat friarre, a sui
“ Not a whit, not a whit,” replied his companion, “ do not I know the turnings and the windings of the way? Is it not the fourth time that I have journeyed with thee on this path :Firstly, when thou didst do penance at the Abbey of Brixhelm; secondly, when thou didst pillage the fat friar of Torney Low; thirdly, when thou wert, at thine own pleasure, a suitor to the Miller's daughter of Nesselray; fourthly, when thou art, at thy father's pleasure, a suitor to the Thane's daughter of Kennethold. Truly the Fool's counsel is nought; but I hold the pillage more profitable than the penance, and the Miller a cheaper bargain than the Thane. Trust me, if there be in the hall of the Saxon another giant such as he that escaped from us even now, there will be stronger trust in the speed of black Launcelot than in the plating of thy Milan corselet.”
“ He was, indeed," said Reginald, “ firm of sinew and large of bone; he was, withal, free in his deportment, and ruled that sorrel courser full knightly; and, as thou sayest, Robin, he bore in his hand a battle-axe, against which ribs of steel were but weak protection.”
They had now proceeded far on their journey, and were winding round a thick forest; the extremities of which were skirted by brushwood to a very considerable extent. Reginald continued to discuss the personal appearance of the herald of his father-inlaw, in a manner which showed he was by no means deficient in natural observation. “He had the tone of one not unused to command, and an eye right noble and piercing ; nevertheless, he is but a Saxon; and ill betide the day when Reginald d'Arennes shall fear to cope with twenty Saxons.”
“ Especially,” said Robin, with an expression of countenance more than usually arch, " when Reginald d'Arennes hath by his side so true an esquire. Well thou knowest I am a shrewd Knave, and a wily!"
At that moment a shrill whistle rung in their ears, and five or six stout yeomen rushed from the thicket, seized Launcelot's rein, and dragged his rider from the saddle ere he could raise his war cry, or draw his sword from its sheath. Robin was treated with no more ceremony than his master, and both were hurried rapidly through the coppice. Reginald seemed lost in astonishment; he made no resistance, and uttered no word : Robin was not so quiet in his sufferings; his alarm broke out in various unconnected exclamations ; “ Saints be merciful to me! the limbs of a Roland or an Oliver could not stand this harrying! And the fair tunic that was given me but yester-even is rent like a withered leaf! Truly, my masters, these bushes are over sharp for a delicate frame. Well I wot my sides are torn as it were with the barbed points of twenty arrows; and Sir Reginald 358
: limitill MH
The Knight and the Knave.
(No. 5. heeds no more the brambles than if they were damosels' arms! See now! some are born to a corselet of steel, and some to a tunic of cloth! Saint Christopher befriend me! I confessed myself but yesterday! Bethink e, my masters, why compass ye the death of an innocent man! The bough hath reft me of my cap ! Hold, for the love of mercy! I am a poor Knave and a witless !”
To such lamentations no answer was returned, save an occasional peal of laughter. Knight and Knave were born rapidly onward, through paths which not only seemed impervious to the tread, but were hardly penetrable to the sight. At length, a sudden winding in their track brought them into a large open space, which appeared to have been cleared out in the middle of the forest. Here an extraordinary scene burst upon them, which not a little heightened the astonishment of the young Lord, and even checked for a space the wailings of his attendant.
In a spacious area, surrounded by lofty trees, which seemed admirably calculated for the concealment of parties met for the prosecution of illicit designs, various groupes of men were widely scattered. They appeared to be principally composed of the lower sort of peasantry, who, having no dependence on any one but those to whom they had been born subject, were liable to be called, at a moment's warning, to engage in the quarrels of their feudal lord. And such seemed to be the purpose which had collected together the force I am endeavouring to describe. Some few were clad in the complete defensive armour of that period; and might be supposed to be those retainers who were more immediately attached to the person of their chief. There were others who were prepared for less regular warfare by the boarspear or the Norman cross-bow; and others, again, who made little military display beyond the knife which was stuck in their girdle, or the rude mace which lay beside them. .
A short distance apart from these groups two figures were engaged in conversation, one of whom appeared to be the leader of the party. He was a tall, powerful man, apparently little more than thirty years of age; he seemed to have been inured to toil and danger, and his manner, at once graceful and dignified, gave the idea of one who had been bred up alternately in the camp and the court from his earliest years. His countenance was handsome, but nevertheless unpleasing ; for its features indicated a knowledge of the world which partook strongly of dissimulation, and a valour which would not scruple to exert itself in a bad cause. His dress was a mailed shirt, unadorned by any extraneous decoration; but the richly wrought hilt of the dagger which he wore by his side proved that he was a person of no ordinary rank. His
attendant was an esquire, who appeared to receive, with much deference, the communications of his superior.
Reginald and his attendant were immediately conducted into the presence of this chieftain. He had been conversing with his companion in a manner and tone of much hauteur; but when, upon turning round, he beheld the heroes of my story, every appearance of this kind immediately vanished; his brow was in a moment perfectly calm, and his look woré all the pliability and condescension which an able diplomatist knows so well how to assume.
" Sir Knight,” he began, “ I am, it is true, a stranger to thee, but I have confidence that those features, and that bearing, bespeak one of the house of d'Arennes.” Reginald bowed, in token of acquiescence; and his new acquaintance (who, by the bye, had received pretty certain intelligence before-hand of the rank of the person he was addressing,) proceeded :-" The disturbed state of our realm, Sir Knight, must be my excuse for a measure which courtesy would else have shrunk from. It must also excuse the interrogation which it constrains me to put. With what purpose hast thou journeyed hither?”.
Reginald seemed not sufficiently recovered from his surprise to make reply. Robin answered for him, “ Marry, with the purpose of journeying back again.”
« Thou wouldest do well to keep thy counsel, friend,” said the querist; “ thy flippant tongue might elsewhere procure thee a cap and bells; but here, trust me, it will exalt thee to little else than the bough that waves over my head. I would pray of thee,” he continued to Reginald, “ brief answer and speedy.”
Reginald seemed somewhat roused from his torpidity by the overweening tone in which he was addressed :-" Hither I came,” he said, “ with the purpose of a bridal, and in bridal garment; mantle and cap have I already exchanged for hauberk and helm į and, by thy good will, wedding and wassail will briefly be transmuted to quarrel and fray." .“ Art thou so warm for a fray?” said the stranger. “ It is the better thou hast gentle blood within thee, although thy first address did belie it woefully. What if I were to lead thee to a fray, where an estate shall be had for the buckling on of thy harness, and an Earldom shall be the requital of every blow? How sayest thou, Reginald d'Arennes? Is not prince's favour more worth the winning than lady's love? and is not the possession that is the guerdon of service in field more honourable than the dower that is sued for on bended knee?” 5. Reginald seemed again frozen into inanimation. Alike ignotant of the person who spoke to him, and of the purport of what he spoke, he had recourse to his never-failing response, “ I doubt.” Robin again stepped forward with his ballad admonition, which I shall again endeavour to modernize, “ albeit unused to the rhyming mood.”
“ 'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in fair green wood,
When birds are blithely singing ;
When blows are bravely ringing.
• Accurst be be that flies!
And bliss to bim that dies !
Out spoke that cunning knave,
Wbat boots it in the grave?'” The very prudent and natural suggestion of “ Childe Celadon" seemed to have a marvellous effect upon Reginald, and would probably have influenced his reply, had not the attention of his interrogator been called off by another circumstance. To this we must also attribute the safety of the songster's neck, which, had not this seasonable interruption taken place, would have been ill worth a minute's purchase.
A messenger had suddenly arrived, and been conducted into the presence of their unknown captor. He appeared to have come from a long distance; and the disordered state of his dress, together with the fatigue which was apparent on his pale countenance, sufficiently proved that he had not spared whip or spur on the journey. He delivered to the Chief the letters of which he was the bearer, and retired in silence. The Chief broke open the pacquet; anxiety was strongly marked on his countenance; yet his features changed not, as he read his advices; it was difficult to form a conjecture whether he was rejoiced or displeased by their contents. He called to him his esquire. They held a brief conference apart.
“ Cold news, Eustace! the Flemings have been beaten! The slaves fled as the first weapon leaped from its sheath. De Lucy's powers are drawn together, and Bohun hath Leicester prisoner.” : “ Then it were well to seek shelter while the tempest is yet coming on. It will blow a fierce wind ere long!”.
“ Let it blow,” said the Chief, drawing himself up to the full height of his figure; “ there are those that shall weather the gale. What, Eustace! Thinkest thou that in caves, or in castles, or in fastnesses, there is safety for those whom Henry calls traitors? Our refuge is in battle-field, our trust in ready sword. I have advanced my foot in this quarrel, and yon oak is not fixed more firmly.”