The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Red Tavern, by Charles Raymond Macauley

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Title: The Red Tavern

Author: Charles Raymond Macauley

Release Date: November 14, 2013 [eBook #44182]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE RED TAVERN***

 

E-text prepared by Greg Bergquist, Charlie Howard,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
(http://www.pgdp.net)
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive/American Libraries
(https://archive.org/details/americana)

 

Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive/American Libraries. See https://archive.org/details/redtavern00macaiala

 


 

 

 

THE
RED TAVERN

"'Hast thou peace and provender for a wayfaring knight?'"

[Page 45]


THE
RED TAVERN

BY
C. R. MACAULEY

NEW YORK AND LONDON
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1914

Copyright, 1914, by
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

Printed in the United States of America


CONTENTS

CHAPTER   PAGE
  Prologue 1
I. A Warrant upon Douglas 18
II. On the Way to Castle Yewe 32
III. Of a Night in the Red Tavern 44
IV. The Incident of the Wolf-hound 59
V. The Incident of the Cutting of Saffron Velvet 81
VI. The Pavilion of Purple and Black 94
VII. Of the Awakening of Sir Richard 104
VIII. Of a Quarrel and a Challenge 117
IX. Of an Ambuscade, a Duel, and an Escape 133
X. Of a Night in a Shepherd's Hut, and a Surprise in the Morning 147
XI. Of How Sir Richard Came to Castle Yewe 165
XII. Of the Delivery of the King's Warrant 187
XIII. Of the Incident of the Cobbler's Feast 205
XIV. Of a Series of Remarkable Duels, and De Claverlok's Peril 217
XV. Of the Gallery of the Griffin's Heads 229
XVI. Of the Return of Lord Douglas, and the Council of Jackdaws 250
XVII. Of a Joust with Bull Bengough, and the Incident of the Knight in Black 267
XVIII. Of Sir Richard's Meeting with the Foot-boys, and His Return to the Red Tavern 285
XIX. Of the Rescue of the Maiden 300
XX. Of How Sir Richard Came to the Shepherd's Hut, and the Return Of Tyrrell 320
XXI. Of How Sir Richard Listened to a Story in the Forest 335
XXII. Of How Once More the Young Knight Journeyed Southward 343
XXIII. Of a Vision in the Forest of Lammermuir 358
XXIV. Of How Sir Richard Played the King in His Little Kingdom 369
XXV. Of the End of the Red Tavern and Its Fitting Epitaph 382
XXVI. Of How a Fledgling Dropped from the Conspirator's Nest 397

1

THE RED TAVERN

PROLOGUE

S-s-st, there, good gossip, wake up, I pray thee! Hearest thou not voices yonder in our lordship's tent? Methinks I can see between the trees the glimmer of his council-candle. Even now he doth plan the attack, whilst this cursed cross-bow is playing the very devil of a traitor! The stubborn latch balks at speeding the string. Come​—​come, wake thee, Jock! Spare me thy deft hand to its mending, or the first peep o' day will discover me impotent to fly a bolt against our crook-back enemy beyond the brook."

"Crook-back cross-bow​—​i' th' s-s-string​—​—" muttered the one addressed with drowsy incoherence.

"I tell thee, Jock, wake up!" the first speaker persisted. "Listen, I say! Dost hear the hum of voices in brave Richmond's tent? Fix me2 this damned cross-bow! Eftsoons it will come daydawn, man!"

"Daydawn, sayst thou?" returned the other, starting into broad wakefulness and arising to a sitting posture. "Why, Dickon, thou canst scarce glimpse thy five fingers before thine eyes; and the stars shine as merrily in the vault as ever they did yestereve. What's the noise i' the wood?" he added, sinking sleepily back upon his bent elbow.

"'Tis the sound of the rolling wheels of the crakys of war. Mark how the blazing links of those who attend upon them weave fantastic shadows amidst the trees. There! the cross-bow hath repented of its waywardness and mended itself. 'Tis said of these shooting-cylinders in yon wood that they can hurl a leaden slug of two score times the weight of a caliver billet."

"Marry, Dickon," the other said, "and that be not the least part of the weight of my nether stocks from lying knee-deep in this foul morass, thou mayst dub me a shove-groat sword and buckler man. Where thinkest thou," he added, "that King Richard hath gathered his forces?"

"I'll lay thee a round wager, friend Belwiggar,3 that the morning light will find him across the brook," replied Dickon, disposing his huge body for further rest upon the top of his cross-bow.

"I would it were not so," observed Belwiggar, yawning. "For here are we with our bonnetful of men at the very tail of the triangle. 'Twill be fight or die, comrade, and tyrant Richard deal with the hindermost." Whereupon the speaker clambered to a higher point of ground and prepared to resume his interrupted sleep.

Scenes and dialogues similar to the one here presented were being enacted in every corner of the field. Especially did a spirit of disquiet and apprehensive concern pervade that part of it so aptly termed by Belwiggar "the tail of the triangle." All along the borders of the morass, the banks of the creek, and within the dense forest were to be heard anxious whisperings, mingled plentifully with muttered oaths and threats of dire vengeance against a bitterly hated monarch; and despite the earliness of the hour, within the leader's tent the activities of a day destined to be so heavily fraught with historical significance had already been inaugurated.

The interior of this pavilion was of a considerable4 amplitude; and, in keeping with the manner of the period, was fitted out with every necessary, together with not a few of the luxuries, of the toilet of a prince of the royal house. Beside the couch with its silken covers and damask canopies, whereupon the Earl of Richmond was reclining, was a massive, carven table. Upon it stood a richly chased silver tankard bearing a profusion of crimson roses. Within their center, singularly enough, a pure white flower reared its beautiful head, the which served admirably to enhance the royal splendor of its compeers.

Round about the plush-carpeted floor were seated John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Henry's chief of archery; Sir James Blunt, sometime captain of the Castle of Hammes, in Picardy (the same who had connived at Oxford's escape from that fortress); Sir Walter Herbert, and Sir Richard Rohan, Richmond's boyhood companion, squire, and chief of horse. All were armed at proof and full accoutered for the coming battle.

The last named, though but a youth of nineteen years, would without doubt have arrested attention above any in the distinguished party. The red crest of his helmet nodded quite two5 inches above that of his tallest compatriot; his features were uncommonly trim and perfect in the ensemble; and his every gesture abounded in that intuitive and careless grace appertaining to exuberant health and spirits and a well disciplined physical strength. As though to complete a picture already approaching perfection, from beneath the rim of his head-piece a lock of hair had escaped and shone golden in the mellow light of the wax tapers guttering in silver sconces above his plume.

"Knowest thou not, Sir Richard," said Henry, bending above the roses and inhaling their refreshing fragrance, "who sped to us these graceful messengers?"

"I beseech thee, your grace," warned Oxford, "to observe some measure of caution when breathing in their odors. 'Tis not impossible that a deadly poison is lurking within their fair petals. It sits plain upon my memory how poor Burgondy expired after the smelling of a nosegay."

"For the matter of that," spoke up the fair young knight, "had they been laden with a secret poison I had not lived to bear them within my6 lord's pavilion; for I sniffed of them a score of times whilst riding hither."

"Then, certes, we are double safe," laughed Henry, "for their sweet perfume, Sir Richard, hath filtered to our nostrils through thy good body. But what like, say you, was the messenger by whom they were bestowed?"

"It ill beseems me to say that I know not," the young knight replied, "but such is the truth, my lord. I had but finished relieving the guard at the further side of the wood when I heard a sound as of galloping hoofs along the road from Market Bosworth way. Approaching, the rider halted his steed where no ray of light from our blazing links could reach to raise the veil of his identity. Then, calling my name, he laid the flowers within my arms. 'For Henry, our noble liege,' he quickly whispered, and rattled off down the highroad ere I could return word of thanks."

"Saw you no cognizance upon his sleeve or upon the trappings of his horse?" queried Blunt.

"Methought there was a rayed sun emblazoned on his arm," the young knight answered. "Though, in truth, my lord, 'twas all done so quickly I may not swear 'twas surely so."

7 "A Yorkist gift, by the rood! Marry, and this be true, my friends, it is a good omen indeed," observed the Earl of Oxford, rising and going to the table. For quite a space he leaned above it, gazing fixedly upon the flowers, as though in the hope that they themselves might unravel the mystery their presence had aroused. "But this," he added presently, indicating the solitary white bloom, "doth sore defeat my understanding. Wherefore, prithee, mingle the white with the red?"

"Methinks I have the solution of that enigma," spoke up Herbert, whose form was merged in shadow, and who, until then, had taken no part in the discourse. "I would crave his lordship's indulgence, however, before adventuring my lame conjecture."

"Surely we would have thy answer to the riddle, Sir Walter," said Henry, yawning sleepily. "My mind doth refuse to probe its baffling depths."

"An I mistake me not," Herbert resumed, "my lord of Oxford in the very profession of his perplexity hath reached a good half way to the answer. Methinks 'tis meant to typify the8 peaceful mingling of the white rose with the red."

"Why​—​body o' God, I see it now!" Henry exclaimed. "But first, by force of arms, the red must overwhelm the white."

"Nay​—​not so, and your lordship, please," interjected Blunt. "But rather, let us hope, a mingling through the milder expedient of marriage."

"Ah! Princess Elizabeth!" cried Henry, assuming a sitting posture upon the edge of his couch. "Sir Walter, thou hast given us a fair answer and earned a guerdon for thy keen wit. But enough of soft speech, my noble knights. And now, sirs, to the sterner business of the day! My Lord of Oxford, where say'st thou camp Stanley's forces?"

"At a point equally distant from thine, most gracious liege, and those of the infamous Richard. He desires thee to understand that his beloved son's head hangs upon his dissembling devotion for yet a few hours to the murderous hunchback's cause."

"Aye​—​I know. We may depend upon him and his three thousand horse, think you?"

"With absolute certainty, my lord."

9 "'Tis well," observed Henry, laying aside his feathered cap and stooping to allow his young squire to adjust a steel helmet to his shoulder-guards. "Then do thou, my lord of Oxford," he resumed, "have thy archers well in hand and ready against the first show of dawn. The sun, standing in our enemy's eyes, should much confuse their aim. Bend thy every energy toward staying their advance with a cloud of well directed bolts. My good Captain Blunt, let our basilisks in the wood fling their leaden hail above the heads of our kneeling archers. Sir Walter Herbert, let thy mounted troop to the right and left be ready for the final charge. And you, Sir Richard, faithful friend, bear upon my right hand till the battle's done. Do thou each, noble gentlemen, take one of these roses and entwine it with thy helmet's crest. What, ho, guards! strip me this tent and bestow it with the camp litter behind the wood. Now, thy brave hands, noble sirs; and God smile upon our cause."

Into the dense vapors arising from the morass, which, in the gray light of daybreak, were rapidly changing to a pearly mist, the leaders then dispersed upon their several missions.

10 The droning of subdued conversation, the clanking of swords and steel gear, the twanging of bow-strings undergoing preliminary trial, and the tinkling of pewter flagons discharging their liquid cheer into parched throats could be heard over all the field. Each armed host was alert and ready, awaiting with tense drawn nerves the flaming signal in the eastern sky.

From afar off a cock crowed a cheery welcome to approaching day.

"I would the blessed light would discover me an eye-hole across the brook," one of the burly archers was saying. "I'd flick me a bolt into its yawning center for God and a better king."

"Yea​—​truly. And any king, my friend, would be a better king," another answered. "I would I could but fasten my aim upon the elfish-marked monster himself. 'Twould be a mark worth finding, i' faith."

"My lord of Oxford is a brave and clever captain, lad. Were it not for these leather guards our bow-strings would have been no whit more useful than frayed rope's ends with this cursed damp. As 'tis, they're fit to send a quiverful of white-hot billets into as many traitorous gizzards.11 I, too, would that one of them might make its home within the green midric of Richard himself."

"Hast heard the latest from the hunchback's camp?" another whispered.

"Nay. What is 't?"

"'Tis said by the outposts along the slough that there were heard wild shriekings in King Richard's tent during the night."

"Ah! the foul fiends bidding him to their black abode. Mark you, Jock, once he gets there he'll have the whole dismal brood hanged, drawn, and quartered before the year's end."

"'Twould be his first gracious deed then, I give thee warrant."

From an opposite point of the compass a second cock crowed; and then another and another. The day at last was dawning; the mist lifting, dispersing. Slowly it thinned away, as though one after another of a myriad of gauzy curtains was being raised from between the opposing armies.

When eyes could penetrate from line to line hostilities began. A pallid, ghost-like form, grotesquely exaggerated, would emerge from the12 fog. Then would be heard a sharp cry, a groan, a horrible rattling in an expiring throat, a flinging aloft of a pair of arms, and a sinking of the spectral figure into the black mire above which it seemed to have been floating.

These emerging shadows multiplied from one into a score; from a score into a hundred; from a hundred into a thousand. There was no crash of sudden onset and meeting. Rather there was that which resembled a gentle crescendo of death. A blending together of two armed forces with the melting of the fog. It was as though a peaceful entity had gently risen to yield place to a warlike one.

By now, the din and crash were become incessant. Wading hip deep in the reddening waters of the brook and in the crimsoning black mire of the morass, the men of the opposed armies met and battled, hand to hand.

From the wood belched flashes of fire. Heavy smoke clouds rolled away among the leaves. The thunder of primitive artillery reverberated across the meadow, mingling its sound of a new kind of warfare with that of the decadent.

Wherever a crescendo occurs, a diminuendo is13 commonly indicated. The augmenting of Richmond's desperately battling forces by those of Stanley marked the climax of the crescendo. The downfall of Richard the Third before the sturdy lance of Richmond, the beginning of the diminuendo; the fitting finale to the whole.

Wild of eye, disheveled, his charger struck away from beneath him, King Richard faced his mortal foe. Dauntless to the last gasping breath, he made one frenzied, vain effort to rally his scattering army.

"A horse! a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" he shrieked aloud; and then, dying, pitched forward into the dust.

The Battle of Bosworth Field was with the history of things past.

"His kingdom for a horse, quotha!" shouted Stanley. "His kingdom? Bah! What is his kingdom now, honest gentles?" he added, leaping from his blood-slavered stallion and contemptuously spurning with his steel-booted foot the pitiful remains of the dead monarch. "What is his kingdom now?" Sir William repeated, looking inquiringly about him. "Why, somewhat above three cubits of unwashed dirt. A full cubit less,14 by the rood, than any man of us here shall inherit."

"Body o' God! an he had him a barb now, my lord of Stanley, whither, thinkest thou, would he be riding?" shouted someone out of the circle of mailed warriors that was exultingly closing in around the limp, misshapen figure huddled upon the ground.

"Whither else but to the foul fiend!" returned Stanley, smiling grimly up into the speaker's face. "'Tis an easy riddle thou hast set me, a'Beckitt. But he'll need him no barb to fleet him his black soul into the burning lake, I'm thinking."

"An Crookback sink not a treacherous dagger within the back of old Charon before he's ferried him across the Styx, I am wide of my guess," interrupted a third.

"Or strike off and pole the three heads of Cerberus when he does get over," suggested another.

"Look you yonder at the redoubtable Cheyney," again spoke Stanley, pointing toward a gigantic body, sprawled limply, face downward, over the top of a tangled clump of copsewood. "Him, good gentles, I saw totter and go down15 before this lump of bent clay like unto a lightning-riven oak. I' faith, much doth it marvel me at the furious strength that kept its abode within this crooked carcase."

Upon an ebon-black stallion, and apart from the men hovering, vulturelike, above Richard's body, sat the Earl of Richmond, the fortunate young leader beneath whose lance the tyrant king had fallen. By reason of a natural eminence of heaped earth and stone he was raised well above the field, the whole of which he could command by a simple turning of his head to right and left. Behind him the deep shadows of Sutton Ambien Wood served picturesquely to emphasize the flash and glitter of the plated and richly inlaid armor that girded him from head to toe.

It was then but a brief fortnight and a day since the ship in which he had embarked at Bretagne had brought him careening through Bristol Channel to a safe landing upon England's coast at Milford Haven. In that short time he had succeeded in setting a period to the devastating Wars of the Roses, and in exchanging his earl's coronet for that which fortune subsequently decided should be a crown.

16 The lifeless body stretched before him in the hollow marked the pitiful end of nearly a century of deadly, internecine strife. Intently he watched them denuding the stiffening corpse of its costly armor and kingly vestments.

During these moments that England was without a legal monarch, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, remained motionless as a statue upon his black steed, solitary, unheralded, forgotten.

"Body o' God, men! we'll give him a horse," he heard them wildly shouting; and then impassively regarded them while they lashed the bent, and now naked body upon the broad back of a lively hackney. It was the final and brutal expression of a righteous indignation.

From every part of the field there rang in Henry's ears loud cries of exultation over the dead and vanquished Richard, which merged presently into a riotous pandemonium of inarticulate sound when the horse, bearing its gruesome burden, was paraded before the men in the direction of Market Bosworth Road.

"Le roi est mort,​—​vive le roi!" the clear voice of Henry's squire made itself manifest above the din.

17 Something the faintest of smiles broke upon the impassivity of the Earl's countenance as he turned his head in the direction whence this cry had come. Sir Richard, bearing a jeweled crown outstretched in his hands, was just leaping above the clump of copse-wood whereupon the body of Sir John Cheyney was lying.

Lord Stanley, who, by this time, had resumed seat upon his horse, quickly stationed himself between the approaching young knight and the Earl of Richmond. Then, taking the crown that had encircled Richard's helmet throughout the battle, he set it solemnly upon that of Henry.

Whereupon​—​"The King is dead, long live the King!" the cry rippled abroad over the sanguinary field of Bosworth; and the blazing August sun beat down upon a circle of upraised, flashing swords, unsheathed in promise of fealty to the new monarch.


18

CHAPTER I
A WARRANT UPON DOUGLAS

Upon a massive chair of state within the private audience chamber, which adjoined the throne room in the venerable castle of Kenilworth, sat King Henry VII, gloomily brooding. An ermine trimmed robe of softest velvet fell from his shoulders, rippling over the steps of the raised dais to the floor below; a golden, jeweled crown sat awry upon his head.

Five years as reigning monarch of a discontented and rebellious people had borne their weight more heavily upon him than had the whole of the twenty-nine preceding them. Though yet young, as time relatively to the man is commonly measured, his hair and carefully pointed beard were shot with premature gray. His countenance, deeply lined, was overspread with a sickly pallor. His hands, clutching upon the arms of19 the damask-covered chair into which he had thrown himself, and in which he was now half-sitting, half-reclining, trembled as though palsied with an enfeebled age.

His royal marriage with Elizabeth of York, daughter of Henry VI, had marked the consummation of his loftiest ambition. The omen of the white rose mingling with the red had been pleasantly fulfilled. Outwardly his position seemed sufficiently secure. But beneath the surface there were incessant ebullitions of seditious sentiment threatening momentarily to seethe to the top and engulf him. Always, must dissembling be met with keen and smooth diplomacy; plot, with adroit and clever counter-plot.

Because of his open aversion to war, his appreciation of the advantages of negotiation and arbitration, he was stigmatized by his secret enemies as being greedy and avaricious. Yet, on the other hand, had he amassed great armies and plunged them headlong into foreign conflict, thereby burdening his subjects with increased taxation, he would doubtless have been regarded by these same malcontents as being extravagant and needlessly cruel.

20 During the space of the greater part of an hour the King remained seated in the precise attitude in which the opening of the present chapter discovered him. His chin lowered upon his breast; his gaze fixed straight before him; his fingers tapping ceaselessly upon the arms of his chair.

Then, after the manner of a draped lay-figure imbued with sudden life, he sprang to his feet, threw aside the purple robes enveloping him and paced with nervous footfalls across the floor. Occasionally he would pause, incline his head, and pass his hand fretfully across his brow. Once he stopped, leaning heavily against a marble image of Kenelph, Saxon king of Mercia, from whom the castle had its name. The sun of a September afternoon shining brilliantly through one of the western windows bathed them, the marble effigy and the man, in squares of vari-colored light; affording thus a sharp contrast between the old and the new. In the chiseled head of stone the stamp of an iron will was predominant in every feature. Those of the living bespoke no less the possession of a will; but a will that would seek ever to achieve its purposes through the exercise of21 crafty cunning. The one had been grimly determined, brave, and openly cruel and tyrannical. The other was a secret coward, masking his cruelties beneath the guise of virtue.

Suddenly, looking up into the stone face of the dead king, the living king smiled.

"Yea," said he. "We will​—​rather we must​—​yea, we must command it to be done. And by doing it in that way, 'twill be transfixing two bullocks with a single dart."

Thereupon, mounting the steps of the dais and reseating himself in his chair, he carefully donned his robes of state, composed his features, and gently pulled a golden tassel depending from a silken cord at his elbow.

"Command my lord of Stanley instantly to attend me," was Henry's stern behest to the court attendant, who bowed himself within one of the curtained entrances.

Very soon thereafter Stanley came in. Approaching the dais, he knelt upon the lower step, touching with his lips the indifferent and cold hand extended to him.

"My lord of Stanley," said the King, "fetch yonder stool and dispose thyself beside our knee.22 We would have speech of thee​—​and council." Then, to the attendant waiting near the entrance, "Ralston," he ordered tersely, "we would have it known that we will brook no interruption till this conference be ended. But hold! do thou lay commands upon lords Oxford and de Vere, and Sir Richard Rohan, to be ready and waiting against our present summons. Thou mayst go, Ralston."

Silently the attendant withdrew. Folding his arms and looking steadily into Lord Stanley's eyes, the King resumed.

"Now, Stanley, to the business in hand. From what source hast thou drawn thy information that secret emissaries are at this moment on their way hither to acquaint Sir Richard of the facts concerning his noble lineage?"

"Are they then facts, my liege?" queried Stanley, his arched eyebrows plainly evidencing his surprise. "Is it indeed true that this youthful, fair-haired upstart may lay a true and proper claim to the title of Earl of Warwick, and, through that title, a seat upon this very throne?"

"Presume not upon our indulgence, Lord Stanley," warned the King in a menacing tone.23 "Thou hast met question with question. Now, my lord, the source of thy information."

"I crave thy pardon, liege," Stanley hastened to return. "Full well thou knowest, august highness, that every foul rebellion doth breed its fouler traitors. From these coward turn-coats have I stumbled upon this knowledge. The information thus gained I have supplemented and verified with that gleaned by thine own honest and tireless servants. 'Tis, I fear me much, unimpeachable."

"But under God's heaven, Stanley, how came these rag-tag rebels upon the facts as to Rohan's lineage? Marry, my lord, methought 'twas hidden as though sunken within the very entrails of the earth."

"Through one Michael Lidcote, a captain of ship in Duke Francis's fleet. The same, I'll swear, who brought thee to England at Milford Haven," Lord Stanley explained. "'Twas done, I hear, out of a certain love for the young knight, and a desire to witness his elevation to his​—​true position."

For a considerable space thereafter the King remained silent, his chin resting upon the fingers24 of his clasped hands, his pale blue eyes gazing straight ahead of him into space. In retrospect, his mind had turned to the contemplation of some happy days in sunny Brittany when he and Sir Richard were being reared and disciplined together beneath the eye of the stern but kind old Duke. The images materialized must have been pleasing to him, for the hard lines of his face softened into the semblance of a smile. Then, with a sudden, determined lowering of his head, a straightening of his thin lips beneath his sparse beard, he turned again toward Stanley.

"Ah! how true it is," said he, "that desire for fame and power is but an insatiate parasite which gluts and fattens upon the care-free joys of youth. What is this glittering panoply, pray, but a mask? A shining veneer, shielding from view the process of decay within? And now, after yielding nearly all​—​my health, my strength, my happiness​—​you ask of me that I shall spill the blood of my dearest friend. The companion of my joyous youth. Him, say you, must I offer up on the gory altar of public expediency. That I must perforce still the one25 brave heart that beats with an unselfish devotion to my cause and person."

"'Tis needless to tell thee, my liege," purred Stanley, who was ever careful to guard his precedence at the throne, "that the peace and integrity of a nation depend upon thy secure hold upon this very seat. Even that which but remotely menaces should be rendered impotent. These expressions of thy tender sentiment, your highness, are attuned in harmony with thy noble character as a man, but​—​—"

"Yea, Stanley," interrupted Henry, making a show of partial surrender to the flatterer's wiles, "but am I longer a man? There's the question, my lord. Dare I think as a man, and not as a fear-stricken, fettered monarch? Is it not true that the ruler hath swallowed up the mortal, leaving naught but an outward pageant? An effigy of cold and heartless clay upon which to drape a tawdry robe; to set a jeweled crown; to hang a golden scepter?"

Stanley ventured no reply, and a somewhat prolonged interval of silence followed Henry's theatric outburst.

"Think not that I am mad, my lord of Stanley,"26 the King at length resumed, and in a tone so low, melancholy, and sad, that its false note was scarcely to be perceived. "It is indeed true that my first concern must ever be to safeguard my beloved people. Hath these rumors concerning the young knight been spread broadcast, my lord? It were an ill time to essay a cure of the malady, and it had festered over all England."

"It hath not done so, your majesty," Lord Stanley assured him. "The aged seaman and all but two of the seditious leaders are now imprisoned within the tower. The pair who escaped the meshes of my net are now journeying hither from London in disguise. I have their names and know well what like they are."

"'Tis well. Thy station be the forfeit, an they elude thee. Still all their busy tongues, my lord. We lay upon thee royal warrant of their death, and that speedily. Concerning the young knight's progenitors, Lord Stanley, it doth please us to make of thee our single confidant. This noble is in truth the son of the Duke of Clarence​—​the good Duke, who came to his untimely end at the gentle hands of our esteemed father-in-law. Thou dost remember well that he was attainted27 of high treason, and that we took measures accordingly to have his issue pronounced illegitimate. 'Twas done, as thou canst see, to guard against such a contingency as hath now arisen. But to my tale. Sir Richard, when but a suckling infant, was carried secretly to Brittany, and enjoyed there, with me, the powerful protection of Duke Francis. Why the die of England's sovereignty was cast in my favor, I know not. God wot, Stanley, I wish that it had not been! Now, my lord, attend our every word. The weak stripling, whom base Richard the Third believed to be the true Earl of Warwick hath, under our command, for long been immured within the tower. It is perhaps the better part of wisdom that we should lesson thee that an exchange of infants was many years ago covertly effected by one Dame Tyrrell, wife of Sir James Tyrrell, the same who was bribed by Richard to strangle his two nephews, the boy dukes remaining betwixt himself and the throne. Within a fortnight, Stanley, do thou undertake to have the news of the death of this changeling early published over all our kingdom. 'Twere the more seemly, mayhap, and it appeared to have transpired28 through natural causes. A return of the sweating sickness, or some like subterfuge."

"And the young knight, Rohan; what of him, most mighty liege?"

"Him, we would have thee to know," said Henry, "we love and trust above any man, saving thyself, in all the length and breadth of England.

"Aye, marry, but​—​—"

"Hold! have patience, my lord, and attend me. We know well what thou wouldst say. Him, too, must we sacrifice for the sake of the peace and safety of a people who love us but little. Do thou this very hour issue warrant under the Great Seal and give it into Sir Richard's hands to be delivered by him upon Douglas, in Castle Yewe, in Scotland. Lay royal command upon Douglas that his courtiers shall engage the young knight in quarrel and honorable conflict to the end that he return not again into England."

"By the rood, august highness! wouldst make him the bearer of his own warrant of death? 'Tis a parlous risky business."

"Yea, my lord. But a risk that we are happy to assume out of a spirit of fair play, and as a29 mark of our highest confidence. And know, too, Stanley," Henry said, smiling shrewdly, "'twill rid us of many a Scottish enemy. The young man battles tremendously well. And, more in favor of this plan, 'twould be the death of Sir Richard's own choosing, mark you."

"Aye, marry, doth he fight well. I can see many a Scot's midriff lying open to his couched lance or drawn sword. My liege, shall I deliver warrant here?"

"Here, and now. Let Oxford and de Vere be witnesses of its delivery. Though, we charge thee solemnly, hint not to either of its purport. On yonder table thou wilt find parchment. Take point in hand and write. Send Ralston to me when thou hast done. The Queen doth await our presence within the Hall of Windows."

For an hour or more after the King had gone, the eagle's quill within Lord Stanley's fingers moved slowly back and forth across the sheet of parchment. When he had finished with the body of the document and signed his name he lifted his head and looked keenly, furtively about the room. Arising, he moved swiftly from curtain to curtain. Lifting each, he peered hastily beneath its30 heavy folds. Whereupon, satisfied that he was alone, and resuming his seat at the table, he spread before him another sheet of parchment and proceeded to copy, word for word, that which he had written upon the first.

So intently did he engage himself upon this task that he failed to notice the silent parting of a draped entrance, or the King's catlike tread upon the thick pile of the carpet as he moved stealthily across the floor. A long hand, very slender and very much be jeweled, moving across the table before him and taking up the original document, gave Stanley his first hint of his sovereign's presence.

Without a moment's hesitation, and not the slightest quivering of an eyebrow, Lord Stanley arose and bowed low before Henry. He met the look of stern inquiry on the King's face with a quiet smile.

"I crave thy pardon, liege, on the behalf of my sluggish fingers. Fitter are they to wield sword in thy cause than pen."

"So it would seem. What meaneth this second transcript, my lord of Stanley?"

"I bethought me that it would be well," replied31 Stanley upon the instant, "because of the grave importance of the document, to issue it in duplicate. The one to give the young knight safe conduct to his journey's end, the other to secrete within the lining of his cloak or doublet."

"'Tis a most excellent thought, by my faith!" exclaimed the King, the black cloud passing from his brow. "Command Oxford, de Vere, and Sir Richard to our presence. We would have done with the business, and with all speed dispatch the young knight upon his travels."


32

CHAPTER II
ON THE WAY TO CASTLE YEWE

The ceremony attending the departure of Sir Richard upon his singular errand was quickly over; and well within the limits of that day the massive pile of ivy-grown walls, crenelated towers and copper-tipped turrets of Kenilworth Castle had dipped beneath the undulating masses of autumn tinted foliage behind the young knight and John Belwiggar, whom the King had nominated to be Sir Richard's squire and attendant.

Within Henry's mind the expedient of dispatching the young knight as bearer of his own death warrant had been conceived in a spirit of absurd bravado. So far as his calculating and selfish character permitted, he was fond of him. But if he suffered a regret, it was wholly personal, and because of circumstances that had compelled him to part from one in whose companionship33 he had derived a great deal of pleasure. In respect of any feeling of genuine sorrow, the entire scene enacted between himself and Stanley had been a complete farce. Though he had invested that doughty warrior with many and distinguished honors and great power, he had never entertained on the behalf of his chief official that feeling of confidence so essential to the complaisance of mind of any ruler. It was his intention to set before that individual an example of integrity and devotion that the King fancied would be well worthy of emulation. As an additional safeguard, however, he caused secret spies of his own selection to be dispatched in the train of Sir Richard. In adopting this course he believed himself to be keeping the situation well in hand; at once guarding against any interruption of the final delivery of the unusual warrant, and providing him with the means of testing Lord Stanley's devotion to his cause.

Thus, had not Sir Richard taken it into his head to follow an itinerary entirely different from either the one suggested by Henry, or that secretly transmitted to him beside the portcullis by Lord Stanley, some state problems of vast34 magniture and importance might then have been solved. As it subsequently transpired, all along and between the roads that it was definitely supposed the young knight and his squire would make their pilgrimage, King's emissaries were constantly meeting and receiving entertainment of Stanley's lieutenants, as well as the other way about. Obviously, neither the one side nor the other dared to hint of its purpose of espionage or destination; nor yet dared to display any undue haste in parting to pursue its secret way. It also became necessary for them to observe every possible precaution in the matter of covering up their trails, one from another; and, in this way, the innocent cause of this rather amusing game of cross-purposes was permitted to go unmolested upon his way.

The route that Sir Richard had chosen rendered it necessary for himself and squire to tread paths and by-ways used chiefly by peasant farmers and sheep-herders. At times, after a heavy fall of rain, such of these as wound through the low lying valleys would become wholly impassable, making it needful for our pilgrims to await the draining of the flood into the rivers, or to35 make long detours to come upon the other side. For this reason, it had reached well along into October before they had passed through the Liberties of Berwick and set foot upon Scottish soil.

It was growing late in the afternoon of their second day in Scotland, and while they were skirting the edge of a rock-tarn lying in gloomy seclusion in the middle of a desolate moor, that Sir Richard was murderously deprived of the services of his squire and brave attendant. There had been no hint of the approach of the tragedy; no clue as to the identity or purpose of the cowardly perpetrators following its occurrence.

Mounted upon his mettlesome charger, which, though uncommonly powerful, was somewhat fatigued because of the many miles put behind him that day, the young knight was riding slowly along some two hundred yards in advance of Belwiggar. The sky was heavy, gray, and lowering; and the boulder-strewn, monotonously level expanse of moor affording no pleasant aspect or interesting contrasts to the eye, Sir Richard's gaze remained fixed upon the nodding head of his stallion. So near the brink was the narrow path winding along the waters of the tarn, and36 so unruffled was its surface, that steed and armored rider were mirrored faithfully, point for point, beneath.

Hearing a sharp rattling of steel-shod hoofs behind him, and vaguely marveling as to the cause of this unexpected and unusual burst of energy upon the part of his squire, the young knight turned, with a smile upon his face, to greet Belwiggar's approach. To his horrified surprise he was but just in time to see the honest fellow writhing in an agony of death, while the horse that he had so lately bestrode in the prime vigor of rugged health whisked blindly ahead of the young knight along the road, till, crashing against a huge boulder upreared within its path, it stumbled, seemed to hang for an instant in mid-air, and then, neighing with wild affright, disappeared with a tremendous splash beneath the surface of the tarn.

Apprehending some immediate danger to himself, Sir Richard, upon the instant, drew his visor close. Just as he had accomplished this move a bolt struck fair upon the joint of his neck-guard; and, though it did him no harm beyond causing his head to ring with the force of37 the impact, it was the cunning of his armorer alone that had saved him from a death similar to that of Belwiggar.

Having no means of knowing the exact direction from whence the arrows had been sped, and the nature of the ground precluding the possibility of sending his horse over it, the young knight made no attempt to seek out and punish his assailant. He shot a glance of the keenest scrutiny from boulder to boulder, but there was no sign of a living being upon the moor. Satisfied that Belwiggar's death must go unavenged for the time, he rode back to where he lay with a feathered shaft, still quivering, protruding from his broad breast.

He dismounted beside the body, tethering his horse in the hollow between two rocky promontories through which the path swung. He stood looking around him for a space, uncertain what to do. So overwhelmingly appalling and strange were the circumstances attending the tragedy, and to that degree was Sir Richard oppressed by his melancholy surroundings, that he became filled with a feeling of unspeakable dread, an almost uncontrollable desire to throw himself38 upon the back of his steed and gallop swiftly away. Torn by such emotions, it was no light task to remain upon the scene for the purpose of making such disposition of poor Belwiggar's body as his limited means would permit. By employing the dead warrior's battle-ax in lieu of mattock, however, he contrived to hollow out a sufficient space to lay him decently away. Then, piling up a mound of loose stones above the shallow grave, Sir Richard remounted and pursued his solitary way northward toward Bannockburn and Castle Yewe.

As he journeyed onward the young knight made many determined efforts to whistle and sing away a feeling of deep melancholy that persisted in setting somberly down upon him. In the manner of a gloomy procession passing in review before his mind's eye, he recalled all of the wild folklore with which his ears had been beguiled since his advent into Scotland.

"Scour ye'r hoorse ower the Sauchieburn Pass," a toothless and horrible old hag had whispered into his unwilling ear upon the morning of that very day. "Dinna ye ken," she had croaked, "that the deil flees there at fall o'39 nicht?" and the bare thought that he would be obliged to pass the night there alone, with nothing between his head and the limitless heavens but a possible shelving rock, caused icy shivers of fear to creep along his back.

There was one weird tale in particular that he had heard repeated with a stubborn insistence that gave to it some semblance of verity. It was that concerning a certain red tavern, which, according to the peasant's lively imaginations, appeared suddenly along lonely and unfrequented roadways, as though set there by the Evil One. After a time, then, it was reported to vanish as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared, taking along with it into the Unknown any luckless wayfarer that had chanced to seek shelter beneath its phantom roof.

"Now, I am free to own," Sir Richard argued with himself, "that there are certain strange phenomena of which the human mind can give no proper accounting. But when it comes to tales of gibbering ghosts, shadowy, phantom shapes and flying taverns​—​why, by 'r Lady! I'll set a barrier of common sense against my credulity and refuse to believe."

40 He was quite aware, moreover, that none of his countrymen had ever journeyed through Scotland without being bedeviled by somewhat of these same gruesome tales. While it was true that the wily Lord Bishop Kennedy had succeeded in effecting a truce of seven years' duration between England and Scotland, it was obviously beyond him to beguile the yeomanry into viewing an Englishman with anything approaching favor. Nor yet, by any possible chance or subterfuge, could he have set a truce to their wagging tongues. Legends and superstitions were a part of their daily existence, and in proportion as they were fearsome they enjoyed spreading them about.

Revolving these matters within an uneasy mind, Sir Richard gave small heed to his surroundings. By now, he had laid the moor well behind him. Through a slight rift in the rolling cloud-pall peered the last segment of the setting sun; and away to the westward could be caught an occasional glinting of the sea as the waves billowed through its golden reflection.

Just ahead of him the road dipped into a valley. Along its bowl-like bed lay a morass, which41 gave off continuously a heavy, bluish, and probably poisonous vapor. To the north of the morass the road ascended in easy gradients till it clipped the sky line at the distance of a league and a half, or thereabouts, from where he rode.

At the precise point where the road showed bold and clear against the clouds he fancied that he saw the expiring rays of the sun gleaming against a point of vivid color. As he descended into the valley to where the road divided the morass, the point of color disappeared from view, and all of the landscape resumed its gray and monotonous appearance.

Not wishing to inhale the miasmic vapor, in which, he feared, might lurk some dire fever, Sir Richard drank long and deep of untainted air. So much so indeed that the flesh of his back and breast impinged strong upon his steel harness. Then, setting spurs to his stallion, he galloped through the dank cloud without a breath of it reaching into his nostrils.

As he drew near the northern reaches of the valley and rounded a gigantic boulder that stood sentinel to the upper plain, he came full upon a tavern that he at once surmised to be the same of42 which he had heard so much. Upon the instant that he did so, he reined in his steed to a dead stand. Aside from its brilliant though somewhat weather-beaten coat of scarlet, it differed in many respects from the taverns then commonly to be seen along the highways. Saving at the very apex of its steep gable, its front was unpierced by windows. Above its single, narrow door, which opened beneath the jut of the upper story, hung a signboard bearing upon its surface the device of a vulture feeding its young. Withal, however, it appeared to be material enough, and this made it impossible for Sir Richard to account for a feeling of unutterable dread that took complete possession of his mind.

Once he had almost decided upon riding straight to its entrance to beat upon the rude panels of the door for admittance within. But before he could summon sufficient courage to carry out his half-formed design, a mortal terror returned strong upon him, and forthwith he sent his stallion past it at a furious gallop.

It stood a full quarter of a league at his back before the ungovernable fear within him gave ground to shame. He pulled up sharp, then43 wheeled, and rode slowly back to its sinister door.

As he knocked with the scabbard of his sword upon the heavy planks a drop of rain splashed against his helmet, trickled down over his closed visor, and dripped through one of its orifices upon his chin.


44

CHAPTER III
OF A NIGHT IN THE RED TAVERN

As Sir Richard glanced above the jutting cornice he noted that the clouds had turned to a murky green. Ragged tentacles were trailing ominously earthward as the storm raged down upon the sea. Appreciating the need of immediate shelter, and having as yet heard no answering sounds from within, he sent another fusillade of blows against the door.

Almost upon the instant there followed a loud clanking of iron chains and bolts. Then, as the door swung slowly inward, there stood revealed within the open space a singularly odd and striking figure of a man. So extraordinarily tall was he that he was obliged to stoop to make way for his head beneath the lintel as he set his foot upon the step. He vouchsafed no word of welcome or good cheer, but stood silent, waiting for the traveler to speak.

45 With his sparse hair streaming in the augmenting wind, his keen eyes burning within the shadow of a thicket of brows; his veritable beak of a nose​—​vying with that of the crudely painted vulture above his head​—​and his thin, bloodless lips, he appealed to the young knight like anything but a picture of a hospitable inn-keeper. It being habitual to associate with these highway entertainers a certain rotundity of figure and jollity of demeanor. The one confronting Sir Richard was attenuated to the last degree, though in despite of this the breadth of his wrist, and the clutch of his bony fingers upon the latch, betrayed his possession of a more than usual measure of physical strength.

"Hast thou peace and provender for a wayfaring knight and horse?" our astonished pilgrim made out to inquire.

Even then the landlord did not trouble himself to speak. Bowing assent, however, he signed Sir Richard to dismount and enter. As he complied, another man, with features very much resembling the first, but whose figure was grossly misshapen, squat, hunchbacked, and long-armed, emerged from the obscurity of the room and led46 away his horse. This move was not accomplished without a considerable effort upon the hunchback's part, for the spirited animal pricked up its ears, champed its bit, and hung back on the bridle at sight of the apparition tugging at the other end.

It was not without an inward sense of fear that the young knight moved toward the glowing blaze, after he had seen his horse safely led, though stubbornly contesting every inch of the way, around the corner of the building. As he approached the chimney-side, a huge wolfhound lying upon the hearth half rose upon its haunches.

In the bright light of the fire Sir Richard could see the stiff, wiry gray hairs elevating along its spine, and the gleaming of white fangs as it curled its lips from off them and emitted a savage growl.

"Crouch, Demon!" commanded the inn-keeper in a voice which, though low, seemed by far more menacing than the savage grumble of the beast.

The hound instantly obeyed, resuming its recumbent attitude and regarding the intruder47 furtively the while out of the tail of its yellow eyes.

By now the wind had risen to the strength of a hurricane; whining and shrieking dismally, it was dashing the rain with tremendous violence against the northern and eastern walls of the tavern. With an inward acknowledgment of his indebtedness to a kind providence for having set a haven of refuge of any description along the highway, the traveler took his place in a deep-seated bench beside the fire, unloosed the fastenings of his helm and removed his gauntlets. He made as if to unlock his greaves, but desisted upon a vivid recollection of the sharp fangs of the wolfhound.

"By the rood, my good man, but how it doth blow," said he, rubbing his benumbed hands in front of the warm and cheery blaze. "A stoup of red wine or runlet of canary would scarce come amiss upon such a night, i' truth."

With his foot touching the muzzle of the dog, the inn-keeper had taken his station before the fire; and, whilst the lower portion of his tall body was bathed in its ruddy glare, his head towered among the shadowy beams above. By the dim48 semi-light that barely laid itself against his pallid cheek, Sir Richard could see that his host was measuring him up point by point; and in a manner so insolently intent that he became possessed of a mad itching to attempt a chastisement of his tormentor. But two words, and these spoken to the hound, had the landlord uttered since the young knight had dismounted before the door.

"Well!" exclaimed our pilgrim, rapping impatiently upon the table before him, "an thou hast finished with thy inventorying, man; bring on a stoup of wine. And be good enough to see to it, sir, that the drink be advance guard to a bit of supper."

Thereupon the inn-keeper bent the incensed Sir Richard a bow that Lord Cardinal Bourchier himself might properly have envied.

"Saidst thou not something, sir knight," he returned in the smoothest of tones, "of a runlet of canary?"

His manner was faultlessly deferential, but the modulations of his voice conveyed a world of ironical badinage that was wellnigh intolerable. The young knight was tired, lonely, and, if the truth be said, half fearful; and for these49 reasons proved no match at all for the extraordinary tavern-keeper at that soft game. Losing for the moment all control of his temper, he sprang petulantly to his feet and rapped angrily upon the wooden bench with the scabbard of his sword.

"Devil fly away with the canary, sirrah!" he retorted, threateningly. "I tell thee now, it were the better suited to thy health that thou shouldst do my bidding, man."

"This tavern, good my knight," said the inn-keeper, apparently not in the least ruffled, and wholly ignoring his guest's display of anger, "boasts but a meager fare. Plain venison, I fear me much, must needs pass muster with thy dainty palate in lieu of larks and pigeons."

A nature prone to sudden disarrangement of poise is usually amenable to swift reasoning and control. By this time, Sir Richard, repenting of his burst of passion and appreciating the imbecility of a resort to violence, had determined in his mind to do his utmost to meet the inn-keeper upon his own ground. He arose, thereupon, and swept toward mine host his most profound curtesy.

50 "Venison from thy cupboard," said he, smiling in a good humor that was not altogether assumed, "would stand substitute for even Karum-pie."

With a grim chuckle the inn-keeper then took himself off. The hunchback returned presently bearing upon a broad platter a warmed over venison pasty and a stoup of wine; which, upon tasting, Sir Richard found to be of a most excellent vintage. He was disappointed in one particular, however; for, from the moment of the landlord's exit from the room, the young knight had entertained the hope that his supper might be served through the offices of a comely maid. In that event, as was the habit of the times, he would have enjoyed her companionship through the hour of eating. He could accordingly scarcely conceal his vexation and chagrin upon beholding the lugubrious hunchback.

"The Fates defend us!" he exclaimed beneath his breath. "Merely to look at the fellow doth steal away mine hunger."

Well within the zone of pleasing warmth of the fire, and with the not untuneful beating of the wind and sleet against the hollow clapboards singing in his ears, Sir Richard, after he had partaken51 of his supper, remained beside the table, his elbows resting upon its top, his head reclining against his hand. A delightful drowsiness was stealing over him, causing his head to nod lower and lower. Then, with a relaxation of every muscle of his body, he fell forward into a deep sleep.

The air of absolute confidence with which the inn-keeper presently entered the room; the deliberate manner in which he went about unfastening and intruding his hand within the traveler's wallet seemed adequately to indicate that the entire circumstance had grown out of a well meditated plan of action. As he withdrew King Henry's warrant and clapped his eyes upon the great red seal his eyebrows went up in token of astonishment. With extreme deliberation he broke the seal and proceeded to acquaint himself with its purport.

"'Tis a passing strange and untoward business, this," he muttered, after having read and read again the contents of the singular document. "Aye, a passing strange business. Is it but an idle frolic of a king? some cruel wager, conceived in wanton jest? Certes, and this youth52 were an enemy to the throne, his fair head, ere this, had fallen beside the tower block. I would that we could attach men as stanch, devoted and incorruptible to our great cause. But now, since the young prince is dead, what cause have we?" Folding carefully the parchment, he vented a deep sigh. "The labor of these seven years is gone for naught. Aye, for naught. And the great army that is bivouaced here to-night in Scotland is like unto an avenging Juggernaut with none to guide its course. A beast of prey bereft of a head wherewith to devour its enemy."

Concluding his meditations, the inn-keeper, moving toward the fire, took up a blazing splinter and addressed himself to the task of mending the broken seal. Having accomplished this to his apparent satisfaction, he returned the parchment whence it had been taken, seated himself beside the table opposite to the sleeping young knight and resumed the thread of his gloomy thoughts.

"'Tis passing strange that I​—​I, James Tyrrell​—​wearing the stigma of a murderer, expatriate and outlawed from my country, should feel toward this comely youth a sentiment akin to53 pity. Even would I make attempt to save him, and I could. But, I fear me, 'tis impossible. The very nature of his errand furnishes such proof of his stubborn integrity that 'twere but folly to make trial of dissuading him from going on. An I had awakened him to display the violated parchment, he would have had at me with his sword for an arrant traitor. Even as he bent me that pretty bow, I could see the fighting-man in his gray eye. An I caused him to be trussed up as he sleeps to hold it before his conscious eyes, he would dub me liar and base imitator of King Henry's signature to my very teeth. Reluctant though I am thus to do, I must perforce allow him to fare away upon his pilgrimage to death."

With that Tyrrell arose, leaning, for a brief instant, upon the table above the sleeping knight. Upon the instant that he did so his manner underwent a marked transformation from passive contemplation to that of intent and earnest scrutiny. Bending his eyes upon the point where the young man's neck escaped from his steel shoulder-guards, he stood for some time regarding two small and blood-red moles, which were curiously54 joined together by a slender filament of raised flesh. In any other but the recumbent position that the sleeping man's head had naturally assumed, the birth-mark would have been hidden from view beneath the masses of golden-brown hair growing in a profusion of ringlets behind his delicately modeled ears.

Then: "'Tis a glorious dispensation of Divine Providence," declared Tyrrell solemnly, straightening to his full height and upraising his right hand, whilst his left remained upon the unconscious knight's shoulder. "And we thank thee, merciful God, for thy kindness in thus sending another to take the place of one whom thou didst see fit to take away."

Thereupon, with many a halt, and many a backward glance, he stole quietly from the room.

His advent into another, wherein four armed men were amusing themselves over a game of cards and conversing together in guarded undertones, was dramatic in the extreme.

He took his stand in the center of the floor, the flare of a single torch speeding waves of light and shadow along his tall figure.

"Noble gentles," said he, "fellow conspirators:55 Know ye all that a just God hath this night deigned to smile upon our cause. That even now, in the room without, steeped in sweet slumber 'neath the influence of one of Friar Diomed's harmless potions, there is a fit and proper candidate for a throne in which now sits a base usurper."

"Ay​—​marry, is this true, eh? Well, he is a good enough looking young fellow. But, 'tis no more than fair that the traveler should well requite us for thus depriving us of the comforts of a cheery room​—​eh!" muttered a bearded warrior, who, because of a conspicuous absence of stools or chairs, was obliged to take what ease he could upon the floor. "I would that friend Zenas might fetch bench or stool," he added, "so that I might listen to thy tale in seemly comfort​—​eh!"

"Have done with thy grumblings, de Claverlok," spoke up another member of the quartet. "Pray, Sir James, keep not longer from us the identity of this God-given substitute. We are all ears to hear."

"Ay, so must we be," de Claverlok interrupted. "But one great ear, for 'tis from a great height we must listen​—​eh!"

56 "First," resumed Tyrrell, unheedful of the interruption, "I would hear thy separate oaths registered that no hint shall escape thee of that which I am about to tell. This oath of secrecy, noble gentlemen, doth most of all include the solitary traveler now asleep in the outer room. Until such time as I shall give thee warrant, him must we keep in ignorance of our purpose. It is my firm resolve to bring him within view of our great armed force, before laying bare our plans. Zenas, my good brother," Sir James pursued, turning to the dwarf, "do thou, for a time, stand sentinel above our honorable guest. I charge thee, guard him zealously from harm till I am ready to join thee."

After Zenas had closed the door behind his retreating figure, the inn-keeper, turning toward the three men remaining, divulged to them at great length and with fine regard to details our traveler's true name and titles, as well as the nature of his errand to Douglas.

"My good wife, gentles," he said, concluding the explanation of the source of his knowledge, "was nurse and godmother to the suckling infant. Full oft did we, in secret, discuss the significance57 of these marks that I have but this moment again looked upon. And, now, Friar Diomed," he said, addressing himself to the churchman, "art thou skilled enough in the assembling of herb and root to prepare me a sleeping potion that for three days or more will not lose its hold upon the senses?"

"Aye​—​that can I," replied the monk cheerfully. "An you but set it to the nostrils thrice in the day 'twill sleep a man safely the week through."

"Then do thou have it ready betwixt this hour and midnight. De Claverlok, do thou, with all dispatch, ride to our nearest encampment. Bring back with thee a dozen mounted men and a covered litter. Whilst awaiting Sir Lionel's speedy return, we will give our time to the further discussion of plans and expedients."

By now the storm had abated. The wind, no longer a shrieking tornado, had died away to a plaintive sighing about the eaves. The rain had entirely ceased, and in the dead solitude of the night the hoofbeats of de Claverlok's charger, as he galloped away upon his errand, were plainly audible to those within the tavern; to all saving58 Sir Richard, who, still sleeping beside the fire, was all unconscious of an eye, a patient, gleaming, malevolent eye, which remained fixed upon the interior through a narrow window set high in the eastern wall of the room.


59

CHAPTER IV
THE INCIDENT OF THE WOLF-HOUND

The eye at the window was the hunchback's, who was perched upon the top of a boulder, which he had rolled to the side of the building for the purpose of enabling him to see within. His attitude was as that of a spider awaiting its victim, and betrayed his anticipation of a pleasurable event to come. If Sir James could have witnessed his brother's unaccountable demeanor, he would doubtless have been convinced of the truth of a rumor that was commonly traded among his men to the effect that Zenas was of unsound mind, and a menace to his ambitious plans.

The tottering of Zenas's reason was directly due to the circumstance of his having been Sir James's intimate confederate in one of the most brilliant and daring conspiracies in a time when conspiracies were among the chief products of60 England's soil. The plot in question had been conceived in Tyrrell's brain at the time when he had been commissioned by Richard III to make away with his two nephews in the room in which they were then imprisoned in the Tower; and involved the secret transportation of the young princes to a place of safety till such time as a sufficiently armed force could be gathered to set the older of the two upon the throne. That one of the boy dukes was actually murdered and only one so transported, Sir James attributed to the egregious blunder or willful defection of one Dighton, his groom, who was bribed handsomely by Tyrrell to assist him in his gigantic enterprise. Dighton had suffered a summary death as the penalty of his fault. Zenas, garbed in the habit of a Sister of the Faith, had received into his charge in one of the by-ways of London a fair-haired young girl, who was the escaped prince in disguise. Together they had traveled from hamlet to hamlet till they had come to the haven of refuge prepared for them in Scotland. From whence he had been so indiscreet as to return to England and hint, while in his cups, of the incubation of a61 vast uprising in the North, in consequence of which he had been seized, thrown into the torture chamber, and released only after he had been blinded in one eye and reduced to a repulsive caricature of his former self. While he had incurred Sir James's stern displeasure because of his indiscretion, he had also won his highest regard and confidence because of his stubborn refusal to divulge a single secret through the whole of his agonized sufferings.

Now, as Zenas patiently maintained his post upon the top of the boulder, he kept up an almost incessant mumbling. "I'll keep guard over him," he was saying. "Aye​—​I'll see that no harm comes to our honorable guest!" whereupon he would smile craftily and press his face more closely to the window. "They know not​—​ha, ha! not one of them hath divined that it was I​—​I, Zenas, the detestable hunchback, who put the quietus to the young prince. Slow poison​—​that's the thing. Slow poison! I'll teach them to steal from me the affections of my beloved and noble brother. Zenas, the crookback, will teach them! Slow poison put an end to the last, and now 'twill be Demon's turn to finish this one. At62 him, good Demon! At him, sir!" he concluded, with a sibilant hiss that penetrated every corner of the interior of the room.

It was just at this moment that Sir Richard awakened with a sudden and violent start. During the interval of several seconds he remained in a sort of drowsy stupor, with his gaze fixed upon the curling flames. Doubtless from that instinct that gives warning of impending peril, he set his first sentient glance upon the forbidding beast lying before him upon the hearth. The hound's red eyeballs were glaring straight into his own. In the dim firelight he could see that its hair was bristling over its entire savage body, and that slowly and with deadly menace the brute was gathering its huge paws beneath it and assuming a crouching posture. Feeling certain that the slightest perceptible movement upon his part would precipitate the threatened spring, the young knight's fingers, under cover of the table, crept warily toward his sword-hilt. Distinctly he could hear the tap​—​tap​—​tapping of the raindrops as they splashed upon the ground from off the eaves. What, with the deathlike quiet, the red eyeballs and gleaming fangs of the hound,63 and the uncanniness of it all, it is a matter of wonderment that Sir Richard maintained his faculties to the degree that he did.

Inch by inch his hand neared the familiar point where his sword-hilt should have been. Groping beyond, however, it encountered but an empty scabbard. His blade was gone!

A crooked mouth beneath the malevolent eye at the window smiled exultingly.

As the young knight started in a maze of utter bewilderment upon discovering his loss, the hound, straight and true as an arrow sped from a cross-bow, sprang full at his unprotected throat. With a light bound Sir Richard gained the top of the bench, and the powerful jaws of the bloodthirsty brute closed upon his greaves at the precise point where his unprotected throat had been but the instant before. It had been a right lucky stroke for him when he had bestowed a second thought to the matter of unlocking his stout leg-pieces.

Discovering that it could inflict no hurt upon its enemy at that point, and not fancying, in all likelihood, the grating of the tough steel against its teeth, the hound released its hold, gave back,64 and now, with jaws afoam, and giving tongue the while to deep, fierce growls, it crouched low upon the hearth and gathered its body for another spring. By this time Sir Richard was aware of the circumstance that he was without a weapon of any description, as his dagger had been removed with his baldric, which had evidently been unbuckled from off his shoulder during his sleep. Quick as a flash the young knight swept up one of his heavy metal gauntlets from off the top of the table. Again good fortune was with him, for it turned out to fit upon his right hand. It was but the work of a moment to adjust it, and he met the brute's second leap with a blow set fair between its eyes and delivered with every ounce of weight and strength at his command. After the manner of a doe pierced through by a shaft in mid-leap the hound crashed lifeless to the floor, with a great spout of blood issuing from its mouth and nostrils.

The burning eye at the window withdrew its gaze. The crooked lips, so lately smiling, were now muttering curse upon curse to the sighing winds.

"Hoa! Well, by my soul, sir knight! I am,65 indeed, happily come to witness a blow so true and mightily delivered."

The voice was that of the inn-keeper, and sounded out of the darkness beyond the semi-circle of wavering light shed by the now expiring fire.

As Sir Richard leapt from off the bench to the floor, Tyrrell strode into the zone of illumination and, stooping, hung above the still quivering body of the dying hound. For quite a space he remained thus, as though graven in stone, with the gentle raindrops tap-tapping outside for an accompaniment.

"Knowest thou, sir knight," he observed at length, "that thou art the very first successfully to withstand the onslaught of this savage brute?" Tyrrell straightened up, folded his arms, and touched the dead hound lightly with the point of his foot. "Methought," said he, "that Demon was the nearest thing to me upon earth, and, mayhap, the dearest. Like me, sir, he was savage, cruel, and unrelenting; and, like me, expatriated by his kind."

The deep cadence of the inn-keeper's voice, the knitting of his brows, and a slight, mournful66 drooping of his shoulders betrayed to the young knight that his host was touched with a genuine sorrow. Filled ever with a generous-spirited goodwill, he felt himself entertaining a sense of regret for the deed that he had been compelled to do.

"In very truth it grieves me," said he, "that necessity bade me to set a period to a life that you held so precious. I can, good sir, but make offering of reparation in the way of gold."

Tyrrell turned toward the young knight and smiled sadly.

"Gold?" he softly answered. "It doubts me much whether all the gold in Christian England could salve the wound made by the death of this hound. An outcast, sir knight, he came to me, an outcast. I took him in and suffered him to tarry here till he grew kindred to my every wish, and the very manner of my likes and dislikes. As I am, noble sir, he was a bitter misanthrope, and would permit none, besides me, to approach him but Zenas, my unfortunate brother." He paused in his speech, regarding Sir Richard intently. As was habitual with this inimitable conspirator, he was but playing a part. If he had67 it in mind thereby to win his way to Sir Richard's sympathies, he was succeeding admirably.

"Whilst thou wert sleeping," he resumed at the proper moment, "I caused thy sword and baldric to be removed, so that thy rest might forsooth give thee a greater measure of comfort. I likewise laid command upon Zenas to stand guard over thy slumbers. Much sorrow doth it give me that he should have left thee without the protection of his presence whilst I was absent. But, marry, noble knight, the deed can now no more be recalled than can the sped shaft be returned from mid-flight to the string."

From top to toe Tyrrell was habited in somber black; and, as he talked, his lank body loomed anon through the half-circle of flickering light, and then would be blotted out in the deep shadows beyond, as he continued to pace slowly back and forth before the chimney. To the imaginative Sir Richard's mind it recalled a play that he had once witnessed with Henry and his court in London. In it there had been an actor who had affected to play the part of the devil; and who had appeared suddenly, and then as suddenly68 vanished, in a manner designed to appear miraculous.

"Though, in very truth," decided the young knight, "he did not resemble that grisly character one half so much as my mysterious landlord."

The scene in which Sir Richard was playing an involuntary part brought back to him the many evil tales that had been dinned into his ears since coming to Scotland of this same Red Tavern, together with a vivid recollection of the reported fate of the unwary, who, through any misadventure, chanced to seek the hospitality of its shelter. A dozen times it had been upon the tip of his tongue to make mention of these rumors, but the words persisted in halting upon the threshold of utterance. In the light of the reality and substance of his surroundings they appeared as nothing more than weirdly fantastic creations, or ridiculous superstitions, and as such he did his utmost to dismiss them from his mind.

He was just meditating some appropriate subject of conversation by which the prolonged and somewhat uncomfortable silence might be interrupted, when the hunchback came into the room,69 bearing upon his back a billet of wood that was vastly greater in length and girth than he.

"Dost know, Zenas," said Tyrrell sternly, "that thou hast committed a most grievous fault in not remaining to stand watch over our honored guest? Where hast thou been?"

"I did but go without to fetch this log. The night hath grown cold, and I was but bethinking me of the sir knight's comfort," Zenas explained.

"'Tis an ill excuse, I tell thee, Zenas. Prithee bestow the log upon the fire. Then bring in a torch, and a mattock and spade. We will bury at once the body of yonder hound."

Arching his brows the dwarf looked toward his brother, toward Richard, and then upon the body of the hound.

"But he does but sleep, good brother," he said, depositing the log amidst a shower of sparks within the fireplace.

"Aye, 'tis true he sleeps," replied Tyrrell. "And a sleep, Zenas, from which none shall again awaken him. Our good knight yonder of the wondrous thews, dealt him a buffet that would have felled the stoutest ox in broad Scotland. Methinks it might e'en have staggered a Papist70 Bull, with such a hearty goodwill was it delivered."

Going to the side of the hound, the hunchback bent above it, fondled the massive head and shook the fast stiffening paws. Then, with a furtive look toward his brother, who happened to be unobservant of his actions, he shot a black look of malignant hate in Sir Richard's direction.

"And wilt thou suffer this​—​—"

With a finger upon his lips Tyrrell warned Zenas to instant silence. Then, leading him toward the outer door, he talked earnestly with him for several minutes. During a pause in their animated conversation the hunchback stooped and peered at the young knight in something of an odd manner. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he took his way without further ado through the door.

In a little while he returned, carrying a gnarl of pine wood, which he set to blazing at the fire. Thus did Tyrrell, in a most respectful manner, beg Sir Richard to carry, whilst he and Zenas, he said, would drag out the carcass of the hound and make ready its grave.

"'Twould be better that thy brother should71 bear the light," said Sir Richard. "I'll lend thee a hand to the carrying of the hound, and then wield either the mattock or the spade."

"Tut, tut! Of the two, dost think thou art the stronger?" queried the hunchback sharply, addressing himself to Sir Richard for the first time. "Then," he added, "let me show thee."

Unceremoniously thrusting the torch within the young knight's hand he lifted a heavy iron bar standing against the chimney. With but little more effort, apparently, than one would have bestowed upon the breaking of a twig he thereupon bent it fair double across his knee. Tossing aside the twisted rod he looked into Sir Richard's eyes and smiled. Rather, it was a mirthless leer, cunning, cruel, menacing. The young knight easily gathered that between Zenas and himself there remained yet an unsettled score.

"Have done with this childish vaunting of thy strength," said Tyrrell. "An thou wilt but expend thy energies to the task in hand, 'twill soon be done."

"But, can our honored guest be of a mind to exchange me a buffet, good my brother, I should be remiss in the matter of common courtesy did72 I not stand ready to favor him," returned Zenas.

"Come, come!" impatiently exclaimed Tyrrell, allowing Sir Richard no opportunity of answering the implied challenge. "Let us have done at once with the burial of poor Demon."

He and his brother then led the way outside, carrying between them the body of the hound. Sir Richard followed them to where they laid it down at the foot of the jagged rock that, in the daylight, could be seen at a great distance along the roadway. By this hour the night had turned keen, as nights are wont to do along the Highlands, and as he stood idly by watching the inn-keeper and the hunchback busily plying spade and mattock, he grew uncomfortably sensible of the increasing cold, which seemed to set its chill touch upon his very bones.

At rare intervals the pale disc of the moon could be vaguely distinguished when one of the thinner clouds scudded across its face. But when the heavier clouds rolled beneath it, the land was blotted out in deepest darkness, which the splotch of light shed by the wavering torch served well to accentuate.

Fantastic shadows wove themselves about the73 grave-diggers' feet. These, as they rippled away, grew to tremendous proportions as they merged with the circle of gloom that hemmed them in after the manner of an ebon wall. It was during this dismal half-hour, more than ever after, that Sir Richard missed the jovial companionship of poor Belwiggar. The thought came to him that he was a being apart, who had been set down there alone in a mystic environment, and, willy-nilly, his mind again became tenanted with calamitous forebodings. He fair ached again to stretch his legs before the fire, and hailed with unmingled delight the moment when the inn-keeper and his brother clambered from out the grave and lowered the hound within.

It was as they were heaving back the loosened earth that he heard a faint, clear sound steal out upon the silence of the night. It seemed to him as the sound of a maiden's voice released in song. He was straining eagerly to catch the next sweet, quivering note when Tyrrell's deep voice broke suddenly into an English war song, and with a tuneful lilt that came far from appealing unpleasantly to the ear. Moreover, with such a74 hearty goodwill did he sing it that the echoes of the resonant notes were flung reverberating far across the plain.

So unexpected was this occurrence, and so foreign did it seem to the inn-keeper's melancholy character, that Sir Richard was no less startled than surprised. When the young knight turned toward his host he discovered that grim individual engaged in shoveling great clods of earth into the grave, and unconcernedly timing each movement of his body in a rhythmical beat with his song.

Not until the last bit of clay had been firmly tamped above the hound, and they had started for the tavern door, did he for a moment relax his stentorian singing.

"Didst thou not hear that sound as of a woman's voice?" Sir Richard made bold to inquire as they were passing indoors.

"Not I," Tyrrell brusquely replied. "For long, sir knight, my ears hath grown accustomed to the plaint of bird and beast, and the shrieking of the wraiths of shipwrecked mariners along the coast. An I had heard a sound, I should, belike, have attributed it to one of these. Zenas," he75 pursued, thus dismissing the subject of the young knight's inquiry, "look well to our guest's steed for the night. After thou hast done, return and conduct the good knight to his bed."

Turning toward Sir Richard as the hunchback took himself from the room, Tyrrell, linking within the young knight's arm his own, led him toward the comfortable warmth of the fire.

"Thou hast marked, I know, the shattered form of my brother," he said sadly, as they seated themselves together beside the table. "'Tis what remains of the cursed rack and wheel. 'Tis near beyond belief that Zenas was once as supple and straight as either thou or I. And this good body, too, Sir Richard" (the young knight started at the utterance of his name), "they would have drawn, twisted and maimed like unto his had I not defeated their evil purposes by fleeing the borders of my beloved country. God's direst curse rest upon them​—​dead and living​—​one and all!" He paused for some moments, looking gloomily into the fire. "Most humbly do I crave thy pardon for this unseemly display of emotion, sir knight," he added, "and permit me to requite thy forgiveness by setting before thee another76 stoup of wine. 'Twill certes not come amiss after thy prolonged stay in the crisp air."

He arose from the table accordingly, opened a cupboard upon the farther side of the chimney and took from a shelf the wine, which he set before his guest. As he was making fast the door, Sir Richard noted within the cupboard's shadowy depths the bright points of reflection against pieces of steel harness​—​swords, battle-axes, and shields.

"No doubt thou art deliberating now within thy mind," Tyrrell resumed, again seating himself, "as to the manner, Sir Richard, in which I came upon thy name?"

Abruptly pausing, he gazed reflectively for quite a space upon the young knight's puzzled countenance.

"Know then," said he, "that as thou wert sleeping, thy helmet rested there upon the table. The light of yon blaze shone full upon thy name and thy armorial bearings, which thou seest fit to carry within that safe receptacle."

Sir Richard flushed to his temples. He tried his best, despite his embarrassment, to answer in an indifferent manner.

77 "Gramercy for thy caution, good my landlord," he returned, with a careless smile; "and hereafter I shall keep that receptacle upon my foolish noddle, where, i' faith, 'twill be safe from prying eyes."

"From me, sir knight, thou hast no cause to fear," Tyrrell hastened to assure his guest. "It may even transpire that the momentary relaxation of thy caution hath earned for thee a friend. Mayhap, a friend in need​—​who knows?"

"In need of nothing at present above a restful pillow, a roof, and a bite to eat before I fare away in the morning," replied Sir Richard.

"Ah​—​yea, yea! Art thou so fortunate, sir knight, as to be making thy lonely pilgrimage upon matters of state? or art merely seeking lightsome pleasures, as is the manner of many a young court buck?"

"As for making my pilgrimage alone, sir, 'tis the fault of an evil accident that befell but this very day. Till he was foully murdered not many leagues from here, I had, for attendant, a squire as faithful and brave as any in England, mauger the fact that he was a trifle weak at sword-play. Give him in hand a battle-axe, though, and he78 would have cleaved through the stoutest wrought bonnet in all Scotland. Poor Belwiggar! God rest his bones, say I. Concerning thy inquiry as to my mission, sir, I am not free to answer," concluded Sir Richard.

"Then, an it be not a further dire impertinence, good sir knight," persisted Tyrrell, "lesson me from whom thou hast thy cognizance? Marry, I, who bethought me acquainted with every scroll in England, know thine not at all."

"From whom else but my good sovereign," Sir Richard replied. "By his royal command did the College of Heralds issue it. Thus much do I please to tell thee. Of my parentage I can lesson thee naught. My progenitors I have never seen, never known. That I am alive, well, and the free subject of a generous and noble king is sufficient for me, sir; and, by my good sword, must be sufficient for all to whom I am known."

"'Tis well and bravely said," the inn-keeper replied. "But more upon this subject at a later time, my dear Sir Richard. The night doth grow apace, and here cometh Zenas, who is now ready to conduct thee to thy couch." Upon which he79 arose and bade the young knight a kindly and respectful good-night.

Bearing a rush-light, the hunchback led Sir Richard up a narrow stairway to a room immediately above the one he had just quitted. Bidding his sour visaged guide to set the basin, in which burned the rush-light, in the center of the floor, he bespoke for him a peaceful rest and dismissed him from his chamber. Zenas, answering never a word, backed toward the door. Then, from its threshold, he dropped a curtsey that would have made a fitting obeisance to a monarch, after which he silently took himself off.

The room in which the young knight now found himself was of an ample size, but exceedingly raw and cold, as no fire burned within the deep-throated chimney. The four walls were roughly coated with mortar. The rafters overhead were bare. In the gloom of the space between the steep gabled roof and the skeleton beams he could hear the occasional whirring of a bat's wings, as it darted hither and thither across the room. He lost precious little time in speculating upon his surroundings and, quickly removing his steel gear, sought the comforts of the bed,80 which he discovered, with much inward gratification, to be of a good and easeful kind.

A few vagrant thoughts, some of them being of the wild tales he had heard of the tavern wherein he was now tarrying, flitted vaguely across his mind. Then, very soon after laying his head against the pillow, he sank into the blissful unconsciousness of sleep.


81

CHAPTER V
THE INCIDENT OF THE CUTTING OF SAFFRON VELVET

The walls of the room adjoining that in which Sir Richard was now sleeping framed a scene that provided a singular and pleasing contrast to the bleak and uninviting rooms within the tavern with which the reader is already somewhat familiar. So beautifully, and in such exquisite taste were its rich trappings disposed, that a princess might have found comfort and contentment within its cosy precincts. Indeed, not anything seemed to be missing that could have been demanded in the surroundings of the most refined and fastidious of royal personages.

Upon one of the pillowed couches two young maidens were reclining gracefully at their ease. One was lying at full length and resting upon her elbows, with her chin pressed against her interlocked82 fingers; the other was engaged with needles and some bright colored silk in weaving a design upon a piece of linen cloth. Without risking hyperbole it may be said of them that the jewels they wore were scarce an adornment to their distinguished setting, for it would have offered a difficult task to have set out to discover two lovelier types of young womanhood. It was unusual in that between them there existed no conflict of beauty; rather did the bewitching charms of the one serve the complimentary purpose of enhancing the pure and almost ethereal comeliness of the other.

"It would surely be a famous prank, Rocelia," said the one who was lounging upon her elbows. "I cannot understand why you should oppose me. Are we not come to an age, my over-discreet cousin, where a champion should be ours by right?"

"By right of what, pray, madcap Isabel?" queried Rocelia, laying aside her needlework upon a table that stood near the couch.

"Why​—​by right of conquest, little dunce," returned Isabel with a gay laugh. "Here does my stern guardian​—​and by the same token your implacable83 father​—​see fit to keep us mewed within this dismal, fly-by-night prison, deprived of every pleasure and innocent pastime that other maids, similarly stationed, are permitted to enjoy. I tell you, sweet Rocelia, 'tis nothing less than downright cruel."

"Say not so, ungracious maid," observed Rocelia in mild disapproval. "Are we not surrounded with everything, my dear, that heart of maid could wish?"

"Everything, say you? Why​—​far, far from everything," demurred Isabel, tossing back a strand of raven black hair that persisted in straying over her shoulder. "A champion! Give to me a champion!" she cried with a mock seriousness, raising on high her right arm, from which her loose robe fell, displaying a dazzling array of captivating curves and dimples.

Rocelia smiled in a gentle toleration of the other's extravagance of manner.

"Your wondrous beauty, my dear cousin," she said, "will win for you a champion all in good time."

"Time?" retorted Isabel, gathering her lips in a pretty pout and arching her brows. "Time,84 say you? And what, I pray you, have we to do with time? Does not time fade and wither that beauty by which, but a moment ago, you have recommended to me a champion? Is not time our mortal and deadly foe?"

"Too much of it, mayhap, would be," admitted Rocelia; "but a little of it should serve well in rounding out our minds, and in providing us with that sane discretion which, as you remember, Lord Bishop Kennedy, our kind tutor, has taught us is the most precious of earthly perquisites."

"Bah! a murrain upon Bishop Kennedy and his dry pedantries. An I had that old prate-apace inside an oven, right well would I warm his icy blood for him. Look not upon me, sweet coz, with such wideopen eyes of ravished virtue! I declare to you, Rocelia, I'll have me a champion​—​and before this very night is over. You could never divine, I'm sure, why I begged you awhile ago to sing without yon open window. Of a truth, you knew not, or your voice would never have left your throat. It was vicariously to beguile my brave champion's ears that you were singing so sweetly, dear. He was then outside with your father and Zenas burying the hound.85 Ah! you should have seen him fell the savage brute, Rocelia. A single mighty blow of his mailed fist and 'twas all over."

"Were you not afraid? 'Twould have fared ill with you, an Father had seen you standing at the tap-room door."

"Nay​—​I was not afraid. Your father was in another room with the men. Zenas had gone outside. I heard him go muttering through the door as I crept softly down the steps. I peeped through the split panel​—​my champion was there ... sleeping. But, already have I told you the story. Ah! how brave was he. Not once did he flinch the battle, or look about him, or call for help. And he is handsome; marry, sweet coz, but he is handsome! All girded up in shining, inlaid armor. His brown-gold hair flowing almost to his shoulders. His health-bronzed cheeks smooth and shapely. And his mouth! Um-m-m! Well​—​—"

"Why, cousin! some wicked witch has cast a spell above you, I fear."

"Nay​—​'tis not witchery, sweetest Rocelia," said Isabel, seating herself beside her fair-haired cousin and lovingly entwining her arms about her86 slender form. "I am but filled to overflowing with the joy of living. A something of excitement is both sup and drink to me. Now listen. Bear with your madcap cousin whilst she discourses with you in deepest earnest. A champion I must and will have. But he need not know me, or even look upon my face."

"I cannot understand. You are speaking in riddles, Isabel."

"Nay, give ear till I've finished and you shall see it plain enough. My knight of the brown-gold curls, an I mistake me not, is even at this moment slumbering within the next chamber. With a bodkin a cleft in the wall can be used as a slight avenue of secret communication. Then a missive, and a bit of cloth clipped from my​—​no yours, 'tis of a more enticing color​—​your saffron gown, I'll say, dear cousin; and thus I have my champion and no soul but you and I the wiser. Do not say me nay, good, generous Rocelia. It will be a right merry and harmless frolic, think you not?"

"'Twould be a sorry one for you, I fear, an my father found you out," replied Rocelia, half in jest, half earnestly.

87 "Enough. Let the hazard be mine, sweet. And now to business. Whilst I am at work with the bodkin, do you shear me a strip from off your saffron velvet kirtle."

*****

Sir Richard, sleeping soundly, was all unconscious of the widely varying activities of which he was now become the center. Beneath the room in which Isabel, now singing, now laughing, was engaged upon the wall, Friar Diomed had finished brewing and mixing the herbs and chemicals of his narcotic.

"My oath on 't, Friar Diomed," Tyrrell was saying from his seat beside the fire, "your cloth shall not save your shaven pate, an this potion bring one jot of harm to the young noble."

"An it be administered with your usual skill and caution, Sir James," returned the monk, elevating a phial filled with the liquid between his squinting eyes and the light of the fire, "'twill bring no more harm than so much aqua pura. But, by my church! 'tis beside my understanding why you must observe all of these dark ceremonies. Let the young knight but read the King's88 warrant in his slop pouch, an he were a long-eared ass not to embrace our cause."

"Have I not already said, my stupid friend, that he would at once charge us with substitution and false writing? Think you not that the young noble hath heard a many an evil tale of this tavern along the way? Marry, an he had not, all our trouble and precaution to shield the young prince from discovery and harm would have been but of slight avail. But only once again, good friar, need this phantom inn disappear, and then 'twill serve as a blazing torch to light the start of our movement southward."

"Pity 'tis that the young prince died," observed the monk, giving the phial into Tyrrell's hand and standing with his broad back to the blaze. "And just at the point, too, when you had gathered a sufficient power to hurl effectively against Henry. So fire shall consume our refuge, you say? Well, Sir James, ab igne ignem, say I."

"Yea, and I. But regarding the young prince, regret not that which is beyond mending. In truth, Friar Diomed, I like this young Earl of Warwick mightily. He's a right goodly youth to89 look upon, and brave​—​aye, as fearless as a lion cub. Nay​—​let us not regret, but rather return thanks to a generous God for having thus dropped down upon us a proper and legal substitute."

"An you'll be good enough to bid Zenas to bring out the flagons, Sir James, I'll e'en now down a measure or twain to the health of the new. Which is more to my liking, by my Faith, than the uplifting of mere dry thanks. Ad majorem Dei gloriam! 'Twill be a good hour ere de Claverlok and his band return, and I am grievously athirst and, ah-ha-ha, ho-e-e, sleepy."

"Then why not call your drink night-cup and betake yourself to your couch? 'Tis not necessary that you should remain abroad to await their coming. Zenas, the flagon of wine," Tyrrell then called. "Drink, and to your rest, my good friar. Yea​—​the blessed pair of you."

Whereupon, with a loud smacking of his lips, the rotund friar introduced his red and bulbous nose within his tipped cup and made for his couch. Zenas followed him, leaving Tyrrell to keep solitary vigil by the side of the crackling fire, and all unaware of the little comedy which,90 at that very moment, was being enacted above his head.

*****

For the second time that night Sir Richard awakened with a violent start. Upon doing so he raised his head from off his pillow. Hearing no sound, however, he attributed this second awakening to a fanciful dream of a ponderous battle-ax striking upon his helm, and had just composed himself for the purpose of resuming his interrupted rest when he became aware of a distinct rapping upon the headboard of his bed. As he threw aside the covering and sat erect the strange tapping ceased. With every sense upon the alert he listened for a repetition of the sound. It came soon again, distinct, deliberate, unmistakable. He passed his hand carefully over the smooth headboard, but went altogether unrewarded for his pains. Concluding, therefore, that the sounds emanated from between the wall and the bed, he sprang to the floor and pulled aside the heavy piece of furniture.

The inexplicable rapping was then followed by a dry, scraping noise, which seemed almost impossible to locate. The room being cast in utter91 darkness, his sense of touch was required to answer for his useless sense of sight. In the passing of his hand along the wall it met with a slight protuberance. This he instantly grasped, and a part of it came away within his clutched fingers. He discovered it to be a wisp of paper, neatly rolled, and surmised it to be a written message. By the side of the basin upon the floor he found tinder, flint, and steel. Contriving speedily to have a light, he thereupon read the following message:

"Whoever or whatever thou art, an semblance of heart of man beats within thy brave bosom, rescue a maiden from a living death."

This was the message from Isabel. She had been careful to sign no name, and Sir Richard had no means of knowing by whom it had been inscribed. But, even so, he was entirely equal to the occasion, and felt his heart leaping in deepest sympathy with the unknown maiden in distress. So, then and there, upon the cross of his sword, he made a sacred vow to adventure her rescue, repeating in a solemn manner the usual form of oath: "So may God and St. George prosper me92 at my need, as I will do my devoir as thy champion, fair maid, knightly, truly, and manfully."

This ceremony concluded, he hurried again to the wall. Protruding from a narrow aperture in the mortar he noted a thin piece of steel, such as he fancied was used by women in the shaping of their apparel. Upon withdrawing it, he discovered it to be of about a length with his forearm.

Then, placing his lips to the opening thus disclosed, "Courage, fair maiden," he whispered. "An wilt thou grant the boon of sending a most willing champion thy colors?"

"Yea, gladly," came back the answer, sweet and low; "and a kiss, too, my brave knight."

"Ye gods of Love!" exclaimed Sir Richard beneath his breath. "The very yearnings of Tantalus are at this moment put to the blush! Was ever a champion avowed under like romantic circumstances? Was ever a maiden wooed through a two-foot, key-cold wall?"

He then sent the pliant steel back through the wall, which he erroneously supposed to be constructed out of solid stone. In another moment there came to his impatiently waiting hand a very small cutting of saffron velvet, the which he93 touched reverently to his lips, as was becoming in a loyal champion, and then placed devoutly next his heart.

He whispered again, and again he whispered, but no answer came. Observing the precaution of scraping away a bit of mortar from another wall, he carefully concealed the opening. Upon which he replaced the bed in its former position, secured the note within the fillet of his helmet and once more sought his pillow, where he fell asleep presently in the midst of meditating as to the means through which he might, in safety to her, effect the deliverance of the fair unknown.

Yet not half so fair, nor yet half so lovely, was the vision that he materialized from the scrap of saffron velvet as was its beautiful owner, whom an unkind Fate decreed he should not set eyes upon till many days crowded with many misadventures had passed away.


94

CHAPTER VI
THE PAVILION OF PURPLE AND BLACK

It was a trifle past midnight when de Claverlok and the men he had commissioned to bring with him halted in the highroad before the door of the Red Tavern. Coincident with their arrival the hitherto deserted and lonely appearing hostelry was magically metamorphosed into a hive of buzzing industry. The near vicinity of the building became brilliantly illuminated with the flare of many links, the iron pikes of which had been struck into the earth from the roadway to the entrance of the inn. That the scene was one of martial activities could in no wise be mistaken, for the yellow light of the torches was reflected and repeated against a goodly number of steel cuirasses and polished bucklers.

Beside Tyrrell, near the doorway, stood a thin and rather under-sized man, wearing an intricately95 plaited coat of light chain mail, over which was drawn a white linen tunic, with a crimson Maltese cross emblazoned upon the breast, after the fashion of the ancient Crusaders. This individual, conspicuous alone because of the simplicity of his dress when contrasted with those about him, was the famed diplomatist, warrior, statesman, shrewd conspirator, and eminent churchman, Lord Bishop Kennedy, to whom Tyrrell looked ever for council and advice, and who, in reality, had been the brains and backbone of the movement that had been designed to set the youthful Duke of York upon the throne of England. Here was a man possessing that strength of character that permitted him to remain always in the background. From whence he was wont to view the vast schemes in which he became involved as a whole, much as the successful general might select a high eminence from which to overlook and direct the maneuvres of his army. While indolence was at times attributed to him, on account of a certain reserve and unobtrusiveness of manner, to those who knew him well he was known to be indefatigably energetic. It was said of him, indeed, that he never96 slept, saving with an open eye to his tent-flap, or doorway. In Sir James Tyrrell, Bishop Kennedy had achieved a notably brilliant confederate​—​a man of ideas, a born inventor, but visionary to a perilous degree. Tyrrell was not suffered to be awakened out of his dream that he was the real leader; though, in point of truth, he was but nominally such. If, however, the block were to claim its tithe of vengeance, Tyrrell's head, and not Lord Kennedy's, would have been among those selected. Kennedy regarded politics as he did a game of chess, and was marvelously proficient in playing both. "A knight, or even a despised pawn," he was known to have said, "may say 'check' to a king, but it is a wise precaution to have a bishop stationed on the long diagonal."

"Thou art certain beyond all peradventure," he was saying to Tyrrell, "that thou canst not be mistaken as to the identity of thy find?"

"Aye​—​marry, am I, my lord," Tyrrell confidently replied. "I could scarce be amiss in my recognition of the unusual birthmark. Besides, good bishop, did not the youth make confession of his lack of knowledge of his progenitors?"

97 "Yea. But 'tis a common ignorance​—​that, friend Tyrrell. Of a truth, the stroke seemeth too timely and well-favored to be genuine," said Kennedy, who was never ready to accept the semblance of a fact for the fact itself. "Here hath the earth had scarce time to grow cold above the young duke, when up crops another candidate every whit as legitimate and proper. 'Twould appear, my friend, as though an incipient monarch were being reared in every wayside hovel. Yet​—​as thou hast said​—​thou couldst scarce have been mistaken in the birthmark. If proven true, 'tis indeed a most providential stroke. But this very day have I learned that Lord Douglas is meditating a move like unto thine. Already have I laid plans to gather more intimate particulars​—​for thy express benefit, understand me. But I can lesson thee now that some hint of the young prince's existence and death hath flown into his yawning ear. Keep a firm hold upon thy wits and tongue, for there is surely a traitor abroad, Sir James. More; I have it that Douglas doth lay open claim to the possession of the living person of the genuine heir, and that there is now a gathering of the clans98 for the purpose of raising the counterfeit claimant to the throne. Emissaries from Castle Yewe will come here to treat with thee for the combining of thy forces with Douglas's. An this youth of thine be indeed the Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence, thou canst laugh in Douglas's teeth. An it were not so, friend Tyrrell, thou couldst do naught wiser than amalgamate issues. For thy life would be worth no more than a leaden farthing from the fury of thine own troop, an they were to be disbanded without chance of giving battle to Henry."

At this juncture four men drew beside the speakers, through the door, carrying Sir Richard, who had been rendered unconscious through the medium of Friar Diomed's narcotic. As gently as their rough hands could accomplish it, the young knight was placed in the covered litter, which had been standing along the highway awaiting his reception.

"I beg of thee, Sir James," said Lord Kennedy then, "procure for me from this young knight's wallet the warrant of which thou wert speaking. I would I might know well its contents." The keen politician might easily have99 taken it himself, as it was his intention to travel northward with the horsemen and litter-bearers, but he desired to assure himself that the document would not remain behind in Tyrrell's keeping. The time was likely to come when this piece of parchment would be an invaluable political perquisite.

When the warrant had been secured and surrendered into his hands, Bishop Kennedy made quick work of breaking the seal that Tyrrell had so deftly mended. By the light of one of the links he read it slowly through, nodding his head the while.

"'Tis well," he said when he had finished; "and I doff my bonnet to thee, Sir James, for a most fortunate and successful general."

Whereupon he folded up the parchment and thrust it carelessly within his bosom. Then, grasping Tyrrell's hand, he bade him adieu, swung himself upon his horse and started in the train of the cavalcade, which had already begun its march from the inn.

In the light of the single torch remaining, Tyrrell stood beside the door till the noise of the moving company had dwindled to silence in the distance,100 after which he extinguished the blazing link and disappeared within the lonely tavern.

It was nearing daybreak when the cavalcade, led by de Claverlok and Lord Bishop Kennedy, filed past the sentinel outposts within the area of the encampment. The bivouac had been set along the shore, within sight and sound of the sea, and not above a dozen miles from the Red Tavern; but, because of the litter-bearers, the men had been put to the necessity of moving in a slow and deliberate manner, which fact accounted for their tardy progress in effecting the distance.

As Sir Lionel de Claverlok is destined to play a most important part in this narrative of tangled conspiracies, it would doubtless be well now to introduce him to the reader.

To begin with, he was a man who was loved and admired by his enemies, which, though it may appear anomalous, was nevertheless true. He was as refreshing as a shower in spring; as open in his manner as a wind-swept plain. Saving in the arts of warfare, however, of all of which he had proven himself to be a surpassing master, he was uneducated. Every rugged feature displayed between the shaggy thatch of his wiry,101 silver-shot hair, and the thick tangle of his disordered, curly beard bespoke at once the good fellow and indomitable warrior. Whilst, intuitively, one would take him for a person of gentle extraction, there was about him little, if anything, of the polished courtier. He had been too industriously engaged upon the business of his life, which was to conquer a complete understanding of war-craft, to yield thought or time to the cultivation of the softer attainments of the court gallant. As to his physical attributes, he was stockily set up, not above the average in height, and in the noontide of a vigorous and healthful manhood.

"Men," said Bishop Kennedy as he drew up before his tent, "raise me the silken pavilion of purple and black upon yonder hill. When thou hast done, set up the bed thou didst bring with thee, and dispose the young knight, now asleep in the litter, within. Bid the Renegade Duke to set a close guard above his slumbers. Haste thee, go!" Then, turning to de Claverlok, "attend me within my tent, Sir Lionel," he added, "I would have a moment's speech of thee."

Whereupon they dismounted, gave their horses102 into the charge of waiting equerries and went inside.

"This fanciful plan of our dreamy friend of the flying inn," he pursued when they had seated themselves, "to keep the Earl of Warwick in the grip of Friar Diomed's decoction is both impracticable and dangerous. 'Twould be a good three days ere he could be brought to our main stronghold in the mountains." So saying, he took from his wallet the phial that Tyrrell had entrusted to his keeping and emptied its sparkling contents upon the ground.

"I would, my lord," said de Claverlok soberly, "that I could pour a phial of it within my tent​—​eh! Mayhap 'twould put the blessed ants to sleep, and keep them from crawling beneath my gorget ... eh!"

Bishop Kennedy acknowledged the grizzled knight's sally with a mere suspicion of a smile.

"Lay our commands upon the Renegade Duke," he pursued, "that he shall permit the prisoner, for as such we must for the present regard him, to rest till such time as he may naturally awaken from his stupor. I desire, de Claverlok, that thou shalt say but little to the duke of103 the haps of this night. By all means, keep from his knowledge the identity of the young earl. My reasons for this are most urgent, I would have thee to know. Meanwhile, keep a close eye to the prisoner thyself. We may deem it expedient later to give him wholly into thy charge. And now, good sir, to thy cot​—​and may pleasing visions await thee there."

When de Claverlok issued from Lord Kennedy's tent he glanced upward toward the knoll whereupon the folds of the purple and black pavilion were billowing gracefully in the crisp morning air. Betaking himself up the slope, he waited there till the unconscious Sir Richard had been comfortably disposed beneath its silken roof, the same, by the way, which had been intended as a covering for the dead prince.

Then, when he had done with appointing and setting the guard, the grizzled warrior made in the direction of the renegade duke's tent for the purpose of imparting to him Lord Kennedy's instructions.


104

CHAPTER VII
OF THE AWAKENING OF SIR RICHARD

The sun was hanging high above the sea ere the young knight in the pavilion upon the hill began to arouse himself from his profound stupor. Being of a healthful body it was his usual habit to start into broad wakefulness, with every faculty alive, equally upon the alert, and ready upon the instant for the work or pleasure that chanced to be forward for the day. So, in this instance, he was wholly unable to account for an extreme heaviness of the eyelids, combined with a sense of oppression that weighed painfully upon his chest. He grew conscious of a foreign odor in his nostrils that seemed to him to be wafted from an incalculably vast distance; and from the same distance was borne to his ears the confused murmuring of many voices. It appeared to Sir Richard that he had been years upon years lying upon his back exerting a vain though105 ceaseless endeavor to summon together his scattered faculties. He would be aware, in a vague sort of way, that his truant mind was slowly settling upon some solid point of fact. But when it was just about arriving at the spot where memory awaited it, nothing remained but baffling space, and he would discover himself to be again hanging in the awful abyss of Nothingness.

For quite a space Sir Richard struggled thus mightily to recover his wits from the enthralling opiate. Slowly, now, the events of the immediate past were coming back to him. The first being that returned to tenant his recreant memory was the gaunt, tall figure of the inn-keeper. Then crept in, stealthily, mysteriously, the misshapen hunchback, Zenas. The fog lifted from off the episode of the hound. "The voice," he whispered. "Ah! the voice! The note​—​yea, the note! And the precious strip of saffron velvet!"

Feebly he thrust his hand within the breast of his doublet and found it there, whereupon he contrived to open his eyes and struggle to his elbow.

An expression of indescribable amazement sat upon the young knight's countenance when his106 eyes encountered, above his head, the waving folds of the purple and black pavilion in the place of the uncovered beams of the room in the Red Tavern in which he had fallen asleep. He looked at the bed, and noted that it was the same, or one exactly similar in pattern. Upon a chair alongside his steel gear had been neatly disposed. De Claverlok had seen to it that it was scrupulously burnished in every part. Sir Richard's headpiece confronted him jauntily from its position upon one of the lower bed-posts. He saw, as he took it up, that its scarlet plume had been daintily curled. Turning it over, he raised the fillet. The message from Isabel was not there.

Round about the pavilion he could hear men talking and laughing. From the volume of sound, he estimated it to be a considerable company. They were conversing together for the most part, however, in the Spanish tongue, and he could gather nothing above a fragmentary word here and there. The perplexity was growing upon him as to which was the dream, the singular circumstance of the night before, or that in which he then discovered himself. But the cutting of saffron velvet, which he thereupon107 withdrew from its hiding place, proved to his apparent satisfaction that his charming adventure with the imprisoned maid had been a sweet reality. Examining it minutely, he pressed it once more to his lips, and then restored it to its place next his heart.

Against one side of the pavilion, which was closely curtained at every point, stood a bench upon which rested a basin of clear water. He arose from bed and laved his aching head within its grateful coldness. It had the effect of clearing it wonderfully. Before buckling on his armor, it occurred to him to ascertain whether the King's warrant were yet secure. He discovered, much to his chagrin, that it was missing. He congratulated himself, however, upon Lord Stanley's foresight in having provided him with a duplicate copy, which he had taken the precaution to have sewn within the lining of the skirt of his doublet, and was overjoyed to find that this had been overlooked. He then finished buckling on his steel gear, fastened on the casque, drew the visor close, and in this manner, armed in proof, he walked straight to the entrance and thrust aside the damask hangings.

108 The pair of stalwart guards outside tumbled awkwardly together in their haste to arise, muttering confused sentences in Spanish as they did so and touching their fingers to their bonnets in a respectful salute. This rather humorous happening drew the attention of a score or more of armed men seated about a roaring fire, which burned at the foot of the steep incline that fell away from the pavilion on every hand. Upon catching sight of Sir Richard they arose in a body to their feet, standing at soldierly attention. Several of them bowed. One from among them started quickly up the hill to where the young knight stood.

He was a man of admirable proportions, and the ease and grace with which he swung up the sharp slope, all encumbered as he was in a suit of heavy, inlaid armor, bespoke for him great strength and activity of limb and body. The guards, obedient to his terse commands, withdrew themselves beyond earshot. He then approached Sir Richard, removed his feathered cap that he was wearing in temporary lieu of helmet, and saluted him with an elaborate bow.

"Good-morrow, sir knight," he gave him greeting.109 "Thy slumber, I trust, hath proved as restful as it was prolonged and deep?"

"By'r lady!" the young knight curtly rejoined, affronted by that which he considered but mock ceremony. "And what meaneth this thing, pray? Why am I entented here and surrounded by guards and warriors ... free-lances, outlaws ... i' truth, I know not which? Torment me not with suspense, sir, but tell me ... where is the Red Tavern wherein I went to sleep? And, by all the gods, sirrah, who art thou?"

"The last shall be first, good my knight, and the first last," the other answered flippantly. "As for myself, I am known here in Scotland as the Knight of the Double Rook. In England I am styled the Renegade Duke, and the bloody block in the Tower, sir, doth this moment itch for my head. To bring the history of my variegated and not uninteresting career down to the present time, I have the distinguished honor to have been nominated as thy squire and secretary. And as such, sir knight, I respectfully await thy commands."

"Then," answered Sir Richard upon the instant, "show me now the road to the Red Tavern.110 And be good enough to explain the mystery of how I am come to be here without either my knowledge or consent. Who may it be, sir, that is at bottom of this damnable piece of device and practice?"

"By St. Peter, sir knight," replied the Renegade Duke, "I miss my shot, an the Red Tavern be now even three cock-crows removed from here. For that, good sir, hath been the duration of thy sleep. As to its cause, ... well, Friar Diomed, the secret chymist, could doubtless better acquit himself of that answer than I."

"But thou canst tell me why I am here," Sir Richard insisted, "and who is responsible for this stealthy abduction."

"Why thou art here, sir knight, I may not say," declared the Renegade Duke, "for I have pledged my knightly word to maintain secrecy upon that point. As to the responsibility," he added boastingly, "I would fain accept my share of that along with the forty other knights and nobles who conspired to bring thee here."

"Pray," Sir Richard went on, "of what advantage is a truce, an a loyal subject of the King may not travel abroad without adventuring the111 perils of captivity, detention, or such other discourtesies as thy august body of forty may have under consideration? Have done with this errant nonsense, my good Duke ... an, indeed, thou be such ... and tell me where I shall find my horse, so that I may fare away upon my journey?"

"Thy steed, sir knight," said the Renegade Duke, apparently not heeding Sir Richard's unveiled insult, "is now being groomed by an equerry. After thou hast broken thy fast it shall be led around to thee, wearing as fine a coat of glossy satin as ever graced my lady's shoulders. Thou shalt then be at liberty ... or in a manner at liberty, I should have said, ... to resume thy journey, as henceforth thou shalt travel under the protection of our estimable body of men here."

There are ways without number of accepting an involuntary and compulsory situation. Sir Richard chose to embrace it after a lightsome and cheery fashion, believing thus that the open eye for an opportunity of effecting his escape would be thus more effectually disguised and concealed.

112 "Well, ... so must it be," said he, laughing. "And since, mayhap, we are to travel in the same direction, I shall be all the gainer by thy famous company."

After they had breakfasted, the Renegade Duke signified his desire to escort Sir Richard about the grounds of the encampment.

He found it to be composed of some threescore of tents set in a wide circle around the purple and black pavilion. These, his loquacious guide informed him, but served to give shelter to the leaders, the men-at-arms and archers, of which there were near a thousand, had thatched, rude coverings beneath the trees and shelving rocks. It was a perfect morning, the sun blazing upon the sea out of a cloudless sky. The site of the encampment was matchless in the beauty of its surroundings. To the north an apparently limitless forest started out of a purple haze on the line of the horizon, far above; and, slipping down in terrace beneath terrace of parti-colored foliage, halted abruptly, as though the red moor had forbidden the trees to trespass within its boundaries. Southward, one overlooked the gorse-grown plain, the level monotony of which was113 broken, at wide intervals, by the sudden uprearing of an isolated brae.

When Sir Richard and the Duke returned from their circuit of the place of the encampment, the purple and black pavilion had been struck, and a cavalcade of fifty horsemen, superbly armed and caparisoned, awaited but the command to move. An equerry led forward the young knight's horse, which neighed with joy upon beholding its master. As to the perfection of its condition, the Renegade Duke had not exaggerated, for, between its burnished trappings, its ebon coat shone with the soft and velvety sheen of the finest satin. As he leapt into the saddle a bugler winded a silvery blast and the company at once set into motion. The horsemen were equally disposed forward of the noble prisoner and to the rear. Upon his right hand rode the Renegade Duke, who had mounted himself upon a gigantic white stallion. To his left rode Lord Bishop Kennedy, to whom the Duke introduced Sir Richard as they began their march.

The Renegade Duke's range of subjects of conversation was limited to the discussion of his wonderful prowess in armed encounters upon the114 field of battle and within the lists, and of his innumerable conquests in that other and fairer field of the heart's affections. Sir Richard had disliked the fellow from the first, and his feelings toward him were rapidly undergoing a change into something more robust than mere dislike. But to have sought a quarrel with him then would have defeated the purpose that was even then assuming a definite shape within the young knight's mind. Sir Richard despised the Duke not alone because of his manner of speaking, but also for the way he had of twisting his fierce mustachios till they pointed heavenward from each of his round cheeks.

When he could no longer tolerate listening to his idle boasting, Sir Richard turned and addressed himself to Lord Bishop Kennedy, who had spoken no word to the young knight since their first brief interchange of courtesies at the start of their journey.

"Surely," thought Sir Richard, "if Verbosity attends me upon my right hand, Taciturnity doth ride gloomily along at my left," for the worthy Bishop did not even condescend to raise his sharp chin from out of his white tunic whilst delivering115 himself of a curt negative or affirmative in response to the young knight's conversational advances.

Ahead of where they were riding, a jagged spur of the forest, composed of stunted pines and dense underbrush, swept defiantly down upon the moor. They were forced to describe a wide detour to the southward in order to avoid it and come upon the other side. As they were passing its nethermost point, Sir Richard glanced back to the place of his strange awakening beneath the sumptuous pavilion. He saw a great ship, with snowy sails bellying in the wind, making straight for that point of the coast, and the men, whom they had left behind, were swarming after the manner of an army of busy ants to the sandy beach.

Passing the spur of stunted pines, they skirted the forest in a northwesterly direction till they had arrived upon a well defined road that plunged directly into the dense wood. Up this rocky way the cavalcade slowly defiled. Far above their heads the maze of branches met and intertwined, making it seem as though the company had been swallowed up within the cool mouth of a tremendously116 lofty green cavern. The sound of the hoof-beats of their horses was smothered in the thick carpet of pine needles underfoot, and the rich, sweet scent of them filled all the air.

Since Sir Richard had displayed a disinclination to give ear to his cant, the Renegade Duke had drawn ahead to join the leading horsemen, and for an interval of more than two hours Bishop Kennedy and his prisoner rode onward side by side without exchanging a single word.

"What road may this be, good Bishop?" he ventured finally to inquire.

"'Tis the continuation of the Sauchieburn Pass," Lord Kennedy briefly replied.

Sir Richard was more than contented, for he knew then that the way led to Castle Yewe and Lord Douglas, into whose hands he intended soon to deliver the duplicate of the parchment that had been pilfered from out of his wallet.


117

CHAPTER VIII
OF A QUARREL AND A CHALLENGE

The road through the forest wound steadily upward, and when they had left behind them the red moors and braes, the heaving, shimmering sea, they gained no view of the open, and but scant glimpses of the sky, so thickly interwoven were the leafy branches above their heads, till they had emerged upon a furzed and brambled down that commanded an uninterrupted prospect for many miles around.

The scene then spread before them was one of superb grandeur, and well repaid them for their march of five hours up the long and tedious slope, of which the point where they were now come marked the extreme summit. The sea had disappeared out of the range of their vision, and in every direction the land dipped away in a myriad of mounds and hills, with splotches of golden gorse dotting their tops and sides, till the last of118 them was lost in a purple haze that hung above the indefinite, circular rim of the horizon; a fleecy wrack of clouds tossed before the light wind across the deep blue dome of the sky. These, speeding between sun and earth, sent patches of light and shadow in a swift pursuit of each other up and down over the breast of the sweet landscape as though they were playing at some pretty game.

Here, word passed among the men that they might dismount to bait themselves and their horses and enjoy a brief period of rest before resuming the march. Amidst resounding talk and laughter they clambered out of their saddles, tethered their steeds where the grass grew most abundantly, and proceeded to make themselves comfortable, after the campaigner's fashion, by sprawling at full length upon the velvety turf in the agreeable warmth of the sun. Meanwhile, serving-men were addressing themselves to the work of gathering armfuls of dried hemlock twigs, building fires over which to warm the pastys, and broaching casks of stum.

A bright-faced youth, who had evidently been appointed equerry to Sir Richard, approached119 and signified his readiness to take charge of the young knight's horse. Sir Richard dismounted, gave the reins into the youth's hands, and joined Lord Kennedy, who was leaning against a curiously stunted cedar that grew from the brink of a steep declivity near at hand. Within his mind, Sir Richard had applied the nickname of "Taciturnitus" to his silent companion of the morning, and he was surprised to observe the grim warrior-churchman drinking in the glorious scene with a keen zest of which he had deemed him altogether incapable. For quite a space they stood side by side, silently contemplating the diversified beauties of the landscape that unrolled before them from the sky-line to the base of the cliff.

Here and there, filmy pennants of white smoke, indicating the location of shepherds' cottages, would fling from behind the masses of foliage upon the farther hillsides. There was but one structure visible, however; a rambling pile of gray stone, shot with a trinity of embattled towers, which was nestled along the slope of a down, some three leagues distant from where they were standing.

"What is that building yonder, my lord?"120 queried Sir Richard, indicating its location with outstretched hand and finger.

"That," replied Bishop Kennedy, "is the Black Friar's Monastery. Our way, sir knight, leads directly beneath its sealed portcullis, which is opened but once in the year, and then only for the purpose of admitting its annual quota of novices. The final glance of the probationer's eye upon a free earth and heaven embraces this bit bonnie scene. When he is quit of the damp cell and noisome cloister, the crypt, lying within the belly of the hill, becomes the final repository of his lime-bleached bones."

While Bishop Kennedy was talking Sir Richard's attention had been directed toward a solitary traveler, who was drawing near along the road that wound around the foot of the cliff and swept over the hill upon which his captors were bivouacing. The pilgrim was mounted upon a round-bodied, slow moving and remarkably long-eared donkey, which was exactly of a color with the rider's voluminous, cowled robe. As he came within easy view it could be seen that he was diligently poring over some sheets of manuscript. It appeared not to annoy the reader in the least121 when the donkey stopped, which it did every little while, to scratch its underside with its hind hoof.

"Well, by my Faith!" exclaimed Bishop Kennedy, with a display of genuine enthusiasm upon catching sight of the pilgrim.

"You know him, my lord?"

"Yea​—​that I do, Sir Richard. Upon the round back of yonder ass rides a scholar, sir knight, whose fame will one day be proclaimed over all the land. Aye​—​and whose name shall live when thine and mine have been erased along with the epitaphs upon our tombs. Let me crave thy indulgence, and call another to keep thee company, whilst I go forward to embrace my friend Erasmus."

"De Claverlok, attend us," he then called to the grizzled knight, who was sitting beside one of the roaring fires and skilfully balancing a pasty above it upon the blade of his halberd.

De Claverlok quickly gulped down the remainder of the contents of the flagon beside him and came toward the two men wearing a good-natured smile, smacking his lips aloud and wiping his beard with the back of his broad hand.

122 "The wine is to thy liking, I perceive," remarked Bishop Kennedy dryly.

"Ah!" exclaimed the grizzled veteran heartily, "there's nothing, my men, that can equal it. Give me drink with the must in 't every blessed day of the year, ... eh!"

"Thou art ever filled with ardor, de Claverlok, when the meat and drink are in question," observed Kennedy with a faint trace of a smile. "But canst forget thy loves long enough to keep companionship with our guest whilst I go forward to meet my friend riding below?"

"Certes will I bear the sir knight company," the grizzled knight instantly agreed. "And I need not desert my loves in doing so, ... eh, ... my boy?"

Whereupon he led Sir Richard to a seat beside a hastily constructed table, made of two broad planks set lengthwise above a pair of empty casks. Over it, fluttering and crackling in the crisp, invigorating breeze that blew across the mountain, was stretched an awning of purple and black, which the young knight took to be a part of the pavilion beneath which he had been so mysteriously transported, and beneath which that123 morning he had so strangely awakened. The Renegade Duke, with a partially empty tankard at his hand, was already seated before a steaming pasty. From the violent red of his nose and cheeks it could easily be seen that he had been making rather too free with the stum. Besides painting his round face, it had provided him with the fool's courage to unmask his hatred of Sir Richard, at whom he glared across the improvised table with an open defiance. At first he was careful to preserve a sulky silence, but by the time he had emptied a few more flagons he grew noisily vociferant, and would likely have opened the quarrel then and there, had it not been for a now and again lustily delivered nudge of de Claverlok's mailed elbow.

He was sufficiently himself, however, to relapse into silence when the Bishop joined them with his youthful friend, whom he addressed intimately as Gerard, but introduced to the three men as Erasmus.

The scholar's loose robe did not wholly conceal the angularity of his figure. His cheeks, though almost painfully hollow, were touched with the olive bronze of winds and weathers. His nose124 was unusually prominent, but cut fine at bridge and nostril. His brow, classically moulded, was deep and broad at its base. Altogether, his physiognomy was remarkable for its combination of severe austerity and innate generosity and kindliness.

"It would seem," said he, seating himself beside the table between Bishop Kennedy and Sir Richard, "that the flower of knighthood is gathered here to look upon the flower of Scotland's scenery. I wonder, sir knights, that the restful peace of yonder view does not communicate itself to your martial breasts and render you brothers-in-love of all the world."

"Thy business it is to think, dream, and observe, Gerard," said Lord Kennedy, "and ours to act. The world is yet too imperfect to receive thy teachings, my friend."

"Yea​—​that it is," agreed de Claverlok between bites. "With us it's eat, drink, rest betimes, and then away. I'll wager, though, our gear sits lighter on our shoulders than your robe, ... eh?"

"Right readily do I grant you that, sir knight," returned Erasmus smilingly. "This robe, in125 truth, is one of the heaviest of my burdens. There would be many a naked back, my lord," he added gravely, turning toward Bishop Kennedy, "an the robe were to be stripped from every bigoted hypocrite. It grieves me to admit my belief that steel girded breasts are uniformly more steadfast to their principles than those enveloped within the robe and cowl."

Thus, during the hour of eating, Erasmus held Lord Kennedy and Sir Richard enthralled with the charm and compelling influence of his colloquy, in the course of which he explained to them that he was then journeying from a monastery at Stein to enter the services of the Archbishop of Cambray, and that later it was a part of his plan to go on to Paris, where he intended pursuing his studies under the continued patronage of his amiable and generous master.

Had the scholar touched at all upon the subject of battles, or of deeds of martial gallantry, it is possible that he might again have enticed de Claverlok to give ear. But as it was, that bluff warrior yielded himself in his most heartywise to the business of devastating the remainder of the pasty before him, and maintaining a constant126 void within the pewter flagon beside his plate. As for the Renegade Duke, Sir Richard noted that his vapid smile had resolved itself into something approaching a drunken leer, and that beneath his vain twaddle there ran a distinct undercurrent of thinly veiled sarcasm. It grew apparent that he was striving desperately to mask his quarrel with the young knight from the understanding of Lord Kennedy. In this Sir Richard was assisting him to his uttermost. Some time before he had conceived the idea that a quarrel and subsequent duel, which he hoped that his blatant guard might secretly arrange, would provide a likely means of escape.

That their combined efforts were unfruitful of misleading the shrewd Bishop was soon made apparent; for, before leaving from beneath the awning with Erasmus, he took the grizzled knight aside, talking earnestly with him for several minutes.

"I am but going to make Erasmus acquainted with some of our famous fellows," he was explaining to de Claverlok, "and shall soon return. Above all things, Sir Lionel," he warned in a whisper, "keep a close eye on the Knight of the127 Double Rook. Before we came to yonder table I had disquieting news from the scholar from Bannockburn way. Douglas is arming to oppose us, and planning to invade England for a purpose similar with ours. I fear me that he is familiar with every happening within our camp, and doubts have arisen within me as to the Renegade Duke's integrity to our cause. An I am not mistaken, there is a plan afoot to defeat our purpose of delivering the young noble within our northern stronghold. There's something mightily wrong, de Claverlok. Not a breath have I heard from our captive regarding the King's warrant taken from his pouch by Sir James; and yet is he as eager as an unhooded falcon to escape and fare away upon his journey. How it would boot him to go on, I cannot make out. Remember, sir knight," Bishop Kennedy concluded sternly, "that henceforth thou art held responsible for the youth's safe detention; ... by thy knightly oath do we hold thee."

"Aye, my lord," was the extent of de Claverlok's reply, though his tone and manner indicated his determination to be faithful to the trust imposed upon him.

128 While the three men were seated beneath the awning awaiting Lord Kennedy's return they espied along the road, which wound like a tawny worm beneath the portcullis of the Black Friar's Monastery, a single horseman careering swiftly in the direction of the hill upon which they were stationed. As the rider drew nearer, they could see the glint of the sun's rays upon the burnished trappings of man and horse. Without exchanging a speculative word, their glances followed him till he disappeared at a point where the ochre road was swallowed up in a patch of brilliantly colored gorse. He had likewise been sighted from elsewhere upon the mountain top, for a band of horsemen sallied down from the place of the bivouac and met him precisely at the spot where he again issued into view from behind the bushes. Then, wheeling, they bore him company up the declivitous road. Coincident with their meeting with the men awaiting them above there was a loud shouting of "Douglas! False Douglas, the traitor!" Whereupon Lord Kennedy could be seen striding among them, a trumpeter winded a blast "To horse," and then, amidst a frenzied waving of pennoned lances, the hitherto quiet129 scene became alive with the scurrying of mailed feet, the noise of creaking saddle girths, the hoarse cries of men, and the loud neighing of horses.

Sir Richard, unable to interpret the meaning of this sudden warlike demonstration, and wondering much at the use of the name of Douglas, regarded it in the light of a most opportune happening. For one thing, it had rid him temporarily of the presence of de Claverlok, who was swinging furiously down the slope bellowing aloud for the Duke's horse, for Sir Richard's, and his own. The young knight at once availed himself of the opportunity of resuming his quarrel with the Renegade Duke; and, as he regarded him scornfully across the board, that individual arose and bowed low before him. In despite of Sir Richard's aversion toward the man, he was obliged to pay tribute within his mind to his singular grace and perfect assurance.

"Why all this mock courtesy," said the young knight quietly, arising also to his feet, "when your blade, my brave Duke, dangles so near to your hand?"

The Renegade Duke stole a glance behind him130 down the hill, and smiled insolently, coolly, delaying thus his answer for a considerable space.

"The battle-ax, or mace, sir knight," he said then, "would better suit our deadly purposes." He was not above looking to the advantages of his superior weight in offering this suggestion. Moreover, horsemanship played an important part in this kind of warfare, and the Duke was said to be a master horseman. "Yet​—​—" he added the word and then paused reflectively.

"Yet what?" returned Sir Richard. "Out with it ere de Claverlok return to thwart the perfecting of our arrangements."

"Yet​—​" repeated the Duke slowly, again looking behind him down the hill, his lips still raised from off his teeth in a maddening smile, "I dislike me much to remove the single champion of a maiden in distress. Would you not consent to grant to me the legacy of effecting the fair one's release?"

The violence of Sir Richard's anger, scattering every vestige of prudence to the winds, might easily have resulted in defeating his well laid plan to escape. For, no sooner had the Duke finished, than the young knight found himself131 standing with his emptied tankard in his hand, while his enemy, with a diaphanous lace kerchief, was daintily wiping the dregs from it off his face. The fact that he missed a drop of the wine, which remained hanging from one of the ridiculous points of his upturned mustachios, sent Sir Richard into a paroxysm of laughter.

"An it comes to the question of a legacy, Renegade Duke," he stifled his merriment sufficiently to answer, "I shall do my mightiest to have it from you to me. An I make no mistake, my fine fellow, I shall gain the missive you have pilfered before the day is done."

While Sir Richard was speaking, de Claverlok was seen to be approaching at a swift gallop with their horses.

"Till we meet," returned the Duke quickly, "it shall again be yours. When your bonnet was being burnished this morning it rolled from out the fillet to the pavilion floor." Whereupon, having explained his possession of the note, he tossed the bit of paper before Sir Richard upon the table. Then, as de Claverlok drew rein and called aloud for them to mount​—​"Which shall it be," he whispered, "mace, battle-ax, or sword?"

132 "Battle-axes, at cock-shut time," Sir Richard hastily answered, moving in the direction of his waiting horse.

"Battle-axes at cock-shut time," repeated the Duke. Then, with a sweeping bow, he held the young knight's stirrup for him to mount. "Battle-axes at cock-shut time," he said again. "Thou hast laid a command upon me, ... Liege!" he added, with the last word hissed low in Sir Richard's ear as he vaulted lightly past him into his saddle.

"Liege?" thought the young knight to himself as he rode onward down the road beside de Claverlok. "Why all these ceremonious bows? This calling of me a noble knight? This strange captivity? Why should I​—​I, Richard Rohan, knight, and lowly messenger of the King be thus curtseyed to and addressed? And what mean these subdued mutterings among the men of 'A traitor in camp,' 'Douglas playing false and arming,' 'Tyrrell outmaneuvered'? Fates defend me. I had liefer set my lance against the Dragon of Wantley than make an attempt to unravel the deep mysteries by which I am this moment surrounded."


133

CHAPTER IX
OF AN AMBUSCADE, A DUEL, AND AN ESCAPE

The Renegade Duke, whose challenge Sir Richard had so openly invited, and who, through the mishap described, had secured a temporary possession of the playful note written to the young knight by Isabel, had quickly surmised by whom it had been inscribed. He was aware of the maid's dissatisfaction with her surroundings, and that she had chosen Sir Richard to be her deliverer at once sent the Duke into a ferment of passionate jealousy.

The Renegade Duke's accidental meeting with Isabel when he had first come to Scotland to join Tyrrell's projected expedition, had marked the beginning of a mad desire to arouse within her breast a return of the sentiment that he entertained toward her. In so far as his superficial character permitted, his affection for her was genuine. But in the rare instances in which he134 had contrived to meet and talk with her alone, she had rejected his suit with an indignant scorn that would have left an ordinary man without the shadow of a hope of future success. The Duke, however, was all egotism and vanity, and remained firm in his belief that his charms would ultimately prevail. By fair means or foul, he had determined upon having her within his power; and, as the initial step toward such an end, he had played the traitor by laying bare before Douglas the whole of Sir James's plan.

Douglas, himself a conspirator of no mean abilities, had immediately set about to concoct a scheme whereby to take advantage of Tyrrell's grave dilemma, caused by the unhappy death of the young prince. Douglas had already instituted measures to have a substitute candidate proclaimed in the place of the one dead, being well aware that Sir James would scarcely dare to incur the ire of his men​—​from whom he had kept the circumstance of the prince's death a dark secret​—​by exposing the falsity of the Douglas claimant. Rather, did Douglas figure it, would Tyrrell be under the necessity of joining issues. This would result in a powerful movement, with135 the Douglas finger very much in the juicy pasty that was designed to be served up to Henry VII and his followers. Had the Renegade Duke been acquainted with the genuine character of the captive Sir Richard's ancestry he would doubtless have been in haste to communicate his knowledge thereof to his new master, with the result that the plot, then taking shape, would have been infinitely less complex, and probably less interesting than it subsequently turned out to be. In his selection of Sir Richard to assume the leadership of his gathered forces, the Duke fell into the error of supposing that Tyrrell had happened by chance to duplicate Lord Douglas's clever expedient.

In the early morning of that day the Duke had contrived to get word to one of Douglas's lieutenants of the captivity of the young knight, and of Tyrrell's intention to carry him to his stronghold before making known his plans with regard to him. The Duke anticipated a counter move upon the part of Douglas along the way; but he calculated that if he could make himself the instrument of the captive's removal, it would place him high in the esteem of Lord Douglas; while,136 at the same time, he believed that such a move would leave Tyrrell without a prop wherewith to buttress his tottering conspiracy.

As Sir Richard, around whom simmered this salmagundi of politics, rode onward with the company, he tried many times, by piecing together odds and ends of the talk that drifted to his ears, to gather some inkling of the purpose upon which the company, of which he was a most unwilling member, was engaged. With recurring frequency he heard the word "treason," and its kindred, "traitor," "spy," "base informer" traded from tongue to tongue among the men around him. The march was now being urged rapidly forward, and a something portending evil seemed to be hanging in the air about them.

The end they were seeking to attain, and the part his person was playing in their machinations grew more enigmatical in proportion with the thought that Sir Richard gave to the matter of burrowing to the reason for them. He ceased trying, finally, and suffered himself to be carried along whithersoever chance, or good or bad fortune, listed.

His companion of the morning, now no longer137 taciturn, was riding well to the front with Erasmus, whom he had evidently persuaded to remain with the company. In sullen silence at his left rode the Renegade Duke. Faithful de Claverlok kept within touch of Sir Richard's hand to his right.

When he was not engaging the bluff old warrior in conversation, the young knight would yield himself to the ineffable delights of conjuring up radiant visions of the maiden of the piece of saffron velvet, whilst all of the time he was building every manner of chimerical plan for effecting her delivery from the hands of the keeper of the Red Tavern. Full often his fingers would seek and caress the soft nap of the cutting of cloth. He had need of constant assurance that the entire mysterious happening had not been of the ephemeral fabric of an unusual dream.

Thinking thus of the unknown maiden to whom he had pledged his knightly sword, led him naturally to the contemplation of his own freedom, and the stratagem through which he was hopeful of achieving it. That his avowed enemy, the Duke, was, at the proper moment, ready to lend himself to his device, Sir Richard138 was almost certain. His scheme involved the arrangement of a secret duel, in which he trusted in his strength of arm to vanquish his enemy and thereafter make his escape. But a most substantial and incorruptible barrier offered in the bulky person of the grizzled knight. As many as a score of times had de Claverlok been loudly hailed from the vanguard of the line. But without exception he had laughingly rejoined that he was engaged in keeping companionship with the honored guest of the company, remaining deaf to the young knight's fervent assurances that he must consider himself quite free to ride ahead, if he so desired.

"Aye," he would invariably reply, "I know well that thou art growing tired of my prattle, ... eh? I wish that it were not so, sir knight, for I must do my devoir by thy side till the trumpet sounds a halt for the night."

Once Sir Richard put to him point blank the question of why and how long he was to be thus forcibly detained.

"Before the sun drops beneath the hills in the evening of to-morrow," de Claverlok replied, "thou shalt know all. Would that I were free to139 tell thee the story now, Sir Richard," he added with an honest candor, "but my lips are sealed with an oath most sacred, ... eh! Thou wouldst not expect me to break my knightly vow, I know," upon which he looked significantly across at the Renegade Duke, but that immaculate dandy was busily engaged in polishing his nails against the flowing skirts of his scarlet sclaveyn, and remained wholly unconscious of the implied warning.

One thing, at least, had drifted clear of the haze within Sir Richard's topsy-turvy brain. Lord Kennedy was the leader, and had appointed de Claverlok as his especial consort. He wished heartily that some accident might befall to win or send the rugged warrior from his close attendance upon his stirrup, as this was the only means through which he could hope to achieve the end he had in mind.

The sun, by now, was tinting the western sky a rose glow, with all across the face of it a sweeping of thin and luminously pink clouds. The hour had almost come when Sir Richard had promised himself the felicity of trying conclusions with his braggart enemy at his left; yet here140 was de Claverlok riding unyielding alongside, the embodiment of everything firm and loyal.

Though he was chafing sore under the restraint, Sir Richard could not but suffer himself to be entertained by the flow of good humored talk of his companion, which went something after the following fashion:

He had been told that Sir Richard had passed the greater part of his life in Brittany? The young knight answered affirmatively. He, too, the grizzled warrior averred, had hunted, fought, and tilted there. There were maidens in Brittany, ... shy, big-eyed, captivating, ... who had once regarded him not unfavorably, ... eh! Their daughters, mayhap, had done the same for Sir Richard? "Thy looks doth certes deny thy age," the young knight had politely assured him. Ah! aye​—​but he was old, though, ... quite old enough to be the sir knight's father. Why! once he had split a lance or two with the old Duke Francis himself. And at the time when Henry, Earl of Richmond, now England's sovereign ruler, had been but a romping, long-haired boy, ... eh! Yea, ... and the sturdy Duke had come nearer to unhorsing him than any141 man across the Channel. He had been informed that the young sir knight had once been Henry's playmate; ... was this true, ... eh?

He had indeed been the companion of Henry, Sir Richard told his friendly guard, and with him had shared the guardianship of Duke Francis and the bountiful hospitality of his court.

Then it may have been, the grizzled knight went on, that Sir Richard had witnessed that self-same tournament upon the field of Anjou, at Vannes? It had been extravagantly rich in prizes, ... that tournament. He himself had been so fortunate as to win two barbs and three coats of Tuscan mail, ... fluted, ... sumptuous, ... exquisitely damascened. But they had long since found their way into the rapacious talons of the Jews. Everything that he had ever possessed ... of any value, ... saving that which he was then wearing, ... and his knightly honor, ... had followed at the tail of them into the same far-reaching, ever greedy claws. Yet he courted no hatred of them, ... eh! Why should one? Were they not as necessary to a gold-lean knight, these gleaners of worldly wealth, as were his very142 bread and wine, ... eh? What excuse was there for despising one of the prime essentials of life, he wanted to know?

In something after this manner the warrior rambled on. Touching, with a ponderous grace, upon any subject that chanced to fall, haphazard, into his mind, not pausing for a moment to listen to answering comment, or seeming to expect it: Sir Richard was growing convinced that the crafty fellow was witness to the passing of the insult between the Renegade Duke and himself, and that he was merely talking to defeat their avowed purpose of renewing hostilities till the hour when they should halt for the night.

There would be no duel that day, and no escape, of this he was by now almost certain. Disappointed, chagrined, impatient of his strange thralldom, and desiring above all things else to deliver Henry's message to Douglas, he rode gloomily along, lending something less than half an ear to the empty words that his stanch, unwavering guard was volleying into it.

For a considerable while the road had been threading between a pleasing succession of furze and thistle-grown downs. It was from a copse143 abutting upon the highway, when they were riding between the steeper of these, that a frightened hare scurried in front of them across the road. Upon the instant de Claverlok drew rein and swept each of the hillsides with a swift and keen scrutiny. The trifling incident of the flying hare was as the first eddy of wind that heralds the coming tornado; for, in almost the next moment, there followed the sharp spattering of bolts against bonnet and breast-plate and shield. One struck fair upon Sir Richard's gorget, causing him to reel in his saddle and his temples to throb and ache with the shock of the impact. Among those riding ahead the young knight saw three pitch heavily off their horses. Clear eyed and iron nerved indeed were these Scot archers; men who could pick you out with unerring nicety the crevice between gorget and helm, or the joint between pauldron and breast-plate. Often, with the beaver drawn, they were known to flick an arrow through the eye-slit without touching either side of the orifice.

After the first shower of bolts the slopes upon each side of the company of horsemen became alive with warriors, slipping down the hill upon144 them like brown and living torrents. There was a ruddy glare ahead, where the ardent rays of the sun, now setting, were beating against the breastplates of an advancing foe. Uprose, then, loud cries of "Douglas, and the Duke of York!" "Long live the White Rose!" which was met with shouts of "Death to the traitors!" "Long live Tyrrell and the Duke of Warwick!"

Sir Richard was just upon the point of yielding to the instinctive call that would have placed him in the singular position of giving battle against the enemies of his supposed own foes, when the Renegade Duke's hand fell heavily upon the bridle of his prancing stallion.

"Cock-shut time is come!" he was shouting in the young knight's ear. "I am ready to obey thy command of this morning. Ride with me to the left!"

Quick as a flash Sir Richard wheeled, and together they drove upward along a narrow roadway that debouched from the one over which they had been traveling, unlimbering their battle-axes as they sped along.

When the wooded summit of the down intervened between them and the scene of the conflict,145 they drew rein and went at it. Whatsoever else the Renegade Duke may have been, Sir Richard was quick to discover that as a foeman he was not in the least to be despised. Blow after blow he was parrying, and that with a neatness and cleverness that set the impetuous young knight somewhat by the ears. Indeed, growing out of the very frenzy of his eagerness, he realized that his attacks were losing an alarming measure of their force and accuracy.

There was now need of immediate action, as, upon the further side of the down, the crash of arms seemed to be subsiding. It was just as he was charging his antagonist afresh that Sir Richard heard the thunder of hoof-beats along the narrow road upon which the Duke and he were fighting for their very lives. Summoning every vestige of energy and strength at his command, he aimed a blow full at his foeman's head-piece. When it appeared to be upon the point of striking, the Renegade Duke executed a swift demivolte. The heavy ax, glancing along his helm, clove off its jaunty white plume, and crashed fair upon the chamfron of his mount. There followed then a momentary reeling and staggering,146 like a maimed ship in a sudden gale, whereupon horse and rider fell, furiously plunging and kicking, into a thornhedge beside the road.

By now the echoes of the approaching hoofbeats were reverberating clear and crepitant from against the steep side of the opposite hill. The Renegade Duke had not done sinking into the crackling brush when Sir Richard wheeled, and, touching rowels lightly to his stallion's foam-flecked side, made off with all the speed there was left in him.


147

CHAPTER X
OF A NIGHT IN A SHEPHERD'S HUT, AND A SURPRISE IN THE MORNING

So far as qualities of speed and endurance were concerned, Sir Richard would have willingly matched his powerful stallion against any in Scotland. Having no fear, therefore, of the possibility of his recapture, he settled himself with some comfort in his saddle, enjoying a great measure of satisfaction in the belief that he would soon outdistance his pursuers. That he was indeed being followed he was left in no manner of doubt, as not for a single instant did the ring of hoof-beats pause at the spot where his late adversary had sprawled so ignominiously into the brambles.

Being wholly unaware as to the number of miles that might stretch away between himself and Castle Yewe, he deemed it unwise to urge his mount to top speed. Besides, the road along148 which he was forced to travel was not over-free from scattered boulders and rather steep of descent. He accordingly contented himself with making haste slowly, as the saying goes, maintaining a long, easy, sweeping stride, and observing every possible precaution against the accidental stumbling or laming of his horse. Moreover, in the thin, clear air of the uplands the rattling of steel hoofs against the flinty earth would assuredly carry for the greater part of a league. For this reason he entertained but slight hope of throwing his pursuers off his trail till the character of the soil became changed.

Twice within the distance of the flight of an arrow the road swerved sharply to the left, which rendered it quite impossible, on account of the tangle of bushes that shot high above his crest on either hand, to ascertain how closely they were following at his heels, or how many were engaged in the chase. At times he could have sworn that there was but one. Then, when he would be just upon the point of drawing rein, purposing to try conclusions with that which he supposed to be his single foeman, the surrounding foothills would carry to his ears the echoes of a battalion of flying149 horsemen, whereupon he would touch spurs to his stallion's side and scurry hot-footed up and down dale until the sounds had dwindled again to a mere faint pattering in the twilight distance.

Two full hours of hard riding did not suffice materially to alter the positions of pursuer and pursued. By then the moon had shot clear of the hills, adding her pallid luster to the clear, star-powdered vault, and still Sir Richard could catch the faint pounding of persistent hoofs at his back. Arriving presently at a point where a wider roadway forked to the left, he decided to take his way along that. He was gratified to find that it yielded soft to the hoof, muffling to a considerable extent the hitherto loud noise of his flight.

Sprinting madly for the distance of something near an eighth of a league, he dismounted and led his tired horse within the shadows of a thick wood, fringing the highway to the northward. Tethering him to a tree at a safe distance from the road, he then retraced his way rapidly but cautiously toward the juncture of the two highroads. Purposing through this simple stratagem,150 should chance favor him, to have a look at his pursuing enemies.

The young knight enjoyed a quiet laugh at his own expense when he discovered that his flying battalion of horsemen had narrowed down to one, and that one, de Claverlok. His rugged profile was set fair against the enormous face of the moon, as he drew to a stand not above a dozen feet from where Sir Richard lay concealed. Distinctly the young knight could see his grizzled head, a silhouette of black against a yellow circle, showing as clear and clean cut as a finely chiseled statue.

It was easy to gather that de Claverlok was in two minds whether to go straight ahead, or to turn to his left into the forking roadway. Now he was inclining his head in a listening attitude. From away in the distance, and ever so faintly, came the clatter of the galloping hoofs of a single horseman. This sound set an instant period to the grizzled knight's perplexity. Forthwith he turned his charger's head straight to the northward, and in a flash was spurring furiously from the vicinity of the bushes where Sir Richard lay hidden.

151 Keeping well in the brush, the young knight waited till the noise of de Claverlok's flight had merged within the solemn quiet of the night; then, returning to where he had tethered his horse, he led him to the highway, mounted, and, after somewhat of a less impetuous fashion than before again resumed his lonely journey.

He had ample leisure thereafter to indulge himself in meditation. Indeed the young knight was enjoying his first quiet interval since his entrance into the Red Tavern and his meeting with Tyrrell, whom he still regarded as nothing more than a most extraordinary inn-keeper. Again his mind reverted to the maiden; he recalled with a thrill of pleasure her soft whisper, and the kiss through the wall. He thought of the bit of cloth and the note, and immediately grew less lonely than before. They yielded him a sweet companionship that he was quite willing to accept without attempting to define. Through his ardent maze of speculation, however, Nature obtruded with her realities, and he became conscious of the keen, frost-laden air, and of his fatigue and hunger. He was ready to admit that the twinkling152 lights of an inn would have afforded him a most welcome and agreeable sight.

Sir Richard was destined to be denied this pleasing spectacle, as he had now ridden as far as discretion allowed without glimpsing a sign of a habitable shelter. But as he drew clear of the forest he caught sight of a hut that stood not far from the road within an open meadow. He rode up to it, discovering it to be an abandoned shepherd's dwelling, bleak, uninviting, and dreary. Between this and the cosy corner of an inn abounding in appetizing odors was something of a far cry to be sure. But it was the best that seemed likely to offer for the night; and, desolate, lonely, and utterly cheerless as it was, he nevertheless gave thanks for the mere rude thatch that would at least protect him from the tingling air. A rough lean-to had been constructed against the side of the hut beneath which he secured his horse, a great armful of half-dried grass serving for the animal's feed. Once inside the hovel, by tearing out a plank or two from the rotting floor and disposing them within the rude fireplace he soon contrived to kindle a blaze that warmed him pleasantly to sleep.

153 So fatigued was he that, in despite of his hunger and thirst, his slumber was of the soundest. Perhaps the assurance that he would likely awaken in the same spot where he had closed his eyes contributed its mite to his comfort of mind and body. At all events he remained undisturbed till well along in the morning. When he aroused himself and opened his eyes the slanting rays of the sun were falling fair upon them through the sashless window that opened upon a fairylike view of hill and forest. He was stretching and yawning himself more fully awake when he was startled suddenly into that condition by a huge shadow moving across the devastated floor. He looked once; then, rubbing his thoroughly surprised eyes, looked again.

Upon the sagged doorsill sat the ubiquitous de Claverlok. He seemed quite unaware of the young knight's awakening, being busily intent upon the burnishing of his helmet, and cocking his grizzled head drolly from one shoulder to the other the while he held his gleaming bonnet at arm's length the better to view and admire the result of his lusty rubbing. The glittering top-piece, catching a ray of the sun, shunted it154 straight into Sir Richard's dazzled eyes. For a second or two thereafter he could see nothing above a brilliant splotch of red, with the massive outline of de Claverlok looming gigantic in its center.

When he was recovered of his transitory blindness, he made a hasty examination of the wall against which he had constructed his bed of leaves and boughs. Saving for a narrow vent-hole set high above the floor, and in the corner of the room farthest from where he was lying, it was unpierced by door or window. Sir Richard could not restrain a smile of quiet amusement as he thought of the famous prank he might have played upon the unconquerable old warrior had there been a sufficient opening near at hand to give exit to his body.

As it was, ... "Well!" he shouted at de Claverlok upon a sudden, and at the very limit of his lungs.

Deliberately, and with the most impassive unconcern, the grizzled knight set his helmet upon his head.

"Give thee a right good-morrow, Sir Richard," said he, smiling broad and friendlywise155 over his shoulder. "Judging from the quality of thy slumber, I should say that thy conscience is mightily clear and babelike, ... eh?"

"Clearer it should be than thine, ... leech!" Sir Richard retorted. "Much am I perplexed over thy presence within this hut this morning. Methought that yester eve I had bade thee adieu for all."

"Aye, ... and good quittance, well riddance, thou didst think, ... eh? But thou wert remiss, my son, in not bethinking thee to yield me a parting handclasp. I am come to remind thee of thy discourteous oversight, and, what's better, to offer thee wherewith to break thy fast."

"Thou dost but mock mine hunger, de Claverlok, which is most ill beseeming from an unbidden guest within my door."

"Pooh, pooh! guest within thy door, indeed. 'Tis thou who art jesting now, ... eh! But, i' truth, I am not mocking thee, sir knight," protested de Claverlok. "Why, thinkest thou that these bonnie plains and downs are barren of grain and fowl, ... eh? Or that my hand and tongue have lost their cunning? But, tell156 me, my good Sir Richard, art indeed bereft of thy nostrils?"

When the young knight raised himself upon his elbow he became aware of the appetizing odor of a roasting fowl, which had not quite dropped to the level of his reclining head. In the fireplace behind him he saw that it had all along been sizzling upon an improvised spit, and that beside it there was an iron pot that was sending its cloud of steam merrily up the deep black throat of the chimney.

"I observe," said Sir Richard, rising and going to the door, "that thou art ever thoughtful of the inner man. But, withal, de Claverlok, I like thee right well, and were it not that thou hast designed to constitute thyself my guardian and captor, full gladly would I call thee friend."

"Your hand, Sir Dick, and let us say 'tis so. Your good friend and true have I been since first I clapt my eyes upon your fresh and open countenance, ... eh! By Saint Dunstan, but I wish that I dared tell you a thing or twain as to the reason for my guardianship," he added fervently. "That I am such is the fault of an untoward circumstance of which for the present157 you must perforce remain ignorant. That I am your captor, ... well," he laughed, "and whose fault is 't, ... eh? You were a free man but yester night, my boy."

"Aye," returned Sir Richard; "and ill did I conduct the business of eluding you. But, marry, man! Here's my hand of friendship, for as friend I insist upon regarding you​—​and not captor​—​my good de Claverlok."

Smiling broadly, the grizzled knight grasped and heartily shook the young knight's proffered hand.

"From this old tongue," said he, "you shall hear no denial of your claim. But a truce to soft sayings, ... eh? The fowl doth cry aloud from yon spit. The ale is mulled to that degree of perfection where it would tickle the palate of Epicurus himself. The air is growing heavy with the fragrance of toasting cheese. Let us, I pray you, break our fasts and be off. Our journey doth stretch long before us, and the day grows apace."

They thereupon sat down together upon the doorsill, the hollow of de Claverlok's broad and scrupulously burnished shield serving as salver158 for the meat, bread and cheese. They took turns at the ale out of the mouth of the earthen jug beside them. When they had finished breakfasting, they went to the lean-to and made ready their horses.

"Do our ways diverge at yonder road?" carelessly asked Sir Richard, as he swung himself into his saddle. "Or shall I be so fortunate as to have you for my companion during a part of my journey?"

"Well, ... by the sun that warms us! Marry, but you are a refreshing youth!" exclaimed de Claverlok, adjusting his breast-plate and gathering his buckler over his left arm. "An I wot my name, Sir Richard, you are to journey wherever I lead, ... eh!"

"Be in a hurry then, my friend," suggested the young knight pleasantly, but firmly, "to become again acquainted with yourself. I go my own way, sir, e'en an my sword or lance must reckon with the hindrance."

By this time the grizzled warrior was seated in his saddle, and had gathered his reins in his hand for the start.

"Which direction is it your wish to travel, my159 son, ... eh?" he inquired, making as if to submit to Sir Richard's desire.

Withdrawing a chart out of the wallet dangling from his baldric, and making note of the position of the sun and the length of the shadows, the young knight indicated, without speaking, a point midway between north and northwest upon the glowing line of the sky and hill.

"By 'r Lady!" exclaimed de Claverlok, causing his armor to jingle with the heartiness of his laughter, "but I am fair sorry that you are not ignorant of every trick of travel-lore and wood-craft, else might I have conducted you to a place not so imminently dangerous to your handsome​—​—" He ended the sentence by touching his head and sweeping his hand in a circular motion around the base of his corded neck.

"Methinks 'tis an easy hazard," returned Sir Richard lightly; "and I have made choice of accepting it. The choice was made for me before I started, I should have said. An our ways lie together, though, friend de Claverlok, mayhap you would spare the time to show me how to pick up a trail by moonlight. 'Tis a right pretty trick​—​and160 after flying after a false scent, too. A right pretty trick."

"Yea​—​and the very devil's own time had I to compass it. What with the going astray, and the getting down on my knees in the dust, I had scarce an hour's rest between the welcome sight of you asleep within the hut and sunrise, ... eh! I wot you were watching me beside the road near the fork, for I saw your marks along the thornhedge. A right nice prank that was to play on an old campaigner, ... eh? And am I a night-capped grand-dam, think you, to lose that which has cost me so much to gain? I'll be damned, Sir Dick, an you are not this moment my captive, ... eh!"

"Right glad am I to claim you friend, de Claverlok," maintained Sir Richard, guiding his horse toward the highway; "but I must deny you the right to call yourself my captor. My first escape was an honorable one, effected through force of arms. An I must escape again, let it be in the same manner. Though much do I regret that our friendship should end thus. I leave to thee, sir knight, the choice of weapons."

"Fiends and furies fly away with every kind of161 weapon!" roared de Claverlok; "an they are to be wielded between you and me. Would I be keeping my knightly vow by spitting you upon my lance's head, ... eh? By the Rood! You would tempt me to set myself in a class with that foul toad, the Renegade Duke, ... eh? Ah! but how I did laugh to see him kicking and cursing amidst the thorns. I would you had put an end to him, Sir Dick. Yesterday, an I wot myself, began a tale of black treachery, my young friend, to which the false head of that court dandy shall furnish an appropriate and bloody period."

By this time they had come to the road where, as though by common consent, they reined to a halt for further parley.

"An you refuse to give me battle, de Claverlok," said Sir Richard a trifle impatiently, "you must permit me to take my own way, as I am determined not to go yours, unless indeed it be in a helpless and disabled condition, and trussed fast to the back of your barb. How say you, sir knight?"

"How say I, ... eh?" muttered the grizzled warrior within his curly beard. "What can I162 say, would be more to the point, it would appear. The hungry vultures, I'll swear, would be the only gainers from a tilt at arms between us. And beshrew me, Sir Dick, an I am of a mind to strew the sward with your precious body. As for mine​—​well​—​I am not so partial to vultures as to wish to feast them upon my carcase. But tell me," he added, looking keenly into the young knight's eyes, "why are you so stubbornly determined upon making your way into Castle Yewe; can it be that Douglas is your friend, ... eh? You know full well that you have not the King's paper."

"And a right sorry moment it was for me when I permitted it to be stolen," returned Sir Richard with an angry frown. "Aye​—​it is true that I cannot now deliver the original, but I have a copy, my shrewd friend​—​a copy, hear you? And I mean to place it within Lord Douglas's hand as swiftly as my steed can bear me within the sallyport of Yewe. Was your hand, de Claverlok, concerned in the purloining of the original?" he finished sharply.

"Nay​—​not mine. A copy say you, ... eh? God! what a mess of pottage is this! You could163 not be prevailed upon to rip this parchment open and read its contents, ...?"

"Well, by my soul! What says the man!" exclaimed Sir Richard indignantly. "Friend or no friend, de Claverlok, another word from you upon that score and there'll be an end of peace between us"; whereupon, urging his horse into a swinging canter, he set off in the general direction of Castle Yewe.

"So, ... lead on, Sir Dick!" shouted the grizzled warrior, setting spurs to his mount's side and quickly galloping beside Sir Richard. "I am at once your captor and your slave. Your follower and your guide. Saint Dunstan grant me the strength to keep your foolish head from harm. And when you're done with thrusting yourself into hornet's nests, ... eh! then shall I be waiting to lead you to a place of temporary peace and safety."

"Temporary safety?" queried Sir Richard. "What mean you by that, de Claverlok?"

"'Twill be but temporary," the young knight's companion asserted warningly. "There are many things that this moment must seem full strange to you, ... eh? Yea​—​but, an I can keep164 your head upon your shoulders through this wild adventure, it will be but to yield you into another hornet's nest awaiting you in the end," he finished somberly.


165

CHAPTER XI
OF HOW SIR RICHARD CAME TO CASTLE YEWE

The grizzled knight's prophecy of an evil time yet to come provided the young knight with much material for thought, without, however, worrying him in the least. He was unable to surmise even remotely what dire happening it was meant to foretell. Sir Richard was without vaulting ambitions to achieve distinction or power; had never been entangled in any political movement; or concerned in any conspiracies; or acquainted, so far as he was aware, with the instigators of them. He had always held carefully aloof from matters pertaining to the more serious business of Henry's court. Seeking only to gather the full measure of enjoyment out of life, it had always been his wish, withal, to be regarded as an efficient soldier and faithful and obedient servant of his king. In his earnest desire to shine among the chivalric lights of his166 time, he brought up at the point of being dreamily visionary. Why he was thus suddenly become the center of a dizzying maelstrom of mysterious occurrences was quite beyond him to fathom; but he was none the less keen in his enjoyment of the situation, its inscrutability appealing forcibly to his imagination.

As he rode onward beside his captor-companion, he gave frequent verbal expression to the questions perplexing him, but without exception de Claverlok's replies were the embodiment of remoteness. He was open, however, in his references to the perils that surely awaited Sir Richard inside the walls of Yewe. His warnings were poured into unheeding ears, as the thought uppermost in Sir Richard's mind was to reach there as quickly as his horse could accomplish the journey. The veteran warrior had been revolving in his mind the subject of his oath of secrecy made to Tyrrell, and whether it involved the keeping of the contents of Henry's warrant from its bearer. He concluded finally to make use of every other means that came to hand to keep his young friend, for whom he was already entertaining a sentiment of real affection, from delivering the parchment167 to Douglas. Failing of success, he would, as a last resort, expose the duplicity of the King by laying bare the purport of the document.

"I have your word, de Claverlok," Sir Richard interrupted the warrior's thoughts, "that you are well acquainted with the country hereabouts?"

"Yea​—​that I am, Sir Dick."

"Tell me then," the young knight inquired, "how many leagues is it from here to Yewe?"

"Marry, and is it true you do not know, ... eh?" returned the grizzled knight, shooting a shrewd interrogative glance in the direction of his companion.

"Not I. An I had, my friend, I had not besought your information," said Sir Richard.

"Aye​—​eh! Most truly said. Well," de Claverlok replied, hesitating while he made a count upon his fingers, "not above two days' journey, I should say," he glibly misled his companion.

"So far as that? Well, by my faith! I wish you had said not above two hours," remarked Sir Richard regretfully. "But how see you, my friend," he thereupon added, pointing his finger directly ahead of them down the road; "an I mistake168 me not, in yonder valley beside the fork of the road doth set an inn?"

"Aye​—​that it is. The good Stag and Hounds; right well do I know its jovial keeper. There, Sir Dick, may we dine, drink our fill, and while away a pleasant hour in reading out of your Tales of​—​of​—​—"

"Canterbury, do you mean?" suggested Sir Richard.

"Canterbury​—​aye, of a truth, that's it, my young friend. Beshrew me an I have not the devil's own time with remembering names, ... eh! You have this Canterbury business within your saddle-pouch, I heard you say. I would hear you read somewhat out of it, ... eh!"

"This fondness of yours for written tales is certes something of a recent acquirement," laughed Sir Richard. "Only this morning, an I remember me aright, did you scoff at my keeping it beside me; yea​—​and did heap scathing ridicule upon the head of the scholar, Erasmus, when I spoke of my admiration for him."

"I did but say," protested the grizzled knight in all seriousness, "that the scholar's nose was an uncommon long member, ... eh! And that169 his bookish business made him to be devilishly thin and pallid. I have a strong liking for tales, let me tell you that, Sir Dick. You'll read me out of them, ... eh?"

"Sorry I am to deny you, my good friend," the young knight replied, "but I dare not steal the time from the doing of my errand. I shall but tarry in the Stag and Hounds to feed and rest my barb. But here's a challenge for you, de Claverlok," he added, gathering his loose reins well within his grasp. "The last man to dismount before the steps of the tavern shall foot up score for horse and man. What say you? Come, my hearty warrior, show me the vaunted mettle of your steed!"

"I have you, Sir Dick!" instantly agreed the grizzled knight; whereupon they started off together, with dust and pebbles flying thick in their train from the swiftness of their flight.

De Claverlok's animal was exceptionally deep-breasted and powerful, and a near match for Sir Richard's in speed. For quite a distance they clipped it neck and neck along the road. About midway between them and the goal against which they were flinging there rode a solitary horseman.170 He was garbed in the habit of a monk, with the cowl drawn well down over his head. The mad volleying of hoofs caused the rider to uncover, as the racers drew near, and shoot a glance of wonderment in their direction. Even with the fleeting view thus afforded him, Sir Richard remarked that the rugged, lean, and livid-scarred countenance appeared singularly incongruous within the brown frame of a monk's hood. It was like anything but that of a peace-loving ascetic. So intent was the young knight upon winning his race, however, that he failed to notice the unusually sharp angles where the robe fell away from the horseman's knees and elbows. Neither was he sufficiently acute to observe that his rapidly forging to the fore of de Claverlok was coincident with the swift uplifting of the traveler's cowl.

He swept on down to the door of the Stag and Hounds, and reining his stallion to its haunches beneath the creaking sign that hung above it, he flung himself from off his saddle in time to see the monk look rather hastily back toward the tavern, mark the stations of the cross in the air with exaggerated gestures above de Claverlok's bowed171 head, and disappear at a round gallop over the hill.

The grizzled knight then rode leisurely down to where Sir Richard stood waiting for him, his rugged face beaming with smiles.

"Your barb's hoofs spurned the earth too swiftly for us to bear him company," said he, dismounting beside the young knight, "so I yielded to you the palm of speed, and added to the total of my score by tossing yon pious churchman a noble. Mayhap I may be the gainer through achieving absolution from divers of my recent sins, ... eh? What, ho there, MacWhuddy!" he shouted at the inn-keeper, who was smiling, rubbing his pudgy hands together, and bowing within the door. "Send thy groom, MacWhuddy, and have me these barbs fed and curried whilst we have somewhat of your best to eat and drink. By my soul, MacWhuddy, but thou'rt growing of a size," he went on in a robustious way after the groom had come forward to relieve them of their horses. "Bigger and fatter than ever, ... eh? 'Tis a right healthful business, this keeping of an inn, ... eh? Nothing but eat and drink, and drink and eat172 from day's end to day's end, and trade jokes from the benchside with the toiling traveler that gorges thy till. When I get me done with this fighting, I'll have me a tavern with a warm corner, a soft seat, and a full flagon ever at hand, ... eh! Sir Dick?"

"I could never picture you, my pugnacious friend, without your ready sword and buckler," laughed the young knight. "But make haste, MacWhuddy," he added, turning toward the inn-keeper. "We would quickly bait ourselves and be away upon our travels. Hold! one moment, my good fellow. Cannot you tell me whether this road leads to Castle Yewe? and how many leagues​—​—"

"Pooh​—​pooh!" interrupted de Claverlok loudly. "And what doth MacWhuddy know, pray, ... eh? Why, by my faith, scarce his own name, Sir Dick! Saint Dunstan hear me, an he keeps him not his scores upon a notched stick, I'll eat him for a flitch of bacon. Get you gone, MacWhuddy," he roared, when the puzzled inn-keeper made as if to protest. "Bring in the meat, MacWhuddy, and not a word out of your blessed pate, or I'll roll you like one of your173 own wine butts through yon door, MacWhuddy, ... eh!"

"I wish that you would have expended your wasted energies in bidding the fellow make haste," said Sir Richard, who was much mystified by his companion's sudden display of irritability.

"Haste? He'll make haste, will MacWhuddy​—​he's built for 't, ... eh?" observed de Claverlok with a dry laugh. "But where's the blessed groom, ... eh? I would have him to​—​ah! here he comes now. Hey, you, fellow;" he called to the hostler, who was just about to set his foot inside the door, "bring us a book you'll find in the left saddle pouch upon the back of the black horse. Why stand you there twirling your cap and mouthing like a drunken tarry-Jack, ... eh? Fetch us the book, I say!"

"I canna un'erstan' thee, worshipful marster," mumbled the thoroughly frightened menial. "What are a bo-o-ke, good sir? Be it some'at to eat, or some'at to drink​—​or some'at f'r th' hoorses, mayhap?"

"Well, by Saint Dunstan! Know you not what a book is, ... eh?" roared the grizzled174 knight, springing up from his seat beside a table and starting for the dumfounded groom. "I'll have the flat of my sword at your hinder quarters for a doddering void-pate!" whereupon, with a great show of anger, he made through the door in a furious pursuit of the innocent offender. "A book, I tell you​—​" Sir Richard could hear de Claverlok having it out with the groom in the yard; "a handful of paper with a board stuck fast upon each end​—​do you hear me, ... eh?"

The noise died away presently. Sir Richard supposed that his mercurial companion was engaged in rummaging for the book; but the grizzled knight had beckoned the inn-keeper to his side and was threatening him with every description of chastisement if he but dared to intimate to his young friend within the location or distance of Castle Yewe.

"An the sir knight asks me again, what shall I tell him?" queried the landlord.

"Oh, anything, MacWhuddy, and be damned to you! Anything but the truth."

When de Claverlok came into the tap-room he was puffing and blowing at a tremendous rate175 and carrying the vellum-bound volume under his arm.

"Come now, Sir Dick," he started off in a wheedling tone, "read me one of these tales of​—​oh​—​how say you that name again, ... eh?"

"De Claverlok," observed Sir Richard dryly, "your love of literature has grown to be of an intensity indeed. But your laggard memory halts and stumbles and plays traitor by refusing to keep pace with it. I have said before, my zealous friend, that it would ill beseem me to tarry here in idle reading. Nay​—​another time, good scholar. Another time! Another time! Here comes our host's pretty daughter with the meat and drink. Let us refresh ourselves quickly and be away."

"Then," said de Claverlok, "I'll return the book to its place within your​—​—"

As he spoke he arose from his stool, and just at the moment when the serving-maid was about to set the platter upon the table. They collided violently, scattering the food and wine over the sanded floor.

De Claverlok wheeled, straightened, set his hands upon his hips, and with a look as though176 all the world was conspiring to do him injury, regarded the cowering, half-tearful maid.

"Well​—​what fiend's in this blessed place, ... eh?" he bellowed. "Look you at this mess upon the floor, you awkward body! And here the sir knight yonder is fair aching to be upon his way. An you wore not kirtles, I'd have the flat of my hand at your ears for a blundering dunce, ... eh!"

The serving-maid turned an appealing glance in Sir Richard's direction.

"I'll fetch thee more, sir knight," she said. "In truth, I meant not to spill the things, noble sir."

"Fret not yourself, good maid," said Sir Richard kindly. "Nay​—​I wot well it was not your fault. I fear me my friend has been struck with some fearsome sickness. He was not always thus. You may go, maid. But bring not the food​—​I dare not wait. Indeed, I was not over keen to eat. A slice of bread from your hand before I get me in the saddle is all I crave."

"That shalt thou have," said the maid with returning spirit, starting for the kitchen door, "and a bit of toasted cheese to keep it company."

177 "Upon my soul, de Claverlok," remonstrated Sir Richard, "your temper is growing to be something unbearable. 'Twas not the wench's fault that the food was overturned. You backed your great body square against the platter, leaving her no room for escape on either side. You've had your quarrel with our host, who seems, in sooth, a right peaceable and merry fellow; you berated the groom, and glowered upon the kitchen-maid​—​with whom will you brawl next, my friend?"

"Why, with you, an you stay not here to eat and drink," retorted de Claverlok.

"Then let the fun begin," said the young knight, starting for the rear door that gave to the court and stables. "Not another moment do I tarry here. An you are coming with me​—​come."

De Claverlok could do nothing but follow, the which he did with obvious reluctance. Once outside, they ran plump into the inn-keeper, who was all at sea whether to smile and pass the usual joke, or to keep his eyes fastened discreetly upon his broad expanse of doublet. Sir Richard, however, allowed him no choice of alternatives. He178 stopped him, setting his hand firmly upon the landlord's round shoulder.

"When my friend interrupted," said the young knight, "you were about to tell me the distance and direction of Castle Yewe​—​is it not so?"

MacWhuddy cast a sheepish look in the direction of de Claverlok, who was scowling fiercely and shaking his fist behind Sir Richard's back.

"'Tis in some'at of that way," he replied, "ower there," waving his trembling hands to the eastward; "some, ... oh! near​—​I say near, mind thee, worshipful knight, ... near twenty​—​thirty leagues."

According to that, Sir Richard would have been required to travel some distance out upon the open sea.

De Claverlok strode toward the stable, muttering savage oaths against the stupidity of innkeepers in general, and poor MacWhuddy in particular. Meanwhile, the serving-maid, bread and cheese in hand, was beckoning the young knight from the kitchen window.

"Here is thy bit food, sir knight," she said, as Sir Richard took his station beneath the casement upon which she was leaning. "Castle179 Yewe," she added in a whisper, "doth lie straight along this road in the way thou wert traveling, and not above six leagues. Turn to thy right where the road forks in front of the inn. Often, on a clear day, from yonder hill, have I seen its lofty turrets. Good fortune attend thee, sir noble knight," she concluded, laying her hand, which was just out of a pan of flour, upon his shoulder, "and beware of the brute with the beard on thy way​—​he means harm to thee, I fear."

When Sir Richard came, whistling a merry tune, into the stable, de Claverlok was making a great show of rage, cursing and boxing the poor stable-boy's ears.

"What now, my friend?" asked the young knight as he went on past the struggling pair toward his horse.

"What now, ... eh?" roared de Claverlok; "why, here has this young cub gone and mislaid your saddle girth! A murrain upon the loutish tribe, say I! and you in a sweat to be off, too. I'll​—​—"

"Have done berating the boy, de Claverlok," said Sir Richard. "Now tell me, man, what have you done with that girth? I know exactly where180 lies Castle Yewe, and I wish to ride within its sallyport without further parley or delay. What have you done with my girth, I say?"

"By Saint George, Sir Dick, what have I done with your saddle girth, ... eh? 'Tis too much, this, I tell you. Give me nothing above a padded lance and a sword of lath, and I'd do battle with the whole of you together. Here have I suffered all manner of insults from every blessed soul within this tavern​—​and now you, Sir Dick, must say to me, what have I done with your girth, ... eh!"

"Mayhap," whined the stable-boy, who was squirming to get loose from de Claverlok's grasp, "I mislaid me it in yon hay-cock."

"Then I'll go with thee to help find it," de Claverlok said, wriggling up the great pile of hay behind the boy.

While they were both down on their hands and knees digging, Sir Richard quickly unbuckled the grizzled knight's saddle and set it upon the back of his own horse.

"Have you found it, my friend?" he called, when he had made de Claverlok's strap secure.

"Nay​—​not yet. Have patience, Sir Dick,"181 called the grizzled knight without stopping to look behind him.

"Then," laughed Sir Richard triumphantly, "being in sore haste to get away, I've e'en borrowed thine. Thou canst follow later, sir knight. Adieu to you​—​adieu!"

"Fie​—​Sir Dick!" shouted de Claverlok, starting up red-faced and sliding down the steep side of the hay; "I pray you, be not in such an undue haste. Wait! You are leaving with the mark of a powdered hand upon your shoulder-cape. Hold, I say! Let me brush it from you, boy!"

The young knight was safe upon the highway before de Claverlok got clear of the hay.

"An I have the mark of the scullery-maid upon my shoulder," he called back, "I have also the knowledge of the true distance of Castle Yewe beneath my bonnet. Give you a round good-day, de Claverlok," he added, laughing gaily, and with that pelted off down the road at top speed.

He had a fine view of the Stag and Hounds from the crest of the next hill, and saw his companion swing into his saddle and follow after him182 at a great pace, with the lost girth strapped securely about his horse's belly. The race was now on in grim earnest, and the young knight was resolved, at any hazard, to hold fast to the advantage he had gained.

The breadth of the hill intervening, he lost sight of de Claverlok for a little space. But he had another view of him when his pursuer rode over its summit. The grizzled knight was shouting a string of words that, because of the roaring of the wind in his ears and the pounding of his horse's hoofs, he could not at all make out, and waving his long arms about in the most frantic manner. The young knight was enjoying the situation to the marrow. It was worth everything to him merely to have outwitted the crafty veteran.

Sir Richard calculated that he was laying the road behind him at the rate of five leagues an hour. He was relieved and happy to know that of a certainty he would soon arrive at his journey's end, and that, too, in despite of the many obstacles that had been so stubbornly thrust in his way. "Then," thought he, with a thrill of pleasure, "upon fulfilling my King's behest I shall be free183 to retrace my way to the Red Tavern to deliver the fair maiden from her imprisonment."

Thus much, at least, he meant surely to do. After that was accomplished, he felt constrained to relinquish the marking of the sequel into the hands of the kind​—​or unkind​—​Fates.

Meanwhile the race was going steadily and swiftly forward. Though exacting the utmost of speed from his horse, Sir Richard was unable appreciably to change their positions. With a dogged persistence de Claverlok contrived to maintain the rapid pace and relative distance, which, when galloping over the level, was well within sight of the pursued.

At length, through a narrow cleft between the hills, Sir Richard caught a welcome glimpse of high, square-built and crenelated towers. It was the goal for which he was so mightily striving.

He had passed through the cleft and was well up the slope leading to the portcullis when of a sudden he felt the saddle girth giving way beneath him. Appreciating that it would be sheer madness to risk a fall and certain defeat of his purpose of delivering the warrant, with victory so near, he instantly drew rein, flung himself184 from off the back of his panting stallion and began the work of securing the ill adjusted strap.

While thus feverishly engaged he shouted at the top of his voice for the guard upon the tower to lower the drawbridge across the wide moat. Covered with scarlet-flecked foam, de Claverlok's horse came thundering upon him up the hill.

With the grizzled knight scarce above two lance-haft's lengths behind him, and wildly calling upon him to wait, that death lay in the King's warrant, Sir Richard vaulted into his saddle and made for the castle gate.

When he had laid something near half of the remaining distance behind him he heard the clear blast of a bugle go singing across the down. Without in the least diminishing his speed, he turned in time to see a band of armored horsemen flashing out of the pine forest to the eastward. Riding in the van he was certain that he recognized the livid-scarred face of the traveler in the monk's robe.

If the bridge were now but lowered it would be impossible for them to cut Sir Richard off. Would it fall for him? Now he had reached to within easy flight of an arrow from the massively185 buttressed gray walls; and as yet he could discern no sign of movement among the thick ropes, wheels, and pulleys sustaining it. There appeared no hint of life along the face of the great pile. At the very moment when he was about to wheel to the westward, in the faint hope of eluding his pursuers through a continued flight, there sounded a creaking of wheels, and the heavy structure began slowly to move earthward.

De Claverlok's lance, hilt-foremost, went hurtling past the young knight's shoulder. Distinctly he heard the dull splash of it as it struck the black waters of the moat, far below.

At every stride the slope was growing steeper, and it seemed to Sir Richard's straining eyes that the bridge, with its underwork of mossy beams and rusted iron trusses, was hanging in mid air directly above his head.

So closely had its fall been timed, however, that there was no margin left to the young knight upon the side of safety. He was forced to put his mount to the leap to gain the top of it.

"God wot there be death here for the twain of us!" Sir Richard heard de Claverlok shout as186 he, too, took the perilous leap but an instant behind him.

Through the yawning maw of the arched sallyport they shot together, and the heavy portcullis, like iron teeth snapping down after gulping their prey, crashed upon the flagging at their backs.


187

CHAPTER XII
OF THE DELIVERY OF THE KING'S WARRANT

The main gateway that gave entrance to the outer bailey was impressively wide and lofty. Once inside, postern gates opening upon either hand admitted into the great halls, rooms of state, and the donjon-keep. Besides these, and at regular intervals along the vaulted, winding passageway, the walls were pierced by iron-clad doors giving upon the same premises. When the opening of this main artery had been sealed by the drawbridge, which fitted tight against it, nothing of daylight filtered in, and it received its only illumination from a number of huge cressets, two of which were set high overhead at every turning, and kept constantly filled with glowing coals by the castle attendants.

Before each of the nail-studded doors stood two guards armed at point, their halberds planted firm before them, grim and motionless. In the188 dim radiation from the iron baskets they assumed the appearance of a rank of immovable and awesome statues that might well have been hewn out of the smoke-distained walls before which they were stationed.

When Sir Richard and de Claverlok had ridden past the second turning they were confronted by a solid line of them, stretching from wall to wall across the flagged floor directly in their path. To the right, one of the doors stood wide ajar; a bevy of men and women, sumptuously garbed, appeared within the bright rectangle. A fool in motley was posing against the pillared casement. It was like a painted picture, vivid, touched with brilliant colors, set within an enormous, dark, and gloomy frame.

A train of pages, dressed in liveries of slashed silk and velvet, stood ready to conduct the two travelers before the lord of the castle. At a sign from one, who, because of his distinctive uniform, one would have taken to be the major domo, they dismounted and relinquished their horses into the care of equerries; then, bringing up in the rear of the train of pages, they made their way up the steps and through the thronged doorway.

189 "God's sake! Sir Dick," exclaimed de Claverlok in an agitated whisper as they were traversing the length of the vast hall into which they were come, "Give not that paper to Douglas. Let me have but a word with you in private before adventuring an act so deadly dangerous to your person, ... eh?" In the extremity of his eagerness to gain his young friend's consent he caught his arm in a viselike grip, as though meaning forcibly to detain him.

"Take your hand from off my arm," warned Sir Richard sullenly. "'Twould be most unseemly to have out our quarrel here, de Claverlok."

"Quarrels? What quarrel, ... eh? There's no quarrel between us, my boy."

"Aye​—​but I tell thee there is," maintained Sir Richard. "Much hath thy treachery grieved and amazed me, worthy knight, whom I had come to consider my stanch friend."

"Treachery, ... eh? What the devil! God wot, my son," de Claverlok hurriedly pursued, "I am not traitor​—​listen​—​—"

"Have a care, de Claverlok, the guards are looking," whispered the young knight warningly.190 "And not a word with you, I say, till I've delivered the King's paper. Think you I have foughten my way here for naught? No inkling have I of the purpose of your company in stealing the parchment and in their attempt to hinder me from reaching here. But the copy goes to Lord Douglas as fast as​—​—"

"Cannot you but wait an hour, ... eh? Hell and furies! Never can I forgive me my stupidity in allowing you to come within this house of death," interrupted de Claverlok. "There's death in that paper, I say​—​death!"

"Death; what mean you?"

"Aye, death! Death to thyself, an thou must hear the truth. 'Tis a warrant for your own execution, Sir Dick."

"De Claverlok, you lie in your bewhiskered throat," returned Sir Richard in a menacing undertone.

"Never before hath man said that word to me and lived," declared the grizzled warrior gloomily. "But I forgive you, Sir Dick. Aye, I forgive you. An you'll but consent to wait an hour, I'll hear you asking my forgiveness. You can do it, my boy,​—​you can wait. Say to Douglas191 that thou art an emissary of Henry, who hath but journeyed here to yield to him thy sovereign's good wishes. Tell him that I am your companion and squire. Mayhap 'twill answer for my present safety."

"First dive within the moat and fetch me your dripping lance. 'Twould be a most befitting badge of your loyalty to me to lay before him, de Claverlok."

"You would be at this moment in a far better case," observed the grizzled warrior bitterly, "an it had taken you in the small of the back, where I intended it should land. You know damned well 'twas hurled butt foremost, ... eh? By the Rood, boy, answer me."

Sir Richard hesitated; then, measuring his companion's earnest look, nodded in the affirmative.

"I'll do it," said he, "though a plague take me, an I think you deserve it. But whereof be the good, an your act were seen from barbacan or shot-hole?"

"I'll take my solemn oath 'twas driven at the door," observed de Claverlok, smiling in open gratification at having achieved his point. "You'll delay the blessed paper, too, ... eh?"

192 "Nay​—​that I dare not do," whispered Sir Richard decisively. "Even now unmeasured harm may have resulted from my egregious blunder in permitting the original to be stolen. An ill messenger have I been, de Claverlok​—​an ill messenger."

"You'll persist in delivering the paper, ... eh?"

"Upon my soul. Yea."

By now they had reached to the foot of a broad flight of steps leading to a gallery that completely girdled the hall. Already the pages were strung halfway up the stairway, awaiting for the two men to follow.

"Await me here, de Claverlok," added Sir Richard in a tone indicating his determination to finish his errand as he started up the stairs.

"By the gods, you'll not go!" roared the grizzled knight in a transport of infuriated rage, whereupon he made a sudden leap at Sir Richard, catching him with a bearlike hug around the middle and dragging him to the floor of the hall. "Give me that paper," he whispered in the young knight's ear. "Give it to me, Sir Dick!"

"What meaneth this?" shouted a stern voice193 from above that rang to the vaulted dome of the chamber. "Separate me those brawlers, guards!"

In the wink of an eye a cloud of the Douglas retainers had swooped down and torn the fiercely struggling men apart. There followed a momentary lull during which the two stood glaring into each other's eyes.

"Which of thee hath an errand with Douglas, and what, pray, may it be?" resumed the voice from the gallery.

Ranging along the balcony behind him, Sir Richard's eyes fell upon a burly, broad-shouldered man standing with arms folded on the threshold of an open door.

"I am bearer of a message from King Henry, my lord," answered Sir Richard.

"And who is thy combative friend?" queried Douglas. "Why this row within my very hall, sir knight?"

"'Twas but a slight misunderstanding, my lord," Sir Richard instantly replied. "May I now bring to thee the paper?"

"Aye, that may you. But who is thy friend? Thou hast not answered me."

"My companion and squire, Lord Douglas. I194 bespeak for him thy pardon. Though he meaneth right well, he is ever thoughtless and rude."

"So it would seem. Bring me King Henry's message. Keep me yonder belligerent in leash, my men," Douglas added, pointing toward de Claverlok, who was still tossing the guards about in a vain endeavor to free himself from their smothering grasp.

Sir Richard strode past the struggling, heaving mass of humanity, and then, on up the stairway. Upon reaching the landing he turned to his right to where Lord Douglas stood within the door leading off the jutting balcony. The young knight paused for a moment to glance downward above the railing toward de Claverlok. The grizzled warrior had evidently signified his intention of remaining quiescent, for the guards had loosened their hold of him and he was standing mutely against one of the columns that shot from floor to ceiling at regular intervals around the entire length and breadth of the hall. His arms were folded, and he was gazing straight up into the face of his young friend. The beribboned courtiers and brightly dressed women were standing at a discreet distance, gaping at him.195 It reminded Sir Richard of an eagle that had dropped its pinions in the midst of a swarm of brilliant-winged, fluttering moths. He noted as well the expression of sad reproach with which the veteran was regarding him. If ever sincerity was stamped in the features of man it was surely displayed in the rugged countenance of de Claverlok, and from that instant the young knight divined his erstwhile companion to be as stanch and true as the steel of the Damascus blade at his side.

"Thou'lt find me here, Sir Richard," de Claverlok called up as the young knight turned to enter the door through which Lord Douglas had but just preceded him. When he came into his cabinet, after traversing a number of curtained passageways, Sir Richard found the bluff Scotsman pacing impatiently back and forth across the floor. He paused when the young knight entered, greeting him formally from his station in the center of the room.

"From King Henry," said he, when the document, fresh from its hiding place, had been surrendered into his hands.

Signing Sir Richard to be seated near a massive,196 carved oak desk, Douglas dropped into a high-backed chair before it, broke the great red seal and addressed himself to the business of reading. When he had finished perusing the document he laid it face downward upon the desk and leaned back in his chair, tugging at his wiry, black beard, and knitting his fierce brows deeply. During an interval of several minutes he remained in this attitude, stealing occasional glances of searching inquiry in Sir Richard's direction and muttering inaudible sentences to himself.

"That this paper hath reached within the walls of Castle Yewe, sir knight," he at length said, speaking with a cold deliberation, as though carefully weighing each word, "is certes an indisputable proof of thy absolute integrity as a messenger."

"Nay​—​but​—​—"

"Tut, tut! Say not a word till I have digested this matter within my mind," interrupted Douglas. Whereupon he took up the parchment and read it through carefully a second time. Then, getting up from his seat, he resumed his impatient march across the floor. As Sir Richard sat studying the Scotsman's movements, he fancied197 that he had never seen a combination of features more suggestive of unfaltering determination and grim pugnacity. Douglas's head was not over large; and his cheek, chin, and crown were covered with a thick mop of jet black beard and hair. He moved his burly figure awkwardly, like one who was more accustomed to riding than walking.

"By the mass!" he suddenly ejaculated. "'Tis, in truth, a riddle far too deep for me to unravel. Why hast thou delivered me this message, sir knight?" he queried sharply, halting before the bench whereupon Sir Richard was sitting.

"Why?" returned the surprised young knight. "Does it not speak for itself, my lord? At the behest of my sovereign liege have I brought it here; and much doth it shame me to confess that ill have I requited my beloved and noble master's trust​—​—"

"Ill requited? What's this the young knight's saying?" Douglas burst forth. "Beshrew me, young sir, an I wot how!"

"Well​—​'tis but the duplicate I have rendered unto thee, Lord Douglas. The original I carelessly allowed to be stolen by a band of free-198lances from whom I did escape but yester eve. Tell me," he added anxiously, "will harm result because of my unpardonable lack of caution?"

Douglas, with arms akimbo, was standing directly in front of Sir Richard and looking straight down into his eyes.

"Save to thyself," he replied slowly, apparently having satisfied himself as to the truth of the young knight's statement, "no harm can possibly befall. Mayhap, an thou hadst not lost the original, I should have adopted another course than the one now forced upon me. But​—​wherefore, Sir Richard, didst thou not join issues with Tyrrell withal?"

"Tyrrell?" the young knight replied in a thoroughly puzzled way; "i' faith, my lord, I know not the man​—​though I did hear that name called by the outlaw band by which I was held captive."

"Well, well​—​so thou knowest not Tyrrell?" ejaculated Lord Douglas. "Yet certes, man, you tarried a night under the roof of the Red Tavern, and rode for a day in his company of conspirators? Either you are the cleverest of dissemblers, sir knight, or else, forsooth, the embodiment of sluggishness! Nay​—​regard me not thus199 in anger​—​I accept every word of your astonishing denial as God's truth​—​every word. Have I not before stated that this document here proves your steadfast honesty? Have you never heard of Tyrrell, hireling of Crookback Richard​—​strangler of two drooling boys in the tower? By my soul, man, where have you been reared?"

"In Brittany, my lord," Sir Richard returned, his face aflame with honest resentment. "There, in Duke Francis's court I learned my lessons with the Earl of Richmond, now my beloved King. I do recall that once, on London Bridge, I saw the head of one, Dighton, slewing on a pole. 'Twas he, methought, who did the tower murders."

"Tut, tut! What ignorance! Somewhat of history, Sir Richard, you have yet to learn. That fellow was but Tyrrell's tool and groom whom Tyrrell himself murdered for playing him false. Lady Douglas shall take you in hand and teach you a thing or two of past events. I would hear now," he added, seating himself beside Sir Richard, "your account of your journey from Kenilworth. I beg of you, omit no incident that may seem to you trifling, as you love your King. It200 is a most important and grave matter, this, Sir Richard."

"I'll do it willingly, my lord," the young knight acquiesced, and thereupon began narrating his adventures. It took him an hour or more to finish, during all of which time Lord Douglas sat quietly beside him, with his elbows planted firmly upon his knees and his face pressed against the palms of his hands. At times he would run his fingers through his hair, or tap with the heel of his boot upon the floor. Sir Richard's tale ran smoothly enough till it came to the point of accounting for de Claverlok's companionship. Here he stumbled slightly, being obliged to draw largely upon his imagination. He accomplished it in a fairly acceptable manner, however, and in a way that he hoped would seem natural. Though he was unable to see how harm could befall either the grizzled knight or himself in the event of the truth being told. Not for a moment had he credited his companion's statement in respect of Henry's message containing matter inimical to its bearer. But he paid the veteran the tribute of believing him to be absolutely sincere, and forgave him accordingly, absolving201 him from any blame because of that which Sir Richard supposed to be his misjudged zeal in attempting to withhold the delivery of the parchment.

When the young knight had finished his story, Douglas arose and took a few turns across the room.

"Extraordinary," he kept repeating half to himself; "most extraordinary!"

Presently he resumed his seat before the desk, remaining silent there for awhile, and tapping with his fingers upon its polished top.

"Thou canst not appreciate, I know," he said at length, "how completely thy story hath absorbed my interest. I would that I could delve beneath the surface and unearth some of its mysteries. Tut, tut! What am I saying? Let them take care of themselves. Full often have I found, Sir Richard, that the deepest mysteries of to-day become the most loudly heralded sensations of to-morrow. Now, an thou'lt but sign thy name across the back of this parchment, I'll take thee into the presence of the lady of the castle. But​—​hold! I'll have witnesses."

Then​—​"MacGregor," he called aloud, and in202 reply to his summons a lank individual arose above a tall desk standing in a corner of the cabinet quite as though he had been materialized out of a world of spirits. Douglas whispered his instructions in the scrivener's ear, and he hurried away, presumably to gather them in.

They entered presently​—​ten of them there were​—​mumbling, whispering, shaking their powdered heads in a kind of unison, till the white dust sifted upon the floor like particles of glittering snow. Standing somberly in line behind a long table, awaiting turns to set their names beneath Sir Richard's, they reminded him of a row of solemn, nodding jackdaws. Not being in a position to appreciate its gravity, the scene amused rather than awed the young knight. Not in the remotest degree did he surmise that he was henceforth to be but a wooden image​—​a carved knight, if we may be allowed the simile​—​progressing obediently from square to square over the checkered board of a complex conspiracy whenever they extended their lean fingers to make the move.

"Remain," Lord Douglas said, when the last of them had written his name beneath the young203 knight's. "Await my return and we'll hold further council here," whereupon he took Sir Richard's arm, expressing his intention of presenting him to the lady of the castle.

"Now that I have delivered the King's message, my lord," said the young knight as they were passing along the gallery and down the stairs, "it is my desire to be soon upon my way. On the morrow, an there be nothing further here for me to do, I shall fare southward toward Kenilworth."

"Tut, tut! Sir Richard. Be not in such haste to bid us adieux. We are a right merry throng here in Castle Yewe, and thou canst pass thy hours with us full pleasantly. Thy errand, besides, is not yet done. 'Tis thy sovereign's wish that thou shalt bide in Scotland yet awhile as my guest. But yonder is Lady Douglas, to whom I shall surrender thee for the present."

After introducing the young knight, Douglas begged the privilege of talking a moment with his wife in private. A page led Sir Richard to a seat within an alcove of the hall, where he remained, looking out of a window at a company of infantry drilling in the castle yard till Lord204 and Lady Douglas had finished their rather lengthy discourse.

"I'll see thee at the wassail board this evening, Sir Richard," said Douglas, who had accompanied his wife as far as the curtained entrance to the alcove. "Thou art indeed happily come. To-day is the twenty-fifth of the month​—​the feast of Crispian will be spread in the state hall. I have made thy squire comfortable in my retainer's quarters," he added, and then retired to his room above where the jackdaws were awaiting to hold their council.


205

CHAPTER XIII
OF THE INCIDENT OF THE COBBLER'S FEAST

Noble gentlemen," said Douglas when he had returned into his room, "I am here confronted by a problem that I would fain crave thy learned assistance in solving. MacGregor," he added, handing Henry's warrant to the lean scrivener, "recite to us the contents of this parchment."

MacGregor at once proceeded to read the document, which abounded in pompous tautology and redundant sentences. When he had finished with the preamble he came to the meat of the warrant, which ran: "Lord Douglas, friend and ally, we beg of thee the favor that this young knight, Sir Richard Rohan, Kt., bearer of this paper, shall be engaged in fair and honorable conflict by men of thine own choice to the end that he return not again into England. We pray thee further to keep from Sir Richard Rohan, Kt.,206 all knowledge of the purport of this warrant upon thee, Lord Douglas. And as thou shalt bear out its intent, so shalt thy divers affairs prosper before our court. Signed, Henry VII."

"Well, what think you of it, gentlemen?" inquired Douglas when MacGregor had finished his sing-song droning of the sentences.

"By thy leave, my lord," said the venerable spokesman of the conclave, a very aged man, according to all appearances, whose snowy beard swept to the cord knotted about his waist, "by thy leave and that of my compeers, I would say that it might be wise to fulfill King Henry's wishes in so small a matter. This Perkin Warbeck, to whom Lady Anna is teaching the manners of a noble, is not yet prepared to assume successfully the part of the dead prince. Not until the youth's schooling is complete shalt thou, my lord, be justified in setting thy brave men at his back and speeding them across the borders of England. And even then it is not thy wish, as we understand it, to be recognized as the instigator of this movement. To that end it would be prudent, it beseemeth me, to set the burden of obligation upon Henry by carrying out his207 wishes with respect of this Sir Richard Rohan."

"Well and ably said," commented Lord Douglas. "But what cause, think you, had Henry for dispatching the youth from Kenilworth to Yewe to accomplish a thing that could as well and more surely have been done upon the tower block?"

"Marry, my lord, an it be not a senseless wine-wager begot at cock-crow after a night of wild feasting, I am much mistaken withal," observed another member of the council.

"Belike it is," Douglas agreed. "Belike it is. But 'tis sinful, I take it, thus to waste an honest body. I like me the young knight's looks mightily, gentlemen, and I say to thee now, an he vanquish in single combat those whom thou shalt choose to be his adversaries, I'll appoint him chief of horse when the time grows ripe to send our expedition against the usurper and tyrant, Henry. This is Lady Anna's suggestion, and in her judgment of character I repose the utmost of confidence. Now, noble gentles, lay me thy heads together and appoint me a list of fighting men, each of whom shall, according as thou mayst order, insult and duel with the young knight.208 Let Henry be apprised of our intention to comply with his behest. Counselors, that is all."

The members of the council thereupon bowed gravely and withdrew to their own room for the purpose of making out the list in compliance with Lord Douglas's request.

During the whole of this time, in the curtained alcove below, Lady Anna had been conversing with Sir Richard. From the inception of their acquaintance, the young knight had accorded to her a sincere admiration, and in a very short space she had won his confidence to the extent that he was now narrating to her the experiences of his journey. When he came to the incident of the cutting of saffron velvet, which he had withheld when telling his story to Lord Douglas, Lady Anna displayed a more than passive interest, expressing an earnest wish to see and examine the bit of cloth. When he obediently gave it to her, she took it within her shapely fingers, crumpling it into many wrinkles, arching her fine brows, and making a pretense of feeling jealousy. In fact, whenever opportunity offered, she set his cup to brimming with sweetest flattery. Like all men of whom she chose to make instruments in209 the furthering of her husband's schemes, Sir Richard became a mere creature of clay in her deft hands.

"Lord Douglas told you, Richard," said she, when they were done discussing the subject of his adventures, "that to-day is the day of the Cobbler's Feast. But he was remiss in not adding that it is also my birthday, and that we have arranged that you shall have seat at table between my lord and me, ... the guest of honor. Though the honor shall be ours in claiming you as such, brave knight." Thereupon she arose with a pretty show of reluctance from the cushioned window-seat. "How old would you take me to be?" she concluded with an arch look.

Sir Richard, extremely sensible of the intimacy of Lady Anna's question, flushed with embarrassment. He begged to be excused from answering, averring that he had ever been an ill judge of women's ages. When she pressed him for a reply, which she contrived to do without seeming to be over bold, he ventured a surmise that she must be nearly of an age with himself.

"Why, what a flatterer you are to be sure, Richard," she said, laughing gaily. "Beshrew210 me for a witch, an you are anything more than a mere boy! I am thirty-three, sir knight. Thirty-three this day. But come," she added, taking his hand, pressing it gently and casting sidelong glances out of a pair of wonderfully expressive brown eyes; "it is not my wish to keep you altogether to myself. Permit me to acquaint you with the company in the hall," Lady Anna pursued, as she led Sir Richard into the throng of courtiers and maidens. "Till we meet beside the wassail board, make you merry," she said then. "And forget not to address a word or two in my direction. I shall esteem each one of them a ... jewel, Richard."

The young knight perceived, the while he was moving from group to group receiving introductions, that the council of powdered jackdaws had been adjourned. Its members were spread out over the hall, singling out men, one after another, and engaging them in a momentary conversation. He was curious to know why, after each of these brief exchanges, he at once became the object of these men's scrutinizing glances. But, though he recalled the incident later, it was temporarily lost and forgotten amid the banalities of polite talk211 to which he was obliged to lend constant ear. Sir Richard entered wholly into the holiday spirit pervading the company, however, and served out honeyed words with a zest quite equal in degree with that which he drank them in. He found the change from his ardorous and lonely journey to this atmosphere of good cheer and loud merriment to be most agreeable. His message had been delivered, his work was now done, and he felt altogether care-free and happy.

Before the hour set for the feast in the great hall, he was singled out by a page and conducted to a room, which he was told was to be his during his stay in Castle Yewe. It was ample in size and magnificently furnished. Its walls and ceiling were trimmed in deep oaken paneling. Over the fireplace, which occupied quite two-thirds of the west side of the chamber, the woodwork was fretted and scrolled from mantel-shelf to ceiling. Upon the massive oak bed were neatly arranged a suit of slashed silk and velvet, a fine lace and linen upper garment, and boots of soft leather to match. There was also an elegantly fashioned rapier to take the place of the service-blade that he habitually carried at his side. His212 saddle-bags were flung across a holder fashioned for the purpose of bearing these inseparable companions of the traveler.

Sir Richard sat down upon the edge of the bed, and before starting to change his dress, took out the cutting of saffron velvet from the breast of his doublet. He held it at arm's length, regarding it for quite a space with an expression of deep melancholy. He thought again of the beautiful Lady Anna's parting, whispered words​—​"I shall esteem each one of them a ... jewel, Richard." They had recurred to him many times, and in each instance his heart had undeniably responded in a tenderly sentimental way. It occurred to his imaginative fancy that the bit of cloth had eyes, and that they were looking at him with sad, reproachful glances. He felt less guilty after he had taken up his sword and solemnly renewed his vow. He made up his mind that never again would he be untrue to the cutting of velvet and the maid by whom it had been relinquished into his keeping, but whom he had not yet seen.

With a clearer conscience he went about unbuckling his armor and bedecking himself in the213 rich finery that had been so thoughtfully provided for him. Sir Richard was the last guest to come down the wide stairway to the floor of the hall. Along each balustrade was a row of carved sockets in which wax torches had been set, and when the young knight stepped slowly down between their soft light, full many a languishing glance sped upward toward him; full many a feminine heart beat in a perfect rhythm with his tread upon the gray stone steps.

Following Sir Richard's appearance there was a concerted movement in the direction of the dining hall, with Lord Douglas, Lady Anna, and the belated arrival in the lead. The room in which the feast of Crispian had been spread was of vast dimensions. Its ceiling seemed low in comparison with its great length and breadth, and was paneled in highly polished red cedar. Wainscoting of the same wood, extending to a height of five feet above the floor, stretched around its four sides. Above this the walls were covered with rich tapestries, with designs woven in arras, representing a brave array of martial scenes, pictures of the chase and conflicts within the lists. Stretching from end to end of the hall stood the214 magnificently decorated table, which had been spread with lavish and bountiful hands. Forty wax torches shed a bright glow over the scene of princely festivities.

Sir Richard was indeed the guest of honor, having a seat above the salt between the lord and lady of the castle. A silken canopy, depending from gilded chains fastened to the ceiling, swung just above their heads. Musicians, dressed in the fantastic garb of the troubadours of that time, filled the room with delightful melodies. Merrily the feast progressed, with constantly augmenting talk and laughter as the delicately chased silver flagons emptied their sparkling streams into the tankards held beneath them. There was wassail on wassail, downed amid the tinkling of golden cups and the hoarse bellowing of bearded, tipsy knights. Sir Richard took his full measure of enjoyment out of the occasion, though he suffered a secret regret because of his inability to keep up his end with some of the old campaigners in the matter of the drink. Even now he was sensible of the fact that surrounding objects were assuming an exaggerated brilliancy and beauty, combined with a certain vagueness that rendered215 their charm indefinably more alluring. He felt his blood coursing like molten silver through his veins. His only outward manifestations of the wine's stimulating influence, however, were a fastidious politeness and solicitous interest on behalf of those about him.

When Lady Anna pressed his foot softly beneath the board, the young knight again committed the sin of being untrue to the cutting of saffron velvet.

"'Tis now your turn to give us wassail, Richard," said she, with a slight uplifting of her brows that went to his head with a greater effect than the wine.

"Give thee all bonnie Scotland, ... her good sovereign, ... Lord Douglas, our good host, the lovely Lady Anna, and the King of England," Sir Richard shouted, getting to his feet, with brimming glass stretched half across the table.

A brawny knight, dressed handsomely in brown leather slashed with crimson velvet, reached across and rudely struck his hand, slopping a good portion of the wine about among the guests. Without a moment's hesitation Sir Richard216 gave his insulter the remainder of it in his face, amid a transitory silence, profound and tomblike.

Followed then, upon the instant, the excited babbling of many voices, from which entanglement of sound Sir Richard contrived to isolate the fact that he had been challenged, and that they were to meet in the castle yard at dawning of that morning.

"There are here, around this board to-night, a dozen better blades than he," Lady Anna whispered low in the young knight's ear when something approaching order had been restored. "For my sake, Richard, you must not fail to vanquish him," she added, with another pressure of her dainty foot.


217

CHAPTER XIV
OF A SERIES OF REMARKABLE DUELS, AND DE CLAVERLOK'S PERIL

Their meeting place was within the larger of the bailey-courts, when day was just on the dawn. Towering round about them were the rough walls of the huge castle. Sir Richard noted that every embrasure had suddenly sprouted a multiple of bright eyes, all gazing down at the combatants making ready to begin their battle at the bottom of the damp well.

The meeting turned out to be but the merest trifle for the young knight. Duke Francis was a past master of the arts of war-craft and had taught him thoroughly well. Once, Sir Richard was proud to remember, when the old Duke happened to have been in an uncommonly amiable mood, he had assured him that he was the most apt of all his pupils. The young knight fought only when there was a just cause at issue, and then218 with his whole heart set upon winning the battle. Upon this occasion he had very little trouble in disabling his adversary's sword arm. But not, however, before playing with him a considerable time in deference to the astonishingly early risers, who had dared the chill blasts to peer through the open windows.

"Brava, Sir Richard!" the plaudits swept from opening to opening around the gray walls when the business was over, upon which the young knight made a slight bow of acknowledgment and went hastily back to his warm bed, carrying with him there, besides somewhat of an aching head from excesses of the night before, the regret that he had been unable to give his auditors a prettier play in return for all their pains.

That morning's encounter, however, proved to be but a drowsy prelude to a veritable whirlwind of fighting duels. Without so much as a "By thy leave, sir," they would jostle Sir Richard roughly about, fling gauntlets at his feet, and hurl insults into his very teeth. Indeed, dueling grew to be an accepted part of his daily routine, and a day without its fight would have left him with the feeling that something important had remained219 undone. But Fortune continued to smile brightly upon him; and, saving for a few slight scratches, he carried no mark to bear him witness of the amazingly great number of personal combats in which he became engaged.

By nature Sir Richard was of a peace-loving disposition. Only upon one occasion had he deliberately set out to pick a quarrel, and that was with the Renegade Duke, for the purpose of aiding his escape from captivity. He was accordingly much puzzled as to the cause of this sudden plethora of insults and challenges. That the men were all envious of the open favors that Lady Anna continued to bestow upon him, was the only possible reason to which he could ascribe them. He appreciated that she must have an infinite number of admirers to be thus jealously guarded. Another circumstance that appealed to him as most singular, was the fact that once he had finished having it out with his enemies they became immediately his fast friends. Sir Richard's encounters were attended by a strangely favorable issue of events, for only in one instance had he been forced to inflict upon his adversary anything like a dangerous wound; and Sandufferin, the220 unfortunate exception and mightiest wielder of a blade in Scotland, made an ultimate recovery from his injuries. It grew to be a current subject of amused talk that when the latest comer had declared his intention of facing the young knight's deft sword, those whom he had met and vanquished would gather about him and convey their knowledge to him of the newcomer's particular methods of fighting.

"Look at them, Anna," Lord Douglas remarked upon an occasion when a number of men, many with bandaged hands and arms, were gathered close about Sir Richard. "They are giving points to their master, I take it. Never, within my knowledge, has there crossed the borders of Scotland a greater swordsman than this youthful knight. Marry, and how he seemeth to enjoy it, Anna, preserving the happiest of good humor through it all! But soon will I call a halt to the saturnalia of fighting and acquaint him with the contents of Henry's warrant. He'll make us a right brave chief of horse, Anna​—​that will he. He grows impatient to fare away southward. Every day now does he inquire of me whether his sovereign's business here is done. An he but221 guessed that he is held captive, I miss my shot an the gates and bars of Yewe would long hold him."

"Nay​—​that they would not," Lady Anna agreed. "'Tis the cutting of saffron velvet that beckons him away, my lord. Valiantly though I have striven, I cannot wean his regard from that bit of cloth. Many times lately have I observed him sitting in lonely corners and regarding it with soulful eyes. Would that I had him for pupil in the place of that silly boy, Warbeck."

"Ah! But that was a stroke, Lady Anna!" said Douglas admiringly. "The oftener I look upon him, the more perfect seemeth his resemblance to the Yorkist brood. How doth he progress?"

"Slow, my lord​—​tiresome slow. 'Tis hard to make him to forget his plebeian ancestors. How fares it with the prisoner​—​he whom you have mewed within the dungeon?"

"De Claverlok, mean you? Bah! 'Tis a gruff old warrior, that​—​with his ehs! and ehs! Still doth he stubbornly refuse to pledge me his word to separate himself from Sir Richard. Nor, by222 my faith, can I gain his promise to fight beneath our standard."

"What then​—​the block, my lord?" interrogated Lady Douglas, yawning.

"Aye​—​the block," replied Douglas, quietly.

On the morning following the day upon which this dialogue took place, Sir Richard sauntered down the stairs to find Lady Anna reclining indolently at ease within the curtained alcove where first he had met her. She had with her a falcon, which she was stroking and feeding with bits of bread held daintily between her red lips. She looked up, greeting the young knight's coming with a rare smile.

"By the mass, dear Richard," said she, "and how early we are! Was it the topsy-turvy going of the men at daybreak that brings you so soon afoot? Did you hear the sounding of the tucket-sonuance in yonder yard? Or, tell me, boy, is it but another trifle of a duel?"

Right well was she aware that Sir Richard disliked to be called a boy, and she appeared to take a secret delight in thus teasing him. As was usual, he denied the propriety of the name.

"Tut, tut, then​—​bloody giant," said she, laughing223 merrily. "Is it, I beg of you, another play of blades?"

"In the whole of Scotland," retorted Sir Richard, "remains there a warrior whom I have not met?"

He had encountered three of them the day before, disarming two and slightly wounding the other.

"Remains yet the mightiest of them all," Lady Anna answered, surrendering another morsel of bread to the pet falcon.

"His name, Lady Anna?"

"Bull Bengough. Would you dare to break a lance with him in the approaching tournament ... for me, Sir Richard?"

"One more, or less, what matters it, Lady Anna?" said Sir Richard. "The game is palling upon me. I swear I will."

"I am growing fair frightened of your magic invincibility," said Lady Anna. "Which are they​—​fair spirits, or foul shades, by whom you have been gifted with a charmed life? In sober earnest, Richard, let me say to you that a momentous question hinges upon your meeting with Bull Bengough," she added seriously, pressing the224 young knight's hand by way of a reward for his promise, and then went on to fill his head with gentle flattery.

She told him of how the men-at-arms had sallied out that morning to give battle to a certain traitorous upstart. Unconsciously Sir Richard's mind reverted to Tyrrell. After that, for a considerable space, they sat together in silence, watching the workingmen engaged upon their task of bedizening the seating-place overlooking the lists where the coming tournament was designed to be held.

Presently Lady Anna went from the alcove, taking with her a bundle of books and manuscripts which, Sir Richard had frequently remarked, she often carried about with her through the galleries.

Since his mad entry through the sallyport of Yewe, this was the first clear breathing space Sir Richard had been allowed. He suddenly thought of his companion of that eventful ride. What with the dining and the wining, and the dancing attendance upon this captivating maid and that, and the singularly rapid succession of duels, his time had been pretty well occupied. "But certes,"225 he said to himself, "these are small excuses for having so absolutely forgotten de Claverlok, whom, by my faith, I have not clapt eyes upon since leaving him at the foot of the stairs to go into the presence of Douglas. True, Lord Douglas assured me that he was to be rendered comfortable in other quarters. I dare say he is gone by now," he concluded. "But I'll away to the guards to discover me what has become of the good fellow."

But Sir Richard was counting the spots before his dies had been cast. He borrowed every guard's ear he could find within the precincts of the castle, and returned from the long round barren of the faintest hint in regard to his friend's whereabouts. Not one of them, so they all swore, had so much as heard a whisper of his name.

Feeling a presentiment that some direful mishap had betided his faithful companion, and heaping maledictions upon himself for a thoughtless ingrate, the young knight was walking slowly along one of the inner galleries. As he parted a drapery he came suddenly upon the fool, Lightsom, who had discarded his motley and bells226 for a garb of black. His habitually mirthful countenance was wearing an expression entirely in sympathy with his somber habit.

"Give you a good-morrow, Lightsom," said Sir Richard, meaning but to give the fool greeting and pass on.

"Thou'rt hunting my name by the heels, Sir Richard," Lightsom answered, pausing to give the young knight speech. "Vanisheth the motley, vanisheth Lightsom, the laughing fool. Vanisheth as well my good master, and I discover me without a body whereupon to practise my cutting art withal. To-day, good my knight, I was to play the executioner. Till I doff this habit let my name be Gruesom.... Bloodysom.... Anything, forsooth, but Lightsom! Dost take in the dolour of my visage?"

"Ah! What an end to come by," observed Sir Richard. "An ax, wielded by a fool. Name me thy unhappy victim​—​and loose thy hold of my cape, fellow."

"Marry, sir knight, shudder not thus! Is the touch of a fool less contaminative than that of the executioner? An it be, I wot not why. One murders the King's good English, the other the227 King's good subjects​—​both are the slaves of unyielding circumstance. And besides, good my knight, the head, after its separation from the body, recks not of the means whereof it was accomplished. Thy sword​—​my ax​—​'tis all the same to 't. So it be a bold, clean, and clever stroke, mark ye!"

"Have done with your parleying, Lightsom, and​—​—"

"Say Grimsom, Sir Richard," the fool interrupted whiningly. "Smear not my melancholy cloth with grime!"

"Well, ... Grimsom, then, ... give me thy unhappy victim's name?"

Leaning forward till his repulsive face almost touched Sir Richard's, he skewed his features all awry in a horrible grimace. This was his only answer. The young knight instantly went cold to the marrow, and repeated his question tensely, passing the fool a rose noble.

"This," said Lightsom tantalizingly, balancing the yellow disc upon his raised forefinger, "will purchase thee one letter of his name, ... just one letter, Sir Richard. I am as hungry for gold as the block is thirsty for blood. Why need the228 pair of us be cheated? Say, ... wilt buy me his full name in these round baubles?"

Without a word Sir Richard counted out and passed the fool sixteen more.

"Have I made the count correctly?" he whispered hoarsely.

Lightsom went then to tallying with his clawlike finger upon his beak of a nose.

"In truth," he muttered, "I had expected but ten more.... Six.... Six.... Ah! I, by playing just then the fool, have myself disgraced my somber trappings. I have clean forgotten that his name is Lionel, by the rood, ... eh!"

This was enough for Sir Richard. In a frenzy of poignant regret and mortal fear, and leaving the black dwarf crying shrilly for him not to divulge the source of his information, he dashed away down the long gallery in a mad search of Lady Anna.


229

CHAPTER XV
OF THE GALLERY OF THE GRIFFINS' HEADS

Bitterest remorse winged the young knight's feet; apprehension became the mother of audacity; and without any ceremonious ado he made for that part of the castle which he knew was apportioned to the exclusive uses of Lady Anna. Like a hawk winging its predatory flight against a covey of unprotected and gentle doves, he swooped down upon the lady's retinue of serving-maids.

The contact, however, was as fugitive as it was tempestuous and violent, and beyond leaving them all of a-flutter, weeping hysterically, and earnestly protesting that this was an hour of the morning during which their mistress forbade the slightest interruption or disturbance, he accomplished not a single point in the behalf of his friend.

While impatiently awaiting Lady Anna's appearance,230 he fell to wandering through the wide, thronged halls, and narrow, lonely, and deserted galleries. In opening a door leading from one of these, he stumbled upon a blind passageway, which, to all appearances, was devoted to no other purpose than that of a vantage-point, whence were to be had a view of the open glades and forests, and the towers, turrets, barbecan, and walls commanding them. Gloomily he stood gazing through one of the deep embrasures, which pierced the outer wall of the gallery from end to end, upon the half drawn bridge. It seemed to him ages gone since de Claverlok and he had thundered side by side above its moldering planks. "What a brave, unselfish fellow he was," mused Sir Richard, "to cast his fortunes along with mine, when, by the simple tugging of a rein, he might have ridden among his companions and into safety. Well, ... I'll have him free. I vow I'll have him set at liberty. Or, by my soul, I'll lay my thoughtless, selfish head beside his generous one upon the block."

Yet how good it was to live, Sir Richard thought: to be free; to mark the bright sunshine; to watch the sparkling hoar-frost disappearing231 in floating pennants of silvery mist against the purple shadows lurking within the background of the firs. By thus enumerating to himself some of the joys of life he was not meaning to qualify the integrity of his oath. He was sincere at the moment in his determination to free de Claverlok, or suffer the penalty of death along with him.

Sir Richard was leaning heavily against the outer wall, yielding to a host of melancholy reflections; his shoulder disconsolately pressing against the casement of the embrasure. Quite by chance his eyes fell upon a row of bronze griffins' heads, each occupying the center of a line of deep oaken panels, which extended along the opposite wall from the doorway through which he had entered to the end of the sealed passageway. Doubtless it was the repellant hideousness of their faces that arrested and fixed his attention. Their curled tongues protruded in a series of abhorrent grimaces that tended to fascinate the observer. The young knight singled out the head just across from him and fell to studying it minutely. He grew sensible of a boyish desire to attempt to distort his features in a manner similar to it, to232 which desire he finally yielded, and talked to it, moreover, as though its bronze ears were possessed of the power to take in his vain expostulations.

Not infrequently does it fall out that an inane action is the parent of a most happy result. This was true in the present case, for, through looking so long and intently upon the weird head of the griffin, Sir Richard remarked that its tongue appeared to be more free within its distended maw than those of its neighbors. He stepped across and laid his finger upon it. It moved. He tugged at it. There was the sound as of the lifting of a latch, and the griffin's head, which was secured to the woodwork by a hinge, swung instantly free of the oaken panel.

Within the circular recess thus disclosed appeared a brass knob, which, upon being turned, released another fastening. The entire panel then slid freely to the left, discovering a narrow, crevice-like passageway that stretched away beyond the range of the young knight's vision.

More with the aim of seeking a momentary distraction from his rueful thoughts than in the hope of making any new or startling discoveries,233 he closed the griffin's head and clambered through the paneled opening. Upon assuring himself that there was a way of thrusting back the secret door from inside, he made everything fast and crept cautiously ahead in the direction of a row of lights, which shone dimly through openings upon his left hand and splashed against the wall to his right, thus serving vaguely to illuminate the dusty, cobwebby place.

The lights proved to emanate from mere slits of windows set with many-colored glass. He peered through the first, which was sufficiently transparent to disclose to his view a room and everything that was transpiring within.

The walls of this chamber were covered with the richest of hangings. Round about were scattered many massive cases filled with books. Indeed, Sir Richard noted that its furnishings were all patterned after an exquisite fashion, and arranged, withal, in an uncommonly tasteful and pleasing manner.

In front of a cheerful fire burning briskly within the wide chimney-place sat a fair-haired boy. He was reclining at ease upon a deep-seated chair, and the firelight, playing upon his ruffled,234 snowy linen upper garment, his pallid, handsome, aquiline features, and long, curly, yellow hair, set before the young knight one of the prettiest pictures he had ever looked upon.

Seated upon a stool beside the youth's knee was Lady Anna, who was engaged upon reading to him out of a manuscript. That which she was reading, Sir Richard thought, appeared to hold immeasurably less of interest for her distinguished looking auditor than the reader thereof, so greedily was his gaze devouring her. If ever love and devotion shone through the eyes from the heart, they were shining in that room and upon that woman then. The young knight became conscious of a feeling of guilt. It was as though he had profaned a consecrated temple.

Since, however, an accident had brought him there, he regretted that he was unable to hear what Lady Anna was reading. But he remained, gathering different impressions of the scene by looking through the various colored panes, till she arose to leave. This sentence, then, spoken aloud and firmly from her station beside the youth's chair, came distinctly to his ears:

"To you," she was saying, "there shall be no235 such person in all the world as Warbeck. You must forget even that there was ever such a name. Your future​—​—"

Her concluding remarks were lost to Sir Richard's hearing. Lady Anna then brushed aside the drapery and disappeared out of the room. For many minutes thereafter the youth's eyes remained fixed upon the swinging draperies, motionless and longingly, whilst down his pallid cheeks coursed many a bitter tear.

Leaving him to his sorrow, which would have been more poignant had he been enabled to look into that future that Lady Anna was holding before him as a lure, Sir Richard continued warily on his journey along the pinched passageway. By the squares of light thrown at long but regular intervals against the right wall, he divined that the secret exit was pierced with windows throughout its entire length. Through each of these he stole a look as he advanced, being obliged to stand always on tip-toe to make his brief surveys. He gathered the information that a suite of six large rooms had been set aside for the uses of the handsome youth. There was an entrance giving upon the last from the secret passageway. The young236 knight made no attempt to open it then, but crept onward and looked through the next window. Between the floor of the last room and the floor of the spacious hall into which he was now looking there was a sheer drop of thirty feet; perhaps even more. From the long table standing in its center and the chairs arranged in tiers round about, he took it to be a council hall, a place of formal meetings of state. It was surmounted by a lofty, domed ceiling, decorated with multi-colored glass, corresponding with the panes through which he was having a view of the chamber.

Pursuing his way onward past the row of windows opening upon the hall, he arrived soon at the end of the passageway, which was marked by a yawning vent-hole, with the opening at his feet dropping into abysmal depths of darkness, and the one above his head gaping like a sooty flue. Iron rungs set securely into the masonry of the wall furthest removed from him disappeared into the swart obscurity above and below.

Consumed with curiosity and a desire to push his explorations to the end, he stepped across, set his foot upon the ladder, and clambered skyward.237 A trap-door, securely battened from within, stopped his progress at the top. Surmising that it opened upon a runway of one of the many embattled towers, he started downward. Past the floor of the passageway he lowered himself, down, down, till it seemed to him that he was penetrating into the very belly of the earth. At the bottom he came upon a kind of square room, with a massive, barred door opening from one of its sides. The air here was excessively damp, chill, and fetid with noisome odors.

So noiselessly as might be he shot back the rusty bolts and made shift to open the heavy door. Slowly it yielded to his violent exertions, its unused hinges shrilly protesting every inch of the way. When he had swung it sufficiently wide to admit the passage of his body, he was confronted by the flare of a single candle. Even this faint light, upon emerging from such dense darkness, completely dazzled his blinking eyes, rendering them momentarily sightless.

"Well, ... by the rood!" the most welcome of voices then rang in his ears. "I was looking to see a grisly phantom shape come gliding through yon creaking door to devour me! And238 certes 'tis your own good self, Sir Dick, ... eh? Give you a very good-morrow, ... or a very good-even.... I' faith, I know not down here the hours of the passing day. Everything, as 't were, being of a similar color. But fillip me for a fat toad, an you're not a most pleasing apparition, Sir Dick; ... a most welcome ghost, ... eh!"

Sir Richard strode forward and took de Claverlok's hand in a firm grip.

"I'll wager, my boy," said the grizzled knight with his usual hearty laugh, "that you've fair turned this castle upside down in your endeavors to unearth me, ... eh? But for long have I been conducting a quiet truce with Heaven, where, Sir Dick, I fancied that you had some days since preceded me. How comes it that you're still alive, and looking as hearty, by my faith, as a prancing yearling. Did you deliver the paper, ... eh?"

"Certes did I deliver it," replied Sir Richard. "And let us for all time, my friend, drop the subject of King Henry's message between us. You can see that you have been led into a sad error as to its contents. I am now biding in Yewe as239 Douglas's guest till the business of my sovereign be completed."

"Guest, Sir Dick? God's sake!" blurted out de Claverlok. "An you're not as much prisoner as I, though in somewhat of a better case, I'll barter my knighthood for a battered farthing, ... eh! Tell me, has nothing untoward happened during your stay?" he added, earnestly. "Sit you down upon the feathery side of this stone and tell me your story​—​'tis the best seat I have to offer, Sir Dick."

"Well, beyond the duels," Sir Richard rather reluctantly admitted, seating himself beside the grizzled knight upon the stone, "there has been nothing unusual to mar a most pleasant visit, saving, of course, your own disappearance from my side," he hastened to add. "I bethought me though that you had long since fared southward to join your company."

"What​—​and leave you, Sir Dick? Not any! My knightly vow fetters me fast to your side. But when did you find out that I was still here, ... eh?"

"Only this morning. It was through a most fortunate train of accidents that I have stumbled240 upon your cell. I have been guilty of an unpardonable sin in thus long neglecting you, my friend."

"Nay​—​not so, Sir Dick. Am I not old enough to care for myself, ... eh? But how about these duels? I would hear you tell of them."

"I will, de Claverlok," agreed Sir Richard, "and a certain matter besides that I have guarded even from your knowledge. 'Tis of a cutting of cloth that I got me in the Red Tavern." Whereupon he proceeded to tell, much to the grizzled knight's amusement, the tale of the piece of saffron velvet. "And about the duels," the young knight concluded, "I am somewhat puzzled to know why they have been brought about. Though I believe that it is because of the many favors that Lady Douglas continues ever to shower upon me. She is, in truth, a wonderful woman, my friend​—​and well worth fighting for. A wonderful woman!"

"Ah!" laughed the grizzled knight. "When love enters, wits leave, ... eh? But explain more in detail the circumstance of these duels. 'Tis this that interests me, Sir Dick."

"Oh! 'tis a small enough matter at best, de241 Claverlok," protested Sir Richard with a modest carelessness. "But ever since my tarry within these walls I have had always to keep my sword to the grit-wheel. What with the spilling of the wine over the table, and the rough jostling of them against me through the halls and galleries, it has been 'Come out with me, sirrah, into the castle yard,' from gray morning to twilight eventide. There was hazard of breaking old fox here on the tough Scot's head of 'em. And I swear to you, my good friend, that my right arm has been kept full sore with the swinging of it against their flinty noddles."

"Pricked you them sore or easy, Sir Dick? Marry, but you must have a-many an enemy in Yewe, ... eh?"

"Well, I gave it them as easy as might be," replied Sir Richard, "and it perplexes me much to observe that each of them is now my friend. Never had I divined, de Claverlok, that there could transpire such a round of mysterious events. My brain has been fair addled ever since my coming into Scotland."

"Fret not, Sir Dick," said de Claverlok encouragingly, "these mysteries will clear away242 soon enough. But you had better betake yourself now whence you came. 'Twill eftsoons be time for them to bring me my bread and sour tipple. Ug-gh! Such food as I've been bestowing within my belly, Sir Dick. 'Tis unfit for swine, ... eh! But, get you gone, boy, and deliver me from this dank hole when you can do it in safety to yourself. There must be two passageways hither, as yon door through which you came has not before been used. 'Tis through this other that they bear me food. Good-bye and good luck to you, Sir Dick."

Upon the grizzled knight's reaffirmation of his assurances that he would possess himself in patience till Sir Richard could hit upon a safe means of bringing him again into the daylight of freedom, and his belief that his young friend was as much a prisoner as was he, the young knight parted from him, secure in the belief that no harm could befall the veteran till the return of Douglas, before which time, he swore to himself, he would contrive to have him free.

Once Sir Richard had emerged into the upper and outer gallery he made everything secure, observing the precaution of counting the number of243 griffins' heads intervening between the sliding panel and the door, whereupon he hurried down to the inner bailey and commanded an equerry to saddle and bring him his stallion.

"God!" the hostler exclaimed, reddening to the line of his stubby hair, "an' 'a canna do such for 'e, Sir Richard. Snip, snap! would 'a head go ... here," touching his neck, "an' 'a did. 'Tis the lord's orders, worshipful knight, ... the lord's orders. Anything else would 'a do for 'e, sir knight. God wot, an' 'a​—​—"

Sir Richard did not wait to hear the conclusion of the hostler's apologies, but tossed him a coin and took his way back into the castle. De Claverlok had been right, after all. The young knight was, like his friend, a prisoner in Yewe.

Without stopping to plan out a wise course of action, he rushed straightway into the presence of Lady Anna and impetuously claimed his right to know the reason for his forcible detention.

"How doth the moth flutter," said she, laughing gaily, "when the glittering, golden home doth suddenly become a cage! Marry​—​marry!" she added, changing her tone, and bestowing upon Sir Richard the most languishing of glances,244 "are you tired of my company, dear Richard?" she asked.

If it had not been for the picture of the fair-haired youth impressed indelibly upon the young knight's mind, she would doubtless soon have won him over to her again. As it was, however​—​—

"'Tis not that, Lady Anna," he answered firmly; "but I am dooms weary of playing the wooden pawn upon the squared board​—​with no kind of conception of where or why I am being moved this and that way about! Yea​—​or even the kind of game in which I am playing such a stupid and involuntary part."

"Say not thus, Sir Richard," Lady Anna murmured softly, laying her warm hand upon his. "Tell me, I pray you, and what becomes of the pawn after it be advanced from square to square above the breadth of the board to the farther rank? Tell me, what becomes of it, I say?"

"But scant knowledge have I of the game of chess," Sir Richard grumbled. "I' faith, madam, I neither know nor care."

"Ah! But you should both know and care, dear friend," Lady Anna pursued. "Let me tell you then that it gains power according to the wish245 of the mind that picked out its zig-rag course. Even it may become a royal piece, Richard. Have patience yet a little while, ... but have patience. Worse predicaments there are than that of playing the moving pawn, I give you warrant."

So far as any definite understanding of his position was concerned, this was the beginning and the end of everything he was able to achieve through Lady Anna. He tried his bravest before leaving her to impress upon her the idea that he was willing to reconcile himself with the circumstances of his surroundings. Indeed, he entertained something of a shrewd suspicion that this was not far from true. His position certainly partook of a most fascinating admixture of unreality and romance that came near to capturing his imaginative fancy. He was now inclined to regard the entire series of events as something in the nature of a gay lark, to which each exciting incident was contributing its separate thrill of enjoyment. To effect the release of de Claverlok and make his own escape would furnish a capital finish to the whole. In order to carry out these purposes he determined in the246 future to conduct himself with the utmost circumspection. "An it is to be a game," he said to himself, "I'll take a hand in the playing of it myself."

After leaving Lady Anna he strolled carelessly into the tilting-yard, for the ostensible purpose of viewing the elaborate preparations for the approaching tournament, which were now nearly completed. He made a mental calculation of the height of the eastern tower, which was the one accessible from the secret passageway. He estimated it roughly to be nearly one hundred and fifty feet.

A line over the battlements would be the only way down. It would be manifestly impossible to carry a rope of that length through the halls and galleries. So he hit upon the scheme of concealing lengths of it beneath his cloak and splicing them together after reaching the secret exit. By allowing the knotted ends to dangle down the well leading to de Claverlok's dungeon, he concluded that they would be safe enough from discovery.

He accordingly started his pilfering expeditions on the next morning at the hour when Lady247 Anna was engaged with her pupil. Day after day Sir Richard kept at his task, and always he would see her beside the boy, at the same hour and in the same attitude; and always he would steal a long glance within the room as he crept cautiously by. Twice during this time he lowered himself down the ladder to visit with de Claverlok, taking with him a flagon of wine and a few dainties from the Douglas's table. But the grizzled knight warned him to discontinue his subterranean excursions, as there was danger of running into the guard regularly administering to his needs.

Following out the veteran's advice, Sir Richard made, after that, but one trip in the day, carrying each time something like ten feet of stout hemp. On but one occasion did he come near to being discovered, and his escape was then of the narrowest.

While he was in the ordinance room one morning he was startled by its tubby little keeper coming suddenly upon him just after he had hidden a rather more generous length of rope than usual beneath his shoulder-cape. Sir Richard made out to be examining one of the brass cannons.

248 "That are a bonnie piece, worshipful knight," said the keeper proudly. "A right bonnie piece, Sir Richard. She'll a-come you through a two-foot wall, sir, as smooth as a tup-ny whistle-pipe." Here he paused, scratching his bullet head, and taking up the end of the coil of rope from which Sir Richard had cut the piece inside his cape. "'Tis a muckle strange thing how the good hemp do vanish," he pursued in a puzzled way, "a muckle strange thing. Once 'a be a-thinkin' as what every rogue in the castle were a-stealin' o' rope's-ends to choken their knavish throats. But every rag-tailed son of 'em do answer to the daily roll. Not one of 'em be a-missin'; not one, sir."

"Mayhap you'll be in trouble for not keeping a closer watch," observed Sir Richard. "Here will be money enough to buy you a new coil the next time you get you into Bannockburn."

It was on the morning that the young knight was carrying up the last splicing of rope but one that he missed Lady Anna from her accustomed place beside the youth's knee. Hastily knotting and securing the rope around a rung of the iron ladder he hurried back along the passageway. Pausing beside the youth's room he again looked249 through the window. The boy was still alone, and pacing back and forth across the room in that which seemed to be a paroxysm of grief and anger, clenching his blue-veined hands, throwing pillows madly about the floor, and soliloquizing with a bitter and impassioned vehemence. Experiencing an indescribable sort of fascination, Sir Richard stopped to listen.


250

CHAPTER XVI
OF THE RETURN OF LORD DOUGLAS, AND THE COUNCIL OF JACKDAWS

Ah! Woe is me​—​woe, woe is me!" the youth was crying bitterly. "To think that I must forget my home, my generous father, my brothers, and my dear, kind sister. That I must deny even my good and gentle mother who bore me into the world and suckled me at her bosom! And here am I giving her sorrow of my death when I am living! Woe​—​woe! Better​—​far, far better that my final act should be the rescuing of one truth out of this tissue of black and damning lies! Aye​—​" he gasped, glaring with eyes wide distended around the room​—​"an the means were but at hand, I could do it even now! But how I tremble when I but think of it.... My hand.... See how it doth shake​—​palsied with horror of the grisly phantom! Even now," he whispered hoarsely, "I can251 see them bringing in the winding sheet. Nay​—​nay, I dare not! Fear, that doth withhold my craven arm, doth set his grinning skull at every exit and bid me stay."

Then, throwing himself at full length upon the floor, the youth resigned himself to a fit of tempestuous weeping.

Overwhelmed by a feeling of deepest sympathy for the suffering boy, and oblivious to all things else​—​his own safety, the safety of de Claverlok​—​Sir Richard strode back along the passageway, unbarred the secret door leading into the youth's apartments, and impetuously gave himself admittance therein.

In another moment the young knight was beside him, and, stooping, touched him lightly upon the shoulder.

"Ah! Lady Anna, ... that you should see me thus," murmured the youth without lifting his head from his arms. "They said to me that you were suffering of an indisposition and would not visit here to-day. Can you, ... will you grant me pardon?" he added, sighing deeply.

"Fear not," said Sir Richard gently. "I am come to succor thee, good youth."

252 Softly though the young knight had spoken, at the first sound of his voice the youth leapt wild-eyed to his feet. Without uttering a word, and with hands outspread before his face, he moved slowly backward against the wall.

"I pray you, be not afraid, good my youth," said Sir Richard reassuringly. "I can show you now a manner of gaining freedom from your unhappy imprisonment. A way of winning back to your abandoned home. Come, permit me to be your friend. Let hope smooth away the wrinkles from your brow and suffuse your countenance with somewhat of joy. Escape is at hand."

"But what would she say?" the youth whispered, looking in a frightened manner toward the door.

"She shall not know," Sir Richard promised.

"Aye​—​but thou canst keep nothing from her. Nothing! Even she can read the heavens, and divine the inner workings of a mind. The stars whisper to her their dark secrets​—​the stars!"

"Nay, prate not thus. I tell you the way is open. This very night you may be free."

"But I​—​I cannot leave her, sir knight. I love her. Pity me, ... but leave me. And how253 didst thou come here?" the youth suddenly added. "Saving Lady Anna and the serving-men, thou art the very first to enter within these rooms."

Upon gaining the youth's promise to observe an inviolate secrecy, Sir Richard explained the manner of his coming. When he had made everything clear, the boy took his arm and led him beside a desk upon which were scattered many papers.

"Knowest thou what these are, sir knight?" the youth inquired. "They are messages to my simple home; messages to my sweet mother; messages full of endearing terms and deep regrets; messages signed with mine own true and once honest name, Perkin Warbeck; messages which I dare never send, but write and read; and read again, gaining a sort of comfort from the double task. Why must I forswear my good name, sir knight? I know not. Why am I here? I know not​—​what shall become of me; I care not. I am but a shadow encompassed by flitting shades​—​a phantom in the midst of phantoms, moving in a fog of mystery. Of all, there is but the one thing potent​—​my love for Lady Anna. And yet​—​and yet, sir knight, I fear her. I must remain!254 Go! Leave me, I entreat of thee, for, by thus tarrying, thou art but fruitlessly imperiling thy life."

Earnestly though Sir Richard tried, he was unable to shake the youth's determination to remain. With much of pity in his heart, the young knight then took leave of him, retraced his way back through the secret door and went below. Desiring to take advantage of Lady Anna's temporary retirement, he secured the final cutting of rope, stole again into the hall of the griffins' heads, and made everything ready for de Claverlok's escape and his own, which he meant should be brought off that night.

It was lucky for him that he did so, for, upon that same afternoon, about sundown, there was heard a loud blaring of trumpets from the direction of the wood. Sir Richard at once hurried to the barbecan, from whence he had a view of Douglas and his company as they came marching up the slope.

Among their number he noted a knight who was not wearing the Douglas colors. An oddly tall and lean figure of a man he was, encased from crown to toe in a suit of black armor. An255 ebon, horse-hair plume floated from his closed helmet, of the same somber hue were his mighty horse and trappings. Sir Richard gathered that he was not a prisoner, for he was riding free.

"Marry, but he makes him a fine brave show!" the young knight mused to himself, as the Douglas's company started to defile across the lowered bridge.

For three days together the air had been of a bitter coldness, and accordingly there followed a great scurrying up and down stairs, so that fires might be set to blazing in every chimney-place. The first inmate of the castle to be greeted by Douglas when he strode within the great hall was Sir Richard. He shook his hand most cordially, leading him to the canopied seat beneath the farther pillars, inviting him to bide at his right hand, and engaging him in conversation for quite an hour.

"So the lists are at last prepared," Lord Douglas said, taking up the subject of the games, which were to begin on the next day. "And we are come in time. 'Twill be the greatest meeting in all Scotland," he boastingly declared, twisting and untwisting the wiry hairs of his beard. "The256 greatest and bravest in all Scotland. My hand on 't, Richard​—​and here's hoping you come off with a very surfeit of prizes."

Sir Richard was careful to keep well within earshot of Douglas till the hour of the banquet. At the same time he maintained a close watch upon the actions of Lightsom. He meant to brook no transformation of the fool from his habitual motley to the black. His bells, however, continued all the evening to ring out a merry tune of de Claverlok's freedom from immediate peril.

Around the table they all gathered presently, with every one seeming to be in the happiest of moods. A rare good fortune had evidently attended the affairs of the lord of the castle. Few around the board had ever seen him so amiable and gracious. Apparently recovered of her illness, Lady Anna, agreeable, captivating, beautiful as any of the maids woven in arras upon the tapestries behind her, beamed engagingly from her accustomed seat beside Lord Douglas. Sir Richard remarked the absence of the knight in black from the bright scene of festivity, which set him to wondering who and where he was.

257 "Well, gentlemen, we'll to the council room," commanded Douglas when the last morsel had been eaten, the last wassail drunk. He arose then, stalking majestically from the hall, with the flock of powdered jackdaws following gravely at his spurred and jingling heels.

From the concluding moment of the feast till the time when he found his way within the pitch dark gallery of the griffins' heads, Sir Richard moved like one in a dream, incidents and people seeming to float around him in a filmy, unreal sort of way. He was in a fever to get de Claverlok and be safely launched upon his journey. He took time, however, to stop on his way to the secret exit in a secluded corner of one of the galleries, where he withdrew from its accustomed place and stole a look at the piece of saffron velvet. He added another to the countless kisses he had pressed against it, and once again renewed his vow of unwavering fidelity to the cause of the imprisoned maiden. There were reasons for his self accusations of inconstancy. But Sir Richard was determined upon redeeming himself so soon as might be after he had accomplished his escape from Castle Yewe.

258 The deep tones of the bell on the watch-tower were droning out the hour of midnight when the young knight crept stealthily within the gallery of the griffins' heads. Feeling carefully along the wall, he counted the protruding tongues, slid open the panel, and stole noiselessly into the secret passageway. Away ahead of him squares of light, shining from the windows of the council chamber, splashed fantastically against the right wall. Every embrasure opening off the youth's room was cast in utter darkness. In his mind, Sir Richard could picture him tossing restlessly upon a sleepless bed, and his heart rebuked him for leaving him there to fight out his melancholy battle alone. "But I, too," the young knight thought, recalling the boy's sad, parting words, "am but a phantom in the midst of phantoms, moving in a fog of mystery."

In spite of his anxiety to have done with the business in hand and be away, the magnificent scene within the great council hall held Sir Richard fascinated in front of the first window through which he chanced to peer.

In massive silver sconces round about the walls hundreds of candles were alight. Standing upon259 a raised dais, Lord Douglas was engaged in delivering an earnest oration. The jackdaws around the table marked his every pause with solemn noddings. Viewed as Sir Richard was viewing it, from a great height and through a pane of ruby colored glass, it all appeared grotesquely unreal, weird, and fairylike.

Not a word reached to where he was standing, but the young knight divined that Douglas must have finished speaking, for the conclave of jackdaws arose, and, bowing, remained standing beside their chairs. Then, upon Douglas waving his sword, two pages parted the draperies from the wide entrance, and the lean, tall figure of the knight in black moved in a deliberate and stately manner down the steps.

He was not wearing his casque, and when he had drawn within the full glare of the multitude of lights every feature of his elongated visage was set vividly before Sir Richard. He could not repress an exclamation of amazement.

He recognized him to be the mysterious keeper of the Red Tavern​—​Tyrrell.

The young knight was not aware of how long he remained standing beside the window, with his260 face pressed close against its ruby pane. Though he did not realize it, the scene then being enacted upon the mosaic floor far beneath him was one well worth pausing to witness. It was the assembling of the nucleus of a wonderful movement, the deep, still center of a wide whirlpool of elaborate conspiracy and action. From those clear brains were emanating invisible wires and arms of steel, which, clutching the individual, thrust him mercilessly and inevitably ahead in the vanguard of the movement. They were not human down there. Each of them was but a cold, bloodless, and calculating automaton. Lives, to them, were like pinches of sand upon blood-slippery lists, serving but to give purchase to the wheels of their tireless juggernaut.

The young knight watched while Douglas seemed to introduce the inn-keeper to the assembled counselors. Tyrrell's voice must have been uncommonly resonant, for its deep tones came faintly to the ears of the observer at the window. It recalled to him the night of the burial of the hound and the war song. The grace of the speaker's sweeping gestures, as he continued his oration to the men around the table, elicited a261 genuine admiration from Sir Richard. He kept close to the window till Tyrrell had finished and gone from the hall.

Though the young knight was unable to link himself or his future with the council below, he was sensible of a vague presentiment of a something portentous to his welfare that seemed to communicate itself to him through the walls of the chamber. With an inward sense of creeping fear he started toward the end of the passageway. He noted the trembling of his hand as he laid hold of the iron rung of the ladder leading down to de Claverlok's dungeon. He was afraid of the things that he could not understand.

It was therefore with a deep sense of foreboding evil that he lowered himself to the bottom of the deep well and opened the door of the grizzled knight's dungeon. Upon that afternoon Sir Richard had apprised his friend of his coming, and, saving that he was not wearing his armor, de Claverlok was all prepared and waiting for him.

"Put on your suit of mail," said the young knight hurriedly. "I'll help you to buckle it fast."

262 "Eh? But I'm not a giant, Sir Dick, that can wade through the moat with my nose above the water. Nor, by the rood, can I swim it with a load of iron upon my back!"

"'Tis solid frozen," Sir Richard said. "We'll walk boldly over."

"And the moon, ... eh?"

"There's no faint hint of it, de Claverlok. Make haste! Things have I seen that have set me all of a-tremble. It may befall that our ways must perforce diverge; an it do, I'll meet you so soon as may be within the deserted shepherd's hut; ... remember, my friend."

"Have no fear, Sir Dick. We'll not be separated. The moat frozen, ... no moon, ... I tell you, my son, that a good fortune is smiling down upon our little adventure, ... eh!"

"Have you brought everything needful?" Sir Richard inquired, when the grizzled knight's harness had been adjusted and they were starting upward.

"Everything. Not even a regret have I left within the damned hole, Sir Dick!"

As they climbed past the floor of the passageway, Sir Richard took note of the fact that the263 lights within the council hall had been extinguished. Two spots of faint illumination, however, were now shining from the youth's rooms. "Poor boy, he cannot sleep," the young knight thought, and passed upward into the yawning flue.

For days he had been pouring oil over the hinges and padlocks of the trap-door at the top. The bolts yielded noiselessly. Having made everything free, Sir Richard set his back against the planks and gave a mighty heave. There followed upon the instant a startled grunt and a voice rumbled strangely above the door.

"Hi, Jock!" it called. "Didst mark any quaking of the castle just then? No? Well, be damned to me, an' I thought to mysel' th' whole moldy tower were a-givin' around our ears. Has't a nippie o' sack in thy jerkin, Jock?"

Sir Richard divined that the answer to the guard's question must have been a favorable one, for he at once got up from off the trap-door, after which he could hear his heavy steps dwindling in the distance along the runway.

"'Twould agree passing well with the good fellow's health to drink him a gallon of it," de264 Claverlok whispered as he stepped out into the night and unsheathed his sword. "God's sake! Dreaming of a quaking earth were enough to set a man at tipple, ... eh?"

To knot and make the rope secure around the crenelated apex of the tower was but the work of a moment.

"Go!" Sir Richard whispered. "When the rope swings free I'll be after you."

Immediately de Claverlok's grizzled head disappeared over the side of the embattlements. Sir Richard looked down, watching him as he diminished and became swallowed up in the surrounding gloom. He kept a firm grip of the hilt of his blade against the possibility of the guard's inopportune return.

He waited till he thought enough time had elapsed for de Claverlok to have set his foot upon the frozen moat. He laid his hand upon the rope. It was still taut, and vibrating with the warrior's downward scrambling.

Then, though Sir Richard had heard no sound, a soft arm was suddenly entwined about his waist. A softer voice was whispering close to his ear.

265 "Shame upon you, Dick, to requite me thus!" it said. "Are you indeed upon the point of leaving me?"

It was Lady Anna. Warm, bewitching, clad in a silken robe, all open at the throat, and loose and light and clinging.

"Yea, Lady Anna, I am going. Let loose of me," Sir Richard said.

"But Sir Richard​—​Dick, dear, I​—​I love you. A last good-bye, then," she said, twining her arms more firmly about him. "But why leave me? I tell you truly there an hundred reasons for remaining to one that you should go. Believe me, ... dear Dick. Stay but a moment and listen."

"By my soul, Lady Anna, unhand me! Much would I regret to tear you from me by force," whispered Sir Richard between his closed teeth.

"Then ... your lips, first, Dick," she pleaded.

Her two round arms were close about him now. The perfume of her flowing hair was in his nostrils. The breath of her lips was against his. Again it was the Woman against the Man. The Man felt that heaven and earth were rushing together266 in a glorious combat. The primal instinct conquered. The Woman had won.

Followed instantly then the thud of a something falling upon the ice-bound moat. The young knight, now freed from Lady Anna's embrace, groped wildly for the rope.

It was gone!


267

CHAPTER XVII
OF A JOUST WITH BULL BENGOUGH, AND THE INCIDENT OF THE KNIGHT IN BLACK

A deep sense of guilt caused by his momentary surrender to Lady Anna's blandishments stirred a very tempest of remorse within Sir Richard's mind, which vented itself in a torrent of bitter words directed toward his fair seductress. All cold and calm and smiling she listened to the young knight's list of accusations.

"Fickle boy!" she said with a gay laugh when Sir Richard had finished. "Know you not that a late repentance is like the wind that blows above an empty sea? But let me tell you, Sir Richard," she added, abandoning the tone of light mockery in which she had first spoken, "that events are transpiring right well for you. Have but a mite of patience.... Wait, and see," whereupon she coolly replaced his poniard within the holder268 dangling from his baldric, reached for his hand and signified her desire to have him accompany her below. "'Tis a right bonnie and sharp blade, that," she said, referring to the poniard, "and did part the rope full smoothly. But come, Sir Richard. Lord Douglas is waiting to have speech with you."

"By the mass, Lady Anna, and how came you upon my plans?" Sir Richard sullenly inquired when they were come at length into the gallery of the griffins' heads.

He remarked that the sliding panel had been thrown wide open, and that half a score of attendants bearing flaring rush-lights were awaiting their mistress's coming. They all grinned within their beards as the young knight passed before them.

Lady Anna looked up into Sir Richard's eyes and smiled brightly.

"Ah! Sir valiant knight," she returned, "much have you yet to learn. Never should you confide a secret to a weak and lovelorn boy. Let me explain: Wishing much to have an immediate audience with you, my lord dispatched a messenger to the great hall. You were not there.269 A round of your accustomed abiding places failed to discover you. Your private chamber was searched, but without result. Entertaining somewhat of a shrewd suspicion of my own, which was speedily verified by our fair-haired, youthful friend, I sought you upon the tower, ... errant boy! The rest you know."

Sir Richard made no answering comment. His mind was taken up with de Claverlok. He was wondering what the generous warrior would be thinking of him. With no more than a curt good-night, he parted from Lady Anna at the head of the jutting balcony.

He found Lord Douglas awaiting him in his own chamber. The same in which he had delivered Henry's warrant less than a month ago. Douglas received him with a gracious cordiality, his red bewhiskered face all of a-wrinkle with genial smirks and smiles.

"So, so! Sir Richard," said he, rising and extending the young knight his hairy hand. "You have played the leech, I hear, and have delivered a suffering old warrior out of the womb of Castle Yewe? Well​—​well!" pausing to roar with laughter; "I looked upon the fellow as your270 dire enemy, and mewed him up for hurling treacherous lance at you. I pray you, and why did you not affirm that he was indeed your friend?"

"Said I not so at the foot of the stairs upon the first moment of my arrival here?"

"Yea​—​that you did. But I bethought me that you were but reserving him for your own vengeance. Why​—​you might have had him free for the snapping of your fingers. Marry​—​marry! How often do we struggle mightily and in secret for a thing that we might gain in the open, and but for the simple asking."

Deeds that to Sir Richard appeared valorous, and partaking somewhat of the essence of that chivalry which he strove always to emulate, were thus dismissed as mere boyish escapades. His embarrassment and chagrin became more profound than ever.

"By'r lady! An I could but borrow the ears of an ass, I'd be armed at point device," he ruefully declared.

"Nay, nay, Sir Richard, say not thus," replied Douglas. "An all the asses' ears were properly bestowed, let me tell you, our four-legged friends271 would every one be bereft of those useful appendages. Have done, my young friend, with vain repining. Your act of this night pleases me passing well. Though, an you had left us, as you came perilously near doing, you would have broken your knightly word. For, in the games of to-morrow, did you not agree with Mistress Douglas to break a lance with Bull Bengough? But enough upon that subject. Your head was all awry upon your shoulders. You were not heedful of such slight obligations. Mark you well, Sir Richard, I wished that you should be brought hither so that I might tell you that, upon to-morrow night, following the games, there's to be a conclave held within the council hall. You shall be present. Something then shall you hear that will set your eyes wide open. Some things shall you know that will put you in a better case with yourself than you have ever been. And then, there is another matter of which I wished to speak," he went on, lowering his voice to as soft a tone as he was able to command; "'tis concerning the bit of saffron velvet. You have kept that from me, Sir Richard, but Lady Anna has told me all. What would you say now, my272 friend, an I told you that I had dispatched emissaries to fetch the maid to your side?"

"What mean you, Lord Douglas? The young lady is imprisoned, and her jailor is even this moment within Castle Yewe."

"How know you that?"

"I saw him through the window of the secret passageway."

"Aye​—​true, there is a window," returned Douglas in a tone indicating his regret that such was the fact. "And did you hear what he said?"

"Not a word could I hear," Sir Richard openly confessed.

Douglas had been nervously twisting and untwisting his beard. Upon hearing the young knight's negative reply he heaved a deep sigh of relief.

"'Twould have mattered little, an you had," he said. "Well​—​'twas Tyrrell whom you saw. And henceforward our issues are to be joined. At the meeting to-morrow you shall know everything."

"When will the maid arrive? Through what means will your men effect her freedom? Does273 Tyrrell know?" was Sir Richard's volley of questions.

"Nay​—​Tyrrell does not know. 'Twas at the suggestion of your good friend, the Renegade Duke, that I sent for her, who has but just this eve arrived within the castle. He has been laid up with a sickness. But give you a good-night, Sir Richard, and get you to your bed," Douglas concluded, getting up to pull the bell cord above his chair and again tendering the young knight his hand.

Like one walking in a dream, Sir Richard followed the smoking rush-lights of the two pages who were awaiting to lead him to his room. For the third time the words of the unhappy youth, Perkin Warbeck, were recalled vividly to his mind​—​"A phantom in the midst of phantoms, moving in a fog of mystery."

A sound body overcame an uneasy mind and conscience, however, and he slept peacefully through the fog, with nothing more alarming than a multitude of shadowy de Claverloks to inhabit his dreams. In the morning he was awake betimes, broke his fast, and then wandered out to view the lists, which would soon resound with274 the huzzas of excited spectators, and the tumult of friendly striving.

To the northward of the walls of the castle tents were thickly dotted over the hillsides, the blue smoke of their fires rising high into the keen, clear air. Horses were tethered to almost every tree; oxen were moving about over the slopes, grazing the frosty grass. In the open spaces knots of men and women were gathered, eating, drinking, and singing. Snatches of their rude songs reached to the young knight's ears as he stood watching the interesting spectacle.

Within the space reserved for the uses of the knights who were to engage in the games, he noted a pavilion bearing his cognizance emblazoned above its entrance. He walked across, stopping in front of it to look up along the decorated stand, with its ribbon-twined pillars, its manifold pennants, its blaze of multi-colored banners all snapping and fluttering in the crisp breeze. It was a brave sight, and sent Sir Richard's blood tingling through his veins. He grew conscious of a keen desire to feel the first shock of the combat.

275 By now other knights were passing beside him, many of whom were not strangers to Sir Richard's prowess with the sword. They gave him the morning's greeting and passed within their tents. Heralds and pursuivants, dressed in the brightest and gaudiest of liveries, were moving busily about the tilting-yard, engaged upon their tasks of observing that everything was in cap-a-pie order. Presently Lord Douglas and his retinue of inseparable jackdaws entered the stand across the covered bridge that gave into it from the castle. They moved in a body to the front and bowed in concert, wishing him a row of solemn good-morrows. Sir Richard grew to speculating as to what was taking place within their teeming brains. He wished that he might have lifted their coverings for a moment to have a peep within.

Upon returning their ceremonious salutations, he parted the curtained entrance and walked within his tent.

No sooner was he come inside when a seam opened to the right, disclosing a hand holding a parchment with ribbons dangling from its great seal. Sir Richard instantly recognized it to be276 the document that had been stolen from his wallet. The seam gaped wider then, and Tyrrell's grim visage appeared above the hand.

"Hist!" he whispered low. "I essayed to speak with thee last night within thy chamber, but armed guards were stationed without thy door. Mark ye well what I say, Sir Richard Rohan, for I must perforce say briefly. Here is the message from Henry to Douglas, which I took from thee on the night thou didst tarry within the Red Tavern. Mighty well is it for thee that it was purloined, ... else thou wouldst not have been here to-day. But another of similar import is likely any day to arrive from Kenilworth. Thou art in direst peril. Read it, Sir Richard. But not now.... After I have gone.... I dare not long remain. Thy life and mine would pay instant forfeit were I to be discovered here. Hark ye, ... closer! That red striped lance yonder is worm eaten to the core. I have one for myself hewn from the same piece of wood. When we shall be called opposite in the lists, ... mark ye, now, ... forget not to couch that stick at me. It will shatter to the hilt, as will mine own. At our next meeting, with fair277 lances, thou shalt have the northern stand. When the trumpet winds, plunge rowels into thy steed's belly and charge at me. But do not engage my shield or person. Gallop by me and make straight for the gate, which will be open and packed with gaping peasantry. I have stationed there two score of brawny men and true, who will part a way for thee. Ride on through and make southward along the Sauchieburn Pass. I will execute a swift demivolte and follow closely at thy heels, appearing to give chase. An, perchance, I fail of getting away with thee, go swift to the Red Tavern and await there my coming. Zenas will be looking out for thee. An I come not, ... well, ... Lord Kennedy shall bear thee messages. Hist! At thy door there. 'Tis the man I have bribed to sew up this rent. Admit him, Sir Richard, and give thyself to the reading of the warrant. Adieu!"

Tyrrell thereupon withdrew his head, and the man went about mending the rent. Sir Richard seated himself upon a stool, holding the unopened parchment. Even now he hesitated before reading its contents, believing that it would be a violation of King Henry's trust. He became convinced,278 finally, that it was a duty that he owed to himself to do so, whereupon he unfolded and began perusing the warrant. Having finished reading, he crumpled the paper and thrust it beneath his breast-plate. For a long time he sat motionless, with his hands knotted together upon his knees.

"This​—​this from Henry!" he thought. "Henry whom I have revered and loved and called companion from very childhood! This from the comrade by whose side I fought upon the field of Bosworth!"

A something there was went out of the young knight's life during that bitter moment which he felt that nothing could ever supplant.

Beyond a certain set firmness of his lips that had never been there before, however, when he stepped outside his tent, Sir Richard exhibited no traces of the fierce battle that had been waged within him. He took the seat that had been provided for him in front of his pavilion, and apparently surrendered himself to the full enjoyment of the games, which, by now, were in full swing. He even stamped his feet, clapped together his hands, and "bravaed!" with as unrestrained279 a vociferance as the most boisterous onlooker in the field.

Beginning next the stand, Sir Richard's tent was the first. Immediately beside it, Tyrrell's had been pitched. The redoubtable Bull Bengough's, who did not put in his appearance till well along in the day, was set beside the gate, the final one of the row.

The young knight remarked well his appearance as he shot into the lists to meet the victor of every preceding combat. The champion up to that hour.

His horse was a silver-gray stallion, broad hoofed, with fetlocks sweeping from above them to the ground. In the matter of gigantic proportions, the warrior bestriding its broad, round back, was in perfect keeping with the steed. He was harnessed in a suit of highly polished steel armor, fluted and damascened. He wore his beaver up, and the features displayed within the opening of his casque were singularly brutal. His eyes were like two glittering beads, hard and pitiless. Above them his black brows marked an uninterrupted and nearly straight line from temple to temple.

280 When everything was ready and the signal had been given, Bull Bengough charged, bellowing like his bovine namesake, upon his adversary. By sheer force of his superior weight and strength he vanquished his antagonist. Without making the slightest show of acknowledgment of the loud burst of acclamation that greeted his prowess, he rode on to the southern extremity of the lists, where he drew rein, disdainfully awaiting the signal to have at his next opponent.

With the customary long preamble, the heralds announced Sir Richard's name. Two grooms led his stallion to the front of his pavilion. Leaping lightly into his saddle the young knight cantered his horse toward his allotted station in the field.

His name was called through many pairs of lips as he passed beneath the stand. The young knight had won many friends and fair adherents during his stay in Castle Yewe. He signified his appreciation of their good wishes by reining to a halt before the stand and bowing gracefully to the spectators. There followed a renewed burst of applause and laughter when his stallion gravely bent his head, as though in a similar acknowledgment. It was a pretty trick, and one that Sir281 Richard had spent a great deal of time and patience to teach.

Now, with casques tight closed, Bull Bengough and Sir Richard were awaiting the signal to charge. There was a sinking of many-colored scarves beneath a sea of staring, tense-drawn faces. A profound silence settled over all the field.

They shot away together at the first note of the trumpeted signal. From the start Sir Richard couched his lance at Bull Bengough's helmet. As well might he have attempted to overthrow one of the Pyramids of Egypt, as to have essayed the upsetting of his burly antagonist through engaging the center of his impregnable shield. On account of the young knight's lesser weight, and the superior nimbleness of his horse's hoofs, he met Bengough a yard or more beyond the center of the lists and well within his own territory.

The extreme bulk of his great body rendered the impact of Bengough's treelike lance against Sir Richard's shield like a collision with a mountain avalanche. The young knight felt himself shaken to the very backbone. If the wood had held, it might have been that Bengough would282 have sustained his wide reputation by sweeping his antagonist off his seat. Luckily for the young knight, however, it shattered to the grasp, and, with speed but slightly diminished, Sir Richard rode on through, with his lance's head wedged fast between the eye-slits of his adversary's helm.

After that it was like sliding a filled hogshead backward off of a moving platform. Sir Richard fancied that he was sensible of a trembling of the earth when Bull Bengough alighted upon it.

Thereupon, amid the loud huzzas of the spectators, the young knight rode to the front of his pavilion and commanded his squire to bring him the red-striped lance. Tyrrell, his next opponent, was riding slowly northward to take his place there at the end of the lists.

Compared with his meeting with Bengough, Sir Richard's contact with the knight in black was almost featherlike in its softness. Their lances, couched well and true, both shattered to their grasps.

It became now the young knight's turn to take the northern stand for the next course. He looked southward toward the open gate. It was283 choked with humanity, swaying this way and that in wide, serpentine curves. The task of clearing an open space there had already begun.

Upon the sound of the trumpet's blast they made for the meeting place in the lists. But the knight in black was not for a moment in Sir Richard's eye. He saw but the gate, and within it the crowd of densely packed peasantry. Beyond opened out a wide sweep of sloping downs, of free roadways, and welcome forest glades.

He had a fleeting picture as he flashed beneath the arched gateway of a line of determined, stern-faced, brawny men pushing and thrusting as though their very lives depended upon it. They contrived to clear him the narrowest of avenues, which closed together when he had passed through like the waters of a riven sea.

Sir Richard stole a swift look above his shoulder. Tyrrell, moving at a snail's pace, was vainly endeavoring to free himself from the living mass that was eddying about him. Like a pair of long flails, he was waving his arms above his head, and calling down the wrath of Heaven upon his late antagonist for not halting. In the present case his talents as an actor were standing him in good284 stead. Behind him men were streaming wildly from the stand. Just as the young knight plunged within the forest shadows he heard a bugle wind the tucket-sonuance.

Throwing aside the now useless lance, Sir Richard stretched low along his stallion's neck and sent him pounding over the frozen road at top speed.


285

CHAPTER XVIII
OF SIR RICHARD'S MEETING WITH THE FOOT-BOYS, AND HIS RETURN TO THE RED TAVERN

To gain to the abandoned shepherd's hut and rejoin de Claverlok was now Sir Richard's chief concern. As to what his subsequent course of action should be he could in no manner determine. He meant, after finding de Claverlok, to journey onward toward the Red Tavern, either to effect the imprisoned maiden's release when he reached there, or to win her away from her abductors should he chance to intercept them on his way. In carrying forward this enterprise he intended, if it were possible, to secure the grizzled knight's aid. After that (Sir Richard planned it all out), a journey to the coast for the three of them, whence they would take ship for France and push forward to Brittany and Duke Francis's court. There they might tarry for awhile till he had secured his286 patrimony​—​the which was a something very vague and shadowy to the young knight​—​and then, last of all, the great, wide world.

Desiring to minimize the dangers of pursuit and recapture, he took the first road leading from the main highway, which chanced to be one winding to the eastward. After about an hour of hard riding, he made out on the roadway, some distance ahead, the gray figure of a monk mounted upon a long-eared ass. There seemed to be something quite familiar to the young knight in the monk's attitude​—​bent far forward, with the sharp peak of his cowl alone appearing above his narrow shoulders.

The churchman turned to give Sir Richard greeting as he was upon the point of galloping by. It was Erasmus. He arched his brows as though surprised at thus meeting with the young knight.

"Why," said the scholar, as Sir Richard slowed down and took his easy pace, "I fancied that long ere this thou hadst joined my good friend, Bishop Kennedy. We made a vigorous but vain search for thee after that ambuscade among the Kilsyth Hills. But Lord Kennedy doubted not but that287 the good knight, Sir Lionel de Claverlok, would soon fetch up with thee and bring thee back. Ah! my friend, this fighting! These direful conspiracies! 'Tis indeed a sad thing for both church and populace when jealous factions do thus selfishly bestir themselves."

For quite a space thereafter they rode along together in silence.

"Grant me pardon for my seeming impertinence," at length said Erasmus; "but curious am I to know whence thou hast come, sir knight?"

"I am just riding from Castle Yewe," replied Sir Richard.

"So!" exclaimed the scholar, now lifting his brows in a genuine amazement. "Methought, sir, that thou wouldst not long survive a visit there. Ah! But mayhap no message from Henry was delivered to Douglas during thy stay!"

"Why​—​friend Erasmus," said Sir Richard, "with my own hand did I deliver it."

"But​—​—"

"Aye​—​I know full well what you would say. The original was stolen from me, I know. In truth, Erasmus, every mother's son in broad Scotland288 seems to know. But I had been provided with a copy, the which I delivered as fast as my horse could bear me to Yewe after my escape upon the Kilsyth Hills. I know now that it was a warrant upon Douglas for my undoing, but old fox here stood bravely beside me, and I am riding beside you to tell the tale. I' faith, since leaving Kenilworth, Erasmus, much have I learned of the world's merciless cruelties."

"Aye​—​well mayst thou say so, sir knight," agreed the scholar in a sympathetic tone. "Listen​—​and mark well what I have to say," Erasmus pursued. "There is now, and right here in Scotland, a great conspiracy upon foot, the which doth involve, sir knight, a throne, and in which each of two powerful factions is striving mightily to gain but an inch of advantage above the other. Wouldst listen to the advice of something of a philosopher, a great deal of thy friend, and a close student of this question of politics?"

"I would most gladly hear it," declared Sir Richard.

"Then leave this conspiracy-ridden country and embark with me for France. A right puissant friend thou hast in old Duke Francis, sir knight."

289 The scholar's manner was openly and frankly sympathetic and friendly. Sir Richard was glad to discover one in whom he could confide and in whom he could repose an absolute trust. He accordingly set out to make Erasmus acquainted with the story of his pilgrimage from Kenilworth to Yewe, dwelling, with glowing words, upon the incident of the imprisoned maid and the cutting of saffron velvet. He gave his vow to do devoir in her cause as his reason for not adopting Erasmus's advice of sailing with him for France.

"'Tis a most interesting and thrilling tale," the scholar observed when the young knight had finished his narrative. "But why imperil thy life further by remaining here to set free a maid whom thou hast never seen? A patch of velvet is a dangerously small matter from which to build a vision of purity and beauty."

"An man wore coat of mail who said thus to me," said Sir Richard with a smile, "he'd have my gauntlet at his feet upon the instant."

"Nay, nay, my good sir knight​—​thou knowest well that I am speaking friendlywise," said Erasmus. "The age of ostentatious chivalry is290 passing. Anon will come a time when sane deeds and true shall take the place of those of bombast and display. I am speaking from my heart and for thy own good, sir knight. An thou wouldst consent to join me, I should be most happy."

Sir Richard disavowed any intention of leaving Scotland till he had accomplished his self-imposed mission. But he was thankful to have Erasmus for a companion, and continued to ride with him till they came into the town of Kirkintilloch, where they halted together at an inn, supping there and making merry till somewhat later in the evening than Sir Richard had intended to stay. During supper hour they had out their argument upon the subject of the waning of chivalry. That is to say, the scholar argued and Sir Richard listened and denied. After that, to prove to the grave student that chivalry was not in its decline, the young knight had the buxom serving-maid sew him a cord to the patch of saffron velvet, whereupon he fastened it above his eye, vowing that he would not remove it till its fair owner should herself part the string.

About the hour when Sir Richard concluded that he could possibly remain no longer, there was291 a sharp driving of sleet against the tavern windows. Appreciating that there was danger of missing his way in the darkness and storm, and a warm and comfortable bed appealing more pleasantly to his imagination than a night ride in the cold, he came to the conclusion to make a night of it and remain.

When he came down early the next morning there was a thin scattering of snow on the ground. Upon nearing the tap-room, after instructing the hostler to bring around his horse, he heard the sound of loud talk and laughter. He observed the precaution of peering through a window before venturing inside. He saw, seated about a table therein, a half dozen guards from Castle Yewe.

Without waiting to receive the inn-keeper's reckoning, Sir Richard beat a precipitate retreat toward the stables. Ordering his stallion made ready upon the instant, he tossed the groom a generous handful of coins and made off at a rattling pace through the dull streets of the little town.

He soon drew beyond the limits of Kirkintilloch, and came presently to a road that he fancied292 would lead him somewhere near to the hut in which he hoped that de Claverlok would be awaiting his coming. His search, however, was unfruitful of result. All day he rode, describing great squares and detours. Upon many occasions he was obliged to plunge swiftly into nearby forests in order to avoid bands of horsemen, which seemed to be scouring the country upon every hand. He dared not stop at another inn, and so took pot-luck in the most remote farm cottages and herders' huts that he could find. The patch upon the young knight's eye proved to be a source of infinite amusement to the pastoral folk with whom he ate and drank.

That night he was forced to seek an asylum within the dismal walls of a monastery, whereupon he became the unwilling recipient of the good prior's gentle harangue upon the wickedness of registering licentious and worldly vows. He charged upon the young knight to seek his Maker's pardon, and remove the yellow patch, the which Sir Richard quietly listened to till his head nodded sleepily above the table. The good father then tendered him his blessing and conducted him to a pallet of straw in one of the unoccupied cells.

293 He was away at dawn of the next day to resume his wanderings above the moors and downs.

When occupying the hut with de Claverlok he had been so intent upon delivering Henry's warrant to Douglas that he had not troubled himself to register surrounding landmarks. This, coupled with the fact that he was now obliged to keep a sharp lookout for straggling guards and searching parties, rendered his search a most difficult one. Indeed, though much regretting to do so, he was forced at length to abandon it, concluding that the wiser plan would be to strike a straight line in the direction of the Sauchieburn Pass. Upon once reaching there, he felt confident that he could easily retrace his way to the abandoned hut.

It was near the hour of compline when, after having ridden a considerable distance through a forest of pines and hemlocks, he came upon a road stretching through the wood at a right angle to the rather narrow trail that he had been following. As he emerged upon this highroad, which he instantly knew to be the one of which he had been in search, he heard a sharp noise of crackling and breaking twigs to his left. With294 a ready hand upon his bridle, prepared, if need were, to wheel and bear away, he glanced in the direction whence the sound had come.

Two mounted foot-boys, wearing the Douglas colors, were upon the point of leading a third horse​—​which was caparisoned for a lady's riding​—​within the shadows of the trees. Seeking himself to avoid discovery, Sir Richard was not in fear of those in a similar predicament.

So​—​"What, ho there, boys!" he shouted, riding swiftly down upon them; "can you tell me whether this is the Sauchieburn Pass?"

"Yea, sir knight," one of the foot-boys replied, halting his horse along the border of the road. "And for a-many a wearisome hour, sir knight, have​—​—"

"Sh-h-h!" cautioned the other from the bushes. "Remember, Harold, our heads will surely pay the forfeit of an indiscretion.... Yet, ... 'tis a tiresome business to be held here for none knows how long in a dark and dreary​—​—"

"Oh ho!" the first then interrupted angrily, "and who is 't now that's talking to the ax? Yet​—​an she would but come​—​we might return in​—​—"

295 "Ah ha!" wailed the second; "now you've finished the whole cursed job! My name's not Thomas, an I give you not a sound buffeting for​—​—"

"A truce to your quarreling," interrupted Sir Richard. "I have other business, my boys, besides putting your precious heads in jeopardy. Come ahead, give me your stories after a more complete and less disjoined fashion. By my knightly sword no harm shall befall either of you because of the telling​—​I am ready."

"'Tis thus, good sir knight," spoke the one whom his companion had called Harold: "Now three days gone our worshipful master, Lord Douglas, ... on whom may God's blessing rest, ... commanded us to trap palfrey for a maid, ride upon the Sauchieburn Pass to the southern extremity of the Forest of Lammermuir and await there her coming. Upon the maiden joining us we were bade to conduct her, along unused by-roads, safely back to Castle Yewe. Full two days have we waited here, sir knight, with nothing better to sleep in o' nights but a thin tent in the forest. Every hour between dawn and darkness we but stand here with chattering teeth,296 idly shivering and watching, without warrant to sally forward or return. Is 't not, thinkest thou, a sad and dismal undertaking?"

"That it is, Harold, my boy," Sir Richard heartily agreed. "An you but give me pause to consider," he added, "mayhap I may find out a way to aid you in your adventure."

Sir Richard had known at once for whom the boys had been dispatched, and was relieved to discover that the part of his plan relating to the imprisoned maiden was turning out so happily. He was puzzled to understand, however, why the boys had been stationed at such a great distance from the Red Tavern. It was at least a full day's journey from that part of the forest to the inn. It occurred to him that Douglas might have sent guards ahead of the foot-boys, and that when the maid did put in her appearance, it would be in the company of an armed band. While he was trying to arrive upon the wisest course of action, fragmentary whisperings between the foot-boys were carried to his ears.

"By the mass!" one of them was saying, "an it were not for the patch on the eye, and the scrag o' beard on the chin, I would take my oath that297 'tis the very knight who overthrew every fighting Jack in Castle Yewe. Can'st not tell, Thomas, by the sweep o' the nose o' him, and the sharp eye​—​and the brow?"

"Marry! Mayhap, and 'tis," the other said. "I saw him but the once, you must remember. 'Twas when he cut him down the mighty Sandufferin. He was certes a​—​—"

"Hark ye, boys," Sir Richard broke in upon their whispered conversation; "an I agree to yield you somewhat of my assistance, will you take oath with raised hands not to make mention of this meeting to thy master?"

Upon such easy terms they both seemed delighted to purchase the young knight's aid. He thereupon lined them along the road, with uplifted hands, and caused them to repeat the most solemn oath within his power to conjure up. Instructing them to await his return, and promising to do his best to bring along the maiden, he left them smiling by the roadside and fared on southward.

Within a very short time he had drawn clear of the forest. Looking to the left, he noted the spur of stunted pines sweeping down over the298 moor. Beyond it he could see the bleak dunes and the promontory upon which had been pitched the pavilion of purple and black. The gray mist rising out of the sea made an appropriate and effective background for it all.

His mind was deeply engaged with the subject of his quest, when, upon rounding a rather lofty brae, he came suddenly upon the Red Tavern. Surprised beyond the power of speech, thought, or action he reined in his stallion. For a considerable time he sat motionless, taking in the different points of the structure. There were left no doubts, when he had finished with his examination, but that it was the same. With a redoubled intensity of imagery, the weird tales of the haunted, flying tavern came trooping back to his mind.

How under the heavens the inn had come there he made no attempt to fathom. It occurred to him at first that it must have been standing there all along, but he dismissed this thought when he had noted the fact that, during his enforced march with Bishop Kennedy's company, he would have been obliged to pass beside its door. That it was indeed there, and a palpable something to299 be accounted for, however, he could no longer deny.

"Well," Sir Richard at length concluded, "I made my entrance upon this mysterious series of mishaps through yon sinister door. 'Twould be most fitting that my exit from them should be by the same route."

Whereupon, like a man in a trance, he rode up, dismounted, and knocked aloud upon the red-daubed planks.


300

CHAPTER XIX
OF THE RESCUE OF THE MAIDEN

There was a familiar rattling of chains and sliding bolts. The door swung cautiously inward, the evil face of Zenas appearing within the narrow opening.

"Ah! The puppet again!" he exclaimed, his baleful eyes glowering down upon the traveler. "And where hast thou left Sir James, my good brother?"

"He was foiled in making his escape with me from Castle Yewe," explained Sir Richard. "Are there messages awaiting me from Bishop Kennedy?" he added.

"Nay. But tarry not without, sir puppet knight. The sharp wind doth penetrate keenly to my twisted bones. Come thou inside, ... I'll have a groom to bestow thy horse for the night."

"Get you out of the cold and send him here. I but wish the animal baited, Zenas. I'll not tarry the night."

301 In a few minutes the hostler appeared from behind the tavern, received instructions as to the care of the horse, and relieved the young knight of the reins; Sir Richard then opened the door and stepped inside.

"Ah ha! with a golden patch upon the eye, by my faith!" growled the hunchback as the young knight seated himself upon the high-backed bench beside the chimney-place. "Methinks, sir puppet knight, that I've often seen that self same color."

Zenas stationed himself with his back to the blaze, where he stood, rubbing his hands together and laughing shrilly.

"You have seen it. Certes you have seen it!" observed Sir Richard quietly. "Yea​—​Zenas, and I mean to bear away the maiden to whom it once belonged, I give you true warrant upon that."

He arose as he spoke, with his hand resting menacingly upon the hilt of his sword.

Without a word Zenas thereupon clapped together his hands; three men, armed at every point, came instantly into the room. Three blades were unsheathed, flashing in the firelight.

"Not so fast, puppet knight; ... I pray you, not so fast," whispered the hunchback with302 an uncanny leer and stretching out toward Sir Richard his enormously long arms. "Wilt treat with me quietly now, or shall I have the guards at you for a dangerous interloper? Say the word, sir puppet knight, say the word," he hissed between his teeth. "More good men there are where these came from, an these be not enough to truss thee up and render thee harmless."

"Send the men away," said Sir Richard sullenly. "I'll treat with you."

"Tell me then," resumed Zenas, when the guards had betaken themselves at his command through the door, "hast ever seen this maid whom thou art thus eager to rescue?"

The young knight pondered deeply before committing himself to an answer. It would be obviously improper, he thought, to explain the manner in which the cutting of velvet had come into his possession. But he concluded that a portion of the truth would answer as well as a whole falsehood, so​—​—

"In truth, I have never seen the maid," he replied accordingly.

"Well, thou shalt see her.... Yea​—​and thou shalt have her! Even this night, ...303 now, ... an it be thy wish, sir puppet knight," said Zenas, apparently in a transport of glee. "She hath been fair eating her heart out to be gone. But mayhap thou wouldst first down a flitch of bacon and a tankard or so of stum? A full belly for a hard task, I tell thee! Belike 'twould embolden thee for the work in hand."

"Nor sup nor drink will I taste till I have the maiden beside me," Sir Richard declared.

"Wait, ... I'll fetch her to thee," Zenas said, and thereupon went out of the room, muttering and laughing.

The young knight could hear his catlike footfalls, then, go limping up the stairs. Apprehending upon a sudden that the dwarf might be meditating some act of violence or harm, Sir Richard rushed to the door through which Zenas had made his exit. "Thy life, sir, shall answer for her safety," he shouted from the foot of the steps.

"Fear not, Sir Richard Daredevil," the hunchback called back from the landing above. "Fear not, I'll bring her to thee all safe enough."

Zenas's undisguised willingness to relinquish the maiden into his hands was very puzzling to304 Sir Richard. Though this perplexity presently gave way to a sense of delightful anticipation. At last, he mused, he was to see her; to hold her hand; to listen to the sweet accents of her voice. He could not control himself in quiet, and went to pacing to and fro across the floor in a fever of impatience.

Above stairs a scene was being enacted that, could he have been witness to it, would have proved highly interesting to the young knight. The half-maniacal hunchback respected and admired his brother, Sir James; he loved his brother's sweet daughter, Rocelia, but he feared and hated Isabel, whom he had never been able to intimidate or make to do his bidding. The maid was indeed possessed of a breezy temper, and upon many an occasion the hunchback had been made to feel the sting of her words. When he had discovered that she was secretly preparing for her departure, he had at once embraced the opportunity to avenge himself, causing her to be imprisoned in earnest. He had overheard her conversation with an emissary of the Renegade Duke, during which Isabel had given her word that she would come to Castle Yewe to join her305 champion. Isabel had a mind of her own, and a keen appreciation of the welfare of number one. She was, besides, a capital conspiratress, and had availed herself of every chance to acquaint herself with the true character and title of the one whom she had chosen for her champion. When she had grown familiar with Sir Richard's history, she had concluded that through him she might achieve deliverance from her monotonous life under the guardianship of her uncle, Sir James, and at the same time elevate herself to a higher plane within the social world, which were her chief ambitions. She had not been acute enough, however, to be aware that, in promising to go to Yewe, she was but falling into a trap set for her by the Renegade Duke. She still believed that the word was from the Earl of Warwick, by which title she always referred to Sir Richard within her mind.

The blaze of anger with which Isabel now greeted Zenas's advent into her presence subsided quickly when he told her who was waiting to see her below. She made short work of her preparations to depart, promising to do so secretly, and without stopping to bid her cousin or governess a farewell. As the hunchback was preceding306 her below he was exulting to himself over the circumstance that was to rid him of one of whom he was jealous and hated, and another whom he feared. He looked upon it as a happy stroke of fortune that had put it in his way to send them off together. He chuckled aloud as he thought of how cleverly he was cheating the young knight.

"I am yielding him the wrong maid," he said to himself; "the wrong maid. The saffron gown doth belong to Rocelia, by my faith!"

It seemed an age to Sir Richard before he heard again the hunchback's tread upon the stairs. Another step came to his straining ears, light and firm, with an accompaniment of gently rustling skirts.

What would his first words be? And what her whispered answer? He thought of the saffron patch above his eye and the unkempt growth of beard upon his chin. For but two minutes' service, a barber might have earned a handful of rose nobles.

Thereupon the door swung open. Without any apparent hesitation the maid, whom the young knight had always pictured as shy and307 prettily diffident, advanced into the ring of firelight. Like an abashed boy, he hung his head in an utter confusion. If a fortune had been laid at his feet he would have found himself powerless to look up into her waiting eyes. It seemed to him that the whole world should be pausing to view this meeting. Then his hands were caught within the grasp of soft fingers. "Richard, ... my faithful champion," a voice broke low upon the dead silence.

Sir Richard then looked up. His eyes fell upon a pair of firm, curved lips, a row of dazzling white teeth, a wonderful quantity of raven-black hair, shadowing beautifully marked brows and masterful, deep-gray eyes. His sight was too blurred to see altogether clearly, but he knew her to be comely and bewitching withal.

In despite of this, a sort of vague but exquisite melancholy fell upon his highly wrought spirits. It was as indefinable as a fevered dream, but it seemed to him to answer to the name of disappointment. He felt that he would have been more pleased had the maid displayed in her manner less of assurance and more of timidity and reserve.

308 Isabel began by busily removing the patch from Sir Richard's eye, assuring him of her genuine appreciation of his knightly conduct in so long having worn it. He did not tell her that it had been there but a day. Then, commanding Zenas to bring food and wine, which he did without a word of remonstrance, she set the table and bade Sir Richard to eat. When the hunchback went out of the room he told her of his meeting with the Douglas foot-boys.

"I divined that they were waiting," Isabel said. "But Zenas locked and barred the door and would not suffer me to come. It was full kind of you to send for me, Sir Richard."

"I? But 'twas not I who sent for thee, fair maid."

"Not you? There was a note signed with your name."

"'Twas written by Douglas, or the Renegade Duke then. An I could, I would have sent for thee, though​—​—"

"Isabel, Sir Richard; ... call me Isabel. 'Twas then but a trap to lure me within the power of the Duke. Well​—​we'll attend to him, once we come to Castle Yewe, Sir Richard."

309 "To Castle Yewe? It is the one place on earth from which I would remain away. We'll go not to Castle Yewe, Isabel," Sir Richard declared.

"But has not Douglas a plan on foot to set you high in power? And has not my uncle gone to him to effect a truce and a combining of forces? In truth, Sir Richard, will you go to Yewe?" Isabel insisted.

"I know not what plans they may have," said Sir Richard. "But, an there be such, it is all the more reason why I should get me safely away. I am come to detest this conspiracy business."

"Well​—​we'll have that out on the way," observed Isabel. "Come, let us be upon our journey before the band returns to thwart our going."

They accordingly set out soon, with the moon low and exceedingly bright upon the far horizon. Zenas had improvised a kind of pillion behind the young knight's saddle, and upon this Isabel took her seat.

"I wish thee a great joy of thy bargain, sir puppet knight!" the hunchback shouted shrilly after them as they started off. "And believe me," he added, "I am well and truly requited for the death of poor Demon."

310 "He would not dare to say thus, an I were but off this horse," declared Isabel angrily.

Sir Richard could not divine what the hunchback had meant to convey. He, therefore, made no reply, but looked back and remarked his squat, bent figure standing free upon the nethermost point of the brae against the moonlit sky. He reminded the young knight of a monstrous, black, and forbidding spider.

Not till they had reached within the cavernous depths of the forest did it occur to Sir Richard that he now had before him a long and hazardous journey to the coast, with, for companion, a maiden whom he had torn from the care of her lawful guardian. But he had pledged his knightly word, and apparently there was nothing now to do above seeking a priest, and carrying her with him as Mistress Rohan. He quarreled and fell out with himself because of his dearth of enthusiasm over the project.

"Richard, dear?" Isabel interrupted his thoughts, "is it not nearabouts that the Douglas foot-boys are posted?"

"Yea​—​in a glade upon our right hand. About here, I fancy," Sir Richard answered.

311 "Then stop instantly and summon them to us."

"Indeed, nay!" Sir Richard amazedly exclaimed. "I'm not again for running my head into a hornet's nest," he said, by way of borrowing de Claverlok's simile. "But," an inspiration dawning upon him, "do you wish to leave me and go on to Castle Yewe?"

"Without you​—​Richard?"

The manner of her reply sent a cold sweat to oozing at his every pore. He felt himself caught fair.

"Ho, boys!" Isabel suddenly shouted aloud, clapping her hands. "Draw rein, Richard," she commanded.

"Well, by the mass!" the young knight exclaimed. But he drew rein.

There was a great noise of stumbling horses, and the sharp crackling of breaking twigs, as the foot-boys hurriedly drew toward the road. When they had observed the young knight's companion, they were the most relieved and happy of youths. They immediately set about making Isabel comfortable upon the back of the housed palfrey, after which the march was begun, with the foot-boys singing merrily on before.

312 Harold rode back presently to announce that he knew of a cave something less than a league ahead where they could be rendered comfortable for the night. Both Thomas and he would do their best, the youth assured Sir Richard in extravagant terms, to have them a fresh hare, a crisp loaf of bread, and a sufficiency of sweet goat's milk wherewith to break their fasts in the morning. Already, the young knight thought, their journey was beginning to assume somewhat of the complexion of a wedding tour.

They then directed their course toward the cave; and by an ingenious arrangement of the tent, which Harold and Thomas were carrying with them, they contrived for Isabel a comfortable and perfectly secluded chamber within its depths.

While the foot-boys were engaged in building a roaring fire just outside the cavern's broad mouth, Isabel sat upon a boulder and engaged Sir Richard in an entertaining and animated conversation. It was the first opportunity he had enjoyed since their meeting of having a quiet look at her. As she talked, the young knight noted with a certain satisfaction the ever-changing expression313 of her fair and mobile countenance as the filmy veils of light and shadow played across it. "Certes," he yielded to himself, "she is beautiful. But 'tis beauty, methinks, of a rather dangerous and sirenlike kind."

When she was near ready to retire behind the curtain she held up a foot abounding in dainty, graceful curves.

"Unfasten me my boot, sir champion," she said archly.

They were alone, the foot-boys having disappeared within the forest to gather a fresh supply of hemlock twigs.

"Give thee a right good-night, Richard," said Isabel sweetly, when the boots were undone. She was becoming of a ravishing loveliness in the weird light of the flickering fire.

Sir Richard was blind to everything at that moment, saving his companion's captivating grace.

"Often have I bethought me of that kiss which you sped me through the wall," said he, catching and holding her hand. "No wall is there here now but one of darkness, ... and we are within."

She cast him one bewitching glance, raising her314 hand to his waiting lips. "Not till we are come within sight of Castle Yewe," said Isabel. "Then, brave champion of a maiden in distress, you shall have earned it."

Sir Richard realized all too soon, however, that his had been but a transitory fascination. The moment that Isabel was swallowed within the cave he felt the spell leaving him. So when Harold and Thomas returned with their burdens of fuel, he told them in a purposely lifted voice that he would help them to gather more. He laid down the law before the meek foot-boys once he had enticed them beyond earshot of the cave. They were free to give the lady safe conduct into Yewe, Sir Richard told them, but he was to make choice of the way. A signal for the right, one for the left, and another to indicate straight ahead he gave them. Beside every forking road or path they were instructed to seek his secret and peremptory command.

"Remember, boys, Sandufferin!" he added, by way of a parting shot. "And have a care that you fall not foul of old fox here," he concluded, tapping the hilt of his sword.

"Said I not 'twas the same that cut him down315 the great Sandufferin?" Sir Richard heard one of the foot-boys whisper, as he was falling into a pleasant forgetfulness of his many troubles beside the crackling blaze.

Agreeable with their sworn promises, the faithful foot-boys contrived to set before Sir Richard and Isabel an appetizing and ample meal. Somewhere within the forest they had come upon a spring, and had filled a deep hollow in the rocks with limpid water. Accordingly, when Isabel sat down to breakfast, she was looking as fresh and sparkling as any of the frost-covered fir trees growing round about.

All of that day they pushed steadily forward, halting but once to sup and drink within a herdsman's cottage. When the evening had fallen they were among the upland hills, and had journeyed a full two leagues beyond the Back Friar's Monastery.

They found shelter for that night in a wayside peasant's hut. Here Sir Richard enjoyed a long talk with Isabel, sitting alone with her by the chimney-side. He tried to win from her an elucidation of the mystery of the moving tavern, but she refused to gratify his curiosity. Whenever316 she chanced to discover that Sir Richard desired particularly a certain favor, always she would say, "Not till we are come within sight of Castle Yewe, ... then you shall have earned it."

She was leading the young knight a merry dance, with her "Richard, fetch me this," and "Richard, dear, fetch me that"; her "Are you certain that this is the nearest path to Castle Yewe?" When the young knight would grow sullen and demur against returning there, "How absurd of you, my brave champion," Isabel would say, "to set yourself against those whose only desire it is to put you where you rightfully belong!"

Scarcely an hour passed without seeing its quarrel between them, which inevitably ended by her riding close alongside her companion, taking his hand and wheedling him, willy-nilly, into the best of good humors. Her wonderful eyes during one moment would be flashing cold steel, and in the next would radiate the warmth and glory of a tropic sun. Isabel was, indeed, a most extraordinary young woman.

Within his mind Sir Richard had made a complete317 surrender to her continued importunings. He was staking his last hope of liberation from his uncomfortable, and that which he considered dangerous, position upon the slight chance of finding de Claverlok in the deserted hut. "An the good fellow happens not to be there," he thought, "why​—​I'll fare on and discover me the things that Lord Douglas has in waiting."

Sir Richard's system of secret signals to the foot-boys worked admirably, and quite as well as he could wish. By giving them the proper signs he was enabled to follow the path along which the Renegade Duke and he had so furiously ridden. He even remarked the patch of broken gorse and brambles that plainly marked his fall.

It was upon the afternoon of the third day of their journey that they turned into the sandy highway where the young knight had momentarily outwitted his pursuer. He recalled to his mind the image of de Claverlok's rugged, honest face set fantastically against the moon, as he had seen it upon that memorable night. Sir Richard was obliged to confess that his hope of discovering him at their appointed rendezvous318 was sinking in proportion with the nearness of his approach thereto.

At length, as they rode free of the forest through which a part of the road lay, he made out the little hut standing close beside a down something near a quarter of a league distant. There was a monk, on foot, moving in their direction along the highway. As the churchman drew nearer, Sir Richard noted that he was tallying his string of black beads and muttering over his open breviary.

Isabel, just then, rode close to his saddle.

"Richard," said she, "here now is our good priest."

The maiden had left Sir Richard in no possible doubt of her meaning.

A thought came to him, though it was not a happy one, for nothing, now, he fancied, could ever more be happy. Carrying out the thought, however, he called to the monk to halt and attend upon his words.

"Canst thou go with us, good father, into yonder hut?" he said. "We would have thy service at a simple service of wedding. See, ... my witnesses are riding hither, ...319 and I have papers bearing upon my knightly reputation."

"Right willingly would I do thee a service, sir knight, but not in that hut there," replied the monk, looking up at his questioner with eyes distended with fear. "I am but now come from there, ... the good Lord forgive him!"

"Forgive who? What is 't, goodman?" cried Sir Richard.

"There abides a great giant there.... Indeed, a tremendous man, ... ill with some diresome fever, or fiendish obsession. He made threat to slay me, an I but dared set foot within, bellowing fierce oaths the while from his pallet of rushes. He will die; ... yea, he will die, for he had the white drawn look of death upon his bearded face. I shrove him from the doorway​—​then came away. The Lord have mercy​—​—"

He got no further with the sentence within Sir Richard's hearing. Ignoring the road, the young knight went galloping in mighty bounds away over the gorse-grown meadow.


320

CHAPTER XX
OF HOW SIR RICHARD CAME TO THE SHEPHERD'S HUT, AND THE RETURN OF TYRRELL

It was not above a few swift winks of the eye till Sir Richard had flung himself from off the back of his frothing stallion and was within the hut's door.

"Dick!" exclaimed its solitary occupant, rising upon a lean elbow. "I'm damned, an it be not yourself, ... eh?" Then, sternly, as the young knight made toward the pallet of rushes whereupon he was outstretched: "Betake you out of this accursed place," he shouted. "Do you want to get you the sweating sickness?"

"An it had been the sweating sickness," said Sir Richard, advancing to the sick warrior's side and grasping his woefully thin hand, "I'd have found nothing here beyond a moldering corpse. This four years, de Claverlok, has the sweating sickness slept. 'Tis but some devastating fever brought with you from out of the dungeon in321 Castle Yewe. You'll get you well, man, I know it."

"Meseems I know it, too, Sir Dick," agreed the grizzled warrior weakly. "By the mass, 'tis the very first day I've had the courage to swear, ... eh! And a good monk for auditor, too. The Christian fellow shrove me through yon open door. A murrain upon you, Dick! and how is 't you're here? And after cutting me some ten stone of stout rope in my eye, ... Ingrate!"

After this good-natured outburst de Claverlok threw himself back upon the rush-mat, breathing heavily. Noting that his pallor had somewhat increased, Sir Richard begged him to remain quiet, the while he would recount his adventures since parting from him upon the runway of the tower. "God's sake! but there's a woman for you, ... a king-maker, Dick," he made a muttered comment, when the young knight gave him the story of Lady Anna. He went on with his tale, and had just come to that part of it where he had stumbled so unexpectedly upon the Red Tavern, when​—​—

"Richard!" a firm and musical voice called from outside; and then again, "Richard!"

322 "Wait. 'Tis the maid herself," said the young knight, going obediently to the door.

"My dearest friend on earth is in that hut, Isabel," he said, stepping to the side of her palfrey; "and sick well nigh to death. 'Twill be my duty and pleasure to remain by his side. When I have nursed him back to health, I shall be free. Until then, you must consent to await me in Castle Yewe. 'Tis not far, Isabel. But over the hills, there. You'll do this thing for me?"

"And a right pretty nurse you'd make," observed Isabel breezily, slipping at once from off the round back of her palfrey. "Why, Richard, my generous boy," said she, "you have sore trouble in looking after your own tangled affairs. An he be your friend, right gladly will I attend to the nursing of him myself. Happily, some experience have I had of such matters."

Then, in her usual masterful way, she bade the foot-boys strip the bags off her horse and started for the hut door. With more of admiration for the maid than Sir Richard had felt since their meeting, he followed her brisk steps through the door.

After that there was nothing left for him to323 do but run upon errands. It would be​—​"Richard, do you do so?" and "Richard, do you do thus?" "Richard, ride you to the nearest goodwife and fetch me a gourd of goat's milk," or a measure of stum, or whatever other toothsome thing it chanced to be. Sir Richard was soon thinking that his friend's lean body must have grown to be a receptacle for all of the dainties from the multitude of hills about them. Almost every hour of the day he might have been seen careering over their round summits.

The clever foot-boys made over the lean-to into a quite habitable dwelling, thatching its sides and top with dried grass from off the meadow. Within its shelter Sir Richard and Harold and Thomas ate, slept, and loitered away the time.

There was a quaint old Scots herdsman who used often to visit them, bringing with him upon every such occasion his bagpipes, whereupon he could play with an uncommon deftness. It was this same simple, good-hearted herdsman who had looked in on de Claverlok twice or three times every day while the warrior was alone during the interval of his sickness. Sir Richard324 tried in many ways to make him the richer, or rather the less poor, because of the timely succor he had brought his friend, but the old herdsman would have none of the young knight's nobles.

It seemed curious to Sir Richard that, among the countless gruesome legends and wild tales that Kimbuchie had ever ready at his tongue's end, there was the same one of the Red Tavern that he had heard so often repeated whilst riding with Belwiggar along the Sauchieburn Pass. Good Tammas would not have it that twice the young knight had been beneath its roof, and was yet there before him to tell the tale. "Awell, lad," he would say, "awell. I ken well thou'st a muckle lang tongue betwixt thy teeth, ... a muckle lang tongue."

Following the first two or three days of their arrival, there remained but little for Sir Richard to do within the sick knight's quarters. Isabel had both a keen eye and a right willing hand. By stretching the tent cloth across one side of the room she secured to herself a fair sized retiring room of her own. She appeared to take a positive delight in the task of transforming325 the rude and not over clean interior of the hut into a place that was neat, cozy, and altogether inviting.

Sir Richard began to wonder why, in such a pleasing environment, de Claverlok was not making a more rapid progress toward health. They had been there now nearly a fortnight, and he appeared to have gained but little, if anything, in the way of weight or strength. Indeed, after the first day or two the sick knight had fallen into an unusual and melancholy silence. Often Sir Richard would steal a glance at him through the window, and always he would see him idly plucking at his coverings, the while his big, hollow eyes would be bent upon every movement of his fair nurse.

"Richard!" Isabel called to him one morning while he was having breakfast in the lean-to. It was just past dawn, with the sun painting a rose-glory above the eastern hills. When the young knight went to her she was standing just outside the closed door of the hut. He remarked to himself how pale seemed her face in despite of the sun's warm reflection upon it.

"What is it, Isabel?" he inquired, feeling a326 vague apprehension as to the welfare of his friend.

"'Tis this, Richard," said Isabel gravely, "one of the foot-boys must you post me on to Bannockburn. Counsel him to bring instantly a leech, ... the best in the town. I would e'en send you, but you may be needed here."

"I pray you, Isabel, tell me not that he is worse."

"I fear me.... Ah! Much I fear me that you are soon to lose your friend," Isabel answered drearily.

In all haste Sir Richard filled Harold's wallet with coins and sent him clipping above the hills toward Bannockburn, whereupon he sat down upon a boulder, yielding himself to the gloomiest of reflections. He was staring, with chin buried deep in his hands, along the winding roadway. Upon a sudden, looming gaunt against the sky, he saw the familiar figure of the knight in black riding slowly over the hills. Hurrying to the opposite side of the hut, Sir Richard stood outside the window and signed Isabel to come out.

"Make haste; what is it? Your friend has but327 this moment begged to speak with you in private," said she, when she had joined the young knight outside.

"Tyrrell is approaching in this direction," said Sir Richard. "I saw him but now riding over the northern hill."

"Give thanks to God!" exclaimed Isabel with an earnest and deep fervor, clasping tightly together her white hands.

"Why, because that you shall now be discovered?"

"Nay; what care I for that, ... now! But because yonder tyrant," she hurriedly went on, leading Sir Richard to the side of the cabin whence Tyrrell could be seen, "is a cunning chymist, a famous physician, ... a student of Linacre. Go, join your friend, ... but have a care, excite him not. I'll await my uncle here."

For days Sir Richard had noted a change in Isabel's manner. Bit by bit she seemed to have grown more grave and thoughtful, and less breezily abrupt in her way of speaking. He had remarked the humility with which she obeyed de Claverlok's slightest wish. Upon this morning328 she had displayed a depth of feeling of which he had considered her quite incapable. In seeking out the reason as he was making his way into the hut, the answer dawned suddenly upon him. He understood.

"Well, my good friend de Claverlok," said he, with an attempt to be cheerful, as he came beside the sick man's bed. "Methought that by now you would be on horse and a-tilting."

"Hark thee, Dick," de Claverlok whispered. "I'll be a-tilting with the devil by to-morrow, ... eh!" whereupon he smiled, a wan, brave smile. Then, looking soberly up into the young knight's eyes​—​"Dick, ... friend, ... I have a confession to make ere I lay down my last lance," he said. "God's sake! To think that I should play the fool at my age, ... two score and four, come the seventeenth day of next month​—​" he paused for a space, drooping his dimmed eyes. "But to my confession: I meant no harm, ... God wot, my boy, and I intended not to do it, Dick; ... but I loved the maid with whom your troth is plighted from the moment her dainty foot stepped across yon sill.... I ask your forgiveness​—​—"

329 "De Claverlok, ... dear old friend, ... are you serious?"

"Serious, ... eh?"

"God of my fathers! Do you mean it?" Sir Richard fervently exclaimed. "An this be imperiling your precious life, take her, man, and let health return upon you."

Thereupon the grizzled knight discovered a strength wherewith to frown.

"'Tis most unseemly this, ... most unseemly, ... eh! And you, Dick, with your troth but fresh​—​—"

"De Claverlok," interrupted Sir Richard firmly, "no promises have passed. She thinks me but a silly youth​—​which is true.... I am. Isabel cares not a fig for me, nor, by my faith, do I for her! We shall never wed. Get you back inside your coat of mail and make her happy, for she loves you, my friend. I read it in her sad eyes but this moment gone."

"Say you truly, Dick? God's sake, boy, you​—​you, ... but when I get me inside my harness I'll have a lance at you, Dick, for saying somewhat against her."

Sir Richard pressed then the fevered hand330 that the sick man tried to lift within his. Whereupon de Claverlok smiled, and, sighing happily, seemed to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep.

When the young knight stepped lightly through the door he saw Tyrrell seated upon his horse, with Isabel pleading at his stirrup for him to dismount and wait upon the sick man.

"Attend upon my words, Sir Richard Rohan," Tyrrell said as the young knight drew beside them. "This ungrateful maid, having withdrawn herself by stealth from beneath the shelter of my roof, now desires me to succor a knight of whom she is enamored. Let her first take solemn oath, in thy presence, that she will not journey inside of Castle Yewe. Nor shall she, an she be carried there by force, make known my plans to Douglas. As to her inheritance: I have it safe invested, and will yield her warrant to have it delivered into her hands either in Glasgow or in London. Art thou witness to this?"

"Yea, Sir James, I am."

"Isabel Savoy," resumed Tyrrell, "do thou lift up thy right hand to Heaven and swear?"

She looked at the two men with big eyes,331 proudly, her lips firmly set. It was as though the victory was hers. She took the oath.

"And now, a word with thee, Sir Richard," grim Tyrrell said, turning toward the young knight. "The man stricken within is thy dearest friend, I have been told. Mayhap I can save him to thee; mayhap not. Everything of skill that I possess shall be used in his behalf, an thou wilt agree upon thy knightly word to return with me anon to the Red Tavern and listen there to some things that I have to say. Thy honest word, ... 'twill be sufficient?"

"I give it willingly," Sir Richard said.

"Then assist me to dismount.... I'm sorry, sore, and lame. Friend Douglas, suspecting something of my conniving at thy escape, Sir Richard, gave me a bit taste of the torture. Whereupon, learning nothing from my sealed lips, apologized, and set me free. He would have done for me for all, an he dared. Beshrew me, though, an I can see how thou art still abroad, with all of the Douglas forces searching so diligently for thee. Thy proximity to his citadel it must have been that hath saved thee."

Sir Richard remarked that he was looking exceedingly332 pale, seeming old and decrepit when compared with his sturdy appearance upon the day that he had shattered lances with him in the lists. The young knight helped him to dismount and led him, cursing at every step, to the door of the hut.

"I should have known," Tyrrell said to Sir Richard, upon joining him in the thatched lean-to about an hour later, "that faithful de Claverlok would be somewhere in thy vicinity. Prithee, and how is 't? Tell me, Sir Richard?"

"Suffer me first to hear news of my friend," said the young knight. "Thinkest thou that he will make a return to his old good health?"

"Methinks he is sore in love with the maiden, Isabel," Tyrrell answered, nodding his head and smiling grimly. "Well​—​'tis a most powerful stimulating nostrum. An I miss not my guess, he'll get him well."

Thereupon, with a right good heart, Sir Richard recounted to Tyrrell the story of his travels with de Claverlok.

"And dost tell me that he has been all of these days in thy company without divulging word of our plans, or of thy part therein?"

333 "Not one word​—​his knightly vow withheld his honest tongue. But I am certes ready to hear them now," declared Sir Richard.

"God wot, but there's a man to maintain his knightly vow! Though 'twould have been better had he broken faith and told thee of some things. So thou art ready to listen now, Sir Richard? Well, there's a good reason for thy desire to become acquainted with these mysterious haps. But, have patience yet a little time. Everything shalt thou know when we return to the tavern; ... everything, Sir Richard."

After that he sat for a long space, smiling, rubbing his hands together, and muttering to himself. Upon returning to himself, he commanded the foot-boy, Thomas, to bring him his saddle-bags. Taking from them many packages, herbs and powders, he called Isabel to him and instructed her as to the manner in which they should be administered. When he was done, she signed Sir Richard with her eyes to follow her outside.

"He will soon be well, Richard," she said, taking the young knight's hand. "And now, boy, you are free​—​and happy, too, I make no doubt.334 Ah! What hosts of enemies have my sharp tongue made for me! But I'll curb it now, Richard​—​I've found its master," she added, laughing lightly, and thereupon went tripping through the cabin door.


335

CHAPTER XXI
OF HOW SIR RICHARD LISTENED TO A STORY IN THE FOREST

When Sir Richard came again into the outer hut Tyrrell was setting a pot to boil upon the fire. As he bent above the red blaze, dropping pinches of various herbs within the kettle the while he peered closely, from time to time, into the open pages of a book lying beside him upon a stool, he minded the young knight of a black wizard, engaged in weaving some unholy incantation.

"Bear me company over the hills, Sir Richard," he said presently, setting the now steaming pot upon the ground. "We must procure us another herb to complete the nostrum. I' faith, and what a smell is here!" he added, taking up a staff and starting, lame and halting, for the door. "But 'tis as efficacious to the body, withal, as the odor is displeasing to the nostrils."

336 Sir Richard noted Tyrrell's strange demeanor as they moved slowly from hillock to hillock. When his keen eyes were not bent upon the earth, they would be regarding him with an intent and somewhat of an inquiring glance.

Times he would kick aside a plant, stoop with a painful deliberation, and convey a fragment of its root or leaf to his lips. If it happened to be of the kind of which he was in search, he would unearth it with the point of his mailed foot and continue upon his way. Though by now he was carrying a considerable quantity of the herbs, he was making no move to return. Several times he appeared upon the point of speaking, but always his glance would fall swiftly from that of his companion and engage the ground at his feet. In this silent manner they drew, at length, within the shadows of the wood.

"A strange foreboding of some direful happening doth rest heavily upon my mind," he said then. "Our grasp on life is indeed a slender thing, and easily broken. Mayhap 'twould be the better part of wisdom to say some things to thee here ... and now." He paused, measuring the young knight carefully with his eye.

337 "Dost know, Sir Richard," he said then, after somewhat of an impulsive manner, as he went stirring about with his staff among the fallen leaves, "that in history I shall ever be written down as a base and cowardly murderer? Thou hast belike heard the dismal story of the boy princes in the Tower?"

"In very truth, I have," Sir Richard made answer.

"'Tis known of the whole world, I doubt not," he gloomily pursued. "And yet ... and yet, I was but plotting ... plotting deeply, daringly ... to save their precious lives. Hark ye, Sir Richard ... and mark thee well that which I am about to say. An it were not for a fiendish knave, called Forrest,​—​upon whom God's direst curse rest!​—​they had been both saved to England.

"Forrest, learning of the command laid upon me by King Richard foully to murder both his nephews whilst they did sleep, procured quittance of the keys from Brakenbury and smothered the younger prince before I rushed, with Dighton, my groom, into the Tower room. Commanding my faithful servant to put pillow lightly above338 the mouth of the living prince, the Duke of York, I bade Forrest instantly to carry tidings of their death to the bloodless rooting hog, who was gnawing his nails and awaiting news in the palace. With Forrest safe dispatched to the King, we hastily garbed the prince in kirtles, thus giving him the semblance of a young maid. My men were waiting by the side of the Tower gate ... they brought him safe to Scotland."

"But​—​—"

"Nay ... prithee, listen!" he said, seating himself upon a lightning-riven log, whilst Sir Richard took stand against its splintered, upright trunk. "The royal youth was fair-haired, pale and sickly. All my cunning arts were impotent to stay the implacable hand of death. Thus, Sir Knight, did the young Duke pass into oblivion ... beneath my very roof, and here in bleak Scotland. I durst not even acclaim his passing; but laid him, then, within an unmarked, though not an unmourned, grave. Slowly, stealthily, but surely, I had been massing a power behind him that would have swept him straight upon England's throne. Upon either coast, Sir Richard, this power is still augmenting. Ships339 speed me soldiers from France and Spain upon the east, and from Holland and Italy upon the west." He paused for a space, then,​—​"Dost find my tale interesting?" he asked.

"Above any I have ever heard," Sir Richard told him.

"And what wouldst thou say," he resumed, raising his hand impressively, "an I swore to thee that I had found a brave-hearted and goodly youth whose right to a seat upon the throne of England took precedence over that of the usurper now sitting there? A tyrant ... who gave warrant of death into the hands of his God-brother, and laid command upon him to deliver it upon that brother's executioner ... what wouldst thou say​—​Sir Richard Rohan, Earl of Warwick, son of Edward, Duke of Clarence?"

Sir Richard felt as though the meshes of a far-spread net were dropping down about him.

"I cannot say.... Even I cannot think!" he cried, burying his face in his arms.

"Thou art but a brave-hearted, artless youth, Sir Richard ... Sire. Enough hast thou heard to-day to turn the head of Csar. Think upon what I have said ... upon what I have yet to340 say ... and make answer at thy calmer leisure," said Tyrrell in a manner of voice dignified, pacific, kind. Then, reaching across, he grasped the young knight's arm and drew him to a seat beside him upon the fallen log.

"Once Lord Douglas," he then resumed, "was sworn ally of mine; but a craven traitor, whom we now know to be the Renegade Duke of Buckingham, carried tidings of the prince's death and my untoward interest in thy welfare into Castle Yewe. Twice since thy coming have the Douglas forces given me battle.... And yet, without the warrants, he cannot be acquainted with thy true identity ... 'tis passing​—​—"

"But I had duplicates of the warrants," Sir Richard said to him; "the which you may be sure I made haste to deliver."

"Duplicates!"

"Sewn within my doublet​—​they were passed over in thy search."

"God in Heaven absolve me for this inadvertence!" roared Tyrrell, getting to his feet, and, in seeming forgetfulness of his infirmities, strode furiously back and forth above the brown and crackling leaves. "Much, indeed, is now made341 plain to me. Yet ... after losing his hold of him," he went on, communing with himself, "why did Douglas so stoutly maintain his position ... there remains no other claimant ... 'tis passing strange​—​passing strange!"

For some time thereafter he continued setting restless footfalls amidst the carpet of dead leaves, clenching his hands and biting his thin lips.

Upon a sudden Sir Richard recalled the circumstance of the fair-haired youth imprisoned in Castle Yewe.

"Mayhap I can lesson thee of some things, Sir James," he volunteered.

"Then thou wilt discover in me a right willing listener," said Tyrrell, seating himself again upon the riven log.

So, briefly as might be, and clearly as he could compass it, Sir Richard related the story of the secret passageway and of Lady Douglas' daily teaching of the imprisoned youth.

"Ah! what monstrous iniquity!" Tyrrell cried when his companion had finished, thrusting his staff deep into the black mould. "Now is everything made transparent ... as plain as the haps342 of yesterday! So false Douglas would impose him a counterfeit prince upon the credulous people of England? Marry! marry! to what depths of dishonor doth self ambition lead us! But what saidst thou was this youth's name, Sir Richard?"

"Perkin Warbeck."

"I' faith I know it not. Some yeoman's son, forsooth. Poor boy! an he follow this adventure to its end, he'll be gazing upon his body from another view-point than atop his shoulders. But more upon this same subject when we are come into the Tavern. Let all of that which has been said to thee to-day assimilate perfectly with thy understanding. Papers shall be laid before thee in substantiation of all my statements."

Stooping, Tyrrell took up the herbs which he had gathered by the way.

"Let us now return and finish the brewing of good de Claverlok's nostrum," he said.


343

CHAPTER XXII
OF HOW ONCE MORE THE YOUNG KNIGHT JOURNEYED SOUTHWARD

Tyrrell appeared singularly nervous and distraught; and, after having finished with the brewing of the nostrum, was for setting out immediately upon his journey with Sir Richard to the tavern. But the young knight remained firm in his determination not to leave de Claverlok till he was well assured of his ultimate recovery. His great, sinewy frame had been sore racked with fever, Tyrrell told him, and it would be many weeks ere de Claverlok could be expected to regain his usual health.

It was late in the evening when the foot-boy, Harold, returned from Bannockburn with a doctor. This good man was a fat, bulbous-faced person, wearing a flamboyant badge in the shape of an enormous wart directly upon the tip of his344 nose. He arrived with a tremendous fuss and bustle, wheezing so that he was to be heard in every corner of the place. He subsided upon the instant, however, when he learned that he was expected to consult with a student of the eminent Linacre.

Soon he came out to take sup with Tyrrell and Sir Richard in their little hut. When the young knight made haste to inquire as to what case his friend was in:

"It doth mightily please me," answered the fat doctor from Bannockburn, "to agree with his worshipful lordship inside ... ahem! I may e'en say that mine own opinions were exactly one with his ... and him, sir knight, a celebrated student and co-worker with the famous Thomas Linacre, of London; who, as thou dost probably know, doth entertain many a cunning precept somewhat at variance from the accepted standards of the older ... and ... well​—​schools ... ahem! Yet did his worshipful lordship do me the distinguished honor to inform me that my humble ... er ... prognosis was infinitely similar, if not somewhat superior, withal,​—​an thou'lt permit me to say thus​—​to that which345 would have been arrived upon by a great many ... er ... practitioners and chymists of ... ahem! ... London."

"Gramercy for thy learned opinion," said Sir Richard winking above the doctor's bald head at the foot-boys. "So! thou'rt of opinion that the good knight will surely recover?"

"Ah! assuredly will he. Though in cases of this kind, where the ... ahem!​—​alimentary passages have become somewhat flabby ... yes ... flabby, I may say, from long disuse (Sir Richard thought of all his scourings over the hills for goats-milk, goodies, and wine!)​—​there may follow, anon, a more or less ... ahem!​—​more or less, I say, violent inflammation of the ... er ... esophagus; which, if not immediately allayed​—​but, by the mass, and what a delicious odor is that!"

Harold, just then, had happily uncovered the simmering kettle.

"Yes," said Sir Richard, "art hungry, good doctor?"

"In sooth, an I be not, sir knight, thou mayst call me a fustian shove-groat shilling! marry! marry! and were not such a ride as I've had to-346day full fatiguing to a gentleman of my avoirdupois?"

Well, after contemplating the widespread devastation which the amiable doctor wrought upon the viands set before him, right willingly would anyone have yielded to him the palm of gluttony​—​though it must be said of Sir Richard that his own appetite was something not below the average. And how the man could drink, too! It seemed to Sir Richard that he would never have done with pouring their hard-fetched wine into his gullet. He might appropriately have been girded with iron hoops and set aside as a filled hogshead when the last drop trickled within his vast interior. A flabby esophagus could never have been attributed to the good doctor, withal.

But he warmed up famously under the wine's genial influence, and regaled his hosts throughout the evening with many a merry tale. Sir Richard misliked him not at all; and, before the good doctor set up his thunderous snoring before the pleasing warmth of the blaze, the young knight had secured his promise to remain with de Claverlok till he was safe on the road to health. It may be said further, too, that he was a gainer347 of the half of Sir Richard's remaining nobles because of the bargain.

The young knight passed a sleepless night, interspersed with fanciful dreams wrought around the circumstance of his new-discovered ancestry. He seemed to be always alone and lonely, sitting upon a lofty eminence, with a ray of dazzling white light, ever broadening, sweeping from where he sat into illimitable space. The vast area thus brilliantly illumined ever seemed peopled with a countless multitude of kneeling beings; reminding him of the glimmering sun of evening lying softly upon the woolly backs of innumerable sheep.

It chanced that Sir Richard was the last member of their little company to be abroad the next morning, and when he came out into the sunshine Harold and Thomas, who had been whispering together, dropped in concert to their knees. Then Sir James Tyrrell, now more than ever bent and gray looking, drew toward him, limping around the corner of the sick knight's hut. He bowed to Sir Richard after a grave and courtly fashion, and, when the young knight extended his hand, saluted it deferentially with his lips. Not348 anyone could have been more abject in his obsequiousness than the fat doctor from Bannockburn. He begged Sir Richard but to lay some command upon him so that he might give proof of his devotion to his cause and person. To the young knight it seemed to be the beginning of the fulfillment of his visions. Only good de Claverlok and unconquerable Isabel remained the same; the which resulted in Sir Richard deriving the greater pleasure from their companionship.

All of the while it was to be remarked that shrewd Tyrrell's eyes bent close upon Sir Richard's every action. By reaching out to him a taste of sovereignty, he felt that he was tempting him to desire it in a greater portion.

Sir Richard divined that it was to be a silent duel between them; and he was bound to confess to himself that he was already becoming conscious of the tightening of the net about him. He was becoming fearful that the master politician might win.

It was like a transitory release from the clutch of an unseen, iron hand to get within the larger hut and enjoy a talk with de Claverlok and Isabel.349 Though still pitifully weak, it was clearly to be seen that Sir Richard's faithful friend and squire was now leaving his illness behind him.

"Think well and deeply, boy, before deciding upon thy course," he advised Sir Richard when he arose to take leave of him. "'Tis no small thing to hurl a great power at a sleeping, peaceful nation; thereby to embroil it in bloody strife and dissensions ... eh. But, once thy path be laid, follow it without halt or deviation to the end. Thus let me say," he added, taking the young knight's hand, "'twill be a right brave day for England when thy consent be won to sit upon her throne."

"But, whatever I do, de Claverlok, and whereever I go," Sir Richard said, "your own good self shall sure be with me."

"Within this very hovel, Sir Richard, we will await thy further command," he replied.

"Sir Richard!" Isabel called to the young knight as he was about to step to the door. "Take this bit packet," she said, handing him the smallest of parcels. "Guard it next thy heart till thou hast reached into the Forest of Lammermuir​—​then, thou mayst open it. But remember,350 boy, not before! And now," she added, standing a-tiptoe, "I'll kiss thee a good-bye ... one for myself​—​one for Lionel. Thou art a brave, good youth, Sir Richard."

There were tears in the young knight's eyes when he stepped outside the hut ready to start with Tyrrell, who was on horse and waiting, upon their journey.

Sir Richard was surprised to discover that Harold's jennet was trapped and standing beside his saddled stallion. When he inquired what it meant, the foot-boy went on his knees before him and besought the young knight to permit him to become his lowly squire. When Sir Richard inquired of him what Thomas intended doing, the foot-boy informed him that his mate had sought a like service with de Claverlok.

"Then get off your knees," Sir Richard told him, "and come along; or, by the mass! I'll have the broad of my sword this moment at your hinder quarters."

Whereupon they mounted and started for the road. Sir Richard looked several times over his shoulder-piece; and always his backward glance would be met by a waving of Isabel's lace scarf351 in the doorway, and two profound bows from in front of the smaller hut. 'Twas a sight well worth seeing​—​that awkward curtsy of the fat doctor from Bannockburn.

They were perforce obliged to travel slowly, as Tyrrell's infirmities seemed fast growing upon him. From the drawn and haggard look of his thin countenance it could plainly be seen that he was in constant and extreme pain. Moreover, Sir Richard noted that by now he had ceased attributing his sufferings to the tortures to which he had been put in Castle Yewe. Times he would be seized with a fit of coughing of so violent a nature that Sir Richard bethought him it might well have shattered his very insides.

Then, for the space of two days, a most unpleasant transition of weathers set in upon them, marked by incessant and dense fogs, heavy rains and sharp, driving flurries of snow. So alarmingly was Tyrrell's sickness increasing that upon the morning of the fourth day, it appeared impossible that he would have sufficient strength longer to sit horse. Sir Richard begged him to stay within the herdsman's cottage, where they had stopped for the night, till he had ridden352 ahead to summon help. But Tyrrell stubbornly refused to listen to the young knight's entreaties.

That day had broken bright, was almost balmy, and brilliantly clear, the gray storm-pall having rolled seaward during the night.

"'Twill be a salve to my sore lungs, sire ... this blessed warmth," Tyrrell said to Sir Richard, lifting his nose into the thin air as he tottered upon the young knight's arm toward his waiting barb.

With Harold's assistance Sir Richard contrived to seat Tyrrell upon his horse; though it was no easy task, all encumbered as he was in the heaviest of armor.

"Put hand upon my shoulder, man," Sir Richard said to him after they had started, riding close to his side.

"Without aid have I come through life ... alone I'll sit till I fall ... sire," Tyrrell answered gloomily.

"An you call me king rightfully," said Sir Richard sternly, "put hand on my shoulder ... 'tis a command!"

Tyrrell turned upon the young knight a wan smile and then capitulated.

353 "Now thou art becoming an apt pupil ... sire," he answered in a whisper.

By now they were riding along a part of the Sauchieburn Pass with which Sir Richard was not familiar. It was that portion stretching northward from the point where he had left it to give battle with the Renegade Duke. The country here was more thickly populated than any through which they had passed. Drawing upon a high eminence, the three travelers could see the smoke from many chimney-tops curling above the downs. Away to the left was a cluster of cottages, surmounted by the steeple of a church. A good two leagues ahead could be distinguished that which appeared to be an inn standing alone against the roadside.

Like a yellow and much broken ribbon the highway fell away from their feet, threading in wide, sweeping curves along the narrow, winding valley. Upon this roadway, and appearing and disappearing with it around the bases of the hills, a company of armed horsemen was riding.

For some time the weight of Tyrrell's body had been bearing momentarily more heavily against that of Sir Richard. It could be noted354 that his eyes had lost a great measure of their accustomed brilliancy, and that his breaths were coming thick and painfully labored. Sir Richard leaned toward him and told him of the approaching horsemen.

"Canst decipher the colors beneath which they ride?" Tyrrell asked weakly.

"Methinks I can but just make me out a device in sable upon a field gules. The banners do so flutter in the wind," Sir Richard added, "that I cannot guess its form."

"Sable upon gules," Tyrrell whispered, without raising his head. "They are thine own good men ... sire."

As they drew within easy distance Sir Richard recognized them to be a part of the company of knights who had bivouaced around the pavilion of purple and black. When the approaching company made out who the three horsemen were they set up a great shouting, driving down upon them with waving swords and lances. They grew quiet upon the instant, however, when they observed that their leader, Sir James Tyrrell, lifted not his head, and bore in around him with grave and apprehensive faces.

355 Suddenly, then, and with a supreme effort of will, Tyrrell straightened his tall, gaunt form upon his saddle, scowling meanwhile with deep-knitted brows upon the circle of grim warriors gathered about him. Sir Richard noted still the pitiful half-haze upon his eyes.

"Knights," he cried, in a deep and penetrating voice; "I have kept my vows to thee. Here, now, I bring thee thy leader​—​Sir Richard Rohan, Earl of Warwick; Son of Edward, Duke of Clarence"​—​he swayed so it seemed that he must surely fall. Then, raising himself with that which seemed to be a superhuman effort high upon his stirrups: "I acclaim this young knight, before all the world, King Richard IV!" he shouted, and pitched forward, inert, insensible, into the arms of one of his men.

Right tenderly did they bear him down the hill till they came to the tavern which Sir Richard had glimpsed from the promontory but a short while gone.

"'Tis an inflammation of the pleura," he whispered to Sir Richard when the young knight was standing beside his bed within a small room of the tavern. "'Tis a dangerous sickness ... God356 wot, an I may or may not survive, sire, to witness the fruition of all my labors. But the torch is now ready trimmed, awaiting but the application of the spark. Grant me the boon of thy promise to continue on thy journey to the Red Tavern. Lord Bishop Kennedy shall soon seek thee there. In him thou canst repose the utmost confidence; I yield thee into his hands. Give thee adieu, sire," he whispered, saluting Sir Richard's outstretched hand with his feverish lips.

The dim passageway outside the small room in which Tyrrell had been disposed was filled with the low humming of voices, a subdued sound of clanking swords and the pale gleamings of points of light on polished armor. As Sir Richard stepped through the door, these solemn-visaged knights moved silently against the wall and balustrade, thus opening him an avenue down the stairs. They made him obeisance, one by one, as he passed between; each whispering him a princely name and title, the which sang loud in the young knight's ears of the fame of many valorous deeds long since set down in history.

A round dozen of them followed him upon the highway, intending to give him safe conduct to357 his destination. Experiencing an intense longing to be alone, however, Sir Richard summoned courage to decline their proffered services, and thereupon set his stallion's head again toward the Red Tavern with none but Harold in his train.


358

CHAPTER XXIII
OF A VISION IN THE FOREST OF LAMMERMUIR

Now that he was no longer moving under the masterful influence of Tyrrell, Sir Richard began to feel brave to throw aside the honors that had been peremptorily thrust upon him. After the manner of an ill-wrought suit of armor, they were galling and wearing upon his unwilling shoulders.

Being innately modest and not desiring fame or power, Sir Richard had always shirked positions in which any obligation of assuming the initiative was concerned; and certainly now he felt no desire to leap at once to the very pinnacle of such positions. Contrariwise, he felt a deep and genuine yearning to be once again, to himself and those about him, just plain Sir Richard Rohan, knight, free lance, and good fellow welcome met to all of his friends. He was moved359 by no impulse to seek revenge upon King Henry. "For," he argued with himself, "the King did but attempt to do the thing which I, were I in his place, would have been deficient of the courage to do; to render my sovereignty unassailable. An such a momentous matter be at stake, of what slight consequence becomes a life more, or a life less? and if, forsooth, it chanced to be the life of a friend ... well, so much the worse for the friend."

It never dawned upon Sir Richard in his youthful exuberance to consider that there were two questions involved: the one of claiming the throne, and the other of securing a seat thereon. His belief was genuine that the fate of a great empire was suspended upon the slender thread of his choice.

As to his breaking faith with Tyrrell and stealing away without first journeying to the Red Tavern, he did not consider that for a moment.

Overburdened with a sense of the grave responsibility thus imposed upon him, he rode straight through the Forest of Lammermuir without once thinking to open the parcel that Isabel had given into his hand. Had this not been360 so, Sir Richard would doubtless have suspected a circumstance that was soon to burst upon him in the nature of a wonderful surprise.

The Red Tavern, which, upon each previous occasion when Sir Richard had approached it, had appeared so forbiddingly lonely, was now become a veritable hive of buzzing industry. It was early evening when the young knight arrived there; and, in the obscure twilight, he could just make out the shadowy outlines of many horses tethered to the trees upon both sides of the pass. Scores of blazing, smoking torches set upright into the ground shed a weird illumination over this scene of strange activity.

Guards were stationed closely round about. "Richard Rohan, knight ... and squire," the young knight passed word to a pair of them who halted and challenged him. Plainly he could hear, then, his name passed swiftly forward from lip to lip. When he rode within the circle of yellow light and dismounted before the door above which swung the sign of the vulture, his coming was greeted by an uproarious cheering, in the midst of which he could distinguish loud cries of "Long live King Richard IV!"

361 Lord Bishop Kennedy was even then awaiting the young knight's arrival, welcoming him after a courteous, formal and dignified fashion. The Lord Bishop laid command upon one of his lieutenants; after which, in almost the flutter of an eyelid, the noise of talking hushed, the lighted torches vanished, and, when the dwindling sound of hoofbeats had died away, the tavern resumed its wonted somber and solitary aspect.

Zenas spread table in the cozy warmth of the chimney-side, where Bishop Kennedy and Sir Richard took sup and drink together. Since his first sight of the tavern the young knight had invested it within his mind with an atmosphere of dark lugubriousness; thus was his surprise all the more great when, upon Zenas clearing table, the dessert was borne in by a silvery-haired woman of a most refined and motherly air, whom Lord Kennedy introduced as grandam Sutherland.

"It doth astonish me," said Lord Kennedy, when she had gone from the room, "how the good grandam hath preserved her sweetness of temper throughout all these years of turmoil and dangers. It was the saddest of haps to her when362 the young prince died​—​she was like the gentlest of mothers to him withal."

"And the young maiden must e'en have been a sore burdensome care," Sir Richard suggested.

"Why," quoth Lord Kennedy, "she, sire, is the most noble, amiable, and pretty-mannered of all young maidens I have ever known."

It was the first scintilla of emotion Sir Richard had observed displayed by Bishop Kennedy. His championship certainly appeared genuine. The young knight gathered that the goodman was not particularly well acquainted with her volatile tempers. He bethought him also that it would ill become him to speak belittlingly of one who, by now, was doubtless become his dearest friend's wife. He made shift, therefore, to take up another subject, and one that for long had been a sore weight upon his mind.

"My lord," said he; "an thou wouldst consent to enlighten my understanding of the mysteries surrounding this tavern wherein we sit, I would consider it right kind of thee."

"In respect of what, sire?" he asked, between sippings of his wine.

"An it be not a fantasy," said Sir Richard,363 "when I first tarried beneath its roof it was surely three days' journey removed from where it now stands."

Bishop Kennedy answered not by word of mouth, but, clapping together his hands, summoned Zenas and bade him to fetch them a lighted torch. Then, leading the way through the rear door, he depressed the blazing rush-light till it revealed a great hole in that which had appeared to be a solid foundation of stone. Its rays discovered to Sir Richard a pair of broad and heavy wheels set firmly beneath the tavern sill.

"Let these clear away that mystery, sire," Kennedy said. "There are seven more similarly disposed beneath the building, which is parlous lightly set up. By the dual aid of long, dark nights, and a multitude of tugging horses, the Red Tavern became soon a weird and haunted thing; moving magically from place to place, discussed in lowered whispers by the yeomanry, and shunned by passing wayfarers. Thus, not alone was the lamented prince afforded a safe asylum, comparatively free from the dangers of discovery, but we were provided as well with a meeting364 place for the captains of our gathering hosts. It has served right happily its purpose, sire; and I would that my life had been as useful to those about me. Now its work is done. Eftsoons its blazing timbers shall proclaim a new light to a tyrant-darkened people."

After that he took his leave to join the army, which was stationed some nine miles to the eastward upon the shores of the sea.

By now the moon, a pallid disc, was sailing high in the greenish-blue heavens. Feeling the need of an hour or two of solitude wherein to meditate upon the wonders by which Sir Richard discovered himself to be surrounded, and, if possible, to reconcile his vacillating mind with the new complexion which the face of the world had turned upon him, he gathered his cloak about his shoulders and walked alone into the forest. Once there, he laid himself down upon the soft, dry carpet of pine needles, and resigned his thoughts to the ineffable delights of fantastical castle-building.

How long Sir Richard lay thus, with his face upturned to the sky, he had no means of knowing. It seemed that his eyes began playing a365 kind of game with the interwoven branches of the trees and the moon. Then he fell into a sort of doze, where everything withdrew into a haze of oblivion till the moment he became suddenly conscious that his ears were being ravished by the strains of a charming melody. For quite a space he remained like one dreaming; passively drinking in each sweet, pure and quivering note. He was dimly aware that this same glorious voice had been for days and days singing its wonderful song of love to him.

Then, like a flashing of intense light, it came upon Sir Richard that this was the voice which he had heard steal out upon the night at the moment when Tyrrell, Zenas, and he were burying the dead hound.

Cautiously getting to his feet, and dodging warily from tree to tree, he made his way in the direction whence the voice seemed to be coming.

As he ever after regarded it, all of the adventures through which he had passed, and which are here set down, were but the prelude to the vision of fair loveliness which suddenly presented itself to his dazzled eyes.

With her arm linked within that of the silvery-366haired old lady, she was walking slowly along the forest road, her head uplifted in song. It seemed to Sir Richard that the soft moonlight enveloped her lovingly, imparting to her wondrous beauty an essence of unreality. The golden nimbus encompassing her head added immeasurably to the impression that he was but gazing upon an ephemeral picture,​—​fairy-painted​—​the which must become soon a floating radiance above the roadway and then blend insensibly with the air before his captive eyes.

Silently the young knight stood there, with the better part of him going out to vie with the silvery moonbeams in tenderly caressing her. That grosser portion of him stationed beneath the tree remained, as though hewn in stone and clutching deep into the rough bark, till the maiden turned to retrace her way into the tavern. When she had gone he rushed madly back, stealing furtively to the rear of the building, and tremblingly tore open the covering of Isabel's packet.

In it was the cutting of saffron velvet.

Then, impatiently biding his time till they should again draw nigh, he sauntered around367 the corner of the building with his gaze fastened upon the moon. He could have made oath that he saw, first, a dozen of them, and then none at all.

"Give thee a fair good-night, dame Sutherland," Sir Richard said in an agitated voice, "art thou, too, enjoying the moon?"

The grandam dropped him a pretty curtsy, the while the other stood with drooping and averted head.

"Thank thee much, sire; I am," the old lady gave him answer.

"'Tis a bonnie night, i' faith."

"Yes, sire, 'tis," curtsying again.

"And the moon​—​'tis extraordinary bright?"

"Yes, sire, 'tis," curtsying once more.

"I trust the ... young lady​—​may not suffer an indisposition from the dank airs?"

"We have grown accustomed, sire," with another curtsy.

Sir Richard noted for the first time that the aged grandam's head, as well as that of her beautiful young companion, was uncovered.

"Yet ... 'tis parlous dank," said he, edging between them and the door.

368 "I have the honor to present to thy august notice, sire, my beloved granddaughter​—​Rocelia Tyrrell," dame Sutherland yielded.

Sir Richard knew not what he answered. He took her hand, he remembered afterward, turned instantly light-headed, and made out to salute it rather awkwardly with his lips.

When the young knight came to himself he was intently watching the door through which Rocelia had disappeared.

"I wonder whether her robe was of a color saffron?" he kept mentally repeating over and over again.


369

CHAPTER XXIV
OF HOW SIR RICHARD PLAYED THE KING IN HIS LITTLE KINGDOM

Sir Richard broke his fast in the main room below, sitting by the fire in the broad chimney. He concluded that the chamber to which he had been assigned upon the first night of his visit to the Red Tavern was now surrendered to the uses of the ladies; it being the only one, so far as he could see, that could boast of a coating of mortar. The walls of the remaining rooms abounded in cracks and crannies, the which admitted the chill blasts in discomforting volumes. To the weary young knight, the roaring blaze by the table's side was a most agreeable accompaniment to a very excellent repast. Often afterward it recurred to Sir Richard that he ate during that day because of an habitual predilection to line his inwards. In solemn truth, however, the wine set before him seemed without hint of zest or bouquet, and370 the toothsome viands provided by Zenas might as well have been so much sawdust for all the taste that Sir Richard got out of them withal.

With the sun drawing toward the zenith, the earth warmed into a semblance of balminess, and the young knight loitered about outside in the hope that Rocelia would walk out presently to take the air. It entered Sir Richard's whirling head that the hunchback had divined the cause of his excessive restlessness; the which the impetuous young knight resented by soundly tongue-lashing the fellow. He scarce answered Sir Richard a word, but received his acrimonious outburst with queer leers, and winks, and knowing smiles. The young knight was fair tempted to take the flat of his sword to him.

"I fear me much that Isabel has soured thy accustomed sweet temper ... sire," Zenas said, with an intonation that was unmistakably satirical. The young knight noted that this was the first occasion upon which the crook-back had actually avowed him sovereign.

"Ah! and right willingly would I play the king," Sir Richard thought, "an I could but wield empire over one dear subject. And why371 not, forsooth?" his ruminations carried him along. "By'r Lady! who's to prevent me from asserting my sovereignty by commanding this young woman to be summoned into my presence?"

It was as Sir Richard was striding toward the tavern door to carry out his mad project that he glimpsed Rocelia through an upper window. She looked out upon him, inclining her head and smiling. Deferentially Sir Richard doffed his helm, his courage vanishing from him like rime on a mid-August day. The young knight noted that she was wearing a gown of saffron velvet.

Then, quickly entering the tavern, Sir Richard commanded Zenas to fetch him ink, paper and a quill. "Henceforth," said he to himself, "I'll surely play the king; and here shall be my kingdom." But he made up his mind to temper his rule in the meantime with somewhat of diplomacy and cunning.

"Summon Harold hither," said he to the hunchback; "I'll have speech of him."

Directing the note which he then wrote jointly to dame Sutherland and Rocelia, he gave it into the foot-boy's hands and bade him to deliver it372 at their door. Then, going outside, he directed the groom to trap his stallion; whereupon he started swiftly northward along the forest road. Glancing backward as he swept around the point of the brae, Sir Richard was pleased to discover both of the ladies at the window waving him their adieux.

It was well along in the afternoon when the young knight arrived at the inn where Tyrrell was lying. Stretching east and west from the little building were long, double lines of white tents. The inn-keeper had established him a tap-room in the stable, the which was crowded with boisterous, brawling soldiers. It reminded Sir Richard of another Babel, so varied were their manners of speech.

Within the tavern, however, all was orderly and quiet, with a strong reek of medicines in every corner. For long the young knight seated himself by Tyrrell's bed, the while Sir James stormed and raved in a frightful delirium of fever; cursing King Richard III.; describing the horrible tortures to which his brother had been put; condemning Henry for a base usurper, and railing against Douglas and his traitorous defection.373 It must have been a full hour before his mind merged into a brief period of calm sanity. Coolly then he counted the pulsings of his heart, whereupon he told the young knight that he was sore feeble. "'Twill be a week at least," he said, "ere the fever shall have run its course. If I am alive after that, perchance I might come safely through." He looked at the young knight askance when Sir Richard spoke to him of Rocelia, but gave him a word of cheer to deliver to her. The young knight remained by Tyrrell's side till again the fever gripped him; then took his way downstairs, bestrode his stallion, and clipped it along the pass toward his little kingdom.

They must have been harkening eagerly for his coming, for Sir Richard found the women both awaiting him in the main room.

"How noble it is of thee, sire," said Rocelia sweetly, when Sir Richard had repeated her father's message, "to bethink thee of our grave anxiety. How can we ever requite thee?" Whereupon she cast upon Sir Richard a shy glance that repaid him upon that instant an hundred fold.

374 The which, however, did not prevent the young knight from saying: "By bearing me company at table, dear Rocelia. I have been dooms lonely these two days gone."

Sir Richard noted that Rocelia looked appealingly toward her grandam; and, by the same token, so did the young knight. But not appealingly, withal. He was not unmindful at that moment that he was indeed playing the king.

Sir Richard never afterward forgot that meal in the vague, warm light of the chimney-corner; with Rocelia, in a rose-glow of maidenly confusion, seated where he could feast his eyes upon the delicate transitions of expression upon her beautiful countenance. She was garbed in the robe a cutting of which was even then resting against his much disturbed heart, though the young knight lacked the resolution to tell her so. Perhaps she knew it though, he thought. Whereupon he became quite intoxicated with the knowledge that there existed between them a bond of secret understanding. They talked, God knows of what, he never knew. The dame had fallen into a doze upon one of the high-backed benches, for which blessing the young knight offered375 thanks to Morpheus. It gave them a good hour more together than they should likely otherwise have had.

Soon after that the good dame snored loudly once or twice and then awakened suddenly from the noise of it. She rose immediately and begged permission to retire.

"Dost thou not take the sun and air of the morning?" Sir Richard asked Rocelia when they were about to leave.

"When the men are not here, and good grandam is not suffering of a gout," she answered. "I do so enjoy to wander through the forest, sire."

"Then," said Sir Richard, "upon the morrow, wilt suffer me to be thy escort upon such an excursion?"

There followed then a second triangular duel of the eyes. The result was similarly happy with the first.

Sir Richard went contented and singing to his bed.

For several glory-filled days thereafter it would be a walk with Rocelia in the morning through the forest glades; after which the young376 knight would ride northward to seek tidings of her father's condition. Times there were when it seemed impossible that he could recover. But, on the eighth day, Sir Richard found him wholly rational and well quit of his fever.

He would soon be upon his feet now, he told the young knight, in a weak whisper. After that they would set out for Wales, he said, gathering their forces along the way, and then march down on London. Sir Richard was in no mind to say him yea or nay; his thoughts being every one upon Rocelia. When Tyrrell learned of the young knight's daily ride to his sick-bed he rendered him the heartiest of thanks.

"'Tis indeed seldom, sire," he said, "that an humble servant is permitted the satisfaction of laboring for a grateful king."

Tyrrell was once again become the shrewd and wily politician.

Sir Richard remembered that all the way homeward (he called it home within his mind, it being the only place worthy of the name of which he knew), his heart was singing a merry lay within his breast, because of the good news he was carrying to Rocelia.

377 What a joyous evening it was they spent together, sitting at the table in the chimney-side with Dame Sutherland soundly sleeping upon the bench! Sir Richard insisted that Rocelia hum over song after song for him; the which she did, trilling them low and sweet. At length she struck upon the one for which he had been waiting; the song he had heard steal out upon that lonely night when he was engaged with Sir James and Zenas in the task of burying the hound.

When she had finished the last note Sir Richard told her of the weird circumstances surrounding his first acquaintance with it.

Thereupon, for the first time, the young knight made bold to tell her that he had ever since that night carried that same song within his memory​—​and a certain cutting of saffron velvet next his heart (forgetting to mention, however, that part of the time when he had worn it above his eye).

"Ah! sire," said Rocelia, "can it be that it is thou​—​—" and then she paused with lips all of a quiver, her fair head turned toward the glowing fire.

378 "Why!" said Sir Richard, "and did you not know, dear Rocelia, that since that night I have been avowed champion of yours?"

"Sire​—​—"

"Call me not sire, dear. Name me Richard," the young knight whispered, trying vainly to imprison her hand. "God wot, an you still wish to leave, I will bear me away this time the proper maiden!"

"Then ... was it indeed thou," Rocelia whispered, half weeping, half laughing, "who bore away my cousin Isabel?"

"Did you not know?" said Sir Richard.

"I but knew that she had gone ... with some knight, I thought it was ... and that it had been her choice to go. She was ever unhappy after we came from London. Oh! sire ... much do I regret that thou hast been made the target of one of her mad pranks."

"Let me but once hear Richard on your lips, Rocelia," pleaded the young knight.

"I dare not," said she, with an affrighted glance toward her sleeping grandam.

"I lay command upon you," said Sir Richard feigning to be stern.

379 "Well, then ... Richard," said she in the softest of whispers.

Silence for a space.

"It seems," said the young knight then, smiling, "that I have been victim of every madcap prank and conspiracy in all Scotland. What quip was this of Isabel's?"

"I should not have known, sire​—​—"

"Richard," the young knight corrected her gently.

"Thou saidst but once ... Richard," she whispered, smiling. "I should not have known, I say, had it not been for the piece of cloth snipped out of my robe. I was sleeping when she sent it through the wall."

"And the note​—​said she something of a note, Rocelia?" Sir Richard asked.

"No, nothing, sire."

"Then here it is," said he, diving into the leathern pouch hanging at his baldric and laying the scrap of paper before Rocelia upon the table top. The while she was reading it Sir Richard got him out the cutting of velvet.

"And here is the other," he said, laying the crumpled bit of cloth beside the note, which by380 now Rocelia had finished reading. "This may go to feed the blaze," he added with a light laugh, tossing the note into the fire. "The other ... may I have it now from thy dear hand? I would renew my knightly vows."

"But thou art now a king ... and may not," she gave Sir Richard answer, he thought in a tone and manner of sadness and regret. Suddenly she took it up then and thrust it quickly within the lace at her bosom.

"But I am not a king, Rocelia ... or ever shall be," Sir Richard protested. "That bit of yellow cloth it was that kept me posting back and forth above this barren, dreary country. It drew, and held me willing prisoner here. Now I have lost it. To-morrow I will go."

"But, no!" said she, "how canst thou leave when everything is waiting? Already hast thou been proclaimed."

"Everything was waiting before I came," he answered. "When I am gone 'twill be as though Richard Rohan had never been. As to the proclamation ... 'twas but a thing of empty words. I played the king here, because thou wert of my kingdom. An I have not thee for subject, I am381 no longer monarch. To-morrow, I say, I take my leave of Scotland."

"But, pray you, not to-morrow ... Richard," cried Rocelia aloud, clutching at the cloth upon the table.

There was a look in her eyes that brought the young man bounding to his feet. He had meant to gather her within his arms. But he swiftly interpreted her frightened backward glance in sufficient season to transform the gesture into a sweeping bow.

Grandam Sutherland had but just awakened, and was blinking at the two after a confused fashion. She had been aroused by Rocelia's cry.

"God's mercy upon us!" exclaimed the old lady; "it must be near upon the stroke of eleven?"

"An the weather hold, we'll walk to-morrow morning?" said Sir Richard, taking Rocelia's hand.

"To-morrow morning, sire," she answered, softly pressing his fingers.

The young knight slept no wink that night because of the tender caress.


382

CHAPTER XXV
OF THE END OF THE RED TAVERN AND ITS FITTING EPITAPH

A score of times during the next morning Sir Richard berated the sun for a laggard orb. When he was not stationed in front of his narrow window gazing out upon the reddening sky, the filmy rags of undulating mist floating above the moor, and the round summits of the downs blushing rosily above them, he would be polishing up his gear and industriously brushing the kinks out of his horse-hair plume. In lieu of a Venetian glass, he trimmed his beard to a proper point by reflecting his image against his glittering breast-plate, which he hung from a nail in the wall beside the window.

Zenas was but just kindling a fire when Sir Richard came down into the main room, the while the hunchback was cursing roundly at Harold383 for refusing to bring in more logs. It was their habit to begin quibbling the moment they clapt eyes upon each other. Being in the merriest of tempers, the young knight soon contrived to straighten out their quarrel, posting the foot-boy, happily whistling, in quest of an armload of wood. He even succeeded in enticing somewhat of a grin into the sullen visage of the crook-back.

"An thou canst keep me in this gallant humor, sire," said he, "thou mayst buy me a garb of motley and call me thy fool. See! this twisted, gnarled form ... these masque-like features ... and the yellow fang-teeth, all loose and tottering.... By'r Lady! sire, they were a right famous complement of the cap and bells, quoth 'a."

"An I am king, good, my Zenas," said Sir Richard, "why, thou shalt even play the fool."

"An thou be ever a king ... with a proper throne," said he, grinning and rubbing his hands together, "then I am a fool. These be parlous undertakings, sire ... parlous, deadly undertakings. An I mistake not, there'll be a pretty row of poled heads on London Bridge to mark the end."

384 The young knight had it on his tongue to tell him that there'd be no heads lopped off on his behalf, but he thought better of it and remained silent.

"And the appetite ... the appetite, prithee," Zenas went on croaking, as Sir Richard sat beside the loaded table, idly dreaming. "'Tis a right savory pasty, this," said he, cutting through its brown covering.

"I'll have naught of sup now, Zenas," the young knight said. "But keep it warm ... mayhap later I'll be an hungered."

Downing a goblet of canary, to calm his shaking inwards, the young knight went outside. Ordering his stallion instantly to be made ready, he galloped madly then against the face of the rising sun, hoping in this manner to cool his heated temples.

The light air coming into his nostrils, the swift moving against the wind, made him soon feel like a puffed giant upon a pigmy land; an enchanted prince upon a magic road.

Sir Richard must have ridden after this fashion something above two leagues. Then he came suddenly within sight of the sea, which rolled385 vast above him, like a shimmering green curtain hanging pendant from the sky. Hull down on the vague horizon, he saw a ship that seemed to be making from the coast.

Upon the beach there remained less than a score of tents to mark the encampment of an armed host. One after another, as he looked, they were sinking between the white sand dunes. Black spots, reminding him much of scurrying sand-crabs, were moving hurriedly in and about them.

The young knight rode down to meet a solitary horseman approaching along the road. Presently, by the red cross flaming out of a white tunic, he made out that it was Lord Bishop Kennedy. "Give thee a good-morrow, sire," the Bishop called out to Sir Richard as they drew within hailing distance. "Thou art early abroad, I see?"

The young knight returned his salutation and made answer: "Yes."

"Our forces here," pursued Kennedy, as Sir Richard wheeled and rode beside him, "are now withdrawing for the purpose of massing above386 the forest. In a fortnight Sir James will belike be able to sit horse; whereupon we shall at once begin our march southward. After to-night, but a pile of charred timbers will remain to tell the tale of the Red Tavern. And right happy am I withal that the enterprise doth draw to a point of focus. 'Twill mark the end of intrigue, jealousy, and treachery; the beginning of war-like action."

Conversing in this wise, they drew, at length, within sight of the doomed tavern. The young knight glanced upward as he rode toward the door and saw Rocelia flash away from the window as she observed that Sir Richard was not riding alone. A wave of ineffable emotion surged over him as he divined that she had been awaiting his return. It seemed an age before Harold came to relieve him of his horse.

When he came inside Sir Richard saw that the table was as he had left it.

"Lord Kennedy will take sup with thee," Zenas told him, smiling craftily and rubbing his hands together the while.

"I care not to eat," said the young knight. "Where's Lord Kennedy?"

387 "He begged of thee to yield him but a moment till he had speech of the ladies, sire."

Wearing a countenance as impassive as that of a graven image, Lord Kennedy came down presently and said that the maiden was suffering of a slight indisposition and would not walk with Sir Richard that morning.

There was an appreciable air of constraint about him which revealed to the young knight instantly that something was gone wrong. He noted, moreover, Zenas' smile of cunning triumph, and guessed that he had been the cause thereof.

"I'll have it from her own lips," suddenly declared Sir Richard, his hand upon the hilt of his blade.

"Sire!"

"Avaunt with thy empty titles!" he cried. "Dost hear me?... I have said!"

"'Tis impossible," said Lord Kennedy, sternly, albeit his manner was of the quietest.

"Was that truly her message?" asked Sir Richard.

"It was," said Kennedy, opening him coolly an egg.

388 "Setting thy bishop's mitre aside," said the young knight quietly, "I say that thou liest in thy throat, an this be the maiden's answer!"

With a bound, which overturned his chair and brought the litter of the table-top crashing upon the floor, Lord Kennedy was on his feet, his naked blade flashing before Sir Richard's eyes.

Kennedy, with the play of blades, was like a child in the hands of the young knight. There were scarce above a half dozen passes before his sword went humming through the window, taking glass and sash with it to the ground.

Sir Richard turned upon hearing a sharp cry in the direction of the stair door. Rocelia, all white and trembling was framed within its casements. Thinking alone of her, he started for the steps.

"Sire," Lord Kennedy called to him.

The young knight wheeled. With tunic split from chin to skirt, Bishop Kennedy was standing in the middle of the floor; grave-faced, ashen, but wonderfully calm.

"I have turned traitorous sword against my king," he said. "Thou owest me a death, sire."

"Then I'll remain ever in thy debt," Sir Richard389 made answer. "'Twas the fault of my unruly tongue. I ask thy forgiveness, Lord Kennedy. And now, come, Rocelia," he said to the frightened maiden, "we'll have earned our walk."

Thereupon he went over to where she was standing, placed her yielding arm within his and together they walked through the outer door.

"One word with thee, sire," Lord Kennedy called after them when they had started for the forest.

"Thou meanest fair by that maiden?" he said, when Sir Richard came back to the door. "She is the bonniest in all Scotland, sire," he added, with a great sincerity of tone.

"Thou hast spoken truth, Lord Kennedy," the young knight answered, reaching out his hand. "And, sir, by the cross of this, my sword, I would liefer have her than any proffered kingdom atop of earth."

"And thou wouldst certes be the gainer," Kennedy answered. "God wot how this may end, sire," he added, shaking his head. Then, grasping Sir Richard's hand for a moment, he turned sadly back into the tavern room.

Before setting out upon their walk the young390 knight summoned Harold to him and laid injunction upon him to trap his stallion, the jennet, and a third palfrey for a lady.

"It will be for a long journey, mayhap. Lead them so quickly as may be," he told him, "along the road where I first came upon you, and await there my coming."

A little corner within the wood there was which Rocelia and Sir Richard had come to look upon as all their own. Thither in silence they took their way. Upon reaching there she sat down upon a log, leaning her back against a tree; whilst the young knight disposed himself upon the moss at her feet.

Rocelia's eyes bore plain evidence that she had been weeping. Indeed she seemed in the most melancholy of moods; and, when Sir Richard made bold to comfort her, would not suffer him even to take her hand. Then with many halts and sighs she repeated to him what Bishop Kennedy had said to her. Which, in effect, was, that it would be wrong for them to be another time alone together. That Sir Richard, being the lawful heir to the crown, must have a care of the proprieties, and seek companionship among those391 who were his equals. All this and much more Rocelia told him, bravely, with her soft eyes looking sad into his; her sweet lips never once faltering from the difficult task imposed upon them.

"But," said Sir Richard, "did I not swear to you last night, Rocelia, that I would never be king? I am seeking now, and in you, dear, a companion through life. Whether you say me yea or nay, 'twill be all the same. I mean to leave upon this very day. Will you not trust​—​—"

"Ah! Richard," she said, sweetly, "speak not that word. All trust do I impose in you. It is not that, dear," laying her hand lightly upon his bared head; "no, 'tis not that. It is that I​—​I love you too well and dearly to assist in this sacrifice of your splendid future. No​—​no! you must not, Richard ... indeed, you must not. I may never lay lips upon yours, dear. But, mayhap, you will remember me for a while as a simple maid who dared to tell you that she loved you; and who, loving you, surrendered you to her country ... and begged you, prayed you to assert your rightful position within its boundaries."

"But I cannot, Rocelia," Sir Richard protested.392 "Got wot an I despise not the whole vile conspiracy. An you'll not go with me, I'll go alone ... and with a heart fair breaking for love of you. Come!" he pleaded; "let me bear you away out of this turmoil-ridden land to a place of safety, and peaceful quiet, and contentment."

"Ah! and how sweet it would all be, my dear," said she, allowing Sir Richard to take and keep her hand, but keeping him firmly at a distance withal. "I am so tired of it all. Naught have I known but strife and danger since I came out of girlhood. But, ah, no! it may never be. 'Tis your duty, Richard, to claim your own; and mine to prevail upon you not to abandon it. Never let it be said that my champion was a deserter of his colors."

"I held faithfully to the saffron color," declared Sir Richard, "and, i' faith, I'll hold to it still."

She smiled sadly, stroking his hair.

"But these other colors, Richard," said she, "were marked upon your escutcheon at your birth. You may not desert them."

Sir Richard had been all along looking up into393 Rocelia's face. He dropped his head disconsolately when she set him in the light of a deserter. He never knew what he would have answered. He knew only that she shrieked suddenly aloud and drew him swiftly close to her bosom.

"For the love of God, dear heart, turn!" she cried. "'Tis Zenas with a poniard!"

The young knight wheeled in time to see the murderous crook-back plucking his long blade from the earth, where it had buried itself to the very hilt under the impetus that was meant to have been expended upon Sir Richard's body.

In another moment the young knight had grappled with him; and then they went rolling and threshing over the ground in the throes of a deadly encounter. "God! what a strength is there in this grossly misshapen body!" Sir Richard thought, and though he kept tight hold of the hunchback's knife hand, every moment Sir Richard feared that he would succeed in turning the blade and driving it home in his neck. So narrow was the margin between the young knight and death withal, that once the keen point traveled across his throat and opened a slight scratch.

"You will kill my hound? you damned sword-394and-buckler knight!" Zenas kept hissing in Sir Richard's ear. "You abominable puppet, you would cheat my good brother of his head to set you on a throne!​—​you fustian, lack-linen pretender!​—​you flap-dragon tippler!​—​I'll send you whirling straight to hell, an I get me this poniard home!"

It happened by the merest stroke of fortune that, in their furious tumbling about, the hunchback's head struck with a great violence against the log whereupon Rocelia had been sitting. His forbidding form grew instantly limp and insensible, and the young knight leaped quickly to his feet. A drop or two of blood was trickling down his breast-plate from the scratch across his neck.

The moment that Sir Richard was fairly up Rocelia was in his arms, with her lips laid close upon his. Then, thrusting him impulsively from her, she tore open her cloak, ripped a quantity of lace from her gown, and began binding it around his neck.

"You'll not be very much hurt, Richard ... dear Dick?" said she, kissing him again.

He did not say her too strong a nay (for which he was soon forgiven!), for Sir Richard discovered395 that when he but so much as hesitated he had another kiss.

"Oh, Richard, my love," said Rocelia, "take me away. I understand it all now​—​this murderous treachery, this stabbing in the back ... these fearsome, dark conspiracies! But take me, dear, to that place of rest, and peace, and sweet contentment. Even now I am ready."

Thus, with his arm clasped tight about her, they sought the road and their waiting horses. Eftsoons they were on their way, taking the narrower road to the left, which would lead them the more directly to the hut where the young knight had left de Claverlok.

It was late that evening when they drew out of the deep forest, far above and to the northwest of their starting point.

Many leagues behind them, and rising high into the heavens, they could see a lurid splotch of light, glowing red and yellow in the mystic darkness.

"'Tis the end of the Red Tavern," said Sir Richard.

"Well," whispered Rocelia, "it brought you to me, dear Richard."

396 "And to me, sweet Rocelia," said the young knight earnestly, "it brought you."

"Have I thy permission to speak, Sir Richard?" begged Harold, who was standing by.

"Certes, you have, my boy," replied Sir Richard.

"Then let me wish that all of thy troubles shall be as the smoke of it," said Harold earnestly.

"'Tis a fitting epitaph," Rocelia said, her hand stealing within that of the young knight.

Then, for a little space, they stood there upon the summit of the hill, watching the glare of the burning tavern fading and dying away.

"Yes ... a most fitting epitaph," Sir Richard made answer. Whereupon they resumed their journey lightsomely, happily, northward.


397

CHAPTER XXVI
OF HOW A FLEDGLING DROPPED FROM THE CONSPIRATOR'S NEST

The happy travelers found shelter for that night in the kind herdsman's cottage where Sir Richard had tarried whilst journeying with Isabel. The simple folk displayed a quite lively surprise upon observing that the maid with whom the young knight was now traveling was not the same. Sir Richard thought that mayhap they imagined that he was engaged upon the business of depopulating Scotland of her famous beauties. "There is just cause for such a supposition, i' truth," he added to himself.

"I ken weel," the good man said, a glint of Scot's humor in his eyes, "that 'e braw English laddies be unco daft. The muckle Auld Hornie be in 'e all! But 'e hae yin bonnie lassie with 'e, now, sir knight ... yin muckle cantie jo!" and398 with that he winked at Sir Richard in a knowing fashion.

His goodwife, a white-capped dame, busied herself in setting before them a "gigot" and a "bit kebbuck"; which translated and assimilated into English leg-o'-mutton and cheese. Bearing well in mind the company in which it was eaten, it would be a profanation to tell how thoroughly the young knight enjoyed that meal withal. But it must be confessed as well that the mulled ale was like a goblet of nectar to his palate.

They passed a long and happy evening, Rocelia and Sir Richard, sitting by the fire's side beneath the smoke-browned beams of the low-ceilinged kitchen. Intently she listened, with her soft eyes bent lovingly upon the young knight, the while he recounted the adventures through which he had passed. She laughed right heartily when he came to that part of his tale where he had rescued her cousin Isabel out of the Red Tavern; and told him how bitterly her uncle Zenas had misliked her cousin, though all the while standing in somewhat of fear of her sharp tongue. Rocelia had known of but three, she399 said, who had ever held the slightest place within Zenas' morbid affections. Of the three, she named first the hound, to whose life Sir Richard had put a quietus on that first night; then her father; and, last, herself. "Revenge and jealousy, I make no doubt, hath armed the crookback's hand against thee, dear," she said.

"Richard ... dear Dick," she whispered afterward, when it came to parting for the night, "since learning of all these base intrigues, these petty jealousies, these crafty plottings and counter-plottings, I am no whit sorry to see you leaving them all behind you. I would rather that my king should sit ever upon a three-legged stool than upon a velvet-tufted and silken-canopied throne won after these wicked fashions."

They were out betimes the next morning, albeit the day was none of the pleasantest; a thick fog having set in from the sea during the night. As they moved slowly over the downs Sir Richard remarked that the members of their little party seemed like gray and misty shadows moving against a pearly cloud.

Before the middle of the day they drew near the little hut where de Claverlok and Isabel would400 doubtless be waiting. It was fair blotted out in the mist, but Sir Richard could make out a vague and shadowy form sitting desolate upon a huge boulder by the roadside. Upon a nearer approach he recognized it to be the foot-boy Thomas. When he caught sight of the approaching company of three he came sliding down off the boulder, running to the young knight's side and embracing his greaved leg for very joy.

"Oh, sire!" he hoarsely whispered, "the very devil's to pay back there," jerking his thumb above his shoulder.

"And now, prithee, what is 't?" asked Sir Richard.

"Came yester morn, sir," he answered, "a great, tall, bearded knight,​—​with the two points of his mustachios turned skyward ... so,​—​vowing that he'd bear Mistress de Claverlok away with him or kill everyone in the place. My worshipful master was for having his sword at him upon the instant (and he, sire, but just able to be out of his bed). But Mistress de Claverlok bars the door and holds the murderous knight without. Even I may not be admitted. Hark ye!... I can hear him cursing even now. Thus401 does he carry on all the day. Why, sire, he stuck the good doctor from Bannockburn right in the middle ... here, sire ... like he were cutting him a cheese. By Saint Peter! but 'tis a parlous business!"

"Said you his name, Thomas?"

"He called himself the Renegade Duke ... and vowed that he ate sick knights for breakfast. Mistress Isabel doth mightily strive to keep the worshipful master indoors. An he could, he would get out, sire, and have him pinned like the fat doctor from Bannockburn."

"Vowed him he ate sick knights for breakfast, did he?" said Sir Richard grimly. "Mayhap, then, he'll relish a well one for dessert." Whereupon, in despite of Rocelia's admonishing cry, the young knight spurred into the mist toward the hut.

He saw the fellow clambering upon his saddle when he heard Sir Richard drawing near. The moment that he saw who was riding down upon him, the craven coward set spurs against his steed and made off at the top of his bent up the steep hill and quickly was swallowed up in the fog.

402 But what a boisterously glad reunion was there when, upon Sir Richard halloaing out his name, the hut door was unbarred and set open!

"By the mass, Sir Richard, but it doth mightily comfort me to clap eyes again upon thee ... eh! Weak as I am, boy, I'd have given yon miscreant somewhat of a battle ... eh. But Isabel would e'en padlock the door and thrust key in her bosom ... didst thou not, Dame de Claverlok? But tell me, Sir Richard, where hast thou been the while?"

By way of an answer Sir Richard went back and fetched Rocelia out of the fog cloud; whereupon the two maids fell into a rapturous embrace, shedding some happy tears whilst Sir Richard made haste to explain to de Claverlok the case in which they stood.

"Certes, boy, and I can procure thee a priest," shouted de Claverlok, responding to a whispered question in his ear.

Then; "Thomas! Thomas!" he bellowed; "post you hot-foot to the goodman who tied us a fine knot the week gone. Speed! Avaunt, boy! Have him here within the hour's quarter on your horse's back.... Begone!"

403 "They'll be after thee ... God! but they'll not let thee get free of their king-making clutches, an they can help. We'll be ready to journey coast-ward, Sir Richard, when the ceremony is over."

Happily, the foot-boy returned soon with the monk, whom de Claverlok and the rest succeeded in persuading to do office at Rocelia's and Sir Richard's wedding, placating him with a promise of another ceremony more in keeping with the dignity of the Church when they should have arrived at Bretagne. Besides requiting him quite handsomely for that day's services, they paid him to have masses said for the dead doctor outside; providing as well for a fitting burial of his body.

It set in to rain before the company of six was ready to start for Glasgow. As there had been even now too much precious time consumed, they decided to brave the weather and be at once upon their way. To their journey's end it was but something above five leagues, but the heavy roads made the going a slow and difficult task. By stretching a tent-cloth over a rude frame, upheld by four poles, the foot-boys contrived for Isabel404 and Rocelia a passing shelter from the rain, which was by now pelting hard and steadily against the helmets of Sir Richard and de Claverlok.

They had ridden after this cumbrous fashion near half the distance when Sir Richard thought he heard the dull rumbling of a carriage to their rear. Adventuring the hazard of a hidden bog, the party turned aside and rode upon the moor till they had set an impenetrable curtain of mist between themselves and the highway. Leaving his horse in Harold's keeping the young knight crept back, stationing himself behind a thick clump of gorse growing by the roadside.

Accompanied by a score or more of outriders streaming water, shedding loud curses, and flogging their tired mounts for everything that was in them, came a great lumbering coach and six, looming gigantic as a castle in the weird fog. As it passed where Sir Richard was lying, he noted that its wheels were three quarters sunken in the deep mud, which rolled off them as they turned after the manner of a miniature cataract.

"How far, sayst thou, it will be from Glasgow?"405 He heard a voice, which he knew well for that of Douglas, roaring from within its depths.

"Said I not that they would be after thee, Sir Richard ... eh?" de Claverlok observed when the young knight went back and told them what he had seen.

They were perforce obliged to give the coach a good start, for, by now, the mist was rapidly thinning; and they durst not put themselves within sight of Douglas' men. Before reaching the gates of Glasgow they divided their little party in twain. Three entering from the north, three from the south, with an arrangement to foregather at King's Dock, upon the River Clyde. It was decided upon that Sir Richard, having nothing to do within the town, should make his way at once to the harbor and seek berths on shipboard for France. Whilst de Claverlok and Isabel, having to attend to the business of Isabel's inheritance, would join them later at the river's side.

They were in no trouble to enter the town, and made shift to take the narrower and less frequented streets leading to the water-front. As they were riding through, Rocelia pointed to a406 fellow, garbed in the Douglas livery, who was nailing a proclamation, writ in great, glaring letters, against a plank fence.

It was an offer of a reward of two hundred and fifty pounds for Sir Richard's arrest and detention; the which was followed by a neat and accurate description of his person and apparel. Before they got to the next corner there were a dozen idlers, with mouths agape, standing before it and taking it in.

Knowing well that Sir Richard's chances of getting safely away were diminishing in proportion with the number of placards that were being then posted over the town, they made all haste to reach the river and get safely aboard ship.

Without mishap our travelers came anon to King's Dock. Sir Richard was most gratified to discover that there was a great ship, above which rose three towering masts, riding at anchor in the midst of the harbor. He gazed longingly across at her, wishing that they were all safe bestowed upon her lofty and much ornamented poop.

Dismounting, and bidding Harold to do the407 same the while the young knight lifted Rocelia to the rough paving stones, he sent them both posting into a tavern. "The sooner we draw free of the streets the better," he thought. Beckoning a sailor then, who was watching them from the quay, Sir Richard handed him a shilling and told him to tie him the three horses in a dark and narrow alleyway near hand. "I' faith, 'twill be the last I shall ever see of them," he said to himself; and not without a feeling of regret that he would never again bestride the strong back of his faithful stallion.

"Where can I find me the captain of yonder ship?" Sir Richard asked of the sailor, as he came slouching out of the dark alleyway.

"Thou'll find him in there​—​where the sack flows thickest," the sailor answered, pointing to the tavern wherein Rocelia and Harold had taken shelter. "The ship's ready and all laden for the sea now, sir knight, with the tide flowing strong. I swear to you the master's boat's a-riding at the dock-side now ... but he be right bravely liquored up, quoth 'a, and no one dare go a-nigh 'im to tell it. 'Tis a damned bad thing ... the sack ... but, begging your pardon, sir knight,408 an this shilling be good siller, I bethink me I'll buy me a swig or two."

"Of what name may your ship be?" queried Sir Richard.

"She'll be the 'Trinity,' sir knight," said he, "and the bonniest hulk that ever cut water down the Firth."

"See you here, my man," said the young knight, as he was starting for a tap-room upon the opposite side of the street. "Are you wanting to line your pocket with a rose noble or two?"

"With nothing but this bit shilling ... and the town fair flooded with rum? God wot, and I am not!" said he.

"Then do you keep stand here," said Sir Richard; and, hurrying to the tavern door, he bade Harold and Rocelia to join him outside.

"Now, hark ye well," resumed Sir Richard, to the waiting sailor. "Lead this lady and my squire to the dock there, bestow them safely within the captain's boat, and wait you there till I come ... here," he added, handing him the promised coin. "There'll be another, an you do this thing to my taste."

"I'm a-thinking as what you don't know my409 master, sir knight," observed the sailor, gazing hard at the tavern door.

"No. But I will in another moment," said the young knight, going for the door.

"Captain of the 'Trinity,'" he shouted when he had swung it wide.

"The very devil and all! and what's this, prithee?" the drunken captain shouted, rolling heavily down upon Sir Richard and quite filling the open space.

In a very few words the young knight told him just what he wanted, making offer of all his remaining nobles, saving one, if he would consent to bear them all safely into France.

"Six, sayst thou? Any women?" the seaman asked.

"Two," Sir Richard replied.

"Then ... damn thy nobles!" he bellowed, slamming the door in the young knight's very face.

"But I tell you that you must do this thing," Sir Richard persisted, again setting open the door.

"What! hell, man!" he shouted, turning purple in the face.

410 "I say you must."

"I'll pitch thee headfirst out, an thou sayst that again!" the captain bawled.

"I repeat, sir captain, that we must take thy ship," said Sir Richard. "Moreover, I tell thee to thy teeth thou canst not pitch me out."

"I'll wager a noble," he returned, peeling him off his cloak and great-jacket.

"An I put thee out," said Sir Richard, "wilt thou take six on ship and fifty nobles in hand?"

"An thou goest out ... what then?" said he.

"Ten golden discs for thy trouble," the young knight made laughing rejoinder.

"Done," said the captain.

Sir Richard did not much like the curious crowd gathering closely around them, but he knew well that he must accept the hazard. It was the only way to win to the ship.

Well, they went at it then, and how the chairs and tables standing near did tumble, roll and clatter about their flying heels! The captain was of a similar size and build with Bull Bengoff, and it was somewhat like tugging at an enormous animated hogshead to get him moving withal. But Sir Richard got him started rolling toward411 the door presently, and then, with one mighty heave, he sent him tumbling over and over down the stone steps.

"What saidst thou was thy name, sir knight?" the captain asked, sitting prone upon the paving stones and rubbing the top of his pate. There went a loud laugh around at his earnest manner of asking the question.

Walking down the steps, Sir Richard stooped, whispering it close to his ear.

"God's mercy upon me!" he shouted, getting as quickly as might be to his feet and winding his great arms about the young knight's neck. Sir Richard at once set again to tugging, bethinking him that they were again to have at it.

"No, no!" shouted the captain, laughing, "I've had my belly full of that​—​— God! dost thou not know, man? That ship in the offing yonder doth belong to him whose wealth and titles were left all to thee ... are even now thine. Right glad will old Duke Francis be to have me fetch thee back. Thou art of age now, and can claim thy inheritance."

"My benefactor ... who is he?" asked the young knight in an amazed whisper.

412 "Who is he? Why, he's dead, Sir Richard, these nineteen years ... 'twas the man after whom thou wert named​—​Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick ... often styled 'king-maker.' But come! come inside," he cried, taking the young knight's arm; "we'll have a bowl or two of sack and a right juicy pasty together, Sir Richard. Let the damned ship wait!"

"But, listen," Sir Richard whispered, "I'm in the direst peril. 'Twould be well an thou couldst get me on board thy ship at once."

Just at that moment they saw de Claverlok, Isabel, and Thomas ride upon the King's Dock out of a side street. Looking away from the river, Sir Richard saw a band of horses, with Douglas at their head, coming above the hill at a breakneck speed.

"Come!" the young knight shouted, clutching the good captain's arm; "do not tarry for thy cap​—​there's not one tick of the clock to spare."

Which indeed there was not, for they had but just tumbled into the boat and drew clear of the quay when Douglas and his horsemen rode furiously upon it.

"Come hither, Sir Richard ... sire!" Lord413 Douglas called. "Prithee, do return. I have here the messages to show thee. The messages thou didst bring me from Henry. All signed, thou dost remember, by thy good self and my councilmen. Come back! but a moment's speech would I have of thee ... sire."

"I wish thee well of thy enterprises, Lord Douglas," the young knight shouted back. "Make kings an thou wilt, I'll have none of it. Thou canst give me nothing.... I have beside me here, my lord, the best that Scotland has to give."

Then, he remembered afterward, Rocelia took his hand, standing beside him in the captain's boat, and together they waved the great Douglas a last farewell.

When they had climbed to the topmost deck of the great ship they saw another cavalcade of armed men riding down to the river front from out another street. Sir Richard noted above their plumed helmets a bedraggled banner, bearing a device sable upon a field gules.

"They are your father's men, Rocelia," Sir Richard said, gathering her close to his side.

"Yes, Dick," said she. "God keep him from414 all harm and bring him safe to us some future day."

Soon, then, with great brown sails bellying in the wind, they dropped down the Firth of Clyde, with the twinkling lights of Glasgow fading dim in the distance.

 

Transcriber's Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected. Occasional unmatched quotation marks were corrected when there was no ambiguity.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 142: Spurious closing quotation mark removed after: he wanted to know?

Page 173: Missing opening quotation mark added at start of: "But where's the....

Page 189: Spurious closing quotation mark removed after: What quarrel, ... eh?

Page 333: "with her eyes to follow" was misprinted as "eves".

Page 340: Double-quote mark changed to apostrophe at start of: 'tis passing​—​—

 


 

***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE RED TAVERN***

******* This file should be named 44182-h.txt or 44182-h.zip *******

This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
http://www.gutenberg.org/4/4/1/8/44182

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation (and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without permission and without paying copyright royalties. Special rules, set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark. Project Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission. If you do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the rules is very easy. You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and research. They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks. Redistribution is subject to the trademark license, especially commercial redistribution.

*** START: FULL LICENSE ***
THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work (or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project Gutenberg-tm License available with this file or online at www.gutenberg.org/license.

Section 1. General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works

1.A. By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property (trademark/copyright) agreement. If you do not agree to abide by all the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession. If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B. "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark. It may only be used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement. There are a few things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works even without complying with the full terms of this agreement. See paragraph 1.C below. There are a lot of things you can do with Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works. See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C. The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation" or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works. Nearly all the individual works in the collection are in the public domain in the United States. If an individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg are removed. Of course, we hope that you will support the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with the work. You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D. The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern what you can do with this work. Copyright laws in most countries are in a constant state of change. If you are outside the United States, check the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project Gutenberg-tm work. The Foundation makes no representations concerning the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United States.

1.E. Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1. The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed, copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

1.E.2. If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees or charges. If you are redistributing or providing access to a work with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.3. If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional terms imposed by the copyright holder. Additional terms will be linked to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4. Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5. Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6. You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary, compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any word processing or hypertext form. However, if you provide access to or distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.org), you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other form. Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7. Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying, performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8. You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided that

1.E.9. If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark. Contact the Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1. Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm collection. Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain "Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

1.F.2. LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal fees. YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH 1.F.3. YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

1.F.3. LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a written explanation to the person you received the work from. If you received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with your written explanation. The person or entity that provided you with the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a refund. If you received the work electronically, the person or entity providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund. If the second copy is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4. Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5. Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages. If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by the applicable state law. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6. INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production, promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works, harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.

Section 2. Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers. It exists because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the assistance they need are critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will remain freely available for generations to come. In 2001, the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations. To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4 and the Foundation information page at www.gutenberg.org

Section 3. Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit 501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification number is 64-6221541. Contributions to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S. Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered throughout numerous locations. Its business office is located at 809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887. Email contact links and up to date contact information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official page at www.gutenberg.org/contact

For additional contact information:
Dr. Gregory B. Newby
Chief Executive and Director
gbnewby@pglaf.org

Section 4. Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest array of equipment including outdated equipment. Many small donations ($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United States. Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up with these requirements. We do not solicit donations in locations where we have not received written confirmation of compliance. To SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any particular state visit www.gutenberg.org/donate

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from outside the United States. U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation methods and addresses. Donations are accepted in a number of other ways including checks, online payments and credit card donations. To donate, please visit: www.gutenberg.org/donate

Section 5. General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works.

Professor Michael S. Hart was the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared with anyone. For forty years, he produced and distributed Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S. unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we do not necessarily keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility: www.gutenberg.org

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm, including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.