صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

He discomfits the other four challengers in the same manner, and is declared victorious amidst the acclamation of thousands. He is then led up to receive the congratulation of the Prince, to which he answers with a mute obeisance; and is entrusted with the mystic crown, with which he is desired to invest the lady he most admires, with the title of Queen of Love and Beauty for the remainder of the festival. With this coronet on the point of his lance, he turned from the royal pavilion, and

pacing forwards as slowly as he had hitherto rode swiftly around the lists, he seemed to exercise his right of examining the numerous fair faces which adorned that splendid circle. - It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties who underwent this examination, during the time it was going forward. Some blushed, some assumed an air of pride and dignity, some looked straight forward, and essayed to seem utterly unconscious of what was going on, some endeavoured to forbear smiling, and there were two or three who laughed outright. There were also some who dropped their veils over their charms ; but as the Wardour Manuscript says these were beauties of ten years standing, it may be supposed that, having had their full share of such vanities, they were willing to withdraw their claim, in order to give a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age. - At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the Lady Rowena was placed, and the expectation of the spectators was excited to the utmost. Whether from indecision or some other motive of hesitation, the champion of the day remained stationary for more than a minute, while the eyes of the silent audience were rivetted upon his motions; and then, gradually and gracefully sinking the point of his lance, he deposited the coronet which it supported, at the feet of the fair Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena the Queen of Beauty and of Love for the ensuing day, menacing with suitable penalties those who should be disobedient to her authority. They then repeated their cry of Largesse, to which Cedric, in the height of his joy, replied by an ample donative, and to which Athelstane, though less promptly, added one equally large.'

The valorous champion has not been long retired to his tent, when he is called out to receive the salutations of the squires of his five vanquished competitors, who humbly make offer to him of their war-horses and armour, with a request that he would intimate his pleasure, either to retain or to ransom them. To the squire of Bois-Guilbert, who spoke first, he did not immediately answer: But

“ To you, four sirs,” replied the Knight, addressing those wha had last spoken, " and to your honourable and valiant masters, I have one common reply. Commend me to the noble Knights, your masters, and say, I should do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which can never be used by braver cavaliers.--I would I could here end my message to these gallant knights; but being, as I term my.

[ocr errors]

self, in truth and earnest, the Disinherited, I must be thus far bound to your masters, that they will, of their courtesy, be pleased to ransom their armour, since that which I wear I can hardly term mine own." -“We stand commissioned,” answered the squire of Reginald Front-de-Bauf, - to offer each a hundred zecchins in ransom of these horses and suits of armour: " It is sufficient, said the Disinherited Knight. Half the sum my present necessities com. pel me to accept ; of the remaining half, distribute one moiety among yourselves, sir squires, and divide the other half betwixt the heralds and the pursuivants, and minstrels and attendants.” — The squires, with cap in hand, and low reverences, expressed their deep sense of a courtesy and generosity not often practised, at least upon a scale so extensive. The Disinherited Knight then addressed his discourse to Baldwin, the squire of Brian de Bois-Guilbert. “ From your master, said he, “ I will accept neither arms nor ransom.

Say to him in my name, that our strife is not ended—no, not till we have fought as well with swords as with lances as well on foot as on horseback. To this mortal quarrel he has himself detied me, and I shall not forget the challenge.—Meantime, let him be assured, that I hold him not as one of his companions, with whom I can with pleasure exchange courtesies: but rather as one with whom I stand upon terms of mortal defiance.” - My master,” answered Baldwin,' “ knows how to requite scorn with scorn, and blows with blows, as well as courtesy with courtesy. Since you disdain to accept from him any share of the ransom at which you have rated the arms of the other knights, I must leave his armour and his horse here, being well assured that he will never mount the one nor wear the other.” have spoken well, good squire,” said the Disinherited Knight,.“ well and boldly, as it beseemeth him to speak who answers for an absent master. Leave not, however, the horse and armour here. Restore them to thy master ; or, if he scorns to accept them, retain them, good friend, for thine own use. So far as they are mine, I bestow them upon you freely. ". Baldwin made a deep obeisance, and retired with his companions; and the Disinherited Knight entered the pavilion.' I. 197-200.

This is all very stately and imposing and is given, moreaver, with infinite spirit and likelihood. But there is another day's work of it; and we fear we inust hasten to the end of this gallant exhibition. Our readers, we suppose, or such at least as have any experience of romances, have already discovered that the Disinherited Knight is the Palmer of Rotherwood; and probably surmised further, that the said Palmer is no other than the bravé Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, of whose feats in arms he was so tardy to speak. Gurth, the faithful swineherd, is also trans- + formed into his squire, and has two excellent scenes in that character in the interval of the tournament--one with old Isaac the Jew and his lovely and magnanimous daughter, and the other

16 You

with a band of jolly outlaws, who stop, but deal handsomely with him as he passes through the forest. For those, however, as well as for the details of the second day's jousting, we must refer our readers to the book. Wilfrid, by the potent aid of an unknown champion in black armour, is again triumphant; and is led to receive the chaplet of honour from the fair hands of Rowena, to whom, as to all the other spectators, his person, and the dangerous wounds under which he is sinking, are yet unknown. He kneels gently, however, at the foot of her throne; and then,

Rowena, descending from her station with a graceful and digni. fied step, was about to place the chaplet which she held in her hand upon

the helmet of the champion, when the marshals exclaimed with one voice, “ It must not be thus his head must be bare.” The knight muttered faintly a few words, which were lost in the hollow of his helmet, but their purport seemed to be a desire that his casque might not be removed, Whether from love of form or from curio. sity, the marshals paid no attention to his expressions of reluctance, but unhelmed him by cutting the laces of his casque, and undoing the fastening of his gorget. When the helmet was removed, the wellformed, yet sun-burnt features of a young man of twenty-five were seen, amidst a profusion of short fair hair. His countenance was as pale as death, and marked in one or two places with streaks of blood,

-Rowena had no sooner beheld him than she uttered a faint shriek ; but at once summoning up the energy of her disposition, and com. pelling herself, as it were, to proceed, while her frame yet trembled with the violence of sudden emotion, she placed upon the drooping head of the victor the splendid chaplet which was the destined reward of the day, and pronounced, in a clear and distinct tone, these words : “ I bestow on thee this chaplet, Sir Knight, as the meed of valour assigned to this day's victor: " Here she paused a moment, and then firmly added; “ And upon brows more worthy could a wreath of chivalry never be placed !" — The knight stooped his head, and kissed the hand of the lovely sovereign by whom his valour had been rewarded ; and then, sinking yet farther forward, lay prostrate at her feet.' I. 256, 257,

In the midst of these transactions, Prince John receives from Philip of France that memorable intimation of the heroic Richard's escape from their machinations, which was couched in those emphatic words~" Take heed to yourself, for the De vil is unchained;" and, in his terror and consternation, proposes immediately to break up the assembly. He is reminded, however, that the populace and yeomanry, whom it is now more than ever his interest to conciliaie, would be disappointed if the prizes of archery, for which alone persons of their order could contend, were not contested and adjudged; and the humbler lists are set forth accordingly for this true English display.—A

bold stout yeoman had offended the Prince repeatedly in the course of the tournament by the sturdy freedom and independence of his deportment, and had been ordered, under grievous penalties, to try his skill against the bowmen of Needwood and Charnwood; and we must lay before our readers the first proofs of the prowess of this worthy person, who is the Dandy Dinmont of the present tale, and makes no small figure in its sequel.

« One by one the archers, stepping forward, delivered their simafts yeomanlike and bravely. Of twenty-four arrows, shot in succession, ten were fixed in the target, and the others ranged so near it, that, considering the distance of the mark, it was accounted good archery, Of the ten shafts which hit the target, two within the inner ring were shot by Hubert, a forester in the service of Malvoisin, who was accordingly pronounced victorious.--" Now, Locksley,” said Prince John to the devoted yeoman, with a bitter smile, “ wilt thou try conclusions with Hubert, or wilt thou yield up bow, baldrick, and quiver to the Provost of the sports ? " “ Sith it may be no better, said Locksley, “ I am content to try my fortune ; on condition that when I have shot two shafts at yonder mark of Hubert's, he shall be bound to shoot one at that which I shall propose.

" That is but fair,” answered Prince John, “ and it shall not be refused thee. If thou dost beat this braggart, Hubert, I will fill the bugle with silver-pennies for thee.” — “ A man can but do his best,” answered Hubert; " but my great-grandsire drew a good long bow at Hastings, and I trust not to dishonour his memory.”—The former target was now removed, and a fresh one of the same size placed in its room. Hubert, who, as victor in the first trial of skill, had the right to shoot first, took his aim with great deliberation, long measuring the distance with his eye, while he held in his hand his bended bow, with the arrow placed on the string. At length he made a step forward, and raising the bow at the full stretch of his left arm, till the centre or grasping-place was nigh level with his face, he drew the bowstring to his ear. The arrow whistled through the air, and lighted within the inner-ring of the target, but not exactly in the centre. “ You have not allowed for the wind, Hubert,” said his antagonist, bending his bow, " or that had been a better shot." - So saying, and without showing the least anxiety to pause upon his aim, Locksley stept to the appointed station, and shot his arrow as carelessly in appearance as if he had not even looked at the mark. He was spcak. ing almost at the instant that the shaft left the bow-string, yet it alighted in the target two inches nearer to the white spot which marked the centre than that of Hubert. - " By the light of heaven!" said Prince John to Hubert, thou suffer that runagate knave to overcome thee, thou art worthy of the gallows." — Hubert had but one set speech for all occasions." An your highness were to hang me,” he said,

but do his best. Nevertheless, my grandsire drew a good bow

“ The foul fiend on thy grandsire and all his generation," interrupted John; "shoot, knave, and

an

a man

[ocr errors]

shoot thy best, or it shall be the worse for thee." - Thus exhorted, Hubert resumed his place, and not neglecting the caution which he had received from his adversary, he made the necessary allowance for a very light air of wind, which had just arisen, and shot so successfully, that his arrow alighted in the very centre of the target. “A Hubert ! a Hubert !” shouted the populace, more interested in a. known person than in a stranger. " In the clout !-in the clout !a Hubert for ever!” — “ Thou can’st not mend that shot, Locks. ley,” said the Prince, with an insulting smile. “ I will notch his shaft for him, however,” replied Locksley. — And letting fly his arrow with a little more precaution than before, it lighted right upon that of his competitor, which it split to shivers. The people who stood around were so astonished at his wonderful dexterity, that they could not even give vent to their surprise in their usual clamour. “ This must be the devil, and no man of flesh and blood,” whispered the yeomen to each other ; " such archery was never seen since a bow was first bent in Britain." And now," said Locksley,

" said Locksley, “I crave your grace's permission to plant such a mark as is used in the north country; and welcome every brave yeoman who shall try a shot at it to win a smile from the bonny lass he loves best. He then turned to leave the lists. “ Let your guards attend me,” he said, “ if you please_I go but to cut a rod from the next willow bush." - Prince John made a signal that some attendants should fol. low him in case of his escape ; but the cry of “ Shame! shame !" which burst from the multitude, induced him to alter his ungenerous purpose. -- Locksley returned almost instantly with a willow wand about six feet in length, perfectly straight, and rather thicker than a man's thumb. He began to peel this with great composure, ob: serving, at the same time, that to ask a good woodsman to shoot at a target so broad as had hitherto been used, was to put shame upon his skill.

“For his own part, he said, “ and in the land where he was bred, men would as soon take for their mark King Arthur's round-table, which held sixty knights around it. A child of seven years old,” he said, might hit it with a headless shaft; but, added he, walking deliberately to the other end of the lists, and stick. ing the willow wand upright in the ground, " he that hits that rod a: five-score yards, I call him an archer fit to bear both bow and quiver before a king, an it were the stout King Richard himself.” "My grandsire,” said Hubert, “ drew a good bow at the battle of Hastings, and never shot at such a mark in his life—and neither will 1. If this yeoman can cleave that rod, I give him the bucklers-or rather, I yield to the devil that is in his jerkin, and not to any human skill; a man can but do his best, and I will not shoot where I am sure to miss. I might as well shoot at the edge of our parson's whittle, or at a wheat straw, or at a sun-beam, as at a twinkling white streak which I can hardly see.”—“Cowardly dog!” said Prince Syn.“ Sirrah Locksley; do thou shoot ; but, if thou hittest such

« السابقةمتابعة »