صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

had much practice in war, no better mode of preventing the danger occurred to them than that they should hasten on as fast as possible. Advancing, therefore, without much order, they had just crossed the brook with a part of their followers, when they were assailed in front, flank, and rear at once, with an impetuosity to which, in their confused and ill-prepared condition, it was impossible to offer effectual resistance. The shout of “ A white dragon! a white dragon !—Saint George for merry England !" war-cries adopted by the assailants, as belonging to their assumed character of Saxon outlaws, was heard on every side, and on every side enemies appeared with a rapidity of advance and attack which seemed to multiply their numbers.

Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners at the same moment, and each under circumstances expressive of his character. Cedric, the instant that an enemy appeared, launched at him his remaining javelin, which, taking better effect than that which he had hurled at Fangs, nailed the man against an oak-tree that happened to be close behind him. Thus far successful, Cedric spurred his horse against a second, drawing his sword at the same time, and striking with such inconsiderate fury, that his weapon encountered a thick branch which hung over him, and he was disarmed by the violence of his own blow. He was instantly made prisoner, and pulled from his horse by two or three of the ban

[blocks in formation]

ditti who crowded around him. Athelstane shared his captivity, his bridle having been seized, and he himself forcibly dismounted, long before he could draw his weapon, or assume any posture of effectual defence.

The attendants, embarrassed with baggage, surprised and terrified at the fate of their masters, fell an easy prey to the assailants; while the Lady Rowena, in the centre of the cavalcade, and the Jew and his daughter in the rear, experienced the same misfortune.

Of all the train none escaped except Wamba, who shewed upon the occasion much more courage than those who pretended to greater sense.

He possessed himself of a sword belonging to one of the domestics, who was just drawing it with a tardy and irresolute hand, laid about him like a lion, drove back several who approached him, and made a brave though ineffectual attempt to succour his master. Finding himself overpowered, the Jester at length threw himself from his horse, plunged into the thicket, and, favoured by the general confusion, escaped from the scene of action. ! Yet the valiant Jester, as soon as he found himself safe, hesitated more than once whether he should not turn back, and share the captivity of a master to whom he was sincerely attached.

"I have heard men talk of the blessings of freedom,” he said to himself, “but I wish any wise man

would teach me what use to make of it now that I have it.”

As he pronounced these words aloud, a voice very near him called out in a low and cautious tone,“ Wamba!" and, at the same, a dog, which he recognized to be Fangs, jumped up and fawned upon

him. “Gurth !" answered Wamba, with the same caution, and the swine-herd immediately stood before him.

“What is the matter ?” said he eagerly; "what mean these cries, and that clashing of swords ?”

“Only a trick of the times,” said Wamba; “they are all prisoners.”

“ Who are prisoners ?” exclaimed Gurth, impatiently.

“My lord, and my lady, and Athelstane, and Hundibert, and Oswald.”

“In the name of God!" said Gurth, “ how came they prisoners ?-And to whom ?”

“Our master was too ready to fight,” said the Jester ; "and Athelstane was not ready enough, and no other person was ready at all. And they are prisoners to green cassocks, and black vizors. And they lie all tumbled about on the green,

like the crab-apples that you shake down to your swine. And I would laugh at it,” said the honest Jester, “ if I could for weeping.” And he shed tears of unfeigned sorrow.

Gurth's countenance kindled—“ Wamba,” he

said, “ thou hast a weapon, and thy heart was ever stronger than thy brain,--we are only two-but a sudden attack from men of resolution will do much

follow me!"

“ Whither ?--and for what purpose ?” said the Jester.

“ To rescue Cedric."

“ But you have renounced his service but now, said Wamba.

That,” said Gurth, was but while he was fortunate-follow me!"

As the Jester was about to obey, a third person suddenly made his appearance, and commanded them both to halt. From his dress and arms, Wamba would have conjectured him to be one of those outlaws who had just assailed his master; but, besides that he wore no mask, the glittering baldric across his shoulder, with the rich bugle-horn which it supported, as well as the calm and commanding expression of his voice and manner, made him, notwithstanding the twilight, recognize Locksley the yeoman, who had been victorious, under such disadvantageous circumstances, in the contest for the prize of archery

“What is the meaning of all this,” said he, “or who is it that rifle, and ransom, and make prisoners, in these forests ?”

“ You may look at their cassocks close by,” said Wamba, “and see whether they be thy children's

coats or no--for they are as like thinė own, as one green pea-cod is to another.”

“ I will learn that presently,” answered Locksley; " and I charge ye, on peril of your lives, not to stir from the place where ye stand, until I have returned. Obey me, and it shall be the better for you and your masters.--Yet stay, I must render, myself as like these men as possible,”

So saying, he unbuckled his baldric with the bugle, took a feather from his cap, and gave them to Wamba; then drew a vizard from his pouch, and, repeating his charges to them to stand fast, went to execute his purposes of reconnoitring. “ Shall we stand fast, Gurth ?” said Wamba ; shall we e'en give him leg-bail ? In my

foolish mind, he had all the equipage of a thief too much in readiness, to be himself a true man.” “Let him be the devil,” said Gurth,

an he will. We can be no worse of waiting his return. If he belong to that party, he must already have given them the alarm, and it will avail nothing either to fight or fly. Besides, I have late experience, that arrant thieves are not the worst men in the world to have to deal with."

The yeoman returned in the course of a few minutes.

“ Friend Gurth,” he said, “ I have mingled among yon men, and have learnt to whom they belong, and whither they are bound. There is, I think,

or

« السابقةمتابعة »