صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to the strength of his castle, by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank it at every angle. The access, as usual in castles of the

period, lay through an arched barbican, or outwork, which was terminated and defended by a small turret at each corner.

Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-deBoeuf's Castle raise their grey and moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning sun above the wood by which they were surrounded, than he instantly augured more truly concerning the cause of his misfortune.

“I did injustice,” he said, “ to the thieves and outlaws of these woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with the ravening wolves of France. Tell me, dogs—is it my life or my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too much that two Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in the country which was once the patrimony of our race ?-Put us then to death, and complete your tyranny by taking our lives, as you began with our liberties. If the Saxon Cedric cannot rescue England, he is willing to die for her. Tell your tyrannical master, I do only beseech him to dismiss the Lady Rowena in honour and safety. She is a woman, and he need not dread her; and with us will die all who dare fight in her cause.”

The attendants remained as mute to this address as to the former, and they now stood before the gate of the castle. Bracy winded his horn three times, and the archers and cross-bow men, who had manned the wall upon seeing their approach, hastened to lower the drawbridge and admit them. The prisoners were compelled to alight by their guards, and conducted to an apartment, where a hasty repast was offered them, of which none but Athelstane felt any inclination to partake. Neither had the descendant of the Confessor much time to do justice to the good cheer placed before them, for their guards gave him and Cedric to understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apart from Rowena. Resistance was vain ; and they were compelled to follow to a large room, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars, resembled those refectories and chapter-houses which may be still seen in the most ancient parts of our most ancient monasteries.

The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train, and conducted, with courtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her inclination, to a distant apartment. The same alarming distinction was conferred on Rebecca, in spite of her father's entreaties, who offered even money, in this extremity of distress, that she might be permitted to abide with him. “ Base unbeliever," answered one of his guards, “ when thou hast seen thy lair, thou wilt

not wish thy daughter to partake it.” And, without farther discussion, the old Jew was forcibly dragged off in a different direction from the other prisoners. The domestics, after being carefully searched and disarmed, were confined in another part of the castle ; and Rowena was refused even the comfort she might have derived from the attendance of her hand-maiden Elgitha.

The apartment in which the Saxon chiefs were confined, for to them we turn our first attention, although at present used as a sort of guard-room, had formerly been the great hall of the castle. It was now abandoned to meaner purposes, because the present lord, among other additions to the convenience, security, and beauty of his baronial residence, had erected a new and noble hall, whose vaulted roof was supported by lighter and more elegant pillars, and fitted up with that higher degree of ornament, which the Normans had already introduced into architecture.

Cedric paced the apartment, filled with indignant reflections

upon

the past and of the present, while the apathy of his companion served, instead of patience and philosophy, to defend him against every thing save the inconvenience of the present moment; and so little did he feel even these last, that he was only from time to time roused to a reply by Cedric's animated and impassioned appeal to him.

“ Yes,” said Cedric, half speaking to himself, and half addressing himself to Athelstane, “ it was in this very hall that my father feasted with Torquil Wolfganger, when he entertained the valiant and unfortunate Harold, then advancing against the Norwegians, who had united themselves to the rebel Tosti. It was in this hall that Harold returned the magnanimous answer to the ambassador of his rebel brother. Oft have I heard my father kindle as he told the tale. The envoy of Tosti was admitted, when this ample room could scarce contain the crowd of noble Saxon leaders, who were quaffing the blood-red wine around their monarch.”

“ I hope,” said Athelstane, somewhat moved by this part of his friend's discourse, “ they will not forget to send us some wine and refections at noon

we had scarce a breathing-space allowed to break our fast, and I never have the benefit of my food when I eat immediately after dismounting from horseback, though the leaches recommend that practice.”

Cedric went on with his story without noticing this interjectional observation of his friend.

“ The envoy of Tosti,” he said, “ moved up the hall, undismayed by the frowning countenances of all around him, until he made his obeisance before the throne of King Harold.

• What terms,' he said, ' Lord King, hath thy brother Tosti to hope, if he should lay down his arms, and crave peace at thy hands ?'

• A brother's love, cried the generous Harold, " and the fair earldom of Northumberland.'

• But should Tosti accept these terms, continued the envoy,' what lands shall be assigned to his faithful ally, Hardrada, King of Norway ?'

• Seven feet of English ground,' answered Harold, fiercely, “or, as Hardrada is said to be a giant, perhaps we may allow him twelve inches more.'

“ The hall rung with acclamations, and cup and horn was filled to the Norwegian, who should be speedily in possession of his English territory.”

“ I could have pledged him with all my soul,” said Athelstane, “ for my tongue cleaves to my palate.”

“ The baffled envoy,” continued Cedric, pursuing with animation his tale, though it interested not the listener, “ retreated, to carry to Tosti and his ally the ominous answer of his injured brother. It was then that the walls of Stamford, and the fatal Welland, renowned in prophecy,* beheld that dire

• Close by Stamford was fought, in 1066, the bloody battle in which Harold defeated his rebel brother Tosti, and the Norwegians, only a few days before his fall at Hastings. The bridge over the Welland was furiously contested. One Norwegian long defended it by his single arm, and was at length

« السابقةمتابعة »