Then Myles arose to take his leave. He asked and obtained permission for Gascoyne to accompany him to France. Then he paused for a moment or two, for it was strongly upon him to speak of a matter that had been lying in his mind all day—a matter that he had dreamed of much with open eyes during the long vigil of the night before.
The Earl looked up inquiringly. "What is it thou wouldst ask?" said he.
Myles's heart was beating quickly within him at the thought of his own boldness, and as he spoke his cheeks burned like fire. "Sir," said he, mustering his courage at last, "haply thou hast forgot it, but I have not; ne'theless, a long time since when I spoke of serving the—the Lady Alice as her true knight, thou didst wisely laugh at my words, and bade me wait first till I had earned my spurs. But now, sir, I have gotten my spurs, and—and do now crave thy gracious leave that I may serve that lady as her true knight."
A space of dead silence fell, in which Myles's heart beat tumultuously within him.
"I know not what thou meanest," said the Earl at last, in a somewhat constrained voice. "How wouldst thou serve her? What wouldst thou have?"
"I would have only a little matter just now," answered Myles. "I would but crave of her a favor for to wear in the morrow's battle, so that she may know that I hold her for my own true lady, and that I may have the courage to fight more boldly, having that favor to defend."
The Earl sat looking at him for a while in brooding silence, stroking his beard the while. Suddenly his brow cleared. "So be it," said he. "I grant thee my leave to ask the Lady Alice for a favor, and if she is pleased to give it to thee, I shall not say thee nay. But I set this upon thee as a provision: that thou shalt not see her without the Lady Anne be present. Thus it was, as I remember, thou saw her first, and with it thou must now be satisfied. Go thou to the Long Gallery, and thither they will come anon if naught hinder them."
Myles waited in the Long Gallery perhaps some fifteen or twenty minutes. No one was there but himself. It was a part of the castle connecting the Earl's and the Countess's apartments, and was used but little. During that time he stood looking absently out of the open casement into the stony court-yard beyond, trying to put into words that which he had to say; wondering, with anxiety, how soon the young ladies would come; wondering whether they would come at all. At last the door at the farther end of the gallery opened, and turning sharply at the sound, he saw the two young ladies enter, Lady Alice leaning upon Lady Anne's arm. It was the first time that he had seen them since the ceremony of the morning, and as he advanced to meet them, the Lady Anne came frankly forward, and gave him her hand, which Myles raised to his lips.
"I give thee joy of thy knighthood, Sir Myles," said she, "and do believe, in good sooth, that if any one deserveth such an honor, thou art he."
At first little Lady Alice hung back behind her cousin, saying nothing until the Lady Anne, turning suddenly, said: "Come, coz, has thou naught to say to our new-made knight? Canst thou not also wish him joy of his knighthood?"
Lady Alice hesitated a minute, then gave Myles a timid hand, which he, with a strange mixture of joy and confusion, took as timidly as it was offered. He raised the hand, and set it lightly and for an instant to his lips, as he had done with the Lady Anne's hand, but with very different emotions.
"I give you joy of your knighthood, sir," said Lady Alice, in a voice so low that Myles could hardly hear it.
Both flushed red, and as he raised his head again, Myles saw that the Lady Anne had withdrawn to one side. Then he knew that it was to give him the opportunity to proffer his request.
A little space of silence followed, the while he strove to key his courage to the saying of that which lay at his mind. "Lady," said he at last, and then again—"Lady, I—have a favor for to ask thee."
"What is it thou wouldst have, Sir Myles?" she murmured, in reply.
"Lady," said he, "ever sin I first saw thee I have thought that if I might choose of all the world, thou only wouldst I choose for—for my true lady, to serve as a right knight should." Here he stopped, frightened at his own boldness. Lady Alice stood quite still, with her face turned away. "Thou—thou art not angered at what I say?" he said.
She shook her head.
"I have longed and longed for the time," said he, "to ask a boon of thee, and now hath that time come. Lady, to-morrow I go to meet a right good knight, and one skilled in arms and in jousting, as thou dost know. Yea, he is famous in arms, and I be nobody. Ne'theless, I fight for the honor of England and Mackworth—and—and for thy sake. I—Thou art not angered at what I say?"
Again the Lady Alice shook her head.
"I would that thou—I would that thou would give me some favor for to wear—thy veil or thy necklace."
He waited anxiously for a little while, but Lady Alice did not answer immediately.
"I fear me," said Myles, presently, "that I have in sooth offended thee in asking this thing. I know that it is a parlous bold matter for one so raw in chivalry and in courtliness as I am, and one so poor in rank, to ask thee for thy favor. An I ha' offended, I prithee let it be as though I had not asked it."
Perhaps it was the young man's timidity that brought a sudden courage to Lady Alice; perhaps it was the graciousness of her gentle breeding that urged her to relieve Myles's somewhat awkward humility, perhaps it was something more than either that lent her bravery to speak, even knowing that the Lady Anne heard all. She turned quickly to him: "Nay, Sir Myles," she said, "I am foolish, and do wrong thee by my foolishness and silence, for, truly, I am proud to have thee wear my favor." She unclasped, as she spoke, the thin gold chain from about her neck. "I give thee this chain," said she, "and it will bring me joy to have it honored by thy true knightliness, and, giving it, I do wish thee all success." Then she bowed her head, and, turning, left him holding the necklace in his hand.
Her cousin left the window to meet her, bowing her head with a smile to Myles as she took her cousin's arm again and led her away. He stood looking after them as they left the room, and when they were gone, he raised the necklace to his lips with a heart beating tumultuously with a triumphant joy it had never felt before.
And now, at last, had come the day of days for Myles Falworth; the day when he was to put to the test all that he had acquired in the three years of his training, the day that was to disclose what promise of future greatness there was in his strong young body. And it was a noble day; one of those of late September, when the air seems sweeter and fresher than at other times; the sun bright and as yellow as gold, the wind lusty and strong, before which the great white clouds go sailing majestically across the bright blueness of the sky above, while their dusky shadows skim across the brown face of the rusty earth beneath.
As was said before, the lists had been set up in the great quadrangle of the castle, than which, level and smooth as a floor, no more fitting place could be chosen. The course was of the usual size—sixty paces long—and separated along its whole length by a barrier about five feet high. Upon the west side of the course and about twenty paces distant from it, a scaffolding had been built facing towards the east so as to avoid the glare of the afternoon sun. In the centre was a raised dais, hung round with cloth of blue embroidered with lions rampant. Upon the dais stood a cushioned throne for the King, and upon the steps below, ranged in the order of their dignity, were seats for the Earl, his guests, the family, the ladies, knights, and gentlemen of the castle. In front, the scaffolding was covered with the gayest tapestries and brightest-colored hangings that the castle could afford. And above, parti-colored pennants and streamers, surmounted by the royal ensign of England, waved and fluttered in the brisk wind.
At either end of the lists stood the pavilions of the knights. That of Myles was at the southern extremity and was hung, by the Earl's desire, with cloth of the Beaumont colors (black and yellow), while a wooden shield bearing three goshawks spread (the crest of the house) was nailed to the roof, and a long streamer of black and yellow trailed out in the wind from the staff above. Myles, partly armed, stood at the door-way of the pavilion, watching the folk gathering at the scaffolding. The ladies of the house were already seated, and the ushers were bustling hither and thither, assigning the others their places. A considerable crowd of common folk and burghers from the town had already gathered at the barriers opposite, and as he looked at the restless and growing multitude he felt his heart beat quickly and his flesh grow cold with a nervous trepidation—just such as the lad of to-day feels when he sees the auditorium filling with friends and strangers who are to listen by-and-by to the reading of his prize poem.
Suddenly there came a loud blast of trumpets. A great gate at the farther extremity of the lists was thrown open, and the King appeared, riding upon a white horse, preceded by the King-at-arms and the heralds, attended by the Earl and the Comte de Vermoise, and followed by a crowd of attendants. Just then Gascoyne, who, with Wilkes, was busied lacing some of the armor plates with new thongs, called Myles, and he turned and entered the pavilion.
As the two squires were adjusting these last pieces, strapping them in place and tying the thongs, Lord George and Sir James Lee entered the pavilion. Lord George took the young man by the hand, and with a pleasant smile wished him success in the coming encounter.
Sir James seemed anxious and disturbed. He said nothing, and after Gascoyne had placed the open bascinet that supports the tilting helm in its place, he came forward and examined the armor piece by piece, carefully and critically, testing the various straps and leather points and thongs to make sure of their strength.
"Sir," said Gascoyne, who stood by watching him anxiously, "I do trust that I have done all meetly and well."
"I see nothing amiss, sirrah," said the old knight, half grudgingly. "So far as I may know, he is ready to mount."
Just then a messenger entered, saying that the King was seated, and Lord George bade Myles make haste to meet the challenger.
"Francis," said Myles, "prithee give me my pouch yonder."
Gascoyne handed him the velvet bag, and he opened it, and took out the necklace that the Lady Alice had given him the day before.
"Tie me this around my arm," said he. He looked down, keeping his eyes studiously fixed on Gascoyne's fingers, as they twined the thin golden chain around the iron plates of his right arm, knowing that Lord George's eyes were upon him, and blushing fiery red at the knowledge.
Sir James was at that moment examining the great tilting helm, and Lord George watched him, smiling amusedly. "And hast thou then already chosen thee a lady?" he said, presently.
"Aye, my Lord," answered Myles, simply.
"Marry, I trust we be so honored that she is one of our castle folk," said the Earl's brother.
For a moment Myles did not reply; then he looked up. "My Lord," said he, "the favor was given to me by the Lady Alice."
Lord George looked grave for the moment; then he laughed. "Marry, thou art a bold archer to shoot for such high game."
Myles did not answer, and at that moment two grooms led his horse up to the door of the pavilion. Gascoyne and Wilkes helped him to his saddle, and then, Gascoyne holding his horse by the bridle-rein, he rode slowly across the lists to the little open space in front of the scaffolding and the King's seat just as the Sieur de la Montaigne approached from the opposite direction.
As soon as the two knights champion had reached each his appointed station in front of the scaffolding, the Marshal bade the speaker read the challenge, which, unrolling the parchment, he began to do in a loud, clear voice, so that all might hear. It was a quaint document, wrapped up in the tangled heraldic verbiage of the time.
The pith of the matter was that the Sieur Brian Philip Francis de la Montaigne proclaimed before all men the greater chivalry and skill at arms of the knights of France and of Dauphiny, and likewise the greater fairness of the ladies of France and Dauphiny, and would there defend those sayings with his body without fear or attaint as to the truth of the same. As soon as the speaker had ended, the Marshal bade him call the defendant of the other side.
Then Myles spoke his part, with a voice trembling somewhat with the excitement of the moment, but loudly and clearly enough: "I, Myles Edward Falworth, knight, so created by the hand and by the grace of his Majesty King Henry IV of England, do take upon me the gage of this battle, and will defend with my body the chivalry of the knights of England and the fairness of the ladies thereof!"
Then, after the speaker ended his proclamation and had retired to his place, the ceremony of claiming and redeeming the helmet, to which all young knights were subjected upon first entering the lists, was performed.
One of the heralds cried in a loud voice, "I, Gilles Hamerton, herald to the most noble Clarencieux King-at-arms, do claim the helm of Sir Myles Edward Falworth by this reason, that he hath never yet entered joust or tourney."
To which Myles answered, "I do acknowledge the right of that claim, and herewith proffer thee in ransom for the same this purse of one hundred marks in gold."
As he spoke, Gascoyne stepped forward and delivered the purse, with the money, to the Herald. It was a more than usually considerable ransom, and had been made up by the Earl and Lord George that morning.
"Right nobly hast thou redeemed thy helm," said the Herald, "and hereafter be thou free to enter any jousting whatsoever, and in whatever place."
So, all being ended, both knights bowed to the King, and then, escorted each by his squire, returned to his pavilion, saluted by the spectators with a loud clapping of hands.
Sir James Lee met Myles in front of his tent. Coming up to the side of the horse, the old man laid his hand upon the saddle, looking up into the young man's face.
"Thou wilt not fail in this venture and bring shame upon me?" said he.
"Nay, my dear master," said Myles; "I will do my best."
"I doubt it not," said the old man; "and I believe me thou wilt come off right well. From what he did say this morning, methinks the Sieur de la Montaigne meaneth only to break three lances with thee, and will content himself therewith, without seeking to unhorse thee. Ne'theless, be thou bold and watchful, and if thou find that he endeavor to cast thee, do thy best to unhorse him. Remember also those things which I have told thee ten thousand times before: hold thy toes well down and grip the stirrup hard, more especially at the moment of meeting; bend thy body forward, and keep thine elbow close to thy side. Bear thy lance point one foot above thine adversary's helm until within two lengths of meeting, and strike thou in the very middle of his shield. So, Myles, thou mayst hold thine own, and come off with glory."
As he ended speaking he drew back, and Gascoyne, mounting upon a stool, covered his friend's head and bascinet with the great jousting helm, making fast the leathern points that held it to the iron collar.
As he was tying the last thong a messenger came from the Herald, saying that the challenger was ready, and then Myles knew the time had come, and reaching down and giving Sir James a grip of the hand, he drew on his gauntlet, took the jousting lance that Wilkes handed him, and turned his horse's head towards his end of the lists.
As Myles took his place at the south end of the lists, he found the Sieur de la Montaigne already at his station. Through the peep-hole in the face of the huge helmet, a transverse slit known as the occularium, he could see, like a strange narrow picture, the farther end of the lists, the spectators upon either side moving and shifting with ceaseless restlessness, and in the centre of all, his opponent, sitting with spear point directed upward, erect, motionless as a statue of iron, the sunlight gleaming and flashing upon his polished plates of steel, and the trappings of his horse swaying and fluttering in the rushing of the fresh breeze.
Upon that motionless figure his sight gradually centred with every faculty of mind and soul. He knew the next moment the signal would be given that was to bring him either glory or shame from that iron statue. He ground his teeth together with stern resolve to do his best in the coming encounter, and murmured a brief prayer in the hallow darkness of his huge helm. Then with a shake he settled himself more firmly in his saddle, slowly raised his spear point until the shaft reached the exact angle, and there suffered it to rest motionless. There was a moment of dead, tense, breathless pause, then he rather felt than saw the Marshal raise his baton. He gathered himself together, and the next moment a bugle sounded loud and clear. In one blinding rush he drove his spurs into the sides of his horse, and in instant answer felt the noble steed spring forward with a bound.
Through all the clashing of his armor reverberating in the hollow depths of his helmet, he saw the mail-clad figure from the other end of the lists rushing towards him, looming larger and larger as they came together. He gripped his saddle with his knees, clutched the stirrup with the soles of his feet, and bent his body still more forward. In the instant of meeting, with almost the blindness of instinct, he dropped the point of his spear against the single red flower-de-luce in the middle of the on-coming shield. There was a thunderous crash that seemed to rack every joint, he heard the crackle of splintered wood, he felt the momentary trembling recoil of the horse beneath him, and in the next instant had passed by. As he checked the onward rush of his horse at the far end of the course, he heard faintly in the dim hollow recess of the helm the loud shout and the clapping of hands of those who looked on, and found himself gripping with nervous intensity the butt of a broken spear, his mouth clammy with excitement, and his heart thumping in his throat.
Then he realized that he had met his opponent, and had borne the meeting well. As he turned his horse's head towards his own end of the lists, he saw the other trotting slowly back towards his station, also holding a broken spear shaft in his hand.
As he passed the iron figure a voice issued from the helmet, "Well done, Sir Myles, nobly done!" and his heart bounded in answer to the words of praise. When he had reached his own end of the lists, he flung away his broken spear, and Gascoyne came forward with another.
"Oh, Myles!" he said, with sob in his voice, "it was nobly done. Never did I see a better ridden course in all my life. I did not believe that thou couldst do half so well. Oh, Myles, prithee knock him out of his saddle an thou lovest me!"
Myles, in his high-keyed nervousness, could not forbear a short hysterical laugh at his friend's warmth of enthusiasm. He took the fresh lance in his hand, and then, seeing that his opponent was walking his horse slowly up and down at his end of the lists, did the same during the little time of rest before the next encounter.
When, in answer to the command of the Marshal, he took his place a second time, he found himself calmer and more collected than before, but every faculty no less intensely fixed than it had been at first. Once more the Marshal raised his baton, once more the horn sounded, and once more the two rushed together with the same thunderous crash, the same splinter of broken spears, the same momentary trembling recoil of the horse, and the same onward rush past one another. Once more the spectators applauded and shouted as the two knights turned their horses and rode back towards their station.
This time as they met midway the Sieur de la Montaigne reined in his horse. "Sir Myles," said his muffled voice, "I swear to thee, by my faith, I had not thought to meet in thee such an opponent as thou dost prove thyself to be. I had thought to find in thee a raw boy, but find instead a Paladin. Hitherto I have given thee grace as I would give grace to any mere lad, and thought of nothing but to give thee opportunity to break thy lance. Now I shall do my endeavor to unhorse thee as I would an acknowledged peer in arms. Nevertheless, on account of thy youth, I give thee this warning, so that thou mayst hold thyself in readiness."
"I give thee gramercy for thy courtesy, my Lord," answered Myles, speaking in French; "and I will strive to encounter thee as best I may, and pardon me if I seem forward in so saying, but were I in thy place, my Lord, I would change me yon breast-piece and over-girth of my saddle; they are sprung in the stitches."
"Nay," said the Sieur de la Montaigne, laughing, "breast-piece and over-girth have carried me through more tilts than one, and shall through this. An thou give me a blow so true as to burst breast-piece and over-girth, I will own myself fairly conquered by thee." So saying, he saluted Myles with the butt of the spear he still held, and passed by to his end of the lists.
Myles, with Gascoyne running beside him, rode across to his pavilion, and called to Edmund Wilkes to bring him a cup of spiced wine. After Gascoyne had taken off his helmet, and as he sat wiping the perspiration from his face Sir James came up and took him by the hand.
"My dear boy," said he, gripping the hand he held, "never could I hope to be so overjoyed in mine old age as I am this day. Thou dost bring honor to me, for I tell thee truly thou dost ride like a knight seasoned in twenty tourneys."
"It doth give me tenfold courage to hear thee so say, dear master," answered Myles. "And truly," he added, "I shall need all my courage this bout, for the Sieur de la Montaigne telleth me that he will ride to unhorse me this time."
"Did he indeed so say?" said Sir James. "Then belike he meaneth to strike at thy helm. Thy best chance is to strike also at his. Doth thy hand tremble?"
"Not now," answered Myles.
"Then keep thy head cool and thine eye true. Set thy trust in God, and haply thou wilt come out of this bout honorably in spite of the rawness of thy youth."
Just then Edmund Wilkes presented the cup of wine to Myles, who drank it off at a draught, and thereupon Gascoyne replaced the helm and tied the thongs.
The charge that Sir James Lee had given to Myles to strike at his adversary's helm was a piece of advice he probably would not have given to so young a knight, excepting as a last resort. A blow perfectly delivered upon the helm was of all others the most difficult for the recipient to recover from, but then a blow upon the helm was not one time in fifty perfectly given. The huge cylindrical tilting helm was so constructed in front as to slope at an angle in all directions to one point. That point was the centre of a cross formed by two iron bands welded to the steel-face plates of the helm where it was weakened by the opening slit of the occularium, or peephole. In the very centre of this cross was a little flattened surface where the bands were riveted together, and it was upon that minute point that the blow must be given to be perfect, and that stroke Myles determined to attempt.
As he took his station Edmund Wilkes came running across from the pavilion with a lance that Sir James had chosen, and Myles, returning the one that Gascoyne had just given him, took it in his hand. It was of seasoned oak, somewhat thicker than the other, a tough weapon, not easily to be broken even in such an encounter as he was like to have. He balanced the weapon, and found that it fitted perfectly to his grasp. As he raised the point to rest, his opponent took his station at the farther extremity of the lists, and again there was a little space of breathless pause. Myles was surprised at his own coolness; every nervous tremor was gone. Before, he had been conscious of the critical multitude looking down upon him; now it was a conflict of man to man, and such a conflict had no terrors for his young heart of iron.
The spectators had somehow come to the knowledge that this was to be a more serious encounter than the two which had preceded it, and a breathless silence fell for the moment or two that the knights stood in place.
Once more he breathed a short prayer, "Holy Mary, guard me!"
Then again, for the third time, the Marshal raised his baton, and the horn sounded, and for the third time Myles drove his spurs into his horse's flanks. Again he saw the iron figure of his opponent rushing nearer, nearer, nearer. He centred, with a straining intensity, every faculty of soul, mind, and body upon one point—the cross of the occularium, the mark he was to strike. He braced himself for the tremendous shock which he knew must meet him, and then in a flash dropped lance point straight and true. The next instant there was a deafening stunning crash—a crash like the stroke of a thunder-bolt. There was a dazzling blaze of blinding light, and a myriad sparks danced and flickered and sparkled before his eyes. He felt his horse stagger under him with the recoil, and hardly knowing what he did, he drove his spurs deep into its sides with a shout. At the same moment there resounded in his ears a crashing rattle and clatter, he knew not of what, and then, as his horse recovered and sprang forward, and as the stunning bewilderment passed, he found that his helmet had been struck off. He heard a great shout arise from all, and thought, with a sickening, bitter disappointment, that it was because he had lost. At the farther end of the course he turned his horse, and then his heart gave a leap and a bound as though it would burst, the blood leaped to his cheeks tingling, and his bosom thrilled with an almost agonizing pang of triumph, of wonder, of amazement.
There, in a tangle of his horse's harness and of embroidered trappings, the Sieur de la Montaigne lay stretched upon the ground, with his saddle near by, and his riderless horse was trotting aimlessly about at the farther end of the lists.
Myles saw the two squires of the fallen knight run across to where their master lay, he saw the ladies waving their kerchiefs and veils, and the castle people swinging their hats and shouting in an ecstasy of delight. Then he rode slowly back to where the squires were now aiding the fallen knight to arise. The senior squire drew his dagger, cut the leather points, and drew off the helm, disclosing the knight's face—a face white as death, and convulsed with rage, mortification, and bitter humiliation.
"I was not rightly unhorsed!" he cried, hoarsely and with livid lips, to the Marshal and his attendants, who had ridden up. "I unhelmed him fairly enough, but my over-girth and breast-strap burst, and my saddle slipped. I was not unhorsed, I say, and I lay claim that I unhelmed him."
"Sir," said the Marshal calmly, and speaking in French, "surely thou knowest that the loss of helmet does not decide an encounter. I need not remind thee, my Lord, that it was so awarded by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, when in the jousting match between Reynand de Roye and John de Holland, the Sieur Reynand left every point of his helm loosened, so that the helm was beaten off at each stroke. If he then was justified in doing so of his own choice, and wilfully suffering to be unhelmed, how then can this knight be accused of evil who suffered it by chance?"
"Nevertheless," said the Sieur de la Montaigne, in the same hoarse, breathless voice, "I do affirm, and will make my affirmation good with my body, that I fell only by the breaking of my girth. Who says otherwise lies!"
"It is the truth he speaketh," said Myles. "I myself saw the stitches were some little what burst, and warned him thereof before we ran this course.
"Sir," said the Marshal to the Sieur de la Montaigne, "how can you now complain of that thing which your own enemy advised you of and warned you against? Was it not right knightly for him so to do?"
The Sieur de la Montaigne stood quite still for a little while, leaning on the shoulder of his chief squire, looking moodily upon the ground; then, without making answer, he turned, and walked slowly away to his pavilion, still leaning on his squire's shoulder, whilst the other attendant followed behind, bearing his shield and helmet.
Gascoyne had picked up Myles's fallen helmet as the Sieur de la Montaigne moved away, and Lord George and Sir James Lee came walking across the lists to where Myles still sat. Then, the one taking his horse by the bridle-rein, and the other walking beside the saddle, they led him before the raised dais where the King sat.
Even the Comte de Vermoise, mortified and amazed as he must have been at the overthrow of his best knight, joined in the praise and congratulation that poured upon the young conqueror. Myles, his heart swelling with a passion of triumphant delight, looked up and met the gaze of Lady Alice fixed intently upon him. A red spot of excitement still burned in either cheek, and it flamed to a rosier red as he bowed his head to her before turning away.
Gascoyne had just removed Myles's breastplate and gorget, when Sir James Lee burst into the pavilion. All his grim coldness was gone, and he flung his arms around the young man's neck, hugging him heartily, and kissing him upon either cheek.
Ere he let him go, "Mine own dear boy," he said, holding him off at arm's-length, and winking his one keen eye rapidly, as though to wink away a dampness of which he was ashamed—"mine own dear boy, I do tell thee truly this is as sweet to me as though thou wert mine own son; sweeter to me than when I first broke mine own lance in triumph, and felt myself to be a right knight."
"Sir," answered Myles, "what thou sayest doth rejoice my very heart. Ne'theless, it is but just to say that both his breast-piece and over-girth were burst in the stitches before he ran his course, for so I saw with mine own eyes."
"Burst in the stitches!" snorted Sir James. "Thinkest thou he did not know in what condition was his horse's gearing? I tell thee he went down because thou didst strike fair and true, and he did not so strike thee. Had he been Guy of Warwick he had gone down all the same under such a stroke and in such case."
It was not until more than three weeks after the King had left Devlen Castle that Lord George and his company of knights and archers were ready for the expedition to France. Two weeks of that time Myles spent at Crosbey-Dale with his father and mother. It was the first time that he had seen them since, four years ago, he had quitted the low, narrow, white-walled farmhouse for the castle of the great Earl of Mackworth. He had never appreciated before how low and narrow and poor the farm-house was. Now, with his eyes trained to the bigness of Devlen Castle, he looked around him with wonder and pity at his father's humble surroundings. He realized as he never else could have realized how great was the fall in fortune that had cast the house of Falworth down from its rightful station to such a level as that upon which it now rested. And at the same time that he thus recognized how poor was their lot, how dependent upon the charity of others, he also recognized how generous was the friendship of Prior Edward, who perilled his own safety so greatly in affording the family of the attainted Lord an asylum in its bitter hour of need and peril.
Myles paid many visits to the gentle old priest during those two weeks' visit, and had many long and serious talks with him. One warm bright afternoon, as he and the old man walked together in the priory garden, after a game or two of draughts, the young knight talked more freely and openly of his plans, his hopes, his ambitions, than perhaps he had ever done. He told the old man all that the Earl had disclosed to him concerning the fallen fortunes of his father's house, and of how all who knew those circumstances looked to him to set the family in its old place once more. Prior Edward added many things to those which Myles already knew—things of which the Earl either did not know, or did not choose to speak. He told the young man, among other matters, the reason of the bitter and lasting enmity that the King felt for the blind nobleman: that Lord Falworth had been one of King Richard's council in times past; that it was not a little owing to him that King Henry, when Earl of Derby, had been banished from England, and that though he was then living in the retirement of private life, he bitterly and steadfastly opposed King Richard's abdication. He told Myles that at the time when Sir John Dale found shelter at Falworth Castle, vengeance was ready to fall upon his father at any moment, and it needed only such a pretext as that of sheltering so prominent a conspirator as Sir John to complete his ruin.
Myles, as he listened intently, could not but confess in his own mind that the King had many rational, perhaps just, grounds for grievance against such an ardent opponent as the blind Lord had shown himself to be. "But, sir," said he, after a little space of silence, when Prior Edward had ended, "to hold enmity and to breed treason are very different matters. Haply my father was Bolingbroke's enemy, but, sure, thou dost not believe he is justly and rightfully tainted with treason?"
"Nay," answered the priest, "how canst thou ask me such a thing? Did I believe thy father a traitor, thinkest thou I would thus tell his son thereof? Nay, Myles, I do know thy father well, and have known him for many years, and this of him, that few men are so honorable in heart and soul as he. But I have told thee all these things to show that the King is not without some reason to be thy father's unfriend. Neither, haply, is the Earl of Alban without cause of enmity against him. So thou, upon thy part, shouldst not feel bitter rancor against the King for what hath happed to thy house, nor even against William Brookhurst—I mean the Earl of Alban—for, I tell thee, the worst of our enemies and the worst of men believe themselves always to have right and justice upon their side, even when they most wish evil to others."
So spoke the gentle old priest, who looked from his peaceful haven with dreamy eyes upon the sweat and tussle of the world's battle. Had he instead been in the thick of the fight, it might have been harder for him to believe that his enemies ever had right upon their side.
"But tell me this," said Myles, presently, "dost thou, then, think that I do evil in seeking to do a battle of life or death with this wicked Earl of Alban, who hath so ruined my father in body and fortune?"
"Nay," said Prior Edward, thoughtfully, "I say not that thou doest evil. War and bloodshed seem hard and cruel matters to me; but God hath given that they be in the world, and may He forbid that such a poor worm as I should say that they be all wrong and evil. Meseems even an evil thing is sometimes passing good when rightfully used."
Myles did not fully understand what the old man meant, but this much he gathered, that his spiritual father did not think ill of his fighting the Earl of Alban for his temporal father's sake.
So Myles went to France in Lord George's company, a soldier of fortune, as his Captain was. He was there for only six months, but those six months wrought a great change in his life. In the fierce factional battles that raged around the walls of Paris; in the evil life which he saw at the Burgundian court in Paris itself after the truce—a court brilliant and wicked, witty and cruel—the wonderful liquor of youth had evaporated rapidly, and his character had crystallized as rapidly into the hardness of manhood. The warfare, the blood, the evil pleasures which he had seen had been a fiery, crucible test to his soul, and I love my hero that he should have come forth from it so well. He was no longer the innocent Sir Galahad who had walked in pure white up the Long Hall to be knighted by the King, but his soul was of that grim, sterling, rugged sort that looked out calmly from his gray eyes upon the wickedness and debauchery around him, and loved it not.
Then one day a courier came, bringing a packet. It was a letter from the Earl, bidding Myles return straightway to England and to Mackworth House upon the Strand, nigh to London, without delay, and Myles knew that his time had come.
It was a bright day in April when he and Gascoyne rode clattering out through Temple Bar, leaving behind them quaint old London town, its blank stone wall, its crooked, dirty streets, its high-gabled wooden houses, over which rose the sharp spire of St. Paul's, towering high into the golden air. Before them stretched the straight, broad highway of the Strand, on one side the great houses and palaces of princely priests and powerful nobles; on the other the Covent Garden, (or the Convent Garden, as it was then called), and the rolling country, where great stone windmills swung their slow-moving arms in the damp, soft April breeze, and away in the distance the Scottish Palace, the White Hall, and Westminster.
It was the first time that Myles had seen famous London town. In that dim and distant time of his boyhood, six months before, he would have been wild with delight and enthusiasm. Now he jogged along with Gascoyne, gazing about him with calm interest at open shops and booths and tall, gabled houses; at the busy throng of merchants and craftsmen, jostling and elbowing one another; at townsfolk—men and dames—picking their way along the muddy kennel of a sidewalk. He had seen so much of the world that he had lost somewhat of interest in new things. So he did not care to tarry, but rode, with a mind heavy with graver matters, through the streets and out through the Temple Bar direct for Mackworth House, near the Savoy Palace.
It was with a great deal of interest that Myles and his patron regarded one another when they met for the first time after that half-year which the young soldier had spent in France. To Myles it seemed somehow very strange that his Lordship's familiar face and figure should look so exactly the same. To Lord Mackworth, perhaps, it seemed even more strange that six short months should have wrought so great a change in the young man. The rugged exposure in camp and field during the hard winter that had passed had roughened the smooth bloom of his boyish complexion and bronzed his fair skin almost as much as a midsummer's sun could have done. His beard and mustache had grown again, (now heavier and more mannish from having been shaved), and the white seam of a scar over the right temple gave, if not a stern, at least a determined look to the strong, square-jawed young face. So the two stood for a while regarding one another. Myles was the first to break the silence.
"My Lord," said he, "thou didst send for me to come back to England; behold, here am I."
"When didst thou land, Sir Myles?" said the Earl.
"I and my squire landed at Dover upon Tuesday last," answered the young man.
The Earl of Mackworth stroked his beard softly. "Thou art marvellous changed," said he. "I would not have thought it possible."
Myles smiled somewhat grimly. "I have seen such things, my Lord, in France and in Paris," said he, quietly, "as, mayhap, may make a lad a man before his time."
"From which I gather," said the Earl, "that many adventures have befallen thee. Methought thou wouldst find troublesome times in the Dauphin's camp, else I would not have sent thee to France."
A little space of silence followed, during which the Earl sat musingly, half absently, regarding the tall, erect, powerful young figure standing before him, awaiting his pleasure in motionless, patient, almost dogged silence. The strong, sinewy hands were clasped and rested upon the long heavy sword, around the scabbard of which the belt was loosely wrapped, and the plates of mail caught and reflected in flashing, broken pieces, the bright sunlight from the window behind.
"Sir Myles," said the Earl, suddenly, breaking the silence at last, "dost thou know why I sent for thee hither?"
"Aye," said Myles, calmly, "how can I else? Thou wouldst not have called me from Paris but for one thing. Methinks thou hast sent for me to fight the Earl of Alban, and lo! I am here."
"Thou speakest very boldly," said the Earl. "I do hope that thy deeds be as bold as thy words."
"That," said Myles, "thou must ask other men. Methinks no one may justly call me coward."
"By my troth!" said the Earl, smiling, "looking upon thee—limbs and girth, bone and sinew—I would not like to be the he that would dare accuse thee of such a thing. As for thy surmise, I may tell thee plain that thou art right, and that it was to fight the Earl of Alban I sent for thee hither. The time is now nearly ripe, and I will straightway send for thy father to come to London. Meantime it would not be safe either for thee or for me to keep thee in my service. I have spoken to his Highness the Prince of Wales, who, with other of the Princes, is upon our side in this quarrel. He hath promised to take thee into his service until the fitting time comes to bring thee and thine enemy together, and to-morrow I shall take thee to Scotland Yard, where his Highness is now lodging."
As the Earl ended his speech, Myles bowed, but did not speak. The Earl waited for a little while, as though to give him the opportunity to answer.
"Well, sirrah," said he at last, with a shade of impatience, "hast thou naught to say? Meseems thou takest all this with marvellous coolness."
"Have I then my Lord's permission to speak my mind?"
"Aye," said the Earl, "say thy say."
"Sir," said Myles, "I have thought and pondered this matter much while abroad, and would now ask thee a plain question in all honest an I ha' thy leave."
The Earl nodded his head.
"Sir, am I not right in believing that thou hast certain weighty purposes and aims of thine own to gain an I win this battle against the Earl of Alban?"
"Has my brother George been telling thee aught to such a purpose?" said the Earl, after a moment or two of silence.
Myles did not answer.
"No matter," added Lord Mackworth. "I will not ask thee who told thee such a thing. As for thy question—well, sin thou ask it frankly, I will be frank with thee. Yea, I have certain ends to gain in having the Earl of Alban overthrown."
Myles bowed. "Sir," said he, "haply thine ends are as much beyond aught that I can comprehend as though I were a little child; only this I know, that they must be very great. Thou knowest well that in any case I would fight me this battle for my father's sake and for the honor of my house; nevertheless, in return for all that it will so greatly advantage thee, wilt thou not grant me a boon in return should I overcome mine enemy?"
"What is thy boon, Sir Myles?"
"That thou wilt grant me thy favor to seek the Lady Alice de Mowbray for my wife."
The Earl of Mackworth started up from his seat. "Sir Myles Falworth"—he began, violently, and then stopped short, drawing his bushy eyebrows together into a frown stern, if not sinister.
Myles withstood his look calmly and impassively, and presently the Earl turned on his heel, and strode to the open window. A long time passed in silence while he stood there, gazing out of the window into the garden beyond with his back to the young man.
Suddenly he swung around again. "Sir Myles," said he, "the family of Falworth is as good as any in Derbyshire. Just now it is poor and fallen in estate, but if it is again placed in credit and honor, thou, who art the son of the house, shalt have thy suit weighed with as much respect and consideration as though thou wert my peer in all things, Such is my answer. Art thou satisfied?"
"I could ask no more," answered Myles.
That night Myles lodged at Mackworth House. The next morning, as soon as he had broken his fast, which he did in the privacy of his own apartments, the Earl bade him and Gascoyne to make ready for the barge, which was then waiting at the river stairs to take them to Scotland Yard.
The Earl himself accompanied them, and as the heavy snub-nosed boat, rowed by the six oarsmen in Mackworth livery, slid slowly and heavily up against the stream, the Earl, leaning back in his cushioned seat, pointed out the various inns of the great priests or nobles; palatial town residences standing mostly a little distance back from the water behind terraced high-walled gardens and lawns. Yon was the Bishop of Exeter's Close; yon was the Bishop of Bath's; that was York House; and that Chester Inn. So passing by gardens and lawns and palaces, they came at last to Scotland Yard stairs, a broad flight of marble steps that led upward to a stone platform above, upon which opened the gate-way of the garden beyond.
The Scotland Yard of Myles Falworth's day was one of the more pretentious and commodious of the palaces of the Strand. It took its name from having been from ancient times the London inn which the tributary Kings of Scotland occupied when on their periodical visits of homage to England. Now, during this time of Scotland's independence, the Prince of Wales had taken up his lodging in the old palace, and made it noisy with the mad, boisterous mirth of his court.
As the watermen drew the barge close to the landing-place of the stairs, the Earl stepped ashore, and followed by Myles and Gascoyne, ascended to the broad gate-way of the river wall of the garden. Three men-at-arms who lounged upon a bench under the shade of the little pent roof of a guard-house beside the wall, arose and saluted as the well-known figure of the Earl mounted the steps. The Earl nodded a cool answer, and passing unchallenged through the gate, led the way up a pleached walk, beyond which, as Myles could see, there stretched a little grassy lawn and a stone-paved terrace. As the Earl and the two young men approached the end of the walk, they were met by the sound of voices and laughter, the clinking of glasses and the rattle of dishes. Turning a corner, they came suddenly upon a party of young gentlemen, who sat at a late breakfast under the shade of a wide-spreading lime-tree. They had evidently just left the tilt-yard, for two of the guests—sturdy, thick-set young knights—yet wore a part of their tilting armor.
Behind the merry scene stood the gray, hoary old palace, a steep flight of stone steps, and a long, open, stone-arched gallery, which evidently led to the kitchen beyond, for along it hurried serving-men, running up and down the tall flight of steps, and bearing trays and dishes and cups and flagons. It was a merry sight and a pleasant one. The day was warm and balmy, and the yellow sunlight fell in waving uncertain patches of light, dappling the table-cloth, and twinkling and sparkling upon the dishes, cups, and flagons.
At the head of the table sat a young man some three or four years older than Myles, dressed in a full suit of rich blue brocaded velvet, embroidered with gold-thread and trimmed with black fur. His face, which was turned towards them as they mounted from the lawn to the little stone-flagged terrace, was frank and open; the cheeks smooth and fair; the eyes dark and blue. He was tall and rather slight, and wore his thick yellow hair hanging to his shoulders, where it was cut square across, after the manner of the times. Myles did not need to be told that it was the Prince of Wales.
"Ho, Gaffer Fox!" he cried, as soon as he caught sight of the Earl of Mackworth, "what wind blows thee hither among us wild mallard drakes? I warrant it is not for love of us, but only to fill thine own larder after the manner of Sir Fox among the drakes. Whom hast thou with thee? Some gosling thou art about to pluck?"
A sudden hush fell upon the company, and all faces were turned towards the visitors.
The Earl bowed with a soft smile. "Your Highness," said he, smoothly, "is pleased to be pleasant. Sir, I bring you the young knight of whom I spoke to you some time since—Sir Myles Falworth. You may be pleased to bring to mind that you so condescended as to promise to take him into your train until the fitting time arrived for that certain matter of which we spoke."
"Sir Myles," said the Prince of Wales, with a frank, pleasant smile, "I have heard great reports of thy skill and prowess in France, both from Mackworth and from others. It will pleasure me greatly to have thee in my household; more especially," he added, "as it will get thee, callow as thou art, out of my Lord Fox's clutches. Our faction cannot do without the Earl of Mackworth's cunning wits, Sir Myles; ne'theless I would not like to put all my fate and fortune into his hands without bond. I hope that thou dost not rest thy fortunes entirely upon his aid and countenance."
All who were present felt the discomfort of the Prince's speech, It was evident that one of his mad, wild humors was upon him. In another case the hare-brained young courtiers around might have taken their cue from him, but the Earl of Mackworth was no subject for their gibes and witticisms. A constrained silence fell, in which the Earl alone maintained a perfect ease of manner.
Myles bowed to hide his own embarrassment. "Your Highness," said he, evasively, "I rest my fortune, first of all, upon God, His strength and justice."
"Thou wilt find safer dependence there than upon the Lord of Mackworth," said the Prince, dryly. "But come," he added, with a sudden change of voice and manner, "these be jests that border too closely upon bitter earnest for a merry breakfast. It is ill to idle with edged tools. Wilt thou not stay and break thy fast with us, my Lord?"
"Pardon me, your Highness," said the Earl, bowing, and smiling the same smooth smile his lips had worn from the first—such a smile as Myles had never thought to have seen upon his haughty face; "I crave your good leave to decline. I must return home presently, for even now, haply, your uncle, his Grace of Winchester, is awaiting my coming upon the business you wot of. Haply your Highness will find more joyance in a lusty young knight like Sir Myles than in an old fox like myself. So I leave him with you, in your good care."
Such was Myles's introduction to the wild young madcap Prince of Wales, afterwards the famous Henry V, the conqueror of France.
For a month or more thereafter he was a member of the princely household, and, after a little while, a trusted and honored member. Perhaps it was the calm sturdy strength, the courage of the young knight, that first appealed to the Prince's royal heart; perhaps afterwards it was the more sterling qualities that underlaid that courage that drew him to the young man; certain it was that in two weeks Myles was the acknowledged favorite. He made no protestation of virtue; he always accompanied the Prince in those madcap ventures to London, where he beheld all manner of wild revelry; he never held himself aloof from his gay comrades, but he looked upon all their mad sports with the same calm gaze that had carried him without taint through the courts of Burgundy and the Dauphin. The gay, roistering young lords and gentlemen dubbed him Saint Myles, and jested with him about hair-cloth shirts and flagellations, but witticism and jest alike failed to move Myles's patient virtue; he went his own gait in the habits of his life, and in so going knew as little as the others of the mad court that the Prince's growing liking for him was, perhaps, more than all else, on account of that very temperance.
Then, by-and-by, the Prince began to confide in him as he did in none of the others. There was no great love betwixt the King and his son; it has happened very often that the Kings of England have felt bitter jealousy towards the heirs-apparent as they have grown in power, and such was the case with the great King Henry IV. The Prince often spoke to Myles of the clashing and jarring between himself and his father, and the thought began to come to Myles's mind by degrees that maybe the King's jealousy accounted not a little for the Prince's reckless intemperance.
Once, for instance, as the Prince leaned upon, his shoulder waiting, whilst the attendants made ready the barge that was to carry them down the river to the city, he said, abruptly: "Myles, what thinkest thou of us all? Doth not thy honesty hold us in contempt?"
"Nay, Highness," said Myles. "How could I hold contempt?"
"Marry," said the Prince, "I myself hold contempt, and am not as honest a man as thou. But, prithee, have patience with me, Myles. Some day, perhaps, I too will live a clean life. Now, an I live seriously, the King will be more jealous of me than ever, and that is not a little. Maybe I live thus so that he may not know what I really am in soothly earnest."
The Prince also often talked to Myles concerning his own affairs; of the battle he was to fight for his father's honor, of how the Earl of Mackworth had plotted and planned to bring him face to face with the Earl of Alban. He spoke to Myles more than once of the many great changes of state and party that hung upon the downfall of the enemy of the house of Falworth, and showed him how no hand but his own could strike that enemy down; if he fell, it must be through the son of Falworth. Sometimes it seemed to Myles as though he and his blind father were the centre of a great web of plot and intrigue, stretching far and wide, that included not only the greatest houses of England, but royalty and the political balance of the country as well, and even before the greatness of it all he did not flinch.
Then, at last, came the beginning of the time for action. It was in the early part of May, and Myles had been a member of the Prince's household for a little over a month. One morning he was ordered to attend the Prince in his privy cabinet, and, obeying the summons, he found the Prince, his younger brother, the Duke of Bedford, and his uncle, the Bishop of Winchester, seated at a table, where they had just been refreshing themselves with a flagon of wine and a plate of wafers.
"My poor Myles," said the Prince, smiling, as the young knight bowed to the three, and then stood erect, as though on duty. "It shames my heart, brother—and thou, uncle—it shames my heart to be one privy to this thing which we are set upon to do. Here be we, the greatest Lords of England, making a cat's-paw of this lad—for he is only yet a boy—and of his blind father, for to achieve our ends against Alban's faction. It seemeth not over-honorable to my mind."
"Pardon me, your Highness," said Myles, blushing to the roots of his hair; "but, an I may be so bold as to speak, I reck nothing of what your aims may be; I only look to restoring my father's honor and the honor of our house."
"Truly," said the Prince, smiling, "that is the only matter that maketh me willing to lay my hands to this business. Dost thou know why I have sent for thee? It is because this day thou must challenge the Duke of Alban before the King. The Earl of Mackworth has laid all his plans and the time is now ripe. Knowest that thy father is at Mackworth House?"
"Nay," said Myles; "I knew it not."
"He hath been there for nearly two days," said the Prince. "Just now the Earl hath sent for us to come first to Mackworth House. Then to go to the palace, for he hath gained audience with the King, and hath so arranged it that the Earl of Alban is to be there as well. We all go straightway; so get thyself ready as soon as may be."
Perhaps Myles's heart began beating more quickly within him at the nearness of that great happening which he had looked forward to for so long. If it did, he made no sign of his emotion, but only asked, "How must I clothe myself, your Highness?"
"Wear thy light armor," said the Prince, "but no helmet, a juppon bearing the arms and colors that the Earl gave thee when thou wert knighted, and carry thy right-hand gauntlet under thy belt for thy challenge. Now make haste, for time passes."
Adjoining the ancient palace of Westminster, where King Henry IV was then holding his court, was a no less ancient stone building known as the Painted Room. Upon the walls were depicted a series of battle scenes in long bands reaching around this room, one above another. Some of these pictures had been painted as far back as the days of Henry III, others had been added since his time. They chronicled the various wars of the King of England, and it was from them that the little hall took its name of the Painted Room.
This ancient wing, or offshoot, of the main buildings was more retired from the hurly-burly of outer life than other parts of the palace, and thither the sick King was very fond of retiring from the business of State, which ever rested more and more heavily upon his shoulders, sometimes to squander in quietness a spare hour or two; sometimes to idle over a favorite book; sometimes to play a game of chess with a favorite courtier. The cold painted walls had been hung with tapestry, and its floor had been spread with arras carpet. These and the cushioned couches and chairs that stood around gave its gloomy antiquity an air of comfort—an air even of luxury.
It was to this favorite retreat of the King's that Myles was brought that morning with his father to face the great Earl of Alban.
In the anteroom the little party of Princes and nobles who escorted the father and son had held a brief consultation. Then the others had entered, leaving Myles and his blind father in charge of Lord Lumley and two knights of the court, Sir Reginald Hallowell and Sir Piers Averell.
Myles, as he stood patiently waiting, with his father's arm resting in his, could hear the muffled sound of voices from beyond the arras. Among others, he recognized the well-remembered tones of the King. He fancied that he heard his own name mentioned more than once, and then the sound of talking ceased. The next moment the arras was drawn aside, and the Earl entered the antechamber again.
"All is ready, cousin," said he to Lord Falworth, in a suppressed voice. "Essex hath done as he promised, and Alban is within there now." Then, turning to Myles, speaking in the same low voice, and betraying more agitation than Myles had thought it possible for him to show, "Sir Myles," said he, "remember all that hath been told thee. Thou knowest what thou hast to say and do." Then, without further word, he took Lord Falworth by the hand, and led the way into the room, Myles following close behind.
The King half sat, half inclined, upon a cushioned seat close to which stood the two Princes. There were some dozen others present, mostly priests and noblemen of high quality who clustered in a group at a little distance. Myles knew most of them at a glance having seen them come and go at Scotland Yard. But among them all, he singled out only one—the Earl of Alban. He had not seen that face since he was a little child eight years old, but now that he beheld it again, it fitted instantly and vividly into the remembrance of the time of that terrible scene at Falworth Castle, when he had beheld the then Lord Brookhurst standing above the dead body of Sir John Dale, with the bloody mace clinched in his hand. There were the same heavy black brows, sinister and gloomy, the same hooked nose, the same swarthy cheeks. He even remembered the deep dent in the forehead, where the brows met in perpetual frown. So it was that upon that face his looks centred and rested.
The Earl of Alban had just been speaking to some Lord who stood beside him, and a half-smile still hung about the corners of his lips. At first, as he looked up at the entrance of the newcomers, there was no other expression; then suddenly came a flash of recognition, a look of wide-eyed amazement; then the blood left the cheeks and the lips, and the face grew very pale. No doubt he saw at a flash that some great danger overhung him in this sudden coming of his old enemy, for he was as keen and as astute a politician as he was a famous warrior. At least he knew that the eyes of most of those present were fixed keenly and searchingly upon him. After the first start of recognition, his left hand, hanging at his side, gradually closed around the scabbard of his sword, clutching it in a vice-like grip.
Meantime the Earl of Mackworth had led the blind Lord to the King, where both kneeled.
"Why, how now, my Lord?" said the King. "Methought it was our young Paladin whom we knighted at Devlen that was to be presented, and here thou bringest this old man. A blind man, ha! What is the meaning of this?"
"Majesty," said the Earl, "I have taken this chance to bring to thy merciful consideration one who hath most wofully and unjustly suffered from thine anger. Yonder stands the young knight of whom we spake; this is his father, Gilbert Reginald, whilom Lord Falworth, who craves mercy and justice at thy hands."
"Falworth," said the King, placing his hand to his head. "The name is not strange to mine ears, but I cannot place it. My head hath troubled me sorely to-day, and I cannot remember."
At this point the Earl of Alban came quietly and deliberately forward. "Sire," said he, "pardon my boldness in so venturing to address you, but haply I may bring the name more clearly to your mind. He is, as my Lord of Mackworth said, the whilom Baron Falworth, the outlawed, attainted traitor; so declared for the harboring of Sir John Dale, who was one of those who sought your Majesty's life at Windsor eleven years ago. Sire, he is mine enemy as well, and is brought hither by my proclaimed enemies. Should aught occur to my harm, I rest my case in your gracious hands."
The dusty red flamed into the King's pale, sickly face in answer, and he rose hastily from his seat.
"Aye," said he, "I remember me now—I remember me the man and the name! Who hath dared bring him here before us?" All the dull heaviness of sickness was gone for the moment, and King Henry was the King Henry of ten years ago as he rolled his eyes balefully from one to another of the courtiers who stood silently around.
The Earl of Mackworth shot a covert glance at the Bishop of Winchester, who came forward in answer.
"Your Majesty," said he, "here am I, your brother, who beseech you as your brother not to judge over-hastily in this matter. It is true that this man has been adjudged a traitor, but he has been so adjudged without a hearing. I beseech thee to listen patiently to whatsoever he may have to say."
The King fixed the Bishop with a look of the bitterest, deepest anger, holding his nether lip tightly under his teeth—a trick he had when strongly moved with anger—and the Bishop's eyes fell under the look. Meantime the Earl of Alban stood calm and silent. No doubt he saw that the King's anger was likely to befriend him more than any words that he himself could say, and he perilled his case with no more speech which could only prove superfluous.
At last the King turned a face red and swollen with anger to the blind Lord, who still kneeled before him.
"What hast thou to say?" he said, in a deep and sullen voice.
"Gracious and merciful Lord," said the blind nobleman, "I come to thee, the fountain-head of justice, craving justice. Sire, I do now and here deny my treason, which denial I could not before make, being blind and helpless, and mine enemies strong and malignant. But now, sire, Heaven hath sent me help, and therefore I do acclaim before thee that my accuser, William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of Alban, is a foul and an attainted liar in all that he hath accused me of. To uphold which allegation, and to defend me, who am blinded by his unknightliness, I do offer a champion to prove all that I say with his body in combat."
The Earl of Mackworth darted a quick look at Myles, who came forward the moment his father had ended, and kneeled beside him. The King offered no interruption to his speech, but he bent a look heavy with anger upon the young man.
"My gracious Lord and King," said Myles, "I, the son of the accused, do offer myself as his champion in this cause, beseeching thee of thy grace leave to prove the truth of the same, being a belted knight by thy grace and of thy creation and the peer of any who weareth spurs." Thereupon, rising, he drew his iron gauntlet from his girdle, and flung it clashing down upon the floor, and with his heart swelling within him with anger and indignation and pity of his blind father, he cried, in a loud voice, "I do accuse thee, William of Alban, that thou liest vilely as aforesaid, and here cast down my gage, daring thee to take it up."
The Earl of Alban made as though he would accept the challenge, but the King stopped him hastily.
"Stop!" he cried, harshly. "Touch not the gage! Let it lie—let it lie, I tell thee, my Lord! Now then," said he, turning to the others, "tell me what meaneth all this coil? Who brought this man hither?"
He looked from one to another of those who stood silently around, but no one answered.
"I see," said he, "ye all have had to do with it. It is as my Lord of Alban sayeth; ye are his enemies, and ye are my enemies as well. In this I do smell a vile plot. I cannot undo what I have done, and since I have made this young man a knight with mine own hands, I cannot deny that he is fit to challenge my Lord of Alban. Ne'theless, the High Court of Chivalry shall adjudge this case. Meantime," said he, turning to the Earl Marshal, who was present, "I give thee this attainted Lord in charge. Convey him presently to the Tower, and let him abide our pleasure there. Also, thou mayst take up yon gage, and keep it till it is redeemed according to our pleasure."
He stood thoughtfully for a moment, and then raising his eyes, looked fixedly at the Earl of Mackworth. "I know," he said, "that I be a right sick man, and there be some who are already plotting to overthrow those who have held up my hand with their own strength for all these years." Then speaking more directly: "My Lord Earl of Mackworth, I see your hand in this before all others. It was thou who so played upon me as to get me to knight this young man, and thus make him worthy to challenge my Lord of Alban. It was thy doings that brought him here to-day, backed by mine own sons and my brother and by these noblemen." Then turning suddenly to the Earl of Alban: "Come, my Lord," said he; "I am aweary with all this coil. Lend me thine arm to leave this place." So it was that he left the room, leaning upon the Earl of Alban's arm, and followed by the two or three of the Alban faction who were present.
"Your Royal Highness," said the Earl Marshal, "I must e'en do the King's bidding, and take this gentleman into arrest."
"Do thy duty," said the Prince. "We knew it must come to this. Meanwhile he is to be a prisoner of honor, and see that he be well lodged and cared for. Thou wilt find my barge at the stairs to convey him down the river, and I myself will come this afternoon to visit him."
It was not until the end of July that the High Court of Chivalry rendered its judgment. There were many unusual points in the case, some of which bore heavily against Lord Falworth, some of which were in his favor. He was very ably defended by the lawyers whom the Earl of Mackworth had engaged upon his side; nevertheless, under ordinary circumstances, the judgment, no doubt, would have been quickly rendered against him. As it was, however, the circumstances were not ordinary, and it was rendered in his favor. The Court besought the King to grant the ordeal by battle, to accept Lord Falworth's champion, and to appoint the time and place for the meeting.
The decision must have been a most bitter, galling one for the sick King. He was naturally of a generous, forgiving nature, but Lord Falworth in his time of power had been an unrelenting and fearless opponent, and his Majesty who, like most generous men, could on occasions be very cruel and intolerant, had never forgiven him. He had steadily thrown the might of his influence with the Court against the Falworths' case, but that influence was no longer all-powerful for good or ill. He was failing in health, and it could only be a matter of a few years, probably of only a few months, before his successor sat upon the throne.
Upon the other hand, the Prince of Wales's faction had been steadily, and of late rapidly, increasing in power, and in the Earl of Mackworth, its virtual head, it possessed one of the most capable politicians and astute intriguers in Europe. So, as the outcome of all the plotting and counter-plotting, scheming and counter-scheming, the case was decided in Lord Falworth's favor. The knowledge of the ultimate result was known to the Prince of Wales's circle almost a week before it was finally decided. Indeed, the Earl of Mackworth had made pretty sure of that result before he had summoned Myles from France, but upon the King it fell like the shock of a sudden blow. All that day he kept himself in moody seclusion, nursing his silent, bitter anger, and making only one outbreak, in which he swore by the Holy Rood that should Myles be worsted in the encounter, he would not take the battle into his own hands, but would suffer him to be slain, and furthermore, that should the Earl show signs of failing at any time, he would do all in his power to save him. One of the courtiers who had been present, and who was secretly inclined to the Prince of Wales's faction, had repeated this speech at Scotland Yard, and the Prince had said, "That meaneth, Myles, that thou must either win or die."
"And so I would have it to be, my Lord," Myles had answered.
It was not until nearly a fortnight after the decision of the Court of Chivalry had been rendered that the King announced the time and place of battle—the time to be the 3d of September, the place to be Smithfield—a spot much used for such encounters.
During the three weeks or so that intervened between this announcement and the time of combat, Myles went nearly every day to visit the lists in course of erection. Often the Prince went with him; always two or three of his friends of the Scotland Yard court accompanied him.
The lists were laid out in the usual form. The true or principal list in which the combatants were to engage was sixty yards long and forty yards wide; this rectangular space being surrounded by a fence about six feet high, painted vermilion. Between the fence and the stand where the King and the spectators sat, and surrounding the central space, was the outer or false list, also surrounded by a fence. In the false list the Constable and the Marshal and their followers and attendants were to be stationed at the time of battle to preserve the general peace during the contest between the principals.
One day as Myles, his princely patron, and his friends entered the barriers, leaving their horses at the outer gate, they met the Earl of Alban and his followers, who were just quitting the lists, which they also were in the habit of visiting nearly every day. As the two parties passed one another, the Earl spoke to a gentleman walking beside him and in a voice loud enough to be clearly overheard by the others: "Yonder is the young sprig of Falworth," said he. "His father, my Lords, is not content with forfeiting his own life for his treason, but must, forsooth, throw away his son's also. I have faced and overthrown many a better knight than that boy."
Myles heard the speech, and knew that it was intended for him to hear it; but he paid no attention to it, walking composedly at the Prince's side. The Prince had also overheard it, and after a little space of silence asked, "Dost thou not feel anxiety for thy coming battle, Myles?"
"Yea, my Lord," said Myles; "sometimes I do feel anxiety, but not such as my Lord of Alban would have me feel in uttering the speech that he spake anon. It is anxiety for my father's sake and my mother's sake that I feel, for truly there are great matters for them pending upon this fight. Ne'theless, I do know that God will not desert me in my cause, for verily my father is no traitor."
"But the Earl of Alban," said the Prince, gravely, "is reputed one of the best-skilled knights in all England; moreover, he is merciless and without generosity, so that an he gain aught advantage over thee, he will surely slay thee."
"I am not afraid, my Lord," said Myles, still calmly and composedly.
"Nor am I afraid for thee, Myles," said the Prince, heartily, putting his arm, as he spoke, around the young man's shoulder; "for truly, wert thou a knight of forty years, instead of one of twenty, thou couldst not bear thyself with more courage."
As the time for the duel approached, the days seemed to drag themselves along upon leaden feet; nevertheless, the days came and went, as all days do, bringing with them, at last, the fateful 3d of September.
Early in the morning, while the sun was still level and red, the Prince himself, unattended, came to Myles's apartment, in the outer room of which Gascoyne was bustling busily about arranging the armor piece by piece; renewing straps and thongs, but not whistling over his work as he usually did. The Prince nodded to him, and then passed silently through to the inner chamber. Myles was upon his knees, and Father Ambrose, the Prince's chaplain, was beside him. The Prince stood silently at the door, until Myles, having told his last bead, rose and turned towards him.
"My dear Lord," said the young knight, "I give you gramercy for the great honor you do me in coming so early for to visit me."
"Nay, Myles, give me no thanks," said the Prince, frankly reaching him his hand, which Myles took and set to his lips. "I lay bethinking me of thee this morning, while yet in bed, and so, as I could not sleep any more, I was moved to come hither to see thee."
Quite a number of the Prince's faction were at the breakfast at Scotland Yard that morning; among others, the Earl of Mackworth. All were more or less oppressed with anxiety, for nearly all of them had staked much upon the coming battle. If Alban conquered, he would be more powerful to harm them and to revenge himself upon them than ever, and Myles was a very young champion upon whom to depend. Myles himself, perhaps, showed as little anxiety as any; he certainly ate more heartily of his breakfast that morning than many of the others.
After the meal was ended, the Prince rose. "The boat is ready at the stairs," said he; "if thou wouldst go to the Tower to visit thy father, Myles, before hearing mass, I and Cholmondeley and Vere and Poins will go with thee, if ye, Lords and gentlemen, will grant me your pardon for leaving you. Are there any others that thou wouldst have accompany thee?"
"I would have Sir James Lee and my squire, Master Gascoyne, if thou art so pleased to give them leave to go," answered Myles.
"So be it," said the Prince. "We will stop at Mackworth stairs for the knight."
The barge landed at the west stairs of the Tower wharf, and the whole party were received with more than usual civilities by the Governor, who conducted them at once to the Tower where Lord Falworth was lodged. Lady Falworth met them at the head of the stairs; her eyes were very red and her face pale, and as Myles raised her hand and set a long kiss upon it, her lips trembled, and she turned her face quickly away, pressing her handkerchief for one moment to her eyes. Poor lady! What agony of anxiety and dread did she not suffer for her boy's sake that day! Myles had not hidden both from her and his father that he must either win or die.
As Myles turned from his mother, Prior Edward came out from the inner chamber, and was greeted warmly by him. The old priest had arrived in London only the day before, having come down from Crosbey Priory to be with his friend's family during this their time of terrible anxiety.
After a little while of general talk, the Prince and his attendants retired, leaving the family together, only Sir James Lee and Gascoyne remaining behind.
Many matters that had been discussed before were now finally settled, the chief of which was the disposition of Lady Falworth in case the battle should go against them. Then Myles took his leave, kissing his mother, who began crying, and comforting her with brave assurances. Prior Edward accompanied him as far as the head of the Tower stairs, where Myles kneeled upon the stone steps, while the good priest blessed him and signed the cross upon his forehead. The Prince was waiting in the walled garden adjoining, and as they rowed back again up the river to Scotland Yard, all were thoughtful and serious, even Poins' and Vere's merry tongues being stilled from their usual quips and jesting.
It was about the quarter of the hour before eleven o'clock when Myles, with Gascoyne, set forth for the lists. The Prince of Wales, together with most of his court, had already gone on to Smithfield, leaving behind him six young knights of his household to act as escort to the young champion. Then at last the order to horse was given; the great gate swung open, and out they rode, clattering and jingling, the sunlight gleaming and flaming and flashing upon their polished armor. They drew rein to the right, and so rode in a little cloud of dust along the Strand Street towards London town, with the breeze blowing merrily, and the sunlight shining as sweetly and blithesomely as though they were riding to a wedding rather than to a grim and dreadful ordeal that meant either victory or death.
In the days of King Edward III a code of laws relating to trial by battle had been compiled for one of his sons, Thomas of Woodstock. In this work each and every detail, to the most minute, had been arranged and fixed, and from that time judicial combats had been regulated in accordance with its mandates.
It was in obedience to this code that Myles Falworth appeared at the east gate of the lists (the east gate being assigned by law to the challenger), clad in full armor of proof, attended by Gascoyne, and accompanied by two of the young knights who had acted as his escort from Scotland Yard.
At the barriers he was met by the attorney Willingwood, the chief lawyer who had conducted the Falworth case before the High Court of Chivalry, and who was to attend him during the administration of the oaths before the King.
As Myles presented himself at the gate he was met by the Constable, the Marshal, and their immediate attendants. The Constable, laying his hand upon the bridle-rein, said, in a loud voice: "Stand, Sir Knight, and tell me why thou art come thus armed to the gates of the lists. What is thy name? Wherefore art thou come?"
Myles answered, "I am Myles Falworth, a Knight of the Bath by grace of his Majesty King Henry IV and by his creation, and do come hither to defend my challenge upon the body of William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of Alban, proclaiming him an unknightly knight and a false and perjured liar, in that he hath accused Gilbert Reginald, Lord Falworth, of treason against our beloved Lord, his Majesty the King, and may God defend the right!"
As he ended speaking, the Constable advanced close to his side, and formally raising the umbril of the helmet, looked him in the face. Thereupon, having approved his identity, he ordered the gates to be opened, and bade Myles enter the lists with his squire and his friends.
At the south side of the lists a raised scaffolding had been built for the King and those who looked on. It was not unlike that which had been erected at Devlen Castle when Myles had first jousted as belted knight—here were the same raised seat for the King, the tapestries, the hangings, the fluttering pennons, and the royal standard floating above; only here were no fair-faced ladies looking down upon him, but instead, stern-browed Lords and knights in armor and squires, and here were no merry laughing and buzz of talk and flutter of fans and kerchiefs, but all was very quiet and serious.
Myles riding upon his horse, with Gascoyne holding the bridle-rein, and his attorney walking beside him with his hand upon the stirrups, followed the Constable across the lists to an open space in front of the seat where the King sat. Then, having reached his appointed station, he stopped, and the Constable, advancing to the foot of the stair-way that led to the dais above, announced in a loud voice that the challenger had entered the lists.
"Then called the defendant straightway," said the King, "for noon draweth nigh."
The day was very warm, and the sun, bright and unclouded, shone fiercely down upon the open lists. Perhaps few men nowadays could bear the scorching heat of iron plates such as Myles wore, from which the body was only protected by a leathern jacket and hose. But men's bodies in those days were tougher and more seasoned to hardships of weather than they are in these our times. Myles thought no more of the burning iron plates that incased him than a modern soldier thinks of his dress uniform in warm weather. Nevertheless, he raised the umbril of his helmet to cool his face as he waited the coming of his opponent. He turned his eyes upward to the row of seats on the scaffolding above, and even in the restless, bewildering multitude of strange faces turned towards him recognized those that he knew: the Prince of Wales, his companions of the Scotland Yard household, the Duke of Clarence, the Bishop of Winchester, and some of the noblemen of the Earl of Mackworth's party, who had been buzzing about the Prince for the past month or so. But his glance swept over all these, rather perceiving than seeing them, and then rested upon a square box-like compartment not unlike a prisoner's dock in the courtroom of our day, for in the box sat his father, with the Earl of Mackworth upon one side and Sir James Lee upon the other. The blind man's face was very pale, but still wore its usual expression of calm serenity—the calm serenity of a blind face. The Earl was also very pale, and he kept his eyes fixed steadfastly upon Myles with a keen and searching look, as though to pierce to the very bottom of the young man's heart, and discover if indeed not one little fragment of dryrot of fear or uncertainty tainted the solid courage of his knighthood.
Then he heard the criers calling the defendant at the four corners of the list: "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! William Bushy Brookhurst, Earl of Alban, come to this combat, in which you be enterprised this day to discharge your sureties before the King, the Constable, and the Marshal, and to encounter in your defence Myles Falworth, knight, the accepted champion upon behalf of Gilbert Reginald Falworth, the challenger! Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Let the defendant come!"
So they continued calling, until, by the sudden turning of all faces, Myles knew that his enemy was at hand.
Then presently he saw the Earl and his attendants enter the outer gate at the west end of the barrier; he saw the Constable and Marshal meet him; he saw the formal words of greeting pass; he saw the Constable raise the umbril of the helmet. Then the gate opened, and the Earl of Alban entered, clad cap-a-pie in a full suit of magnificent Milan armor without juppon or adornment of any kind. As he approached across the lists, Myles closed the umbril of his helmet, and then sat quite still and motionless, for the time was come.
So he sat, erect and motionless as a statue of iron, half hearing the reading of the long intricately-worded bills, absorbed in many thoughts of past and present things. At last the reading ended, and then he calmly and composedly obeyed, under the direction of his attorney, the several forms and ceremonies that followed; answered the various official questions, took the various oaths. Then Gascoyne, leading the horse by the bridle-rein, conducted him back to his station at the east end of the lists.
As the faithful friend and squire made one last and searching examination of arms and armor, the Marshal and the clerk came to the young champion and administered the final oath by which he swore that he carried no concealed weapons.
The weapons allowed by the High Court were then measured and attested. They consisted of the long sword, the short sword, the dagger, the mace, and a weapon known as the hand-gisarm, or glave-lot—a heavy swordlike blade eight palms long, a palm in breadth, and riveted to a stout handle of wood three feet long.
The usual lance had not been included in the list of arms, the hand-gisarm being substituted in its place. It was a fearful and murderous weapon, though cumbersome, Unhandy, and ill adapted for quick or dexterous stroke; nevertheless, the Earl of Alban had petitioned the King to have it included in the list, and in answer to the King's expressed desire the Court had adopted it in the stead of the lance, yielding thus much to the royal wishes. Nor was it a small concession. The hand-gisarm had been a weapon very much in vogue in King Richard's day, and was now nearly if not entirely out of fashion with the younger generation of warriors. The Earl of Alban was, of course, well used to the blade; with Myles it was strange and new, either for attack or in defence.
With the administration of the final oath and the examination of the weapons, the preliminary ceremonies came to an end, and presently Myles heard the criers calling to clear the lists. As those around him moved to withdraw, the young knight drew off his mailed gauntlet, and gave Gascoyne's hand one last final clasp, strong, earnest, and intense with the close friendship of young manhood, and poor Gascoyne looked up at him with a face ghastly white.
Then all were gone; the gates of the principal list and that of the false list were closed clashing, and Myles was alone, face to face, with his mortal enemy.
There was a little while of restless, rustling silence, during which the Constable took his place in the seat appointed for him directly in front of and below the King's throne. A moment or two when even the restlessness and the rustling were quieted, and then the King leaned forward and spoke to the Constable, who immediately called out, in a loud, clear voice.
"Let them go!" Then again, "Let them go!" Then, for the third and last time, "Let them go and do their endeavor, in God's name!"
At this third command the combatants, each of whom had till that moment been sitting as motionless as a statue of iron, tightened rein, and rode slowly and deliberately forward without haste, yet without hesitation, until they met in the very middle of the lists.
In the battle which followed, Myles fought with the long sword, the Earl with the hand-gisarm for which he had asked. The moment they met, the combat was opened, and for a time nothing was heard but the thunderous clashing and clamor of blows, now and then beating intermittently, now and then pausing. Occasionally, as the combatants spurred together, checked, wheeled, and recovered, they would be hidden for a moment in a misty veil of dust, which, again drifting down the wind, perhaps revealed them drawn a little apart, resting their panting horses. Then, again, they would spur together, striking as they passed, wheeling and striking again.
Upon the scaffolding all was still, only now and then for the buzz of muffled exclamations or applause of those who looked on. Mostly the applause was from Myles's friends, for from the very first he showed and steadily maintained his advantage over the older man. "Hah! well struck! well recovered!" "Look ye! the sword bit that time!" "Nay, look, saw ye him pass the point of the gisarm?" Then, "Falworth! Falworth!" as some more than usually skilful stroke or parry occurred.
Meantime Myles's father sat straining his sightless eyeballs, as though to pierce his body's darkness with one ray of light that would show him how his boy held his own in the fight, and Lord Mackworth, leaning with his lips close to the blind man's ear, told him point by point how the battle stood.
"Fear not, Gilbert," said he at each pause in the fight. "He holdeth his own right well." Then, after a while: "God is with us, Gilbert. Alban is twice wounded and his horse faileth. One little while longer and the victory is ours!"
A longer and more continuous interval of combat followed this last assurance, during which Myles drove the assault fiercely and unrelentingly as though to overbear his enemy by the very power and violence of the blows he delivered. The Earl defended himself desperately, but was borne back, back, back, farther and farther. Every nerve of those who looked on was stretched to breathless tensity, when, almost as his enemy was against the barriers, Myles paused and rested.
"Out upon it!" exclaimed the Earl of Mackworth, almost shrilly in his excitement, as the sudden lull followed the crashing of blows. "Why doth the boy spare him? That is thrice he hath given him grace to recover; an he had pushed the battle that time he had driven him back against the barriers."
It was as the Earl had said; Myles had three times given his enemy grace when victory was almost in his very grasp. He had three times spared him, in spite of all he and those dear to him must suffer should his cruel and merciless enemy gain the victory. It was a false and foolish generosity, partly the fault of his impulsive youth—more largely of his romantic training in the artificial code of French chivalry. He felt that the battle was his, and so he gave his enemy these three chances to recover, as some chevalier or knight-errant of romance might have done, instead of pushing the combat to a mercifully speedy end—and his foolish generosity cost him dear.
In the momentary pause that had thus stirred the Earl of Mackworth to a sudden outbreak, the Earl of Alban sat upon his panting, sweating war-horse, facing his powerful young enemy at about twelve paces distant. He sat as still as a rock, holding his gisarm poised in front of him. He had, as the Earl of Mackworth had said, been wounded twice, and each time with the point of the sword, so much more dangerous than a direct cut with the weapon. One wound was beneath his armor, and no one but he knew how serious it might be; the other was under the overlapping of the epauhere, and from it a finger's-breadth of blood ran straight down his side and over the housings of his horse. From without, the still motionless iron figure appeared calm and expressionless; within, who knows what consuming blasts of hate, rage, and despair swept his heart as with a fiery whirlwind.
As Myles looked at the motionless, bleeding figure, his breast swelled with pity. "My Lord," said he, "thou art sore wounded and the fight is against thee; wilt thou not yield thee?"
No one but that other heard the speech, and no one but Myles heard the answer that came back, hollow, cavernous, "Never, thou dog! Never!"
Then in an instant, as quick as a flash, his enemy spurred straight upon Myles, and as he spurred he struck a last desperate, swinging blow, in which he threw in one final effort all the strength of hate, of fury, and of despair. Myles whirled his horse backward, warding the blow with his shield as he did so. The blade glanced from the smooth face of the shield, and, whether by mistake or not, fell straight and true, and with almost undiminished force, upon the neck of Myles's war-horse, and just behind the ears. The animal staggered forward, and then fell upon its knees, and at the same instant the other, as though by the impetus of the rush, dashed full upon it with all the momentum lent by the weight of iron it carried. The shock was irresistible, and the stunned and wounded horse was flung upon the ground, rolling over and over. As his horse fell, Myles wrenched one of his feet out of the stirrup; the other caught for an instant, and he was flung headlong with stunning violence, his armor crashing as he fell. In the cloud of dust that arose no one could see just what happened, but that what was done was done deliberately no one doubted. The earl, at once checking and spurring his foaming charger, drove the iron-shod war-horse directly over Myles's prostrate body. Then, checking him fiercely with the curb, reined him back, the hoofs clashing and crashing, over the figure beneath. So he had ridden over the father at York, and so he rode over the son at Smithfield.
Myles, as he lay prostrate and half stunned by his fall, had seen his enemy thus driving his rearing horse down upon him, but was not able to defend himself. A fallen knight in full armor was utterly powerless to rise without assistance; Myles lay helpless in the clutch of the very iron that was his defence. He closed his eyes involuntarily, and then horse and rider were upon him. There was a deafening, sparkling crash, a glimmering faintness, then another crash as the horse was reined furiously back again, and then a humming stillness.