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of his knightly court, charged me with treason ! Indignant and enraged, I swore the charge was false, and in an unguarded moment, threw down my gauntlet at my accuser's feet. Thereat the king, who brooked not this outrageous insult, bade those around to disarm me, but I felled to the earth the craven knights who sought to execute the royal mandate, and flying from the scene of my disgrace, arrived at home in safety. I prepared my castle for a stout defence ; but the united arms of England were too powerful for a Gascon knight to withstand. In a few days the banner of St. George floated above my towers, I was deprived of my inheritance and my sword, the proudest badge of knighthood, and immured, as thou knowest, in the dark donjons of Winchester; from which, thank heaven, we have at length escaped! This day, so runs the rumour, the knightly sports of the Lord Mortimer commence at Kenilworth, where, if my information be correct, the royal Edward should preside; him I am resolved to seek; and, either obtain his pardon, or fall beneath his lance. One day is already lost, but if fortune prove propitious, to-morrow's sun shall see me in the lists. Should imprisonment have so far unnerved my arm as to deprive me of the power of victory, and I fall, do thou preserve the ring which I have shewn thee; and shouldest thou ever discover its lovely owner, restore it, and tell her that Gaston de Biern was foully belied, and parted with her gift but with his life.”
The last glimmer of twilight had disappeared in the west, and the twinkling stars become more visible overhead, as our travellers arrived at the termination of the forest, and looking before them perceived that they were about to enter a wild and seemingly trackless waste. Here the knight reined up his stead, and the gentle Eric instinctively followed his master's example.
“ If thou canst now find thy path, my pretty page,” said Sir Gaston, “thou art the cunningest guide in Christendom! What sayest thou, boy? By our Lady's footstool ! but I think we had better remain in the green wood till dawn; or wilt thou still lead on?”
Eric declared himself unable to officiate as guide any longer; and voted in the name of his jaded palfrey, that they should seek a night's lodging in the shade of the forest. Looking around them, therefore, for a convenient spot to bivouac in, they distinguished at a short distance a majestic oak, whose wide spreading branches promised them the shelter of which they were in search. Having dismounted, our hero rested his lance against the tree, and hanging his shield upon of one of its broken branches, and his helmet upon another, seated himself (“ tell it not in France : publish it not in the streets of Caerleon!") upon the bare ground !
“ Come hither, Sir Page,” said the knight, “ and give me one of thy soothing lays, for thou canst exercise thy minstrel art as well, I ween, under the greenwood tree as within the walls of a prison.”.
With page-like alacrity the stripling proceeded to obey the command of his lord, and while he drew forth his lute from its covering, inquired what should be the subject of his song ; “ shall it,” said he “ be
Le bel Cavalier,' or the Red Cross Knight of Bernard de Ven tadour?'”
“ The latter," murmured the weary knight. And Eric accordingly began the then favourite song of
There came a knight from Palestine, as brave a knight as e'er
"Oh why such speed, oh why such speed, thou valiant Red Cross Knight!
Art thou bound for deadly battle, or the fields of mimic fight,
Nor perilous adventure doth demand my presence now;
Of the lion hearts of England in the Holy, Holy Land;
Thus far had our minstrel proceeded with his lay, when he perceived that the knight of the plumeless helm had already sunk into a profound slumber. Being himself not a whit less weary than his lord, he thought it would be much better to follow so laudable an example, than to continue his minstrelsy for his own amusement, or that of the mysterious beings who might be hovering unseen around him. Accordingly, he stretched himself upon the green-sward, and, resting his head upon a huge root of the old oak tree, which seemed to have started above ground for the express purpose of forming him a pillow, bade adieu for a season to “ the pomps and vanities of this wicked world.”
Gaston de Biern had the good fortune to live in those halcyon days when Puck and Oberon, with the whole' race of Robin-good-fellows, footed it merrily in the moonshine, undisturbed by the “ march of intellect," or the prying curiosity of science : when every oak had its
sylvan deity, and every green field its midnight, though invisible revellers, who traced their magic circles in the grass, or shed their blessings, like the falling dew, upon their numerous and faithful worshippers; now bestowing upon the dauntless knight an invulnerable shield, or tempering his glaive in the dark and secret caverns of the earth ; —and anon, disdaining not to reward the diligence of the house or dairy maid with a sparkling silver sixpence, dropped cunningly into her shoe while she slept !
alas ! they all are dead,
Or else they take their ease !
No sooner had Morpheus sealed the eyes of our hero and his attendant, than the Elfin beings above alluded to, knowing by intuitive perception that they had nothing to fear from a sleeping knight and his stripling page, ventured from their unknown retreats, and round their favourite oak commenced their airy and fantastic gambols. First came their princely leader, and having with his moonbeam-like wand tracéd a circle round the tree, sufficiently spacious to inclose our sleepers within it—he sounded his merry bugle—a spotless woodbine flowerand gave the signal for his fellows to advance. Immediately the whole band rushed into the ring, which became intensely brilliant with the unceasing corruscations of light emitted from the ten thousand tiny revellers, one of whom, who seemed to be the minstrel of the Elfin quoir, seizing upon the neglected lute of the unconscious page, instantly, and without waiting to ascertain its musical powers, began the following irregular
Merrily, cheerily, spirits that shun
And the gaze of mortal eye ;
Bright fairies of the sky!
Come to the revel with dance and glee,
And you who dwell below,
Which only fairy know !
Behold a knight in the holy shade
Sweet may his slumbers prove!
And fires the soul with love!
Sleep on, Sir Knight, you have nought to fear
Of tilt or wild melée ;
'Mid valour's proud array !
That speaks of coming day,
Spirits, away, away!
While the fairy musician exercised his scientific skill, a host of his companions, which it would have baffled the cunning of the sage John Dee to have exhibited in the best Venice glass he ever possessed, joined in the song, whilst they danced about neck over heels like motes in the sunbeam, evidently enjoying their orderless pranks with infinite satisfaction. The dreary too-whoo of Minerva's bird however, at length, put a stop to their joyous revelry, and they disappeared instanter with a loud whistling kind of noise, leaving no trace behind them, save that of the bright green circle in which they had gamboled, and from which the dew had been brushed by the action of their nimble feet. Almost at the self-same instant the Gascon knight, whose dreams appeared to have been of that “martial guise” invoked for him by his late visitors, started from his repose, exclaiming,
" Honour to the sons of the brave !” He, however, soon found that he was neither witnessing the gallantry of others, nor dressing his own spear for the knightly rencontre, for his hand struck against the nose of his " berry-black steed,” which, having quietly approached the ear of its lord, was doubtless whispering therein some gentle hint,” and had thus been the unconscious cause of his fancying he heard the spirit-stirring note of the herald of the lists. The sudden effort awoke him, and as the frighted steed started back from the effect of his unexpected salutation, Sir Gaston sprung upon his feet and seized the pendant bridle. Having now partly recovered from his dreams, he gazed about him, like a man who has missed something but cannot recollect what; he, however, soon satisfied himself that all he had lately witnessed was but the “visions of the brain.” Turning his eyes eastward, he perceived that the heavens thereabouts were assuming a greyish tinge, which he very naturally concluded to be the avant courier of the coming morn, notwithstanding the extreme brilliancy of the starry hosts which above and around him still studded the ethereal vault. The light which these emitted was just sufficient to enable him to descry the objects in his more immediate neighbourhood ; and of these the first which attracted his notice, was the form of his little foot page calmly reposing beneath the shadow of their luxuriant pavilion.
“ Soho, Sir Page !” exclaimed the knight,“ arise, and get thee ready, boy, or I shall leave thee to thy dreams and the company of the fairies, for by our lady's footstool they have been footing it merrily upon the greensward to-night!"
Obedient to the well-known voice, Eric instantly sprung upon his feet, and devoutly crossed himself, for he too as well as his lord soon recognised the well-known traces of the Peris of the North. De Biern resumed.
“ Well, my pretty page, art thou inclined to turn guide again to day? Or wilt thou resign the office to fortune, and the cunning of thy gentle palfrey ?"
“ I place, Sir Knight,” was the reply, “ but little faith in the skill of my grey; but as we were told that Kenilworth lay to the north, we had best not seek it at least in that direction (pointing to the east) for there the dawn seems breaking.”
“ Most excellent adviser,” said the knight, “ be it as thou say’st, and if the beldame, Fortune, prove but kind for once, I forebode no evil from this day's adventure. But come! get thee ready, boy, for behold the east is brightening rapidly!”
Oh, fear not Fortune, my lord !” said the stripling, with a burst of joy,“ see here is an earnest of her future favours ! So saying, he held up to the view of the astonished knight a sword whose extreme beauty and polish might have rivalled the famed Escalaber. Thanks to our visitors, this glorious boon, my lord, has not been sent you for nought; no, no, believe me, it promises better things !”
Gaston de Biern scarcely knew what to think of this strange adventure; but perceiving that the sword was indeed a thing that would bear handling, he grasped the profered hilt, which, however, he had no sooner done, than he exclaimed, By St. Jago, 'tis my own good sword ! my Vraiacier !” Then, after gazing upon it for the space
of several minutes, and kissing the highly-polished blade with all the fervent devotion of a true warrior of the thirteenth century, he placed it in his hitherto empty scabbard. Calling for his lance and shield, they were forthwith produced, and his wonder was still further increased on perceiving that both had undergone a most unaccountable change. The point of the former glittered in the twilight like one of the stars overhead, and the latter was in perfect keeping with it; nor rust, nor stain was to be seen upon its now mirror-like surface. His helmet too had also undergone a similar improvement, and, in short, every piece of armour he possessed was as bright as if it had only just left the hand of the polisher. So that, thanks to the fairies ! Sir Gaston de Biern might have now passed muster with the Paladins of Charlemagne, or the Knights of the Round Table !
By the shrine of à Becket !" said he, as he gazed upon himself, but I think I am enchanted! Whither hast thou brought me, sirrah? Dost thou see? Dost thou know me, hey?”
At the name of à Becket, Eric devoutly crossed himself again—then with a smiling look replied to the interrogation of his lord : “ I think, Sir Knight, you should be Sir Gaston de Biern of Gascony; but when the sun rises I shall be better able to determine. In the mean time suppose we commence our journey, for the morning air is chill.”
Our hero was no less anxious to set forward than his page, not doubting that if he was, indeed, under the influence of fairy spells, they would be dissolved by the first brook that Fortune might throw in his
way: : besides, being a stranger, and in a strange land, he was fearful.