Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Ten Boys Who Lived on the Road from Long Ago to Now by  Jane Andrews

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

[Illustration]

CHAPTER VI

THE STORY OF GILBERT THE PAGE,
WHO WILL ONE DAY BECOME A KNIGHT

"Make me thy Knight, because I know, Sir King,

All that belongs to Knighthood."

[136] THE boys are at their lessons in the court yard of the castle. I say "at their lessons," but you must not imagine them studying their books, or hard at work on some difficult question in arithmetic.

No, the lesson they are learning on this bright September afternoon is one that boys of our time might call play,—and yet it is a pretty hard lesson too.

[137] Their master has set up for them a quintain, and Guy, and Walter, and Geoffrey and Robert, and even little Hugh, are trying their skill by riding at it.

Let us take a look at the quintain, for perhaps you have never seen one before. It is a rough figure of a man fastened by a pivot upon a post in such a way that it will easily swing round. It bears a club in one hand and in the other a shield held before it.

Now watch young Geoffrey as he rides his pony gallantly, and, with lance in rest and head bent low, charges the quintain.

See, he strikes fairly on the middle of the shield, and passing, wheels his pony and returns to the entrance of the court yard.

Then up comes Robert, and he too would gladly strike the shield; but it is not so easy to manage both pony and lance at the same time; the blow falls on one side instead of in the middle, and instantly the quintain swings round and deals him a blow with the club as he passes. Even the pony seems to share the shame of this failure, and he and his young rider return with [138] drooping heads to the end of the lists. You see it is not a very easy lesson after all, and it takes much practice and patience to learn it.

Up rides one boy after another, and with varying fortunes they return and are ready to try again at their master's call, till the red sunset lights up the tall towers of the castle, and the narrow windows,—mere slits in the thick stone wall,—glitter like gems as they reflect the light, for they have glass in them, a new and precious article which has just come into use in place of the oiled paper which formerly covered the window slits.

The Lady Margaret comes to the castle door. She calls to her Walter, the page.

"You have the eye of a hawk, Walter," she says. "Go to the battlement of the north tower, and see if you can spy the banners of my lord returning from the battle."

The boy bows gracefully and bounds up the narrow stone stairway that winds about within the thickness of the massive wall. He springs up stair after stair, and soon finds himself on the battlements of the north tower, looking far over [139] field and forest towards the high road and the ford of the winding river.

Suddenly out from the forest path just beside the ford he sees a glittering helmet, and the shimmer of light upon lance and shield.

"He comes!" cries the boy, waving his hand to the watchers below, and then, running quickly down, he drops on one knee at the feet of the lady, and says, "Dear lady, my lord is already passing the ford of the white stones, and he will be here before the sunset light has faded."

The lady thanks him with a gracious smile, and bidding him go back to his companions, she turns to the steward and squire of the hall, and bids them prepare the feast, for the knights will be both faint and weary.

The boys loiter about the castle gate, listening for the bugle blast that shall announce the approach of the lord of the castle, and presently a gay troop of knights on prancing horses, with pennon on lance, breaks from the gloomy forest, and with a ringing bugle blast turns up the hill-path that leads to the castle gate.

The heavy drawbridge is swung across the [140] moat; the barred portcullis is raised, and with jingling spurs and clashing shields the knights pass into the court-yard.


[Illustration]

"The heavy drawbridge is swung across the moat;
the barred portcullis is raised."

Riding behind Sir Roland is a boy of twelve years; on his saddle-bow he carries his lord's helmet; and he watches with careful attention every word or gesture of Sir Roland, as if expecting some command. In a moment it comes.

"Gilbert, take thou the English boy to thy master, Baldwin, and he will provide for him lodging, and all needful care."

And turning to a fair-faced, golden-haired boy, who rides at his side, he says to him, "Go thou with Gilbert. The son of so valiant a father will find welcome and safety in my castle."

So the two boys turn their horses' heads towards the side of the court-yard, where we have already seen Walter and Guy and the others charging the quintain.

Gilbert conducts his companion to Baldwin, the old squire, and presents him as Edward, son of Sir Richard Britto, a hostage for his father, [141] who was yesterday taken prisoner by Sir Roland.

Sir Richard had gone home to England to raise his ransom and had left his son as hostage for his own appearance here, as soon thereafter as the will of heaven will permit.

Baldwin, the squire, receives the English lad kindly, and directs that he shall share Gilbert's lodging at the top of the north tower, and then he bids the boys make ready to serve the meal.

Walter and Geoffrey and Guy are already busy relieving the knights of their heavy armor, and the tables are laid in the long hall, which, now that daylight is fading, has been lighted with blazing torches.

"A long hall it is indeed. The walls are hung with tapestry, whereon are strange pictures of men and animals, towers and trees, castles and stag-hunts. Banners are grouped over the windows, and shields hang glittering in the torch-light; the floor is strewn with sweet herbs, from which the foot presses out the fragrance as the knights come in with stately tread.

A long table down the middle, and a shorter [142] one across the upper end, on a slightly raised platform, are already loaded with dishes and flagons. A large thick slice of bread serves each guest as a plate, and a little crusty loaf, called a knight's loaf, is placed beside his dish of soup.

There are boar's flesh and venison, and baked meats, and as the knights take seats in the order of their rank, their favorite dogs stretch themselves at their feet.

The pages—many of them sons of these same knights—serve every one, pour the wine, carve the meats, and pass the dishes.

Presently two damsels enter, carrying between them a silver dish, upon which rests a roasted peacock, gay in all its feathers and with outspread resplendent tail.

They advance to the upper table, and there set the dainty dish before the lord of the castle; and then the twanging of a harp is heard, and the old gray-haired minstrel begins to sing, and the feast is fairly begun.

[143] Gilbert and his companion have soon washed off the dust of their journey, and are ready to take their share of the service, while they listen with delight to the minstrel's song, relating feats of arms of the knights of old, and ending with Sir Roland's own brave victory of yesterday.

After the feast is over, Gilbert is summoned by a gentle lady,—Edith by name,—whom he had chosen when he was but eight years old for his mistress, whom he would loyally serve for ever.

She asks him about the expedition from which he has just returned, and when he has told his tale, modestly omitting to mention himself at all, she says with a smile that brightens all her face, "And you, too, have acquitted yourself well. Sir Roland tells me that you pressed through many dangers to bring him a fresh lance when his own was broken, and that but for thee, my Gilbert, he would not have been able to take prisoner, this English knight, Sir Richard Britto. It is good to be valiant amid dangers, but there is no real danger but the [144] danger of being a coward." So said the lady Edith.

The boy's face glows with delight as he hears these words from his fair lady.

"And bring me even now thy new comrade, the English hostage," she says. And Gilbert, crossing the hall, finds the lad standing in the deep embrasure of the window, and listening, with a scowl on his brow, to the discourse of two knights who are recounting the events of the last few days.

"He yielded, rescue or no rescue," said one, "and the word of a knight is a bond not to be broken. And yet, I doubt not, his kinsmen will gather to his rescue; and in a week and a day, if not earlier, we must bar our gates and hold our own as best we may against Sir Everhard with two hundred lances at his back."

At this moment Gilbert touches the boy upon the shoulder, saying, "My lady Edith calls for thee,—come," and with a light step and the martial bearing of young knights the two boys return to the lady who awaits them.

With gentle kindness she questions the little [145] stranger about his home, and bids him welcome to the Castle of St. Claire.

"It may be that the fortunes of war will leave you with us for many months, and that your training as becomes the son of a knight be not allowed to languish, you shall exercise each day under the care of Baldwin, the squire, and you shall choose among the ladies of St. Claire a mistress whom you will serve."

"I serve my lady mother," answers the boy, with a touch of resentment in his tone. "It is she whom I love, and I will serve her before all others."

"Nay, be not rude. You will make but an ungentle knight, if you have no softer tone than that for a lady. You serve your lady mother from duty, but what lady will you serve for love? See yonder lovely ladies who listen to the tales that the knights are telling. Choose, then, one among them to be your mistress while you abide with us; for how can your knightly training go on if you lack a mistress to smile upon your successes and admonish you when there is need."

[146] Again the boy hesitates; but, looking up, he sees the kindly eyes of the Lady Margaret fixed upon him with a look of pity, and he says to Gilbert, "Lead me to the kind lady with the broidered robe. I will gladly serve her while I stay."

So Gilbert led him to Lady Margaret, who instantly understood the purpose of his coming, and sent him to lead to her side her favorite greyhound, that had strayed across the hall.

But the feast is over; the knights are grouped about the hall. Young Sir Ranulf is stringing his lute, that he may sing to Lady Edith the little lay that he made in her honor as he rode through the greenwood. Old Sir Guy, too feeble now for warfare, is listening to every detail of the fight of yesterday, and asking, "What news from the king's court?"

"The king," replies Sir Gerard, "has ordered each nobleman to cause the high roads in his province to be guarded every day from sunrise to sunset; and if, by his neglect, robberies shall occur, he must make the loss good."

"It is a hard task he sets us," adds Sir Ber- [147] nard. "If a man must keep the highway safe, he will have little time for aught else."

The boys, who would gladly stay and listen, have been sent to their lodgings in the north tower, and while they sleep shall you and I ramble about this castle, their home, and become a little better acquainted with it?

All around it is a wide, deep moat or ditch, to be crossed only by a bridge which is drawn up and safely secured in the great arched gateway of the outer wall.

If we sound our horn, and, announcing ourselves as friends, are allowed to cross the drawbridge and enter the gateway, there is still the great, barred portcullis that can be suddenly let down to prevent our further entrance, if the warder so wills.

But we are welcome guests and we soon find ourselves in the outer court, the place where the boys were practising with the quintain yesterday.

Here on one side are stables for the horses, lodging for the yeomen and the squires, and room for saddling and mounting when the train [148] of knights make ready to ride out to battle or to tournament.

Square towers guard the gateway and the corners of the walls, and the great stone battlements have many a slit or gutter down which boiling tar or melted lead may be poured upon a besieging enemy.

The stone stairways wind with many a turn through the walls. If an enemy should succeed in crossing the moat, forcing the gate, and winning the outer court, still the great strong inner keep may be held, and every stair defended with sword and dagger and battle-axe. For these are times when each man's home is a castle, a fort to be held against neighbors who may any day prove themselves enemies.

You would not need to live in this castle many months to witness many a brave defence against enemies who are also brave.

But we want to know something of the common daily life of Gilbert and his companions, and so we must go with them in the early morning into the little chapel of the castle, where the priest reads the matin service in Latin, and [149] lords and ladies and pages kneel upon stone floor or velvet cushions and repeat their Pater Noster and their Ave Maria. These prayers have been taught to the boys by their fair ladies, who bid them always reassure themselves in time of danger by the thought, "For God and for my lady," and then do nobly the best they can.

Chapel service and breakfast being over, the knights and ladies will go hawking by the river, and Lady Edith calls upon Gilbert to bring her gray falcon. The boy comes quickly, and perched upon his wrist, with scarlet hood and collar of gold, is the gray falcon, or goshawk.

The ladies are mounted on their palfreys, and, with the knights on their gay horses, come prancing over the drawbridge, and turn down the bridle-path towards the river.

They pass the field, where the peasant boys are gathering in the grain, the big oven of stone, where the women come to bake their bread, and come at last to the mill beside the stream, where the peasants must come to grind their corn; for every peasant must bake in his lord's oven and [150] grind in his lord's mill, as well as till his lord's fields and fight against his lord's enemies, if so brave a knight should ever have need of the services of so humble a vassal.

The peasant boys are dressed in gowns or blouses fastened round the waist with a strip of leather; their legs are bare, and they wear clumsy shoes of wood or of coarse leather. Their matted hair, hangs uncombed and shaggy about their faces. You would hardly think they were of the same race as the pretty boy pages in their gay dresses, who ride or run beside their lords and ladies.

"To go a hawking by the river with gray goshawk on hand."

I am sure you never went "a hawking," so I will stop to tell you of this morning's sport.

As the merry troop near the river, a long-legged heron, who was standing quietly fishing for his breakfast among the reeds near the bank, is startled by the sound of laughter and the jingling of bridle bells. He spreads his wings and rises from his breakfast-table to see what is the matter; but no sooner is he in sight, than [151] Lady Edith waves her white hand to Gilbert; he slips the little scarlet hood from the falcon's head, and away darts the strong bird of prey, up, up, up, while lords and ladies rein in their horses and sit watching his flight. See him go! Why, he has fairly passed the heron, and still he flies higher. Yes, he did that to "get the sky of him," that is, to get above him, between him and the sky. You understand it perfectly when you see him, the next minute, pounce down, down, with a terrible swoop, upon the heron, and kill it with one blow of strong claws and beak.

"Sound your lure, Gilbert," cries Lady Edith, and Gilbert lifts the pretty lure that hangs by his side, and sounds a long, clear whistle upon it. The falcon turns instantly, and darts back to him, knowing that the whistle means for him praise and petting, and some dainty bit of food as a reward for his good hunting; and then he is chained to his perch, and hooded again, until another bird rises.

Many a bird do the falcons bring down on that bright morning, and when the merry party turns back towards the castle, the knights [152] sound their hunting horns, the warder lets down the drawbridge, and they all troop in as gaily as they went out.

In a corner of the outer court the boys find the old armorer at work. He is singing to himself as he sharpens a sword or fits a lance point, and the boys love to watch and to listen.

"That is my father's sword, is it not, Golan?" asked Gilbert.

"Yes," answered the armorer, "that is your father's sword, 'Morglay.' Can you read, my lad?"

"Yes," answered Gilbert, "Father Pierre has taught me to read from the psalter."

"Read then," says the armorer, "the motto on this sword, for it will one day be your own."

The boy spelled out with some difficulty the words inscribed on the sword-hilt, but, finally he lifted his head proudly and read out clearly, "For God and my right."

"This sword has done good service for many a year," went on the old man. "Its blade has sent many a Paynim to his death, and its hilt has served as a cross for many a death-prayer."

[153] "I was beside your father when he was made knight-banneret. That was before you were born. The king was about to give battle to the English; your father rode into camp with a hundred lances behind his back, and his pennon floating from his lance. 'Sire,' he said, presenting the pennon to the king, 'I place my pennon at your service;' and the king gave it back to him, cut into a square banner, bidding him henceforth carry a banner, instead of a pennon, ever foremost in battle."

But the boys must not linger to talk or listen, for already the tables are spread in the long hall.

After dinner Lord Roland challenges Lord Percy to a game of chess, and while Guy, the page, goes to arrange the board, Gilbert and English Edward are called out upon the balcony to attend the ladies, who have gathered round the old minstrel, and asked for a tale of true love and honor.

The old man touches his harp, and, lifting his face, sits listening for a moment to the soft sounds that his fingers awaken among the [154] strings; then a smile lights his face and he begins to sing.

The song is of a fair lady shut up in a strong tower and hidden away from the knight whom she loves, and of her rescue by the knight, who braves all dangers for her sake,—a sweet, old story, which I must not stop to tell you here, but you can find a hundred like it among the old chivalric tales.

The ladies sigh at the sad parts, and smile at the brave deeds, and when the song is ended, they give the old man a mantle and a piece of silver, and wine in a silver flagon.

"Now tell me, young Edward," says Lady Margaret, "have you in England songs like this, and minstrels who sing so sweet? That you have brave knights and fair ladies we already know. Perhaps you can yourself touch the lute, and sing some song of love, or of deeds of arms. Bring hither your lute, Walter, and let the young stranger sing to us."

"As you command me, dear lady," answers the boy, "I gladly obey," and after a little prelude upon the lute, he began,—

[155]

"It was an English lady bright

The sun shines fair on Carlyle wall

And she would marry a Scottish knight

For love would still be lord of all."

"Then love is lord of all even across the seas," Lady Margaret says as the boy ends his song.

"Listen now, dear youths, for I would have you learn from the minstrel's tale the rule of a true knight. Lay it to heart, that it may serve you in your need."

"A true knight should have his feet steady, his hands diligent, his eyes watchful, and his heart resolute."

"And all for the service of God and his lady," added Lord Roland, who at that moment stepped upon the balcony.

For a few days life goes on gaily at St. Claire. One day there is hawking, another hunting. The boys practise charging the quintain, and learn that to break lance against the pommel of a saddle is greater shame than to have stayed out of the contest altogether; so day by day their charge grows surer and steadier upon the [156] shield, and they long to prove themselves at some grand tourney.

One morning a messenger rides up to the castle gate and delivers a letter with a ponderous seal, which Gilbert carries to Lord Roland.

The knight looks at the seal, and breaks it carefully, and, after much study of the letter, summons the priest to read it to him, saying, "I am no clerk."

"The holy bishop is journeying through the province, and, with Abbot Adam and his company, will honor you by dining with you to-day. He also wills that all the youths of your household who are of twelve years or over, be ready to take before him the oath prescribed by the Council of Clermont."

Thus ran the letter; and it caused great bustle in the castle, both in kitchen and in hall. Especially were the pages drilled in their duties, that they might serve the bishop with both grace and reverence.

Before noon the stately train enters the castle and receives a courteous welcome from its lord and lady.

[157] The floor of the long hall has been freshly strewn with fragrant grasses, and among the costly dishes provided for the dinner is a roasted swan, which Gilbert, as the best carver, is allowed to serve. Then there are loaves of fine wheaten bread, and russet apples, baked pears, and peaches heaped upon silver dishes, and figs from Malta.

In the train of the bishop and the abbot, Guy and Walter have already spied three boys; two of them not more than eight years old, dressed like themselves, in tunics of gay colors, and with beautiful curling hair. The other boy, of perhaps twelve years, has his hair closely cut, and wears a gray blouse of the simplest pattern and coarsest texture, and yet he does not look like the peasant boys whom we saw at work in the fields. He is, it is true, the son of a peasant, the boy Suger, whom the good monks have taken into the abbey, that they may teach him, for the lad shows a fine head for reading and psalm-singing. He can not only write with the stylus on waxen tablets, but he can copy with a pen on parchment, and he is kept busy many [158] hours of each day copying books in beautiful red and blue letters, while the monk, Stephen, in the next cell, takes from him each page and decorates it with delicately drawn pictures of saints and angels.

It is a wonderful thing to work on these books. They are so rare that few people own even one of them, and you must know that there were, in those times, no printed books like those which you read every day, for the art of printing had not yet been invented.

Suger had accompanied the holy abbot on this journey that he might attend the two young boys, Henry and Geoffrey, twin sons of Lord Eustace of Boulogne. The bishop is their uncle, and the boys are themselves, in part, the cause of his visit to the castle. He had received them a week before from their father, with the request that, if he were travelling southward, he would place the children with his old friend and brother in arms, Roland of St. Claire, that in his castle, and under the care of the priests, the squire, and, most of all, the ladies who were teaching his own son, they might begin their chivalric education.

[159] "It is a shame to do nothing but eat, and drink, and waste time;" their father had said, "the lads are eight years old; let them at least learn the duty of obedience and service, and nowhere can they learn it better than at St. Claire."

All this the bishop is telling to Lord Roland, who would have gladly taken the boys to please their uncle, and still more gladly accepts the charge for love of his old brother in arms, Lord Eustace.

"And now," says the bishop, "since the holy Council of Clermont has so decreed, let all the pages who are of twelve years or over, repair to the chapel, and there take the first sacred oath that their calling requires of them."

Gilbert and Guy and Walter and Geoffrey, the son of Count Charles, are accordingly summoned to the chapel, and, kneeling there before the bishop, they repeat reverently the promise to defend widows and orphans; to protect women; to do all that may lie in their power to render travel safe, and to destroy tyranny.

And the bishop gives them his blessing, and [160] prays that by God's grace, they may have strength to keep this oath.

It was a strange promise, you think, for a boy of twelve. But when it was thought necessary for even such young boys to take a sacred oath to protect women and orphans, you can see that women and orphans must have been in great need of protection. If even boys were made responsible for rendering travel safe, then indeed the high roads must have been full of danger, and if every boy is to destroy tyranny, tyrants must have been more common than they are in our own days.

Hardly have the bishop and his train left the next morning when a rider in hot haste reaches the castle with news that Sir Everhard Breakspear, with more than two hundred lances at his back, is riding up from the north ford, and will reach the castle in less than an hour.

No hawking nor hunting that day, but each knight looks to his arms, and each has his place assigned him for the defence.

There is a hasty council held in the hall, and it is decided that word must be sent to the [161] neighboring castle of Montain that Sir Everhard Breakspear and the Free Companions are abroad, and help is needed at St. Claire.

"And who shall bear our message?" asks Lord Percy.

"Gilbert, the page, is to be trusted with the message. He is light of foot or safe to swim his horse through the stream, if need be. Let him take the little jennet, and go without delay," said Lord Roland.

When Gilbert is told of his errand, it seems to him that an opportunity has come for the first fulfilment of his oath; for even the boys know how the Free Companions are making it unsafe to ride unarmed, or even well armed, by day or night through the whole province.

So, mounted on the little jennet,—a light horse with a light burden,—the boy is let out at the postern gate, which is quickly closed and barred behind him.

As our story is of Gilbert, rather than of the castle, we will follow him on his dangerous ride, and leave the knights to defend their stronghold with great stones, boiling lead and pitch, [162] and many a crossbow bolt, and lance, until succor shall arrive.

Creeping through the edge of the forest, the boy finds his way unnoticed, but presently he hears upon the high road the trampling of many hoofs, and, forcing his horse into a thicket, he watches the mailed horsemen, that, with glittering lance, and spur on heel, make a gallant show as they press forward on the road to St. Claire.

"Quiet, my beauty," he whispers to his horse, as he pats his neck. "Quiet! We will outwit them yet; but let them pass this time." And finally, assuring himself that the last laggard of the train has really passed, he takes the highway and rides fast towards the castle of Montain.

The sun has set and the September twilight is fast deepening into night, when from the forest road at his right comes a black horse bearing a tall knight in armor. His head is covered only with the light bacinet, but at his saddle-bow hang a heavy mallet and a battle-axe, and from his long lance floats a silken pennon. Behind him rides a squire, carrying his shield and helmet.

[163] "Whither so fast, young page?" he cries to the boy, who, doubtful whether to regard the stranger as friend or foe, inclines to urge his horse to a quicker pace.

"To do my lord's will," replies Gilbert discreetly.

"And what may be your lord's will?" asks the knight.

"I carry a message to the Lord of Montain, but it is my lord's message, not mine. I have no right to give it to another."

"That is loyally spoken, and I will not ask of you what you have no right to give, but tell me now, have you seen a band of free lances pass this way?"

"That I have," replied the boy. "Sir Everhard Breakspear, I think, and two hundred of the Free Companions."

"And which way did they go."

"Northward, towards St. Claire."

"And the castle they attack will need a stout defence," said the knight; "but I would I were there to help defend it; for I have made a vow to rest neither day nor night until I have [164] avenged upon the Free Companions the death of my brother in arms."

As Gilbert hears these words he feels sure that the knight is a friend, so he frankly tells that he is bound to Montain to seek help against these same free lances for his lord, Sir Roland, besieged in St. Claire.

"Then, my brave boy," says the knight, "I, who am a knight errant, seeking adventure and honor in all places where danger leads me, will also go with you to Montain, and there join such succors as may go to Sir Roland's assistance."

And Gilbert gladly accepts the protection of the unknown knight, and is about to take his place behind the squire when the knight says, "Nay, but ride beside me, that I may ask of thee tidings of thy lord and of the Lady Margaret, too, for of old I have fought beside Sir Roland in the Holy Land, and the fair Lady Margaret has made me welcome after battle, and herself dressed for me this sword-cut across my cheek."

They reach Montain without further adventure, and the wandering knight blows such a [165] blast upon his horn that the warder opens the wicket, and demands quickly,—

"Who comes thus after nightfall to the castle of Montain?"

"A messenger from St. Claire," answers the knight, "and a knight errant and old companion of Roland of St. Claire and Fitz-Hamo of Montain."

Then the drawbridge is let down, and the travellers ride into the courtyard where the flaring torchlight shines on many a shield and spear.

Lord Robert Fitz-Hamo comes out from the dark arched doorway to welcome his guests, and the knight thrusts forward young Gilbert.

"Do thine errand, my lad," he says; "a faithful messenger has the first right to speak his lord's message."

"Lord Roland of St. Claire greets thee by me," said the boy to Fitz Hamo, "and bids me summon you, by the vows of friendship which bind you to him, to come as quickly as may be to his assistance, for Sir Everhard Breakspear, with two hundred lances, lays siege to St. Claire, [166] for the rescue of his kinsman, the traitor, Sir Tristan."

"I will come," cries Fitz Hamo; "to-morrow's dawn shall see me on the way, with a hundred good lances behind me."

"And now, my old comrade," he exclaims, turning to the knight, "thou art thrice welcome,—as my friend and comrade in many a fight with the Saracens, as my guest for to-night, and my companion for to-morrow."

"We will spend the night in preparation, and this boy, who has been a faithful messenger, shall have rest and good cheer, that he may return with us to-morrow."

I would gladly tell you of the speedy journey next day; and how, reaching the woods of St. Claire at nightfall, Gilbert left his horse, and, with swift, stealthy step, passed through the camp of the besiegers, and reached the little postern gate, gained admittance, and laid before Sir Roland the mode of attack that his friends had planned; how, in the morning, the besiegers heard the shout of "Montain! Montain!" in their rear, just as the castle gates were thrown [167] open for a sudden sally of knights, shouting, "St. Claire! St. Claire!"

But all this will not much concern our boys. You would rather hear how they went the next month to the great tournament at Chalons, where they did homage to the king; and, besides seeing much gallant play with lance and sword, carried many a ribbon or broidered scarf from fair lady to brave knight, and served at many a feast in silken pavilion.

And you will gladly hear how Sir Richard Britto came to St. Claire, true to his promise, and found his young hostage, Edward, safe and happy among the other pages, and kindly cared for by the Lady Margaret. How Sir Roland ransomed Sir Richard for ten thousand crowns; and how Sir Richard took the boy home to his lady mother, whom he loved, and how, in the long winter evenings, Edward told tales to his brothers of Castle St. Claire, and his companions there.

You can very well see how Gilbert will one day himself become a knight; have his sword blessed by the priest, watch his armor all night [168] in the church, and receive the accolade (a blow of the sword upon his shoulder) from which he rises Sir Gilbert.

Then he will set out to do deeds of valor, and to win renown, and the right to emblazon his white shield with some emblem of his victories. He is a more gentle boy than Wulf, and to the desire to be a brave knight in battle he adds the wish to be a courteous knight not only to every woman and helpless child, but alike to friend and foe.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Wulf, the Saxon Boy  |  Next: Roger, the English Lad
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.