You talk of Gaiety and Innocence!
The moment when the fatal fruit was eaten,
They parted ne'er to meet again; and Malice
Has ever since been playmate to light Gaiety,
From the first moment when the smiling infant
Destroys the flower or butterfly he toys with,
To the last chuckle of the dying miser,
Who on his deathbed laughs his last to hear
His wealthy neighbour has become a bankrupt.
 SIR KENNETH was left for some minutes alone and in darkness.
Here was another interruption which must prolong his absence from
his post, and he began almost to repent the facility with which
he had been induced to quit it. But to return without seeing the
Lady Edith was now not to be thought of. He had committed a
breach of military discipline, and was determined at least to
prove the reality of the seductive expectations which had tempted
him to do so. Meanwhile his situation was unpleasant. There was
no light to show him into what sort of apartment he had been led
—the Lady Edith was in immediate attendance on the Queen of
England—and the discovery of his having introduced himself thus
furtively into the royal pavilion might, were it discovered; lead
to much and dangerous suspicion. While he gave way to these
unpleasant reflections, and began almost to wish that he could
achieve his retreat unobserved, he heard a noise of female
voices, laughing, whispering, and speaking, in an adjoining
apartment, from which, as the sounds gave him reason to judge, he
could only be separated by a canvas partition. Lamps were
burning, as he might perceive by the shadowy light which extended
itself even to his side of the veil which divided the tent, and
he could see shades of several figures sitting and moving in the
adjoining apartment. It cannot be termed discourtesy in Sir
Kenneth that, situated as he was, he overheard a conversation in
which he found himself deeply interested.
"Call her—call her, for Our Lady's sake," said the voice of one
of these laughing invisibles. "Nectabanus, thou shalt be made
ambassador to Prester John's court, to show them how wisely thou
canst discharge thee of a mission."
The shrill tone of the dwarf was heard, yet so much subdued that
Sir Kenneth could not understand what he said, except that he
spoke something of the means of merriment given to the guard.
"But how shall we rid us of the spirit which Nectabanus hath
raised, my maidens?"
"Hear me, royal madam," said another voice. "If the sage and
princely Nectabanus be not over-jealous of his most transcendent
bride and empress, let us send her to get us rid of this insolent
knight-errant, who can be so easily persuaded that high-born
dames may need the use of his insolent and overweening valour."
"It were but justice, methinks," replied another, "that the
Princess Guenever should dismiss, by her courtesy, him whom her
husband's wisdom has been able to entice hither."
Struck to the heart with shame and resentment at what he had
heard, Sir Kenneth was about to attempt his escape from the tent
at all hazards, when what followed arrested his purpose.
"Nay, truly," said the first speaker, "our cousin Edith must
first learn how this vaunted wight hath conducted himself, and we
must reserve the power of giving her ocular proof that he hath
failed in his duty. It may be a lesson will do good upon her;
for, credit me, Calista, I have sometimes thought she has let
this Northern adventurer sit nearer her heart than prudence would
One of the other voices was then heard to mutter something of the
Lady Edith's prudence and wisdom.
"Prudence, wench!" was the reply. "It is mere pride, and the
desire to be thought more rigid than any of us. Nay, I will not
quit my advantage. You know well that when she has us at fault
no one can, in a civil way, lay your error before you more
precisely than can my Lady Edith. But here she comes."
A figure, as if entering the apartment, cast upon the partition a
shade, which glided along slowly until it mixed with those which
already clouded it. Despite of the bitter disappointment which
he had experienced—despite the insult and injury with which it
seemed he had been visited by the malice, or, at best, by the
idle humour of Queen Berengaria (for he already concluded that
she who spoke loudest, and in a commanding tone, was the wife of
Richard), the knight felt something so soothing to his feelings
in learning that Edith had been no partner to the fraud practised
on him, and so interesting to his curiosity in the scene which
was about to take place, that, instead of prosecuting his more
prudent purpose of an instant retreat, he looked anxiously, on
the contrary, for some rent or crevice by means of which be might
be made eye as well as ear witness to what was to go forward.
"Surely," said he to himself, "the Queen, who hath been pleased
for an idle frolic to endanger my reputation, and perhaps my
life, cannot complain if I avail myself of the chance which
fortune seems willing to afford me to obtain knowledge of her
It seemed, in the meanwhile, as if Edith were waiting for the
commands of the Queen, and as if the other were reluctant to
speak for fear of being unable to command her laughter and that
of her companions; for Sir Kenneth could only distinguish a sound
as of suppressed tittering and merriment.
"Your Majesty," said Edith at last, "seems in a merry mood,
though, methinks, the hour of night prompts a sleepy one. I was
well disposed bedward when I had your Majesty's commands to
"I will not long delay you, cousin, from your repose," said the
Queen, "though I fear you will sleep less soundly when I tell you
your wager is lost."
"Nay, royal madam," said Edith, "this, surely, is dwelling on a
jest which has rather been worn out, I laid no wager, however it
was your Majesty's pleasure to suppose, or to insist, that I did
"Nay, now, despite our pilgrimage, Satan is strong with you, my
gentle cousin, and prompts thee to leasing. Can you deny that
you gaged your ruby ring against my golden bracelet that yonder
Knight of the Libbard, or how call you him, could not be seduced
from his post?"
"Your Majesty is too great for me to gainsay you," replied Edith,
"but these ladies can, if they will, bear me witness that it was
your Highness who proposed such a wager, and took the ring from
my finger, even while I was declaring that I did not think it
maidenly to gage anything on such a subject."
"Nay, but, my Lady Edith," said another voice, "you must needs
grant, under your favour, that you expressed yourself very
confident of the valour of that same Knight of the Leopard."
"And if I did, minion," said Edith angrily, "is that a good
reason why thou shouldst put in thy word to flatter her Majesty's
humour? I spoke of that knight but as all men speak who have
seen him in the field, and had no more interest in defending than
thou in detracting from him. In a camp, what can women speak of
save soldiers and deeds of arms?"
"The noble Lady Edith," said a third voice, "hath never forgiven
Calista and me, since we told your Majesty that she dropped two
rosebuds in the chapel."
"If your Majesty," said Edith, in a tone which Sir Kenneth could
judge to be that of respectful remonstrance, "have no other
commands for me than to hear the gibes of your waiting-women, I
must crave your permission to withdraw."
"Silence, Florise," said the Queen, "and let not our indulgence
lead you to forget the difference betwixt yourself and the
kinswoman of England.—But you, my dear cousin," she continued,
resuming her tone of raillery, "how can you, who are so good-natured,
begrudge us poor wretches a few minutes' laughing, when
we have had so many days devoted to weeping and gnashing of
"Great be your mirth, royal lady," said Edith; "yet would I be
content not to smile for the rest of my life, rather than—"
She stopped, apparently out of respect; but Sir Kenneth could
hear that she was in much agitation.
"Forgive me," said Berengaria, a thoughtless but good-humoured
princess of the House of Navarre; "but what is the great offence,
after all? A young knight has been wiled hither—has stolen, or
has been stolen, from his post, which no one will disturb in his
absence—for the sake of a fair lady; for, to do your champion
justice, sweet one, the wisdom of Nectabanus could conjure him
hither in no name but yours."
"Gracious Heaven! your Majesty does not say so?" said Edith, in a
voice of alarm quite different from the agitation she had
previously evinced,—"you cannot say so consistently with respect
for your own honour and for mine, your husband's kinswoman! Say
you were jesting with me, my royal mistress, and forgive me that
I could, even for a moment, think it possible you could be in
"The Lady Edith," said the Queen, in a displeased tone of voice,
"regrets the ring we have won of her. We will restore the pledge
to you, gentle cousin; only you must not grudge us in turn a
little triumph over the wisdom which has been so often spread
over us, as a banner over a host."
"A triumph!" exclaimed Edith indignantly—"a triumph! The
triumph will be with the infidel, when he hears that the Queen of
England can make the reputation of her husband's kinswoman the
subject of a light frolic."
"You are angry, fair cousin, at losing your favourite ring," said
the Queen. "Come, since you grudge to pay your wager, we will
renounce our right; it was your name and that pledge brought him
hither, and we care not for the bait after the fish is caught."
"Madam," replied Edith impatiently, "you know well that your
Grace could not wish for anything of mine but it becomes
instantly yours. But I would give a bushel of rubies ere ring or
name of mine had been used to bring a brave man into a fault, and
perhaps to disgrace and punishment."
"Oh, it is for the safety of our true knight that we fear!" said
the Queen. "You rate our power too low, fair cousin, when you
speak of a life being lost for a frolic of ours. O Lady Edith,
others have influence on the iron breasts of warriors as well as
you—the heart even of a lion is made of flesh, not of stone;
and, believe me, I have interest enough with Richard to save this
knight, in whose fate Lady Edith is so deeply concerned, from the
penalty of disobeying his royal commands."
"For the love of the blessed Cross, most royal lady," said Edith
—and Sir Kenneth, with feelings which it were hard to unravel,
heard her prostrate herself at the Queen's feet—"for the love of
our blessed Lady, and of every holy saint in the calendar, beware
what you do! You know not King Richard—you have been but shortly
wedded to him. Your breath might as well combat the west wind
when it is wildest, as your words persuade my royal kinsman to
pardon a military offence. Oh, for God's sake, dismiss this
gentleman, if indeed you have lured him hither! I could almost be
content to rest with the shame of having invited him, did I know
that he was returned again where his duty calls him!"
"Arise, cousin, arise," said Queen Berengaria, "and be assured
all will be better than you think. Rise, dear Edith. I am sorry
I have played my foolery with a knight in whom you take such deep
interest. Nay, wring not thy hands; I will believe thou carest
not for him—believe anything rather than see thee look so
wretchedly miserable. I tell thee I will take the blame on
myself with King Richard in behalf of thy fair Northern friend
—thine acquaintance, I would say, since thou own'st him not as a
friend. Nay, look not so reproachfully. We will send Nectabanus
to dismiss this Knight of the Standard to his post; and we
ourselves will grace him on some future day, to make amends for
his wild-goose chase. He is, I warrant, but lying perdu in some
"By my crown of lilies, and my sceptre of a specially good water-reed,"
said Nectabanus, "your Majesty is mistaken, He is nearer
at hand than you wot—he lieth ensconced there behind that canvas
"And within hearing of each word we have said!" exclaimed the
Queen, in her turn violently surprised and agitated. "Out,
monster of folly and malignity!"
As she uttered these words, Nectabanus fled from the pavilion
with a yell of such a nature as leaves it still doubtful whether
Berengaria had confined her rebuke to words, or added some more
emphatic expression of her displeasure.
"What can now be done?" said the Queen to Edith, in a whisper of
"That which must," said Edith firmly. "We must see this
gentleman and place ourselves in his mercy."
So saying, she began hastily to undo a curtain, which at one
place covered an entrance or communication.
"For Heaven's sake, forbear—consider," said the Queen—"my
apartment—our dress—the hour—my honour!"
But ere she could detail her remonstrances, the curtain fell, and
there was no division any longer betwixt the armed knight and the
party of ladies. The warmth of an Eastern night occasioned the
undress of Queen Berengaria and her household to be rather more
simple and unstudied than their station, and the presence of a
male spectator of rank, required. This the Queen remembered, and
with a loud shriek fled from the apartment where Sir Kenneth was
disclosed to view in a compartment of the ample pavilion, now no
longer separated from that in which they stood. The grief and
agitation of the Lady Edith, as well as the deep interest she
felt in a hasty explanation with the Scottish knight, perhaps
occasioned her forgetting that her locks were more dishevelled
and her person less heedfully covered than was the wont of high-born
amsels, in an age which was not, after all, the most
prudish or scrupulous period of the ancient time. A thin, loose
garment of pink-coloured silk made the principal part of her
vestments, with Oriental slippers, into which she had hastily
thrust her bare feet, and a scarf hurriedly and loosely thrown
about her shoulders. Her head had no other covering than the
veil of rich and dishevelled locks falling round it on every
side, that half hid a countenance which a mingled sense of
modesty and of resentment, and other deep and agitated feelings,
had covered with crimson.
But although Edith felt her situation with all that delicacy
which is her sex's greatest charm, it did not seem that for a
moment she placed her own bashfulness in comparison with the duty
which, as she thought, she owed to him who had been led into
error and danger on her account. She drew, indeed, her scarf
more closely over her neck and bosom, and she hastily laid from
her hand a lamp which shed too much lustre over her figure; but,
while Sir Kenneth stood motionless on the same spot in which he
was first discovered, she rather stepped towards than retired
from him, as she exclaimed, "Hasten to your post, valiant
knight!—you are deceived in being trained hither—ask no
"I need ask none," said the knight, sinking upon one knee, with
the reverential devotion of a saint at the altar, and bending his
eyes on the ground, lest his looks should increase the lady's
"Have you heard all?" said Edith impatiently. "Gracious saints!
then wherefore wait you here, when each minute that passes is
loaded with dishonour!"
"I have heard that I am dishonoured, lady, and I have heard it
from you," answered Kenneth. "What reck I how soon punishment
follows? I have but one petition to you; and then I seek, among
the sabres of the infidels, whether dishonour may not be washed
out with blood."
"Do not so, neither," said the lady. "Be wise—dally not here;
all may yet be well, if you will but use dispatch."
"I wait but for your forgiveness," said the knight, still
kneeling, "for my presumption in believing that my poor services
could have been required or valued by you."
"I do forgive you—oh, I have nothing to forgive! have been the
means of injuring you. But oh, begone! I will forgive—I will
value you—that is, as I value every brave Crusader—if you will
"Receive, first, this precious yet fatal pledge," said the
knight, tendering the ring to Edith, who now showed gestures of
"Oh, no, no " she said, declining to receive it. "Keep it—keep
it as a mark of my regard—my regret, I would say. Oh, begone,
if not for your own sake, for mine!"
Almost recompensed for the loss even of honour, which her voice
had denounced to him, by the interest which she seemed to testify
in his safety, Sir Kenneth rose from his knee, and, casting a
momentary glance on Edith, bowed low, and seemed about to
withdraw. At the same instant, that maidenly bashfulness, which
the energy of Edith's feelings had till then triumphed over,
became conqueror in its turn, and she hastened from the
apartment, extinguishing her lamp as she went, and leaving, in
Sir Kenneth's thoughts, both mental and natural gloom behind her.
She must be obeyed, was the first distinct idea which waked him
from his reverie, and he hastened to the place by which he had
entered the pavilion. To pass under the canvas in the manner he
had entered required time and attention, and he made a readier
aperture by slitting the canvas wall with his poniard. When in
the free air, he felt rather stupefied and overpowered by a
conflict of sensations, than able to ascertain what was the real
import of the whole. He was obliged to spur himself to action by
recollecting that the commands of the Lady Edith had required
haste. Even then, engaged as he was amongst tent-ropes and
tents, he was compelled to move with caution until he should
regain the path or avenue, aside from which the dwarf had led
him, in order to escape the observation of the guards before the
Queen's pavilion; and he was obliged also to move slowly, and
with precaution, to avoid giving an alarm, either by falling or
by the clashing of his armour. A thin cloud had obscured the
moon, too, at the very instant of his leaving the tent, and Sir
Kenneth had to struggle with this inconvenience at a moment when
the dizziness of his head and the fullness of his heart scarce
left him powers of intelligence sufficient to direct his motions.
But at once sounds came upon his ear which instantly recalled him
to the full energy of his faculties. These proceeded from the
Mount of Saint George. He heard first a single, fierce, angry,
and savage bark, which was immediately followed by a yell of
agony. No deer ever bounded with a wilder start at the voice of
Roswal than did Sir Kenneth at what he feared was the death-cry
of that noble hound, from whom no ordinary injury could have
extracted even the slightest acknowledgment of pain. He
surmounted the space which divided him from the avenue, and,
having attained it, began to run towards the mount, although
loaded with his mail, faster than most men could have accompanied
him even if unarmed, relaxed not his pace for the steep sides of
the artificial mound, and in a few minutes stood on the platform
upon its summit.
The moon broke forth at this moment, and showed him that the
Standard of England was vanished, that the spear on which it had
floated lay broken on the ground, and beside it was his faithful
hound, apparently in the agonies of death.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics