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Were every hair upon his head a life,
And every life were to be supplicated
By numbers equal to those hairs quadrupled,
Life after life should out like waning stars
Before the daybreak—or as festive lamps,
Which have lent lustre to the midnight revel,
Each after each are quench'd when guests depart!
 THE entrance of Queen Berengaria into the interior of Richard's
pavilion was withstood—in the most respectful and reverential
manner indeed, but still withstood—by the chamberlains who
watched in the outer tent. She could hear the stern command of
the King from within, prohibiting their entrance.
"You see," said the Queen, appealing to Edith, as if she had
exhausted all means of intercession in her power; "I knew it—the
King will not receive us."
At the same time, they heard Richard speak to some one within:
—"Go, speed thine office quickly, sirrah, for in that consists
thy mercy—ten byzants if thou dealest on him at one blow. And
hark thee, villain, observe if his cheek loses colour, or his eye
falters; mark me the smallest twitch of the features, or wink of
the eyelid. I love to know how brave souls meet death."
"If he sees my blade waved aloft without shrinking, he is the
first ever did so," answered a harsh, deep voice, which a sense
of unusual awe had softened into a sound much lower than its
usual coarse tones.
Edith could remain silent no longer. "If your Grace," she said
to the Queen, "make not your own way, I make it for you; or if
not for your Majesty, for myself at least.—Chamberlain, the
Queen demands to see King Richard—the wife to speak with her
"Noble lady," said the officer, lowering his wand of office, "it
grieves me to gainsay you, but his Majesty is busied on matters
of life and death."
"And we seek also to speak with him on matters of life and
death," said Edith. "I will make entrance for your Grace." And
putting aside the chamberlain with one hand, she laid hold on the
curtain with the other.
"I dare not gainsay her Majesty's pleasure," said the
chamberlain, yielding to the vehemence of the fair petitioner;
and as he gave way, the Queen found herself obliged to enter the
apartment of Richard.
The Monarch was lying on his couch, and at some distance, as
awaiting his further commands, stood a man whose profession it
was not difficult to conjecture. He was clothed in a jerkin of
red cloth, which reached scantly below the shoulders, leaving the
arms bare from about half way above the elbow; and as an upper
garment, he wore, when about as at present to betake himself to
his dreadful office, a coat or tabard without sleeves, something
like that of a herald, made of dressed bull's hide, and stained
in the front with many a broad spot and speckle of dull crimson.
The jerkin, and the tabard over it, reached the knee; and the
nether stocks, or covering of the legs, were of the same leather
which composed the tabard. A cap of rough shag served to hide
the upper part of a visage which, like that of a screech owl,
seemed desirous to conceal itself from light, the lower part of
the face being obscured by a huge red beard, mingling with shaggy
locks of the same colour. What features were seen were stern and
misanthropical. The man's figure was short, strongly made, with
a neck like a bull, very broad shoulders, arms of great and
disproportioned length, a huge square trunk, and thick bandy
legs. This truculent official leant on a sword, the blade of
which was nearly four feet and a half in length, while the handle
of twenty inches, surrounded by a ring of lead plummets to
counterpoise the weight of such a blade, rose considerably above
the man's head as he rested his arm upon its hilt, waiting for
King Richard's further directions.
On the sudden entrance of the ladies, Richard, who was then lying
on his couch with his face towards the entrance, and resting on
his elbow as he spoke to his grisly attendant, flung himself
hastily, as if displeased and surprised, to the other side,
turning his back to the Queen and the females of her train, and
drawing around him the covering of his couch, which, by his own
choice, or more probably the flattering selection of his
chamberlains, consisted of two large lions' skins, dressed in
Venice with such admirable skill that they seemed softer than the
hide of the deer.
Berengaria, such as we have described her, knew well—what woman
knows not?—her own road to victory. After a hurried glance of
undisguised and unaffected terror at the ghastly companion of her
husband's secret counsels, she rushed at once to the side of
Richard's couch, dropped on her knees, flung her mantle from her
shoulders, showing, as they hung down at their full length, her
beautiful golden tresses, and while her countenance seemed like
the sun bursting through a cloud, yet bearing on its pallid front
traces that its splendours have been obscured, she seized upon
the right hand of the King, which, as he assumed his wonted
posture, had been employed in dragging the covering of his couch,
and gradually pulling it to her with a force which was resisted,
though but faintly, she possessed herself of that arm, the prop
of Christendom and the dread of Heathenesse, and imprisoning its
strength in both her little fairy hands, she bent upon it her
brow, and united to it her lips.
"What needs this, Berengaria?" said Richard, his head still
averted, but his hand remaining under her control.
"Send away that man, his look kills me!" muttered Berengaria.
"Begone, sirrah," said Richard, still without looking round,
"What wait'st thou for? art thou fit to look on these ladies?"
"Your Highness's pleasure touching the head," said the man.
"Out with thee, dog!" answered Richard—"a Christian burial!"
The man disappeared, after casting a look upon the beautiful
Queen, in her deranged dress and natural loveliness, with a smile
of admiration more hideous in its expression than even his usual
scowl of cynical hatred against humanity.
"And now, foolish wench, what wishest thou?" said Richard,
turning slowly and half reluctantly round to his royal suppliant.
But it was not in nature for any one, far less an admirer of
beauty like Richard, to whom it stood only in the second rank to
glory, to look without emotion on the countenance and the tremor
of a creature so beautiful as Berengaria, or to feel, without
sympathy, that her lips, her brow, were on his hand, and that it
was wetted by her tears. By degrees, he turned on her his manly
countenance, with the softest expression of which his large blue
eye, which so often gleamed with insufferable light, was capable.
Caressing her fair head, and mingling his large fingers in her
beautiful and dishevelled locks, he raised and tenderly kissed
the cherub countenance which seemed desirous to hide itself in
his hand. The robust form, the broad, noble brow and majestic
looks, the naked arm and shoulder, the lions' skins among which
he lay, and the fair, fragile feminine creature that kneeled by
his side, might have served for a model of Hercules reconciling
himself, after a quarrel, to his wife Dejanira.
"And, once more, what seeks the lady of my heart in her knight's
pavilion at this early and unwonted hour?"
"Pardon, my most gracious liege—pardon!" said the Queen, whose
fears began again to unfit her for the duty of intercessor.
"Pardon—for what?" asked the King.
"First, for entering your royal presence too boldly and
"THOU too boldly!—the sun might as well ask pardon because his
rays entered the windows of some wretch's dungeon. But I was
busied with work unfit for thee to witness, my gentle one; and I
was unwilling, besides, that thou shouldst risk thy precious
health where sickness had been so lately rife."
"But thou art now well?" said the Queen, still delaying the
communication which she feared to make.
"Well enough to break a lance on the bold crest of that champion
who shall refuse to acknowledge thee the fairest dame in
"Thou wilt not then refuse me one boon—only one—only a poor
"Ha!—proceed," said King Richard, bending his brows.
"This unhappy Scottish knight—" murmured the Queen.
"Speak not of him, madam," exclaimed Richard sternly; "he dies
—his doom is fixed."
"Nay, my royal liege and love, 'tis but a silken banner
neglected. Berengaria will give thee another broidered with her
own hand, and rich as ever dallied with the wind. Every pearl I
have shall go to bedeck it, and with every pearl I will drop a
tear of thankfulness to my generous knight."
"Thou knowest not what thou sayest," said the King, interrupting
her in anger. "Pearls! can all the pearls of the East atone for
a speck upon England's honour—all the tears that ever woman's
eye wept wash away a stain on Richard's fame? Go to, madam, know
your place, and your time, and your sphere. At present we have
duties in which you cannot be our partner."
"Thou hearest, Edith," whispered the Queen; "we shall but incense
"Be it so," said Edith, stepping forward.—"My lord, I, your poor
kinswoman, crave you for justice rather than mercy; and to the
cry of justice the ears of a monarch should be open at every
time, place, and circumstance."
"Ha! our cousin Edith?" said Richard, rising and sitting
upright on the side of his couch, covered with his long camiscia.
"She speaks ever kinglike, and kinglike will I answer her, so she
bring no request unworthy herself or me."
The beauty of Edith was of a more intellectual and less
voluptuous cast than that of the Queen; but impatience and
anxiety had given her countenance a glow which it sometimes
wanted, and her mien had a character of energetic dignity that
imposed silence for a moment even on Richard himself, who, to
judge by his looks, would willingly have interrupted her.
"My lord," she said, "this good knight, whose blood you are about
to spill, hath done, in his time, service to Christendom. He has
fallen from his duty through a snare set for him in mere folly
and idleness of spirit. A message sent to him in the name of one
who—why should I not speak it?—it was in my own—induced him
for an instant to leave his post. And what knight in the
Christian camp might not have thus far transgressed at command of
a maiden, who, poor howsoever in other qualities, hath yet the
blood of Plantagenet in her veins?"
"And you saw him, then, cousin?" replied the King, biting his
lips to keep down his passion.
"I did, my liege," said Edith. "It is no time to explain
wherefore. I am here neither to exculpate myself nor to blame
"And where did you do him such a grace?"
"In the tent of her Majesty the Queen."
"Of our royal consort!" said Richard. "Now by Heaven, by Saint
George of England, and every other saint that treads its crystal
floor, this is too audacious! I have noticed and overlooked this
warrior's insolent admiration of one so far above him, and I
grudged him not that one of my blood should shed from her high-born
sphere such influence as the sun bestows on the world
beneath. But, heaven and earth! that you should have admitted
him to an audience by night, in the very tent of our royal
consort!—and dare to offer this as an excuse for his
disobedience and desertion! By my father's soul, Edith, thou
shalt rue this thy life long in a monastery!"
"My liege," said Edith, "your greatness licenses tyranny. My
honour, Lord King, is as little touched as yours, and my Lady the
Queen can prove it if she think fit. But I have already said I
am not here to excuse myself or inculpate others. I ask you but
to extend to one, whose fault was committed under strong
temptation, that mercy, which even you yourself, Lord King, must
one day supplicate at a higher tribunal, and for faults, perhaps,
"Can this be Edith Plantagenet?" said the King bitterly—"Edith
Plantagenet, the wise and the noble? Or is it some lovesick
woman who cares not for her own fame in comparison of the life of
her paramour? Now, by King Henry's soul! little hinders but I
order thy minion's skull to be brought from the gibbet, and fixed
as a perpetual ornament by the crucifix in thy cell!"
"And if thou dost send it from the gibbet to be placed for ever
in my sight," said Edith, "I will say it is a relic of a good
knight, cruelly and unworthily done to death by" (she checked
herself)—"by one of whom I shall only say, he should have known
better how to reward chivalry. Minion callest thou him?" she
continued, with increasing vehemence. "He was indeed my lover,
and a most true one; but never sought he grace from me by look or
word—contented with such humble observance as men pay to the
saints. And the good—the valiant—the faithful must die for
"Oh, peace, peace, for pity's sake," whispered the Queen, "you do
but offend him more!"
"I care not," said Edith; "the spotless virgin fears not the
raging lion. Let him work his will on this worthy knight.
Edith, for whom he dies, will know how to weep his memory. To me
no one shall speak more of politic alliances to be sanctioned
with this poor hand. I could not—I would not —have been his
bride living—our degrees were too distant. But death unites the
high and the low—I am henceforward the spouse of the grave."
The King was about to answer with much anger, when a Carmelite
monk entered the apartment hastily, his head and person muffled
in the long mantle and hood of striped cloth of the coarsest
texture which distinguished his order, and, flinging himself on
his knees before the King, conjured him, by every holy word and
sign, to stop the execution.
"Now, by both sword and sceptre," said Richard, "the world is
leagued to drive me mad!—fools, women, and monks cross me at
every step. How comes he to live still?"
"My gracious liege," said the monk, "I entreated of the Lord of
Gilsland to stay the execution until I had thrown myself at your
"And he was wilful enough to grant thy request," said the King; "but
it is of a piece with his wonted obstinacy. And what is it
thou hast to say? Speak, in the fiend's name!"
"My lord, there is a weighty secret, but it rests under the seal
of confession. I dare not tell or even whisper it; but I swear
to thee by my holy order, by the habit which I wear, by the
blessed Elias, our founder, even him who was translated without
suffering the ordinary pangs of mortality, that this youth hath
divulged to me a secret, which, if I might confide it to thee,
would utterly turn thee from thy bloody purpose in regard to
"Good father," said Richard, "that I reverence the church, let
the arms which I now wear for her sake bear witness. Give me to
know this secret, and I will do what shall seem fitting in the
matter. But I am no blind Bayard, to take a leap in the dark
under the stroke of a pair of priestly spurs."
"My lord," said the holy man, throwing back his cowl and upper
vesture, and discovering under the latter a garment of goatskin,
and from beneath the former a visage so wildly wasted by climate,
fast, and penance, as to resemble rather the apparition of an
animated skeleton than a human face, "for twenty years have I
macerated this miserable body in the caverns of Engaddi, doing
penance for a great crime. Think you I, who am dead to the world,
would contrive a falsehood to endanger my own soul; or that one,
bound by the most sacred oaths to the contrary—one such as I,
who have but one longing wish connected with earth, to wit, the
rebuilding of our Christian Zion—would betray the secrets of the
confessional? Both are alike abhorrent to my very soul."
"So," answered the King, "thou art that hermit of whom men speak
so much? Thou art, I confess, like enough to those spirits which
walk in dry places; but Richard fears no hobgoblins. And thou
art he, too, as I bethink me, to whom the Christian princes sent
this very criminal to open a communication with the Soldan, even
while I, who ought to have been first consulted, lay on my sick-bed?
Thou and they may content themselves—I will not put my
neck into the loop of a Carmelite's girdle. And, for your envoy,
he shall die the rather and the sooner that thou dost entreat for
"Now God be gracious to thee, Lord King!" said the hermit, with
much emotion; "thou art setting that mischief on foot which thou
wilt hereafter wish thou hadst stopped, though it had cost thee a
limb. Rash, blinded man, yet forbear!"
"Away, away," cried the King, stamping; "the sun has risen on the
dishonour of England, and it is not yet avenged.—Ladies and
priest, withdraw, if you would not hear orders which would
displease you; for, by St. George, I swear—"
"Swear NOT!" said the voice of one who had just then entered the
"Ha! my learned Hakim," said the King, "come, I hope, to tax our
"I come to request instant speech with you—instant—and touching
matters of deep interest."
"First look on my wife, Hakim, and let her know in you the
preserver of her husband."
"It is not for me," said the physician, folding his arms with an
air of Oriental modesty and reverence, and bending his eyes on
the ground—"it is not for me to look upon beauty unveiled, and
armed in its splendours."
"Retire, then, Berengaria," said the Monarch; "and, Edith, do you
retire also;—nay, renew not your importunities! This I give to
them that the execution shall not be till high noon. Go and be
pacified—dearest Berengaria, begone.—Edith," he added, with a
glance which struck terror even into the courageous soul of his
kinswoman, "go, if you are wise."
The females withdrew, or rather hurried from the tent, rank and
ceremony forgotten, much like a flock of wild-fowl huddled
together, against whom the falcon has made a recent stoop.
They returned from thence to the Queen's pavilion to indulge in
regrets and recriminations, equally unavailing. Edith was the
only one who seemed to disdain these ordinary channels of sorrow.
Without a sigh, without a tear, without a word of upbraiding, she
attended upon the Queen, whose weak temperament showed her sorrow
in violent hysterical ecstasies and passionate hypochondriacal
effusions, in the course of which Edith sedulously and even
affectionately attended her.
"It is impossible she can have loved this knight," said Florise
to Calista, her senior in attendance upon the Queen's person.
"We have been mistaken; she is but sorry for his fate, as for a
stranger who has come to trouble on her account."
"Hush, hush," answered her more experienced and more observant
comrade; "she is of that proud house of Plantagenet who never own
that a hurt grieves them. While they have themselves been
bleeding to death, under a mortal wound, they have been known to
bind up the scratches sustained by their more faint-hearted
comrades. Florise, we have done frightfully wrong, and, for my
own part, I would buy with every jewel I have that our fatal jest
had remained unacted."