Imágenes de página

We can show you where he lies,
Fleet of foot, and tall of size ;
We can show the marks he made,
When 'gainst the oak his antlers frayed ;
You shall see him brought to bay,
“ Waken, lords and ladies gay."

Louder, louder chant the lay,
Waken, lords and ladies gay;
Tell them, youth, and mirth, and glee,
Run a course as well as we,
Time, stern huntsman! who can baulk,
Stanch as hound, and fleet as bawk ?
Think of this, and rise with day,
Gentle lords and ladies gay.

By the time this lay was finished, Lord Boteler, with his daughter and kinsman, Fitzallen of Marden, and other noble guests, had mounted their palfreys, and the hunt set forward in due order. The huntsmen, having carefully observed the traces of a large stag on the preceding evening, were able, without loss of time, to conduct the company, by the marks which they had made upon the trees, to the side of the thicket, in which, by the report of Drawslot, he had harboured all night. The horsemen spreading themselves along the side of the cover, waited until the keeper entered, leading his bandog, a large blood-hound tied in a leam or band, from which he takes his name.

But it befell thus. A hart of the second year, which was in the same cover with the proper object of their pursuit, chanced to be unharboured first, and broke cover very near where the Lady Emma and her brother were stationed. An inexperienced varlet, who was nearer to them, instantly unloosed two tall greyhounds, who sprung after the fugitive with all the fleetness of the north wind. Gregory, restored a little to spirits by the enlivening scene around him, followed, encouraging the hounds with a loud tayout,' for which he had the hearty curses of the huntsman, as well as of the Baron, who entered into the spirit of the chase with all the juvenile ardour of twenty. “May the soul fiend, booted and spurr'd, ride down his bawling throat, with a scythe at his girdle," quoth Albert Drawslot ;“ here have I been telling him, that all the marks were those of a buck of the first head, and he has hollowed the hounds upon a velvet-headed knobbler! By Saint Hubert, if I break not his pate with my crossbow, may I never cast off hound more! But to it, my lords and masters ! the noble beast is here yet, and, thank the saints, we have enough of hounds."

| Tailliers-hors, in modern phrase, Tally-ho!

The cover being now thoroughly beat by the attendants, the stag was compelled to abandon it, and trust to his speed for his safety. Three greyhounds were slipped upon him, whom he threw out, after running a couple of miles, by entering an extensive furzy brake, which extended along the side of a hill. The horsemen soon came up, and casting off a sufficient number of slow-hounds, sent them with the prickers into cover, in order to drive the game from his strength. This object being accomplished, afforded another severe chase of several miles, in a direction almost circular, during which, the poor animal tried every wile to get rid of his persecutors. He crossed and traversed all such dusty paths as were likely to retain the least scent of his footsteps; he laid himself close to the ground, drawing his feet under his belly, and clapping his nose close to the earth, lest he should be betrayed to the hounds by his breath and hoofs. When all was in vain, and he found the hounds coming fast in upon him, his own strength failing, his mouth embossed with foam, and the tears dropping from his eyes, he turned in despair upon his pursuers, who then stood at gaze, making an hideous clamour, and awaiting their two-footed auxiliaries. Of these, it chanced that the Lady Eleanor, taking more pleasure in the sport than Matilda, and being a less burden to her palfrey than the Lord Boteler, was the first who arrived at the spot, and taking a crossbow from an attendant, discharged å bolt at the stag. When the infuriated animal felt himself wounded, he pushed franticly towards her from whom he had received the shaft, and Lady Eleanor might have had occasion to repent of her enterprise, had not young Fitzallen, who had kept near her during the whole day, at that instant galloped briskly in, and, ere the stag could change his object of assault, dispatched him with his short hunting-sword.

Albert Drawslot, who had just come up in terror for the young lady's safety, broke out into loud encomiums upon Fitzallen's strength and gallantry.“ By'r Lady," said he, taking off his cap, and wiping his sun-burnt face with his sleeve, “ well struck, and in good time! – But now, boys, doff your bonnets, and sound the mort."

The sportsmen then sounded a treble mort, and set up a general whoop, which, mingled with the yelping of the dogs, made the welkin ring again. The huntsman then offered his knife to Lord Boteler, that he might take the say of the deer, but the Baron courteously insisted upon Fitzallen going through that ceremony. The Lady Matilda was now come up, with most of the attendants; and the interest of the chase being ended, it excited some surprise, that neither St. Clere nor his sister made their appearance. The Lord Boteler commanded the horns again

[ocr errors]

to sound the recheat, in hopes to call in the stragglers, and said to Fitzallen, “Methinks St. Clere, so distinguished for service in war, should have been more forward in the chase."

“I trow,” said Peter Lanaret, “ I know the reason of the noble lord's absence; for when that mooncalf, Gregory, hallooed the dogs upon the knobbler, and galloped like a green hilding, as he is, after them, I saw the Lady Emma's palfrey follow apace after that varlet, who should be thrashed for overrunning, and I tbink her noble brother has followed her, lest she should come to harm.-But here, by the rood, is Gregory to answer for himself.”

At this moment Gregory entered the circle which had been formed round the deer, out of breath, and his face covered with blood. He kept for some time uttering inarticulate cries of “ Harrow!” and “ Wellaway!” and other exclamations of distress and terror, pointing all the while to thicket at some distance from the spot where the deer had been killed.

“By my honour," said the Baron, “I would gladly know who has dared to array the poor knave thus; and I trust he should dearly abye his outrecuidance, were he the best, save one, in England.”

Gregory, who had now found more breath, cried, “ Help, an ye he men ! Save Lady Emma and her brother, whom they are murdering in Brockenhurst thicket."

This put all in motion. Lord Boteler hastily commanded a small party of his men to abide for the defence of the ladies, while he bimself, Fitzallen, and the rest, made what speed they could towards the thicket, guided by Gregory, who for that purpose was mounted behind Fabian. Pushing through a narrow path, the first object they encountered was a man of small stature lying on the ground, mastered and almost strangled by two dogs, which were instantly recognised to be those that had accompapied Gregory. A little farther was an open space, where lay three bodies of dead or wounded men; beside these was Lady Emma, apparently lifeless, her brother and a young forester bending over and endeavouring to recover her. By employing the usual remedies, this was soon accomplished; while Lord Boteler, astonished at such a scene, anxiously inquired at St. Clere the meaning of what he saw, and whether more danger was to be expected.

For the present, I trust not," said the young warrior, who they now observed was slightly wounded ;“ but I pray you, of your nobleness, let the woods here be searched ; for we were assaulted by four of these base assassins, and I see three only on the sward.

The attendants now brought forward the person whom they

had rescued from the dogs; and Henry, with disgust, shame, and astonishment, recognised his kinsman, Gaston St. Clere. This discovery he communicated in a whisper to Lord Boteler, who commanded the prisoner to be conveyed to Queenhoo-Hall, and closely guarded; meanwhile he anxiously inquired of young St. Clere about his wound.

“ A scratch, a trifle!” cried Henry; “ I am in less haste to bind it than to introduce to you one, without whose aid that of the leech would have come too late.-Where is he? where is my brave deliverer?”

“Here, most noble lord,” said Gregory, sliding from his palfrey, and stepping forward,“ ready to receive the guerdon which your bounty would heap on him.”

“ Truly, friend Gregory," answered the young warrior, “thou shalt not be forgotten; for thou didst run speedily, and roar manfully for aid, without which, I think verily, we had not received it. ---But the brave forester, who came to my rescue when these three ruffians had nigh overpowered me, where is he?”

Every one looked around, but, though all had seen him on entering the thicket, he was not now to be found. They could only conjecture that he had retired during the confusion occasioned by the detention of Gaston.

“Seek not for him," said the Lady Emma, who had now in some degree recovered her composure : “ he will not be found of mortal, unless at bis own season."

The Baron , convinced from this answer that her terror had, for the time, somewhat disturbed her reason, forbore to question her; and Matilda and Eleanor, to whom a message had been dispatched with the result of this strange adventure, arriving, they took the Lady Emma between them, and all in a body returned to the castle.

The distance was, however, considerable, and, before reaching it, they had another alarm. The prickers, who rode foremost in the troop, halted, and announced to the Lord Boteler, that they perceived advancing towards them a body of armed men. The followers of the Baron were numerous, but they were arrayed for the chase, not for battle ; and it was with great pleasure that he discerned, on the pennon of the advancing body of men-at-arms, instead of the cognizance of Gaston, as he had some reason lo expect, the friendly bearings of Fitzosborne of Diggswell, the same young lord who was present at the Maygames with Fitzallen of Marden. The knight himself advanced, sheathed in armour, and without raising his visor, informed Lord Boteler, that having heard of a base attempt made upon a part of his train by russianly assassins, he had mounted and armed a small party of his retainers, to escort them to Queenhoo-Hall.

Having received and accepted an invitation to attend them thither, they prosecuted their journey in confidence and security, and arrived safe at home without any further accident.




So soon as they arrived at the princely mansion of Boteler, the Lady Emma craved permission to retire to her chamber, that she might compose her spirits after the terror she had undergone. Henry St. Clere, in a few words, proceeded to explain the adventure to the curious audience. “I had no sooner seen my sister's palfrey, in spite of her endeavours to the contrary, entering wilh spirit into the chase set on foot by the worshipful Gregory, than I rode after to give her assistance. So long was the chase, that when the greyhounds pulled down the knobbler, we were out of hearing of your bugles ; and having rewarded and coupled the dogs, I gave them to be led by the jester, and we wandered in quest of our company, whom it would seem the sport had led in a different direction. At length, passing through the thicket where you found us, I was surprised by a cross-bow bolt whizzing past mine head. I drew my sword, and rushed into the thicket, but was instantly assailed by two rullians, while other two made towards my sister and Gregory. The poor knave fled, crying for help, pursued by my false kinsman, now your prisoner; and the designs of the other on my poor Emma (murderous no doubt) were prevented by the sudden apparition of a brave woodsman, who, after a short encounter, stretched the miscreant at his feet, and came to my assistance. I was already slightly wounded, and nearly over-laid with odds. The combat lasted some time, for the caitiffs were both well armed, strong, and desperate ; at length, however, we had each mastered our antagonist, when your retinue, my Lord Boteler, arrived to my relief. So ends my story; but, by my knighthood, I would give an earl's ransom for an opportunity of thanking the gallant forester by whose aid I live to tell it."

“Fear not,” said Lord Boteler," he shall be found, if this or the four adjacent counties hold him. And now Lord Fitzosborne will be pleased to doff the armour he has so kindly assumed for our sakes, and we will all bowne ourselves for the banquet.”

When the hour of dinner approached, the Lady Matilda and

« AnteriorContinuar »