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ginald!" she exclaimed. “ Note you not, sir, the device in the squire's helmet? But be rides with his visor down.”
The old baron trembled as the horsemen drew near enough for recognition. They were in complete armour, but he saw their badges as retainers of his house. And they still kept their helmets closed! This, in those olden times, was, in some cases, looked upon as a token that the messengers had bad news to tell. Had those gentlemen brought good tidings to the baron, who, they knew, was hoping for them, they would have thrown back their closed helmets, and joyfully waved their swords as they drew near to him.
Poor Reginald de Chilling! he who had gone forth in all the enthusiasm of his youth, had met with death on his first battle-field. The old baron seated himself in his hall of audience, his nephews standing by his side, and his gentlemen-attendants gathered behind him. The baroness had retired with her daughter: she was not less anxious to hear the tidings than her husband, but much needless form and ceremony was observed in the days of the Plantagenets.
The chief of the messengers came in, the instant he left his horse, his armour clanking as he walked, and his visor still down. He raised it as he approached the baron, displaying a face working with emotion. He was a white-haired man of nearly fifty years of age, and had been page to the baron in his early life. He knew not how to break the news to his revered master.
“ My son ?" gasped the old noble to him, holding out his hand, “what tidings of my son?"
The squire spoke slowly, but he accomplished his sentences at last, and the baron knew the worst. His boy was left dead on the battle-field. With a low moan of pain, he rose from his seat, and laying his hand upon the shoulder of his elder nephew, to support himself, passed from the room, in search of his lady-wife. Edgar followed.
" What of my son?" uttered the baroness, starting forward, and trembling, as she saw the pained countenance of her husband.
“ Madam,” was his answer, pushing Geoffry slightly forwards, “ we have no heir now but this. Our glorious boy has died his death on the engagement-field.”
The little girl, Ellana, heard the words, and, giving a sudden cry, burst into a passionate fit of weeping. The baron was occupied in soothing his shocked and startled wife; the new heir of Chillingwater, bewildered with grief and amazement, wept silently, and chafed the lady's hands ; but Edgar de Chilling folded the sobbing girl to his breast, and whispered that he would be her brother now, in the lost one's stead, her loving brother for ever and for ever.
The old baron passed away to his forefathers, dying more of grief than of age, and the castle, with all its honours, became the property of Geoffry, now the Baron of Chillingwater. A very small portion indeed of its revenues demised to the baroness and her daughter, for incomes in that early period could not be bequeathed as they can now. The lady retained her place in the castle as its mistress, constituting herself guardian of the young baron and his brother. As the heir advanced towards manhood, his character and inclination for martial or boisterous pursuits did, not seem to strengthen. His mood was invariably so kind and gentle,
his heart so pliant, and his health so fragile, that they would have best become a woman. He would recline for hours together by the side of his cousin, in listless idleness, telling her charming stories, twisting wreaths for her, listening to her girlish songs. But she-oh perverse woman's heart! perverse in those days as in these!-would better value five minutes spent with her by the daring and handsome Edgar, than all the hours wasted with her by his inert brother. The lady-mother had a project in her head--and the reader has no difficulty in divining it. She would have despatched, with all speed, the younger brother from the castle, for she dreaded his influence over the heart of the Lady Ellana, and, when the fitting time came, she would marry her daughter to the baron. But to drive Edgar out of the castle in his boyhood, was more than the Baroness of Chillingwater, with all her influence, could accomplish, for the brothers were deeply attached to each other, and the young baron would as soon have thought of turning out her ladyship as of turning out Edgar.
II. The years passed on. Richard Cour de Lion sat on the throne of his father, and England was alive with the excitement of the Crusade war. The king was on his way to join it, and the young and the chivalrous amongst the Anglo-Saxon and Norman nobility were flocking after his steps.
The Baron of Chillingwater had now attained his majority, and the Lady Ellana was growing towards womanhood. The light of a summer's evening shone down upon her parted hair, and its waving curls were reflected in the waters of the Holy Well, on the brink of which she stood, thoughtfully leaning against a tree. What were her thoughts gathering on ? On the clerk-like baron, who was now in his room in the western turret, deep in his studies ? We cannot say ; but as a quick and light, though manly step, was heard approaching, a colour, as of the richest damask-rose, flew to her cheek. He was a handsome knight, Edgar de Chilling, and as he stood there by her side and rattled on, talking of any subject that took his fancy, it may be fair to infer that Ellana thought him one.
Suddenly, the bell rang out for the evening meal. He gallantly offered her his arm, and they slowly walked together to the castle. The baroness saw them, and her face became black as night.
“What meaneth this inertness ?" suddenly broke forth the ladymother, as the spice-cup went round after supper; “know you not, young sirs, that I shall have to blush for my kinsmen ?
The baron looked dreamily up, but young Edgar, hot and passionate, asked what he had done that she should blush for him.
" It is what you have not done that I blush for,” returned the lady, with a cheek as fiery and a tongue as hasty as his own. “The baron's pursuits lie in a different way, and his place is here, but that a younger scion of the house of Chilling should hold back, when it is the pleasure of the king, and the glory of England, that her youth should engage in the holy wars—that you, Edgar de Chilling, should remain here, perhaps in cowardice "
“ Hold, madam !” exclaimed Edgar, starting up, and laying his hand upon his sword, in anger.
“The lady-mother means not that," interposed the baron, with his quiet, persuasive voice. “Something has angered you, madam, and your words must have sounded harshly in my brother's ear, but I know you meant them not. Be calm, be seated, Edgar.”
“I mean what I say,” repeated the baroness, her temper rising with her words. “ The good name of Chilling is becoming a reproach in the land. Where is there a noble house who has not a son, if old enough, engaged in the holy war ? But Edgar de Chilling keeps aloof. My brave son was away from home in his early youth.”
“And lost his life !" interposed the Lady Ellana, who, hitherto pale with surprise and terror, now burst into a flood of tears.
“ You are right, madam,” called out Edgar to the baroness. “I see now that I am one too many here: but I have truly been unpardonably supine, and I take shame to myself that you should have had to point out to me my duty to my king and to my religion. With to-morrow's sun, I shall be on my way to the Holy Land.”
“ Not so,” interrupted the baron, eagerly clasping the young knight's hand—“pot until you can go as befitteth Edgar de Chilling and my brother. If you indeed wish to join these holy wars whither so many of our nobles are flocking, I will not say you nay; but you shall not leave until your equipage and retinue are complete."
“I will go with my own good sword, nothing more," returned Edgar. “ Nothing else belongs to me, by gain or by inheritance, and nothing else will I take. If I win myself a name and station, I will wear them. To-morrow, at break of day, 'I bid adieu to Chillingwater.”
They were standing within the porch of the little chapel, near to the eastern gate, Edgar de Chilling and the Lady Ellana. She had wandered thither, after that turbulent supper-scene, and he had followed her. The lady-mother, elate at having accomplished her purpose, and knowing that the baron's dreaded rival, dreaded by her, would now be removed, sent her vigilance to sleep, and sat discussing matters with the baron and her confessor.
As they stood there in the dusk of the evening twilight, Ellana thought her heart was breaking. Dreams of Edgar de Chilling had interwoven themselves with every later year of her existence, and now he was going away, perhaps for ever, like her dead brother. Impassioned vows were uttered between them. Never before had Edgar spoken to her of his love; but enough was spoken then.
“ You will be my brother's wife, Ellana," was his passionate exclamation. “ Ere I can return, you will be my brother's wife.”
She turned from him in her hasty anger.
“ Yes,” he repeated. “ Not perhaps of your own free consent; but look at the lady-mother's imperious control : what she will, she accomplishes. For what else, think you, I am sent away? She dreads my presence here: she knows I love you. No, no, Ellana! we may say adieu this night for ever, for I repeat that you will be cajoled into becoming the baron's wife; and when once that has taken place, I shall never return."
“ I never will!” she cried, clinging to him in her tempest of anger
and despair. "Edgar! I will be your wife if you will-your wife this night. Who shall part us then ?"
Great blame attached to them both: to one as much as to the other. The Lady Ellana, whose will and temper were as ungovernable as her mother's, made the suggestion in a moment of excitement, and Edgar de Chilling seized upon it, and, on the instant, sought means to carry it out. Fate seemed to favour their plan.
A monk, Father Thomas, half childish with age, who had the entrée to the castle at all hours, like many of his brethren, passed, as they were speaking, the little chapel, on his way to the adjoining monastery. He had known and loved them both from their early years. It did not take much persuasion to induce him to unite them. The moonlight fell in upon them from the Gothic openings, called windows, as they stood before the altar of the chapel—that child-bride of seventeen summers, and her cousin, who had barely numbered two years more. In spite of her excitement and her resolution, the Lady Ellana was agitated and trembling. She scarcely knew that she spoke the required vows; her fears of an interruption were overwhelming, and her head was perpetually turning to see that the chapel entrance was not darkened by any unwelcome form. Marriages concluded in haste such as this, cannot be stopped for ceremony : the Lady Ellana happened to have on her hand a ring set with a single garnet stone, and this was made to serve for the nuptial one. But it was too large for the third finger, and as she turned from the altar after receiving the aged priest's benediction, it dropped from her hand upon the chapel floor. She stooped to feel for it; it was too dark to see ; Edgar stooped; the priest stooped. But they could not find it, and after waiting as long as they dared, were leaving the chapel, when the Lady Ellana set her foot upon it. She picked it up, and they took it outside, and examined it, in the moonlight. The garnet stone was gone, and although the Lady Ellana looked for it times upon times afterwards, it was never found again. Edgar de Chilling took her hand, and replaced the ring on it, but she burst into tears, and hid her face on his shoulder. " It is a bad omen,” she whispered.
He kept his word to the lady-mother, and departed, on the following day, for the wars.
III. Who so gay as the Lady Ellana de Chilling? who so lauded in ballad, praised in song? who so beautiful, who so courted? She had seemed strangely sad and abstracted after the departure of her cousin Edgar; a smile was scarcely to be seen on her face for months, no, not for months upon months. The baroness, her mother, became irritated, if not alarmed, at her continued gloom, and began to fear that her love for Edgar de Chilling was deeper than she had suspected. So she took her to court, where the graceless Lackland reigned for his brother, and she took her out to visit amongst the nobles of the land, and she filled the castle of Chillingwater with courtly guests: and the Lady Ellana, at twenty years of age, looked back, repentingly, upon the one rash act of her life, and said to her own heart that she had done a foolish thing.
She had loved and mourned her husband for a long while after his departure, but as the months and years succeeded each other, and she heard do news from him, her affection began to die away. She was fond of show and expense, she delighted in display, she was vain of her beauty, and now that, through her more intimate knowledge of the outer world, she had been shown how necessary to her happiness it was, that she should enjoy all the pomps and vanities of life, she trembled lest Edgar de Chilling should return, and proclaim that she was but the wife of a poor soldier.
The lady-mother looked on with a vigilant eye; but, with all her clearsightedness, she never suspected the truth. She did believe that vows, the vows of lovers, constant fidelity and all that, had been exchanged between her daughter and Edgar de Chilling; and she suspected that the Lady Ellana now repented of those vows, but that, for her word's sake, she scrupled to release herself from them. And she laid her plans accordingly.
The Castle of Chillingwater was alive with gaiety, crowded with visitors. The baron was the great focus of attraction. Some admired his learning; many, his suavity of temper; all, his magnificent pomp and state. Splendid entertainments, sumptuous feasts, brilliant pageantry ; for all these was the Castle of Chillingwater celebrated. Now there would be a grand hunting party, now a tournament: and his guests were not slow to ask themselves for whom these pleasures were kept up. Surely not for himself, with his simple tastes and book-lore ? No, no: the baron's heart and the baron's hopes, his lavish expenditure and far-renowned pageantry, were cast at the feet of the gaiety-loving Lady Ellana.
It was when one of these festive meetings was at its height, that a servitor whispered the lady-mother of a newly-arrived minstrel, who desired speech of the baron. The same imperious command which distinguished the baroness when, in her lord's lifetime, she was indeed mistress of the castle, was displayed still : she controlled the household; the supine baron had but secondary authority. Hence, probably, arose her ardent desire of seeing her daughter wedded to him, for she was aware that should he bring home any other wife, her reign there would be at an end.
“Do you dare to disturb me now, with your idle tales ?” she exclaimed to the servitor. "A minstrel, forsooth! are not visits from such, common enough? Send him about his business."
“Lady," answered the man, “he is fresh from Palestine. His anxiety to see the baron is great, and I misdoubt me that he brings news of my lord's brother."
The lady's tone was changed now. “ Conduct him to my private audience-chamber," she whispered. “And, hark ye, sirrah! speed and silence.”
“ What want ye with me?" inquired the lady-mother, as she reached her audience-chamber, and the minstrel bent low before her.
“ Lady, I would crave speech of the renowned Baron of Chillingwater.”
“ The baron grants not audiences. I am as himself-as his mother. Speak out, an ye are from Palestine. What tidings bring you of Edgar de Chilling ?”
“Glad tidings, good my lady," answered the harper, with a lowly reverence. “Foremost in the field, bravest in the fight, wisest in the counsel, is Sir Edgar de Chilling. Conspicuous is he amongst knights for all princely qualities; his name is renowned through all the land of