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Chapter 16

The Lady Eveline remained nearly four months with her aunt, the
Abbess of the Benedictine nunnery, under whose auspices the
Constable of Chester saw his suit advance and prosper as it would
probably have done under that of the deceased Raymond Berenger,
her brother. It is probable, however, that, but for the supposed
vision of the Virgin, and the vow of gratitude which that supposed
vision had called forth, the natural dislike of so young a person
to a match so unequal in years, might have effectually opposed his
success. Indeed Eveline, while honouring the Constable's virtues,
doing justice to his high character, and admiring his talents,
could never altogether divest herself of a secret fear of him,
which, while it prevented her from expressing any direct
disapprobation of his addresses, caused her sometimes to shudder,
she scarce knew why, at the idea of their becoming successful.

The ominous words, "betraying and betrayed," would then occur to
her memory; and when her aunt (the period of the deepest mourning
being elapsed) had fixed a period for her betrothal, she looked
forward to it with a feeling of terror, for which she was unable
to account to herself, and which, as well as the particulars of
her dream, she concealed even from Father Aldrovand in the hours
of confession. It was not aversion to the Constable--it was far
less preference to any other suitor--it was one of those
instinctive movements and emotions by which Nature seems to warn
us of approaching danger, though furnishing no information
respecting its nature, and suggesting no means of escaping from
it.

So strong were these intervals of apprehension, that if they had
been seconded by the remonstrances of Rose Flammock, as formerly,
they might perhaps have led to Eveline's yet forming some
resolution unfavourable to the suit of the Constable. But, still
more zealous for her lady's honour than even for her happiness,
Rose had strictly forborne every effort which could affect
Eveline's purpose, when she had once expressed her approbation of
De Lacy's addresses; and whatever she thought or anticipated
concerning the proposed marriage, she seemed from that moment to
consider it as an event which must necessarily take place.


De Lacy himself, as he learned more intimately to know the merit
of the prize which he was desirous of possessing, looked forward
with different feelings towards the union, than those with which
he had first proposed the measure to Raymond Berenger. It was then
a mere match of interest and convenience, which had occurred to
the mind of a proud and politic feudal lord, as the best mode of
consolidating the power and perpetuating the line of his family.
Nor did even the splendour of Eveline's beauty make that
impression upon De Lacy, which it was calculated to do on the
fiery and impassioned chivalry of the age. He was past that period
of life when the wise are captivated by outward form, and might
have said with truth, as well as with discretion, that he could
have wished his beautiful bride several years older, and possessed
of a more moderate portion of personal charms, in order to have
rendered the match more fitted for his own age and disposition.
This stoicism, however, vanished, when, on repeated interviews
with his destined bride, he found that she was indeed
inexperienced in life, but desirous to be guided by superior
wisdom; and that, although gifted with high spirit, and a
disposition which began to recover its natural elastic gaiety, she
was gentle, docile, and, above all, endowed with a firmness of
principle, which seemed to give assurance that she would tread
uprightly, and without spot, the slippery paths in which youth,
rank, and beauty, are doomed to move.

As feelings of a warmer and more impassioned kind towards Eveline
began to glow in De Lacy's bosom, his engagements as a crusader
became more and more burdensome to him. The Benedictine Abbess,
the natural guardian of Eveline's happiness, added to these
feelings by her reasoning and remonstrances. Although a nun and a
devotee, she held in reverence the holy state of matrimony, and
comprehended so much of it as to be aware, that its important
purposes could not be accomplished while the whole continent of
Europe was interposed betwixt the married pair; for as to a hint
from the Constable, that his young spouse might accompany him into
the dangerous and dissolute precincts of the Crusader's camp, the
good lady crossed herself with horror at the proposal, and never
permitted it to be a second time mentioned in her presence.

It was not, however, uncommon for kings, princes, and other
persons of high consequence, who had taken upon them the vow to
rescue Jerusalem, to obtain delays, and even a total remission of
their engagement, by proper application to the Church of Rome. The
Constable was sure to possess the full advantage of his
sovereign's interest and countenance, in seeking permission to
remain in England, for he was the noble to whose valour and policy
Henry had chiefly intrusted the defence of the disorderly Welsh
marches; and it was by no means with his good-will that so useful
a subject had ever assumed the cross.

It was settled, therefore, in private betwixt the Abbess and the
Constable, that the latter should solicit at Rome, and with the
Pope's Legate in England, a remission of his vow for at least two
years; a favour which it was thought could scarce be refused to
one of his wealth and influence, backed as it was with the most
liberal offers of assistance towards the redemption of the Holy
Land. His offers were indeed munificent; for he proposed, if his
own personal attendance were dispensed with, to send an hundred
lances at his own cost, each lance accompanied by two squires,
three archers, and a varlet or horse-boy; being double the retinue
by which his own person was to have been accompanied. He offered
besides to deposit the sum of two thousand bezants to the general
expenses of the expedition, to surrender to the use of the
Christian armament those equipped vessels which he had provided,
and which even now awaited the embarkation of himself and his
followers.

Yet, while making these magnificent proffers, the Constable could
not help feeling they would be inadequate to the expectations of
the rigid prelate Baldwin, who, as he had himself preached the
crusade, and brought the Constable and many others into that holy
engagement, must needs see with displeasure the work of his
eloquence endangered, by the retreat of so important an associate
from his favourite enterprise. To soften, therefore, his
disappointment as much as possible, the Constable offered to the
Archbishop, that, in the event of his obtaining license to remain
in Britain, his forces should be led by his nephew, Danxian Lacy,
already renowned for his early feats of chivalry, the present hope
of his house, and, failing heirs of his own body, its future head
and support.

The Constable took the most prudent method of communicating this
proposal to the Archbishop Baldwin, through a mutual friend, on
whose good offices he could depend, and whose interest with the
Prelate was regarded as great. But notwithstanding the splendour
of the proposal, the Prelate heard it with sullen and obstinate
silence, and referred for answer to a personal conference with the
Constable at an appointed day, when concerns of the church would
call the Archbishop to the city of Gloucester. The report of the
mediator was such as induced the Constable to expect a severe
struggle with the proud and powerful churchman; but, himself proud
and powerful, and backed by the favour of his sovereign, he did
not expect to be foiled in the contest.

The necessity that this point should be previously adjusted, as
well as the recent loss of Eveline's father, gave an air of
privacy to De Lacy's courtship, and prevented its being signalized
by tournaments and feats of military skill, in which he would have
been otherwise desirous to display his address in the eyes of his
mistress. The rules of the convent prevented his giving
entertainments of dancing, music, or other more pacific revels;
and although the Constable displayed his affection by the most
splendid gifts to his future bride and her attendants, the whole
affair, in the opinion of the experienced Dame Gillian, proceeded
more with the solemnity of a funeral, than the light pace of an
approaching bridal.

The bride herself felt something of this, and thought occasionally
it might have been lightened by the visits of young Damian, in
whose age, so nearly corresponding to her own, she might have
expected some relief from the formal courtship of his graver
uncle. But he came not; and from what the Constable said
concerning him, she was led to imagine that the relations had, for
a time at least, exchanged occupations and character. The elder De
Lacy continued, indeed, in nominal observance of his vow, to dwell
in a pavilion by the gates of Gloucester; but he seldom donned his
armour, substituted costly damask and silk for his war-worn
shamois doublet, and affected at his advanced time of life more
gaiety of attire than his contemporaries remembered as
distinguishing his early youth. His nephew, on the contrary,
resided almost constantly on the marches of Wales, occupied in
settling by prudence, or subduing by main force, the various
disturbances by which these provinces were continually agitated;
and Eveline learned with surprise, that it was with difficulty his
uncle had prevailed on him to be present at the ceremony of their
being betrothed to each other, or, as the Normans entitled the
ceremony, their _fiancailles_. This engagement, which
preceded the actual marriage for a space more or less, according
to circumstances, was usually celebrated with a solemnity
corresponding to the rank of the contracting parties.

The Constable added, with expressions of regret, that Damian gave
himself too little rest, considering his early youth, slept too
little, and indulged in too restless a disposition--that his
health was suffering--and that a learned Jewish leech, whose
opinion had been taken, had given his advice that the warmth of a
more genial climate was necessary to restore his constitution to
its general and natural vigour.

Eveline heard this with much regret, for she remembered Damian as
the angel of good tidings, who first brought her news of
deliverance from the forces of the Welsh; and the occasions on
which they had met, though mournful, brought a sort of pleasure in
recollection, so gentle had been the youth's deportment, and so
consoling his expressions of sympathy. She wished she could see
him, that she might herself judge of the nature of his illness;
for, like other damsels of that age, she was not entirely ignorant
of the art of healing, and had been taught by Father Aldrovand,
himself no mean physician, how to extract healing essences from
plants and herbs gathered under planetary hours. She thought it
possible that her talents in this art, slight as they were, might
perhaps be of service to one already her friend and liberator, and
soon about to become her very near relation.

It was therefore with a sensation of pleasure mingled with some
confusion, (at the idea, doubtless, of assuming the part of
medical adviser to so young a patient,) that one evening, while
the convent was assembled about some business of their chapter,
she heard Gillian announce that the kinsman of the Lord Constable
desired to speak with her. She snatched up the veil, which she
wore in compliance with the customs of the house, and hastily
descended to the parlour, commanding the attendance of Gillian,
who, nevertheless, did not think proper to obey the signal.

When she entered the apartment, a man whom she had never seen
before advanced, kneeling on one knee, and taking up the hem of
her veil, saluted it with an air of the most profound respect. She
stepped back, surprised and alarmed, although there was nothing in
the appearance of the stranger to justify her apprehension. He
seemed to be about thirty years of age, tall of stature, and
bearing a noble though wasted form, and a countenance on which
disease, or perhaps youthful indulgence, had anticipated the
traces of age. His demeanour seemed courteous and respectful, even
in a degree which approached to excess. He observed Eveline's
surprise, and said, in a tone of pride, mingled with emotion, "I
fear that I have been mistaken, and that my visit is regarded as
an unwelcome intrusion."

"Arise, sir," answered Eveline, "and let me know your name and
business I was summoned to a kinsman of the Constable of Chester."

"And you expected the stripling Damian," answered the stranger.
"But the match with which England rings will connect you with
others of the house besides that young person; and amongst these,
with the luckless Randal de Lacy. Perhaps," continued he, "the
fair Eveline Berenger may not even have heard his name breathed by
his more fortunate kinsman--more fortunate in every respect, but
_most_ fortunate in his present prospects."

This compliment was accompanied by a deep reverence, and Eveline
stood much embarrassed how to reply to his civilities; for
although she now remembered to have heard this Randal slightly
mentioned by the Constable when speaking of his family, it was in
terms which implied there was no good understanding betwixt them.
She therefore only returned his courtesy by general thanks for the
honour of his visit, trusting he would then retire; but such was
not his purpose.

"I comprehend," he said, "from the coldness with which the Lady
Eveline Berenger receives me, that what she has heard of me from
my kinsman (if indeed he thought me worthy of being mentioned to
her at all) has been, to say the least, unfavourable. And yet my
name once stood as high in fields and courts, as that of the
Constable; nor is it aught more disgraceful than what is indeed
often esteemed the worst of disgraces--poverty, which prevents my
still aspiring to places of honour and fame. If my youthful
follies have been numerous, I have paid for them by the loss of my
fortune, and the degradation of my condition; and therein, my
happy kinsman might, if he pleased, do me some aid--I mean not
with his purse or estate; for, poor as I am, I would not live on
alms extorted from the reluctant hand of an estranged friend; but
his countenance would put him to no cost, and, in so far, I might
expect some favour."

"In that my Lord Constable," said Eveline, "must judge for
himself. I have--as yet, at least--no right to interfere in his
family affairs; and if I should ever have such right, it will well
become me to be cautious how I use it."

"It is prudently answered," replied Randal; "but what I ask of you
is merely, that you, in your gentleness, would please to convey to
my cousin a suit, which I find it hard to bring my ruder tongue to
utter with sufficient submission. The usurers, whose claims have
eaten like a canker into my means, now menace me with a dungeon--a
threat which they dared not mutter, far less attempt to execute,
were it not that they see me an outcast, unprotected by the
natural head of my family, and regard me rather as they would some
unfriended vagrant, than as a descendant of the powerful house of
Lacy."

"It is a sad necessity," replied Eveline; "but I see not how I can
help you in such extremity."

"Easily," replied Randal de Lacy. "The day of your betrothal is
fixed, as I hear reported; and it is your right to select what
witnesses you please to the solemnity, which may the saints bless!
To every one but myself, presence or absence upon that occasion is
a matter of mere ceremony--to me it is almost life or death. So an
I situated, that the marked instance of slight or contempt,
implied by my exclusion from this meeting of our family, will be
held for the signal of my final expulsion from the House of the De
Lacy's, and for a thousand bloodhounds to assail me without mercy
or forbearance, whom, cowards as they are, even the slightest show
of countenance from my powerful kinsman would compel to stand at
bay. But why should I occupy your time in talking thus?--Farewell,
madam--be happy--and do not think of me the more harshly, that for
a few minutes I have broken the tenor of your happy thoughts, by
forcing my misfortunes on your notice."

"Stay, sir," said Eveline, affected by the tone and manner of the
noble suppliant; "you shall not have it to say that you have told
your distress to Eveline Berenger, without receiving such aid as
is in her power to give. I will mention your request to the
Constable of Chester."

"You must do more, if you really mean to assist me," said Randal
de Lacy, "you must make that request your own. You do not know,"
said he, continuing to bend on her a fixed and expressive look,
"how hard it is to change the fixed purpose of a De Lacy--a
twelvemonth hence you will probably be better acquainted with the
firm texture of our resolutions. But, at present, what can
withstand your wish should you deign to express it?"

"Your suit, sir, shall not be lost for want of my advancing it
with my good word and good wishes," replied Eveline; "but you must
be well aware that its success or failure must rest with the
Constable himself."

Randal de Lacy took his leave with the same air of deep reverence
which had marked his entrance; only that, as he then saluted the
skirt of Eveline's robe, he now rendered the same homage by
touching her hand with his lip. She saw him depart with a mixture
of emotions, in which compassion was predominant; although in his
complaints of the Constable's unkindness to him there was
something offensive, and his avowal of follies and excess seemed
uttered rather in the spirit of wounded pride, than in that of
contrition.

When Eveline next saw the Constable, she told him of the visit of
Randal and of his request; and strictly observing his countenance
while she spoke, she saw, that at the first mention of his
kinsman's name, a gleam of anger shot along his features. He soon
subdued it, however, and, fixing his eyes on the ground, listened
to Eveline's detailed account of the visit, and her request "that
Randal might be one of the invited witnesses to their
_fiancailles_."

The Constable paused for a moment, as if he were considering how
to elude the solicitation. At length he replied, "You do not know
for whom you ask this, or you would perhaps have forborne your
request; neither are you apprized of its full import, though my
crafty cousin well knows, that when I do him this grace which he
asks, I bind myself, as it were, in the eye of the world once
more--and it will be for the third time--to interfere in his
affairs, and place them on such a footing as may afford him the
means of re-establishing his fallen consequence, and repairing his
numerous errors."

"And wherefore not, my lord?" said the generous Eveline. "If he
has been ruined only through follies, he is now of an age when
these are no longer tempting snares; and if his heart and hand be
good, he may yet be an honour to the House of De Lacy."

The Constable shook his head. "He hath indeed," he said, "a heart
and hand fit for service, God knoweth, whether in good or evil.
But never shall it be said that you, my fair Eveline, made request
of Hugh de Lacy, which he was not to his uttermost willing to
comply with. Randal shall attend at our _fiancailles_; there
is indeed the more cause for his attendance, as I somewhat fear we
may lack that of our valued nephew Damian, whose malady rather
increases than declines, and, as I hear, with strange symptoms of
unwonted disturbance of mind and starts of temper, to which the
youth had not hitherto been subject."

Sir Walter Scott