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Chapter 18

Oh, were I seated high as my ambition,
I'd place this naked foot on necks of monarchs!
MYSTERIOUS MOTHER.


The most anxious and unhappy moment of Hugo de Lacy's life, was
unquestionably that in which, by espousing Eveline with all civil
and religious solemnity, he seemed to approach to what for some
time he had considered as the prime object of his wishes. He was
assured of the early possession of a beautiful and amiable wife,
endowed with such advantage of worldly goods, as gratified his
ambition as well as his affections--Yet, even in this fortunate
moment, the horizon darkened around him, in a manner which
presaged nought but storm and calamity. At his nephew's lodging he
learned that the pulse of the patient had risen, and his delirium
had augmented, and all around him spoke very doubtfully of his
chance of recovery, or surviving a crisis which seemed speedily
approaching. The Constable stole towards the door of the apartment
which his feelings permitted him not to enter, and listened to the
raving which the fever gave rise to. Nothing can be more
melancholy than to hear the mind at work concerning its ordinary
occupations, when the body is stretched in pain and danger upon
the couch of severe sickness; the contrast betwixt the ordinary
state of health, its joys or its labours, renders doubly affecting
the actual helplessness of the patient before whom these visions
are rising, and we feel a corresponding degree of compassion for
the sufferer whose thoughts are wandering so far from his real
condition.

The Constable felt this acutely, as he heard his nephew shout the
war-cry of the family repeatedly, appearing, by the words of
command and direction, which he uttered from time to time, to be
actively engaged in leading his men-at-arms against the Welsh. At
another time he uttered various terms of the _manege_, of
falconry, and of the chase--he mentioned his uncle's name
repeatedly on these occasions, as if the idea of his kinsman had
been connected alike with his martial encounters, and with his
sports by wood and river. Other sounds there were, which he
muttered so low as to be altogether undistinguishable.

With a heart even still more softened towards his kinsman's
sufferings from hearing the points on which his mind wandered, the
Constable twice applied his hand to the latch of the door, in
order to enter the bedroom, and twice forebore, his eyes running
faster with tears than he chose should be witnessed by the
attendants. At length, relinquishing his purpose, he hastily left
the house, mounted his horse, and followed only by four of his
personal attendants, rode towards the palace of the Bishop, where,
as he learned from public rumour, the Archprelate Baldwin had
taken up his temporary residence.

The train of riders and of led-horses, of sumpter mules, and of
menials and attendants, both lay and ecclesiastical, which
thronged around the gate of the Episcopal mansion, together with
the gaping crowd of inhabitants who had gathered around, some to
gaze upon the splendid show, some to have the chance of receiving
the benediction of the Holy Prelate, was so great as to impede the
Constable's approach to the palace-door; and when this obstacle
was surmounted, he found another in the obstinacy of the
Archbishop's attendants, who permitted him not, though announced
by name and title, to cross the threshold of the mansion, until
they should receive the express command of their master to that
effect.

The Constable felt the full effect of this slighting reception. He
had dismounted from his horse in full confidence of being
instantly admitted into the palace at least, if not into the
Prelate's presence; and as he now stood on foot among the squires,
grooms, and horseboys of the spiritual lord, he was so much
disgusted, that his first impulse was to remount his horse, and
return to his pavilion, pitched for the time before the city
walls, leaving it to the Bishop to seek him there, if he really
desired an interview. But the necessity of conciliation almost
immediately rushed on his mind, and subdued the first haughty
impulse of his offended pride. "If our wise King," he said to
himself, "hath held the stirrup of one Prelate of Canterbury when
living, and submitted to the most degrading observances before his
shrine when dead, surely I need not be more scrupulous towards his
priestly successor in the same overgrown authority." Another
thought, which he dared hardly to acknowledge, recommended the
same humble and submissive course. He could not but feel that, in
endeavouring to evade his vows as a crusader, he was incurring
some just censure from the Church; and he was not unwilling to
hope, that his present cold and scornful reception on Baldwin's
part, might be meant as a part of the penance which his conscience
informed him his conduct was about to receive.

After a short interval, De Lacy was at length invited to enter the
palace of the Bishop of Gloucester, in which he was to meet the
Primate of England; but there was more than one brief pause, in
hall and anteroom, ere he at length was admitted to Baldwin's
presence.

The successor of the celebrated Becket had neither the extensive
views, nor the aspiring spirit, of that redoubted personage; but,
on the other hand, saint as the latter had become, it may be
questioned, whether, in his professions for the weal of
Christendom, he was half so sincere as was the present Archbishop.
Baldwin was, in truth, a man well qualified to defend the powers
which the Church had gained, though perhaps of a character too
sincere and candid to be active in extending them. The advancement
of the Crusade was the chief business of his life, his success the
principal cause of his pride; and, if the sense of possessing the
powers of eloquent persuasion, and skill to bend the minds of men
to his purpose, was blended with his religious zeal, still the
tenor of his life, and afterwards his death before Ptolemais,
showed that the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre from the infidels
was the unfeigned object of all his exertions. Hugo de Lacy well
knew this; and the difficulty of managing such a temper appeared
much greater to him on the eve of the interview in which the
attempt was to be made, than he had suffered himself to suppose
when the crisis was yet distant.

The Prelate, a man of a handsome and stately form, with features
rather too severe to be pleasing, received the Constable in all
the pomp of ecclesiastical dignity. He was seated on a chair of
oak, richly carved with Gothic ornaments, and placed above the
rest of the floor under a niche of the same workmanship. His dress
was the rich episcopal robe, ornamented with costly embroidery,
and fringed around the neck and cuffs; it opened from the throat
and in the middle, and showed an under vestment of embroidery,
betwixt the folds of which, as if imperfectly concealed, peeped
the close shirt of hair-cloth which the Prelate constantly wore
under all his pompous attire. His mitre was placed beside him on
an oaken table of the same workmanship with his throne, against
which also rested his pastoral staff, representing a shepherd's
crook of the simplest form, yet which had proved more powerful and
fearful than lance or scimetar, when wielded by the hand of Thomas
a Becket. A chaplain in a white surplice kneeled at a little
distance before a desk, and read forth from an illuminated volume
some portion of a theological treatise, in which Baldwin appeared
so deeply interested, that he did not appear to notice the
entrance of the Constable, who, highly displeased at this
additional slight, stood on the floor of the hall, undetermined
whether to interrupt the reader, and address the Prelate at once,
or to withdraw without saluting him at all. Ere he had formed a
resolution, the chaplain had arrived at some convenient pause in
the lecture, where the Archbishop stopped him with, "_Satis est,
mi fili._"

It was in vain that the proud secular Baron strove to conceal the
embarrassment with which he approached the Prelate, whose attitude
was plainly assumed for the purpose of impressing him with awe and
solicitude. He tried, indeed, to exhibit a demeanour of such ease
as might characterize their old friendship, or at least of such
indifference as might infer the possession of perfect
tranquillity; but he failed in both, and his address expressed
mortified pride, mixed with no ordinary degree of embarrassment.
The genius of the Catholic Church was on such occasions sure to
predominate over the haughtiest of the laity.

"I perceive," said De Lacy, collecting his thoughts, and ashamed
to find he had difficulty in doing so,--"I perceive that an old
friendship is here dissolved. Methinks Hugo de Lacy might have
expected another messenger to summon him to this reverend
presence, and that another welcome should wait him on his
arrival."

The Archbishop raised himself slowly in his seat, and made a half-
inclination towards the Constable, who, by an instinctive desire
of conciliation, returned it lower than he had intended, or than
the scanty courtesy merited. The Prelate at the same time signing
to his chaplain, the latter rose to withdraw, and receiving
permission in the phrase "_Do veniam_," retreated reverentially,
without either turning his back or looking upwards, his eyes fixed
on the ground, his hands still folded in his habit, and crossed
over his bosom.

When this mute attendant had disappeared, the Prelate's brow
became more open, yet retained a dark shade of grave displeasure,
and he replied to the address of De Lacy, but still without rising
from his seat. "It skills not now, my lord, to say what the brave
Constable of Chester has been to the poor priest Baldwin, or with
what love and pride we beheld him assume the holy sign of
salvation, and, to honour Him by whom he has himself been raised
to honour, vow himself to the deliverance of the Holy Land. If I
still see that noble lord before me, in the same holy resolution,
let me know the joyful truth, and I will lay aside rochet and
mitre, and tend his horse like a groom, if it be necessary by such
menial service to show the cordial respect I bear to him."

"Reverend father," answered De Lacy, with hesitation, "I had hoped
that the propositions which were made to you on my part by the
Dean of Hereford, might have seemed more satisfactory in your
eyes." Then, regaining his native confidence, he proceeded with
more assurance in speech and manner; for the cold inflexible looks
of the Archbishop irritated him. "If these proposals can be
amended, my lord, let me know in what points, and, if possible,
your pleasure shall be done, even if it should prove somewhat
unreasonable. I would have peace, my lord, with Holy Church, and
am the last who would despise her mandates. This has been known by
my deeds in field, and counsels in the state; nor can I think my
services have merited cold looks and cold language from the
Primate of England."

"Do you upbraid the Church with your services, vain man?" said
Baldwin. "I tell thee, Hugo de Lacy, that what Heaven hath wrought
for the Church by thy hand, could, had it been the divine
pleasure, have been achieved with as much ease by the meanest
horseboy in thy host. It is _thou_ that art honoured, in
being the chosen instrument by which great things have been
wrought in Israel.--Nay, interrupt me not--I tell thee, proud
baron, that, in the sight of Heaven, thy wisdom is but as folly--
thy courage, which thou dost boast, but the cowardice of a village
maiden--thy strength weakness--thy spear an osier, and thy sword a
bulrush."

"All this I know, good father," said the Constable, "and have ever
heard it repeated when such poor services as I may have rendered
are gone and past. Marry, when there was need for my helping hand,
I was the very good lord of priest and prelate, and one who should
be honoured and prayed for with patrons and founders who sleep in
the choir and under the high altar. There was no thought, I trow,
of osier or of bulrush, when I have been prayed to couch my lance
or draw my weapon; it is only when they are needless that they and
their owner are undervalued. Well, my reverend father, be it so,--
if the Church can cast the Saracens from the Holy Land by grooms
and horseboys, wherefore do you preach knights and nobles from the
homes and the countries which they are born to protect and
defend?"

The Archbishop looked steadily on him as he replied, "Not for the
sake of their fleshly arm do we disturb your knights and barons in
their prosecution of barbarous festivities, and murderous feuds,
which you call enjoying their homes and protecting their domains,
--not that Omnipotence requires their arm of flesh to execute the
great predestined work of liberation--but for the weal of their
immortal souls." These last words he pronounced with great
emphasis.

The Constable paced the floor impatiently, and muttered to
himself, "Such is the airy guerdon for which hosts on hosts have
been drawn from Europe to drench the sands of Palestine with their
gore--such the vain promises for which we are called upon to
barter our country, our lands, and our lives!"

"Is it Hugo de Lacy speaks thus?" said the Archbishop, arising
from his seat, and qualifying his tone of censure with the
appearance of shame and of regret--"Is it he who underprizes the
renown of a knight--the virtue of a Christian--the advancement of
his earthly honour--the more incalculable profit of his immortal
soul?--Is it he who desires a solid and substantial recompense in
lands or treasures, to be won by warring on his less powerful
neighbours at home, while knightly honour and religious faith, his
vow as a knight and his baptism as a Christian, call him to a more
glorious and more dangerous strife?--Can it be indeed Hugo de
Lacy, the mirror of the Anglo-Norman chivalry, whose thoughts can
conceive such sentiments, whose words can utter them?"

"Flattery and fair speech, suitably mixed with taunts and
reproaches, my lord," answered the Constable, colouring and biting
his lip, "may carry your point with others; but I am of a temper
too solid to be either wheedled or goaded into measures of
importance. Forbear, therefore, this strain of affected amazement;
and believe me, that whether he goes to the Crusade or abides at
home, the character of Hugo de Lacy will remain as unimpeached in
point of courage as that of the Archbishop Baldwin in point of
sanctitude."

"May it stand much higher," said the Archbishop, "than the
reputation with which you vouchsafe to compare it! but a blaze may
be extinguished as well as a spark; and I tell the Constable of
Chester, that the fame which has set on his basnet for so many
years, may flit from it in one moment, never to be recalled."

"Who dares to say so?" said the Constable, tremblingly alive to
the honour for which he had encountered so many dangers.

"A friend," said the Prelate, "whose stripes should be received as
benefits. You think of pay, Sir Constable, and of guerdon, as if
you still stood in the market, free to chaffer on the terms of
your service. I tell you, you are no longer your own master--you
are, by the blessed badge you have voluntarily assumed, the
soldier of God himself; nor can you fly from your standard without
such infamy as even coistrels or grooms are unwilling to incur."

"You deal all too hardly with us, my lord," said Hugo de Lacy,
stopping short in his troubled walk. "You of the spirituality make
us laymen the pack-horses of your own concerns, and climb to
ambitious heights by the help of our over-burdened shoulders; but
all hath its limits--Becket transgressed it, and----"

A gloomy and expressive look corresponded with the tone in which
he spoke this broken sentence; and the Prelate, at no loss to
comprehend his meaning, replied, in a firm and determined voice,
"And he was _murdered!_--that is what you dare to hint to me--
even to me, the successor of that glorified saint--as a motive
for complying with your fickle and selfish wish to withdraw your
hand from the plough. You know not to whom you address such a
threat. True, Becket, from a saint militant on earth, arrived, by
the bloody path of martyrdom, to the dignity of a saint in Heaven;
and no less true is it, that, to attain a seat a thousand degrees
beneath that of his blessed predecessor, the unworthy Baldwin were
willing to submit, under Our Lady's protection, to whatever the
worst of wicked men can inflict on his earthly frame."

"There needs not this show of courage, reverend father," said
Lacy, recollecting himself, "where there neither is, nor can be,
danger. I pray you, let us debate this matter more deliberately. I
have never meant to break off my purpose for the Holy Land, but
only to postpone it. Methinks the offers that I have made are
fair, and ought to obtain for me what has been granted to others
in the like case--a slight delay in the time of my departure."

"A slight delay on the part of such a leader as you, noble De
Lacy," answered the Prelate, "were a death-blow to our holy and
most gallant enterprise. To meaner men we might have granted the
privilege of marrying and giving in marriage, even although they
care not for the sorrows of Jacob; but you, my lord, are a main
prop of our enterprise, and, being withdrawn, the whole fabric may
fall to the ground. Who in England will deem himself obliged to
press forward, when Hugo de Lacy falls back? Think, my lord, less
upon your plighted bride, and more on your plighted word; and
believe not that a union can ever come to good, which shakes your
purpose towards our blessed undertaking for the honour of
Christendom."

The Constable was embarrassed by the pertinacity of the Prelate,
and began to give way to his arguments, though most reluctantly,
and only because the habits and opinions of the time left him no
means of combating his arguments, otherwise than by solicitation.
"I admit," he said, "my engagements for the Crusade, nor have I--I
repeat it--farther desire than that brief interval which may be
necessary to place my important affairs in order. Meanwhile, my
vassals, led by my nephew----"

"Promise that which is within thy power," said the Prelate. "Who
knows whether, in resentment of thy seeking after other things
than HIS most holy cause, thy nephew may not be called hence, even
while we speak together?"

"God forbid!" said the Baron, starting up, as if about to fly to
his nephew's assistance; then suddenly pausing, he turned on the
Prelate a keen and investigating glance. "It is not well," he
said, "that your reverence should thus trifle with the dangers
which threaten my house. Damian is dear to me for his own good
qualities--dear for the sake of my only brother.--May God forgive
us both! he died when we were in unkindness with each other.--My
lord, your words import that my beloved nephew suffers pain and
incurs danger on account of my offences?" The Archbishop perceived
he had at length touched the chord to which his refractory
penitent's heart-strings must needs vibrate. He replied with
circumspection, as well knowing with whom he had to deal,--"Far be
it from me to presume to interpret the counsels of Heaven! but we
read in Scripture, that when the fathers eat sour grapes, the
teeth of the children are set on edge. What so reasonable as that
we should be punished for our pride and contumacy, by a judgment
specially calculated to abate and bend that spirit of surquedry?
[Footnote: Self-importance, or assumption.] You yourself best know
if this disease clung to thy nephew before you had meditated
defection from the banner of the Cross."

Hugo de Lacy hastily recollected himself, and found that it was
indeed true, that, until he thought of his union with Eveline,
there had appeared no change in his nephew's health. His silence
and confusion did not escape the artful Prelate. He took the hand
of the warrior as he stood before him overwhelmed in doubt, lest
his preference of the continuance of his own house to the rescue
of the Holy Sepulchre should have been punished by the disease
which threatened his nephew's life. "Come," he said, "noble De
Lacy--the judgment provoked by a moment's presumption may be even
yet averted by prayer and penitence. The dial went back at the
prayer of the good King Hezekiah--down, down upon thy knees, and
doubt not that, with confession, and penance, and absolution, thou
mayst yet atone for thy falling away from the cause of Heaven."

Borne down by the dictates of the religion in which he had been
educated, and by the fears lest his delay was punished by his
nephew's indisposition and danger, the Constable sunk on his knees
before the Prelate, whom he had shortly before well-nigh braved,
confessed, as a sin to be deeply repented of, his purpose of
delaying his departure for Palestine, and received, with patience
at least, if not with willing acquiescence, the penance inflicted
by the Archbishop; which consisted in a prohibition to proceed
farther in his proposed wedlock with the Lady Eveline, until he
was returned from Palestine, where he was bound by his vow to
abide for the term of three years.

"And now, noble De Lacy," said the Prelate, "once more my best
beloved and most honoured friend--is not thy bosom lighter since
thou hast thus nobly acquitted thee of thy debt to Heaven, and
cleansed thy gallant spirit from those selfish and earthly stains
which dimmed its brightness?"

The Constable sighed. "My happiest thoughts at this moment," he
said, "would arise from knowledge that my nephew's health is
amended."

"Be not discomforted on the score of the noble Damian, your
hopeful and valorous kinsman," said the Archbishop, "for well I
trust shortly ye shall hear of his recovery; or that, if it shall
please God to remove him to a better world, the passage shall be
so easy, and his arrival in yonder haven of bliss so speedy, that
it were better for him to have died than to have lived."

The Constable looked at him, as if to gather from his countenance
more certainty of his nephew's fate than his words seemed to
imply; and the Prelate, to escape being farther pressed on the
subject on which he was perhaps conscious he had ventured too far,
rung a silver bell which stood before him on the table, and
commanded the chaplain who entered at the summons, that he should
despatch a careful messenger to the lodging of Damian Lacy to
bring particular accounts of his health.

"A stranger," answered the chaplain, "just come from the sick
chamber of the noble Damian Lacy, waits here even now to have
speech of my Lord Constable."

"Admit him instantly," said the Archbishop--"my mind tells me he
brings us joyful tidings.--Never knew I such humble penitence,--
such willing resignation of natural affections and desires to the
doing of Heaven's service, but it was rewarded with a guerdon
either temporal or spiritual."

As he spoke, a man singularly dressed entered the apartment. His
garments, of various colours, and showily disposed, were none of
the newest or cleanest, neither were they altogether fitting for
the presence in which he now stood.

"How now, sirrah!" said the Prelate; "when was it that jugglers
and minstrels pressed into the company of such as we without
permission?"

"So please you," said the man, "my instant business was not with
your reverend lordship, but with my lord the Constable, to whom I
will hope that my good news may atone for my evil apparel."

"Speak, sirrah, does my kinsman live?" said the Constable eagerly.

"And is like to live, my lord," answered the man--"a favourable
crisis (so the leeches call it) hath taken place in his disorder,
and they are no longer under any apprehensions for his life."

"Now, God be praised, that hath granted me so much mercy!" said
the Constable.

"Amen, amen!" replied the Archbishop solemnly.--"About what period
did this blessed change take place?"

"Scarcely a quarter of an hour since," said the messenger, "a soft
sleep fell on the sick youth, like dew upon a parched field in
summer--he breathed freely--the burning heat abated--and, as I
said, the leeches no longer fear for his life."

"Marked you the hour, my Lord Constable?" said the Bishop, with
exultation--"Even then you stooped to those counsels which Heaven
suggested through the meanest of its servants! But two words
avouching penitence--but one brief prayer--and some kind saint has
interceded for an instant hearing, and a liberal granting of thy
petition. Noble Hugo," he continued, grasping his hand in a
species of enthusiasm, "surely Heaven designs to work high things
by the hand of him whose faults are thus readily forgiven--whose
prayer is thus instantly heard. For this shall _Te Deum
Laudamus_ be said in each church, and each convent in
Gloucester, ere the world be a day older."

The Constable, no less joyful, though perhaps less able to
perceive an especial providence in his nephew's recovery,
expressed his gratitude to the messenger of the good tidings, by
throwing him his purse.

"I thank you, noble lord," said the man; "but if I stoop to pick
up this taste of your bounty, it is only to restore it again to
the donor."

"How now, sir?" said the Constable, "methinks thy coat seems not
so well lined as needs make thee spurn at such a guerdon."

"He that designs to catch larks, my lord," replied the messenger,
"must not close his net upon sparrows--I have a greater boon to
ask of your lordship, and therefore I decline your present
gratuity."

"A greater boon, ha!" said the Constable,--"I am no knight-errant,
to bind myself by promise to grant it ere I know its import; but
do thou come to my pavilion to-morrow, and thou wilt not find me
unwilling to do what is reason."

So saying, he took leave of the Prelate, and returned homeward,
failing not to visit his nephew's lodging as he passed, where he
received the same pleasant assurances which had been communicated
by the messenger of the particoloured mantle.

Sir Walter Scott