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Chapter 23

---Ours is the skie,
Where at what fowl we please our hawk shall flie.
RANDOLPH.


One bright September morning, old Raoul was busy in the mews where
he kept his hawks, grumbling all the while to himself as he
surveyed the condition of each bird, and blaming alternately the
carelessness of the under-falconer, and the situation of the
building, and the weather, and the wind, and all things around
him, for the dilapidation which time and disease had made in the
neglected hawking establishment of the Garde Doloureuse. While in
these unpleasing meditations, he was surprised by the voice of his
beloved Dame Gillian, who seldom was an early riser, and yet more
rarely visited him when he was in his sphere of peculiar
authority. "Raoul, Raoul! where art thou, man?--Ever to seek for,
when thou canst make aught of advantage for thyself or me!"

"And what want'st thou, dame?" said Raoul, "what means thy
screaming worse than the seagull before wet weather? A murrain on
thy voice! it is enough to fray every hawk from the perch."

"Hawk!" answered Dame Gillian; "it is time to be looking for
hawks, when here is a cast of the bravest falcons come hither for
sale, that ever flew by lake, brook, or meadow!"

"Kites! like her that brings the news," said Raoul.

"No, nor kestrils like him that hears it," replied Gillian; "but
brave jerfalcons, with large nares, strongly armed, and beaks
short and something bluish--"

"Pshaw, with thy jargon!--Where came they from?" said Raoul,
interested in the tidings, but unwilling to give his wife the
satisfaction of seeing that he was so.

"From the Isle of Man," replied Gillian.

"They must be good, then, though it was a woman brought tidings of
them," said Raoul, smiling grimly at his own wit; then, leaving
the mews, he demanded to know where this famous falcon-merchant
was to be met withal.

"Why, between the barriers and the inner gate," replied Gillian,
"where other men are admitted that have wares to utter--Where
should he be?"

"And who let him in?" demanded the suspicious Raoul.

"Why, Master Steward, thou owl!" said Gillian; "he came but now to
my chamber, and sent me hither to call you."

"Oh, the steward--the steward--I might have guessed as much. And
he came to thy chamber, doubtless, because he could not have as
easily come hither to me himself.--Was it not so, sweetheart?"

"I do not know why he chose to come to me rather than to you,
Raoul," said Gillian; "and if I did know, perhaps I would not tell
you. Go to--miss your bargain, or make your bargain, I care not
which--the man will not wait for you--he has good proffers from
the Seneschal of Malpas, and the Welsh Lord of Dinevawr."

"I come--I come," said Raoul, who felt the necessity of embracing
this opportunity of improving his hawking establishment, and
hastened to the gate, where he met the merchant, attended by a
servant, who kept in separate cages the three falcons which he
offered for sale.

The first glance satisfied Raoul that they were of the best breed
in Europe, and that, if their education were in correspondence to
their race, there could scarce be a more valuable addition even to
a royal mews. The merchant did not fail to enlarge upon all their
points of excellence; the breadth of their shoulders, the strength
of their train, their full and fierce dark eyes, the boldness with
which they endured the approach of strangers, and the lively
spirit and vigour with which they pruned their plumes, and shook,
or, as it was technically termed, roused themselves. He expatiated
on the difficulty and danger with which they were obtained from
the rock of Ramsey, on which they were bred, and which was an
every unrivalled even on the coast of Norway.

Raoul turned apparently a deaf ear to all these commendations.
"Friend merchant," said he, "I know a falcon as well as thou dost,
and I will not deny that thine are fine ones; but if they be not
carefully trained and reclaimed, I would rather have a goss-hawk
on my perch than the fairest falcon that ever stretched wing to
weather."

"I grant ye," said the merchant; "but if we agree on the price,
for that is the main matter, thou shalt see the birds fly if thou
wilt, and then buy them or not as thou likest. I am no true
merchant if thou ever saw'st birds beat them, whether at the mount
or the stoop."

"That I call fair," said Raoul, "if the price be equally so."

"It shall be corresponding," said the hawk-merchant; "for I have
brought six casts from the island, by the good favour of good King
Reginald of Man, and I have sold every feather of them save these;
and so, having emptied my cages and filled my purse, I desire not
to be troubled longer with the residue; and if a good fellow and a
judge, as thou seemest to be, should like the hawks when he has
seen them fly, he shall have the price of his own making."

"Go to," said Raoul, "we will have no blind bargains; my lady, if
the hawks be suitable, is more able to pay for them than thou to
give them away. Will a bezant be a conformable price for the
cast?"

"A bezant, Master Falconer!--By my faith, you are no bold
bodesman! nevertheless, double your offer, and I will consider
it."

"If the hawks are well reclaimed," said Raoul, "I will give you a
bezant and a half; but I will see them strike a heron ere I will
be so rash as to deal with you."

"It is well," said the merchant, "and I had better take your offer
than be longer cumbered with them; for were I to carry them into
Wales, I might get paid in a worse fashion by some of their long
knives.--Will you to horse presently?"

"Assuredly," said Raoul; "and, though March be the fitter month
for hawking at the heron, yet I will show you one of these
frogpeckers for the trouble of riding the matter of a mile by the
water-side."

"Content, Sir Falconer," said the merchant. "But are we to go
alone, or is there no lord or lady in the castle who would take
pleasure to see a piece of game gallantly struck? I am not afraid
to show these hawks to a countess." "My lady used to love the
sport well enough," said Raoul; "but, I wot not why, she is moped
and mazed ever since her father's death, and lives in her fair
castle like a nun in a cloister, without disport or revelry of any
kind. Nevertheless, Gillian, thou canst do something with her--
good now, do a kind deed for once, and move her to come out and
look on this morning's sport--the poor heart hath seen no pastime
this summer."

"That I will do," quoth Gillian; "and, moreover, I will show her
such a new riding-tire for the head, that no woman born could ever
look at without the wish to toss it a little in the wind."

As Gillian spoke, it appeared to her jealous-pated husband that he
surprised a glance of more intelligence exchanged betwixt her and
the trader than brief acquaintance seemed to warrant, even when
allowance was made for the extreme frankness of Dame Gillian's
disposition. He thought also, that, on looking more closely at the
merchant, his lineaments were not totally unknown to him; and
proceeded to say to him dryly, "We have met before, friend, but I
cannot call to remembrance where."

"Like enough," said the merchant; "I have used this country often,
and may have taken money of you in the way of trade. If I were in
fitting place, I would gladly bestow a bottle of wine to our
better acquaintance."

"Not so fast, friend," said the old huntsman; "ere I drink to
better acquaintance with any one, I must be well pleased with what
I already know of him. We will see thy hawks fly, and if their
breeding match thy bragging, we may perhaps crush a cup together.
--And here come grooms and equerries, in faith--my lady has
consented to come forth."

The opportunity of seeing this rural pastime had offered itself to
Eveline, at a time when the delightful brilliancy of the day, the
temperance of the air, and the joyous work of harvest, proceeding
in every direction around, made the temptation to exercise almost
irresistible.

As they proposed to go no farther than the side of the
neighbouring river, near the fatal bridge, over which a small
guard of infantry was constantly maintained, Eveline dispensed
with any farther escort, and, contrary to the custom of the
castle, took no one in her train save Rose and Gillian, and one or
two servants, who led spaniels, or carried appurtenances of the
chase. Raoul, the merchant, and an equerry, attended her of
course, each holding a hawk on his wrist, and anxiously adjusting
the mode in which they should throw them off, so as best to
ascertain the extent of their powers and training.

When these important points had been adjusted, the party rode down
the river, carefully looking on every side for the object of their
game; but no heron was seen stalking on the usual haunts of the
bird, although there was a heronry at no great distance.

Few disappointments of a small nature are more teasing than that
of a sportsman, who, having set out with all means and appliances
for destruction of game, finds that there is none to be met with;
because he conceives himself, with his full shooting trim, and his
empty game-pouch, to be subjected to the sneer of every passing
rustic. The party of the Lady Eveline felt all the degradation of
such disappointment.

"A fair country this," said the merchant, "where, on two miles of
river, you cannot find one poor heron!"

"It is the clatter those d--d Flemings make with their water-mills
and fulling-mills," said Raoul; "they destroy good sport and good
company wherever they come. But were my lady willing to ride a
mile or so farther to the Red Pool, I could show you a long-
shanked fellow who would make your hawks cancelier till their
brains were giddy."

"The Red Pool!" said Rose; "thou knowest it is more than three
miles beyond the bridge, and lies up towards the hills."

"Ay, ay," said Raoul, "another Flemish freak to spoil pastime!
They are not so scarce on the Marches these Flemish wenches, that
they should fear being hawked at by Welsh haggards."

"Raoul is right, Rose," answered Eveline; "it is absurd to be
cooped uplike birds in a cage, when all around us has been so
uniformly quiet. I am determined to break out of bounds for once,
and see sport in our old fashion, without being surrounded with
armed men like prisoners of state. We will merrily to the Red
Pool, wench, and kill a heron like free maids of the Marches."

"Let me but tell my father, at least, to mount and follow us,"
said Rose--for they were now near the re-established manufacturing
houses of the stout Fleming.

"I care not if thou dost, Rose," said Eveline; "yet credit me,
girl, we will be at the Red Pool, and thus far on our way home
again, ere thy father has donned his best doublet, girded on his
two-handed sword, and accoutred his strong Flanderkin elephant of
a horse, which he judiciously names Sloth--nay, frown not, and
lose not, in justifying thy father, the time that may be better
spent in calling him out."

Rose rode to the mills accordingly, when Wilkin Flammock, at the
command of his liege mistress, readily hastened to get his steel
cap and habergeon, and ordered half-a-dozen of his kinsmen and
servants to get on horseback. Rose remained with him, to urge him
to more despatch than his methodical disposition rendered natural
to him; but in spite of all her efforts to stimulate him, the Lady
Eveline had passed the bridge more than half an hour ere her
escort was prepared to follow her.

Meanwhile, apprehensive of no evil, and riding gaily on, with the
sensation of one escaped from confinement, Eveline moved forward
on her lively jennet, as light as a lark; the plumes with which
Dame Gillian had decked her riding-bonnet dancing in the wind, and
her attendants galloping behind her, with dogs, pouches, lines,
and all other appurtenances of the royal sport of hawking. After
passing the river, the wild green-sward path which they pursued
began to wind upward among small eminences, some-times bare and
craggy, sometimes overgrown with hazel, sloethorn, and other dwarf
shrubs, and at length suddenly descending, brought them to the
verge of a mountain rivulet, that, like a lamb at play, leapt
merrily from rock to rock, seemingly uncertain which way to run.

"This little stream was always my favourite, Dame Gillian," said
Eveline, "and now methinks it leaps the lighter that it sees me
again."

"Ah! lady," said Dame Gillian, whose turn for conversation never
ex-tended in such cases beyond a few phrases of gross flattery,
"many a fair knight would leap shoulder-height for leave to look
on you as free as the brook may! more especially now that you have
donned that riding-cap, which, in exquisite delicacy of invention,
methinks, is a bow-shot before aught that I ever invented--What
thinkest thou, Raoul?"

"I think," answered her well-natured helpmate, "that women's
tongues were contrived to drive all the game out of the country.--
Here we come near to the spot where we hope to speed, or no where;
wherefore, pray, my sweet lady, be silent yourself, and keep your
followers as much so as their natures will permit, while we steal
along the bank of the pool, under the wind, with our hawks' hoods
cast loose, all ready for a flight."

As he spoke, they advanced about a hundred yards up the brawling
stream, until the little vale through which it flowed, making a
very sudden turn to one side, showed them the Red Pool, the
superfluous water of which formed the rivulet itself.

This mountain-lake, or tarn, as it is called in some countries,
was a deep basin of about a mile in circumference, but rather
oblong than circular. On the side next to our falconers arose a
ridge of rock, of a dark red hue, giving name to the pool, which,
reflecting this massive and dusky barrier, appeared to partake of
its colour. On the opposite side was a heathy hill, whose autumnal
bloom had not yet faded from purple to russet; its surface was
varied by the dark green furze and the fern, and in many places
gray cliffs, or loose stones of the same colour, formed a contrast
to the ruddy precipice to which they lay opposed. A natural road
of beautiful sand was formed by a beach, which, extending all the
way around the lake, separated its waters from the precipitous
rock on the one hand, and on the other from the steep and broken
hill; and being no where less than five or six yards in breadth,
and in most places greatly more, offered around its whole circuit
a tempting opportunity to the rider, who desired to exercise and
breathe the horse on which he was mounted. The verge of the pool
on the rocky side was here and there strewed with fragments of
large size, detached from the precipice above, but not in such
quantity as to encumber this pleasant horse-course. Many of these
rocky masses, having passed the margin of the water in their fall,
lay immersed there like small islets; and, placed amongst a little
archipelago, the quick eye of Raoul detected the heron which they
were in search of.

A moment's consultation was held to consider in what manner they
should approach the sad and solitary bird, which, unconscious that
itself was the object of a formidable ambuscade, stood motionless
on a stone, by the brink of the lake, watching for such small fish
or water-reptiles as might chance to pass by its lonely station. A
brief debate took place betwixt Raoul and the hawk-merchant on the
best mode of starting the quarry, so as to allow Lady Eveline and
her attendants the most perfect view of the flight. The facility
of killing the heron at the _far jettee_ or at the _jettee
ferre_--that is, upon the hither or farther sid of the pool--
was anxiously debated in language of breathless importance, as if
some great and perilous enterprise was about to be executed.

At length the arrangements were fixed, and the party began to
advance towards the aquatic hermit, who, by this time aware of
their approach, drew himself up to his full height, erected his
long lean neck, spread his broad fan-like wings, uttered his usual
clanging cry, and, projecting his length of thin legs far behind
him, rose upon the gentle breeze. It was then, with a loud whoop
of encouragement, that the merchant threw off the noble hawk he
bore, having first unhooded her to give her a view of her quarry.

Eager as a frigate in chase of some rich galleon, darted the
falcon towards the enemy, which she had been taught to pursue;
while, preparing for defence, if he should be unable to escape by
flight, the heron exerted all his powers of speed to escape from
an enemy so formidable. Plying his almost unequalled strength of
wing, he ascended high and higher in the air, by short gyrations,
that the hawk might gain no vantage ground for pouncing at him;
while his spiked beak, at the extremity of so long a neck as
enabled him to strike an object at a yard's distance in every
direction, possessed for any less spirited assailant all the
terrors of a Moorish javelin.

Another hawk was now thrown off, and encouraged by the halloos of
the falconer to join her companion. Both kept mounting, or scaling
the air, as it were, by a succession of small circles, endeavoring
to gain that superior height which the heron on his part was bent
to preserve; and to the exquisite delight of the spectators, the
contest was continued until all three were well-nigh mingled with
the fleecy clouds, from which was occasionally heard the harsh and
plaintive cry of the quarry, appealing as it were to the heaven
which he was approaching, against the wanton cruelty of those by
whom he was persecuted.

At length on of the falcons had reached a pitch from which she
ventured to stoop at the heron; but so judiciously did the quarry
maintain his defence, as to receive on his beak the stroke which
the falcon, shooting down at full descent, had made against his
right wing; so that one of his enemies, spiked through the body by
his own weight, fell fluttering into the lake, very near the land,
on the side farthest from the falconers, and perished there.

"There goes a gallant falcon to the fishes," said Raoul.
"Merchant, thy cake is dough."

Even as he spoke, however, the remaining bird had avenged the fate
of her sister; for the success which the heron met with on one
side, did not prevent his being assailed on the other wing; and
the falcon stooping boldly, and grappling with, or, as it is
called in falconry, _binding_ his prey, both came tumbling
down together, from a great height in the air. It was then no
small object on the part of the falconers to come in as soon as
possible, lest the falcon should receive hurt from the beak or
talons of the heron; and the whole party, the men setting spurs,
and the females switching their palfreys, went off like the wind,
sweeping along the fair and smooth beach betwixt the rock and the
water.

Lady Eveline, far better mounted than any of her train, her
spirits elated by the sport, and by the speed at which she moved,
was much sooner than any of her attendants at the spot where the
falcon and heron, still engaged in their mortal struggle, lay
fighting upon the moss; the wing of the latter having been broken
by the stoop of the former. The duty of a falconer in such a
crisis was to run in and assist the hawk, by thrusting the heron's
bill into the earth, and breaking his legs, and thus permitting
the falcon to dispatch him on easy terms.

Neither would the sex nor quality of the Lady Eveline have excused
her becoming second to the falcon in this cruel manner; but, just
as she had dismounted for that purpose, she was surprised to find
herself seized on by wild form, who exclaimed in Welsh, that he
seized her as a _waif_, for hawking on the demesnes of Dawfyd
with the one eye. At the same time many other Welshmen, to the
number of more than a score, showed them-selves from behind crags
and bushes, all armed at point with the axes called Welsh hooks,
long knives, darts, and bows and arrows.

Eveline screamed to her attendants for assistance, and at the same
time made use of what Welsh phrases she possessed, to move the
fears or excite the compassion of the outlawed mountaineers, for
she doubted not that she had fallen under the power of such a
party. When she found her requests were unheeded, and she
perceived it was their purpose to detain her prisoner, she
disdained to use farther entreaties, but demanded at their peril
that they should treat her with respect, promising in that case
that she would pay them a large ransom, and threatening them with
the vengeance of the Lords Marchers, and particularly of Sir
Damian de Lacy, if they ventured to use her otherwise.

The men seemed to understand her, and although they proceeded to
tie a bandage over her eyes, and to bind her arms with her own
veil, yet they observed in these acts of violence a certain
delicacy and attention both to her feelings and her safety, which
led her to hope that her request had had some effect on them. They
secured her to the saddle of her palfrey, and led her away with
them through the recesses of the hills; while she had the
additional distress to hear behind her the noise of a conflict,
occasioned by the fruitless efforts of her retinue to procure her
rescue.

Astonishment had at first seized the hawking party, when they saw
from some distance their sport interrupted by a violent assault on
their mistress. Old Raoul valiantly put spurs to his horse, and
calling on the rest to follow him to the rescue, rode furiously
towards the banditti; but, having no other arms save a hawking-
pole and short sword, he and those who followed him in his
meritorious but ineffectual attempt were easily foiled, and Raoul
and one or two of the foremost severely beaten; the banditti
exercising upon them their own poles till they were broken to
splinters, but generously abstaining from the use of more
dangerous weapons. The rest of the retinue, completely
discouraged, dispersed to give the alarm, and the merchant and
Dame Gillian remained by the lake, filling the air with shrieks of
useless fear and sorrow. The outlaws, meanwhile, drawing together
in a body, shot a few arrows at the fugitives, but more to alarm
than to injure them, and then marched off in a body, as if to
cover their companions who had gone before, with the Lady Eveline
in their custody.

Sir Walter Scott