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Chapter 25

A merry place, 'tis said, in times of yore,
But something ails it now--the place is cursed.
WORDSWORTH.


The place on which the skirmish had occurred, and the deliverance
of the Lady Eveline had been effected, was a wild and singular
spot, being a small level plain, forming a sort of stage, or
resting-place, between two very rough paths, one of which winded
up the rivulet from below, and another continued the ascent above.
Being surrounded by hills and woods, it was a celebrated spot for
finding game, and, in former days, a Welsh prince, renowned for
his universal hospitality, his love of _crw_ and of the
chase, had erected a forest-lodge, where he used to feast his
friends and followers with a profusion unexampled in Cambria.
The fancy of the bards, always captivated with magnificence, and
having no objections to the peculiar species of profusion
practised by this potentate, gave him the surname of Edris of the
Goblets; and celebrated him in their odes in terms as high as
those which exalt the heroes of the famous Hirlas Horn. The
subject of their praises, however, fell finally a victim to his
propensities, having been stabbed to the heart in one of those
scenes of confusion and drunkenness which were frequently the
conclusion of his renowned banquets. Shocked at this catastrophe,
the assembled Britons interred the relics of the Prince on the
place where he had died, within the narrow vault where Eveline had
been confined, and having barricaded the entrance of the sepulchre
with fragments of rock, heaped over it an immense _cairn_, or
pile of stones, on the summit of which they put the assassin to
death. Superstition guarded the spot; and for many a year this
memorial of Edris remained unviolated, although the lodge had gone
to ruin, and its vestiges had totally decayed.

In latter years, some prowling band of Welsh robbers had
discovered the secret entrance, and opened it with the view of
ransacking the tomb for arms and treasures, which were in ancient
times often buried with the dead. These marauders were
disappointed, and obtained nothing by the violation of the grave
of Edris, excepting the knowledge of a secret place, which might
be used for depositing their booty, or even as a place of retreat
for one of their number in a case of emergency.

When the followers of Damian, five or six in number, explained
their part of the history of the day to Wilkin Flammock, it
appeared that Damian had ordered them to horse at break of day,
with a more considerable body, to act, as they understood, against
a party of insurgent peasants, when of a sudden he had altered his
mind, and, dividing his force into small bands, employed himself
and them in reconnoitring more than one mountain-pass betwixt
Wales and the Marches of the English country, in the neighbourhood
of the Garde Doloureuse.

This was an occupation so ordinary for him, that it excited no
particular notice. These manoeuvres were frequently undertaken by
the warlike marchers, for the purpose of intimidating the Welsh,
in general, more especially the bands of outlaws, who, independent
of any regular government, infested these wild frontiers. Yet it
escaped not comment, that, in undertaking such service at this
moment, Damian seemed to abandon that of dispersing the
insurgents, which had been considered as the chief object of the
day.

It was about noon, when, falling in, as good fortune would have
it, with one of the fugitive grooms, Damian and his immediate
attendants received information of the violence committed on the
Lady Eveline, and, by their perfect knowledge of the country, wore
able to intercept the ruffians at the Pass of Edris, as it was
called, by which the Welsh rovers ordinarily returned to their
strongholds in the interior. It is probable that the banditti were
not aware of the small force which Damian headed in person, and at
the same time knew that there would be an immediate and hot
pursuit in their rear; and these circumstances led their leader to
adopt the singular expedient of hiding Eveline in the tomb, while
one of their own number, dressed in her clothes, might serve as a
decoy to deceive their assailants, and lead them, from the spot
where she was really concealed, to which it was no doubt the
purpose of the banditti to return, when they had eluded their
pursuers.

Accordingly, the robbers had already drawn up before the tomb for
the purpose of regularly retreating, until they should find some
suitable place either for making a stand, or where, if
overmatched, they might, by abandoning their horses, and
dispersing among the rocks, evade the attack of the Norman
cavalry. Their plan had been defeated by the precipitation of
Damian, who, beholding as he thought the plumes and mantle of the
Lady Eveline in the rear of the party, charged them without
considering either the odds of numbers, or the lightness of his
own armour, which, consisting only of a headpiece and a buff
surcoat, offered but imperfect resistance to the Welsh knives and
glaives. He was accordingly wounded severely at the onset, and
would have been slain, but for the exertions of his few followers,
and the fears of the Welsh, that, while thus continuing the battle
in front, they might be assaulted in the rear by the followers of
Eveline, whom they must now suppose were all in arms and motion.
They retreated, therefore, or rather fled, and the attendants of
Damian were despatched after them by their fallen master, with
directions to let no consideration induce them to leave off the
chase, until the captive Lady of the Garde Doloureuse was
delivered from her ravishers.

The outlaws, secure in their knowledge of the paths, and the
activity of their small Welsh horses, made an orderly retreat,
with the exception of two or three of their rear-guard, cut down
by Damian in his furious onset. They shot arrows, from time to
time, at the men-at-arms, and laughed at the ineffectual efforts
which these heavy-armed warriors, with their barbed horses, made
to overtake them. But the scene was changed by the appearance of
Wilkin Flammock, on his puissant war-horse, who was beginning to
ascend the pass, leading a party consisting both of foot and
horse. The fear of being intercepted caused the outlaws to have
recourse to their last stratagem, and, abandoning their Welsh
nags, they betook themselves to the cliffs, and, by superior
activity and dexterity, baffled, generally speaking, the attempts
of their pursuers on either hand. All of them, however, were not
equally fortunate, for two or three fell into the hands of
Flammock's party; amongst others, the person upon whom Eveline's
clothes had been placed, and who now, to the great disappointment
of those who had attached themselves to his pursuit, proved to be,
not the lady whom they were emulous to deliver, but a fair-haired
young Welshman, whose wild looks, and incoherent speech, seemed to
argue a disturbed imagination. This would not have saved him from
immediate death, the usual doom of captives taken in such
skirmishes, had not the faint blast of Damian's horn, sounding
from above, recalled his own party, and summoned that of Wilkin
Flammock to the spot; while, in the confusion and hurry of their
obeying the signal, the pity or the contempt of his guards
suffered the prisoner to escape. They had, indeed, little to learn
from him, even had he been disposed to give intelligence, or
capable of communicating it. All were well assured that their lady
had fallen into an ambuscade, formed by Dawfyd the one-eyed, a
redoubted freebooter of the period, who had ventured upon this
hardy enterprise in the hope of obtaining a large ransom for the
captive Eveline, and all, incensed at his extreme insolence and
audacity, devoted his head and limbs to the eagles and the ravens.

These were the particulars which the followers of Flammock and of
Damian learned by comparing notes with each other, on the
incidents of the day. As they returned by the Red Pool they were
joined by Dame Gillian, who, after many exclamations of joy at the
unexpected liberation of her lady, and as many of sorrow at the
unexpected disaster of Damian, proceeded to inform the men-at-
arms, that the merchant, whose hawks had been the original cause
of these adventures, had been taken prisoner by two or three of
the Welsh in their retreat, and that she herself and the wounded
Raoul would have shared the same fate, but that they had no horse
left to mount her upon, and did not consider old Raoul as worth
either ransom or the trouble of killing. One had, indeed, flung a
stone at him as he lay on the hill-side, but happily, as his dame
said, it fell something short of him--"It was but a little fellow
who threw it," she said--"there was a big man amongst them--if he
had tried, it's like, by our Lady's grace, he had cast it a
thought farther." So saying, the dame gathered herself up, and
adjusted her dress for again mounting on horseback.

The wounded Damian was placed on a litter, hastily constructed of
boughs, and, with the females, was placed in the centre of the
little troop, augmented by the rest of the young knight's
followers, who began to rejoin his standard. The united body now
marched with military order and precaution, and winded through the
passes with the attention of men prepared to meet and to repel
injury.

Sir Walter Scott