A vow, a vow--I have a vow in Heaven.
Shall I bring perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.
MERCHANT OF VENICE.
The conclusion of the last chapter contains the tidings with which
the minstrel greeted his unhappy master, Hugo de Lacy; not indeed
with the same detail of circumstances with which we have been able
to invest the narrative, but so as to infer the general and
appalling facts, that his betrothed bride, and beloved and trusted
kinsman, had leagued together for his dishonour--had raised the
banner of rebellion against their lawful sovereign, and, failing
in their audacious attempt, had brought the life of one of them,
at least, into the most imminent danger, and the fortunes of the
House of Lacy, unless some instant remedy could be found, to the
very verge of ruin.
Vidal marked the countenance of his master as he spoke, with the
same keen observation which the chirurgeon gives to the progress
of his dissecting-knife. There was grief on the Constable's
features--deep grief--but without the expression of abasement or
prostration which usually accompanies it; anger and shame were
there--but they were both of a noble character, seemingly excited
by his bride and nephew's transgressing the laws of allegiance,
honour, and virtue, rather than by the disgrace and damage which
he himself sustained through their crime.
The minstrel was so much astonished at this change of deportment,
from the sensitive acuteness of agony which attended the beginning
of his narrative, that he stepped back two paces, and gazing on
the Constable with wonder, mixed with admiration, exclaimed, "We
have heard of martyrs in. Palestine, but this exceeds them!"
"Wonder not so much, good friend," said the Constable, patiently;
"it is the first blow of the lance or mace which pierces or stuns
--those which follow are little felt." [Footnote: Such an
expression is said to have been used by Mandrin, the celebrated
smuggler, while in the act of being broken upon the wheel. This
dreadful punishment consists in the executioner, with a bar of
iron, breaking the shoulder-bones, arms, thigh-bones, and legs of
the criminal, taking--his alternate sides. The punishment is
concluded by a blow across the breast, called the _coup de
grace_, because it removes the sufferer from his agony. When
Mandrin received the second blow over the left shoulder-bone, he
laughed. His confessor inquired the reason of demeanour so
unbecoming--his situation. "I only lavish at my own folly, my
father," answered Mandrin, "who could suppose that sensibility of
pain should continue after the nervous system had been completely
deranged by the first blow.]
"Think, my lord," said Vidal, "all is lost--love, dominion, high
office, and bright fame--so late a chief among nobles, now a poor
"Wouldst thou make sport with my misery?" said Hugo, sternly; "but
even that comes of course behind my back, and why should it not be
endured when said to my face?--Know, then, minstrel, and put it in
song if you list, that Hugo de Lacy, having lost all he carried to
Palestine, and all which he left at home, is still lord of his own
mind; and adversity can no more shake him, than the breeze which
strips the oak of its leaves can tear up the trunk by the roots."
"Now, by the tomb of my father," said the minstrel, rapturously,
"this man's nobleness is too much for my resolve!" and stepping
hastily to the Constable, he kneeled on one knee, and caught his
hand more freely than the state maintained by men of De Lacy's
rank usually permitted. "Here," said Vidal, "on this hand--this
noble hand--I renounce--" But ere he could utter another word,
Hugo de Lacy, who, perhaps, felt the freedom of the action as an
intrusion on his fallen condition, pulled back his hand, and bid
the minstrel, with as stern frown, arise, and remember that
misfortune made not De Lacy a fit personage for a mummery.
Renault Vidal rose rebuked. "I had forgot," he said, "the distance
between an Armorican violer and a high Norman baron. I thought
that the same depth of sorrow, the same burst of joy, levelled,
for a moment at least, those artificial barriers by which men are
divided. But it is well as it is. Live within the limits of your
rank, as heretofore within your donjon tower and your fosses, my
lord, undisturbed by the sympathy of any mean man like me. I, too,
have my duties to discharge."
"And now to the Garde Doloureuse," said the baron, turning to
Philip Guarine--"God knoweth how well it deserveth the name!--
there to learn, with our own eyes and ears, the truth of these
woful tidings. Dismount, minstrel, and give me thy palfrey--I
would, Guarine, that I had one for thee--as for Vidal, his
attendance is less necessary. I will face my foes, or my
misfortunes, like a man--that be assured of, violer; and look not
so sullen, knave--I will not forget old adherents."
"One of them, at least, will not forget you, my lord," replied the
minstrel, with his usual dubious tone of look and emphasis.
But just as the Constable was about to prick forwards, two persons
appeared on the path, mounted on one horse, who, hidden by some
dwarf-wood, had come very near them without being perceived. They
were male and female; and the man, who rode foremost, was such a
picture of famine, as the eyes of the pilgrims had scarce
witnessed in all the wasted land through which they had travelled.
His features, naturally sharp and thin, had disappeared almost
entirely among the uncombed gray beard and hairs with which they
were overshadowed; and it was but the glimpse of a long nose, that
seemed as sharp as the edge of a knife, and the twinkling glimpse
of his gray eyes, which gave any intimation of his lineaments. His
leg, in the wide old boot which enclosed it, looked like the
handle of a mop left by chance in a pail--his arms were about the
thickness of riding-rods--and such parts of his person as were not
concealed by the tatters of a huntsman's cassock, seemed rather
the appendages of a mummy than a live man.
The female who sat behind this spectre exhibited also some
symptoms of extenuation; but being a brave jolly dame naturally,
famine had not been able to render her a spectacle so rueful as
the anatomy behind which she rode. Dame Gillian's cheek (for it
was the reader's old acquaintance) had indeed lost the rosy hue of
good cheer, and the smoothness of complexion which art and easy
living had formerly substituted for the more delicate bloom of
youth; her eyes were sunken, and had lost much of their bold and
roguish lustre; but she was still in some measure herself, and the
remnants of former finery, together with the tight-drawn scarlet
hose, though sorely faded, showed still a remnant of coquettish
So soon as she came within sight of the pilgrims, she began to
punch Raoul with the end of her riding-rod. "Try thy new trade,
man, since thou art unfit for any other--to the good man--to them
--crave their charity."
"Beg from beggars?" muttered Raoul; "that were hawking at
"It will bring our hand in use though," said Gillian; and
commenced, in a whining tone, "God love you, holy men, who have
had the grace to go to the Holy Land, and, what is more, have had
the grace to come back again; I pray, bestow some of your alms
upon my poor old husband, who is a miserable object, as you see,
and upon one who has the bad luck to be his wife--Heaven help me!"
"Peace, woman, and hear what I have to say," said the Constable,
laying his hand upon the bridle of the horse--"I have present
occasion for that horse, and----"
"By the hunting-horn of St. Hubert, but thou gettest him not
without blows!" answered the old huntsman "A fine world it is,
when palmers turn horse-stealers."
"Peace, fellow" said the Constable, sternly,--"I say I have
occasion presently for the service of thy horse. Here be two gold
bezants for a day's use of the brute; it is well worth the
fee-simple of him, were he never returned."
"But the palfrey is an old acquaintance, master," said Raoul; "and
"Out upon _if_ and _perchance_ both," said the dame,
giving her husband so determined a thrust as well-nigh pushed him
out of the saddle. "Off the horse! and thank God and this worthy
man for the help he hath sent us in this extremity. What signifies
the palfrey, when we have not enough to get food either for the
brute or ourselves? not though we would eat grass and corn with
him, like King Somebody, whom the good father used to read us to
"A truce with your prating, dame," said Raoul, offering his
assistance to help her from the croupe; but she preferred that of
Guarine, who, though advanced in years, retained the advantage of
his stout soldierly figure. "I humbly thank your goodness," said
she, as, (having first kissed her,) the squire set her on the
ground. "And, pray, sir, are ye come from the Holy Land?--Heard ye
any tidings there of him that was Constable of Chester?"
De Lacy, who was engaged in removing the pillion from behind the
saddle, stopped short in his task, and said, "Ha, dame! what would
you with him?"
"A great deal, good palmer, an I could light on him; for his lands
and offices are all to be given, it's like, to that false thief,
"What!--to Damian, his nephew?" exclaimed the Constable, in a
harsh and hasty tone.
"Lord, how you startle me, sir!" said Gillian; then continued,
turning to Philip Guarine, "Your friend is a hasty man, belike.";
"It is the fault of the sun he has lived under so long," said the
squire; "but look you answer his questions truly, and he will make
it the better for you."
Gillian instantly took the hint. "Was it Damian de Lacy you asked
after?--Alas I poor young gentleman! no offices or lands for him--
more likely to have a gallows-cast, poor lad--and all for nought,
as I am a true dame. Damian!--no, no, it is not Damian, or damson
neither--but Randal Lacy, that must rule the roast, and have all
the old man's lands, and livings, and lordships."
"What?" said the Constable--"before they know whether the old man.
is dead or no?-Methinks that were against law and reason both."
"Ay, but Randal Lacy has brought about less likely matters. Look
you, he hath sworn to the King that they have true tidings of the
Constable's death--ay, and let him alone to make them soothfast
enough, if the Constable were once within his danger."
"Indeed!" said the Constable. "But you are forging tales on a
noble gentleman. Come, come, dame, you say this because you like
not Randal Lacy."
"Like him not!--And what reason have I to like him, I trow?"
answered Gillian. "Is it because he seduced my simplicity to let
him into the castle of the Garde Doloureuse-ay, oftener than once
or twice either,-when he was disguised as a pedlar, and told him
all the secrets of the family, and how the boy Damian, and the
girl Eveline, were dying of love with each other, but had not
courage to say a word of it, for fear of the Constable, though he
were a thousand miles off?-You seem concerned, worthy sir--may I
offer your reverend worship a trifling sup from my bottle, which
is sovereign for _tremor cordis_, and fits of the spleen?"
"No, no," ejaculated De Lacy--"I was but grieved with the shooting
of an old wound. But, dame, I warrant me this Damian and Eveline,
as you call them, became better, closer friends, in time?"
"They?--not they indeed, poor simpletons!" answered the dame;
"they wanted some wise counsellor to go between and advise them.
For, look you, sir, if old Hugo be dead, as is most like, it were
more natural that his bride and his nephew should inherit his
lands, than this same Randal who is but a distant kinsman, and a
foresworn caitiff to boot.--Would you think it, reverend pilgrim,
after the mountains of gold he promised me?--when the castle was
taken, and he saw I could serve him no more, he called me old
beldame, and spoke of the beadle and the cucking-stool.--Yes,
reverend sir, old beldame and cucking-stool were his best words,
when he knew I had no one to take my part, save old Raoul, who
cannot take his own. But if grim old Hugh bring back his
weatherbeaten carcass from Palestine, and have but half the devil
in him which he had when he was fool enough to go away, Saint
Mary, but I will do his kinsman's office to him!"
There was a pause when she had done speaking.
"Thou say'st," at length exclaimed the Constable, "that Damian de
Lacy and Eveline love each other, yet are unconscious of guilt or
falsehood, or ingratitude to me--I would say, to their relative in
"Love, sir!--in troth and so it is--they do love each other," said
Gillian; "but it is like angels--or like lambs--or like fools, if
you will; for they would never so much as have spoken together,
but for a prank of that same Randal Lacy's."
"How!" demanded the Constable--"a prank of Randal's?--What motive
had he that these two should meet?"
"Nay, their meeting was none of his seeking; but he had formed a
plan to carry off the Lady Eveline himself, for he was a wild
rover, this same Randal; and so he came disguised as a merchant of
falcons, and trained out my old stupid Raoul, and the Lady
Eveline, and all of us, as if to have an hour's mirth in hawking
at the heron. But he had a band of Welsh kites in readiness to
pounce upon us; and but for the sudden making in of Damian to our
rescue, it is undescribable to think what might have come of us;
and Damian being hurt in the onslaught, was carried to the Garde
Doloureuse in mere necessity; and but to save his life, it is my
belief my lady would never have asked him to cross the drawbridge,
even if he had offered."
"Woman," said the Constable, "think what thou say'st! If thou hast
done evil in these matters heretofore, as I suspect from thine own
story, think not to put it right by a train of new falsehoods,
merely from spite at missing thy reward."
"Palmer," said old Raoul, with his broken-toned voice, cracked by
many a hollo, "I am wont to leave the business of tale-bearing to
my wife Gillian, who will tongue-pad it with any shrew in
Christendom. But thou speak'st like one having some interest in
these matters, and therefore I will tell thee plainly, that
although this woman has published her own shame in avowing her
correspondence with that same Randal Lacy, yet what she has said
is true as the gospel; and, were it my last word, I would say that
Damian and the Lady Eveline are innocent of all treason and all
dishonesty, as is the babe unborn.--But what avails what the like
of us say, who are even driven to the very begging for mere
support, after having lived at a good house, and in a good lord's
service-blessing be with him!"
"But hark you," continued the Constable, "are there left no
ancient servants of the House, that could speak out as well as
you?" "Humph!" answered the huntsman--"men are not willing to
babble when Randal Lacy is cracking his thong above their heads.
Many are slain, or starved to death--some disposed of--some
spirited away. But there are the weaver Flammock and his daughter
Rose, who know as much of the matter as we do."
"What!--Wilkin Flammock the stout Netherlander?" said the
Constable; "he and his blunt but true daughter Rose?--I will
venture my life on their faith. Where dwell they?--What has been
their lot amidst these changes?" "And in God's name who are you
that ask these questions?" said Dame Gillian. "Husband, husband--
we have been too free; there is something in that look and that
tone which I should remember."
"Yes, look at me more fixedly," said the Constable, throwing "back
the hood which had hitherto in some degree obscured his features.
"On your knees--on your knees, Raoul!" exclaimed Gillian, dropping
on her own at the same time; "it is the Constable himself, and he
has heard me call him old Hugh!"
"It is all that is left of him who was the Constable, at least,"
replied De Lacy; "and old Hugh willingly forgives your freedom, in
consideration of your good news. Where are Flammock and his
"Rose is with the Lady Eveline," said Dame Gillian; "her ladyship,
belike, chose her for bower-woman in place of me, although Rose
was never fit to attire so much as a Dutch doll."
"The faithful girl!" said the Constable. "And where is Flammock?"
"Oh, for him, he has pardon and favour from the King," said Raoul;
"and is at his own house, with his rabble of weavers, close beside
the Battle-bridge, as they now call the place where your lordship
quelled the Welsh."
"Thither will I then," said the Constable; "and will then see what
welcome King Henry of Anjou has for an old servant. You two must
"My lord," said Gillian, with hesitation, "you know poor folk are
little thanked for interference with great men's affairs. I trust
your lordship will be able to protect us if we speak the truth;
and that you will not look back with displeasure on what I did,
acting for the best."
"Peace, dame, with a wanion to ye!" said Raoul. "Will you think of
your own old sinful carcass, when you should be saving your sweet
young mistress from shame and oppression?--And for thy ill tongue,
and worse practices, his lordship knows they are bred in the bone
"Peace, good fellow!" said the Constable; "we will not look back
on thy wife's errors, and your fidelity shall be rewarded.--For
you, my faithful followers," he said, turning towards Guarine and
Vidal, "when De Lacy shall receive his rights, of which he doubts
nothing, his first wish shall be to reward your fidelity."
"Mine, such as it is, has been and shall be its own reward," said
Vidal. "I will not accept favours from him in prosperity, who, in
adversity, refused me his hand--our account stands yet open."
"Go to, thou art a fool; but thy profession hath a privilege to be
humorous," said the Constable, whose weatherbeaten and homely
features looked even handsome, when animated by gratitude to
Heaven and benevolence towards mankind. "We will meet," he said,
"at Battle-bridge, an hour before vespers--I shall have much
achieved before that time."
"The space is short," said his esquire.
"I have won a battle in yet shorter," replied the Constable.
"In which," said the minstrel, "many a man has died that thought
himself well assured of life and victory."
"Even so shall my dangerous cousin Randal find his schemes of
ambition blighted," answered the Constable; and rode forwards,
accompanied by Raoul and his wife, who had remounted their
palfrey, while the minstrel and squire followed a-foot, and, of
course, much more slowly.
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