Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 8

'Twas when ye raised,' mid sap and siege,
The banner of your rightful liege
At your she captain's call,
Who, miracle of womankind,
Lent mettle to the meanest hind
That mann'd her castle wall.

The morning light was scarce fully spread abroad, when Eveline
Berenger, in compliance with her confessor's advice, commenced her
progress around the walls and battlements of the beleaguered
castle, to confirm, by her personal entreaties, the minds of the
valiant, and to rouse the more timid to hope and to exertion. She
wore a rich collar and bracelets, as ornaments which indicated her
rank--and high descent; and her under tunic, in the manner of the
times, was gathered around her slender waist by a girdle,
embroidered with precious stones, and secured by a large buckle of
gold. From one side of the girdle was suspended a pouch or purse,
splendidly adorned with needle-work, and on the left side it
sustained a small dagger of exquisite workmanship. A dark-coloured
mantle, chosen as emblematic of her clouded fortunes, was flung
loosely around her; and its hood was brought forward, so as to
shadow, but not hide, her beautiful countenance. Her looks had
lost the high and ecstatic expression which had been inspired by
supposed revelation, but they retained a sorrowful and mild, yet
determined character--and, in addressing the soldiers, she used a
mixture of entreaty and command--now throwing herself upon their
protection--now demanding in her aid the just tribute of their

The garrison was divided, as military skill dictated, in groups,
on the points most liable to attack, or from which an assailing
enemy might be best annoyed; and it was this unavoidable
separation of their force into small detachments, which showed to
disadvantage the extent of walls, compared with the number of the
defenders; and though Wilkin Flammock had contrived several means
of concealing this deficiency of force from the enemy, he could
not disguise it from the defenders of the castle, who cast
mournful glances on the length of battlements which were
unoccupied save by sentinels, and then looked out to the fatal
field of battle, loaded with the bodies of those who ought to have
been their comrades in this hour of peril.

The presence of Eveline did much to rouse the garrison from this
state of discouragement. She glided from post to post, from tower
to tower of the old gray fortress, as a gleam of light passes over
a clouded landscape, and touching its various points in
succession, calls them out to beauty and effect. Sorrow and fear
sometimes make sufferers eloquent. She addressed the various
nations who composed her little garrison, each in appropriate
language. To the English, she spoke as children of the soil--to
the Flemings, as men who had become denizens by the right of
hospitality--to the Normans, as descendants of that victorious
race, whose sword had made them the nobles and sovereigns of every
land where its edge had been tried. To them she used the language
of chivalry, by whose rules the meanest of that nation regulated,
or affected to regulate, his actions. The English she reminded of
their good faith and honesty of heart; and to the Flemings she
spoke of the destruction of their property, the fruits of their
honest industry. To all she proposed vengeance for the death of
their leader and his followers--to all she recommended confidence
in God and Our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse; and she ventured to
assure all, of the strong and victorious bands that were already
in march to their relief.

"Will the gallant champions of the cross," she said, "think of
leaving their native land, while the wail of women and of orphans
is in their ears?--it were to convert their pious purpose into
mortal sin, and to derogate from the high fame they have so well
won. Yes--fight but valiantly, and perhaps, before the very sun
that is now slowly rising shall sink in the sea, you will see it
shining on the ranks of Shrewsbury and Chester. When did the
Welshmen wait to hear the clangour of their trumpets, or the
rustling of their silken banners? Fight bravely--fight freely but
awhile!--our castle is strong--our munition ample--your hearts are
good--your arms are powerful--God is nigh to us, and our friends
are not far distant. Fight, then, in the name of all that is good
and holy--fight for yourselves, for your wives, for your children,
and for your property--and oh! fight for an orphan maiden, who
hath no other defenders but what a sense of her sorrows, and the
remembrance of her father, may raise up among you."

Such speeches as these made a powerful impression on the men to
whom they were addressed, already hardened, by habits and
sentiments, against a sense of danger. The chivalrous Normans
swore, on the cross of their swords, they would die to a man ere
they would surrender their posts--the blunter Anglo-Saxons cried,
"Shame on him who would render up such a lamb as Eveline to a
Welsh wolf, while he could make her a bulwark with his body!"--
Even the cold Flemings caught a spark of the enthusiasm with which
the others were animated, and muttered to each other praises of
the young lady's beauty, and short but honest resolves to do the
best they might in her defence.

Rose Flammock, who accompanied her lady with one or two attendants
upon her circuit around the castle, seemed to have relapsed into
her natural character of a shy and timid girl, out of the excited
state into which she had been brought by the suspicions which in
the evening before had attached to her father's character. She
tripped closely but respectfully after Eveline, and listened to
what she said from time to time, with the awe and admiration of a
child listening to its tutor, while only her moistened eye
expressed how far she felt or comprehended the extent of the
danger, or the force of the exhortations. There was, however, a
moment when the youthful maiden's eye became more bright, her step
more confident, her looks more elevated. This was when they
approached the spot where her father, having discharged the duties
of commander of the garrison, was now exercising those of
engineer, and displaying great skill, as well as wonderful
personal strength, in directing and assisting the establishment of
a large mangonel, (a military engine used for casting stones,)
upon a station commanding an exposed postern gate, which led from
the western side of the castle down to the plain; and where a
severe assault was naturally to be expected. The greater part of
his armour lay beside him, but covered with his cassock to screen
it from morning dew; while in his leathern doublet, with arms bare
to the shoulder, and a huge sledge-hammer in his hand, he set an
example to the mechanics who worked under his direction.

In slow and solid natures there is usually a touch of
shamefacedness, and a sensitiveness to the breach of petty
observances. Wilkin Flammock had been unmoved even to
insensibility at the imputation of treason so lately cast upon
him; but he coloured high, and was confused, while, hastily
throwing on his cassock, he endeavoured, to conceal the dishabille
in which he had been surprised by the Lady Eveline. Not so his
daughter. Proud of her father's zeal, her eye gleamed from him to
her mistress with a look of triumph, which seemed to say, "And
this faithful follower is he who was suspected of treachery!"

Eveline's own bosom made her the same reproach; and anxious to
atone for her momentary doubt of his fidelity, she offered for his
acceptance a ring of value; "in small amends," she said, "of a
momentary misconstruction." "It needs not, lady," said Flammock,
with his usual bluntness, "unless I have the freedom to bestow the
gaud on Rose; for I think she was grieved enough at that which
moved me little,--as why should it?"

"Dispose of it as thou wilt," said Eveline; "the stone it bears is
as true as thine own faith."

Here Eveline paused, and looking on the broad expanded plain which
extended between the site of the castle and the river, observed
how silent and still the morning was rising over what had so
lately been a scene of such extensive slaughter.

"It will not be so long," answered Flammock; "we shall have noise
enough, and that nearer to our ears than yesterday."

"Which way lie the enemy?" said Eveline; "methinks I can spy
neither tents nor pavilions."

"They use none, lady," answered Wilkin Flammock. "Heaven has
denied them the grace and knowledge to weave linen enough for such
a purpose--Yonder they lie on both sides of the river, covered
with nought but their white mantles. Would one think that a host
of thieves and cut-throats could look so like the finest object in
nature--a well-spread bleaching-field!--Hark!--hark--the wasps are
beginning to buzz; they will soon be plying their stings."

In fact, there was heard among the Welsh army a low and indistinct
murmur, like that of

"Bees alarmed and arming in their hives."

Terrified at the hollow menacing sound, which grew louder every
moment, Rose, who had all the irritability of a sensitive
temperament, clung to her father's arm, saying, in a terrified
whisper, "It is like the sound of the sea the night before the
great inundation."

"And it betokens too rough weather for woman to be abroad in,"
said Flammock. "Go to your chamber, Lady Eveline, if it be your
will--and go you too, Roschen--God bless you both--ye do but keep
us idle here."

And, indeed, conscious that she had done all that was incumbent
upon her, and fearful lest the chill which she felt creeping over
her own heart should infect others, Eveline took her vassal's
advice, and withdrew slowly to her own apartment, often casting
back her eye to the place where the Welsh, now drawn out and under
arms, were advancing their ridgy battalions, like the waves of an
approaching tide.

The Prince of Powys had, with considerable military skill, adopted
a plan of attack suitable to the fiery genius of his followers,
and calculated to alarm on every point the feeble garrison.

The three sides of the castle which were defended by the river,
were watched each by a numerous body of the British, with
instructions to confine themselves to the discharge of arrows,
unless they should observe that some favourable opportunity of
close attack should occur. But far the greater part of Gwenwyn's
forces, consisting of three columns of great strength, advanced
along the plain on the western side of the castle, and menaced,
with a desperate assault, the walls, which, in that direction,
were deprived of the defence of the river. The first of these
formidable bodies consisted entirely of archers, who dispersed
themselves in front of the beleaguered place, and took advantage
of every bush and rising ground which could afford them shelter;
and then began to bend their bows and shower their arrows on the
battlements and loop-holes, suffering, however, a great deal more
damage than they were able to inflict, as the garrison returned
their shot in comparative safety, and with more secure and
deliberate aim. [Footnote: The Welsh were excellent bowmen; but,
under favour of Lord Lyttleton, they probably did not use the long
bow, the formidable weapon of the Normans, and afterwards of the
English yeomen. That of the Welsh most likely rather resembled the
bow of the cognate Celtic tribes of Ireland, and of the
Highlanders of Scotland. It was shorter than the Norman long bow,
as being drawn to the breast, not to the ear, more loosely strung,
and the arrow having a heavy iron head; altogether, in short, a
less effective weapon. It appears, from the following anecdote,
that there was a difference between the Welsh arrow and those of
the English.

In 1122, Henry the II., marching into Powys-Land to chastise
Meredith ap Blethyn and certain rebels, in passing a defile, was
struck by an arrow on the breast. Repelled by the excellence of
his breast-plate, the shaft fell to the ground. When the King felt
the blow, and saw the shaft, he swore his usual oath, by the death
of our Lord, that the arrow came not from a Welsh but an English
bow; and, influenced by this belief hastily put an end to the
war.] Under cover, however, of their discharge of arrows, two very
strong bodies of Welsh attempted to carry the outer defences of
the castle by storm. They had axes to destroy the palisades, then
called barriers; faggots to fill up the external ditches; torches
to set fire to aught combustible which they might find; and, above
all, ladders to scale the walls.

These detachments rushed with incredible fury towards the point of
attack, despite a most obstinate defence, and the great loss which
they sustained by missiles of every kind, and continued the
assault for nearly an hour, supplied by reinforcements which more
than recruited their diminished numbers. When they were at last
compelled to retreat, they seemed to adopt a new and yet more
harassing species of attack. A large body assaulted one exposed
point of the fortress with such fury as to draw thither as many of
the besieged as could possibly be spared from other defended
posts, and when there appeared a point less strongly manned than
was adequate to defence, that, in its turn, was furiously assailed
by a separate body of the enemy.

Thus the defenders of the Garde Doloureuse resembled the
embarrassed traveller, engaged in repelling a swarm of hornets,
which, while he brushes them, from one part, fix in swarms upon
another, and drive him to despair by their numbers, and the
boldness and multiplicity of their attacks. The postern being of
course a principal point of attack, Father Aldrovand, whose
anxiety would not permit him to be absent from the walls, and who,
indeed, where decency would permit, took an occasional share in
the active defence of the place, hasted thither, as the point
chiefly in danger.

Here he found the Fleming, like a second Ajax, grim with dust and
blood, working with his own hands the great engine which he had
lately helped to erect, and at the same time giving heedful eye to
all the exigencies around.

"How thinkest thou of this day's work?" said the monk in a

"What skills it talking of it, father?" replied Flammock; "thou
art no soldier, and I have no time for words."

"Nay, take thy breath," said the monk, tucking up the sleeves of
his frock; "I will try to help thee the whilst--although, our Lady
pity me, I know nothing of these strange devices--not even the
names. But our rule commands us to labour; there can be no harm
therefore, in turning this winch--or in placing this steel-headed
piece of wood opposite to the chord, (suiting his actions to his
words,) nor see I aught uncanonical in adjusting the lever thus,
or in touching the spring."

The large bolt whizzed through the air as he spoke, and was so
successfully aimed, that it struck down a Welsh chief of eminence,
to which Gwenwyn himself was in the act of giving some important

"Well driven, _trebuchet_--well flown, _quarrel!_" cried
the monk, unable to contain his delight, and giving in his
triumph, the true technical names to the engine, and the javelin
which it discharged.

"And well aimed, monk," added Wilkin Flammock; "I think thou
knowest more than is in thy breviary."

"Care not thou for that," said the father; "and now that thou
seest I can work an engine, and that the Welsh knaves seem
something low in stomach, what think'st thou of our estate?"

"Well enough--for a bad one--if we may hope for speedy succour;
but men's bodies are of flesh, not of iron, and we may be at last
wearied out by numbers. Only one soldier to four yards of wall, is
a fearful odds; and the villains are aware of it, and keep us to
sharp work."

The renewal of the assault here broke off their conversation, nor
did the active enemy permit them to enjoy much repose until
sunset; for, alarming them with repeated menaces of attack upon
different points, besides making two or three formidable and
furious assaults, they left them scarce time to breathe, or to
take a moment's refreshment. Yet the Welsh paid a severe price for
their temerity; for, while nothing could exceed the bravery with
which their men repeatedly advanced to the attack, those which
were made latest in the day had less of animated desperation than
their first onset; and it is probable, that the sense of having
sustained great loss, and apprehension of its effects on the
spirits of his people, made nightfall, and the interruption of the
contest, as acceptable to Gwenwyn as to the exhausted garrison of
the Garde Doloureuse.

But in the camp or leaguer of the Welsh there was glee and
triumph, for the loss of the past day was forgotten in
recollection of the signal victory which had preceded this siege;
and the dispirited garrison could hear from their walls the laugh
and the song, the sound of harping and gaiety, which triumphed by
anticipation over their surrender.

The sun was for some time sunk, the twilight deepened, and night
closed with a blue and cloudless sky, in which the thousand
spangles that deck the firmament received double brilliancy from
some slight touch of frost, although the paler planet, their
mistress, was but in her first quarter. The necessities of the
garrison were considerably aggravated by that of keeping a very
strong and watchful guard, ill according with the weakness of
their numbers, at a time which appeared favourable to any sudden
nocturnal alarm; and, so urgent was this duty, that those who had
been more slightly wounded on the preceding day, were obliged to
take their share in it, notwithstanding their hurts. The monk and
Fleming, who now perfectly understood each other, went in company
around the walls at midnight, exhorting the warders to be
watchful, and examining with their own eyes the state of the
fortress. It was in the course of these rounds, and as they were
ascending an elevated platform by a range of narrow and uneven
steps, something galling to the monk's tread, that they perceived
on the summit to which they were ascending, instead of the black
corslet of the Flemish sentinel who had been placed there, two
white forms, the appearance of which struck Wilkin Flammock with
more dismay than he had shown during any of the doubtful events of
the preceding day's fight.

"Father," he said, "betake yourself to your tools--_es
spuckt_--there are hobgoblins here."

The good father had not learned as a priest to defy the spiritual
host, whom, as a soldier, he had dreaded more than any mortal
enemy; but he began to recite, with chattering teeth, the exorcism
of the church, _"Conjuro vos omnes, spiritus maligni, magni,
atque parvi,"_--when he was interrupted by the voice of
Eveline, who called out, "Is it you, Father Aldrovand?"

Much lightened at heart by finding they had no ghost to deal with,
Wilkin Flammock and the priest advanced hastily to the platform,
where they found the lady with her faithful Rose, the former with
a half-pike in her hand, like a sentinel on duty.

"How is this, daughter?" said the monk; "how came you here, and
thus armed? and where is the sentinel,--the lazy Flemish hound,
that should have kept the post?"

"May he not be a lazy hound, yet not a Flemish one, father?" said
Rose, who was ever awakened by anything which seemed a reflection
upon her country; "methinks I have heard of such curs of English

"Go to, Rose, you are too malapert for a young maiden," said her
father. "Once more, where is Peterkin Vorst, who should have kept
this post?"

"Let him not be blamed for my fault," said Eveline, pointing to a
place where the Flemish sentinel lay in the shade of the
battlement fast asleep--"He was overcome with toil--had fought
hard through the day, and when I saw him asleep as I came hither,
like a wandering spirit that cannot take slumber or repose, I
would not disturb the rest which I envied. As he had fought for
me, I might, I thought, watch an hour for him; so I took his
weapon with the purpose of remaining here till some one should
come to relieve him."

"I will relieve the schelm, with a vengeance!" said Wilkin
Flammock, and saluted the slumbering and prostrate warder with two
kicks, which made his corslet clatter. The man started to his feet
in no small alarm, which he would have communicated to the next
sentinels and to the whole garrison, by crying out that the Welsh
were upon the walls, had not the monk covered his broad mouth with
his hand just as the roar was issuing forth.--"Peace, and get thee
down to the under bayley," said he;--"thou deservest death, by all
the policies of war--but, look ye, varlet, and see who has saved
your worthless neck, by watching while you were dreaming of
swine's flesh and beer-pots."

The Fleming, although as yet but half awake, was sufficiently
conscious of his situation, to sneak off without reply, after two
or three awkward congees, as well to Eveline as to those by whom
his repose had been so unceremoniously interrupted.

"He deserves to be tied neck and heel, the houndsfoot," said
Wilkin. "But what would you have, lady? My countrymen cannot live
without rest or sleep." So saying, he gave a yawn so wide, as if
he had proposed to swallow one of the turrets at an angle of the
platform on which he stood, as if it had only garnished a
Christmas pasty.

"True, good Wilkin," said Eveline; "and do you therefore take some
rest, and trust to my watchfulness, at least till the guards are
relieved. I cannot sleep if I would, and I would not if I could."

"Thanks, lady," said Flammock; "and in truth, as this is a
centrical place, and the rounds must pass in an hour at farthest,
I will e'en close my eyes for such a space, for the lids feel as
heavy as flood-gates."

"Oh, father, father!" exclaimed Rose, alive to her sire's
unceremonious neglect of decorum--"think where you are, and in
whose presence!"

"Ay, ay, good Flammock," said the monk, "remember the presence of
a noble Norman maiden is no place for folding of cloaks and
donning of night-caps."

"Let him alone, father," said Eveline, who in another moment might
have smiled at the readiness with which Wilkin Flammock folded
himself in his huge cloak, extended his substantial form on the
stone bench, and gave the most decided tokens of profound repose,
long ere the monk had done speaking.--"Forms and fashions of
respect," she continued, "are for times of ease and nicety;--when
in danger, the soldier's bedchamber is wherever he can find
leisure for an hour's sleep--his eating-hall, wherever he can
obtain food. Sit thou down by Rose and me, good father, and tell
us of some holy lesson which may pass away these hours of
weariness and calamity."

The father obeyed; but however willing to afford consolation, his
ingenuity and theological skill suggested nothing better than a
recitation of the penitentiary psalms, in which task he continued
until fatigue became too powerful for him also, when he committed
the same breach of decorum for which he had upbraided Wilkin
Flammock, and fell fast asleep in the midst of his devotions.

Sir Walter Scott