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- OF THE CAGED LION - 10/59 -
'Hate? I trow he has little to love them for. He is a good fellow enough, my young lord, when left to himself; but best beware. Lions in a cage have strange tempers.'
A courier rode up at the moment, and presented some letters, which Sir Harry at once opened and read, beckoning his brother and Sir James to his side, while Malcolm rode on in their wake, in a state of dismay and bewilderment. Nigel and Lord Marmion were together at so great an interval that he could not fall back on them, nor learn from them who these brothers were. And there was something in the ironical suppressed pity with which Harry had spoken of his prospects with the King of Scots, that terrified him all the more, because he knew that Sir James and Nigel would both hold it unworthy of him to have spoken freely of his own sovereign with an Englishman. Would James be another Walter? and, if so, would Sir James Stewart protect him? He had acquired much affection for, and strong reliance on, the knight; but there was something unexplained, and his heart sank.
The smooth line of Watling Street at length opened into the old town of Thirsk, and here bells were ringing, flags flying from the steeple, music sounded, a mayor and his corporation in their robes rode slowly forth, crowds lined the road-side, caps were flung up, and a tremendous shout arose, 'God save King Harry!'
Malcolm gazed about more utterly discomfited. There was 'Harry,' upright on his horse, listening with a gracious smile, while the mayor rehearsed a speech about welcome and victories, and the hopeful queen, and, what was still more to the purpose, tendered a huge pair of gauntlets, each filled to the brim, one with gold, and the other with silver pieces.
'Eh! Thanks, Master Mayor, but these gloves must be cleared, ere there is room for me to use them in battle!'
And handing the gold glove to his brother, he scattered the contents of the silver one far and wide among the populace, who shouted their blessings louder than ever, and thus he reached the market-place. There all was set forth as for the lists, a horseman in armour on either side.
'Heigh now, Sirs,' said Harry, 'have we not wars enough toward without these mummings of vanity?'
'This is no show, my Lord King,' returned the mayor, abashed. 'This is deadly earnest. These are two honourable gentlemen of Yorkshire, who are come hither to fight out their quarrel before your Grace.'
'Two honourable foolsheads!' muttered Harry; then, raising his voice, 'Come hither, gentlemen, let us hear your quarrel.'
The two gentlemen were big Yorkshiremen, heavy-browed, and their native shrewdness packed far away behind a bumpkin stolidity and surliness that barely allowed them to show respect to the King.
'So please you, Sir,' growled the first in his throat, 'here stands Christopher Kitson of Barrowbridge, ready to avouch himself a true man, and prove in yonder fellow's teeth that it was not a broken- kneed beast that I sent up for a heriard to my Lord Archbishop when my father died; but that he of Easingwold is a black slanderer and backbiter.'
'And here,' shouted the other, 'stands honest William Trenton of Easingwold, ready to thrust his lies down his throat, and prove on his body that the heriard he sent to my Lord Archbishop was a sorry jade.'
'That were best proved by the beast's body,' interposed time King.
'And,' proceeded the doughty Kitson, as though repeating a lesson, 'having vainly pleaded the matter these nine years, we are come to demand licence to fight it out, with lance, sword, and dagger, in your royal presence, to set the matter at rest for ever.'
'Breaking a man's head to prove the soundness of a horse!' ejaculated Harry.
'Your licence is given, Sir King?' demanded Kitson.
'My licence is given for a combat a l'outrance,' said Henry; but, as they were about to flounder back on their big farm-horses, he raised his voice to a thundering sound: 'Solely on this condition, that he who slays his neighbour, be he Trenton or Kitson, shall hang for the murder ere I leave Thirsk.'
There was a recoil, and the mayor himself ventured to observe something about the judgment of God, and 'never so seen.'
'And I say,' thundered Henry, and his blue eyes seemed to flame with vehement indignation, 'I say that the ordeal of battle is shamefully abused, and that it is a taking of God's name--ay, and man's life--in vain, to appeal thereto on every coxcomb's quarrel, risking the life that was given him to serve God's ends, not his own sullen fancy. I will have an end of such things!--And you, gentlemen, since the heriard is dead, or too old to settle the question, shake hands, and if you must let blood, come to France with me next month, and flesh your knives on French and Scots.'
'So please you, Sir,' grumbled Kitson, 'there's Mistress Agnes of Mineshull; she's been in doubt between the two of us these five years, and she'd promised to wed whichever of us got the better.'
'I'll settle her mind for her! Whichever I find foremost among the French, I'll send home to her a knight, and with better sense to boot than to squabble for nine years as to an old horse.'
He then dismounted, and was conducted into the town-hall, where a banquet was prepared, taking by the hand Sir James Stewart, and followed by his brother John, and by Malcolm, who felt as though his brain were turning, partly with amazement, partly with confusion at his own dulness, as he perceived that not only was the free-spoken Hal, Henry of Monmouth, King of England, but that his wandering benefactor, the captive knight, whose claim of kindred he had almost spurned, was his native sovereign, James the First of Scotland.
CHAPTER IV: THE TIDINGS OF BEAUGE
Malcolm understood it at last. In the great chamber where he was bidden to wait within 'Nigel' till 'Sir James' came from a private conference with 'Harry,' he had all explained to him, but within a curtness and brevity that must not be imitated in the present narrative.
The squire Nigel was in fact Sir Nigel Baird, Baron of Bairdsbrae, the gentleman to whom poor King Robert II. had committed the charge of his young son James, when at fourteen he had been sent to France, nominally for education, but in reality to secure him from the fate of his brother Rothsay.
Captured by English vessels on the way, the heir of Scotland had been too valuable a prize to be resigned by the politic Henry IV., who had lodged him at Windsor Castle, together with Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, and placed both under the nominal charge of the Prince of Wales, a youth of a few years older. Unjust as was the detention, it had been far from severe; the boys had as much liberty as their age and recreation required, and received the choicest training both in the arts of war and peace. They were bred up in close intercourse with the King's own four sons, and were united with them by the warmest sympathy.
In fact, since usurpation had filled Henry of Lancaster's mind with distrust and jealousy, his eldest son had been in no such enviable position as to be beyond the capacity of fellow-feeling for the royal prisoner.
Of a peculiarly frank, open, and affectionate nature, young Henry had so warmly loved the gentle and fascinating Richard II., that his trust in the father, of whom he had seen little in his boyhood, had received a severe shock through Richard's fate. Under the influence of a new, suspicious, and avaricious wife, the King kept his son as much at a distance as possible, chiefly on the Welsh marches, learning the art of war under Hotspur and Oldcastle; and when the father and son were brought together again, the bold, free bearing and extraordinary ability of the Prince filled the suspicious mind of the King with alarm and jealousy. To keep him down, give him no money, and let him gain no influence, was the narrow policy of the King; and Henry, chafing, dreaming, feeling the injustice, and pining for occupation, shared his complaints within James, and in many a day-dream restored him freely to his throne, and together redressed the wrongs of the world. Meantime, James studied deep in preparation, and recreated himself with poetry, inspired by the charms of Joan Beaufort, the lovely daughter of the King's legitimatized brother, the Earl of Somerset; while Henry persisted in a boy's passionate love to King Richard's maiden widow, Isabel of France. Entirely unrequited as his affection was, it had a beneficial effect. Next after his deep sense of religion, it kept his life pure and chivalrous. He was for ever faithful to his future wife, even when Isabel had been returned to France, and his romantic passion had fixed itself on her younger sister Catherine, whom he endowed in imagination with all he had seen or supposed in her.
Credited with every excess by the tongue of his stepmother, too active-minded not to indulge in freakish sports and experiments in life very astounding to commonplace minds, sometimes when in dire distress even helping himself to his unpaid allowance from his father's mails, and always with buoyant high spirits and unfailing drollery that scandalized the grave seniors of the Court, there is full proof that Prince Hal ever kept free from the gross vices which a later age has fancied inseparably connected with his frolics; and though always in disgrace, the vexation of the Court, and a by-word for mirth, he was true to the grand ideal he was waiting to accomplish, and never dimmed the purity and loftiness of his aim. That little band of princely youths, who sported, studied, laughed, sang, and schemed in the glades of Windsor, were strangely brought together--the captive exiled King, the disinherited heir of the realm, and the sons of the monarch who held the one in durance and occupied the throne of the other; and yet their affection had all the frank delight of youthful friendship. The younger lads were in more favour with their father than was the elder. Thomas was sometimes preferred to him in a mortifying manner, John's grave, quiet nature prevented him from ever incurring displeasure, and Humfrey was the spoilt pet of the family; but nothing could lessen Harry's large- minded love of his brothers; and he was the idol and hero of the whole young party, who implicitly believed in his mighty destinies as a renovator of the world, the deliverer of Jerusalem, and restorer of
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