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- The Prince and the Page - 37/37 -


had shut themselves up for their last resistance--when among the mercenaries, who enrolled themselves in the pay of the Hospitaliers, came a sunburnt warrior, who had evidently had long experience of Eastern warfare, though his speech was English, French, or Provencal, according to the person who addressed him. Fierce and dreadful was the daily strife; the new soldier fought well, but he was not noticed, till one night. "Ah, Sir!" said the Hospitalier, "even then our holy and beautiful house was in dire confusion, our garden trodden down and desolate! One night, I heard strange choking sobs as of one in anguish. I deemed that one of our wounded had in delirium wandered into the garden, and was dying there. But I found- -at the foot of the stone cross we set beside the fountain, where the attempt on you, Sir, was made--this warrior lying, so writhing with anguish, that I could scarce believe it was grief, not pain, that thus wrought with him! I lifted him up, and spake of repentance and pardon. No pardon for him, he said; it was here that he had slain his brother! I spake long and earnestly with him, but he called himself sacrilegious murderer again and again. Nay, he had even-- when after that wretched night you wot of, Sir, he left our House--in his despair and hope to leave remorse behind, he had become a Moslem, and fought in the Saracen ranks. All hope he spurned. No mercy for him, was his cry! I would have deemed so--but oh! I thought of Richard's parting hope; I remembered our German brethren's tale, how the Holy Father, the Pope, said there was as little hope of pardon as that his staff should bud and blossom; and lo, in one night it bore bud and flower. I besought him for Richard's sake to let me strive in prayer for him. All day we fought on the walls--all night, beside Richard's cross, did he lie and weep and groan, and I would pray till strength failed both of us. Day after day, night after night, and still the miserable man looked gray with despair, and still he told me that he knew Absolution would but mock his doom. He could fear, but could not sorrow. And still I spoke of the Saviour's love of man--and still I prayed, and all our house prayed with me, though they knew not who the sinner was for whom I besought their prayers. At last--it was the day when the towers on the walls had been won--I came back from the breach, and scarce rested to eat bread, ere I went on to the Cedar and the Cross. Beside it knelt Sir Simon. 'Father,' he said, 'I trust that the pardon that takes away the sin of the world, will take away mine. Grant me Absolution.' He was with us when, ere dawn, such of us as still lived met for our last mass in our beautiful chapel. He went forth with us to the wall. By and by, the command was given that we should make a sally upon the enemy's camp. We went back for the last time to our house to fetch our horses; I knew there could be no return, and went for one last look into our chapel, and at Richard's tomb. Upon it lay the knight, horribly scathed with Greek fire--he had dragged him there to die. He was dead, but his looks were upward; his face was as calm as Richard's was, my Lord, when we laid him down by the fountain. And now his message, my Lord. He bade me say, if I survived the siege, that he had often cursed you for the worse revenge of letting him live to his remorse--now he blessed you for sparing him to repent."

"And Richard's grave has passed to the Infidels!" said Edward, after a long silence.

"Even as the graves of our brethren--the holiest Grave of all," said the Knight Hospitalier.

"Cheer up and hope, Father," said the King. "Let me see peace and order at home, and we will win back Acre, ay and Jerusalem, from the Infidels. Alas! our young hopes and joys may never return; but, home purified, then may God bless our arms beneath the Cross."

Fifteen years more, and in the beautiful Westminster Abbey, amid the gorgeous tombs, there stood four sorrowful figures. A sturdy knight, with bowed head and mournful look, carefully guided a white-haired, white-bearded old man, while a beautiful matronly lady was handed by her tall handsome son.

Among the richly inlaid shrines and monuments, they sought out one the latest of all, but consisting of one enormous block of stone, with no ornament save one slender band of inscription.

"Ah!" said the knight, "well do I remember the shipping of that stone from Acre, little guessing its purpose!"

"Then it is indeed a stone from the ruined Temple of Jerusalem," said the lady. "Read the inscription, my Son."

The young man read and translated -

"Edwardus Primus. Malleus Scotorum Pactum serva. Edward the First. The Hammer of the Scots. Keep covenant."

"It was scarce worth while to bring a stone from Jerusalem, to mark it with 'the Hammer of the Scots!'" said the lady.

"Alas, my cousin Edward!" sighed the beggar. "Ever with a great scheme, ever going earnestly on to its fulfilment; with a mind too far above those of other men to be understood or loved as thou shouldst have been! Alack, that the Scottish temptation came between thee and the brightness of thy glory! Art thou indeed gone--like Richard--to Jerusalem; and shall I yet follow thee there? Let us pray for the peace of his soul, children; for a greater and better man lies here than England knows or heeds."

Footnotes:

{1} Psalm cxxvi. 6, 7.


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