THE DRAGON OF WANTLEY
By Owen Wister
Illustrations by John Stewardson
Philadelphia J.B.LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 1895
TO MY ANCIENT PLAYMATES IN APPIAN WAY CAMBRIDGE THIS LIKELY STORY IS DEDICATED FOR REASONS BEST KNOWN TO THEMSELVES
When Betsinda held the Rose And the Ring decked Giglio's finger Thackeray! 'twas sport to linger With thy wise, gay-hearted prose. Books were merry, goodness knows! When Betsinda held the Rose.
Who but foggy drudglings doze While Rob Gilpin toasts thy witches, While the Ghost waylays thy breeches, Ingoldsby? Such tales as those Exorcised our peevish woes When Betsinda held the Rose.
Realism, thou specious pose! Haply it is good we met thee; But, passed by, we'll scarce regret thee; For we love the light that glows Where Queen Fancy's pageant goes, And Betsinda holds the Rose.
Shall we dare it? Then let's close Doors to-night on things statistic, Seek the hearth in circle mystic, Till the conjured fire-light shows Where Youth's bubbling Fountain flows, And Betsinda holds the Rose.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
We two—the author and his illustrator—did not know what we had done until the newspapers told us. But the press has explained it in the following poised and consistent criticism:
"Too many suggestions of profanity." —Congregationalist, Boston, 8 Dec. '92.
"It ought to be the delight of the nursery." —National Tribune, Washington, 22 Dec. '92.
"Grotesque and horrible." —Zion's Herald, Boston, 21 Dec. '92.
"Some excellent moral lessons." —Citizen, Brooklyn, 27 Nov. '92.
"If it has any lesson to teach, we have been unable to find it." —Independent, New York, 10 Nov. '92.
"The story is a familiar one." —Detroit Free Press, 28 Nov. '92.
"Refreshingly novel." —Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, 17 Dec. '92.
"It is a burlesque." —Atlantic Monthly, Dec. '92.
"All those who love lessons drawn from life will enjoy this book." —Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, 2 Nov. '92.
"The style of this production is difficult to define." —Court Journal, London, 26 Nov. '92.
"One wonders why writer and artist should put so much labor on a production which seems to have so little reason for existence." —Herald and Presbyterian, Cincinnati.
Now the public knows exactly what sort of book this is, and we cannot be held responsible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I. PAGE How Sir Godfrey came to lose his Temper 19
CHAPTER II. How his Daughter, Miss Elaine, behaved herself in Consequence 35
CHAPTER III. Reveals the Dragon in his Den 52
CHAPTER IV. Tells you more about Him than was ever told before to Anybody 62
CHAPTER V. In which the Hero makes his First Appearance and is Locked Up immediately 77
CHAPTER VI. In which Miss Elaine loses her Heart, and finds Something of the Greatest Importance 91
CHAPTER VII. Shows what Curious Things you may see, if you don't go to Bed when you are sent 113
CHAPTER VIII. Contains a Dilemma with two simply egregious Horns 136
CHAPTER IX. Leaves much Room for guessing about Chapter Ten 168
CHAPTER X. The great White Christmas at Wantley 187
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Ornamented title 3 Copyright notice 4 Head-piece—Preface 7 Head-piece—Preface to the Second Edition 9 Head-piece—Table of Contents 11 Head-piece—List of Illustrations 13 Half-title to Chapter I 17 Head-piece to Chapter I 19 Popham awaiteth the Result with Dignity 27 The Baron pursueth Whelpdale into the Buttery 32 Tail-piece to Chapter I 33 Half-title to Chapter II 34 Head-piece to Chapter II 35 Sir Godfrey maketh him ready for the Bath 39 Sir Godfrey getteth into his Bath 41 Mistletoe consulteth the Cooking Book 43 Elaine maketh an unexpected Remark 49 Half-title to Chapter III 51 Head-piece to Chapter III 52 Hubert sweepeth the Steps 55 Half-title to Chapter IV 61 Head-piece to Chapter IV 62 Hubert looketh out of the Window 69 Tail-piece to Chapter IV 75 Half-title to Chapter V 76 Head-piece to Chapter V 77 Geoffrey replieth with deplorable Flippancy to Father Anselm 84 Tail-piece to Chapter V 89 Half-title to Chapter VI 90 Head-piece to Chapter VI 91 The Baron setteth forth his Plan for circumventing the Dragon 96 Geoffrey tuggeth at the Bars 101 Tail-piece to Chapter VI 111 Half-title to Chapter VII 112 Head-piece to Chapter VII 113 Elaine cometh into the Cellar 120 Geoffrey goeth to meet the Dragon 128 Half-title to Chapter VIII 135 Head-piece to Chapter VIII 136 The Dragon thinketh to slake his Thirst 142 The Dragon perceiveth Himself to be Entrapped 148 A Noise in the Cellar 155, 156 Half-title to Chapter IX 167 Head-piece to Chapter IX 168 Sir Francis decideth to go down again 176 Brother Hubert goeth back to Oyster-le-Main for the last Time 181 Tail-piece to Chapter IX 185 Half-title to Chapter X 186 Head-piece to Chapter X 187 Sir Thomas de Brie hastens to accept the Baron's polite Invitation 192 The Court-yard 198 The Dragon maketh his last Appearance 203 L'Envoi 208
How Sir Godfrey came to lose his Temper
There was something wrong in the cellar at Wantley Manor. Little Whelpdale knew it, for he was Buttons, and Buttons always knows what is being done with the wine, though he may look as if he did not. And old Popham knew it, too. He was Butler, and responsible to Sir Godfrey for all the brandy, and ale, and cider, and mead, and canary, and other strong waters there were in the house.
Now, Sir Godfrey Disseisin, fourth Baron of Wantley, and immediate tenant by knight-service to His Majesty King John of England, was particular about his dogs, and particular about his horses, and about his only daughter and his boy Roland, and had been very particular indeed about his wife, who, I am sorry to say, did not live long. But all this was nothing to the fuss he made about his wine. When the claret was not warm enough, or the Moselle wine was not cool enough, you could hear him roaring all over the house; for, though generous in heart and a staunch Churchman, he was immoderately choleric. Very often, when Sir Godfrey fell into one of his rages at dinner, old Popham, standing behind his chair, trembled so violently that his calves would shake loose, thus obliging him to hasten behind the tall leathern screen at the head of the banquet-hall and readjust them.
Twice in each year the Baron sailed over to France, where he visited the wine-merchants, and tasted samples of all new vintages,—though they frequently gave him unmentionable aches. Then, when he was satisfied that he had selected the soundest and richest, he returned to Wantley Manor, bringing home wooden casks that were as big as hay-stacks, and so full they could not gurgle when you tipped them. Upon arriving, he sent for Mrs. Mistletoe, the family governess and (for economy's sake) housekeeper, who knew how to write,—something the Baron's father and mother had never taught him when he was a little boy, because they didn't know how themselves, and despised people who did,—and when Mrs. Mistletoe had cut neat pieces of card-board for labels and got ready her goose-quill, Sir Godfrey would say, "Write, Chateau Lafitte, 1187;" or, "Write, Chambertin, 1203." (Those, you know, were the names and dates of the vintages.) "Yes, my lord," Mistletoe always piped up; on which Sir Godfrey would peer over her shoulder at the writing, and mutter, "Hum; yes, that's correct," just as if he knew how to read, the old humbug! Then Mistletoe, who was a silly girl and had lost her husband early, would go "Tee-hee, Sir Godfrey!" as the gallant gentleman gave her a kiss. Of course, this was not just what he should have done; but he was a widower, you must remember, and besides that, as the years went on this little ceremony ceased to be kept up. When it was "Chateau Lafitte, 1187," kissing Mistletoe was one thing; but when it came to "Chambertin, 1203," the lady weighed two hundred and twenty-five pounds, and wore a wig.
But, wig and all, Mistletoe had a high position in Wantley Manor. The household was conducted on strictly feudal principles. Nobody, except the members of the family, received higher consideration than did the old Governess. She and the Chaplain were on a level, socially, and they sat at the same table with the Baron. That drew the line. Old Popham the Butler might tell little Whelpdale as often as he pleased that he was just as good as Mistletoe; but he had to pour out Mistletoe's wine for her, notwithstanding. If she scolded him (which she always did if Sir Godfrey had been scolding her), do you suppose he dared to answer back? Gracious, no! He merely kicked the two head-footmen, Meeson and Welsby, and spoke severely to the nine house-maids. Meeson and Welsby then made life a painful thing for the five under-footmen and the grooms, while the nine house-maids boxed the ears of Whelpdale the Buttons, and Whelpdale the Buttons punched the scullion's eye. As for the scullion, he was bottom of the list; but he could always relieve his feelings by secretly pulling the tails of Sir Godfrey's two tame ravens, whose names were Croak James and Croak Elizabeth. I never knew what these birds did at that; but something, you may be sure. So you see that I was right when I said the household was conducted on strictly feudal principles. The Cook had a special jurisdiction of her own, and everybody was more or less afraid of her.
Whenever Sir Godfrey had come home with new wine, and after the labels had been pasted on the casks, then Popham, with Whelpdale beside him, had these carefully set down in the cellar, which was a vast dim room, the ceilings supported by heavy arches; the barrels, bins, kegs, hogsheads, tuns, and demijohns of every size and shape standing like forests and piled to the ceiling. And now something was wrong there.
"This 'ere's a hawful succumstence, sir," observed Whelpdale the Buttons to his superior, respectfully.
"It is, indeed, a himbroglio," replied Popham, who had a wide command of words, and knew it.
Neither domestic spoke again for some time. They were seated in the buttery. The Butler crossed his right leg over his left, and waved the suspended foot up and down,—something he seldom did unless very grievously perturbed. As for poor little Whelpdale, he mopped his brow with the napkins that were in a basket waiting for the wash.
Then the bell rang.
"His ludship's study-bell," said Popham. "Don't keep him waiting."
"Hadn't you better apprise his ludship of the facks?" asked Whelpdale, in a weak voice.
Popham made no reply. He arose and briefly kicked Buttons out of the buttery. Then he mounted a chair to listen better. "He has hentered his ludship's apawtment," he remarked, hearing the sound of voices come faintly down the little private staircase that led from Sir Godfrey's study to the buttery: the Baron was in the habit of coming down at night for crackers and cheese before he went to bed. Presently one voice grew much louder than the other. It questioned. There came a sort of whining in answer. Then came a terrific stamp on the ceiling and a loud "Go on, sir!"
"Now, now, now!" thought Popham.
Do you want to hear at once, without waiting any longer, what little Whelpdale is telling Sir Godfrey? Well, you must know that for the past thirteen years, ever since 1190, the neighbourhood had been scourged by a terrible Dragon. The monster was covered with scales, and had a long tail and huge unnatural wings, beside fearful jaws that poured out smoke and flame whenever they opened. He always came at dead of night, roaring, bellowing, and sparkling and flaming over the hills, and horrid claps of thunder were very likely to attend his progress. Concerning the nature and quality of his roaring, the honest copyholders of Wantley could never agree, although every human being had heard him hundreds of times. Some said it was like a mad bull, only much louder and worse. Old Gaffer Piers the ploughman swore that if his tomcat weighed a thousand pounds it would make a noise almost as bad as that on summer nights, with the moon at the full and other cats handy. But farmer Stiles said, "Nay, 'tis like none of your bulls nor cats. But when I have come home too near the next morning, my wife can make me think of this Dragon as soon as ever her mouth be open."
This shows you that there were divers opinions. If you were not afraid to look out of the window about midnight, you could see the sky begin to look red in the quarter from which he was approaching, just as it glares when some distant house is on fire. But you must shut the window and hide before he came over the hill; for very few that had looked upon the Dragon ever lived to that day twelvemonth. This monster devoured the substance of the tenantry and yeomen. When their fields of grain were golden for the harvest, in a single night he cut them down and left their acres blasted by his deadly fire. He ate the cows, the sheep, the poultry, and at times even sucked eggs. Many pious saints had visited the district, but not one had been able by his virtue to expel the Dragon; and the farmers and country folk used to repeat a legend that said the Dragon was a punishment for the great wickedness of the Baron's ancestor, the original Sir Godfrey Disseisin, who, when summoned on the first Crusade to Palestine, had entirely refused to go and help his cousin Godfrey de Bouillon wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Paynim. The Baron's ancestor, when a stout young lad, had come over with William the Conqueror; and you must know that to have an ancestor who had come over with William the Conqueror was in those old days a much rarer thing than it is now, and any one who could boast of it was held in high esteem by his neighbours, who asked him to dinner and left their cards upon him continually. But the first Sir Godfrey thought one conquest was enough for any man; and in reply to his cousin's invitation to try a second, answered in his blunt Norman French, "Nul tiel verte dedans ceot oyle," which displeased the Church, and ended forever all relations between the families. The Dragon did not come at once, for this gentleman's son, the grandfather of our Sir Godfrey, as soon as he was twenty-one, went off to the Holy Land himself, fought very valiantly, and was killed, leaving behind him at Wantley an inconsolable little wife and an heir six months old. This somewhat appeased the Pope; but the present Sir Godfrey, when asked to accompany King Richard Lion Heart on his campaign against the Infidel, did not avail himself of the opportunity to set the family right in the matter of Crusades. This hereditary impiety, which the Pope did not consider at all mended by the Baron's most regular attendance at the parish church on all Sundays, feast days, fast days, high days, low days, saints' days, vigils, and octaves, nor by his paying his tithes punctually to Father Anselm, Abbot of Oyster-le-Main (a wonderful person, of whom I shall have a great deal to tell you presently), this impiety, I say, finished the good standing of the House of Wantley. Rome frowned, the earth trembled, and the Dragon came. And (the legend went on to say) this curse would not be removed until a female lineal descendant of the first Sir Godfrey, a young lady who had never been married, and had never loved anybody except her father and mother and her sisters and brothers, should go out in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, all by herself, and encounter the Dragon single handed.
Now, of course, this is not what little Whelpdale is trying to tell the Baron up in the study; for everybody in Wantley knew all about the legend except one person, and that was Miss Elaine, Sir Godfrey's only daughter, eighteen years old at the last Court of Piepoudre, when her father (after paying all the farmers for all the cows and sheep they told him had been eaten by the Dragon since the last Court) had made his customary proclamation, to wit: his good-will and protection to all his tenantry; and if any man, woman, child, or other person, caused his daughter, Miss Elaine, to hear anything about the legend, such tale-bearer should be chained to a tree, and kept fat until the Dragon found him and ate him. So everybody obligingly kept the Baron's secret.
Sir Godfrey is just this day returned from France with some famous tuns of wine, and presents for Elaine and Mrs. Mistletoe. His humour is (or was, till Whelpdale, poor wretch! answered the bell) of the best possible. And now, this moment, he is being told by the luckless Buttons that the Dragon of Wantley has taken to drinking, as well as eating, what does not belong to him; has for the last three nights burst the big gates of the wine-cellar that open on the hillside the Manor stands upon; that a hogshead of the Baron's best Burgundy is going; and that two hogsheads of his choicest Malvoisie are gone!
One hundred and twenty-eight gallons in three nights' work! But I suppose a fire-breathing Dragon must be very thirsty.
There was a dead silence in the study overhead, and old Popham's calves were shaking loose as he waited.
"And so you stood by and let this black, sneaking, prowling, thieving" (here the Baron used some shocking expressions which I shall not set down) "Dragon swill my wine?"
"St—st—stood by, your ludship?" said little Whelpdale. "No, sir; no one didn't do any standing by, sir. He roared that terrible, sir, we was all under the bed."
"Now, by my coat of mail and great right leg!" shouted Sir Godfrey. The quaking Popham heard no more. The door of the private staircase flew open with a loud noise, and down came little Whelpdale head over heels into the buttery. After him strode Sir Godfrey in full mail armour, clashing his steel fists against the banisters. The nose-piece of his helmet was pushed up to allow him to speak plainly,—and most plainly did he speak, I can assure you, all the way down stairs, keeping his right eye glaring upon Popham in one corner of the buttery, and at the same time petrifying Whelpdale with his left. From father to son, the Disseisins had always been famous for the manner in which they could straddle their eyes; and in Sir Godfrey the family trait was very strongly marked.
Arrived at the bottom, he stopped for a moment to throw a ham through the stained-glass window, and then made straight for Popham. But the head Butler was an old family servant, and had learned to know his place.
With surprising agility he hopped on a table, so that Sir Godfrey's foot flew past its destined goal and caught a shelf that was loaded with a good deal of his wedding china. The Baron was far too dignified a person to take any notice of this mishap, and he simply strode on, out of the buttery, and so through the halls of the Manor, where all who caught even the most distant sight of his coming, promptly withdrew into the privacy of their apartments.
How his Daughter, Miss Elaine, behaued in Consequence
The Baron walked on, his rage mounting as he went, till presently he began talking aloud to himself. "Mort d'aieul and Cosenage!" he muttered, grinding his teeth over these oaths; "matters have come to a pretty pass, per my and per tout! And this is what my wine-bibbing ancestor has brought on his posterity by his omission to fight for the True Faith!"
Sir Godfrey knew the outrageous injustice of this remark as well as you or I do; and so did the portrait of his ancestor, which he happened to be passing under, for the red nose in the tapestry turned a deeper ruby in scornful anger. But, luckily for the nerves of its descendant, the moths had eaten its mouth away so entirely, that the retort it attempted to make sounded only like a faint hiss, which the Baron mistook for a little gust of wind behind the arras.
"My ruddy Burgundy!" he groaned, "going, going! and my rich, fruity Malvoisie,—all gone! Father Anselm didn't appreciate it, either, that night he dined here last September. He said I had put egg-shells in it. Egg-shells! Pooh! As if any parson could talk about wine. These Church folk had better mind their business, and say grace, and eat their dinner, and be thankful. That's what I say. Egg-shells, forsooth!" The Baron was passing through the chapel, and he mechanically removed his helmet; but he did not catch sight of the glittering eye of Father Anselm himself, who had stepped quickly into the confessional, and there in the dark watched Sir Godfrey with a strange, mocking smile. When he had the chapel to himself again, the tall gray figure of the Abbot appeared in full view, and craftily moved across the place. If you had been close beside him, and had listened hard, you could have heard a faint clank and jingle beneath his gown as he moved, which would have struck you as not the sort of noise a hair-shirt ought to make. But I am glad you were not there; for I do not like the way the Abbot looked at all, especially so near Christmas-tide, when almost every one somehow looks kinder as he goes about in the world. Father Anselm moved out of the chapel, and passed through lonely corridors out of Wantley Manor, out of the court-yard, and so took his way to Oyster-le-Main in the gathering dusk. The few people who met him received his blessing, and asked no questions; for they were all serfs of the glebe, and well used to meeting the Abbot going and coming near Wantley Manor.
Meanwhile, Sir Godfrey paced along. "To think," he continued, aloud, "to think the country could be rid of this monster, this guzzling serpent, in a few days! Plenty would reign again. Public peace of mind would be restored. The cattle would increase, the crops would grow, my rents treble, and my wines be drunk no more by a miserable, ignorant—but, no! I'm her father. Elaine shall never be permitted to sacrifice herself for one dragon, or twenty dragons, either."
"Why, what's the matter, papa?"
Sir Godfrey started. There was Miss Elaine in front of him; and she had put on one of the new French gowns he had brought over with him.
"Matter? Plenty of matter!" he began, unluckily. "At least, nothing is the matter at all, my dear. What a question! Am I not back all safe from the sea? Nothing is the matter, of course! Hasn't your old father been away from you two whole months? And weren't those pretty dresses he has carried back with him for his little girl? And isn't the wine—Zounds, no, the wine isn't—at least, certainly it is—to be sure it's what it ought to be—what it ought to be? Yes! But, Mort d'aieul! not where it ought to be! Hum! hum! I think I am going mad!" And Sir Godfrey, forgetting he held the helmet all this while, dashed his hands to his head with such violence that the steel edge struck hard above the ear, and in one minute had raised a lump there as large as the egg of a fowl.
"Poor, poor papa," said Miss Elaine. And she ran and fetched some cold water, and, dipping her dainty lace handkerchief into it, she bathed the Baron's head.
"Thank you, my child," he murmured, presently. "Of course, nothing is the matter. They were very slow in putting the new" (here he gave a gulp) "casks of wine into the cellar; that's all. 'Twill soon be dinner-time. I must make me ready."
And so saying, the Baron kissed his daughter and strode away towards his dressing-room. But she heard him shout "Mort d'aieul!" more than once before he was out of hearing. Then his dressing-room door shut with a bang, and sent echoes all along the entries above and below.
The December night was coming down, and a little twinkling lamp hung at the end of the passage. Towards this Miss Elaine musingly turned her steps, still squeezing her now nearly dry handkerchief.
"What did he mean?" she said to herself.
"Elaine!" shouted Sir Godfrey, away off round a corner.
"Yes, papa, I'm coming."
"Don't come. I'm going to the bath. A—did you hear me say anything particular?"
"Do you mean when I met you?" answered Elaine. "Yes—no—that is,—not exactly, papa."
"Then don't dare to ask me any questions, for I won't have it." And another door slammed.
"What did papa mean?" said Miss Elaine, once more.
Her bright brown eyes were looking at the floor as she walked slowly on towards the light, and her lips, which had been a little open so that you could have seen what dainty teeth she had, shut quite close. In fact, she was thinking, which was something you could seldom accuse her of. I do not know exactly what her thoughts were, except that the words "dragon" and "sacrifice" kept bumping against each other in them continually; and whenever they bumped, Miss Elaine frowned a little deeper, till she really looked almost solemn. In this way she came under the hanging lamp and entered the door in front of which it shone.
This was the ladies' library, full of the most touching romances about Roland, and Walter of Aquitaine, and Sir Tristram, and a great number of other excitable young fellows, whose behaviour had invariably got them into dreadful difficulties, but had as invariably made them, in the eyes of every damsel they saw, the most attractive, fascinating, sweet, dear creatures in the world. Nobody ever read any of these books except Mrs. Mistletoe and the family Chaplain. These two were, indeed, the only people in the household that knew how to read,—which may account for it in some measure. It was here that Miss Elaine came in while she was thinking so hard, and found old Mistletoe huddled to the fire. She had been secretly reading the first chapters of a new and pungent French romance, called "Roger and Angelica," that was being published in a Paris and a London magazine simultaneously. Only thus could the talented French author secure payment for his books in England; for King John, who had recently murdered his little nephew Arthur, had now turned his attention to obstructing all arrangements for an international copyright. In many respects, this monarch was no credit to his family.
When the Governess heard Miss Elaine open the door behind her, she thought it was the family Chaplain, and, quickly throwing the shocking story on the floor, she opened the household cookery-book,—an enormous volume many feet square, suspended from the ceiling by strong chains, and containing several thousand receipts for English, French, Italian, Croatian, Dalmatian, and Acarnanian dishes, beginning with a poem in blank verse written to his confectioner by the Emperor Charles the Fat. German cooking was omitted.
"I'm looking up a new plum-pudding for Christmas," said Mistletoe, nervously, keeping her virtuous eyes on the volume.
"Ah, indeed!" Miss Elaine answered, indifferently. She was thinking harder than ever,—was, in fact, inventing a little plan.
"Oh, so it's you, deary!" cried the Governess, much relieved. She had feared the Chaplain might pick up the guilty magazine and find its pages cut only at the place where the French story was. And I am grieved to have to tell you that this is just what he did do later in the evening, and sat down in his private room and read about Roger and Angelica himself.
"Here's a good one," said Mistletoe. "Number 39, in the Appendix to Part Fourth. Chop two pounds of leeks and——"
"But I may not be here to taste it," said Elaine.
"Bless the child!" said Mistletoe. "And where else would you be on Christmas-day but in your own house?"
"Perhaps far away. Who knows?"
"You haven't gone and seen a young man and told him——"
"A young man, indeed!" said Elaine, with a toss of her head. "There's not a young man in England I would tell anything save to go about his business."
Miss Elaine had never seen any young men except when they came to dine on Sir Godfrey's invitation; and his manner on those occasions so awed them that they always sat on the edge of their chairs, and said, "No, thank you," when the Baron said, "Have some more capon?" Then the Baron would snort, "Nonsense! Popham, bring me Master Percival's plate," upon which Master Percival invariably simpered, and said that really he did believe he would take another slice. After these dinners, Miss Elaine retired to her own part of the house; and that was all she ever saw of young men, whom she very naturally deemed a class to be despised as silly and wholly lacking in self-assertion.
"Then where in the name of good saints are you going to be?" Mistletoe went on.
"Why," said Elaine, slowly (and here she looked very slyly at the old Governess, and then quickly appeared to be considering the lace on her dress), "why, of course, papa would not permit me to sacrifice myself for one dragon or twenty dragons."
"What!" screamed Mistletoe, all in a flurry (for she was a fool). "What?"
"Of course, I know papa would say that," said Miss Elaine, demure as possible.
"Oh, mercy me!" squeaked Mistletoe; "we are undone!"
"To be sure, I might agree with papa," said the artful thing, knowing well enough she was on the right track.
"Oo—oo!" went the Governess, burying her nose in the household cookery-book and rocking from side to side.
"But then I might not agree with papa, you know. I might think,—might think——" Miss Elaine stopped at what she might think, for really she hadn't the slightest idea what to say next.
"You have no right to think,—no right at all!" burst out Mistletoe. "And you sha'n't be allowed to think. I'll tell Sir Godfrey at once, and he'll forbid you. Oh, dear! oh, dear! just before Christmas Eve, too! The only night in the year! She has no time to change her mind; and she'll be eaten up if she goes, I know she will. What villain told you of this, child? Let me know, and he shall be punished at once."
"I shall not tell you that," said Elaine.
"Then everybody will be suspected," moaned Mistletoe. "Everybody. The whole household. And we shall all be thrown to the Dragon. Oh, dear! was there ever such a state of things?" The Governess betook herself to weeping and wringing her hands, and Elaine stood watching her and wondering how in the world she could find out more. She knew now just enough to keep her from eating or sleeping until she knew everything.
"I don't agree with papa, at all," she said, during a lull in the tears. This was the only remark she could think of.
"He'll lock you up, and feed you on bread and water till you do—oo—oo!" sobbed Mistletoe; "and by that time we shall all be ea—ea—eaten up!"
"But I'll talk to papa, and make him change his mind."
"He won't. Do you think you're going to make him care more about a lot of sheep and cows than he does about his only daughter? Doesn't he pay the people for everything the Dragon eats up? Who would pay him for you, when you were eaten up?"
"How do you know that I should be eaten up?" asked Miss Elaine.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear! and how could you stop it? What could a girl do alone against a dragon in the middle of the night?"
"But on Christmas Eve?" suggested the young lady. "There might be something different about that. He might feel better, you know, on Christmas Eve."
"Do you suppose a wicked, ravenous dragon with a heathen tail is going to care whether it is Christmas Eve or not? He'd have you for his Christmas dinner, and that's all the notice he would take of the day. And then perhaps he wouldn't leave the country, after all. How can you be sure he would go away, just because that odious, vulgar legend says so? Who would rely on a dragon? And so there you would be gone, and he would be here, and everything!"
Mistletoe's tears flowed afresh; but you see she had said all that Miss Elaine was so curious to know about, and the fatal secret was out.
The Quarter-Bell rang for dinner, and both the women hastened to their rooms to make ready; Mistletoe still boo-hooing and snuffling, and declaring that she had always said some wretched, abominable villain would tell her child about that horrid, ridiculous legend, that was a perfect falsehood, as anybody could see, and very likely invented by the Dragon himself, because no human being with any feelings at all would think of such a cruel, absurd idea; and if they ever did, they deserved to be eaten themselves; and she would not have it.
She said a great deal more that Elaine, in the next room, could not hear (though the door was open between), because the Governess put her fat old face under the cold water in the basin, and, though she went on talking just the same, it only produced an angry sort of bubbling, which conveyed very little notion of what she meant.
So they descended the stairway, Miss Elaine walking first, very straight and solemn; and that was the way she marched into the banquet-hall, where Sir Godfrey waited.
"Papa," said she, "I think I'll meet the Dragon on Christmas Eve!"
Reueals the Dragon in his Den
Around the sullen towers of Oyster-le-Main the snow was falling steadily. It was slowly banking up in the deep sills of the windows, and Hubert the Sacristan had given up sweeping the steps. Patches of it, that had collected on the top of the great bell as the slanting draughts blew it in through the belfry-window, slid down from time to time among the birds which had nestled for shelter in the beams below. From the heavy main outer-gates, the country spread in a white unbroken sheet to the woods. Twice, perhaps, through the morning had wayfarers toiled by along the nearly-obliterated high-road.
"Good luck to the holy men!" each had said to himself as he looked at the chill and austere walls of the Monastery. "Good luck! and I hope that within there they be warmer than I am." Then I think it very likely that as he walked on, blowing the fingers of the hand that held his staff, he thought of his fireside and his wife, and blessed Providence for not making him pious enough to be a monk and a bachelor.
This is what was doing in the world outside. Now inside the stone walls of Oyster-le-Main, whose grim solidity spoke of narrow cells and of pious knees continually bent in prayer, not a monk paced the corridors, and not a step could be heard above or below in the staircase that wound up through the round towers. Silence was everywhere, save that from a remote quarter of the Monastery came a faint sound of music. Upon such a time as Christmas Eve, it might well be that carols in plenty would be sung or studied by the saintly men. But this sounded like no carol. At times the humming murmur of the storm drowned the measure, whatever it was, and again it came along the dark, cold entries, clearer than before. Away in a long vaulted room, whose only approach was a passage in the thickness of the walls, safe from the intrusion of the curious, a company is sitting round a cavernous chimney, where roars and crackles a great blazing heap of logs. Surely, for a monkish song, their melody is most odd; yet monks they are, for all are clothed in gray, like Father Anselm, and a rope round the waist of each. But what can possibly be in that huge silver rundlet into which they plunge their goblets so often? The song grows louder than ever.
We are the monks of Oyster-le-Main, Hooded and gowned as fools may see; Hooded and gowned though we monks be, Is that a reason we should abstain From cups of the gamesome Burgundie?
Though our garments make it plain That we are Monks of Oyster-le-Main, That is no reason we should abstain From cups of the gamesome Burgundie.
"I'm sweating hot," says one. "How for disrobing, brothers? No danger on such a day as this, foul luck to the snow!"
Which you see was coarse and vulgar language for any one to be heard to use, and particularly so for a godly celibate. But the words were scarce said, when off fly those monks' hoods, and the waist-ropes rattle as they fall on the floor, and the gray gowns drop down and are kicked away.
Every man jack of them is in black armour, with a long sword buckled to his side.
"Long cheer to the Guild of Go-as-you-Please!" they shouted, hoarsely, and dashed their drinking-horns on the board. Then filled them again.
"Give us a song, Hubert," said one. "The day's a dull one out in the world."
"Wait a while," replied Hubert, whose nose was hidden in his cup; "this new Wantley tipple is a vastly comfortable brew. What d'ye call the stuff?"
"Malvoisie, thou oaf?" said another; "and of a delicacy many degrees above thy bumpkin palate. Leave profaning it, therefore, and to thy refrain without more ado."
"Most unctuous sir," replied Hubert, "in demanding me this favour, you seem forgetful that the juice of Pleasure is sweeter than the milk of Human Kindness. I'll not sing to give thee an opportunity to outnumber me in thy cups."
And he filled and instantly emptied another sound bumper of the Malvoisie, lurching slightly as he did so. "Health!" he added, preparing to swallow the next.
"A murrain on such pagan thirst!" exclaimed he who had been toasted, snatching the cup away. "Art thou altogether unslakable? Is thy belly a lime-kiln? Nay, shalt taste not a single drop more, Hubert, till we have a stave. Come, tune up, man!"
"Give me but leave to hold the empty vessel, then," the singer pleaded, falling on one knee in mock supplication.
"Accorded, thou sot!" laughed the other. "Carol away, now!"
They fell into silence, each replenishing his drinking-horn. The snow beat soft against the window, and from outside, far above them, sounded the melancholy note of the bell ringing in the hour for meditation.
So Hubert began:
When the sable veil of night Over hill and glen is spread, The yeoman bolts his door in fright, And he quakes within his bed. Far away on his ear There strikes a sound of dread: Something comes! it is here! It is passed with awful tread. There's a flash of unholy flame; There is smoke hangs hot in the air: 'Twas the Dragon of Wantley came: Beware of him, beware!
But we beside the fire Sit close to the steaming bowl; We pile the logs up higher, And loud our voices roll.
When the yeoman wakes at dawn To begin his round of toil, His garner's bare, his sheep are gone, And the Dragon holds the spoil. All day long through the earth That yeoman makes his moan; All day long there is mirth Behind these walls of stone. For we are the Lords of Ease, The gaolers of carking Care, The Guild of Go-as-you-Please! Beware of us, beware!
So we beside the fire Sit down to the steaming bowl; We pile the logs up higher, And loud our voices roll.
The roar of twenty lusty throats and the clatter of cups banging on the table rendered the words of the chorus entirely inaudible.
"Here's Malvoisie for thee, Hubert," said one of the company, dipping into the rundlet. But his hand struck against the dry bottom. They had finished four gallons since breakfast, and it was scarcely eleven gone on the clock!
"Oh, I am betrayed!" Hubert sang out. Then he added, "But there is a plenty where that came from." And with that he reached for his gown, and, fetching out a bunch of great brass keys, proceeded towards a tall door in the wall, and turned the lock. The door swung open, and Hubert plunged into the dark recess thus disclosed. An exclamation of chagrin followed, and the empty hide of a huge crocodile, with a pair of trailing wings to it, came bumping out from the closet into the hall, giving out many hollow cracks as it floundered along, fresh from a vigourous kick that the intemperate minstrel had administered in his rage at having put his hand into the open jaws of the monster instead of upon the neck of the demijohn that contained the Malvoisie.
"Beshrew thee, Hubert!" said the voice of a new-comer, who stood eyeing the proceedings from a distance, near where he had entered; "treat the carcase of our patron saint with a more befitting reverence, or I'll have thee caged and put upon bread and water. Remember, that whosoever kicks that skin in some sort kicks me."
"Long life to the Dragon of Wantley!" said Hubert, reappearing, very dusty, but clasping a plump demijohn.
"Hubert, my lad," said the new-comer, "put back that vessel of inebriation; and, because I like thee well for thy youth and thy sweet voice, do not therefore presume too far with me."
A somewhat uneasy pause followed upon this; and while Hubert edged back into the closet with his demijohn, Father Anselm frowned slightly as his eyes turned upon the scene of late hilarity.
But where is the Dragon in his den? you ask. Are we not coming to him soon? Ah, but we have come to him. You shall hear the truth. Never believe that sham story about More of More Hall, and how he slew the Dragon of Wantley. It is a gross fabrication of some unscrupulous and mediocre literary person, who, I make no doubt, was in the pay of More to blow his trumpet so loud that a credulous posterity might hear it. My account of the Dragon is the only true one.
Tells all about him
In those days of shifting fortunes, of turbulence and rapine, of knights-errant and minstrels seeking for adventure and love, and of solitary pilgrims and bodies of pious men wandering over Europe to proclaim that the duty of all was to arise and quell the pagan defilers of the Holy Shrine, good men and bad men, undoubted saints and unmistakable sinners, drifted forward and back through every country, came by night and by day to every household, and lived their lives in that unbounded and perilous freedom that put them at one moment upon the top limit of their ambition or their delight, and plunged them into violent and bloody death almost ere the moment was gone. It was a time when "fatten at thy neighbour's expense" was the one commandment observed by many who outwardly maintained a profound respect for the original ten; and any man whose wit taught him how this commandment could be obeyed with the greatest profit and the least danger was in high standing among his fellows.
Hence it was that Francis Almoign, Knight of the Voracious Stomach, cumbered with no domestic ties worthy of mention, a tall slim fellow who knew the appropriate hour to slit a throat or to wheedle a maid, came to be Grand Marshal of the Guild of Go-as-you-Please.
This secret band, under its Grand Marshal, roved over Europe and thrived mightily. Each member was as stout hearted a villain as you could see. Sometimes their doings came to light, and they were forced to hasten across the borders of an outraged territory into new pastures. Yet they fared well in the main, for they could fight and drink and sing; and many a fair one smiled upon them, in spite of their perfectly outrageous morals.
So, one day, they came into the neighbourhood of Oyster-le-Main, where much confusion reigned among the good monks. Sir Godfrey Disseisin over at Wantley had let Richard Lion Heart depart for the Holy Wars without him. "Like father like son," the people muttered in their discontent. "Sure, the Church will gravely punish this second offence." To all these whisperings of rumour the Grand Marshal of the Guild paid fast attention; for he was a man who laid his plans deeply, and much in advance of the event. He saw the country was fat and the neighbours foolish. He took note of the handsome tithes that came in to Oyster-le-Main for the support of the monks. He saw all these things, and set himself to thinking.
Upon a stormy afternoon, when the light was nearly gone out of the sky, a band of venerable pilgrims stood at the great gates of the Monastery. Their garments were tattered, their shoes were in sad disrepair. They had walked (they said) all the way from Jerusalem. Might they find shelter for the night? The tale they told, and the mere sight of their trembling old beards, would have melted hearts far harder than those which beat in the breasts of the monks of Oyster-le-Main. But above all, these pilgrims brought with them as convincing proofs of their journey a collection of relics and talismans (such as are to be met with only in Eastern countries) of great wonder and virtue. With singular generosity, which they explained had been taught them by the Arabs, they presented many of these treasures to the delighted inmates of the Monastery, who hastened to their respective cells,—this one reverently cherishing a tuft of hair from the tail of one of Daniel's lions; another handling with deep fervour a strip of the coat of many colours once worn by the excellent Joseph. But the most extraordinary relic among them all was the skin of a huge lizard beast, the like of which none in England had ever seen. This, the Pilgrims told their hosts, was no less a thing than a crocodile from the Nile, the renowned river of Moses. It had been pressed upon them, as they were departing from the City of Damascus, by a friend, a blameless chiropodist, whose name was Omar Khayyam. He it was who eked out a pious groat by tending the feet of all outward and inward bound pilgrims. Seated at the entrance of his humble booth, with the foot of some holy man in his lap, he would speak words of kindness and wisdom as he reduced the inflammation. One of his quaintest sayings was, "If the Pope has bid thee wear hair next thy bare skin, my son, why, clap a wig over thy shaven scalp." So the monks in proper pity and kindness, when they had shut the great gates as night came down, made their pilgrim guests welcome to bide at Oyster-le-Main as long as they pleased. The solemn bell for retiring rolled forth in the darkness with a single deep clang, and the sound went far and wide over the neighbouring district. Those peasants who were still awake in their scattered cottages, crossed themselves as they thought, "The holy men at Oyster-le-Main are just now going to their rest."
And thus the world outside grew still, and the thick walls of the Monastery loomed up against the stars.
Deep in the midnight, many a choking cry rang fearfully through the stony halls, but came not to the outer air; and the waning moon shone faintly down upon the enclosure of the garden, where worked a band of silent grave-diggers, clad in black armour, and with blood-red hands. The good country folk, who came at early morning with their presents of poultry and milk, little guessed what sheep's clothing the gray cowls and gowns of Oyster-le-Main had become in a single night, nor what impious lips those were which now muttered blessings over their bent heads.
The following night, hideous sounds were heard in the fields, and those who dared to open their shutters to see what the matter was, beheld a huge lizard beast, with fiery breath and accompanied by rattling thunder, raging over the soil, which he hardly seemed to touch!
In this manner did the dreaded Dragon of Wantley make his appearance, and in this manner did Sir Francis Almoign, Knight of the Voracious Stomach, stand in the shoes of that Father Anselm whom he had put so comfortably out of the way under the flower-beds in the Monastery garden,—and never a soul in the world except his companions in orgy to know the difference. He even came to be welcome at Sir Godfrey's table; for after the Dragon's appearance, the Baron grew civil to all members of the Church. By day this versatile sinner, the Grand Marshal, would walk in the sight of the world with staid step, clothed in gray, his hood concealing his fierce, unchurchly eyes; by night, inside the crocodile skin, he visited what places he chose, unhindered by the terrified dwellers, and after him came his followers of the Guild to steal the plunder and bear it back inside the walls of Oyster-le-Main. Never in all their adventures had these superb miscreants been in better plight; but now the trouble had begun, as you are going to hear. We return to Hubert and the company.
"Hubert and all of you," said Father Anselm, or rather Sir Francis, the Grand Marshal, as we know him to be, "they say that whom the gods desire to destroy, him do they first make drunk with wine."
"The application! the application!" they shouted in hoarse and mirthful chorus, for they were certainly near that state favourable to destruction by the gods. One black fellow with a sliding gait ran into the closet and brought a sheet of thin iron, and a strange torch-like tube, which he lighted at the fire and blew into from the other end. A plume of spitting flame immediately shot far into the air.
"Before thy sermon proceeds, old Dragon," he said, puffing unsteady but solemn breaths between his words, "wrap up in lightning and thunder that we may be—may be—lieve what you say." Then he shook the iron till it gave forth a frightful shattering sound. The Grand Marshal said not a word. With three long steps he stood towering in front of the man and dealt him a side blow under the ear with his steel fist. He fell instantly, folding together like something boneless, and lay along the floor for a moment quite still, except that some piece in his armour made a light rattling as though there were muscles that quivered beneath it. Then he raised himself slowly to a bench where his brothers sat waiting, soberly enough. Only young Hubert grinned aside to his neighbour, who, perceiving it, kept his eyes fixed as far from that youth as possible.
"Thy turn next, if art not careful, Hubert," said Sir Francis very quietly, as he seated himself.
"Wonder of saints!" Hubert thought secretly, not moving at all, "how could he have seen that?"
"'Tis no small piece of good fortune," continued the Grand Marshal, "that some one among us can put aside his slavish appetites, and keep a clear eye on the watch against misadventure. Here is my news. That hotch-pot of lies we set going among the people has fallen foul of us. The daughter of Sir Godfrey has heard our legend, and last week told her sire that to-night she would follow it out to the letter, and meet the Dragon of Wantley alone in single combat."
"Has she never loved any man?" asked one.
"She fulfils every condition."
"Who told her?"
"That most consummate of fools, the Mistletoe," said the Grand Marshal.
"What did Sir Godfrey do upon that?" inquired Hubert.
"He locked up his girl and chained the Governess to a rock, where she has remained in deadly terror ever since, but kept fat for me to devour her. Me!" and Sir Francis permitted himself to smile, though not very broadly.
"How if Sir Dragon had found the maid chained instead of the ancient widow?" Hubert said, venturing to tread a little nearer to familiarity on the strength of the amusement which played across the Grand Master's face.
"Ah, Hubert boy," he replied, "I see it is not in the Spring only, but in Autumn and Summer and Winter as well, that thy fancy turns to thoughts of love. Did the calendar year but contain a fifth season, in that also wouldst thou be making honey-dew faces at somebody."
But young Hubert only grinned, and closed his flashing eyes a little, in satisfaction at the character which had been given him.
"Time presses," Sir Francis said. "By noon we shall receive an important visit. There has been a great sensation at Wantley. The country folk are aroused; the farmers have discovered that the secret of our legend has been revealed to Miss Elaine. Not one of the clowns would have dared reveal it himself, but all rejoice in the bottom of their hearts that she knows it, and chooses to risk battle with the Dragon. Their honest Saxon minds perceive the thrift of such an arrangement. Therefore there is general anxiety and disturbance to know if Sir Godfrey will permit the conflict. The loss of his Malvoisie tried him sorely,—but he remains a father."
"That's kind in him," said Hubert.
Sir Francis turned a cold eye on Hubert. "As befits a clean-blooded man," he proceeded, "I have risen at the dawn and left you wine-pots in your thick sleep. From the wood's edge over by Wantley I've watched the Baron come eagerly to an upper window in his white night-shift. And when he looks out on Mistletoe and sees she is not devoured, he bursts into a rage that can be plainly seen from a distance. These six mornings I laughed so loud at this spectacle, that I almost feared discovery. Next, the Baron visits his daughter, only to find her food untasted and herself silent. I fear she is less of a fool than the rest. But now his paternal heart smites him, and he has let her out. Also the Governess is free."
"Such a girl as that would not flinch from meeting our Dragon," said Hubert; "aye, or from seeking him."
"She must never meet the Dragon," Sir Francis declared. "What could I do shut up in the crocodile, and she with a sword, of course?"
They were gloomily silent.
"I could not devour her properly as a dragon should. Nor could I carry her away," pursued Sir Francis.
Here Hubert, who had gone to the window, returned hastily, exclaiming, "They are coming!"
"Who are coming?" asked several.
"The Baron, his daughter, the Governess, and all Wantley at their backs, to ask our pious advice," said the Grand Marshal. "Quick, into your gowns, one and all! Be monks outside, though you stay men underneath." For a while the hall was filled with jostling gray figures entangled in the thick folds of the gowns, into which the arms, legs, and heads had been thrust regardless of direction; the armour clashed invisible underneath as the hot and choked members of the Guild plunged about like wild animals sewed into sacks, in their struggles to reappear in decent monastic attire. The winged crocodile was kicked into the closet, after it were hurled the thunder machine and the lightning torch, and after them clattered the cups and the silver rundlet. Barely had Hubert turned the key, when knocking at the far-off gate was heard.
"Go down quickly, Hubert," said the Grand Marshal, "and lead them all here."
Presently the procession of laity, gravely escorted by Hubert, began to file into the now barren-looking room, while the monks stood with hands folded, and sang loudly what sounded to the uninstructed ears of each listener like a Latin hymn.
In which the Hero makes his first Appearance & is at Once locked up.
With the respect that was due to holy men, Sir Godfrey removed his helmet, and stood waiting in a decent attitude of attention to the hymn, although he did not understand a single word of it. The long deliberate Latin words rolled out very grand to his ear, and, to tell you the truth, it is just as well his scholarship was faulty, for this is the English of those same words:
"It is my intention To die in a tavern, With wine in the neighbourhood, Close by my thirsty mouth; That angels in chorus May sing, when they reach me,— 'Let Bacchus be merciful Unto this wine-bibber.'"
But so devoutly did the monks dwell upon the syllables, so earnestly were the arms of each one folded against his breast, that you would never have suspected any unclerical sentiments were being expressed. The proximity of so many petticoats and kirtles caused considerable restlessness to Hubert; but he felt the burning eye of the Grand Marshal fixed upon him, and sang away with all his might.
Sir Godfrey began to grow impatient.
"Hem!" he said, moving his foot slightly.
This proceeding, however, was without result. The pious chant continued to resound, and the monks paid not the least attention to their visitors, but stood up together in a double line, vociferating Latin with as much zest as ever.
"Mort d'aieul!" growled Sir Godfrey, shifting his other foot, and not so gingerly this second time.
By chance the singing stopped upon the same instant, so that the Baron's remark and the noise his foot had made sounded all over the room. This disconcerted him; for he felt his standing with the Church to be weak, and he rolled his eyes from one side to the other, watching for any effect his disturbance might have made. But, with the breeding of a true man of the world, the Grand Marshal merely observed, "Benedicite, my son!"
"Good-morning, Father," returned Sir Godfrey.
"And what would you with me?" pursued the so-called Father Anselm. "Speak, my son."
"Well, the fact is——" the Baron began, marching forward; but he encountered the eye of the Abbot, where shone a cold surprise at this over-familiar fashion of speech; so he checked himself, and, in as restrained a voice as he could command, told his story. How his daughter had determined to meet the Dragon, and so save Wantley; how nothing that a parent could say had influenced her intentions in the least; and now he placed the entire matter in the hands of the Church.
"Which would have been more becoming if you had done it at the first," said Father Anselm, reprovingly. Then he turned to Miss Elaine, who all this while had been looking out of the window with the utmost indifference.
"How is this, my daughter?" he said gravely, in his deep voice.
"Oh, the dear blessed man!" whispered Mistletoe, admiringly, to herself.
"It is as you hear, Father," said Miss Elaine, keeping her eyes away.
"And why do you think that such a peril upon your part would do away with this Dragon?"
"Says not the legend so?" she replied.
"And what may the legend be, my daughter?"
With some surprise that so well informed a person as Father Anselm should be ignorant of this prominent topic of the day, Sir Godfrey here broke in and narrated the legend to him with many vigourous comments.
"Ah, yes," said the Father, smiling gently when the story was done; "I do now remember that some such child's tale was in the mouths of the common folk once; but methought the nonsense was dead long since."
"The nonsense, Father!" exclaimed Elaine.
"Of a surety, my child. Dost suppose that Holy Church were so unjust as to visit the sins of thy knightly relatives upon the head of any weak woman, who is not in the order of creation designed for personal conflict with men, let alone dragons?"
"Bravo, Dragon!" thought Hubert, as he listened to this wily talk of his chief.
But the words "weak woman" had touched the pride of Miss Elaine. "I know nothing of weak women," she said, very stately; "but I do know that I am strong enough to meet this Dragon, and, moreover, firmly intend to do so this very night."
"Peace, my daughter," said the monk; "and listen to the voice of thy mother the Church speaking through the humblest of her servants. This legend of thine holds not a single grain of truth. 'Tis a conceit of the common herd, set afoot by some ingenious fellow who may have thought he was doing a great thing in devising such fantastic mixture. True it is that the Monster is a visitation to punish the impiety of certain members of thy family. True it is that he will not depart till a member of that family perform a certain act. But it is to be a male descendant."
Now Sir Godfrey's boy Roland was being instructed in knightly arts and conduct away from home.
"Who told you that?" inquired the Baron, as the thought of his precious wine-cellar came into his head.
"On last Christmas Eve I had a vision," replied Father Anselm. "Thy grandfather, the brave youth who by journeying to the Holy War averted this curse until thine own conduct caused it to descend upon us, appeared to me in shining armour. 'Anselm,' he said, and raised his right arm, 'the Dragon is a grievous burden on the people. I can see that from where I am. Now, Anselm, when the fitting hour shall come, and my great-grandson's years be mature enough to have made a man of him, let him go to the next Holy War that is proclaimed, and on the very night of his departure the curse will be removed and our family forgiven. More than this, Anselm, if any male descendant from me direct shall at any time attend a Crusade when it is declared, the country will be free forever.' So saying, he dissolved out of my sight in a silver gleaming mist." Here Father Anselm paused, and from under his hood watched with a trifle of anxiety the effect of his speech.
There was a short silence, and then Sir Godfrey said, "Am I to understand this thing hangs on the event of another Crusade?"
The Abbot bowed.
"Meanwhile, till that event happen, the Dragon can rage unchecked?"
The Abbot bowed again.
"Will there be another Crusade along pretty soon?" Sir Godfrey pursued.
"These things lie not in human knowledge," replied Father Anselm. He little dreamed what news the morrow's sun would see.
"Oh, my sheep!" groaned many a poor farmer.
"Oh, my Burgundy!" groaned Sir Godfrey.
"In that case," exclaimed Elaine, her cheeks pink with excitement, "I shall try the virtue of the legend, at any rate."
"Most impious, my daughter, most impious will such conduct be in the sight of Mother Church," said Father Anselm.
"Hear me, all people!" shouted Sir Godfrey, foreseeing that before the next Crusade came every drop of wine in his cellar would be swallowed by the Dragon; "hear me proclaim and solemnly promise: legend true or legend false, my daughter shall not face this risk. But if her heart go with it, her hand shall be given to that man who by night or light brings me this Dragon, alive or dead!"
"A useless promise, Sir Godfrey!" said Father Anselm, shrugging his shoulders. "We dare not discredit the word of thy respected grandsire."
"My respected grandsire be——"
"What?" said the Abbot.
"Became a credit to his family," said the Baron, quite mildly; "and I slight no word of his. But he did not contradict this legend in the vision, I think."
"No, he did not, papa," Miss Elaine put in. "He only mentioned another way of getting rid of this horrible Dragon. Now, papa, whatever you may say about—about my heart and hand," she continued firmly, "I am going to meet the Monster alone myself, to-night."
"That you shall not," said Sir Godfrey.
"A hundred times no!" said a new voice from the crowd. "I will meet him myself!"
All turned and saw a knight pushing his way through the people.
"Who are you?" inquired the Baron.
The stranger bowed haughtily; and Elaine watched him remove his helmet, and reveal underneath it the countenance of a young man who turned to her, and——
Why, what's this, Elaine? Why does everything seem to swim and grow misty as his eye meets yours? And why does he look at you so, and deeply flush to the very rim of his curly hair? And as his glance grows steadier and more intent upon your eyes that keep stealing over at him, can you imagine why his hand trembles on the hilt of his sword? Don't you remember what the legend said?
"Who are you?" the Baron repeated, impatiently.
"I am Geoffrey, son of Bertram of Poictiers," answered the young man.
"And what," asked Father Anselm, with a certain irony in his voice, "does Geoffrey, son of Bertram of Poictiers, so far away from his papa in this inclement weather?"
The knight surveyed the monk for a moment, and then said, "As thou art not my particular Father Confessor, stick to those matters which concern thee."
This reply did not please any man present, for it seemed to savour of disrespect. But Elaine lost no chance of watching the youth, who now stood alone in the middle of the hall. Sir Francis detected this, and smiled with a sly smile.
"Will some person inquire of this polite young man," he said, "what he wishes with us?"
"Show me where this Dragon of Wantley comes," said Geoffrey, "for I intend to slay him to-night."
"Indeed, sir," fluttered Elaine, stepping towards him a little, "I hope—that is, I beg you'll do no such dangerous thing as that for my sake."
"For your sake?" Father Anselm broke in. "For your sake? And why so? What should Elaine, daughter of Sir Godfrey Disseisin, care for the carcase of Geoffrey, son of Bertram of Poictiers?"
But Elaine, finding nothing to answer, turned rosy pink instead.
"That rules you out!" exclaimed the Father, in triumph. "Your legend demands a maid who never has cared for any man."
"Pooh!" said Geoffrey, "leave it to me."
"Seize him!" shouted Sir Godfrey in a rage. "He had ruled out my daughter." Consistency had never been one of the Baron's strong points.
"Seize him!" said Father Anselm. "He outrages Mother Church."
The vassals closed up behind young Geoffrey, who was pinioned in a second. He struggled with them till the veins stood out in his forehead in blue knots; but, after all, one young man of twenty is not much among a band of stout yeomen; and they all fell in a heap on the floor, pulling and tugging at Geoffrey, who had blacked several eyes, and done in a general way as much damage as he possibly could under the circumstances.
But Elaine noticed one singular occurrence. Not a monk had moved to seize the young man, except one, who rushed forward, and was stopped, as though struck to stone, by Father Anselm's saying to him in a terrible undertone, "Hubert!"
Simply that word, spoken quickly; but not before this Hubert had brushed against her so that she was aware that there was something very hard and metallic underneath his gray gown. She betrayed no sign of knowledge or surprise on her face, however, but affected to be absorbed wholly in the fortunes of young Geoffrey, whom she saw collared and summarily put into a cage-like prison whose front was thick iron bars, and whose depth was in the vast outer wall of the Monastery, with a little window at the rear, covered with snow. The spring-lock of the gate shut upon him.
"And now," said Father Anselm, as the Monastery bell sounded once more, "if our guests will follow us, the mid-day meal awaits us below. We will deal with this hot-head later," he added, pointing to the prisoner.
So they slowly went out, leaving Geoffrey alone with his thoughts.
Miss Elaine loses her Heart & finds Something of the greatest Importance.
Down stairs the Grace was said, and the company was soon seated and ready for their mid-day meal.
"Our fare," said Father Anselm pleasantly to Sir Godfrey, who sat on his right, "is plain, but substantial."
"Oh—ah, very likely," replied the Baron, as he received a wooden basin of black-bean broth.
"Our drink is——"
The Baron lifted his eye hopefully.
"——remarkably pure water," Father Anselm continued. "Clement!" he called to the monk whose turn it was that day to hand the dishes, "Clement, a goblet of our well-water for Sir Godfrey Disseisin. One of the large goblets, Clement. We are indeed favoured, Baron, in having such a pure spring in the midst of our home."
"Oh—ah!" observed the Baron again, and politely nerved himself for a swallow. But his thoughts were far away in his own cellar over at Wantley, contemplating the casks whose precious gallons the Dragon had consumed. Could it be the strength of his imagination, or else why was it that through the chilling, unwelcome liquid he was now drinking he seemed to detect a lurking flavour of the very wine those casks had contained, his favourite Malvoisie?
Father Anselm noticed the same taste in his own cup, and did not set it down to imagination, but afterwards sentenced Brother Clement to bread and water during three days, for carelessness in not washing the Monastery table-service more thoroughly.
"This simple food keeps you in beautiful health, Father," said Mistletoe, ogling the swarthy face of the Abbot with an affection that he duly noted.
"My daughter," he replied, gravely, "bodily infirmity is the reward of the glutton. I am well, thank you."
Meanwhile, Elaine did not eat much. Her thoughts were busy, and hurrying over recent events. Perhaps you think she lost her heart in the last Chapter, and cannot lose it in this one unless it is given back to her. But I do not agree with you; and I am certain that, if you suggested such a notion to her, she would become quite angry, and tell you not to talk such foolish nonsense. People are so absurd about hearts, and all that sort of thing! No: I do not really think she has lost her heart yet; but as she sits at table these are the things she is feeling:
1. Not at all hungry.
2. Not at all thirsty.
3. What a hateful person that Father Anselm is!
4. Poor, poor young man!
5. Not that she thinks of him in that way, of course. The idea! Horrid Father Anselm!
6. Any girl at all—no, not girl, anybody at all—who had human justice would feel exactly as she did about the whole matter.
7. He was very good-looking, too.
8. Did he have—yes, they were blue. Very, very dark blue.
9. And a moustache? Well, yes.
Here she laughed, but no one noticed her idling with her spoon. Then her eyes filled with tears, and she pretended to be absorbed with the black-bean broth, though, as a matter of fact, she did not see it in the least.
10. Why had he come there at all?
11. It was a perfect shame, treating him so.
12. Perhaps they were not blue, after all. But, oh! what a beautiful sparkle was in them!
After this, she hated Father Anselm worse than ever. And the more she hated him, the more some very restless delicious something made her draw long breaths. She positively must go up-stairs and see what He was doing and what He really looked like. This curiosity seized hold of her and set her thinking of some way to slip away unseen. The chance came through all present becoming deeply absorbed in what Sir Godfrey was saying to Father Anselm.
"Such a low, coarse, untaught brute as a dragon," he explained, "cannot possibly distinguish good wine from bad."
"Of a surety, no!" responded the monk.
"You agree with me upon that point?" said the Baron.
"Most certainly. Proceed."
"Well, I'm going to see that he gets nothing but the cider and small beer after this."
"But how will you prevent him, if he visit your cellar again?" Father Anselm inquired.
"I shall change all the labels, in the first place," the Baron answered.
"Ha! vastly well conceived," said Father Anselm. "You will label your Burgundy as if it were beer."
"And next," continued Sir Godfrey, "I shall shift the present positions of the hogsheads. That I shall do to-day, after relabelling. In the northern corner of the first wine vault I shall——"
Just as he reached this point, it was quite wonderful how strict an attention every monk paid to his words. They leaned forward, forgetting their dinner, and listened with all their might.
One of them, who had evidently received an education, took notes underneath the table. Thus it was that Elaine escaped observation when she left the refectory.
As she came up-stairs into the hall where Geoffrey was caged, she stepped lightly and kept where she could not be seen by him. All was quiet when she entered; but suddenly she heard the iron bars of the cage begin to rattle and shake, and at the same time Geoffrey's voice broke out in rage.
"I'll twist you loose," he said, "you—(rattle, shake)—you—(kick, bang)——" And here the shocking young man used words so violent and wicked that Elaine put her hands tight over her ears. "Why, he is just as dreadful as papa, just exactly!" she exclaimed to herself. "Whoever would have thought that that angelic face—but I suppose they are all like that sometimes." And she took her hands away again.
"Yes, I will twist you loose," he was growling hoarsely, while the kicks and wrenches grew fiercer than ever, "or twist myself stark, staring blind—and——"
"Oh, sir!" she said, running out in front of the cage.
He stopped at once, and stood looking at her. His breast-plate and gauntlets were down on the floor, so his muscles might have more easy play in dealing with the bars. Elaine noticed that the youth's shirt was of very costly Eastern silk.
"I was thinking of getting out," he said at length, still standing and looking at her.
"I thought I might—that is—you might——" began Miss Elaine, and stopped. Upon which another silence followed.
"Lady, who sent you here?" he inquired.
"Oh, they don't know!" she replied, hastily; and then, seeing how bright his face became, and hearing her own words, she looked down, and the crimson went over her cheeks as he watched her.
"Oh, if I could get out!" he said, desperately. "Lady, what is your name, if I might be so bold."
"My name, sir, is Elaine. Perhaps there is a key somewhere," she said.
"And I am called Geoffrey," he said, in reply.
"I think we might find a key," Elaine repeated.
She turned towards the other side of the room, and there hung a great bunch of brass keys dangling from the lock of a heavy door.
Ah, Hubert! thou art more careless than Brother Clement, I think, to have left those keys in such a place!
Quickly did Elaine cross to that closed door, and laid her hand upon the bunch. The door came open the next moment, and she gave a shriek to see the skin of a huge lizard-beast fall forward at her feet, and also many cups and flagons, that rolled over the floor, dotting it with little drops of wine.
Hearing Elaine shriek, and not able to see from his prison what had befallen her, Geoffrey shouted out in terror to know if she had come to any hurt.
"No," she told him; and stood eyeing first the crocodile's hide and then the cups, setting her lips together very firmly. "And they were not even dry," she said after a while. For she began to guess a little of the truth.
"Not dry? Who?" inquired Geoffrey.
"Oh, Geoffrey!" she burst out in deep anger, and then stopped, bewildered. But his heart leaped to hear her call his name.
"Are there no keys?" he asked.
"Keys? Yes!" she cried, and, running with them back to the bars, began trying one after another in trembling haste till the lock clicked pleasantly, and out marched young Geoffrey.
Now what do you suppose this young man did when he found himself free once more, and standing close by the lovely young person to whom he owed his liberty? Did he place his heels together, and let his arms hang gracefully, and so bow with respect and a manner at once dignified and urbane, and say, "Miss Elaine, permit me to thank you for being so kind as to let me out of prison?" That is what he ought to have done, of course, if he had known how to conduct himself like a well-brought-up young man. But I am sorry to have to tell you that Geoffrey did nothing of the sort, but, instead of that, behaved in a most outrageous manner. He did not thank her at all. He did not say one single word to her. He simply put one arm round her waist and gave her a kiss!
"Geoffrey!" she murmured, "don't!"
But Geoffrey did, with the most astonishing and complacent disobedience.
"Oh, Geoffrey!" she whispered, looking the other way, "how wrong of you! And of me!" she added a little more softly still, escaping from him suddenly, and facing about.
"I don't see that," said Geoffrey. "I love you, Elaine. Elaine, darling, I——"
"Oh, but you mustn't!" answered she, stepping back as he came nearer.
This was simply frightful! And so sudden. To think of her—Elaine!—but she couldn't think at all. Happy? Why, how wicked! How had she ever——
"No, you must not," she repeated, and backed away still farther.
"But I will!" said this lover, quite loudly, and sprang so quickly to where she stood that she was in his arms again, and this time without the faintest chance of getting out of them until he should choose to free her.
It was no use to struggle now, and she was still, like some wild bird. But she knew that she was really his, and was glad of it. And she looked up at him and said, very softly, "Geoffrey, we are wasting time."
"Oh, no, not at all," said Geoffrey.
"But we are."
"Say that you love me."
"But haven't I—ah, Geoffrey, please don't begin again."
"Say that you love me."
Then, taking his hand, she led him to the door she had opened. He stared at the crocodile, at the wine-cups, and then he picked up a sheet of iron and a metal torch.
"I suppose it is their museum," he said; "don't you?"
"Their museum! Geoffrey, think a little."
"They seem to keep very good wine," he remarked, after smelling at the demijohn.
"Don't you see? Can't you understand?" she said.
"No, not a bit. What's that thing, do you suppose?" he added, giving the crocodile a kick.
"Oh, me, but men are simple, men are simple!" said Elaine, in despair. "Geoffrey, listen! That wine is my father's wine, from his own cellar. There is none like it in all England."
"Then I don't see why he gave it to a parcel of monks," replied the young man.
Elaine clasped her hands in hopelessness, gave him a kiss, and became mistress of the situation.
"Now, Geoffrey," she said, "I will tell you what you and I have really found out." Then she quickly recalled all the recent events. How her father's cellar had been broken into; how Mistletoe had been chained to a rock for a week and no dragon had come near her. She bade him remember how just now Father Anselm had opposed every plan for meeting the Dragon, and at last she pointed to the crocodile.
"Ha!" said Geoffrey, after thinking for a space. "Then you mean——"
"Of course I do," she interrupted. "The Dragon of Wantley is now down-stairs with papa eating dinner, and pretending he never drinks anything stronger than water. What do you say to that, sir?"
"This is a foul thing!" cried the knight. "Here have I been damnably duped. Here——" but speech deserted him. He glared at the crocodile with a bursting countenance, then drove his toe against it with such vigour that it sailed like a foot-ball to the farther end of the hall.
"Papa has been duped, and everybody," said Elaine. "Papa's French wine——"
"They swore to me in Flanders I should find a real dragon here," he continued, raging up and down, and giving to the young lady no part of his attention. She began to fear he was not thinking of her.
"Geoffrey——" she ventured.
"They swore it. They had invited me to hunt a dragon with them in Flanders,—Count Faux Pas and his Walloons. We hunted day and night, and the quest was barren. They then directed me to this island of Britain, in which they declared a dragon might be found by any man who so desired. They lied in their throats. I have come leagues for nothing." Here he looked viciously at the distant hide of the crocodile. "But I shall slay the monk," he added. "A masquerading caitiff! Lying varlets! And all for nothing! The monk shall die, however."
"Have you come for nothing, Geoffrey?" murmured Elaine.
"Three years have I been seeking dragons in all countries, chasing deceit over land and sea. And now once more my dearest hope falls empty and stale. Why, what's this?" A choking sound beside him stopped the flow of his complaints.
"Oh, Geoffrey,—oh, miserable me!" The young lady was dissolved in tears.
"You said you had come for n—nothing, and it was all st—stale."
"Ha, I am a fool, indeed! But it was the Dragon, dearest. I had made so sure of an honest one in this adventure."
"Oh, oh!" went Miss Elaine, with her head against his shoulder.
"There, there! You're sweeter than all the dragons in the world, my little girl," said he. And although this does not appear to be a great compliment, it comforted her wonderfully in the end; for he said it in her ear several times without taking his lips away. "Yes," he continued, "I was a fool. By your father's own word you're mine. I have caught the Dragon. Come, my girl! We'll down to the refectory forthwith and denounce him."
With this, he seized Elaine's hand and hastily made for the stairs.
"But hold, Geoffrey, hold! Oh—I am driven to act not as maidens should," sighed Elaine. "He it is who ought to do the thinking. But, dear me! he does not know how. Do you not see we should both be lost, were you to try any such wild plan?"
"Not at all. Your father would give you to me."
"Oh, no, no, Geoffrey; indeed, papa would not. His promise was about a dragon. A live or a dead dragon must be brought to him. Even if he believed you now, even if that dreadful Father Anselm could not invent some lie to put us in the wrong, you and I could never—that is—papa would not feel bound by his promise simply because you did that. There must be a dragon somehow."
"How can there be a dragon if there is not a dragon?" asked Geoffrey.
"Wait, wait, Geoffrey! Oh, how can I think of everything all at once?" and Elaine pressed her hands to her temples.
"Darling," said the knight, with his arms once more around her, "let us fly now."
"Now? They would catch us at once."
"Catch us! not they! with my sword——"
"Now, Geoffrey, of course you are brave. But do be sensible. You are only one. No! I won't even argue such nonsense. They must never know about what we have been doing up here; and you must go back into that cage at once."
"What, and be locked up, and perhaps murdered to-night, and never see your face again?"
"But you shall see me again, and soon. That is what I am thinking about."
"How can you come in here, Elaine?"
"You must come to me. I have it! To-night, at half-past eleven, come to the cellar-door at the Manor, and I will be there to let you in. Then we can talk over everything quietly. I have no time to think now."
"The cellar! at the Manor! And how, pray, shall I get out of that cage?"
"Cannot you jump from the little window at the back?"
Geoffrey ran in to see. "No," he said, returning; "it is many spans from the earth."
Elaine had hurried into the closet, whence she returned with a dusty coil of rope. "Here, Geoffrey; quickly! put it about your waist. Wind it so. But how clumsy you are!"
He stood smiling down at her, and she very deftly wound the cord up and down, over and over his body, until its whole length lay comfortably upon him.
"Now, your breast-plate, quick!"
She helped him put his armour on again; and, as they were engaged at that, singing voices came up the stairs from the distant dining-hall.
"The Grace," she exclaimed; "they will be here in a moment."
Geoffrey took a last kiss, and bolted into his cage. She, with the keys, made great haste to push the crocodile and other objects once more into their hiding-place. Cups and flagons and all rattled back without regard to order, as they had already been flung not two hours before. The closet-door shut, and Elaine hung the keys from the lock as she had found them.
"Half-past eleven," she said to Geoffrey, as she ran by his cage towards the stairs.
"One more, darling,—please, one! through the bars!" he besought her, in a voice so tender, that for my part I do not see how she had the heart to refuse him. But she continued her way, and swiftly descending the stairs was found by the company, as they came from the hall, busily engaged in making passes with Sir Godfrey's sword, which he had left leaning near the door.
"A warlike daughter, Sir Godfrey!" said Father Anselm.
"Ah, if I were a man to go on a Crusade!" sighed Miss Elaine.
"Hast thou, my daughter," said Father Anselm, "thought better of thy rash intentions concerning this Dragon?"
"I am travelling towards better thoughts, Father," she answered.
But Sir Francis did not wholly believe the young lady; and was not at rest until Sir Godfrey assured him her good conduct should be no matter of her own choosing.
"You see," insinuated the Abbot, "so sweet a maid as yours would be a treat for the unholy beast. A meal like that would incline him to remain in a neighbourhood where such dainties were to be found."
"I'll have no legends and fool's tricks," exclaimed the Baron. "She shall be locked in her room to-night."
"Not if she can help it," thought Miss Elaine. Her father had imprudently spoken too loud.
"'Twere a wise precaution," murmured Father Anselm. "What are all the vintages of this earth by the side of a loving daughter?"
"Quite so, quite so!" Sir Godfrey assented. "Don't you think," he added, wistfully, "that another Crusade may come along soon?"
"Ah, my son, who can say? Tribulation is our meted heritage. Were thy thoughts more high, the going of thy liquors would not cause thee such sorrow. Learn to enjoy the pure cold water."
"Good-afternoon," said the Baron.
When all the guests had departed and the door was shut safe behind them, the Father and his holy companions broke into loud mirth. "The Malvoisie is drunk up," said they; "to-night we'll pay his lordship's cellars another visit."
Shows what curious Things you may see, if you don't go to Bed when you are sent
To have steered a sudden course among dangerous rocks and rapids and come safe through, puts in the breast of the helmsman a calm content with himself, for which no man will blame him. What in this world is there so lifts one into complacency as the doing of a bold and cool-headed thing? Let the helmsman sleep sound when he has got to land! But if his content overtake him still on the water, so that he grows blind to the treacherous currents that eddy where all looks placid to the careless eye, let him beware!
Sir Francis came in front of the cage where sat young Geoffrey inside, on the floor. The knight had put his head down between his knees, and seemed doleful enough.
"Aha!" thought Sir Francis, giving the motionless figure a dark look, "my hawk is moulting. We need scarcely put a hood on such a tersel."
Next he looked at the shut door of the closet, and a shaft of alarm shot through him to see the keys hanging for anybody to make use of them that pleased. He thought of Elaine, and her leaving the table without his seeing her go. What if she had paid this room a visit?
"Perhaps that bird with head under wing in there," he mused, looking once more at Geoffrey, "is not the simple-witted nestling he looks. My son!" he called.
But the youth did not care to talk, and so showed no sign.
"My son, peace be with you!" repeated Father Anselm, coming to the bars and wearing a benevolent mien.
Geoffrey remained quite still.
"If repentance for thy presumption hath visited thee——" went on the Father.
"Hypocrite!" was the word that jumped to the youth's lips; but fortunately he stopped in time, and only moved his legs with some impatience.
"I perceive with pain, my son," said Father Anselm, "that repentance hath not yet visited thee. Well, 'twill come. And that's a blessing too," he added, sighing very piously.
"He plays a part pretty well," thought Geoffrey as he listened. "So will I." Then he raised his head.
"How long am I to stay in this place?" he inquired, taking a tone of sullen humour, such as he thought would fit a prisoner.
"Certainly until thy present unbridled state of sin is purged out of thee," replied the Father.
"Under such a dose as thou art," Geoffrey remarked, "that will be soon."
"This is vain talk, my son," said the Abbot. "Were I of the children of this world, my righteous indignation——"
"Pooh!" said Geoffrey.
"——would light on thee heavily. But we who have renounced the world and its rottenness" (here his voice fell into a manner of chanting) "make a holiday of forgiving injuries, and find a pleasure even in pain."
"Open this door then," Geoffrey answered, "and I'll provide thee with a whole week of joy."
"Nay," said Father Anselm, "I had never gathered from thy face that thou wert such a knave."
"At least in the matter of countenances I have the advantage of thee," the youth observed.
"I perceive," continued the Father, "that I must instruct thy spirit in many things,—submission, among others. Therefore thou shalt bide with us for a month or two."
"That I'll not!" shouted Geoffrey, forgetting his role of prisoner.
"She cannot unlock thee," Father Anselm said, with much art slipping Elaine into the discourse.
Geoffrey glared at the Abbot, who now hoped to lay a trap for him by means of his temper. So he went further in the same direction. "Her words are vainer than most women's," he said; "though a lover would trust in them, of course."
The knight swelled in his rage, and might have made I know not what unsafe rejoinder; but the cords that Elaine had wound about him naturally tightened as he puffed out, and seemed by their pressure to check his speech and bid him be wary. So he changed his note, and said haughtily, "Because thy cowl and thy gown shield thee, presume not to speak of one whose cause I took up in thy presence, and who is as high above thee in truth as she is in every other quality and virtue."
"This callow talk, my son," said the Abbot quietly, "wearies me much. Lay thee down and sleep thy sulks off, if thou art able." Upon this, he turned away to the closet where hung the brass keys, and opened the door a-crack. He saw the hide of the crocodile leaning against it, and the overturned cups. "Just as that boy Hubert packed them," he thought to himself in satisfaction; "no one has been prying here. I flatter myself upon a skilful morning's work. I have knocked the legend out of the Baron's head. He'll see to it the girl keeps away. And as for yon impudent witling in the cage, we shall transport him beyond the seas, if convenient; if not, a knife in his gullet will make him forget the Dragon of Wantley. Truly, I am master of the situation!" And as his self-esteem grew, the Grand Marshal rubbed his hands, and went out of the hall, too much pleased with himself to notice certain little drops of wine dotted here and there close by the closet, and not yet quite dry, which, had his eye fallen upon them, might have set him a-thinking.