Page images
PDF
EPUB

It being now the duty of Prince John to name the knight who had done best, he determined that the honor of the day remained with the knight whom the popular voice had termed Le Noir Faineant. It was pointed out to the Prince, in impeachment of this decree, that the victory had been in fact won by the Disinherited Knight, who, in the course of the day, had overcome six champions with his own hand, and who had finally unhorsed and struck down the leader of the opposite party. But Prince John adhered to his own opinion, on the ground that the Disinherited Knight and his party had lost the day but for the powerful assistance of the Knight of the Black Armor, to whom, therefore, he persisted in awarding the prize.

To the surprise of all present, however, the knight thus preferred was nowhere to be found. He had left the lists immediately when the conflict ceased, and had been observed by some spectators to move down one of the forest glades with the same slow pace and listless and indifferent manner which had procured him the epithet of the Black Sluggard.17 After he had been summoned twice by sound of trumpet and proclamation of the heralds, it became necessary to name another to receive the honors which had been assigned to him. Prince John had now no further excuse for resisting the claim of the Disinherited Knight, whom, therefore, he named the champion of the day.

Through a field slippery with blood and encumbered with broken armor and the bodies of slain and wounded horses, the marshals again conducted the victor to the foot of Prince John's throne.

17. The Black Sluggard was the king of England, Richard the Lion-Hearted, who had been absent from England on a Crusade and had come back without allowing his brother John to know of his return.

"Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since by that title only you will consent to be known to us, we a second time award to you the honors of this tournament, and announce to you your right to claim and receive from the hands of the Queen of Love and Beauty the chaplet of honor which your valor has justly deserved."

The Knight bowed low and gracefully, but returned no answer.

While the trumpets sounded, while the heralds strained their voices in proclaiming honor to the brave and glory to the victor, while ladies waved their silken kerchiefs and embroidered veils, and while all ranks joined in a clamorous shout of exultation, the marshals conducted the Disinherited Knight across the lists to the foot of that throne of honor which was occupied by the Lady Rowena.

On the lower step of this throne the champion was made to kneel down. Indeed, his whole action since that the fight had ended seemed rather to have been upon the impulse of those around him than from his own free will; and it was observed that he tottered as they guided him the second time across the lists. Rowena, descending from her station with a graceful and dignified step, was about to place the chaplet which she held in her hand upon the helmet of the champion, when the marshals exclaimed with one voice, "It must not be thus; his head must be bare." The knight muttered faintly a few words, which were lost in the hollow of his helmet; but their purport seemed to be a desire that his casque might not be removed.

Whether from love of form or from curiosity, the marshals paid no attention to his expressions of reluctance, but unhelmed him by cutting the laces

[graphic]

ROWENA CROWNING DISINHERITED KNIGHT

of his casque, and undoing the fastening of his gorget. When the helmet was removed the well-formed yet sun-burned features of a young man of twentyfive were seen, amid a profusion of short fair hair. His countenance was as pale as death, and marked in one or two places with streaks of blood.

Rowena had no sooner beheld him that she uttered a faint shriek; but at once summoning up the energy of her disposition, and compelling herself, as it were, to proceed, while her frame yet trembled with the violence of sudden emotion, she placed upon the drooping head of the victor the splendid chaplet which was the destined reward of the day, and pronounced in a clear and distinct tone these words: "I bestow on thee this chaplet, Sir Knight, as the meed of valor assigned to this day's victor." Here she paused a moment, and then firmly added, "And upon brow more worthy could a wreath of chivalry never be placed!"

The knight stooped his head and kissed the hand of the lovely Sovereign by whom his valor had been rewarded; and then, sinking yet further forward, lay prostrate at her feet.

There was a general consternation. Cedric, who had been struck mute by the sudden appearance of his banished son, now rushed forward as if to separate him from Rowena. But this had been already accomplished by the marshals of the field, who, guessing the cause of Ivanhoe's swoon, had hastened to undo his armor, and found that the head of a lance had penetrated his breastplate and inflicted a wound in his side.

[graphic]

THE RAINBOW

By Thomas Campbell

,RIUMPHAL arch, that fill'st the sky
When storms prepare to part,
I ask not proud Philosophy
To teach me what thou art.

Still seem, as to my childhoods' sight,
A midway station given,
For happy spirits to alight,
Betwixt the earth and heaven.

Can all that optics teach, unfold

Thy form to please me so,
As when I dreamt of gems and gold

Hid in thy radiant bow?1

When science from creation's face

Enchantment's veil withdraws, What lovely visions yield their place

To cold material laws!

And yet, fair bow, no fabling dreams,

But words of the Most High,
Have told why first thy robe of beams

Was woven in the sky.2

1. There was an old, old belief that a pot of god was hidden at the end of the rainbow, and that whoever found his way to the spot might claim the gold. This superstition has existed in almost all lands, and references to it are constantly to be found in literature.

2. According to the account given in Genesis IX, God said to Noah after the flood:

"And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

« PreviousContinue »