Edgar the Ready 12

Edgar the Ready 12

“Nothing, save that one of them spoke one day to Sir Gervaise de Maupas;

but as he flew into a violent rage at the man accosting him, I did not

think there could be any connection between them.”

 

“Ah!” groaned Edgar. “Then I fear the worst. I have not told thee,

Peter–and heavy is my responsibility for it–that emissaries of Sir

Gervaise did once attempt Sir John’s life. Sir John told me in order

that I might the better watch over his safety, and right badly have I

done it!”

 

“But scarce could we have prevented this, Master Edgar. None would have

thought of watching over Sir John while he was in the saddle and fully

armed.”

 

“Nay, but I might have warned him that assassins were on the lurk. But

this is no time for self-reproachings. I must do all I can to repair

the mischief done. Bring me a spare horse, Peter, and tell Matthew to

be in the saddle and ready waiting for me outside the north gate of the

town in a quarter of an hour. Late as it is, we must scour the

countryside. Sir John may be lying wounded in some lonely wood, or be

yet defending himself against cowardly adversaries. Quickly, Peter, for

thy master’s life!”

 

Peter limped away at the top of his speed, and Edgar quickly threw off

his outer clothes and put on a light shirt of mail made of tiny links of

interlaced steel, similar to that which Sir John, as a precaution

against his enemy, usually wore when not in armour. The shirt of mail

fitted closely, and when his doublet was donned once more no one would

have guessed that so thorough a protection lay hidden beneath its folds.

 

Quick as he was, the lad was back with his horse as soon as he was

ready, and Edgar instantly mounted and rode off into the town of

Bordeaux, first bidding Peter set to work to find, if possible, some

trace of the suspected men.

 

On arriving at the inn where the ladies Gertrude and Beatrice were

staying, Edgar found them still up, anxiously awaiting news.

 

“He hath not yet returned, then?” he cried, as he saw their anxious

faces.

 

“No. Surely someone hath seen him?” cried Gertrude in alarm.

 

“No one. But do not distress thyself so soon. I am going to sally out

with Matthew to scour the countryside, and if Sir John is anywhere near,

surely we shall come upon him. Doubtless he hath merely met with some

trifling accident that keepeth him back for a few hours.”

 

“Yes, Gertrude,” put in Beatrice, laying her hand on her friend’s arm,

“thy father is too hardy and experienced a warrior and horseman easily

to come to harm. I will warrant he will be back ere day dawns.

Nevertheless,” she went on, turning to Edgar, “thou hadst better make

search as thou hast purposed, Master Wintour, unless, indeed, thou art

fearful of spoiling thy chances in the mêlée to-morrow by passing the

night thus.”

 

“I care not a fig for the mêlée, so be it I can see Sir John back safe

and sound,” cried Edgar hastily, considerably nettled at the smile which

accompanied the last remark, and, saluting, he turned on his heel and

strode from the room. Here he paused for a moment, and, retracing his

steps, told the ladies it would be useless for them to wait up longer,

as the gates of the city would shortly close, and no one would be able

to pass either in or out before daybreak.

 

For some hours the night was moonlit, and Edgar and Matthew, dividing

the countryside between them, scoured it for miles and miles around.

Full of anxiety, for Edgar had communicated his fears to the

man-at-arms, they rode hard and fast, with little regard for their own

necks or the limits of the horses they bestrode, and by the time the sky

clouded over so that further real progress was impossible, they had

become convinced that Sir John was nowhere in the vicinity. Returning

to the camp, Edgar called Peter to him.

 

“Well, Peter, didst find out aught?”

 

“Nay, sir. None hath seen the two men of late, so perchance they know

naught of this matter, after all.”

 

“That, at least, is good news, and it may well turn out that nothing

serious hath happened to Sir John. Now, Peter, I am going to lie down

for an hour or two. Rouse me at daybreak, for I must acquaint the

ladies Gertrude and Beatrice of the poor success of my search as soon as

the city gates are open.”

 

Peter nodded and retired, and Edgar flung himself down just as he was,

and almost instantly fell into a deep slumber.

 

It was long after sunrise when he awoke, and furious with Peter for

letting him sleep so long, he hurried to the lad’s tent.

 

“Why did ye not call me, Peter?” he cried angrily.

 

“All is well, Master Edgar. I have been into the town, and have told

the ladies that there is no news, and that thou wert worn out with

searching, and sleeping heavily. I have hopes that thou wilt make thy

name in the mêlée to-day; but what chance would there be of thy doing

thyself justice after wearing thyself out riding all night long?”

 

Too angry to bandy words with the lad, and realizing, too, that it was

out of regard for him that he had disobeyed his orders, Edgar strode

back to his tent, hastily washed himself, and then rode into the town.

He had no good news to tell, and the ladies could not help but feel that

something serious must be keeping Sir John, or he would certainly have

either appeared in person or have sent someone to tell them of his

detention elsewhere. It was for them a time of anxiety and perplexity,

and Edgar could do little save suggest all sorts of accidents that might

have kept the knight back for a few hours.

 

One thing besides his master’s life, however, Edgar felt he had to

consider, and that was his honour. With the contest of the afternoon

Sir John’s honour was now closely bound up. The utmost publicity had

been given to the affair, and did he not appear and answer to the

challenge of Sir Gervaise de Maupas, he would be regarded on all sides

as a dishonoured knight. Edgar felt this most keenly, and resolved that

at all costs he would keep the secret of Sir John’s disappearance from

becoming known, so that if he returned at the last moment, as he might

well do, idle tongues would have had no cause to wag against him.

 

No one besides the ladies, Matthew, and Peter knew that Sir John was

missing, and all these he swore to silence. They were ready enough to

agree, for none could think that so experienced a warrior as Sir John

could have been overcome so easily as to disappear and leave no trace.

In fact, Matthew roundly declared that an hour or so before the contest

with Sir Gervaise was timed to commence would see him back, and the

others fervently hoped that he might prove to be right.

 

 

 

 

*CHAPTER VIII*

 

*The Lists of Bordeaux*

 

 

Completely forgetting that he was one of the seven chosen to do battle

for the English esquires against the best of their Gascon allies, Edgar

spent the little time left of the morning in making enquiries of all who

might have seen Sir John at any point during his afternoon’s

ride–countrymen coming in with carts laden with farm produce, the men

who had kept watch during the afternoon and evening along the outer side

of the camp, and any others who might possibly have some news to tell,

however meagre. His enquiries were quite fruitless, however, and his

fears that there might have been foul play gradually returned to him as

the morning wore on. At last he returned to the camp and sent for

Peter.

 

“Peter,” he said, “I want thee now to keep close watch to see who doth

visit Sir Gervaise de Maupas. I begin to feel once more that he is at

the bottom of the mischief; and it hath occurred to me that if his

emissaries have waylaid Sir John they will, if they have not done so

already, come to him to report the result of their vile plot. Keep

watch, then, and see who the men are, and if thou canst do so quietly,

call Matthew and scruple not to seize them on some pretext or another.

Pick a quarrel with them–anything, so long as ye lay hands on them and

keep them till I come.”

 

Peter nodded, as though in entire approval, and limped off upon his

errand, and Edgar turned to find Arthur Pomeroy, mounted and armed,

waiting for him with every sign of impatience a pace or two away.

 

“So this is the way thou dost spend the precious moments–gibbering with

stableboys and camp followers, Edgar Wintour,” he cried in a voice of

disgust. “’Tis but twenty minutes short of noon, and thou not in the

saddle and not a piece of thine armour girded on. Hast gone daft, man,

or forgotten that the onset sounds at noon?”

 

“I have been busy, Arthur, and could wish that thou wouldst find some

other to take my place. Let the best of those who were tried and passed

over take the lance in my stead–each of them was well worthy to

represent our squirehood to-day.”

 

“Tush, Edgar, talk not such nonsense! Rather would I hold back our

whole band until thou wert ready, though ’twere an hour. Get on thine

armour without more ado. Where is thy boy?”

 

“I have sent him upon an errand of great import to me. Give me a hand

and I will soon be ready.”

 

With an angry snort Arthur set spurs to his horse and galloped away

through the camp like a whirlwind. In half a minute he was back, and

two lads following at top speed proclaimed that he had not been idle.

 

“Come hither, varlets, and gird on this armour. Quickly, now, unless ye

wish the Frenchmen to get the better of us.”

 

Rapidly the pieces of armour were strapped and buckled on until Edgar

stood complete, a wall of shining steel.

 

“Where is thy gage?”

 

“I have none.”

 

“What? Hast thou no damsel to watch for thine entry into the lists?”

 

“Nay.”

 

Arthur shrugged his shoulders in perplexity. “Well, every man to his taste. Where is now thy horse? Where dost stable it?”

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