Edgar the Ready 14

Edgar the Ready 14

CHAPTER IX*

 

*The Encounter with Sir Gervaise*

 

 

When Edgar reached his tent, he found that Peter had not yet returned

since he had sent him off to keep watch upon all who came and went at

Sir Gervaise’s quarters. A meal had, however, been laid for him,

probably by Matthew, so, hardly knowing what was to be his next move and

feeling that he might soon need all his strength, Edgar sat down and ate

a hearty dinner. Then, as Peter had still not put in an appearance, he

returned to the scene of the tournament and made his way to the stand

where seats had been allotted to Sir John and his party. Somewhat to

his surprise, he found both Gertrude and Beatrice in their places.

 

“Hath any news good or ill reached you?” he asked, as he took his place

by their side.

 

“None,” replied Beatrice quickly. “We came hither because we could not

rest at the inn, and, besides, we thought that news might be most

plentiful where so many people were gathered together. We feel little

like enjoying the tourney, brilliant though it is, but we both were glad

to see thee gain the day in thine encounters.”

 

“I had not intended to take part,” replied Edgar, “but our captain,

Arthur Pomeroy, sought me out and dragged me with him to the lists.

Nevertheless, while it lasted, I enjoyed it right well.”

 

“Thy part was well done, but best of all, to my mind, was thy succouring

of poor Gaston Dugarde and the chance thou didst give to the mighty

Guilbert to meet thee face to face. Those deeds have been the talk of

the stand–far more so than thy powers with lance and sword. The one

rings of true chivalry, the other is known by a lesser name.”

 

“Mayhap,” replied Edgar, “but, even so, skill is not to be despised, for

often ’tis that that makes the other possible. But ’twas not of the

fight I wished to speak. I have forebodings that Sir Gervaise de Maupas

knoweth something of Sir John’s disappearance. I have set Peter to

watch his tent and to let me know who hath called upon him this morning.

He hath not yet returned, and, feeling impatient, I came to tell you and

to learn if perchance you had aught of news for me.”

 

“If thou thinkest ’tis De Maupas, wilt thou not denounce him to the

earl?” cried both Gertrude and Beatrice with one voice. “Surely so

dastardly a deed—-“

 

“Nay, nay, ladies, there is no evidence upon which I could cast such an

aspersion upon the name of a knight of fair fame. ’Twould be useless,

and would but put him upon his guard. Nay, I must proceed much more

cautiously.”

 

“But why should Sir Gervaise seek to do him harm in secret when he hath

full chance to defeat him in the lists?” objected Beatrice.

 

“But could he defeat him? And even if he did, would Sir John’s honour

have received so foul a blow as when he fails to answer to Sir

Gervaise’s challenge? No, the thing is planned to ruin Sir John’s

honour, and right well do I fear it will do so.”

 

“He will come,” cried Gertrude in desperation. “He will strain every

nerve to be in his place at the appointed time. Still will I look for

him.”

 

“I too hope–but surely, Edgar Wintour, there is something to be done!”

cried Beatrice impetuously. “Thou canst act well and strongly in the

lists–art lost when the real need comes outside? Thou art Sir John’s

esquire–appointed in the face of all thy comrades–and he looks to thee

for aid. Prove thy title. Once thou didst boast that when a time of

stress came upon us thou wouldst show thy worth.”

 

“I have done all that man could do,” cried Edgar, flushing deeply at the

bitter rebuke.

 

“Sir John must be found,” cried Beatrice, giving a reckless stamp of her

little foot.

 

Deeply mortified and not a little angry, Edgar bowed low, retired from

the stand, and strode wrathfully back to his tent. His way took him not

far from Sir Gervaise’s quarters, and as he went it occurred to him that

he might pass by and see what he could of Peter. As he drew near he saw

that Sir Gervaise stood at the door already half-armed, for the hour of

his encounter approached apace; and Edgar looked steadily at him to

discern, if possible, some sign of consciousness of villainy in his

strongly-marked features. Their eyes met, and Sir Gervaise beckoned him

to approach.

 

“See that thy master is ready and well equipped,” he said, with a smile

that maddened Edgar, “for I will humble his proud spirit this day–mark

well my words.”

 

Gulping back the torrent of speech that rushed to his lips, Edgar turned

and hurried on his way. In the second that he had met Sir Gervaise eye

to eye, a half-formed idea had hardened and tempered into a firm

resolve. Sir John’s life should be saved and Sir John’s honour should

not be lost.

 

Peter was awaiting him at his tent, his face aflame with eagerness and

excitement.

 

“Sir,” he cried breathlessly, “one of the men we suspected rode in from

the country but a half-hour agone and had speech with Sir Gervaise. I

lay down at the tent door as though sleeping in the sun, but could hear

naught. When the man came out, however, he was clinking money in his

hand and smiling.”

 

“Didst follow him?”

 

“I did; and I have learned both his name and his haunts.”

 

“Good! Say no more now, Peter, but call Matthew, for other and starker

work lieth before us.”

 

In a moment Matthew appeared.

 

“Saddle Sir John’s best charger, ’Furore’, and fetch it hither,” cried

Edgar. “Then bring out its armour and trappings, and make it ready for

the lists.”

 

“Ha,” cried Matthew joyously, “then thou hast news of Sir John!” and he

hurried off to do the esquire’s bidding.

 

“Now, Peter,” cried Edgar, flinging off his outer garments, “aid me to

don Sir John’s armour–quickly, lad, on thy life!”

 

“But Sir John—-“

 

“_I_ am Sir John this day. See thou sayest no more to anyone save

Matthew. Sir John’s honour must be saved, and saved it shall be if my

utmost efforts can compass it. With vizor down, who shall know that the

well-known horse and coat-armour hold not the knight, and that the

shield that beareth his blazonings is borne by another?”

 

Speechless with amazement, Peter strapped and buckled with might and

main, and Edgar was almost ready when Matthew entered for the horse’s

trappings.

 

When he saw who it was that was donning Sir John’s armour, he gave a

gasp of astonishment. Then gathering from Edgar’s set face the full

significance of the proceeding, his own took on a grim smile as, without

a word, he seized the horse’s gear and hurried from the tent.

 

“Wilt take thine own weapons?” enquired Peter presently.

 

“Nay. I will take Sir John’s and give no loophole to suspicion. Their

weight is little more than mine, and I feel strung to a pitch that would

make them feel light were they twice the weight.”

 

“And for gage? Wilt wear the lady Gertrude’s colours?”

 

“Nay. I fear I cannot do that, or she will be sure ’tis Sir John. I

will wear none, as in the mêlée. See now if ’Furore’ be ready.”

 

The horse was ready, and, carefully closing his vizor, Edgar stepped

outside and vaulted into the saddle. Shield and lance were handed up to

him, and after testing his charger’s gear to see that all was fast, he

prepared to start. Sir John’s armour was somewhat heavier than his own,

but he was so accustomed to wearing armour in his practices and so tense

with excitement and determination that he scarcely noticed it.

 

Edgar was now nineteen, and well grown and well developed. Though Sir

John was a man of more weighty build, he was no broader and but a

fraction taller. The armour, therefore, fitted the esquire well, and,

mounted upon “Furore” and with vizor closed, scarce his most intimate

friend would have known him from his master. The horse was a splendid

animal, far better than Edgar’s, and bore the weight of armour and rider

with ease and spirit.

 

It was now the hour for the encounter with Sir Gervaise, and in the

distance Edgar could hear the trumpets of the heralds announcing the

combat. He could picture De Maupas riding majestically into the lists,

confident of adding to his prestige by a victory by default against so

well-known an antagonist as Sir John Chartris. How he would make his

steed curvet and prance before the populace, as he rode round the lists

waiting in vain for his foe to answer to the challenge!

 

A second time the trumpets of the heralds rang out, and, setting spurs

to his horse, Edgar rode straight for the enclosure. “Furore” seemed to

enter fully into the spirit of the enterprise, and it was at a swinging

gallop that Edgar dashed suddenly into the lists.

 

A roar of applause arose from the whole circle of the spectators, who

were just beginning to wonder where Sir John Chartris might be. Without

a pause, Edgar rode to the earl’s stand and saluted. Then he paced on

down to his own end of the lists, saluting the Wolsingham ladies as he

passed them by.

 

“He hath come!” cried Gertrude, tense with excitement, the instant horse

and man appeared in the lists.

 

Beatrice followed her gaze, and for one instant joyfully agreed. Then

she began to doubt.

 

“Nay, nay, Gertrude, this cannot be Sir John. Where are thy colours?”

 

“He hath had no time—-“

 

“But Sir John is waxing on in years, and rideth heavily in his saddle.

This man rideth with an ease and spring as though younger and of a

lighter make. Hush–cry not out–’tis Edgar Wintour, of a certainty!’Tis to this that I have goaded him on!”

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