Edgar the Ready 14
*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
“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
“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
“Sir John must be found,” cried Beatrice, giving a reckless stamp of her
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
“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
“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
“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
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!”