Tuesday, November 6, 2007



To My Friend
Here is a story that has lain dormant for seven hundred years. At first it
was suppressed by one of the Plantagenet kings of England. Later it was
forgotten. I happened to dig it up by accident. The accident being the
relationship of my wife's cousin to a certain Father Superior in a very
ancient monastery in Europe.
He let me pry about among a quantity of mildewed and musty manuscripts and
I came across this. It is very interesting -- partially since it is a bit
of hitherto unrecorded history, but principally from the fact that it
records the story of a most remarkable revenge and the adventurous life of
its innocent victim -- Richard, the lost prince of England.
In the retelling of it, I have left out most of the history. What
interested me was the unique character about whom the tale revolves -- the
visored horseman who -- but let us wait until we get to him.
It all happened in the thirteenth century, and while it was happening, it
shook England from north to south and from east to west; and reached across
the channel and shook France. It started, directly, in the London palace
of Henry III, and was the result of a quarrel between the King and his
powerful brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.
Never mind the quarrel, that's history, and you can read all about it at
your leisure. But on this June day in the year of our Lord 1243, Henry so
forgot himself as to very unjustly accuse De Montfort of treason in the
presence of a number of the King's gentlemen.
De Montfort paled. He was a tall, handsome man, and when he drew himself
to his full height and turned those gray eyes on the victim of his wrath,
as he did that day, he was very imposing. A power in England, second only
to the King himself, and with the heart of a lion in him, he answered the
King as no other man in all England would have dared answer him.
"My Lord King," he cried, "that you be my Lord King alone prevents Simon de
Montfort from demanding satisfaction for such a gross insult. That you
take advantage of your kingship to say what you would never dare say were
you not king, brands me not a traitor, though it does brand you a coward."
Tense silence fell upon the little company of lords and courtiers as these
awful words fell from the lips of a subject, addressed to his king. They
were horrified, for De Montfort's bold challenge was to them but little
short of sacrilege.
Henry, flushing in mortification and anger, rose to advance upon De
Montfort, but suddenly recollecting the power which he represented, he
thought better of whatever action he contemplated and, with a haughty
sneer, turned to his courtiers.
"Come, my gentlemen," he said, "methought that we were to have a turn with
the foils this morning. Already it waxeth late. Come, DeFulm ! Come,
Leybourn !" and the King left the apartment followed by his gentlemen, all
of whom had drawn away from the Earl of Leicester when it became apparent
that the royal displeasure was strong against him. As the arras fell
behind the departing King, De Montfort shrugged his broad shoulders, and
turning, left the apartment by another door.
When the King, with his gentlemen, entered the armory he was still smarting
from the humiliation of De Montfort's reproaches, and as he laid aside his
surcoat and plumed hat to take the foils with De Fulm, his eyes alighted on
the master of fence, Sir Jules de Vac, who was advancing with the King's
foil and helmet. Henry felt in no mood for fencing with De Fulm, who, like
the other sycophants that surrounded him, always allowed the King easily to
best him in every encounter.
De Vac he knew to be too jealous of his fame as a swordsman to permit
himself to be overcome by aught but superior skill, and this day Henry felt
that he could best the devil himself.
The armory was a great room on the main floor of the palace, off the guard
room. It was built in a small wing of the building so that it had light
from three sides. In charge of it was the lean, grizzled, leather-skinned
Sir Jules de Vac, and it was he whom Henry commanded to face him in mimic
combat with the foils, for the King wished to go with hammer and tongs at
someone to vent his suppressed rage.
So he let De Vac assume to his mind's eye the person of the hated De
Montfort, and it followed that De Vac was nearly surprised into an early
and mortifying defeat by the King's sudden and clever attack.
Henry III had always been accounted a good swordsman, but that day he quite
outdid himself and, in his imagination, was about to run the pseudo De
Montfort through the heart, to the wild acclaim of his audience. For this
fell purpose he had backed the astounded De Vac twice around the hall when,
with a clever feint, and backward step, the master of fence drew the King
into the position he wanted him, and with the suddenness of lightning, a
little twist of his foil sent Henry's weapon clanging across the floor of
the armory.
For an instant, the King stood as tense and white as though the hand of
death had reached out and touched his heart with its icy fingers. The
episode meant more to him than being bested in play by the best swordsman
in England -- for that surely was no disgrace -- to Henry it seemed
prophetic of the outcome of a future struggle when he should stand face to
face with the real De Montfort; and then, seeing in De Vac only the
creature of his imagination with which he had vested the likeness of his
powerful brother-in-law, Henry did what he should like to have done to the
real Leicester. Drawing off his gauntlet he advanced close to De Vac.
"Dog !" he hissed, and struck the master of fence a stinging blow across
the face, and spat upon him. Then he turned on his heel and strode from
the armory.
De Vac had grown old in the service of the kings of England, but he hated
all things English and all Englishmen. The dead King John, though hated by
all others, he had loved, but with the dead King's bones De Vac's loyalty
to the house he served had been buried in the Cathedral of Worcester.
During the years he had served as master of fence at the English Court, the
sons of royalty had learned to thrust and parry and cut as only De Vac
could teach the art, and he had been as conscientious in the discharge of
his duties as he had been in his unswerving hatred and contempt for his
And now the English King had put upon him such an insult as might only be
wiped out by blood.
As the blow fell, the wiry Frenchman clicked his heels together, and
throwing down his foil, he stood erect and rigid as a marble statue before
his master. White and livid was his tense drawn face, but he spoke no
He might have struck the King, but then there would have been left to him
no alternative save death by his own hand; for a king may not fight with a
lesser mortal, and he who strikes a king may not live -- the king's honor
must be satisfied.
Had a French king struck him, De Vac would have struck back, and gloried in
the fate which permitted him to die for the honor of France; but an English
King -- pooh ! a dog; and who would die for a dog ? No, De Vac would find
other means of satisfying his wounded pride. He would revel in revenge
against this man for whom he felt no loyalty. If possible, he would harm
the whole of England if he could, but he would bide his time. He could
afford to wait for his opportunity if, by waiting, he could encompass a
more terrible revenge.
De Vac had been born in Paris, the son of a French officer reputed the best
swordsman in France. The son had followed closely in the footsteps of his
father until, on the latter's death, he could easily claim the title of his
sire. How he had left France and entered the service of John of England is
not of this story. All the bearing that the life of Jules de Vac has upon
the history of England hinges upon but two of his many attributes -- his
wonderful swordsmanship and his fearful hatred for his adopted country.
South of the armory of Westminster Palace lay the gardens, and here, on the
third day following the King's affront to De Vac, might have been a seen a
black-haired woman gowned in a violet cyclas, richly embroidered with gold
about the yoke and at the bottom of the loose-pointed sleeves, which
reached almost to the similar bordering on the lower hem of the garment. A
richly wrought leathern girdle, studded with precious stones, and held in
place by a huge carved buckle of gold, clasped the garment about her waist
so that the upper portion fell outward over the girdle after the manner of
a blouse. In the girdle was a long dagger of beautiful workmanship.
Dainty sandals encased her feet, while a wimple of violet silk bordered in
gold fringe, lay becomingly over her head and shoulders.
By her side walked a handsome boy of about three, clad, like his companion,
in gay colors. His tiny surcoat of scarlet velvet was rich with
embroidery, while beneath was a close-fitting tunic of white silk. His
doublet was of scarlet, while his long hose of white were cross-gartered
with scarlet from his tiny sandals to his knees. On the back of his brown
curls sat a flat-brimmed, round-crowned hat in which a single plume of
white waved and nodded bravely at each move of the proud little head.
The child's features were well molded, and his frank, bright eyes gave an
expression of boyish generosity to a face which otherwise would have been
too arrogant and haughty for such a mere baby. As he talked with his
companion, little flashes of peremptory authority and dignity, which sat
strangely upon one so tiny, caused the young woman at times to turn her
head from him that he might not see the smiles which she could scarce
Presently the boy took a ball from his tunic, and, pointing at a little
bush near them, said, "Stand you there, Lady Maud, by yonder bush. I would
play at toss."
The young woman did as she was bid, and when she had taken her place and
turned to face him the boy threw the ball to her. Thus they played beneath
the windows of the armory, the boy running blithely after the ball when he
missed it, and laughing and shouting in happy glee when he made a
particularly good catch.
In one of the windows of the armory overlooking the garden stood a grim,
gray, old man, leaning upon his folded arms, his brows drawn together in a
malignant scowl, the corners of his mouth set in a stern, cold line.
He looked upon the garden and the playing child, and upon the lovely young
woman beneath him, but with eyes which did not see, for De Vac was working
out a great problem, the greatest of all his life.
For three days, the old man had brooded over his grievance, seeking for
some means to be revenged upon the King for the insult which Henry had put
upon him. Many schemes had presented themselves to his shrewd and cunning
mind, but so far all had been rejected as unworthy of the terrible
satisfaction which his wounded pride demanded.
His fancies had, for the most part, revolved about the unsettled political
conditions of Henry's reign, for from these he felt he might wrest that
opportunity which could be turned to his own personal uses and to the harm,
and possibly the undoing, of the King.
For years an inmate of the palace, and often a listener in the armory when
the King played at sword with his friends and favorites, De Vac had heard
much which passed between Henry III and his intimates that could well be
turned to the King's harm by a shrewd and resourceful enemy.
With all England, he knew the utter contempt in which Henry held the terms
of the Magna Charta which he so often violated along with his kingly oath
to maintain it. But what all England did not know, De Vac had gleaned from
scraps of conversation dropped in the armory: that Henry was even now
negotiating with the leaders of foreign mercenaries, and with Louis IX of
France, for a sufficient force of knights and men-at-arms to wage a
relentless war upon his own barons that he might effectively put a stop to
all future interference by them with the royal prerogative of the
Plantagenets to misrule England.
If he could but learn the details of this plan, thought De Vac: the point
of landing of the foreign troops; their numbers; the first point of
attack. Ah, would it not be sweet revenge indeed to balk the King in this
venture so dear to his heart !
A word to De Clare, or De Montfort would bring the barons and their
retainers forty thousand strong to overwhelm the King's forces.
And he would let the King know to whom, and for what cause, he was beholden
for his defeat and discomfiture. Possibly the barons would depose Henry,
and place a new king upon England's throne, and then De Vac would mock the
Plantagenet to his face. Sweet, kind, delectable vengeance, indeed ! And
the old man licked his thin lips as though to taste the last sweet vestige
of some dainty morsel.
And then Chance carried a little leather ball beneath the window where the
old man stood; and as the child ran, laughing, to recover it, De Vac's eyes
fell upon him, and his former plan for revenge melted as the fog before the
noonday sun; and in its stead there opened to him the whole hideous plot of
fearsome vengeance as clearly as it were writ upon the leaves of a great
book that had been thrown wide before him. And, in so far as he could
direct, he varied not one jot from the details of that vividly conceived
masterpiece of hellishness during the twenty years which followed.
The little boy who so innocently played in the garden of his royal father
was Prince Richard, the three-year-old son of Henry III of England. No
published history mentions this little lost prince; only the secret
archives of the kings of England tell the story of his strange and
adventurous life. His name has been blotted from the records of men; and
the revenge of De Vac has passed from the eyes of the world; though in his
time it was a real and terrible thing in the hearts of the English.
For nearly a month, the old man haunted the palace, and watched in the
gardens for the little Prince until he knew the daily routine of his tiny
life with his nurses and governesses.
He saw that when the Lady Maud accompanied him, they were wont to repair to
the farthermost extremities of the palace grounds where, by a little
postern gate, she admitted a certain officer of the Guards to whom the
Queen had forbidden the privilege of the court.
There, in a secluded bower, the two lovers whispered their hopes and plans,
unmindful of the royal charge playing neglected among the flowers and
shrubbery of the garden.
Toward the middle of July De Vac had his plans well laid. He had managed
to coax old Brus, the gardener, into letting him have the key to the little
postern gate on the plea that he wished to indulge in a midnight escapade,
hinting broadly of a fair lady who was to be the partner of his adventure,
and, what was more to the point with Brus, at the same time slipping a
couple of golden zecchins into the gardener's palm.
Brus, like the other palace servants, considered De Vac a loyal retainer of
the house of Plantagenet. Whatever else of mischief De Vac might be up to,
Brus was quite sure that in so far as the King was concerned, the key to
the postern gate was as safe in De Vac's hands as though Henry himself had
The old fellow wondered a little that the morose old master of fence
should, at his time in life, indulge in frivolous escapades more befitting
the younger sprigs of gentility, but, then, what concern was it of his ?
Did he not have enough to think about to keep the gardens so that his royal
master and mistress might find pleasure in the shaded walks, the well-kept
sward, and the gorgeous beds of foliage plants and blooming flowers which
he set with such wondrous precision in the formal garden ?
Further, two gold zecchins were not often come by so easily as this; and if
the dear Lord Jesus saw fit, in his infinite wisdom, to take this means of
rewarding his poor servant, it ill became such a worm as he to ignore the
divine favor. So Brus took the gold zecchins and De Vac the key, and the
little prince played happily among the flowers of his royal father's
garden, and all were satisfied; which was as it should have been.
That night, De Vac took the key to a locksmith on the far side of London;
one who could not possibly know him or recognize the key as belonging to
the palace. Here he had a duplicate made, waiting impatiently while the
old man fashioned it with the crude instruments of his time.
From this little shop, De Vac threaded his way through the dirty lanes and
alleys of ancient London, lighted at far intervals by an occasional smoky
lantern, until he came to a squalid tenement but a short distance from the
A narrow alley ran past the building, ending abruptly at the bank of the
Thames in a moldering wooden dock, beneath which the inky waters of the
river rose and fell, lapping the decaying piles and surging far beneath the
dock to the remote fastnesses inhabited by the great fierce dock rats and
their fiercer human antitypes.
Several times De Vac paced the length of this black alley in search of the
little doorway of the building he sought. At length he came upon it, and,
after repeated pounding with the pommel of his sword, it was opened by a
slatternly old hag.
"What would ye of a decent woman at such an ungodly hour ?" she grumbled.
"Ah, 'tis ye, my lord ?" she added, hastily, as the flickering rays of the
candle she bore lighted up De Vac's face. "Welcome, my Lord, thrice
welcome. The daughter of the devil welcomes her brother."
"Silence, old hag," cried De Vac. "Is it not enough that you leech me of
good marks of such a quantity that you may ever after wear mantles of
villosa and feast on simnel bread and malmsey, that you must needs burden
me still further with the affliction of thy vile tongue ?
"Hast thou the clothes ready bundled and the key, also, to this gate to
perdition ? And the room: didst set to rights the furnishings I had
delivered here, and sweep the century-old accumulation of filth and cobwebs
from the floor and rafters ? Why, the very air reeked of the dead Romans
who builded London twelve hundred years ago. Methinks, too, from the
stink, they must have been Roman swineherd who habited this sty with their
herds, an' I venture that thou, old sow, hast never touched broom to the
place for fear of disturbing the ancient relics of thy kin."
"Cease thy babbling, Lord Satan," cried the woman. "I would rather hear
thy money talk than thou, for though it come accursed and tainted from thy
rogue hand, yet it speaks with the same sweet and commanding voice as it
were fresh from the coffers of the holy church.
"The bundle is ready," she continued, closing the door after De Vac, who
had now entered, "and here be the key; but first let us have a payment. I
know not what thy foul work may be, but foul it is I know from the secrecy
which you have demanded, an' I dare say there will be some who would pay
well to learn the whereabouts of the old woman and the child, thy sister
and her son you tell me they be, who you are so anxious to hide away in old
Til's garret. So it be well for you, my Lord, to pay old Til well and add
a few guilders for the peace of her tongue if you would that your prisoner
find peace in old Til's house."
"Fetch me the bundle, hag," replied De Vac, "and you shall have gold
against a final settlement; more even than we bargained for if all goes
well and thou holdest thy vile tongue."
But the old woman's threats had already caused De Vac a feeling of
uneasiness, which would have been reflected to an exaggerated degree in the
old woman had she known the determination her words had caused in the mind
of the old master of fence.
His venture was far too serious, and the results of exposure too fraught
with danger, to permit of his taking any chances with a disloyal
fellow-conspirator. True, he had not even hinted at the enormity of the
plot in which he was involving the old woman, but, as she had said, his
stern commands for secrecy had told enough to arouse her suspicions, and
with them her curiosity and cupidity. So it was that old Til might well
have quailed in her tattered sandals had she but even vaguely guessed the
thoughts which passed in De Vac's mind; but the extra gold pieces he
dropped into her withered palm as she delivered the bundle to him, together
with the promise of more, quite effectually won her loyalty and her silence
for the time being.
Slipping the key into the pocket of his tunic and covering the bundle with
his long surcoat, De Vac stepped out into the darkness of the alley and
hastened toward the dock.
Beneath the planks. he found a skiff which he had moored there earlier in
the evening, and underneath one of the thwarts he hid the bundle. Then,
casting off, he rowed slowly up the Thames until, below the palace walls,
he moored near to the little postern gate which let into the lower end of
the garden.
Hiding the skiff as best he could in some tangled bushes which grew to the
water's edge, set there by order of the King to add to the beauty of the
aspect from the river side, De Vac crept warily to the postern and,
unchallenged, entered and sought his apartments in the palace.
The next day, he returned the original key to Brus, telling the old man
that he had not used it after all, since mature reflection had convinced
him of the folly of his contemplated adventure, especially in one whose
youth was past, and in whose joints the night damp of the Thames might find
lodgement for rheumatism.
"Ha, Sir Jules," laughed the old gardener, "Virtue and Vice be twin sisters
who come running to do the bidding of the same father, Desire. Were there
no desire there would be no virtue, and because one man desires what
another does not, who shall say whether the child of his desire be vice or
virtue ? Or on the other hand if my friend desires his own wife and if
that be virtue, then if I also desire his wife, is not that likewise
virtue, since we desire the same thing ? But if to obtain our desire it be
necessary to expose our joints to the Thames' fog, then it were virtue to
remain at home."
"Right you sound, old mole," said De Vac, smiling, "would that I might
learn to reason by your wondrous logic; methinks it might stand me in good
stead before I be much older."
"The best sword arm in all Christendom needs no other logic than the sword,
I should think," said Brus, returning to his work.
That afternoon, De Vac stood in a window of the armory looking out upon the
beautiful garden which spread before him to the river wall two hundred
yards away. In the foreground were box-bordered walks, smooth, sleek
lawns, and formal beds of gorgeous flowering plants, while here and there
marble statues of wood nymph and satyr gleamed, sparkling in the brilliant
sunlight, or, half shaded by an overhanging bush, took on a semblance of
life from the riotous play of light and shadow as the leaves above them
moved to and fro in the faint breeze. Farther in the distance, the river
wall was hidden by more closely massed bushes, and the formal, geometric
precision of the nearer view was relieved by a background of vine-colored
bowers, and a profusion of small trees and flowering shrubs arranged in
studied disorder.
Through this seeming jungle ran tortuous paths, and the carved stone
benches of the open garden gave place to rustic seats, and swings suspended
from the branches of fruit trees.
Toward this enchanting spot slowly were walking the Lady Maud and her
little charge, Prince Richard; all ignorant of the malicious watcher in the
window behind them.
A great peacock strutted proudly across the walk before them, and, as
Richard ran, childlike, after it, Lady Maud hastened on to the little
postern gate which she quickly unlocked, admitting her lover, who had been
waiting without. Relocking the gate the two strolled arm in arm to the
little bower which was their trysting place.
As the lovers talked, all self-engrossed, the little Prince played happily
about among the trees and flowers, and none saw the stern, determined face
which peered through the foliage at a little distance from the playing boy.
Richard was devoting his royal energies to chasing an elusive butterfly
which fate led nearer and nearer to the cold, hard watcher in the bushes.
Closer and closer came the little Prince, and in another moment, he had
burst through the flowering shrubs, and stood facing the implacable master
of fence.
"Your Highness," said De Vac, bowing to the little fellow, "let old DeVac
help you catch the pretty insect."
Richard, having often seen De Vac, did not fear him, and so together they
started in pursuit of the butterfly which by now had passed out of sight.
De Vac turned their steps toward the little postern gate, but when he would
have passed through with the tiny Prince, the latter rebelled.
"Come, My Lord Prince," urged De Vac, "methinks the butterfly did but
alight without the wall, we can have it and return within the garden in an
"Go thyself and fetch it," replied the Prince; "the King, my father, has
forbid me stepping without the palace grounds."
"Come," commanded De Vac, more sternly, "no harm can come to you."
But the child hung back and would not go with him so that De Vac was forced
to grasp him roughly by the arm. There was a cry of rage and alarm from
the royal child.
"Unhand me, sirrah," screamed the boy. "How dare you lay hands on a prince
of England ?"
De Vac clapped his hand over the child's mouth to still his cries, but it
was too late. The Lady Maud and her lover had heard and, in an instant,
they were rushing toward the postern gate, the officer drawing his sword as
he ran.
When they reached the wall, De Vac and the Prince were upon the outside,
and the Frenchman had closed and was endeavoring to lock the gate. But,
handicapped by the struggling boy, he had not time to turn the key before
the officer threw himself against the panels and burst out before the
master of fence, closely followed by the Lady Maud.
De Vac dropped the key and, still grasping the now thoroughly affrightened
Prince with his left hand, drew his sword and confronted the officer.
There were no words, there was no need of words; De Vac's intentions were
too plain to necessitate any parley, so the two fell upon each other with
grim fury; the brave officer facing the best swordsman that France had ever
produced in a futile attempt to rescue his young prince.
In a moment, De Vac had disarmed him, but, contrary to the laws of
chivalry, he did not lower his point until it had first plunged through the
heart of his brave antagonist. Then, with a bound, he leaped between Lady
Maud and the gate, so that she could not retreat into the garden and give
the alarm.
Still grasping the trembling child in his iron grip, he stood facing the
lady in waiting, his back against the door.
"Mon Dieu, Sir Jules," she cried, "hast thou gone mad ?"
"No, My Lady," he answered, "but I had not thought to do the work which now
lies before me. Why didst thou not keep a still tongue in thy head and let
his patron saint look after the welfare of this princeling ? Your rashness
has brought you to a pretty pass, for it must be either you or I, My Lady,
and it cannot be I. Say thy prayers and compose thyself for death."
Henry III, King of England, sat in his council chamber surrounded by the
great lords and nobles who composed his suit. He awaited Simon de
Montfort, Earl of Leicester, whom he had summoned that he might heap still
further indignities upon him with the intention of degrading and
humiliating him that he might leave England forever. The King feared this
mighty kinsman who so boldly advised him against the weak follies which
were bringing his kingdom to a condition of revolution.
What the outcome of this audience would have been none may say, for
Leicester had but just entered and saluted his sovereign when there came an
interruption which drowned the petty wrangles of king and courtier in a
common affliction that touched the hearts of all.
There was a commotion at one side of the room, the arras parted, and
Eleanor, Queen of England, staggered toward the throne, tears streaming
down her pale cheeks.
"Oh, My Lord ! My Lord !' she cried, "Richard, our son, has been
assassinated and thrown into the Thames."
In an instant, all was confusion and turmoil, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that the King finally obtained a coherent statement from his
It seemed that when the Lady Maud had not returned to the palace with
Prince Richard at the proper time, the Queen had been notified and an
immediate search had been instituted -- a search which did not end for over
twenty years; but the first fruits of it turned the hearts of the court to
stone, for there beside the open postern gate lay the dead bodies of Lady
Maud and a certain officer of the Guards, but nowhere was there a sign or
trace of Prince Richard, second son of Henry III of England, and at that
time the youngest prince of the realm.
It was two days before the absence of De Vac was noted, and then it was
that one of the lords in waiting to the King reminded his majesty of the
episode of the fencing bout, and a motive for the abduction of the King's
little son became apparent.
An edict was issued requiring the examination of every child in England,
for on the left breast of the little Prince was a birthmark which closely
resembled a lily and, when after a year no child was found bearing such a
mark and no trace of De Vac uncovered, the search was carried into France,
nor was it ever wholly relinquished at any time for more than twenty years.
The first theory, of assassination, was quickly abandoned when it was
subjected to the light of reason, for it was evident that an assassin could
have dispatched the little Prince at the same time that he killed the Lady
Maud and her lover, had such been his desire.
The most eager factor in the search for Prince Richard was Simon de
Montfort, Earl of Leicester, whose affection for his royal nephew had
always been so marked as to have been commented upon by the members of the
King's household.
Thus for a time the rupture between De Montfort and his king was healed,
and although the great nobleman was divested of his authority in Gascony,
he suffered little further oppression at the hands of his royal master.
As De Vac drew his sword from the heart of the Lady Maud, he winced, for,
merciless though he was, he had shrunk from this cruel task. Too far he
had gone, however, to back down now, and, had he left the Lady Maud alive,
the whole of the palace guard and all the city of London would have been on
his heels in ten minutes; there would have been no escape.
The little Prince was now so terrified that he could but tremble and
whimper in his fright. So fearful was he of the terrible De Vac that a
threat of death easily stilled his tongue, and so the grim, old man led him
to the boat hidden deep in the dense bushes.
De Vac did not dare remain in this retreat until dark, as he had first
intended. Instead, he drew a dingy, ragged dress from the bundle beneath
the thwart and in this disguised himself as an old woman, drawing a cotton
wimple low over his head and forehead to hide his short hair. Concealing
the child beneath the other articles of clothing, he pushed off from the
bank, and, rowing close to the shore, hastened down the Thames toward the
old dock where, the previous night, he had concealed his skiff. He reached
his destination unnoticed, and, running in beneath the dock, worked the
boat far into the dark recess of the cave-like retreat.
Here he determined to hide until darkness had fallen, for he knew that the
search would be on for the little lost Prince at any moment, and that none
might traverse the streets of London without being subject to the closest
Taking advantage of the forced wait, De Vac undressed the Prince and
clothed him in other garments, which had been wrapped in the bundle hidden
beneath the thwart; a little red cotton tunic with hose to match, a black
doublet and a tiny leather jerkin and leather cap.
The discarded clothing of the Prince he wrapped about a huge stone torn
from the disintegrating masonry of the river wall, and consigned the bundle
to the voiceless river.
The Prince had by now regained some of his former assurance and, finding
that De Vac seemed not to intend harming him, the little fellow commenced
questioning his grim companion, his childish wonder at this strange
adventure getting the better of his former apprehension.
"What do we here, Sir Jules ?" he asked. "Take me back to the King's, my
father's palace. I like not this dark hole nor the strange garments you
have placed upon me."
"Silence, boy !" commanded the old man. "Sir Jules be dead, nor are you a
king's son. Remember these two things well, nor ever again let me hear you
speak the name Sir Jules, or call yourself a prince."
The boy went silent, again cowed by the fierce tone of his captor.
Presently he began to whimper, for he was tired and hungry and
frightened -- just a poor little baby, helpless and hopeless in the hands
of this cruel enemy -- all his royalty as nothing, all gone with the silken
finery which lay in the thick mud at the bottom of the Thames, and
presently he dropped into a fitful sleep in the bottom of the skiff.
When darkness had settled, De Vac pushed the skiff outward to the side of
the dock and, gathering the sleeping child in his arms, stood listening,
preparatory to mounting to the alley which led to old Til's place.
As he stood thus, a faint sound of clanking armor came to his attentive
ears; louder and louder it grew until there could be no doubt but that a
number of men were approaching.
De Vac resumed his place in the skiff, and again drew it far beneath the
dock. Scarcely had he done so ere a party of armored knights and
men-at-arms clanked out upon the planks above him from the mouth of the
dark alley. Here they stopped as though for consultation and plainly could
the listener below hear every word of their conversation.
"De Montfort," said one, "what thinkest thou of it ? Can it be that the
Queen is right and that Richard lies dead beneath these black waters ?"
"No, De Clare," replied a deep voice, which De Vac recognized as that of
the Earl of Leicester. "The hand that could steal the Prince from out of
the very gardens of his sire without the knowledge of Lady Maud or her
companion, which must evidently have been the case, could more easily and
safely have dispatched him within the gardens had that been the object of
this strange attack. I think, My Lord, that presently we shall hear from
some bold adventurer who holds the little Prince for ransom. God give that
such may be the case, for of all the winsome and affectionate little
fellows I have ever seen, not even excepting mine own dear son, the little
Richard was the most to be beloved. Would that I might get my hands upon
the foul devil who has done this horrid deed."
Beneath the planks, not four feet from where Leicester stood, lay the
object of his search. The clanking armor, the heavy spurred feet, and the
voices above him had awakened the little Prince and, with a startled cry,
he sat upright in the bottom of the skiff. Instantly De Vac's iron band
clapped over the tiny mouth, but not before a single faint wail had reached
the ears of the men above.
"Hark ! What was that, My Lord ?" cried one of the men-at-arms.
In tense silence they listened for a repetition of the sound and then De
Montfort cried out:
"What ho, below there ! Who is it beneath the dock ? Answer, in the name
of the King !"
Richard, recognizing the voice of his favorite uncle, struggled to free
himself, but De Vac's ruthless hand crushed out the weak efforts of the
babe, and all was quiet as the tomb, while those above stood listening for
a repetition of the sound.
"Dock rats," said De Clare, and then as though the devil guided them to
protect his own, two huge rats scurried upward from between the loose
boards, and ran squealing up the dark alley.
"Right you are," said De Montfort, "but I could have sworn 'twas a child's
feeble wail had I not seen the two filthy rodents with mine own eyes.
Come, let us to the next vile alley. We have met with no success here,
though that old hag who called herself Til seemed overanxious to bargain
for the future information she seemed hopeful of being able to give us."
As they moved off, their voices grew fainter in the ears of the listeners
beneath the dock and soon were lost in the distance.
"A close shave," thought De Vac, as he again took up the child and prepared
to gain the dock. No further noises occurring to frighten him, he soon
reached the door to Til's house and, inserting the key, crept noiselessly
to the garret room which he had rented from his ill-favored hostess.
There were no stairs from the upper floor to the garret above, this ascent
being made by means of a wooden ladder which De Vac pulled up after him,
closing and securing the aperture, through which he climbed with his
burden, by means of a heavy trapdoor equipped with thick bars.
The apartment which they now entered extended across the entire east end of
the building, and had windows upon three sides. These were heavily
curtained. The apartment was lighted by a small cresset hanging from a
rafter near the center of the room.
The walls were unplastered and the rafters unceiled; the whole bearing a
most barnlike and unhospitable appearance.
In one corner was a huge bed, and across the room a smaller cot; a
cupboard, a table, and two benches completed the furnishings. These
articles De Vac had purchased for the room against the time when he should
occupy it with his little prisoner.
On the table were a loaf of black bread, an earthenware jar containing
honey, a pitcher of milk and two drinking horns. To these, De Vac
immediately gave his attention, commanding the child to partake of what he
Hunger for the moment overcame the little Prince's fears, and he set to
with avidity upon the strange, rough fare, made doubly coarse by the rude
utensils and the bare surroundings, so unlike the royal magnificence of his
palace apartments.
While the child ate, De Vac hastened to the lower floor of the building in
search of Til, whom he now thoroughly mistrusted and feared. The words of
De Montfort, which he had overheard at the dock, convinced him that here
was one more obstacle to the fulfillment of his revenge which must be
removed as had the Lady Maud; but in this instance there was neither youth
nor beauty to plead the cause of the intended victim, or to cause the grim
executioner a pang of remorse.
When he found the old hag, she was already dressed to go upon the street,
in fact he intercepted her at the very door of the building. Still clad as
he was in the mantle and wimple of an old woman, Til did not, at first,
recognize him, and when he spoke, she burst into a nervous, cackling laugh,
as one caught in the perpetration of some questionable act, nor did her
manner escape the shrewd notice of the wily master of fence.
"Whither, old hag ?" he asked.
"To visit Mag Tunk at the alley's end, by the river, My Lord," she replied,
with more respect than she had been wont to accord him.
"Then, I will accompany you part way, my friend, and, perchance, you can
give me a hand with some packages I left behind me in the skiff I have
moored there."
And so the two walked together through the dark alley to the end of the
rickety, dismantled dock; the one thinking of the vast reward the King
would lavish upon her for the information she felt sure she alone could
give; the other feeling beneath his mantle for the hilt of a long dagger
which nestled there.
As they reached the water's edge, De Vac was walking with his right
shoulder behind his companion's left, in his hand was gripped the keen
blade and, as the woman halted on the dock, the point that hovered just
below her left shoulder-blade plunged, soundless, into her heart at the
same instant that De Vac's left hand swung up and grasped her throat in a
grip of steel.
There was no sound, barely a struggle of the convulsively stiffening old
muscles, and then, with a push from De Vac, the body lunged forward into
the Thames, where a dull splash marked the end of the last hope that Prince
Richard might be rescued from the clutches of his Nemesis.
For three years following the disappearance of Prince Richard, a bent old
woman lived in the heart of London within a stone's throw of the King's
palace. In a small back room she lived, high up in the attic of an old
building, and with her was a little boy who never went abroad alone, nor by
day. And upon his left breast was a strange mark which resembled a lily.
When the bent old woman was safely in her attic room, with bolted door
behind her, she was wont to straighten up, and discard her dingy mantle for
more comfortable and becoming doublet and hose.
For years, she worked assiduously with the little boy's education. There
were three subjects in her curriculum; French, swordsmanship and hatred of
all things English, especially the reigning house of England.
The old woman had had made a tiny foil and had commenced teaching the
little boy the art of fence when he was but three years old.
"You will be the greatest swordsman in the world when you are twenty, my
son," she was wont to say, "and then you shall go out and kill many
Englishmen. Your name shall be hated and cursed the length and breadth of
England, and when you finally stand with the halter about your neck, aha,
then will I speak. Then shall they know."
The little boy did not understand it all, he only knew that he was
comfortable, and had warm clothing, and all he required to eat, and that he
would be a great man when he learned to fight with a real sword, and had
grown large enough to wield one. He also knew that he hated Englishmen,
but why, he did not know.
Way back in the uttermost recesses of his little, childish head, he seemed
to remember a time when his life and surroundings had been very different;
when, instead of this old woman, there had been many people around him, and
a sweet faced woman had held him in her arms and kissed him, before he was
taken off to bed at night; but he could not be sure, maybe it was only a
dream he remembered, for he dreamed many strange and wonderful dreams.
When the little boy was about six years of age, a strange man came to their
attic home to visit the little old woman. It was in the dusk of the
evening but the old woman did not light the cresset, and further, she
whispered to the little boy to remain in the shadows of a far corner of the
bare chamber.
The stranger was old and bent and had a great beard which hid almost his
entire face except for two piercing eyes, a great nose and a bit of
wrinkled forehead. When he spoke, he accompanied his words with many
shrugs of his narrow shoulders and with waving of his arms and other
strange and amusing gesticulations. The child was fascinated. Here was
the first amusement of his little starved life. He listened intently to
the conversation, which was in French.
"I have just the thing for madame," the stranger was saying. "It be a
noble and stately hall far from the beaten way. It was built in the old
days by Harold the Saxon, but in later times, death and poverty and the
disfavor of the King have wrested it from his descendants. A few years
since, Henry granted it to that spend-thrift favorite of his, Henri de
Macy, who pledged it to me for a sum he hath been unable to repay. Today
it be my property, and as it be far from Paris, you may have it for the
mere song I have named. It be a wondrous bargain, madame."
"And when I come upon it, I shall find that I have bought a crumbling pile
of ruined masonry, unfit to house a family of foxes," replied the old woman
"One tower hath fallen, and the roof for half the length of one wing hath
sagged and tumbled in," explained the old Frenchman. "But the three lower
stories be intact and quite habitable. It be much grander even now than
the castles of many of England's noble barons, and the price, madame ---
ah, the price be so ridiculously low."
Still the old woman hesitated.
"Come," said the Frenchman, "I have it. Deposit the money with Isaac the
Jew -- thou knowest him ? -- and he shall hold it together with the deed
for forty days, which will give thee ample time to travel to Derby and
inspect thy purchase. If thou be not entirely satisfied, Isaac the Jew
shall return thy money to thee and the deed to me, but if at the end of
forty days thou hast not made demand for thy money, then shall Isaac send
the deed to thee and the money to me. Be not this an easy and fair way out
of the difficulty ?"
The little old woman thought for a moment and at last conceded that it
seemed quite a fair way to arrange the matter. And thus it was
Several days later, the little old woman called the child to her.
"We start tonight upon a long journey to our new home. Thy face shall be
wrapped in many rags, for thou hast a most grievous toothache. Dost
understand ?"
"But I have no toothache. My teeth do not pain me at all. I -- "
expostulated the child.
"Tut, tut," interrupted the little old woman. "Thou hast a toothache, and
so thy face must be wrapped in many rags. And listen, should any ask thee
upon the way why thy face be so wrapped, thou art to say that thou hast a
toothache. And thou do not do as I say, the King's men will take us and we
shall be hanged, for the King hateth us. If thou hatest the English King
and lovest thy life do as I command."
"I hate the King," replied the little boy. "For this reason I shall do as
thou sayest."
So it was that they set out that night upon their long journey north toward
the hills of Derby. For many days they travelled, riding upon two small
donkeys. Strange sights filled the days for the little boy who remembered
nothing outside the bare attic of his London home and the dirty London
alleys that he had traversed only by night.
They wound across beautiful parklike meadows and through dark, forbidding
forests, and now and again they passed tiny hamlets of thatched huts.
Occasionally they saw armored knights upon the highway, alone or in small
parties, but the child's companion always managed to hasten into cover at
the road side until the grim riders had passed.
Once, as they lay in hiding in a dense wood beside a little open glade
across which the road wound, the boy saw two knights enter the glade from
either side. For a moment, they drew rein and eyed each other in silence,
and then one, a great black mailed knight upon a black charger, cried out
something to the other which the boy could not catch. The other knight
made no response other than to rest his lance upon his thigh and with
lowered point, ride toward his ebon adversary. For a dozen paces their
great steeds trotted slowly toward one another, but presently the knights
urged them into full gallop, and when the two iron men on their iron
trapped chargers came together in the center of the glade, it was with all
the terrific impact of full charge.
The lance of the black knight smote full upon the linden shield of his
foeman, the staggering weight of the mighty black charger hurtled upon the
gray, who went down with his rider into the dust of the highway. The
momentum of the black carried him fifty paces beyond the fallen horseman
before his rider could rein him in, then the black knight turned to view
the havoc he had wrought. The gray horse was just staggering dizzily to
his feet, but his mailed rider lay quiet and still where he had fallen.
With raised visor, the black knight rode back to the side of his vanquished
foe. There was a cruel smile upon his lips as he leaned toward the
prostrate form. He spoke tauntingly, but there was no response, then he
prodded the fallen man with the point of his spear. Even this elicited no
movement. With a shrug of his iron clad shoulders, the black knight
wheeled and rode on down the road until he had disappeared from sight
within the gloomy shadows of the encircling forest.
The little boy was spell-bound. Naught like this had he ever seen or
"Some day thou shalt go and do likewise, my son," said the little old
"Shall I be clothed in armor and ride upon a great black steed ?" he asked.
"Yes, and thou shalt ride the highways of England with thy stout lance and
mighty sword, and behind thee thou shalt leave a trail of blood and death,
for every man shalt be thy enemy. But come, we must be on our way."
They rode on, leaving the dead knight where he had fallen, but always in
his memory the child carried the thing that he had seen, longing for the
day when he should be great and strong like the formidable black knight.
On another day, as they were biding in a deserted hovel to escape the
notice of a caravan of merchants journeying up-country with their wares,
they saw a band of ruffians rush out from the concealing shelter of some
bushes at the far side of the highway and fall upon the surprised and
defenseless tradesmen.
Ragged, bearded, uncouth villains they were, armed mostly with bludgeons
and daggers, with here and there a cross-bow. Without mercy they attacked
the old and the young, beating them down in cold blood even when they
offered no resistance. Those of the caravan who could, escaped, the
balance the highwaymen left dead or dying in the road, as they hurried away
with their loot.
At first the child was horror-struck, but when he turned to the little old
woman for sympathy he found a grim smile upon her thin lips. She noted his
expression of dismay.
"It is naught, my son. But English curs setting upon English swine. Some
day thou shalt set upon both -- they be only fit for killing."
The boy made no reply, but he thought a great deal about that which he had
seen. Knights were cruel to knights -- the poor were cruel to the rich --
and every day of the journey had forced upon his childish mind that
everyone must be very cruel and hard upon the poor. He had seen them in
all their sorrow and misery and poverty -- stretching a long, scattering
line all the way from London town. Their bent backs, their poor thin
bodies and their hopeless, sorrowful faces attesting the weary wretchedness
of their existence.
"Be no one happy in all the world ?" he once broke out to the old woman.
"Only he who wields the mightiest sword," responded the old woman. "You
have seen, my son, that all Englishmen are beasts. They set upon and kill
one another for little provocation or for no provocation at all. When thou
shalt be older, thou shalt go forth and kill them all for unless thou kill
them, they will kill thee."
At length, after tiresome days upon the road, they came to a little hamlet
in the hills. Here the donkeys were disposed of and a great horse
purchased, upon which the two rode far up into a rough and uninviting
country away from the beaten track, until late one evening they approached
a ruined castle.
The frowning walls towered high against the moonlit sky beyond, and where a
portion of the roof had fallen in, the cold moon, shining through the
narrow unglazed windows, gave to the mighty pile the likeness of a huge,
many-eyed ogre crouching upon the flank of a deserted world, for nowhere
was there other sign of habitation.
Before this somber pile, the two dismounted. The little boy was filled
with awe and his childish imagination ran riot as they approached the
crumbling barbican on foot, leading the horse after them. From the dark
shadows of the ballium, they passed into the moonlit inner court. At the
far end the old woman found the ancient stables, and here, with decaying
planks, she penned the horse for the night, pouring a measure of oats upon
the floor for him from a bag which had bung across his rump.
Then she led the way into the dense shadows of the castle, lighting their
advance with a flickering pine knot. The old planking of the floors, long
unused, groaned and rattled beneath their approach. There was a sudden
scamper of clawed feet before them, and a red fox dashed by in a frenzy of
alarm toward the freedom of the outer night.
Presently they came to the great hall. The old woman pushed open the great
doors upon their creaking hinges and lit up dimly the mighty, cavernous
interior with the puny rays of their feeble torch. As they stepped
cautiously within, an impalpable dust arose in little spurts from the
long-rotted rushes that crumbled beneath their feet. A huge bat circled
wildly with loud fluttering wings in evident remonstrance at this rude
intrusion. Strange creatures of the night scurried or wriggled across wall
and floor.
But the child was unafraid. Fear had not been a part of the old woman's
curriculum. The boy did not know the meaning of the word, nor was he ever
in his after-life to experience the sensation. With childish eagerness, he
followed his companion as she inspected the interior of the chamber. It
was still an imposing room. The boy clapped his hands in delight at the
beauties of the carved and panelled walls and the oak beamed ceiling,
stained almost black from the smoke of torches and oil cressets that had
lighted it in bygone days, aided, no doubt, by the wood fires which had
burned in its two immense fireplaces to cheer the merry throng of noble
revellers that had so often sat about the great table into the morning
Here they took up their abode. But the bent, old woman was no longer an
old woman -- she had become a straight, wiry, active old man.
The little boy's education went on -- French, swordsmanship and hatred of
the English -- the same thing year after year with the addition of
horsemanship after he was ten years old. At this time the old man
commenced teaching him to speak English, but with a studied and very marked
French accent. During all his life now, he could not remember of having
spoken to any living being other than his guardian, whom he had been taught
to address as father. Nor did the boy have any name -- he was just "my
His life in the Derby hills was so filled with the hard, exacting duties of
his education that he had little time to think of the strange loneliness of
his existence; nor is it probable that he missed that companionship of
others of his own age of which, never having had experience in it, he could
scarce be expected to regret or yearn for.
At fifteen, the youth was a magnificent swordsman and horseman, and with an
utter contempt for pain or danger -- a contempt which was the result of the
heroic methods adopted by the little old man in the training of him. Often
the two practiced with razor-sharp swords, and without armor or other
protection of any description.
"Thus only," the old man was wont to say, "mayst thou become the absolute
master of thy blade. Of such a nicety must be thy handling of the weapon
that thou mayst touch an antagonist at will and so lightly, shouldst thou
desire, that thy point, wholly under the control of a master hand, mayst be
stopped before it inflicts so much as a scratch."
But in practice, there were many accidents, and then one or both of them
would nurse a punctured skin for a few days. So, while blood was often let
on both sides, the training produced a fearless swordsman who was so truly
the master of his point that he could stop a thrust within a fraction of an
inch of the spot he sought.
At fifteen, he was a very strong and straight and handsome lad. Bronzed
and hardy from his outdoor life; of few words, for there was none that he
might talk with save the taciturn old man; hating the English, for that he
was taught as thoroughly as swordsmanship; speaking French fluently and
English poorly -- and waiting impatiently for the day when the old man
should send him out into the world with clanking armor and lance and shield
to do battle with the knights of England.
It was about this time that there occurred the first important break in the
monotony of his existence. Far down the rocky trail that led from the
valley below through the Derby hills to the ruined castle, three armored
knights urged their tired horses late one afternoon of a chill autumn day.
Off the main road and far from any habitation, they had espied the castle's
towers through a rift in the hills, and now they spurred toward it in
search of food and shelter.
As the road led them winding higher into the hills, they suddenly emerged
upon the downs below the castle where a sight met their eyes which caused
them to draw rein and watch in admiration. There, before them upon the
downs, a boy battled with a lunging, rearing horse -- a perfect demon of a
black horse. Striking and biting in a frenzy of rage, it sought ever to
escape or injure the lithe figure which clung leech-like to its shoulder.
The boy was on the ground. His left hand grasped the heavy mane; his right
arm lay across the beast's withers and his right hand drew steadily in upon
a halter rope with which he had taken a half hitch about the horse's
muzzle. Now the black reared and wheeled, striking and biting, full upon
the youth, but the active figure swung with him -- always just behind the
giant shoulder -- and ever and ever he drew the great arched neck farther
and farther to the right.
As the animal plunged hither and thither in great leaps, he dragged the boy
with him, but all his mighty efforts were unavailing to loosen the grip
upon mane and withers. Suddenly, he reared straight into the air carrying
the youth with him, then with a vicious lunge he threw himself backward
upon the ground.
"It's death !" exclaimed one of the knights, "he will kill the youth yet,
"No !" cried he addressed. "Look ! He is up again and the boy still
clings as tightly to him as his own black hide."
"'Tis true," exclaimed another, "but he hath lost what he had gained upon
the halter -- he must needs fight it all out again from the beginning."
And so the battle went on again as before, the boy again drawing the iron
neck slowly to the right -- the beast fighting and squealing as though
possessed of a thousand devils. A dozen times, as the head bent farther
and farther toward him, the boy loosed his hold upon the mane and reached
quickly down to grasp the near fore pastern. A dozen times the horse shook
off the new hold, but at length the boy was successful, and the knee was
bent and the hoof drawn up to the elbow.
Now the black fought at a disadvantage, for he was on but three feet and
his neck was drawn about in an awkward and unnatural position. His efforts
became weaker and weaker. The boy talked incessantly to him in a quiet
voice, and there was a shadow of a smile upon his lips. Now he bore
heavily upon the black withers, pulling the horse toward him. Slowly the
beast sank upon his bent knee -- pulling backward until his off fore leg
was stretched straight before him. Then, with a final surge, the youth
pulled him over upon his side, and, as he fell, slipped prone beside him.
One sinewy hand shot to the rope just beneath the black chin -- the other
grasped a slim, pointed ear.
For a few minutes the horse fought and kicked to gain his liberty, but with
his head held to the earth, he was as powerless in the hands of the boy as
a baby would have been. Then he sank panting and exhausted into mute
"Well done !" cried one of the knights. "Simon de Montfort himself never
mastered a horse in better order, my boy. Who be thou ?"
In an instant, the lad was upon his feet his eyes searching for the
speaker. The horse, released, sprang up also, and the two stood -- the
handsome boy and the beautiful black -- gazing with startled eyes, like two
wild things, at the strange intruder who confronted them.
"Come, Sir Mortimer !" cried the boy, and turning he led the prancing but
subdued animal toward the castle and through the ruined barbican into the
court beyond.
"What ho, there, lad !" shouted Paul of Merely. "We wouldst not harm
thee -- come, we but ask the way to the castle of De Stutevill."
The three knights listened but there was no answer.
"Come, Sir Knights," spoke Paul of Merely, "we will ride within and learn
what manner of churls inhabit this ancient rookery."
As they entered the great courtyard, magnificent even in its ruined
grandeur, they were met by a little, grim old man who asked them in no
gentle tones what they would of them there.
"We have lost our way in these devilish Derby hills of thine, old man,"
replied Paul of Merely. "We seek the castle of Sir John de Stutevill."
"Ride down straight to the river road, keeping the first trail to the
right, and when thou hast come there, turn again to thy right and ride
north beside the river -- thou canst not miss the way -- it be plain as the
nose before thy face," and with that the old man turned to enter the
"Hold, old fellow !" cried the spokesman. "It be nigh onto sunset now, and
we care not to sleep out again this night as we did the last. We will
tarry with you then till morn that we may take up our journey refreshed,
upon rested steeds."
The old man grumbled, and it was with poor grace that he took them in to
feed and house them over night. But there was nothing else for it, since
they would have taken his hospitality by force had he refused to give it
From their guests, the two learned something of the conditions outside
their Derby hills. The old man showed less interest than he felt, but to
the boy, notwithstanding that the names he heard meant nothing to him, it
was like unto a fairy tale to hear of the wondrous doings of earl and
baron, bishop and king.
"If the King does not mend his ways," said one of the knights, "we will
drive his whole accursed pack of foreign blood-suckers into the sea."
"De Montfort has told him as much a dozen times, and now that all of us,
both Norman and Saxon barons, have already met together and formed a pact
for our mutual protection, the King must surely realize that the time for
temporizing be past, and that unless he would have a civil war upon his
hands, he must keep the promises he so glibly makes, instead of breaking
them the moment De Montfort's back be turned."
"He fears his brother-in-law," interrupted another of the knights, "even
more than the devil fears holy water. I was in attendance on his majesty
some weeks since when he was going down the Thames upon the royal barge.
We were overtaken by as severe a thunder storm as I have ever seen, of
which the King was in such abject fear that he commanded that we land at
the Bishop of Durham's palace opposite which we then were. De Montfort,
who was residing there, came to meet Henry, with all due respect,
observing, 'What do you fear, now, Sire, the tempest has passed ?' And what
thinkest thou old 'waxen heart' replied ? Why, still trembling, he said,
'I do indeed fear thunder and lightning much, but, by the hand of God, I
tremble before you more than for all the thunder in Heaven !'"
"I surmise," interjected the grim, old man, "that De Montfort has in some
manner gained an ascendancy over the King. Think you he looks so high as
the throne itself ?"
"Not so," cried the oldest of the knights. "Simon de Montfort works for
England's weal alone -- and methinks, nay knowest, that he would be first
to spring to arms to save the throne for Henry. He but fights the King's
rank and covetous advisers, and though he must needs seem to defy the King
himself, it be but to save his tottering power from utter collapse. But,
gad, how the King hates him. For a time it seemed that there might be a
permanent reconciliation when, for years after the disappearance of the
little Prince Richard, De Montfort devoted much of his time and private
fortune to prosecuting a search through all the world for the little
fellow, of whom he was inordinately fond. This self-sacrificing interest
on his part won over the King and Queen for many years, but of late his
unremitting hostility to their continued extravagant waste of the national
resources has again hardened them toward him."
The old man, growing uneasy at the turn the conversation threatened, sent
the youth from the room on some pretext, and himself left to prepare
As they were sitting at the evening meal, one of the nobles eyed the boy
intently, for he was indeed good to look upon; his bright handsome face,
clear, intelligent gray eyes, and square strong jaw framed in a mass of
brown waving hair banged at the forehead and falling about his ears, where
it was again cut square at the sides and back, after the fashion of the
His upper body was clothed in a rough under tunic of wool, stained red,
over which he wore a short leathern jerkin, while his doublet was also of
leather, a soft and finely tanned piece of undressed doeskin. His long
hose, fitting his shapely legs as closely as another layer of skin, were of
the same red wool as his tunic, while his strong leather sandals were
cross-gartered halfway to his knees with narrow bands of leather.
A leathern girdle about his waist supported a sword and a dagger and a
round skull cap of the same material, to which was fastened a falcon's
wing, completed his picturesque and becoming costume.
"Your son ?" he asked, turning to the old man.
"Yes," was the growling response.
"He favors you but little, old fellow, except in his cursed French accent.
"'S blood, Beauchamp," he continued, turning to one of his companions, "an'
were he set down in court, I wager our gracious Queen would he hard put to
it to tell him from the young Prince Edward. Dids't ever see so strange a
likeness ?"
"Now that you speak of it, My Lord, I see it plainly. It is indeed a
marvel," answered Beauchamp.
Had they glanced at the old man during this colloquy, they would have seen
a blanched face, drawn with inward fear and rage.
Presently the oldest member of the party of three knights spoke in a grave
quiet tone.
"And how old might you be, my son ?" he asked the boy.
"I do not know."
"And your name ?"
"I do not know what you mean. I have no name. My father calls me son and
no other ever before addressed me."
At this juncture, the old man arose and left the room, saving he would
fetch more food from the kitchen, but he turned immediately he had passed
the doorway and listened from without.
"The lad appears about fifteen," said Paul of Merely, lowering his voice,
"and so would be the little lost Prince Richard, if he lives. This one
does not know his name, or his age, yet he looks enough like Prince Edward
to be his twin."
"Come, my son," he continued aloud, "open your jerkin and let us have a
look at your left breast, we shall read a true answer there."
"Are you Englishmen ?" asked the boy without making a move to comply with
their demand.
"That we be, my son," said Beauchamp.
"Then it were better that I die than do your bidding, for all Englishmen
are pigs and I loathe them as becomes a gentleman of France. I do not
uncover my body to the eyes of swine."
The knights, at first taken back by this unexpected outbreak, finally burst
into uproarious laughter.
"Indeed," cried Paul of Merely, "spoken as one of the King's foreign
favorites might speak, and they ever told the good God's truth. But come
lad, we would not harm you -- do as I bid."
"No man lives who can harm me while a blade hangs at my side," answered the
boy, "and as for doing as you bid, I take orders from no man other than my
Beauchamp and Greystoke laughed aloud at the discomfiture of Paul of
Merely, but the latter's face hardened in anger, and without further words
he strode forward with outstretched hand to tear open the boy's leathern
jerkin, but met with the gleaming point of a sword and a quick sharp, "En
garde !" from the boy.
There was naught for Paul of Merely to do but draw his own weapon, in
self-defense, for the sharp point of the boy's sword was flashing in and
out against his unprotected body, inflicting painful little jabs, and the
boy's tongue was murmuring low-toned taunts and insults as it invited him
to draw and defend himself or be stuck "like the English pig you are."
Paul of Merely was a brave man and he liked not the idea of drawing against
this stripling, but he argued that he could quickly disarm him without
harming the lad, and he certainly did not care to be further humiliated
before his comrades.
But when he had drawn and engaged his youthful antagonist, he discovered
that, far from disarming him, he would have the devil's own job of it to
keep from being killed.
Never in all his long years of fighting had he faced such an agile and
dexterous enemy, and as they backed this way and that about the room, great
beads of sweat stood upon the brow of Paul of Merely, for he realized that
he was fighting for his life against a superior swordsman.
The loud laughter of Beauchamp and Greystoke soon subsided to grim smiles,
and presently they looked on with startled faces in which fear and
apprehension were dominant.
The boy was fighting as a cat might play with a mouse. No sign of exertion
was apparent, and his haughty confident smile told louder than words that
he had in no sense let himself out to his full capacity.
Around and around the room they circled, the boy always advancing, Paul of
Merely always retreating. The din of their clashing swords and the heavy
breathing of the older man were the only sounds, except as they brushed
against a bench or a table.
Paul of Merely was a brave man, but he shuddered at the thought of dying
uselessly at the hands of a mere boy. He would not call upon his friends
for aid, but presently, to his relief, Beauchamp sprang between them with
drawn sword, crying "Enough, gentlemen, enough ! You have no quarrel.
Sheathe your swords."
But the boy's only response was, "En garde, cochon," and Beauchamp found
himself taking the center of the stage in the place of his friend. Nor did
the boy neglect Paul of Merely, but engaged them both in swordplay that
caused the eyes of Greystoke to bulge from their sockets.
So swiftly moved his flying blade that half the time it was a sheet of
gleaming light, and now he was driving home his thrusts and the smile had
frozen upon his lips -- grim and stern.
Paul of Merely and Beauchamp were wounded in a dozen places when Greystoke
rushed to their aid, and then it was that a little, wiry, gray man leaped
agilely from the kitchen doorway, and with drawn sword took his place
beside the boy. It was now two against three and the three may have
guessed, though they never knew, that they were pitted against the two
greatest swordsmen in the world.
"To the death," cried the little gray man, "a mort, mon fils." Scarcely had
the words left his lips ere, as though it had but waited permission, the
boy's sword flashed into the heart of Paul of Merely, and a Saxon gentleman
was gathered to his fathers.
The old man engaged Greystoke now, and the boy turned his undivided
attention to Beauchamp. Both these men were considered excellent
swordsmen, but when Beauchamp heard again the little gray man's "a mort,
mon fils," he shuddered, and the little hairs at the nape of his neck rose
up, and his spine froze, for he knew that he had heard the sentence of
death passed upon him; for no mortal had yet lived who could vanquish such
a swordsman as he who now faced him.
As Beauchamp pitched forward across a bench, dead, the little old man led
Greystoke to where the boy awaited him.
"They are thy enemies, my son, and to thee belongs the pleasure of revenge;
a mort, mon fils."
Greystoke was determined to sell his life dearly, and he rushed the lad as
a great bull might rush a teasing dog, but the boy gave back not an inch
and, when Greystoke stopped, there was a foot of cold steel protruding from
his back.
Together they buried the knights at the bottom of the dry moat at the back
of the ruined castle. First they had stripped them and, when they took
account of the spoils of the combat, they found themselves richer by three
horses with full trappings, many pieces of gold and silver money, ornaments
and jewels, as well as the lances, swords and chain mail armor of their
erstwhile guests.
But the greatest gain, the old man thought to himself, was that the
knowledge of the remarkable resemblance between his ward and Prince Edward
of England had come to him in time to prevent the undoing of his life's
The boy, while young, was tall and broad shouldered, and so the old man had
little difficulty in fitting one of the suits of armor to him, obliterating
the devices so that none might guess to whom it had belonged. This he did,
and from then on the boy never rode abroad except in armor, and when he met
others upon the high road, his visor was always lowered that none might see
his face.
The day following the episode of the three knights the old man called the
boy to him, saying,
"It is time, my son, that thou learned an answer to such questions as were
put to thee yestereve by the pigs of Henry. Thou art fifteen years of age,
and thy name be Norman, and so, as this be the ancient castle of Torn, thou
mayst answer those whom thou desire to know it that thou art Norman of
Torn; that thou be a French gentleman whose father purchased Torn and
brought thee hither from France on the death of thy mother, when thou wert
six years old.
"But remember, Norman of Torn, that the best answer for an Englishman is
the sword; naught else may penetrate his thick wit."
And so was born that Norman of Torn, whose name in a few short years was to
strike terror to the hearts of Englishmen, and whose power in the vicinity
of Torn was greater than that of the King or the barons.
From now on, the old man devoted himself to the training of the boy in the
handling of his lance and battle-axe, but each day also, a period was
allotted to the sword, until, by the time the youth had turned sixteen,
even the old man himself was as but a novice by comparison with the
marvelous skill of his pupil.
During these days, the boy rode Sir Mortimer abroad in many directions
until he knew every bypath within a radius of fifty miles of Torn.
Sometimes the old man accompanied him, but more often he rode alone.
On one occasion, he chanced upon a hut at the outskirts of a small hamlet
not far from Torn and, with the curiosity of boyhood, determined to enter
and have speech with the inmates, for by this time the natural desire for
companionship was commencing to assert itself. In all his life, he
remembered only the company of the old man, who never spoke except when
necessity required.
The hut was occupied by an old priest, and as the boy in armor pushed in,
without the usual formality of knocking, the old man looked up with an
expression of annoyance and disapproval.
"What now," he said, "have the King's men respect neither for piety nor age
that they burst in upon the seclusion of a holy man without so much as a
'by your leave' ?"
"I am no king's man," replied the boy quietly, "I am Norman of Torn, who
has neither a king nor a god, and who says 'by your leave' to no man. But
I have come in peace because I wish to talk to another than my father.
Therefore you may talk to me, priest," he concluded with haughty
"By the nose of John, but it must be a king has deigned to honor me with
his commands," laughed the priest. "Raise your visor, My Lord, I would
fain look upon the countenance from which issue the commands of royalty."
The priest was a large man with beaming, kindly eyes, and a round jovial
face. There was no bite in the tones of his good-natured retort, and so,
smiling, the boy raised his visor.
"By the ear of Gabriel," cried the good father, "a child in armor !"
"A child in years, mayhap," replied the boy, "but a good child to own as a
friend, if one has enemies who wear swords."
"Then we shall be friends, Norman of Torn, for albeit I have few enemies,
no man has too many friends, and I like your face and your manner, though
there be much to wish for in your manners. Sit down and eat with me, and I
will talk to your heart's content, for be there one other thing I more love
than eating, it is talking."
With the priest's aid, the boy laid aside his armor, for it was heavy and
uncomfortable, and together the two sat down to the meal that was already
partially on the board.
Thus began a friendship which lasted during the lifetime of the good
priest. Whenever he could do so, Norman of Torn visited his friend, Father
Claude. It was he who taught the boy to read and write in French, English
and Latin at a time when but few of the nobles could sign their own names.
French was spoken almost exclusively at court and among the higher classes
of society, and all public documents were inscribed either in French or
Latin, although about this time the first proclamation written in the
English tongue was issued by an English king to his subjects.
Father Claude taught the boy to respect the rights of others, to espouse
the cause of the poor and weak, to revere God and to believe that the
principal reason for man's existence was to protect woman. All of virtue
and chivalry and true manhood which his old guardian had neglected to
inculcate in the boy's mind, the good priest planted there, but he could
not eradicate his deep-seated hatred for the English or his belief that the
real test of manhood lay in a desire to fight to the death with a sword.
An occurrence which befell during one of the boy's earlier visits to his
new friend rather decided the latter that no arguments he could bring to
bear could ever overcome the bald fact that to this very belief of the
boy's, and his ability to back it up with acts, the good father owed a
great deal, possibly his life.
As they were seated in the priest's hut one afternoon, a rough knock fell
upon the door which was immediately pushed open to admit as disreputable a
band of ruffians as ever polluted the sight of man. Six of them there
were, clothed in dirty leather, and wearing swords and daggers at their
The leader was a mighty fellow with a great shock of coarse black hair and
a red, bloated face almost concealed by a huge matted black beard. Behind
him pushed another giant with red hair and a bristling mustache; while the
third was marked by a terrible scar across his left cheek and forehead and
from a blow which had evidently put out his left eye, for that socket was
empty, and the sunken eyelid but partly covered the inflamed red of the
hollow where his eye had been.
"A ha, my hearties," roared the leader, turning to his motley crew, "fine
pickings here indeed. A swine of God fattened upon the sweat of such poor,
honest devils as we, and a young shoat who, by his looks, must have pieces
of gold in his belt.
"Say your prayers, my pigeons," he continued, with a vile oath, "for The
Black Wolf leaves no evidence behind him to tie his neck with a halter
later, and dead men talk the least."
"If it be The Black Wolf," whispered Father Claude to the boy, "no worse
fate could befall us for he preys ever upon the clergy, and when drunk, as
he now is, he murders his victims. I will throw myself before them while
you hasten through the rear doorway to your horse, and make good your
escape." He spoke in French, and held his hands in the attitude of prayer,
so that he quite entirely misled the ruffians, who had no idea that he was
communicating with the boy.
Norman of Torn could scarce repress a smile at this clever ruse of the old
priest, and, assuming a similar attitude, he replied in French:
"The good Father Claude does not know Norman of Torn if he thinks he runs
out the back door like an old woman because a sword looks in at the front
Then rising he addressed the ruffians.
"I do not know what manner of grievance you hold against my good friend
here, nor neither do I care. It is sufficient that he is the friend of
Norman of Torn, and that Norman of Torn be here in person to acknowledge
the debt of friendship. Have at you, sir knights of the great filth and
the mighty stink !" and with drawn sword he vaulted over the table and fell
upon the surprised leader.
In the little room, but two could engage him at once, but so fiercely did
his blade swing and so surely did he thrust that, in a bare moment, The
Black Wolf lay dead upon the floor and the red giant, Shandy, was badly,
though not fatally wounded. The four remaining ruffians backed quickly
from the hut, and a more cautious fighter would have let them go their way
in peace, for in the open, four against one are odds no man may pit himself
against with impunity. But Norman of Torn saw red when he fought and the
red lured him ever on into the thickest of the fray. Only once before had
he fought to the death, but that once had taught him the love of it, and
ever after until his death, it marked his manner of fighting; so that men
who loathed and hated and feared him were as one with those who loved him
in acknowledging that never before had God joined in the human frame
absolute supremacy with the sword and such utter fearlessness.
So it was, now, that instead of being satisfied with his victory, he rushed
out after the four knaves. Once in the open, they turned upon him, but he
sprang into their midst with his seething blade, and it was as though they
faced four men rather than one, so quickly did he parry a thrust here and
return a cut there. In a moment one was disarmed, another down, and the
remaining two fleeing for their lives toward the high road with Norman of
Torn close at their heels.
Young, agile and perfect in health, he outclassed them in running as well
as in swordsmanship, and ere they had made fifty paces, both had thrown
away their swords and were on their knees pleading for their lives.
"Come back to the good priest's hut, and we shall see what he may say,"
replied Norman of Torn.
On the way back, they found the man who had been disarmed bending over his
wounded comrade. They were brothers, named Flory, and one would not desert
the other. It was evident that the wounded man was in no danger, so Norman
of Torn ordered the others to assist him into the hut, where they found Red
Shandy sitting propped against the wall while the good father poured the
contents of a flagon down his eager throat.
The villain's eyes fairly popped from his head when he saw his four
comrades coming, unarmed and prisoners, back to the little room.
"The Black Wolf dead, Red Shandy and John Flory wounded, James Flory, One
Eye Kanty and Peter the Hermit prisoners !" he ejaculated.
"Man or devil ! By the Pope's hind leg, who and what be ye ?" he said,
turning to Norman of Torn.
"I be your master and ye be my men," said Norman of Torn. "Me ye shall
serve in fairer work than ye have selected for yourselves, but with
fighting a-plenty and good reward."
The sight of this gang of ruffians banded together to prey upon the clergy
had given rise to an idea in the boy's mind, which had been revolving in a
nebulous way within the innermost recesses of his subconsciousness since
his vanquishing of the three knights had brought him, so easily, such
riches in the form of horses, arms, armor and gold. As was always his wont
in his after life, to think was to act.
"With The Black Wolf dead, and may the devil pull out his eyes with red hot
tongs, we might look farther and fare worse, mates, in search of a chief,"
spoke Red Shandy, eyeing his fellows, "for verily any man, be he but a
stripling, who can vanquish six such as we, be fit to command us."
"But what be the duties ?" said he whom they called Peter the Hermit.
"To follow Norman of Torn where he may lead, to protect the poor and the
weak, to lay down your lives in defence of woman, and to prey upon rich
Englishmen and harass the King of England."
The last two clauses of these articles of faith appealed to the ruffians so
strongly that they would have subscribed to anything, even daily mass, and
a bath, had that been necessary to admit them to the service of Norman of
"Aye, aye !" they cried. "We be your men, indeed."
"Wait," said Norman of Torn, "there is more. You are to obey my every
command on pain of instant death, and one-half of all your gains are to be
mine. On my side, I will clothe and feed you, furnish you with mounts and
armor and weapons and a roof to sleep under, and fight for and with you
with a sword arm which you know to be no mean protector. Are you
satisfied ?"
"That we are," and "Long live Norman of Torn," and "Here's to the chief of
the Torns" signified the ready assent of the burly cut-throats.
"Then swear it as ye kiss the hilt of my sword and this token," pursued
Norman of Torn catching up a crucifix from the priest's table.
With these formalities was born the Clan Torn, which grew in a few years to
number a thousand men, and which defied a king's army and helped to make
Simon de Montfort virtual ruler of England.
Almost immediately commenced that series of outlaw acts upon neighboring
barons, and chance members of the gentry who happened to be caught in the
open by the outlaws, that filled the coffers of Norman of Torn with many
pieces of gold and silver, and placed a price upon his head ere he had
scarce turned eighteen.
That he had no fear of or desire to avoid responsibility for his acts, he
grimly evidenced by marking with a dagger's point upon the foreheads of
those who fell before his own sword the initials NT.
As his following and wealth increased, he rebuilt and enlarged the grim
Castle of Torn, and again dammed the little stream which had furnished the
moat with water in bygone days.
Through all the length and breadth of the country that witnessed his
activities, his very name was worshipped by poor and lowly and oppressed.
The money he took from the King's tax gatherers, he returned to the
miserable peasants of the district, and once when Henry III sent a little
expedition against him, he surrounded and captured the entire force, and,
stripping them, gave their clothing to the poor, and escorted them, naked,
back to the very gates of London.
By the time he was twenty, Norman the Devil, as the King himself had dubbed
him, was known by reputation throughout all England, though no man had seen
his face and lived other than his friends and followers. He had become a
power to reckon with in the fast culminating quarrel between King Henry and
his foreign favorites on one side, and the Saxon and Norman barons on the
Neither side knew which way his power might be turned, for Norman of Torn
had preyed almost equally upon royalist and insurgent. Personally, he had
decided to join neither party, but to take advantage of the turmoil of the
times to prey without partiality upon both.
As Norman of Torn approached his grim castle home with his five filthy,
ragged cut-throats on the day of his first meeting with them, the old man
of Torn stood watching the little party from one of the small towers of the
Halting beneath this outer gate, the youth winded the horn which hung at
his side in mimicry of the custom of the times.
"What ho, without there !" challenged the old man entering grimly into the
spirit of the play.
"'Tis Sir Norman of Torn," spoke up Red Shandy, "with his great host of
noble knights and men-at-arms and squires and lackeys and sumpter beasts.
Open in the name of the good right arm of Sir Norman of Torn."
"What means this, my son ?" said the old man as Norman of Torn dismounted
within the ballium.
The youth narrated the events of the morning, concluding with, "These,
then, be my men, father; and together we shall fare forth upon the highways
and into the byways of England, to collect from the rich English pigs that
living which you have ever taught me was owing us."
"'Tis well, my son, and even as I myself would have it; together we shall
ride out, and where we ride, a trail of blood shall mark our way.
"From now, henceforth, the name and fame of Norman of Torn shall grow in
the land, until even the King shall tremble when he hears it, and shall
hate and loathe ye as I have even taught ye to hate and loathe him.
"All England shall curse ye and the blood of Saxon and Norman shall never
dry upon your blade."
As the old man walked away toward the great gate of the castle after this
outbreak, Shandy, turning to Norman of Torn, with a wide grin, said:
"By the Pope's hind leg, but thy amiable father loveth the English. There
should be great riding after such as he."
"Ye ride after ME, varlet," cried Norman of Torn, "an' lest ye should
forget again so soon who be thy master, take that, as a reminder," and he
struck the red giant full upon the mouth with his clenched fist -- so that
the fellow tumbled heavily to the earth.
He was on his feet in an instant, spitting blood, and in a towering rage.
As he rushed, bull-like, toward Norman of Torn, the latter made no move to
draw; he but stood with folded arms, eyeing Shandy with cold, level gaze;
his head held high, haughty face marked by an arrogant sneer of contempt.
The great ruffian paused, then stopped, slowly a sheepish smile overspread
his countenance and, going upon one knee, he took the hand of Norman of
Torn and kissed it, as some great and loyal noble knight might have kissed
his king's hand in proof of his love and fealty. There was a certain rude,
though chivalrous grandeur in the act; and it marked not only the beginning
of a lifelong devotion and loyalty on the part of Shandy toward his young
master, but was prophetic of the attitude which Norman of Torn was to
inspire in all the men who served him during the long years that saw
thousands pass the barbicans of Torn to crave a position beneath his grim
As Shandy rose, one by one, John Flory, James, his brother, One Eye Kanty,
and Peter the Hermit knelt before their young lord and kissed his hand.
From the Great Court beyond, a little, grim, gray, old man had watched this
scene, a slight smile upon his old, malicious face.
"'Tis to transcend even my dearest dreams," he muttered. "'S death, but he
be more a king than Henry himself. God speed the day of his coronation,
when, before the very eyes of the Plantagenet hound, a black cap shall be
placed upon his head for a crown; beneath his feet the platform of a wooden
gibbet for a throne."
It was a beautiful spring day in May, 1262, that Norman of Torn rode alone
down the narrow trail that led to the pretty cottage with which he had
replaced the hut of his old friend, Father Claude.
As was his custom, he rode with lowered visor, and nowhere upon his person
or upon the trappings of his horse were sign or insignia of rank or house.
More powerful and richer than many nobles of the court, he was without rank
or other title than that of outlaw and he seemed to assume what in reality
he held in little esteem.
He wore armor because his old guardian had urged him to do so, and not
because he craved the protection it afforded. And, for the same cause, he
rode always with lowered visor, though he could never prevail upon the old
man to explain the reason which necessitated this precaution.
"It is enough that I tell you, my son," the old fellow was wont to say,
"that for your own good as well as mine, you must not show your face to
your enemies until I so direct. The time will come and soon now, I hope,
when you shall uncover your countenance to all England."
The young man gave the matter but little thought, usually passing it off as
the foolish whim of an old dotard; but he humored it nevertheless.
Behind him, as he rode down the steep declivity that day, loomed a very
different Torn from that which he had approached sixteen years before,
when, as a little boy he had ridden through the darkening shadows of the
night, perched upon a great horse behind the little old woman, whose
metamorphosis to the little grim, gray, old man of Torn their advent to the
castle had marked.
Today the great, frowning pile loomed larger and more imposing than ever in
the most resplendent days of its past grandeur. The original keep was
there with its huge, buttressed Saxon towers whose mighty fifteen foot
walls were pierced with stairways and vaulted chambers, lighted by
embrasures which, mere slits in the outer periphery of the walls, spread to
larger dimensions within, some even attaining the area of small triangular
The moat, widened and deepened, completely encircled three sides of the
castle, running between the inner and outer walls, which were set at
intervals with small projecting towers so pierced that a flanking fire from
long bows, cross bows and javelins might be directed against a scaling
The fourth side of the walled enclosure overhung a high precipice, which
natural protection rendered towers unnecessary upon this side.
The main gateway of the castle looked toward the west and from it ran the
tortuous and rocky trail, down through the mountains toward the valley
below. The aspect from the great gate was one of quiet and rugged beauty.
A short stretch of barren downs in the foreground only sparsely studded
with an occasional gnarled oak gave an unobstructed view of broad and
lovely meadowland through which wound a sparkling tributary of the Trent.
Two more gateways let into the great fortress, one piercing the north wall
and one the east. All three gates were strongly fortified with towered and
buttressed barbicans which must be taken before the main gates could be
reached. Each barbican was portcullised, while the inner gates were
similarly safeguarded in addition to the drawbridges which, spanning the
moat when lowered, could be drawn up at the approach of an enemy,
effectually stopping his advance.
The new towers and buildings added to the ancient keep under the direction
of Norman of Torn and the grim, old man whom he called father, were of the
Norman type of architecture, the windows were larger, the carving more
elaborate, the rooms lighter and more spacious.
Within the great enclosure thrived a fair sized town, for, with his ten
hundred fighting-men, the Outlaw of Torn required many squires, lackeys,
cooks, scullions, armorers, smithies, farriers, hostlers and the like to
care for the wants of his little army.
Fifteen hundred war horses, beside five hundred sumpter beasts, were
quartered in the great stables, while the east court was alive with cows,
oxen, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and chickens.
Great wooden carts drawn by slow, plodding oxen were daily visitors to the
grim pile, fetching provender for man and beast from the neighboring farm
lands of the poor Saxon peasants, to whom Norman of Torn paid good gold for
their crops.
These poor serfs, who were worse than slaves to the proud barons who owned
the land they tilled, were forbidden by royal edict to sell or give a
pennysworth of provisions to the Outlaw of Torn, upon pain of death, but
nevertheless his great carts made their trips regularly and always returned
full laden, and though the husbandmen told sad tales to their overlords of
the awful raids of the Devil of Torn in which he seized upon their stuff by
force, their tongues were in their cheeks as they spoke and the Devil's
gold in their pockets.
And so, while the barons learned to hate him the more, the peasants' love
for him increased. Them he never injured; their fences, their stock, their
crops, their wives and daughters were safe from molestation even though the
neighboring castle of their lord might be sacked from the wine cellar to
the ramparts of the loftiest tower. Nor did anyone dare ride rough shod
over the territory which Norman of Torn patrolled. A dozen bands of
cut-throats he had driven from the Derby hills, and though the barons would
much rather have had all the rest than he, the peasants worshipped him as a
deliverer from the lowborn murderers who had been wont to despoil the weak
and lowly and on whose account the women of the huts and cottages had never
been safe.
Few of them had seen his face and fewer still had spoken with him, but they
loved his name and his prowess and in secret they prayed for him to their
ancient god, Wodin, and the lesser gods of the forest and the meadow and
the chase, for though they were confessed Christians, still in the hearts
of many beat a faint echo of the old superstitions of their ancestors; and
while they prayed also to the Lord Jesus and to Mary, yet they felt it
could do no harm to be on the safe side with the others, in case they did
happen to exist.
A poor, degraded, downtrodden, ignorant, superstitious people, they were;
accustomed for generations to the heel of first one invader and then
another and in the interims, when there were any, the heels of their feudal
lords and their rapacious monarchs.
No wonder then that such as these worshipped the Outlaw of Torn, for since
their fierce Saxon ancestors had come, themselves as conquerors, to
England, no other hand had ever been raised to shield them from oppression.
On this policy of his toward the serfs and freedmen, Norman of Torn and the
grim, old man whom he called father had never agreed. The latter was for
carrying his war of hate against all Englishmen, but the young man would
neither listen to it, nor allow any who rode out from Torn to molest the
lowly. A ragged tunic was a surer defence against this wild horde than a
stout lance or an emblazoned shield.
So, as Norman of Torn rode down from his mighty castle to visit Father
Claude, the sunlight playing on his clanking armor and glancing from the
copper boss of his shield, the sight of a little group of woodmen kneeling
uncovered by the roadside as he passed was not so remarkable after all.
Entering the priest's study, Norman of Torn removed his armor and lay back
moodily upon a bench with his back against a wall and his strong, lithe
legs stretched out before him.
"What ails you, my son ?" asked the priest, "that you look so disconsolate
on this beautiful day ?"
"I do not know, Father," replied Norman of Torn, "unless it be that I am
asking myself the question, 'What it is all for ?' Why did my father train
me ever to prey upon my fellows ? I like to fight, but there is plenty of
fighting which is legitimate, and what good may all my stolen wealth avail
me if I may not enter the haunts of men to spend it ? Should I stick my
head into London town, it would doubtless stay there, held by a hempen
"What quarrel have I with the King or the gentry ? They have quarrel
enough with me it is true, but, nathless, I do not know why I should have
hated them so before I was old enough to know how rotten they really are.
So it seems to me that I am but the instrument of an old man's spite, not
even knowing the grievance to the avenging of which my life has been
dedicated by another.
"And at times, Father Claude, as I grow older, I doubt much that the
nameless old man of Torn is my father, so little do I favor him, and never
in all my life have I heard a word of fatherly endearment or felt a caress,
even as a little child. What think you, Father Claude ?"
"I have thought much of it, my son," answered the priest. "It has ever
been a sore puzzle to me, and I have my suspicions, which I have held for
years, but which even the thought of so frightens me that I shudder to
speculate upon the consequences of voicing them aloud. Norman of Torn, if
you are not the son of the old man you call father, may God forfend that
England ever guesses your true parentage. More than this, I dare not say
except that, as you value your peace of mind and your life, keep your visor
down and keep out of the clutches of your enemies."
"Then you know why I should keep my visor down ?"
"I can only guess, Norman of Torn, because I have seen another whom you
The conversation was interrupted by a commotion from without; the sound of
horses' hoofs, the cries of men and the clash of arms. In an instant, both
men were at the tiny unglazed window. Before them, on the highroad, five
knights in armor were now engaged in furious battle with a party of ten or
a dozen other steel-clad warriors, while crouching breathless on her
palfry , a young woman sat a little apart from the contestants.
Presently, one of the knights detached himself from the melee and rode to
her side with some word of command, at the same time grasping roughly at
her bridle rein. The girl raised her riding whip and struck repeatedly but
futilely against the iron headgear of her assailant while he swung his
horse up the road, and, dragging her palfrey after him, galloped rapidly
out of sight.
Norman of Torn sprang to the door, and, reckless of his unarmored
condition, leaped to Sir Mortimer's back and spurred swiftly in the
direction taken by the girl and her abductor.
The great black was fleet, and, unencumbered by the usual heavy armor of
his rider, soon brought the fugitives to view. Scarce a mile had been
covered ere the knight, turning to look for pursuers, saw the face of
Norman of Torn not ten paces behind him.
With a look of mingled surprise, chagrin and incredulity the knight reined
in his horse, exclaiming as he did so, "Mon Dieu, Edward !"
"Draw and defend yourself," cried Norman of Torn.
"But, Your Highness," stammered the knight.
"Draw, or I stick you as I have stuck an hundred other English pigs," cried
Norman of Torn.
The charging steed was almost upon him and the knight looked to see the
rider draw rein, but, like a black bolt, the mighty Sir Mortimer struck the
other horse full upon the shoulder, and man and steed rolled in the dust of
the roadway.
The knight arose, unhurt, and Norman of Torn dismounted to give fair battle
upon even terms. Though handicapped by the weight of his armor, the knight
also had the advantage of its protection, so that the two fought furiously
for several minutes without either gaining an advantage.
The girl sat motionless and wide-eyed at the side of the road watching
every move of the two contestants. She made no effort to escape, but
seemed riveted to the spot by the very fierceness of the battle she was
beholding, as well, possibly, as by the fascination of the handsome giant
who had espoused her cause. As she looked upon her champion, she saw a
lithe, muscular, brown-haired youth whose clear eyes and perfect figure,
unconcealed by either bassinet or hauberk, reflected the clean, athletic
life of the trained fighting man.
Upon his face hovered a faint, cold smile of haughty pride as the sword
arm, displaying its mighty strength and skill in every move, played with
the sweating, puffing, steel-clad enemy who hacked and hewed so futilely
before him. For all the din of clashing blades and rattling armor, neither
of the contestants had inflicted much damage, for the knight could neither
force nor insinuate his point beyond the perfect guard of his unarmored
foe, who, for his part, found difficulty in penetrating the other's armor.
Finally, by dint of his mighty strength, Norman of Torn drove his blade
through the meshes of his adversary's mail, and the fellow, with a cry of
anguish, sank limply to the ground.
"Quick, Sir Knight !" cried the girl. "Mount and flee; yonder come his
And surely, as Norman of Torn turned in the direction from which he had
just come, there, racing toward him at full tilt, rode three steel-armored
men on their mighty horses.
"Ride, madam," cried Norman of Torn, "for fly I shall not, nor may I,
alone, unarmored, and on foot hope more than to momentarily delay these
three fellows, but in that time you should easily make your escape. Their
heavy-burdened animals could never o'ertake your fleet palfrey."
As he spoke, he took note for the first time of the young woman. That she
was a lady of quality was evidenced not alone by the richness of her riding
apparel and the trappings of her palfrey, but as well in her noble and
haughty demeanor and the proud expression of her beautiful face.
Although at this time nearly twenty years had passed over the head of
Norman of Torn, he was without knowledge or experience in the ways of
women, nor had he ever spoken with a female of quality or position. No
woman graced the castle of Torn nor had the boy, within his memory, ever
known a mother.
His attitude therefore was much the same toward women as it was toward men,
except that he had sworn always to protect them. Possibly, in a way, he
looked up to womankind, if it could be said that Norman of Torn looked up
to anything: God, man or devil -- it being more his way to look down upon
all creatures whom he took the trouble to notice at all.
As his glance rested upon this woman, whom fate had destined to alter the
entire course of his life, Norman of Torn saw that she was beautiful, and
that she was of that class against whom he had preyed for years with his
band of outlaw cut-throats. Then he turned once more to face her enemies
with the strange inconsistency which had ever marked his methods.
Tomorrow he might be assaulting the ramparts of her father's castle, but
today he was joyously offering to sacrifice his life for her -- had she
been the daughter of a charcoal burner he would have done no less. It was
enough that she was a woman and in need of protection.
The three knights were now fairly upon him, and with fine disregard for
fair play, charged with couched spears the unarmored man on foot. But as
the leading knight came close enough to behold his face, he cried out in
surprise and consternation:
"Mon Dieu, le Prince !" He wheeled his charging horse to one side. His
fellows, hearing his cry, followed his example, and the three of them
dashed on down the high road in as evident anxiety to escape as they had
been keen to attack.
"One would think they had met the devil," muttered Norman of Torn, looking
after them in unfeigned astonishment.
"What means it, lady ?" he asked turning to the damsel, who had made no
move to escape.
"It means that your face is well known in your father's realm, my Lord
Prince," she replied. "And the King's men have no desire to antagonize
you, even though they may understand as little as I why you should espouse
the cause of a daughter of Simon de Montfort."
"Am I then taken for Prince Edward of England ?" he asked.
"An' who else should you be taken for, my Lord ?"
"I am not the Prince," said Norman of Torn. "It is said that Edward is in
"Right you are, sir," exclaimed the girl. "I had not thought on that; but
you be enough of his likeness that you might well deceive the Queen
herself. And you be of a bravery fit for a king's son. Who are you then,
Sir Knight, who has bared your steel and faced death for Bertrade, daughter
of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester ?"
"Be you De Montfort's daughter, niece of King Henry ?" queried Norman of
Torn, his eyes narrowing to mere slits and face hardening.
"That I be," replied the girl, "an' from your face I take it you have
little love for a De Montfort," she added, smiling.
"An' whither may you be bound, Lady Bertrade de Montfort ? Be you niece or
daughter of the devil, yet still you be a woman, and I do not war against
women. Wheresoever you would go will I accompany you to safety."
"I was but now bound, under escort of five of my father's knights, to visit
Mary, daughter of John de Stutevill of Derby."
"I know the castle well," answered Norman of Torn, and the shadow of a grim
smile played about his lips, for scarce sixty days had elapsed since he had
reduced the stronghold, and levied tribute on the great baron. "Come, you
have not far to travel now, and if we make haste you shall sup with your
friend before dark."
So saying, he mounted his horse and was turning to retrace their steps down
the road when he noticed the body of the dead knight lying where it had
"Ride on," he called to Bertrade de Montfort, "I will join you in an
Again dismounting, he returned to the side of his late adversary, and
lifting the dead knight's visor, drew upon the forehead with the point of
his dagger the letters NT.
The girl turned to see what detained him, but his back was toward her and
he knelt beside his fallen foeman, and she did not see his act. Brave
daughter of a brave sire though she was, had she seen what he did, her
heart would have quailed within her and she would have fled in terror from
the clutches of this scourge of England, whose mark she had seen on the
dead foreheads of a dozen of her father's knights and kinsmen.
Their way to Stutevill lay past the cottage of Father Claude, and here
Norman of Torn stopped to don his armor. Now he rode once more with
lowered visor, and in silence, a little to the rear of Bertrade de Montfort
that he might watch her face, which, of a sudden, had excited his interest.
Never before, within the scope of his memory, had he been so close to a
young and beautiful woman for so long a period of time, although he had
often seen women in the castles that had fallen before his vicious and
terrible attacks. While stories were abroad of his vile treatment of women
captives, there was no truth in them. They were merely spread by his
enemies to incite the people against him. Never had Norman of Torn laid
violent hand upon a woman, and his cut-throat band were under oath to
respect and protect the sex, on penalty of death.
As he watched the semi-profile of the lovely face before him, something
stirred in his heart which had been struggling for expression for years.
It was not love, nor was it allied to love, but a deep longing for
companionship of such as she, and such as she represented. Norman of Torn
could not have translated this feeling into words for he did not know, but
it was the far faint cry of blood for blood and with it, mayhap, was mixed
not alone the longing of the lion among jackals for other lions, but for
his lioness.
They rode for many miles in silence when suddenly she turned, saying:
"You take your time, Sir Knight, in answering my query. Who be ye ?"
"I am Nor -- " and then he stopped. Always before he had answered that
question with haughty pride. Why should he hesitate, he thought. Was it
because he feared the loathing that name would inspire in the breast of
this daughter of the aristocracy he despised ? Did Norman of Torn fear to
face the look of seem and repugnance that was sure to be mirrored in that
lovely face ?
"I am from Normandy," he went on quietly. "A gentleman of France."
"But your name ?" she said peremptorily. "Are you ashamed of your name ?"
"You may call me Roger," he answered. "Roger de Conde."
"Raise your visor, Roger de Conde," she commanded. "I do not take pleasure
in riding with a suit of armor; I would see that there is a man within."
Norman of Torn smiled as he did her bidding, and when he smiled thus, as he
rarely did, he was good to look upon.
"It is the first command I have obeyed since I turned sixteen, Bertrade de
Montfort," he said.
The girl was about nineteen, full of the vigor and gaiety of youth and
health; and so the two rode on their journey talking and laughing as they
might have been friends of long standing.
She told him of the reason for the attack upon her earlier in the day,
attributing it to an attempt on the part of a certain baron, Peter of
Colfax, to abduct her, his suit for her hand having been peremptorily and
roughly denied by her father.
Simon de Montfort was no man to mince words, and it is doubtless that the
old reprobate who sued for his daughter's hand heard some unsavory truths
from the man who had twice scandalized England's nobility by his rude and
discourteous, though true and candid, speeches to the King.
"This Peter of Colfax shall be looked to," growled Norman of Torn. "And,
as you have refused his heart and hand, his head shall be yours for the
asking. You have but to command, Bertrade de Montfort."
"Very well," she laughed, thinking it but the idle boasting so much
indulged in in those days. "You may bring me his head upon a golden dish,
Roger de Conde."
"And what reward does the knight earn who brings to the feet of his
princess the head of her enemy ?" he asked lightly.
"What boon would the knight ask ?"
"That whatsoever a bad report you hear of your knight, of whatsoever
calumnies may be heaped upon him, you shall yet ever be his friend, and
believe in his honor and his loyalty."
The girl laughed gaily as she answered, though something seemed to tell her
that this was more than play.
"It shall be as you say, Sir Knight," she replied. "And the boon once
granted shall be always kept."
Quick to reach decisions and as quick to act, Norman of Torn decided that
he liked this girl and that he wished her friendship more than any other
thing he knew of. And wishing it, he determined to win it by any means
that accorded with his standard of honor; an honor which in many respects
was higher than that of the nobles of his time.
They reached the castle of De Stutevill late in the afternoon, and there,
Norman of Torn was graciously welcomed and urged to accept the Baron's
hospitality overnight.
The grim humor of the situation was too much for the outlaw, and, when
added to his new desire to be in the company of Bertrade de Montfort, he
made no effort to resist, but hastened to accept the warm welcome.
At the long table upon which the evening meal was spread sat the entire
household of the Baron, and here and there among the men were evidences of
painful wounds but barely healed, while the host himself still wore his
sword arm in a sling.
"We have been through grievous times," said Sir John, noticing that his
guest was glancing at the various evidences of conflict. "That fiend,
Norman the Devil, with his filthy pack of cut-throats, besieged us for ten
days, and then took the castle by storm and sacked it. Life is no longer
safe in England with the King spending his time and money with foreign
favorites and buying alien soldiery to fight against his own barons,
instead of insuring the peace and protection which is the right of every
Englishman at home.
"But," he continued, "this outlaw devil will come to the end of a short
halter when once our civil strife is settled, for the barons themselves
have decided upon an expedition against him, if the King will not subdue
"An' he may send the barons naked home as he did the King's soldiers,"
laughed Bertrade de Montfort. "I should like to see this fellow; what may
he look like -- from the appearance of yourself, Sir John, and many of your
men-at-arms, there should be no few here but have met him."
"Not once did he raise his visor while he was among us," replied the
Baron, "but there are those who claim they had a brief glimpse of him and
that he is of horrid countenance, wearing a great yellow beard and having
one eye gone, and a mighty red scar from his forehead to his chin."
"A fearful apparition," murmured Norman of Torn. "No wonder he keeps his
helm closed."
"But such a swordsman," spoke up a son of De Stutevill. "Never in all the
world was there such swordplay as I saw that day in the courtyard."
"I, too, have seen some wonderful swordplay," said Bertrade de Montfort,
"and that today. O he !" she cried, laughing gleefully, "verily do I
believe I have captured the wild Norman of Torn, for this very knight, who
styles himself Roger de Conde, fights as I ne'er saw man fight before, and
he rode with his visor down until I chide him for it."
Norman of Torn led in the laugh which followed, and of all the company he
most enjoyed the joke.
"An' speaking of the Devil," said the Baron, "how think you he will side
should the King eventually force war upon the barons ? With his thousand
hell-hounds, the fate of England might well he in the palm of his bloody
"He loves neither King nor baron," spoke Mary de Stutevill, "and I rather
lean to the thought that he will serve neither, but rather plunder the
castles of both rebel and royalist whilst their masters be absent at war."
"It be more to his liking to come while the master be home to welcome him,"
said De Stutevill, ruthfully. "But yet I am always in fear for the safety
of my wife and daughters when I be away from Derby for any time. May the
good God soon deliver England from this Devil of Torn."
"I think you may have no need of fear on that score," spoke Mary, "for
Norman of Torn offered no violence to any woman within the wall of
Stutevill, and when one of his men laid a heavy hand upon me, it was the
great outlaw himself who struck the fellow such a blow with his mailed hand
as to crack the ruffian's helm, saying at the time, 'Know you, fellow,
Norman of Torn does not war upon women ?'"
Presently the conversation turned to other subjects and Norman of Torn
heard no more of himself during that evening.
His stay at the castle of Stutevill was drawn out to three days, and then,
on the third day, as he sat with Bertrade de Montfort in an embrasure of
the south tower of the old castle, he spoke once more of the necessity for
leaving and once more she urged him to remain.
"To be with you, Bertrade of Montfort," he said boldly, "I would forego any
other pleasure, and endure any privation, or face any danger, but there are
others who look to me for guidance and my duty calls me away from you. You
shall see me again, and at the castle of your father, Simon de Montfort, in
Leicester. Provided," he added, "that you will welcome me there."
"I shall always welcome you, wherever I may be, Roger de Conde," replied
the girl.
"Remember that promise," he said smiling. "Some day you may be glad to
repudiate it."
"Never," she insisted, and a light that shone in her eyes as she said it
would have meant much to a man better versed in the ways of women than was
Norman of Torn.
"I hope not," he said gravely. "I cannot tell you, being but poorly
trained in courtly ways, what I should like to tell you, that you might
know how much your friendship means to me. Goodbye, Bertrade de Montfort,"
and he bent to one knee, as he raised her fingers to his lips.
As he passed over the drawbridge and down toward the highroad a few minutes
later on his way back to Torn, he turned for one last look at the castle
and there, in an embrasure in the south tower, stood a young woman who
raised her hand to wave, and then, as though by sudden impulse, threw a
kiss after the departing knight, only to disappear from the embrasure with
the act.
As Norman of Torn rode back to his grim castle in the hills of Derby, he
had much food for thought upon the way. Never till now had he realized
what might lie in another manner of life, and he felt a twinge of
bitterness toward the hard, old man whom he called father, and whose
teachings from the boy's earliest childhood had guided him in the ways that
had out him off completely from the society of other men, except the wild
horde of outlaws, ruffians and adventurers that rode beneath the grisly
banner of the young chief of Torn.
Only in an ill-defined, nebulous way did he feel that it was the girl who
had come into his life that caused him for the first time to feel shame for
his past deeds. He did not know the meaning of love, and so he could not
know that he loved Bertrade de Montfort.
And another thought which now filled his mind was the fact of his strange
likeness to the Crown Prince of England. This, together with the words of
Father Claude, puzzled him sorely. What might it mean ? Was it a heinous
offence to own an accidental likeness to a king's son ?
But now that he felt he had solved the reason that he rode always with
closed helm, he was for the first time anxious himself to hide his face
from the sight of men. Not from fear, for he knew not fear, but from some
inward impulse which he did not attempt to fathom.
As Norman of Torn rode out from the castle of De Stutevill, Father Claude
dismounted from his sleek donkey within the ballium of Torn. The austere
stronghold, notwithstanding its repellent exterior and unsavory reputation,
always extended a warm welcome to the kindly, genial priest; not alone
because of the deep friendship which the master of Torn felt for the good
father, but through the personal charm, and lovableness of the holy man's
nature, which shone alike on saint and sinner.
It was doubtless due to his unremitting labors with the youthful Norman,
during the period that the boy's character was most amenable to strong
impressions, that the policy of the mighty outlaw was in many respects pure
and lofty. It was this same influence, though, which won for Father Claude
his only enemy in Torn; the little, grim, gray, old man whose sole aim in
life seemed to have been to smother every finer instinct of chivalry and
manhood in the boy, to whose training he had devoted the past nineteen
years of his life.
As Father Claude climbed down from his donkey -- fat people do not
"dismount" -- a half dozen young squires ran forward to assist him, and to
lead the animal to the stables.
The good priest called each of his willing helpers by name, asking a
question here, passing a merry joke there with the ease and familiarity
that bespoke mutual affection and old acquaintance.
As he passed in through the great gate, the men-at-arms threw him laughing,
though respectful, welcomes and within the great court, beautified with
smooth lawn, beds of gorgeous plants, fountains, statues and small shrubs
and bushes, he came upon the giant, Red Shandy, now the principal
lieutenant of Norman of Torn.
"Good morrow, Saint Claude !" cried the burly ruffian. "Hast come to save
our souls, or damn us ? What manner of sacrilege have we committed now, or
have we merited the blessings of Holy Church ? Dost come to scold, or
praise ?"
"Neither, thou unregenerate villain," cried the priest, laughing. "Though
methinks ye merit chiding for the grievous poor courtesy with which thou
didst treat the great Bishop of Norwich the past week."
"Tut, tut, Father," replied Red Shandy. "We did but aid him to adhere more
closely to the injunctions and precepts of Him whose servant and disciple
he claims to be. Were it not better for an Archbishop of His Church to
walk in humility and poverty among His people, than to be ever surrounded
with the temptations of fine clothing, jewels and much gold, to say nothing
of two sumpter beasts heavy laden with runlets of wine ?"
"I warrant his temptations were less by at least as many runlets of wine as
may be borne by two sumpter beasts when thou, red robber, had finished with
him," exclaimed Father Claude.
"Yes, Father," laughed the great fellow, "for the sake of Holy Church, I
did indeed confiscate that temptation completely, and if you must needs
have proof in order to absolve me from my sins, come with me now and you
shall sample the excellent discrimination which the Bishop of Norwich
displays in the selection of his temptations."
"They tell me you left the great man quite destitute of finery, Red
Shandy, " continued Father Claude, as he locked his arm in that of the
outlaw and proceeded toward the castle.
"One garment was all that Norman of Torn would permit him, and as the sun
was hot overhead, he selected for the Bishop a bassinet for that single
article of apparel, to protect his tonsured pate from the rays of old sol.
Then, fearing that it might be stolen from him by some vandals of the road,
he had One Eye Kanty rivet it at each side of the gorget so that it could
not be removed by other than a smithy, and thus, strapped face to tail upon
a donkey, he sent the great Bishop of Norwich rattling down the dusty road
with his head, at least, protected from the idle gaze of whomsoever he
might chance to meet. Forty stripes he gave to each of the Bishop's
retinue for being abroad in bad company; but come, here we are where you
shall have the wine as proof of my tale."
As the two sat sipping the Bishop's good Canary, the little old man of Torn
entered. He spoke to Father Claude in a surly tone, asking him if he knew
aught of the whereabouts of Norman of Torn.
"We have seen nothing of him since, some three days gone, he rode out in
the direction of your cottage," he concluded.
"Why, yes," said the priest, "I saw him that day. He had an adventure with
several knights from the castle of Peter of Colfax, from whom he rescued a
damsel whom I suspect from the trappings of her palfrey to be of the house
of Montfort. Together they rode north, but thy son did not say whither or
for what purpose. His only remark, as he donned his armor, while the girl
waited without, was that I should now behold the falcon guarding the dove.
Hast he not returned ?"
"No," said the old man, "and doubtless his adventure is of a nature in line
with thy puerile and effeminate teachings. Had he followed my training,
without thy accurst priestly interference, he had made an iron-barred nest
in Torn for many of the doves of thy damned English nobility. An' thou
leave him not alone, he will soon be seeking service in the household of
the King."
"Where, perchance, he might be more at home than here," said the priest
"Why say you that ?" snapped the little old man, eyeing Father Claude
"Oh," laughed the priest, "because he whose power and mien be even more
kingly than the King's would rightly grace the royal palace," but he had
not failed to note the perturbation his remark had caused, nor did his
off-hand reply entirely deceive the old man.
At this juncture, a squire entered to say that Shandy's presence was
required at the gates, and that worthy, with a sorrowing and regretful
glance at the unemptied flagon, left the room.
For a few moments, the two men sat in meditative silence, which was
presently broken by the old man of Torn.
"Priest," he said, "thy ways with my son are, as you know, not to my
liking. It were needless that he should have wasted so much precious time
from swordplay to learn the useless art of letters. Of what benefit may a
knowledge of Latin be to one whose doom looms large before him. It may be
years and again it may be but months, but as sure as there be a devil in
hell, Norman of Torn will swing from a king's gibbet. And thou knowst it,
and he too, as well as I. The things which thou hast taught him be above
his station, and the hopes and ambitions they inspire will but make his end
the bitterer for him. Of late I have noted that he rides upon the highway
with less enthusiasm than was his wont, but he has gone too far ever to go
back now; nor is there where to go back to. What has he ever been other
than outcast and outlaw ? What hopes could you have engendered in his
breast greater than to be hated and feared among his blood enemies ?"
"I knowst not thy reasons, old man," replied the priest, "for devoting thy
life to the ruining of his, and what I guess at be such as I dare not
voice; but let us understand each other once and for all. For all thou
dost and hast done to blight and curse the nobleness of his nature, I have
done and shall continue to do all in my power to controvert. As thou hast
been his bad angel, so shall I try to be his good angel, and when all is
said and done and Norman of Torn swings from the King's gibbet, as I only
too well fear he must, there will be more to mourn his loss than there be
to curse him.
"His friends are from the ranks of the lowly, but so too were the friends
and followers of our Dear Lord Jesus; so that shall be more greatly to his
honor than had he preyed upon the already unfortunate.
"Women have never been his prey; that also will be spoken of to his honor
when he is gone, and that he has been cruel to men will be forgotten in the
greater glory of his mercy to the weak.
"Whatever be thy object: whether revenge or the natural bent of a cruel and
degraded mind, I know not; but if any be curst because of the Outlaw of
Torn, it will be thou -- I had almost said, unnatural father; but I do not
believe a single drop of thy debased blood flows in the veins of him thou
callest son."
The grim old man of Torn had sat motionless throughout this indictment, his
face, somewhat pale, was drawn into lines of malevolent hatred and rage,
but he permitted Father Claude to finish without interruption.
"Thou hast made thyself and thy opinions quite clear," he said bitterly,
"but I be glad to know just how thou standeth. In the past there has been
peace between us, though no love; now let us both understand that it be war
and hate. My life work is cut out for me. Others, like thyself, have
stood in my path, yet today I am here, but where are they ? Dost
understand me, priest ?" And the old man leaned far across the table so
that his eyes, burning with an insane fire of venom, blazed but a few
inches from those of the priest.
Father Claude returned the look with calm level gaze.
"I understand," he said, and, rising, left the castle.
Shortly after he had reached his cottage, a loud knock sounded at the door,
which immediately swung open without waiting the formality of permission.
Father Claude looked up to see the tall figure of Norman of Torn, and his
face lighted with a pleased smile of welcome.
"Greetings, my son," said the priest.
"And to thee, Father," replied the outlaw, "And what may be the news of
Torn. I have been absent for several days. Is all well at the castle ?"
"All be well at the castle," replied Father Claude, "if by that you mean
have none been captured or hanged for their murders. Ah, my boy, why wilt
thou not give up this wicked life of thine ? It has never been my way to
scold or chide thee, yet always hath my heart ached for each crime laid at
the door of Norman of Torn."
"Come, come, Father," replied the outlaw, "what dost I that I have not good
example for from the barons, and the King, and Holy Church. Murder, theft,
rapine ! Passeth a day over England which sees not one or all perpetrated
in the name of some of these ?
"Be it wicked for Norman of Torn to prey upon the wolf, yet righteous for
the wolf to tear the sheep ? Methinks not. Only do I collect from those
who have more than they need, from my natural enemies; while they prey upon
those who have naught.
"Yet," and his manner suddenly changed, "I do not love it, Father. That
thou know. I would that there might be some way out of it, but there is
"If I told you why I wished it, you would be surprised indeed, nor can I
myself understand; but, of a verity, my greatest wish to be out of this
life is due to the fact that I crave the association of those very enemies
I have been taught to hate. But it is too late, Father, there can be but
one end and that the lower end of a hempen rope."
"No, my son, there is another way, an honorable way," replied the good
Father. "In some foreign clime there be opportunities abundant for such as
thee. France offers a magnificent future to such a soldier as Norman of
Torn. In the court of Louis, you would take your place among the highest
of the land. You be rich and brave and handsome. Nay do not raise your
hand. You be all these and more, for you have learning far beyond the
majority of nobles, and you have a good heart and a true chivalry of
character. With such wondrous gifts, naught could bar your way to the
highest pinnacles of power and glory, while here you have no future beyond
the halter. Canst thou hesitate, Norman of Torn ?"
The young man stood silent for a moment, then he drew his hand across his
eyes as though to brush away a vision.
"There be a reason, Father, why I must remain in England for a time at
least, though the picture you put is indeed wondrous alluring."
And the reason was Bertrade de Montfort.
The visit of Bertrade de Montfort with her friend Mary de Stutevill was
drawing to a close. Three weeks had passed since Roger de Conde had ridden
out from the portals of Stutevill and many times the handsome young
knight's name had been on the lips of his fair hostess and her fairer
Today the two girls roamed slowly through the gardens of the great court,
their arms about each other's waists, pouring the last confidences into
each other's ears, for tomorrow Bertrade had elected to return to
"Methinks thou be very rash indeed, my Bertrade," said Mary. "Wert my
father here he would, I am sure, not permit thee to leave with only the
small escort which we be able to give."
"Fear not, Mary," replied Bertrade. "Five of thy father's knights be ample
protection for so short a journey. By evening it will have been
accomplished; and, as the only one I fear in these parts received such a
sound set back from Roger de Conde recently, I do not think he will venture
again to molest me."
"But what about the Devil of Torn, Bertrade ?" urged Mary. "Only
yestereve, you wot, one of Lord de Grey's men-at-arms came limping to us
with the news of the awful carnage the foul fiend had wrought on his
master's household. He be abroad, Bertrade, and I canst think of naught
more horrible than to fall into his hands."
"Why, Mary, thou didst but recently say thy very self that Norman of Torn
was most courteous to thee when he sacked this, thy father's castle. How
be it thou so soon has changed thy mind ?"
"Yes, Bertrade, he was indeed respectful then, but who knows what horrid
freak his mind may take, and they do say that he be cruel beyond compare.
Again, forget not that thou be Leicester's daughter and Henry's niece;
against both of whom the Outlaw of Torn openly swears his hatred and his
vengeance. Oh, Bertrade, wait but for a day or so, I be sure my father
must return ere then, and fifty knights shall accompany thee instead of
"What be fifty knights against Norman of Torn, Mary ? Thy reasoning is on
a parity with thy fears, both have flown wide of the mark.
"If I am to meet with this wild ruffian, it were better that five knights
were sacrificed than fifty, for either number would be but a mouthful to
that horrid horde of unhung murderers. No, Mary, I shall start tomorrow
and your good knights shall return the following day with the best of word
from me."
"If thou wilst, thou wilst," cried Mary petulantly. "Indeed it were plain
that thou be a De Montfort; that race whose historic bravery be second only
to their historic stubbornness."
Bertrade de Montfort laughed, and kissed her friend upon the cheek.
"Mayhap I shall find the brave Roger de Conde again upon the highroad to
protect me. Then indeed shall I send back your five knights, for of a
truth, his blade is more powerful than that of any ten men I ere saw fight
"Methinks," said Mary, still peeved at her friend's determination to leave
on the morrow, "that should you meet the doughty Sir Roger all unarmed,
that still would you send back my father's knights."
Bertrade flushed, and then bit her lip as she felt the warm blood mount to
her cheek.
"Thou be a fool, Mary," she said.
Mary broke into a joyful, teasing laugh; hugely enjoying the discomfiture
of the admission the tell-tale flush proclaimed.
"Ah, I did but guess how thy heart and thy mind tended, Bertrade; but now I
seest that I divined all too truly. He be indeed good to look upon, but
what knowest thou of him ?"
"Hush, Mary !" commanded Bertrade. "Thou know not what thou sayest. I
would not wipe my feet upon him, I care naught whatever for him, and
then -- it has been three weeks since he rode out from Stutevill and no
word hath he sent."
"Oh, ho," cried the little plague, "so there lies the wind ? My Lady would
not wipe her feet upon him, but she be sore vexed that he has sent her no
word. Mon Dieu, but thou hast strange notions, Bertrade."
"I will not talk with you, Mary," cried Bertrade, stamping her sandaled
foot, and with a toss of her pretty head she turned abruptly toward the
In a small chamber in the castle of Colfax two men sat at opposite sides of
a little table. The one, Peter of Colfax, was short and very stout. His
red, bloated face, bleary eyes and bulbous nose bespoke the manner of his
life; while his thick lips, the lower hanging large and flabby over his
receding chin, indicated the base passions to which his life and been
given. His companion was a little, grim, gray man but his suit of armor
and closed helm gave no hint to his host of whom his guest might be. It
was the little armored man who was speaking.
"Is it not enough that I offer to aid you, Sir Peter," he said, "that you
must have my reasons ? Let it go that my hate of Leicester be the passion
which moves me. Thou failed in thy attempt to capture the maiden; give me
ten knights and I will bring her to you."
"How knowest thou she rides out tomorrow for her father's castle ?" asked
Peter of Colfax.
"That again be no concern of thine, my friend, but I do know it, and, if
thou wouldst have her, be quick, for we should ride out tonight that we may
take our positions by the highway in ample time tomorrow."
Still Peter of Colfax hesitated, he feared this might be a ruse of
Leicester's to catch him in some trap. He did not know his guest -- the
fellow might want the girl for himself and be taking this method of
obtaining the necessary assistance to capture her.
"Come," said the little, armored man irritably. "I cannot bide here
forever. Make up thy mind; it be nothing to me other than my revenge, and
if thou wilst not do it, I shall hire the necessary ruffians and then not
even thou shalt see Bertrade de Montfort more."
This last threat decided the Baron.
"It is agreed," he said. "The men shall ride out with you in half an
hour. Wait below in the courtyard."
When the little man had left the apartment, Peter of Colfax summoned his
squire whom he had send to him at once one of his faithful henchmen.
"Guy," said Peter of Colfax, as the man entered, "ye made a rare fizzle of
a piece of business some weeks ago. Ye wot of which I speak ?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"It chances that on the morrow ye may have opportunity to retrieve thy
blunder. Ride out with ten men where the stranger who waits in the
courtyard below shall lead ye, and come not back without that which ye lost
to a handful of men before. You understand ?"
"Yes, My Lord !"
"And, Guy, I half mistrust this fellow who hath offered to assist us. At
the first sign of treachery, fall upon him with all thy men and slay him.
Tell the others that these be my orders."
"Yes, My Lord. When do we ride ?"
"At once. You may go."
The morning that Bertrade de Montfort had chosen to return to her father's
castle dawned gray and threatening. In vain did Mary de Stutevill plead
with her friend to give up the idea of setting out upon such a dismal day
and without sufficient escort, but Bertrade de Montfort was firm.
"Already have I overstayed my time three days, and it is not lightly that
even I, his daughter, fail in obedience to Simon de Montfort. I shall have
enough to account for as it be. Do not urge me to add even one more day to
my excuses. And again, perchance, my mother and my father may be sore
distressed by my continued absence. No, Mary, I must ride today." And so
she did, with the five knights that could be spared from the castle's
Scarcely half an hour had elapsed before a cold drizzle set in, so that
they were indeed a sorry company that splashed along the muddy road,
wrapped in mantle and surcoat. As they proceeded, the rain and wind
increased in volume, until it was being driven into their faces in such
blinding gusts that they must needs keep their eyes closed and trust to the
instincts of their mounts.
Less than half the journey had been accomplished. They were winding across
a little hollow toward a low ridge covered with dense forest, into the
somber shadows of which the road wound. There was a glint of armor among
the drenched foliage, but the rain-buffeted eyes of the riders saw it not.
On they came, their patient horses plodding slowly through the sticky road
and hurtling storm.
Now they were half way up the ridge's side. There was a movement in the
dark shadows of the grim wood, and then, without cry or warning, a band of
steel-clad horsemen broke forth with couched spears. Charging at full run
down upon them, they overthrew three of the girl's escort before a blow
could be struck in her defense. Her two remaining guardians wheeled to
meet the return attack, and nobly did they acquit themselves, for it took
the entire eleven who were pitted against them to overcome and slay the
In the melee, none had noticed the girl, but presently one of her
assailants, a little, grim, gray man, discovered that she had put spurs to
her palfrey and escaped. Calling to his companions he set out at a rapid
pace in pursuit.
Reckless of the slippery road and the blinding rain, Bertrade de Montfort
urged her mount into a wild run, for she had recognized the arms of Peter
of Colfax on the shields of several of the attacking party.
Nobly, the beautiful Arab bent to her call for speed. The great beasts of
her pursuers, bred in Normandy and Flanders, might have been tethered in
their stalls for all the chance they had of overtaking the flying white
steed that fairly split the gray rain as lightning flies through the
But for the fiendish cunning of the little grim, gray man's foresight,
Bertrade de Montfort would have made good her escape that day. As it was,
however, her fleet mount had carried her but two hundred yards ere, in the
midst of the dark wood, she ran full upon a rope stretched across the
roadway between two trees.
As the horse fell, with a terrible lunge, tripped by the stout rope,
Bertrade de Montfort was thrown far before him, where she lay, a little,
limp bedraggled figure, in the mud of the road.
There they found her. The little, grim, gray man did not even dismount, so
indifferent was he to her fate; dead or in the hands of Peter of Colfax, it
was all the same to him. In either event, his purpose would be
accomplished, and Bertrade de Montfort would no longer lure Norman of Torn
from the path he had laid out for him.
That such an eventuality threatened, he knew from one Spizo the Spaniard,
the single traitor in the service of Norman of Torn, whose mean aid the
little grim, gray man had purchased since many months to spy upon the
comings and goings of the great outlaw.
The men of Peter of Colfax gathered up the lifeless form of Bertrade de
Montfort and placed it across the saddle before one of their number.
"Come," said the man called Guy, "if there be life left in her, we must
hasten to Sir Peter before it be extinct."
"I leave ye here," said the little old man. "My part of the business is
And so he sat watching them until they had disappeared in the forest toward
the castle of Colfax.
Then he rode back to the scene of the encounter where lay the five knights
of Sir John de Stutevill. Three were already dead, the other two, sorely
but not mortally wounded, lay groaning by the roadside.
The little grim, gray man dismounted as he came abreast of them and, with
his long sword, silently finished the two wounded men. Then, drawing his
dagger, he made a mark upon the dead foreheads of each of the five, and
mounting, rode rapidly toward Torn.
"And if one fact be not enough," he muttered, "that mark upon the dead will
quite effectually stop further intercourse between the houses of Torn and
Henry de Montfort, son of Simon, rode fast and furious at the head of a
dozen of his father's knights on the road to Stutevill.
Bertrade de Montfort was so long overdue that the Earl and Princess
Eleanor, his wife, filled with grave apprehensions, had posted their oldest
son off to the castle of John de Stutevill to fetch her home.
With the wind and rain at their backs, the little party rode rapidly along
the muddy road, until late in the afternoon they came upon a white palfrey
standing huddled beneath a great oak, his arched back toward the driving
"By God," cried De Montfort, "tis my sister's own Abdul. There be
something wrong here indeed." But a rapid search of the vicinity, and loud
calls brought no further evidence of the girl's whereabouts, so they
pressed on toward Stutevill.
Some two miles beyond the spot where the white palfrey had been found, they
came upon the dead bodies of the five knights who had accompanied Bertrade
from Stutevill.
Dismounting, Henry de Montfort examined the bodies of the fallen men. The
arms upon shield and helm confirmed his first fear that these had been
Bertrade's escort from Stutevill.
As he bent over them to see if he recognized any of the knights, there
stared up into his face from the foreheads of the dead men the dreaded
sign, NT, scratched there with a dagger's point.
"The curse of God be on him !" cried De Montfort. "It be the work of the
Devil of Torn, my gentlemen," he said to his followers. "Come, we need no
further guide to our destination." And, remounting, the little party
spurred back toward Torn.
When Bertrade de Montfort regained her senses, she was in bed in a strange
room, and above her bent an old woman; a repulsive, toothless old woman,
whose smile was but a fangless snarl.
"Ho, ho !" she croaked. "The bride waketh. I told My Lord that it would
take more than a tumble in the mud to kill a De Montfort. Come, come, now,
arise and clothe thyself, for the handsome bridegroom canst scarce restrain
his eager desire to fold thee in his arms. Below in the great hall he
paces to and fro, the red blood mantling his beauteous countenance."
"Who be ye ?" cried Bertrade de Montfort, her mind still dazed from the
effects of her fall. "Where am I ?" and then, "O, Mon Dieu !" as she
remembered the events of the afternoon; and the arms of Colfax upon the
shields of the attacking party. In an instant she realized the horror of
her predicament; its utter hopelessness.
Beast though he was, Peter of Colfax stood high in the favor of the King;
and the fact that she was his niece would scarce aid her cause with Henry,
for it was more than counter-balanced by the fact that she was the daughter
of Simon de Montfort, whom he feared and hated.
In the corridor without, she heard the heavy tramp of approaching feet, and
presently a man's voice at the door.
"Within there, Coll ! Hast the damsel awakened from her swoon ?"
"Yes, Sir Peter," replied the old woman, "I was but just urging her to
arise and clothe herself, saying that you awaited her below."
"Haste then, My Lady Bertrade," called the man, "no harm will be done thee
if thou showest the good sense I give thee credit for. I will await thee
in the great hall, or, if thou prefer, wilt come to thee here."
The girl paled, more in loathing and contempt than in fear, but the tones
of her answer were calm and level.
"I will see thee below, Sir Peter, anon," and rising, she hastened to
dress, while the receding footsteps of the Baron diminished down the
stairway which led from the tower room in which she was imprisoned.
The old woman attempted to draw her into conversation, but the girl would
not talk. Her whole mind was devoted to weighing each possible means of
A half hour later, she entered the great hall of the castle of Peter of
Colfax. The room was empty. Little change had been wrought in the
apartment since the days of Ethelwolf. As the girl's glance ranged the
hall in search of her jailer it rested upon the narrow, unglazed windows
beyond which lay freedom. Would she ever again breathe God's pure air
outside these stifling walls ? These grimy hateful walls ! Black as the
inky rafters and wainscot except for occasional splotches a few shades less
begrimed, where repairs had been made. As her eyes fell upon the trophies
of war and chase which hung there her lips curled in scorn, for she knew
that they were acquisitions by inheritance rather than by the personal
prowess of the present master of Colfax.
A single cresset lighted the chamber, while the flickering light from a
small wood fire upon one of the two great hearths seemed rather to
accentuate the dim shadows of the place.
Bertrade crossed the room and leaned against a massive oak table, blackened
by age and hard usage to the color of the beams above, dented and nicked by
the pounding of huge drinking horns and heavy swords when wild and lusty
brawlers had been moved to applause by the lay of some wandering minstrel,
or the sterner call of their mighty chieftains for the oath of fealty.
Her wandering eyes took in the dozen benches and the few rude, heavy chairs
which completed the rough furnishings of this rough room, and she
shuddered. One little foot tapped sullenly upon the disordered floor which
was littered with a miscellany of rushes interspread with such bones and
scraps of food as the dogs had rejected or overlooked.
But to none of these surroundings did Bertrade de Montfort give but passing
heed; she looked for the man she sought that she might quickly have the
encounter over and learn what fate the future held in store for her.
Her quick glance had shown her that the room was quite empty, and that in
addition to the main doorway at the lower end of the apartment, where she
had entered, there was but one other door leading from the hall. This was
at one side, and as it stood ajar she could see that it led into a small
room, apparently a bedchamber.
As she stood facing the main doorway, a panel opened quietly behind her and
directly back of where the thrones had stood in past times. From the black
mouth of the aperture stepped Peter of Colfax. Silently, he closed the
panel after him, and with soundless steps, advanced toward the girl. At
the edge of the raised dais he halted, rattling his sword to attract her
If his aim had been to unnerve her by the suddenness and mystery of his
appearance, he failed signally, for she did not even turn her head as she
"What explanation hast thou to make, Sir Peter, for this base treachery
against thy neighbor's daughter and thy sovereign's niece ?"
"When fond hearts be thwarted by a cruel parent," replied the pot-bellied
old beast in a soft and fawning tone, "love must still find its way; and so
thy gallant swain hath dared the wrath of thy great father and majestic
uncle, and lays his heart at thy feet, O beauteous Bertrade, knowing full
well that thine hath been hungering after it since we didst first avow our
love to thy hard-hearted sire. See, I kneel to thee, my dove !" And with
cracking joints the fat baron plumped down upon his marrow bones.
Bertrade turned and as she saw him her haughty countenance relaxed into a
sneering smile.
"Thou art a fool, Sir Peter," she said, "and, at that, the worst species of
fool -- an ancient fool. It is useless to pursue thy cause, for I will
have none of thee. Let me hence, if thou be a gentleman, and no word of
what hath transpired shall ever pass my lips. But let me go, 'tis all I
ask, and it is useless to detain me for I cannot give what you would have.
I do not love you, nor ever can I."
Her first words had caused the red of humiliation to mottle his already
ruby visage to a semblance of purple, and now, as he attempted to rise with
dignity, he was still further covered with confusion by the fact that his
huge stomach made it necessary for him to go upon all fours before he could
rise, so that he got up much after the manner of a cow, raising his stern
high in air in a most ludicrous fashion. As he gained his feet he saw the
girl turn her head from him to hide the laughter on her face.
"Return to thy chamber," he thundered. "I will give thee until tomorrow to
decide whether thou wilt accept Peter of Colfax as thy husband, or take
another position in his household which will bar thee for all time from the
society of thy kind."
The girl turned toward him, the laugh still playing on her lips.
"I will be wife to no buffoon; to no clumsy old clown; to no debauched,
degraded parody of a man. And as for thy other rash threat, thou hast not
the guts to put thy wishes into deeds, thou craven coward, for well ye know
that Simon de Montfort would cut out thy foul heart with his own hand if he
ever suspected thou wert guilty of speaking of such to me, his daughter."
And Bertrade de Montfort swept from the great hall, and mounted to her
tower chamber in the ancient Saxon stronghold of Colfax.
The old woman kept watch over her during the night and until late the
following afternoon, when Peter of Colfax summoned his prisoner before him
once more. So terribly had the old hag played upon the girl's fears that
she felt fully certain that the Baron was quite equal to his dire threat,
and so she had again been casting about for some means of escape or delay.
The room in which she was imprisoned was in the west tower of the castle,
fully a hundred feet above the moat, which the single embrasure
overlooked. There was, therefore, no avenue of escape in this direction.
The solitary door was furnished with huge oaken bars, and itself composed
of mighty planks of the same wood, cross barred with iron.
If she could but get the old woman out, thought Bertrade, she could
barricade herself within and thus delay, at least, her impending fate in
the hope that succor might come from some source. But her most subtle
wiles proved ineffectual in ridding her, even for a moment, of her harpy
jailer; and now that the final summons had come, she was beside herself for
a lack of means to thwart her captor.
Her dagger had been taken from her, but one hung from the girdle of the old
woman and this Bertrade determined to have.
Feigning trouble with the buckle of her own girdle, she called upon the old
woman to aid her, and as the hag bent her head close to the girl's body to
see what was wrong with the girdle clasp, Bertrade reached quickly to her
side and snatched the weapon from its sheath. Quickly she sprang back from
the old woman who, with a cry of anger and alarm, rushed upon her.
"Back !" cried the girl. "Stand back, old hag, or thou shalt feel the
length of thine own blade."
The woman hesitated and then fell to cursing and blaspheming in a most
horrible manner, at the same time calling for help.
Bertrade backed to the door, commanding the old woman to remain where she
was, on pain of death, and quickly dropped the mighty bars into place.
Scarcely had the last great bolt been slipped than Peter of Colfax, with a
dozen servants and men-at-arms, were pounding loudly upon the outside.
"What's wrong within, Coll," cried the Baron.
"The wench has wrested my dagger from me and is murdering me," shrieked the
old woman.
"An' that I will truly do, Peter of Colfax," spoke Bertrade, "if you do not
immediately send for my friends to conduct me from thy castle, for I will
not step my foot from this room until I know that mine own people stand
Peter of Colfax pled and threatened, commanded and coaxed, but all in
vain. So passed the afternoon, and as darkness settled upon the castle the
Baron desisted from his attempts, intending to starve his prisoner out.
Within the little room, Bertrade de Montfort sat upon a bench guarding her
prisoner, from whom she did not dare move her eyes for a single second.
All that long night she sat thus, and when morning dawned, it found her
position unchanged, her tired eyes still fixed upon the hag.
Early in the morning, Peter of Colfax resumed his endeavors to persuade her
to come out; he even admitted defeat and promised her safe conduct to her
father's castle, but Bertrade de Montfort was not one to be fooled by his
lying tongue.
"Then will I starve you out," he cried at length.
"Gladly will I starve in preference to falling into thy foul hands,"
replied the girl. "But thy old servant here will starve first, for she be
very old and not so strong as I. Therefore, how will it profit you to kill
two and still be robbed of thy prey ?"
Peter of Colfax entertained no doubt but that his fair prisoner would carry
out her threat and so he set his men to work with cold chisels, axes and
saws upon the huge door.
For hours, they labored upon that mighty work of defence, and it was late
at night ere they made a little opening large enough to admit a hand and
arm, but the first one intruded within the room to raise the bars was drawn
quickly back with a howl of pain from its owner. Thus the keen dagger in
the girl's hand put an end to all hopes of entering without completely
demolishing the door.
To this work, the men without then set themselves diligently while Peter of
Colfax renewed his entreaties, through the small opening they had made.
Bertrade replied but once.
"Seest thou this poniard ?" she asked. "When that door falls, this point
enters my heart. There is nothing beyond that door, with thou, poltroon,
to which death in this little chamber would not be preferable."
As she spoke, she turned toward the man she was addressing, for the first
time during all those weary, hideous hours removing her glance from the old
hag. It was enough. Silently, but with the quickness of a tigress the old
woman was upon her back, one claw-like paw grasping the wrist which held
the dagger.
"Quick, My Lord !" she shrieked, "the bolts, quick."
Instantly Peter of Colfax ran his arm through the tiny opening in the door
and a second later four of his men rushed to the aid of the old woman.
Easily they wrested the dagger from Bertrade's fingers, and at the Baron's
bidding, they dragged her to the great hall below.
As his retainers left the room at his command, Peter of Colfax strode back
and forth upon the rushes which strewed the floor. Finally he stopped
before the girl standing rigid in the center of the room.
"Hast come to thy senses yet, Bertrade de Montfort ?" he asked angrily. "I
have offered you your choice; to be the honored wife of Peter of Colfax,
or, by force, his mistress. The good priest waits without, what be your
answer now ?"
"The same as it has been these past two days," she replied with haughty
scorn. "The same that it shall always be. I will be neither wife nor
mistress to a coward; a hideous, abhorrent pig of a man. I would die, it
seems, if I felt the touch of your hand upon me. You do not dare to touch
me, you craven. I, the daughter of an earl, the niece of a king, wed to
the warty toad, Peter of Colfax !"
"Hold, chit !" cried the Baron, livid with rage. "You have gone too far.
Enough of this; and you love me not now, I shall learn you to love ere the
sun rises." And with a vile oath he grasped the girl roughly by the arm,
and dragged her toward the little doorway at the side of the room.
For three weeks after his meeting with Bertrade de Montfort and his sojourn
at the castle of John de Stutevill, Norman of Torn was busy with his wild
horde in reducing and sacking the castle of John de Grey, a royalist baron
who had captured and hanged two of the outlaw's fighting men; and never
again after his meeting with the daughter of the chief of the barons did
Norman of Torn raise a hand against the rebels or their friends.
Shortly after his return to Torn, following the successful outcome of his
expedition, the watch upon the tower reported the approach of a dozen armed
knights. Norman sent Red Shandy to the outer walls to learn the mission of
the party, for visitors seldom came to this inaccessible and unhospitable
fortress; and he well knew that no party of a dozen knights would venture
with hostile intent within the clutches of his great band of villains.
The great red giant soon returned to say that it was Henry de Montfort,
oldest son of the Earl of Leicester, who had come under a flag of truce and
would have speech with the master of Torn.
"Admit them, Shandy," commanded Norman of Torn, "I will speak with them
When the party, a few moments later, was ushered into his presence it found
itself facing a mailed knight with drawn visor.
Henry de Montfort advanced with haughty dignity until he faced the outlaw.
"Be ye Norman of Torn ?" he asked. And, did he try to conceal the hatred
and loathing which he felt, he was poorly successful.
"They call me so," replied the visored knight. "And what may bring a De
Montfort after so many years to visit his old neighbor ?"
"Well ye know what brings me, Norman of Torn," replied the young man. "It
is useless to waste words, and we cannot resort to arms, for you have us
entirely in your power. Name your price and it shall be paid, only be
quick and let me hence with my sister."
"What wild words be these, Henry de Montfort ? Your sister ! What mean
you ?"
"Yes, my sister Bertrade, whom you stole upon the highroad two days since,
after murdering the knights of John de Stutevill who were fetching her home
from a visit upon the Baron's daughter. We know that it was you for the
foreheads of the dead men bore your devil's mark."
"Shandy !" roared Norman of Torn. "WHAT MEANS THIS ? Who has been upon
the road, attacking women, in my absence ? You were here and in charge
during my visit to my Lord de Grey. As you value your hide, Shandy, the
truth !"
"Since you laid me low in the hut of the good priest, I have served you
well, Norman of Torn. You should know my loyalty by this time and that
never have I lied to you. No man of yours has done this thing, nor is it
the first time that vile scoundrels have placed your mark upon their dead
that they might thus escape suspicion, themselves."
"Henry de Montfort," said Norman of Torn, turning to his visitor, "we of
Torn bear no savory name, that I know full well, but no man may say that we
unsheath our swords against women. Your sister is not here. I give you
the word of honor of Norman of Torn. Is it not enough ?"
"They say you never lie," replied De Montfort. "Would to God I knew who
had done this thing, or which way to search for my sister."
Norman of Torn made no reply, his thoughts were in wild confusion, and it
was with difficulty that he hid the fierce anxiety of his heart or his rage
against the perpetrators of this dastardly act which tore his whole being.
In silence De Montfort turned and left, nor had his party scarce passed the
drawbridge ere the castle of Torn was filled with hurrying men and the
noise and uproar of a sudden call to arms.
Some thirty minutes later, five hundred iron-clad horses carried their
mailed riders beneath the portcullis of the grim pile, and Norman the
Devil, riding at their head, spurred rapidly in the direction of the castle
of Peter of Colfax.
The great troop, winding down the rocky trail from Torn's buttressed gates,
presented a picture of wild barbaric splendor.
The armor of the men was of every style and metal from the ancient banded
mail of the Saxon to the richly ornamented plate armor of Milan. Gold and
silver and precious stones set in plumed crest and breastplate and shield,
and even in the steel spiked chamfrons of the horses' head armor showed the
rich loot which had fallen to the portion of Norman of Torn's wild raiders.
Fluttering pennons streamed from five hundred lance points, and the gray
banner of Torn, with the black falcon's wing, flew above each of the five
companies. The great linden wood shields of the men were covered with gray
leather and, in the upper right hand corner of each, was the black falcon's
wing. The surcoats of the riders were also uniform, being of dark gray
villosa faced with black wolf skin, so that notwithstanding the richness of
the armor and the horse trappings, there was a grim, gray warlike
appearance to these wild companies that comported well with their
Recruited from all ranks of society and from every civilized country of
Europe, the great horde of Torn numbered in its ten companies serf and
noble; Britain, Saxon, Norman, Dane, German, Italian and French, Scot, Pict
and Irish.
Here birth caused no distinctions; the escaped serf, with the gall marks of
his brass collar still visible about his neck, rode shoulder to shoulder
with the outlawed scion of a noble house. The only requisites for
admission to the troop were willingness and ability to fight, and an oath
to obey the laws made by Norman of Torn.
The little army was divided into ten companies of one hundred men, each
company captained by a fighter of proven worth and ability.
Our old friends Red Shandy, and John and James Flory led the first three
companies, the remaining seven being under command of other seasoned
veterans of a thousand fights.
One Eye Kanty, owing to his early trade, held the always important post of
chief armorer, while Peter the Hermit, the last of the five cut-throats
whom Norman of Torn had bested that day, six years before, in the hut of
Father Claude, had become majordomo of the great castle of Torn, which post
included also the vital functions of quartermaster and commissary.
The old man of Torn attended to the training of serf and squire in the art
of war, for it was ever necessary to fill the gaps made in the companies,
due to their constant encounters upon the highroad and their battles at the
taking of some feudal castle; in which they did not always come off
unscathed, though usually victorious.
Today, as they wound west across the valley, Norman of Torn rode at the
head of the cavalcade, which strung out behind him in a long column. Above
his gray steel armor, a falcon's wing rose from his crest. It was the
insignia which always marked him to his men in the midst of battle. Where
it waved might always be found the fighting and the honors, and about it
they were wont to rally.
Beside Norman of Torn rode the grim, gray, old man, silent and taciturn;
nursing his deep hatred in the depths of his malign brain.
At the head of their respective companies rode the five captains: Red
Shandy; John Flory; Edwild the Serf; Emilio, Count de Gropello of Italy;
and Sieur Ralph de la Campnee, of France.
The hamlets and huts which they passed in the morning and early afternoon
brought forth men, women and children to cheer and wave God-speed to them;
but as they passed farther from the vicinity of Torn, where the black
falcon wing was known more by the ferocity of its name than by the kindly
deeds of the great outlaw to the lowly of his neighborhood, they saw only
closed and barred doors with an occasional frightened face peering from a
tiny window.
It was midnight ere they sighted the black towers of Colfax silhouetted
against the starry sky. Drawing his men into the shadows of the forest a
half mile from the castle, Norman of Torn rode forward with Shandy and some
fifty men to a point as close as they could come without being observed.
Here they dismounted and Norman of Torn crept stealthily forward alone.
Taking advantage of every cover, he approached to the very shadows of the
great gate without being detected. In the castle, a light shone dimly from
the windows of the great hall, but no other sign of life was apparent. To
his intense surprise, Norman of Torn found the drawbridge lowered and no
sign of watchmen at the gate or upon the walls.
As he had sacked this castle some two years since, he was familiar with its
internal plan, and so he knew that through the scullery he could reach a
small antechamber above, which let directly into the great hall.
And so it happened that, as Peter of Colfax wheeled toward the door of the
little room, he stopped short in terror, for there before him stood a
strange knight in armor, with lowered visor and drawn sword. The girl saw
him too, and a look of hope and renewed courage overspread her face.
"Draw !" commanded a low voice in English, "unless you prefer to pray, for
you are about to die."
"Who be ye, varlet ?" cried the Baron. "Ho, John ! Ho, Guy ! To the
rescue, quick !" he shrieked, and drawing his sword, he attempted to back
quickly toward the main doorway of the hall; but the man in armor was upon
him and forcing him to fight ere he had taken three steps.
It had been short shrift for Peter of Colfax that night had not John and
Guy and another of his henchmen rushed into the room with drawn swords.
"Ware ! Sir Knight," cried the girl, as she saw the three knaves rushing
to the aid of their master.
Turning to meet their assault, the knight was forced to abandon the
terror-stricken Baron for an instant, and again he had made for the doorway
bent only on escape; but the girl had divined his intentions, and running
quickly to the entrance, she turned the great lock and threw the key with
all her might to the far corner of the hall. In an instant she regretted
her act, for she saw that where she might have reduced her rescuer's
opponents by at least one, she had now forced the cowardly Baron to remain,
and nothing fights more fiercely than a cornered rat.
The knight was holding his own splendidly with the three retainers, and for
an instant Bertrade de Montfort stood spell-bound by the exhibition of
swordsmanship she was witnessing.
Fighting the three alternately, in pairs and again all at the same time,
the silent knight, though weighted by his heavy armor, forced them steadily
back; his flashing blade seeming to weave a net of steel about them.
Suddenly his sword stopped just for an instant, stopped in the heart of one
of his opponents, and as the man lunged to the floor, it was flashing again
close to the breasts of the two remaining men-at-arms.
Another went down less than ten seconds later, and then the girl's
attention was called to the face of the horrified Baron; Peter of Colfax
was moving -- slowly and cautiously, he was creeping, from behind, toward
the visored knight, and in his raised hand flashed a sharp dagger.
For an instant, the girl stood frozen with horror, unable to move a finger
or to cry out; but only for an instant, and then, regaining control of her
muscles, she stooped quickly and, grasping a heavy foot-stool, hurled it
full at Peter of Colfax.
It struck him below the knees and toppled him to the floor just as the
knight's sword passed through the throat of his final antagonist.
As the Baron fell, he struck heavily upon a table which supported the only
lighted cresset within the chamber. In an instant, all was darkness.
There was a rapid shuffling sound as of the scurrying of rats and then the
quiet of the tomb settled upon the great hall.
"Are you safe and unhurt, my Lady Bertrade ?" asked a grave English voice
out of the darkness.
"Quite, Sir Knight," she replied, "and you ?"
"Not a scratch, but where is our good friend the Baron ?"
"He lay here upon the floor but a moment since, and carried a thin long
dagger in his hand. Have a care, Sir Knight, he may even now be upon you."
The knight did not answer, but she heard him moving boldly about the room.
Soon he had found another lamp and made a light. As its feeble rays slowly
penetrated the black gloom, the girl saw the bodies of the three
men-at-arms, the overturned table and lamp, and the visored knight; but
Peter of Colfax was gone.
The knight perceived his absence at the same time, but he only laughed a
low, grim laugh.
"He will not go far, My Lady Bertrade," he said.
"How know you my name ?" she asked. "Who may you be ? I do not recognize
your armor, and your breastplate bears no arms."
He did not answer at once and her heart rose in her breast as it filled
with the hope that her brave rescuer might be the same Roger de Conde who
had saved her from the hirelings of Peter of Colfax but a few short weeks
since. Surely it was the same straight and mighty figure, and there was
the marvelous swordplay as well. It must be he, and yet Roger de Conde had
spoken no English while this man spoke it well, though, it was true, with a
slight French accent.
"My Lady Bertrade, I be Norman of Torn," said the visored knight with quiet
The girl's heart sank, and a feeling of cold fear crept through her. For
years that name had been the symbol of fierce cruelty, and mad hatred
against her kind. Little children were frightened into obedience by the
vaguest hint that the Devil of Torn would get them, and grown men had come
to whisper the name with grim, set lips.
"Norman of Torn !" she whispered. "May God have mercy on my soul !"
Beneath the visored helm, a wave of pain and sorrow surged across the
countenance of the outlaw, and a little shudder, as of a chill of
hopelessness, shook his giant frame.
"You need not fear, My Lady," he said sadly. "You shall be in your
father's castle of Leicester ere the sun marks noon. And you will be safer
under the protection of the hated Devil of Torn than with your own mighty
father, or your royal uncle."
"It is said that you never lie, Norman of Torn," spoke the girl, "and I
believe you, but tell me why you thus befriend a De Montfort."
"It is not for love of your father or your brothers, nor yet hatred of
Peter of Colfax, nor neither for any reward whatsoever. It pleases me to
do as I do, that is all. Come."
He led her in silence to the courtyard and across the lowered drawbridge,
to where they soon discovered a group of horsemen, and in answer to a low
challenge from Shandy, Norman of Torn replied that it was he.
"Take a dozen men, Shandy, and search yon hellhole. Bring out to me,
alive, Peter of Colfax, and My Lady's cloak and a palfrey -- and Shandy,
when all is done as I say, you may apply the torch ! But no looting,
Shandy looked in surprise upon his leader, for the torch had never been a
weapon of Norman of Torn, while loot, if not always the prime object of his
many raids, was at least a very important consideration.
The outlaw noticed the surprised hesitation of his faithful subaltern and
signing him to listen, said:
"Red Shandy, Norman of Torn has fought and sacked and pillaged for the love
of it, and for a principle which was at best but a vague generality.
Tonight we ride to redress a wrong done to My Lady Bertrade de Montfort,
and that, Shandy, is a different matter. The torch, Shandy, from tower to
scullery, but in the service of My Lady, no looting."
"Yes, My Lord," answered Shandy, and departed with his little detachment.
In a half hour he returned with a dozen prisoners, but no Peter of Colfax.
"He has flown, My Lord," the big fellow reported, and indeed it was true.
Peter of Colfax had passed through the vaults beneath his castle and, by a
long subterranean passage, had reached the quarters of some priests without
the lines of Norman of Torn. By this time, he was several miles on his way
to the coast and France; for he had recognized the swordsmanship of the
outlaw, and did not care to remain in England and face the wrath of both
Norman of Torn and Simon de Montfort.
"He will return," was the outlaw's only comment, when he had been fully
convinced that the Baron had escaped.
They watched until the castle had burst into flames in a dozen places, the
prisoners huddled together in terror and apprehension, fully expecting a
summary and horrible death.
When Norman of Torn had assured himself that no human power could now save
the doomed pile, he ordered that the march be taken up, and the warriors
filed down the roadway behind their leader and Bertrade de Montfort,
leaving their erstwhile prisoners sorely puzzled but unharmed and free.
As they looked back, they saw the heavens red with the great flames that
sprang high above the lofty towers. Immense volumes of dense smoke rolled
southward across the sky line. Occasionally it would clear away from the
burning castle for an instant to show the black walls pierced by their
hundreds of embrasures, each lit up by the red of the raging fire within.
It was a gorgeous, impressive spectacle, but one so common in those fierce,
wild days, that none thought it worthy of more than a passing backward
Varied emotions filled the breasts of the several riders who wended their
slow way down the mud-slippery road. Norman of Torn was both elated and
sad. Elated that he had been in time to save this girl who awakened such
strange emotions in his breast; sad that he was a loathesome thing in her
eyes. But that it was pure happiness just to be near her, sufficed him for
the time; of the morrow, what use to think ! The little, grim, gray, old
man of Torn nursed the spleen he did not dare vent openly, and cursed the
chance that had sent Henry de Montfort to Torn to search for his sister;
while the followers of the outlaw swore quietly over the vagary which had
brought them on this long ride without either fighting or loot.
Bertrade de Montfort was but filled with wonder that she should owe her
life and honor to this fierce, wild cut-throat who had sworn especial
hatred against her family, because of its relationship to the house of
Plantagenet. She could not fathom it, and yet, he seemed fair spoken for
so rough a man; she wondered what manner of countenance might lie beneath
that barred visor.
Once the outlaw took his cloak from its fastenings at his saddle's cantel
and threw it about the shoulders of the girl, for the night air was chilly,
and again he dismounted and led her palfrey around a bad place in the road,
lest the beast might slip and fall.
She thanked him in her courtly manner for these services, but beyond that,
no word passed between them, and they came, in silence, about midday within
sight of the castle of Simon de Montfort.
The watch upon the tower was thrown into confusion by the approach of so
large a party of armed men, so that, by the time they were in hailing
distance, the walls of the great structure were crowded with fighting men.
Shandy rode ahead with a flag of truce, and when he was beneath the castle
walls Simon de Montfort called forth:
"Who be ye and what your mission ? Peace or war ?"
"It is Norman of Torn, come in peace, and in the service of a De Montfort,"
replied Shandy. "He would enter with one companion, my Lord Earl."
"Dares Norman of Torn enter the castle of Simon de Montfort -- thinks he
that I keep a robbers' roost !" cried the fierce old warrior.
"Norman of Torn dares ride where he will in all England," boasted the red
giant. "Will you see him in peace, My Lord ?"
"Let him enter," said De Montfort, "but no knavery, now, we are a thousand
men here, well armed and ready fighters."
Shandy returned to his master with the reply, and together, Norman of Torn
and Bertrade de Montfort clattered across the drawbridge beneath the
portcullis of the castle of the Earl of Leicester, brother-in-law of Henry
III of England.
The girl was still wrapped in the great cloak of her protector, for it had
been raining, so that she rode beneath the eyes of her father's men without
being recognized. In the courtyard, they were met by Simon de Montfort,
and his sons Henry and Simon.
The girl threw herself impetuously from her mount, and, flinging aside the
outlaw's cloak, rushed toward her astounded parent.
"What means this," cried De Montfort, "has the rascal offered you harm or
indignity ?"
"You craven liar," cried Henry de Montfort, "but yesterday you swore upon
your honor that you did not hold my sister, and I, like a fool, believed."
And with his words, the young man flung himself upon Norman of Torn with
drawn sword.
Quicker than the eye could see, the sword of the visored knight flew from
its scabbard, and, with a single lightning-like move, sent the blade of
young De Montfort hurtling cross the courtyard; and then, before either
could take another step, Bertrade de Montfort had sprung between them and
placing a hand upon the breastplate of the outlaw, stretched forth the
other with palm out-turned toward her kinsmen as though to protect Norman
of Torn from further assault.
"Be he outlaw or devil," she cried, "he is a brave and courteous knight,
and he deserves from the hands of the De Montforts the best hospitality
they can give, and not cold steel and insults." Then she explained briefly
to her astonished father and brothers what had befallen during the past few
Henry de Montfort, with the fine chivalry that marked him, was the first to
step forward with outstretched hand to thank Norman of Torn, and to ask his
pardon for his rude words and hostile act.
The outlaw but held up his open palm, as he said,
"Let the De Montforts think well ere they take the hand of Norman of Torn.
I give not my hand except in friendship, and not for a passing moment; but
for life. I appreciate your present feelings of gratitude, but let them
not blind you to the fact that I am still Norman the Devil, and that you
have seen my mark upon the brows of your dead. I would gladly have your
friendship, but I wish it for the man, Norman of Torn, with all his faults,
as well as what virtues you may think him to possess."
"You are right, sir," said the Earl, "you have our gratitude and our thanks
for the service you have rendered the house of Montfort, and ever during
our lives you may command our favors. I admire your bravery and your
candor, but while you continue the Outlaw of Torn, you may not break bread
at the table of De Montfort as a friend would have the right to do."
"Your speech is that of a wise and careful man," said Norman of Torn
quietly. "I go, but remember that from this day, I have no quarrel with
the House of Simon de Montfort, and that should you need my arms, they are
at your service, a thousand strong. Goodbye." But as he turned to go,
Bertrade de Montfort confronted him with outstretched hand.
"You must take my hand in friendship," she said, "for, to my dying day, I
must ever bless the name of Norman of Torn because of the horror from which
he has rescued me."
He took the little fingers in his mailed hand, and bending upon one knee
raised them to his lips.
"To no other -- woman, man, king, God, or devil -- has Norman of Torn bent
the knee. If ever you need him, My Lady Bertrade, remember that his
services are yours for the asking."
And turning, he mounted and rode in silence from the courtyard of the
castle of Leicester. Without a backward glance, and with his five hundred
men at his back, Norman of Torn disappeared beyond a turning in the
"A strange man," said Simon de Montfort, "both good and bad, but from
today, I shall ever believe more good than bad. Would that he were other
than he be, for his arm would wield a heavy sword against the enemies of
England, an he could be persuaded to our cause."
"Who knows," said Henry de Montfort, "but that an offer of friendship might
have won him to a better life. It seemed that in his speech was a note of
wistfulness. I wish, father, that we had taken his hand."
Several days after Norman of Torn's visit to the castle of Leicester, a
young knight appeared before the Earl's gates demanding admittance to have
speech with Simon de Montfort. The Earl received him, and as the young man
entered his presence, Simon de Montfort, sprang to his feet in
"My Lord Prince," he cried. "What do ye here, and alone ?"
The young man smiled.
"I be no prince, My Lord," he said, "though some have said that I favor the
King's son. I be Roger de Conde, whom it may have pleased your gracious
daughter to mention. I have come to pay homage to Bertrade de Montfort."
"Ah," said De Montfort, rising to greet the young knight cordially, "an you
be that Roger de Conde who rescued my daughter from the fellows of Peter of
Colfax, the arms of the De Montforts are open to you.
"Bertrade has had your name upon her tongue many times since her return.
She will be glad indeed to receive you, as is her father. She has told us
of your valiant espousal of her cause, and the thanks of her brothers and
mother await you, Roger de Conde.
"She also told us of your strange likeness to Prince Edward, but until I
saw you, I could not believe two men could be born of different mothers and
yet be so identical. Come, we will seek out my daughter and her mother."
De Montfort led the young man to a small chamber where they were greeted by
Princess Eleanor, his wife, and by Bertrade de Montfort. The girl was
frankly glad to see him once more and laughingly chide him because he had
allowed another to usurp his prerogative and rescue her from Peter of
"And to think," she cried, "that it should have been Norman of Torn who
fulfilled your duties for you. But he did not capture Sir Peter's head, my
friend; that is still at large to be brought to me upon a golden dish."
"I have not forgotten, Lady Bertrade," said Roger de Conde. "Peter of
Colfax will return."
The girl glanced at him quickly.
"The very words of the Outlaw of Torn," she said. "How many men be ye,
Roger de Conde ? With raised visor, you could pass in the King's court for
the King's son; and in manner, and form, and swordsmanship, and your visor
lowered, you might easily be hanged for Norman of Torn."
"And which would it please ye most that I be ?" he laughed.
"Neither," she answered, "I be satisfied with my friend, Roger de Conde."
"So ye like not the Devil of Torn ?" he asked.
"He has done me a great service, and I be under monstrous obligations to
him, but he be, nathless, the Outlaw of Torn and I the daughter of an earl
and a king's sister."
"A most unbridgeable gulf indeed," commented Roger de Conde, drily. "Not
even gratitude could lead a king's niece to receive Norman of Torn on a
footing of equality."
"He has my friendship, always," said the girl, "but I doubt me if Norman of
Torn be the man to impose upon it."
"One can never tell," said Roger de Conde, "what manner of fool a man may
be. When a man's head be filled with a pretty face, what room be there for
reason ?"
"Soon thou wilt be a courtier, if thou keep long at this turning of pretty
compliments," said the girl coldly; "and I like not courtiers, nor their
empty, hypocritical chatter."
The man laughed.
"If I turned a compliment, I did not know it," he said. "What I think, I
say. It may not be a courtly speech or it may. I know nothing of courts
and care less, but be it man or maid to whom I speak, I say what is in my
mind or I say nothing. I did not, in so many words, say that you are
beautiful, but I think it nevertheless, and ye cannot be angry with my poor
eyes if they deceive me into believing that no fairer woman breathes the
air of England. Nor can you chide my sinful brain that it gladly believes
what mine eyes tell it. No, you may not be angry so long as I do not tell
you all this."
Bertrade de Montfort did not know how to answer so ridiculous a sophistry;
and, truth to tell, she was more than pleased to hear from the lips of
Roger de Conde what bored her on the tongues of other men.
De Conde was the guest of the Earl of Leicester for several days, and
before his visit was terminated, the young man had so won his way into the
good graces of the family that they were loath to see him leave.
Although denied the society of such as these throughout his entire life,
yet it seemed that he fell as naturally into the ways of their kind as
though he had always been among them. His starved soul, groping through
the darkness of the empty past, yearned toward the feasting and the light
of friendship, and urged him to turn his back upon the old life, and remain
ever with these people, for Simon de Montfort had offered the young man a
position of trust and honor in his retinue.
"Why refused you the offer of my father ?" said Bertrade to him as he was
come to bid her farewell. "Simon de Montfort is as great a man in England
as the King himself, and your future were assured did you attach your self
to his person. But what am I saying ! Did Roger de Conde not wish to be
elsewhere, he had accepted and, as he did not accept, it is proof positive
that he does not wish to bide among the De Montforts."
"I would give my soul to the devil," said Norman of Torn, "would it buy me
the right to remain ever at the feet of Bertrade Montfort."
He raised her hand to his lips in farewell as he started to speak, but
something -- was it an almost imperceptible pressure of her little fingers,
a quickening of her breath or a swaying of her body toward him ? -- caused
him to pause and raise his eyes to hers.
For an instant they stood thus, the eyes of the man sinking deep into the
eyes of the maid, and then hers closed and with a little sigh that was half
gasp, she swayed toward him, and the Devil of Torn folded the King's niece
in his mighty arms and his lips placed the seal of a great love upon those
that were upturned to him.
The touch of those pure lips brought the man to himself.
"Ah, Bertrade, my Bertrade," he cried, "what is this thing that I have
done ! Forgive me, and let the greatness and the purity of my love for you
plead in extenuation of my act."
She looked up into his face in surprise, and then placing her strong white
hands upon his shoulders, she whispered:
"See, Roger, I am not angry. It is not wrong that we love; tell me it is
not, Roger."
"You must not say that you love me, Bertrade. I am a coward, a craven
poltroon; but, God, how I love you."
"But," said the girl, "I do love -- "
"Stop," he cried, "not yet, not yet. Do not say it till I come again. You
know nothing of me, you do not know even who I be; but when next I come, I
promise that ye shall know as much of me as I myself know, and then,
Bertrade, my Bertrade, if you can then say, 'I love you' no power on earth,
or in heaven above, or hell below shall keep you from being mine !"
"I will wait, Roger, for I believe in you and trust you. I do not
understand, but I know that you must have some good reason, though it all
seems very strange to me. If I, a De Montfort, am willing to acknowledge
my love for any man, there can be no reason why I should not do so,
unless," and she started at the sudden thought, wide-eyed and paling,
"unless there be another woman, a -- a -- wife ?"
"There is no other woman, Bertrade," said Norman of Torn. "I have no wife;
nor within the limits of my memory have my lips ever before touched the
lips of another, for I do not remember my mother."
She sighed a happy little sigh of relief, and laughing lightly, said:
"It is some old woman's bugaboo that you are haling out of a dark corner of
your imagination to frighten yourself with. I do not fear, since I know
that you must be all good. There be no line of vice or deception upon your
face and you are very brave. So brave and noble a man, Roger, has a heart
of pure gold."
"Don't," he said, bitterly. "I cannot endure it. Wait until I come again
and then, oh my flower of all England, if you have it in your heart to
speak as you are speaking now, the sun of my happiness will be at zenith.
Then, but not before, shall I speak to the Earl, thy father. Farewell,
Bertrade, in a few days I return."
"If you would speak to the Earl on such a subject, you insolent young
puppy, you may save your breath," thundered an angry voice, and Simon de
Montfort strode, scowling, into the room.
The girl paled, but not from fear of her father, for the fighting blood of
the De Montforts was as strong in her as in her sire. She faced him with
as brave and resolute a face as did the young man, who turned slowly,
fixing De Montfort with level gaze.
"I heard enough of your words as I was passing through the corridor,"
continued the latter, "to readily guess what had gone before. So it is for
this that you have wormed your sneaking way into my home ? And thought you
that Simon de Montfort would throw his daughter at the head of the first
passing rogue ? Who be ye, but a nameless rascal ? For aught we know,
some low born lackey. Get ye hence, and be only thankful that I do not aid
you with the toe of my boot where it would do the most good."
"Stop !" cried the girl. "Stop, father, hast forgot that but for Roger de
Conde ye might have seen your daughter a corpse ere now, or, worse, herself
befouled and dishonored ?"
"I do not forget," replied the Earl, "and. it is because I remember that
my sword remains in its scabbard. The fellow has been amply repaid by the
friendship of De Montfort, but now this act of perfidy has wiped clean the
score. An' you would go in peace, sirrah, go quickly, ere I lose my
"There has been some misunderstanding on your part, My Lord," spoke Norman
of Torn, quietly and without apparent anger or excitement. "Your daughter
has not told me that she loves me, nor did I contemplate asking you for her
hand. When next I come, first shall I see her and if she will have me, My
Lord, I shall come to you to tell you that I shall wed her. Norm -- Roger
de Conde asks permission of no man to do what he would do."
Simon de Montfort was fairly bursting with rage but he managed to control
himself to say,
"My daughter weds whom I select, and even now I have practically closed
negotiations for her betrothal to Prince Philip, nephew of King Louis of
France. And as for you, sir, I would as lief see her the wife of the
Outlaw of Torn. He, at least, has wealth and power, and a name that be
known outside his own armor. But enough of this; get you gone, nor let me
see your face again within the walls of Leicester's castle."
"You are right, My Lord, it were foolish and idle for us to be quarreling
with words," said the outlaw. "Farewell, My Lady. I shall return as I
promised, and your word shall be law." And with a profound bow to De
Montfort, Norman of Torn left the apartment, and in a few minutes was
riding through the courtyard of the castle toward the main portals.
As he passed beneath a window in the castle wall, a voice called to him
from above, and drawing in his horse, he looked up into the eyes of
Bertrade de Montfort.
"Take this, Roger de Conde," she whispered, dropping a tiny parcel to him,
"and wear it ever, for my sake. We may never meet again, for the Earl my
father, is a mighty man, not easily turned from his decisions; therefore I
shall say to you, Roger de Conde, what you forbid my saying. I love you,
and be ye prince or scullion, you may have me, if you can find the means to
take me."
"Wait, my lady, until I return, then shall you decide, and if ye be of the
same mind as today, never fear but that I shall take ye. Again, farewell."
And with a brave smile that hid a sad heart, Norman of Torn passed out of
the castle yard.
When he undid the parcel which Bertrade had tossed to him, he found that it
contained a beautifully wrought ring set with a single opal.
The Outlaw of Torn raised the little circlet to his lips, and then slipped
it upon the third finger of his left hand.
Norman of Torn did not return to the castle of Leicester "in a few days,"
nor for many months. For news came to him that Bertrade de Montfort had
been posted off to France in charge of her mother.
From now on, the forces of Torn were employed in repeated attacks on
royalist barons, encroaching ever and ever southward until even Berkshire
and Surrey and Sussex felt the weight of the iron hand of the outlaw.
Nearly a year had elapsed since that day when he had held the fair form of
Bertrade de Montfort in his arms, and in all that time he had heard no word
from her.
He would have followed her to France but for the fact that, after he had
parted from her and the intoxication of her immediate presence had left his
brain clear to think rationally, he had realized the futility of his hopes,
and he had seen that the pressing of his suit could mean only suffering and
mortification for the woman he loved.
His better judgment told him that she, on her part, when freed from the
subtle spell woven by the nearness and the newness of a first love, would
doubtless be glad to forget the words she had spoken in the heat of a
divine passion. He would wait, then, until fate threw them together, and
should that ever chance, while she was still free, he would let her know
that Roger de Conde and the Outlaw of Torn were one and the same.
If she wants me then, he thought, but she will not. No it is impossible.
It is better that she marry her French prince than to live, dishonored, the
wife of a common highwayman; for though she might love me at first, the
bitterness and loneliness of her life would turn her love to hate.
As the outlaw was sitting one day in the little cottage of Father Claude,
the priest reverted to the subject of many past conversations; the
unsettled state of civil conditions in the realm, and the stand which
Norman of Torn would take when open hostilities between King and baron were
"It would seem that Henry," said the priest, "by his continued breaches of
both the spirit and letter of the Oxford Statutes, is but urging the barons
to resort to arms; and the fact that he virtually forced Prince Edward to
take up arms against Humphrey de Bohun last fall, and to carry the ravages
of war throughout the Welsh border provinces, convinces me that he be, by
this time, well equipped to resist De Montfort and his associates."
"If that be the case," said Norman of Torn, "we shall have war and fighting
in real earnest ere many months."
"And under which standard does My Lord Norman expect to fight ?" asked
Father Claude.
"Under the black falcon's wing," laughed he of Torn.
"Thou be indeed a close-mouthed man, my son," said the priest, smiling.
"Such an attribute helpeth make a great statesman. With thy soldierly
qualities in addition, my dear boy, there be a great future for thee in the
paths of honest men. Dost remember our past talk ?"
"Yes, father, well; and often have I thought on't. I have one more duty to
perform here in England and then, it may be, that I shall act on thy
suggestion, but only on one condition."
"What be that, my son ?"
"That wheresoere I go, thou must go also. Thou be my best friend; in
truth, my father; none other have I ever known, for the little old man of
Torn, even though I be the product of his loins, which I much mistrust, be
no father to me."
The priest sat looking intently at the young man for many minutes before he
Without the cottage, a swarthy figure skulked beneath one of the windows,
listening to such fragments of the conversation within as came to his
attentive ears. It was Spizo, the Spaniard. He crouched entirely
concealed by a great lilac bush, which many times before had hid his
traitorous form.
At length the priest spoke.
"Norman of Torn," he said, "so long as thou remain in England, pitting thy
great host against the Plantagenet King and the nobles and barons of his
realm, thou be but serving as the cats-paw of another. Thyself hast said
an hundred times that thou knowst not the reason for thy hatred against
them. Thou be too strong a man to so throw thy life uselessly away to
satisfy the choler of another.
"There be that of which I dare not speak to thee yet and only may I guess
and dream of what I think, nor do I know whether I must hope that it be
false or true, but now, if ever, the time hath come for the question to be
settled. Thou hast not told me in so many words, but I be an old man and
versed in reading true between the lines, and so I know that thou lovest
Bertrade de Montfort. Nay, do not deny it. And now, what I would say be
this. In all England there lives no more honorable man than Simon de
Montfort, nor none who could more truly decide upon thy future and thy
past. Thou may not understand of what I hint, but thou know that thou may
trust me, Norman of Torn."
"Yea, even with my life and honor, my father," replied the outlaw.
"Then promise me, that with the old man of Torn alone, thou wilt come
hither when I bidst thee and meet Simon de Montfort, and abide by his
decision should my surmises concerning thee be correct. He will be the
best judge of any in England, save two who must now remain nameless."
"I will come, Father, but it must be soon for on the fourth day we ride
"It shall be by the third day, or not at all," replied Father Claude, and
Norman of Torn, rising to leave, wondered at the moving leaves of the lilac
bush without the window, for there was no breeze.
Spizo, the Spaniard, reached Torn several minutes before the outlaw chief
and had already poured his tale into the ears of the little, grim, gray,
old man.
As the priest's words were detailed to him the old man of Torn paled in
"The fool priest will upset the whole work to which I have devoted near
twenty years," he muttered, "if I find not the means to quiet his half-wit
tongue. Between priest and petticoat, it be all but ruined now. Well
then, so much the sooner must I act, and I know not but that now be as good
a time as any. If we come near enough to the King's men on this trip
south, the gibbet shall have its own, and a Plantagenet dog shall taste the
fruits of his own tyranny," then glancing up and realizing that Spizo, the
Spaniard, had been a listener, the old man, scowling, cried:
"What said I, sirrah ? What didst hear ?"
"Naught, My Lord; thou didst but mutter incoherently", replied the
The old man eyed him closely.
"An did I more, Spizo, thou heardst naught but muttering, remember."
"Yes, My Lord."
An hour later, the old man of Torn dismounted before the cottage of Father
Claude and entered.
"I am honored," said the priest, rising.
"Priest," cried the old man, coming immediately to the point, "Norman of
Torn tells me that thou wish him and me and Leicester to meet here. I know
not what thy purpose may be, but for the boy's sake, carry not out thy
design as yet. I may not tell thee my reasons, but it be best that this
meeting take place after we return from the south."
The old man had never spoken so fairly to Father Claude before, and so the
latter was quite deceived and promised to let the matter rest until later.
A few days after, in the summer of 1263, Norman of Torn rode at the head of
his army of outlaws through the county of Essex, down toward London town.
One thousand fighting men there were, with squires and other servants, and
five hundred sumpter beasts to transport their tents and other impedimenta,
and bring back the loot.
But a small force of ailing men-at-arms, and servants had been left to
guard the castle of Torn under the able direction of Peter the Hermit.
At the column's head rode Norman of Torn and the little grim, gray, old
man; and behind them, nine companies of knights, followed by the catapult
detachment; then came the sumpter beasts. Horsan the Dane, with his
company, formed the rear guard. Three hundred yards in advance of the
column rode ten men to guard against surprise and ambuscades.
The pennons, and the banners and the bugles; and the loud rattling of
sword, and lance and armor and iron-shod hoof carried to the eye and ear
ample assurance that this great cavalcade of iron men was bent upon no
peaceful mission.
All his captains rode today with Norman of Torn. Beside those whom we have
met, there was Don Piedro Castro y Pensilo of Spain; Baron of Cobarth of
Germany, and Sir John Mandecote of England. Like their leader, each of
these fierce warriors carried a great price upon his head, and the story of
the life of any one would fill a large volume with romance, war, intrigue,
treachery, bravery and death.
Toward noon one day, in the midst of a beautiful valley of Essex, they came
upon a party of ten knights escorting two young women. The meeting was at
a turn in the road, so that the two parties were upon each other before the
ten knights had an opportunity to escape with their fair wards.
"What the devil be this," cried one of the knights, as the main body of the
outlaw horde came into view, "the King's army or one of his foreign
legions ?"
"It be Norman of Torn and his fighting men," replied the outlaw.
The faces of the knights blanched, for they were ten against a thousand,
and there were two women with them.
"Who be ye ?" said the outlaw.
"I am Richard de Tany of Essex," said the oldest knight, he who had first
spoken, "and these be my daughter and her friend, Mary de Stutevill. We
are upon our way from London to my castle. What would you of us ? Name
your price, if it can be paid with honor, it shall be paid; only let us go
our way in peace. We cannot hope to resist the Devil of Torn, for we be
but ten lances. If ye must have blood, at least let the women go
"My Lady Mary is an old friend," said the outlaw. "I called at her
father's home but little more than a year since. We are neighbors, and the
lady can tell you that women are safer at the hands of Norman of Torn than
they might be in the King's palace."
"Right he is," spoke up Lady Mary, "Norman of Torn accorded my mother, my
sister, and myself the utmost respect; though I cannot say as much for his
treatment of my father," she added, half smiling.
"I have no quarrel with you, Richard de Tany," said Norman of Torn. "Ride
The next day, a young man hailed the watch upon the walls of the castle of
Richard de Tany, telling him to bear word to Joan de Tany that Roger de
Conde, a friend of her guest Lady Mary de Stutevill, was without.
In a few moments, the great drawbridge sank slowly into place and Norman of
Torn trotted into the courtyard.
He was escorted to an apartment where Mary de Stutevill and Joan de Tany
were waiting to receive him. Mary de Stutevill greeted him as an old
friend, and the daughter of de Tany was no less cordial in welcoming her
friend's friend to the hospitality of her father's castle.
"Are all your old friends and neighbors come after you to Essex," cried
Joan de Tany, laughingly, addressing Mary. "Today it is Roger de Conde,
yesterday it was the Outlaw of Torn. Methinks Derby will soon be
depopulated unless you return quickly to your home."
"I rather think it be for news of another that we owe this visit from Roger
de Conde," said Mary, smiling. "For I have heard tales, and I see a great
ring upon the gentleman's hand -- a ring which I have seen before."
Norman of Torn made no attempt to deny the reason for his visit, but asked
bluntly if she heard aught of Bertrade de Montfort.
"Thrice within the year have I received missives from her," replied Mary.
"In the first two she spoke only of Roger de Conde, wondering why he did
not come to France after her; but in the last she mentions not his name,
but speaks of her approaching marriage with Prince Philip."
Both girls were watching the countenance of Roger de Conde narrowly, but no
sign of the sorrow which filled his heart showed itself upon his face.
"I guess it be better so," he said quietly. "The daughter of a De Montfort
could scarcely be happy with a nameless adventurer," he added, a little
"You wrong her, my friend," said Mary de Stutevill. "She loved you and,
unless I know not the friend of my childhood as well as I know myself, she
loves you yet; but Bertrade de Montfort is a proud woman and what can you
expect when she hears no word from you for a year ? Thought you that she
would seek you out and implore you to rescue her from the alliance her
father has made for her ?"
"You do not understand," he answered, "and I may not tell you; but I ask
that you believe me when I say that it was for her own peace of mind, for
her own happiness, that I did not follow her to France. But, let us talk
of other things. The sorrow is mine and I would not force it upon others.
I cared only to know that she is well, and, I hope, happy. It will never
be given to me to make her or any other woman so. I would that I had never
come into her life, but I did not know what I was doing; and the spell of
her beauty and goodness was strong upon me, so that I was weak and could
not resist what I had never known before in all my life - love."
"You could not well be blamed," said Joan de Tany, generously. "Bertrade
de Montfort is all and even more than you have said; it be a benediction
simply to have known her."
As she spoke, Norman of Torn looked upon her critically for the first time,
and he saw that Joan de Tany was beautiful, and that when she spoke, her
face lighted with a hundred little changing expressions of intelligence and
character that cast a spell of fascination about her. Yes, Joan de Tany
was good to look upon, and Norman of Torn carried a wounded heart in his
breast that longed for surcease from its sufferings -- for a healing balm
upon its hurts and bruises.
And so it came to pass that, for many days, the Outlaw of Torn was a daily
visitor at the castle of Richard de Tany, and the acquaintance between the
man and the two girls ripened into a deep friendship, and with one of them,
it threatened even more.
Norman of Torn, in his ignorance of the ways of women, saw only friendship
in the little acts of Joan de Tany. His life had been a hard and lonely
one. The only ray of brilliant and warming sunshine that had entered it
had been his love for Bertrade de Montfort and hers for him.
His every thought was loyal to the woman whom he knew was not for him, but
he longed for the companionship of his own kind and so welcomed the
friendship of such as Joan de Tany and her fair guest. He did not dream
that either looked upon him with any warmer sentiment than the sweet
friendliness which was as new to him as love -- how could he mark the line
between or foresee the terrible price of his ignorance !
Mary de Stutevill saw and she thought the man but fickle and shallow in
matters of the heart -- many there were, she knew, who were thus. She
might have warned him had she known the truth, but instead, she let things
drift except for a single word of warning to Joan de Tany.
"Be careful of thy heart, Joan," she said, "lest it be getting away from
thee into the keeping of one who seems to love no less quickly than he
The daughter of De Tany flushed.
"I am quite capable of safeguarding my own heart, Mary de Stutevill," she
replied warmly. "If thou covet this man thyself, why, but say so. Do not
think though that, because thy heart glows in his presence, mine is equally
It was Mary's turn now to show offense, and a sharp retort was on her
tongue when suddenly she realized the folly of such a useless quarrel.
Instead she put her arms about Joan and kissed her.
"I do not love him," she said, "and I be glad that you do not, for I know
that Bertrade does, and that but a short year since, he swore undying love
for her. Let us forget that we have spoken on the subject."
It was at this time that the King's soldiers were harassing the lands of
the rebel barons, and taking a heavy toll in revenge for their stinging
defeat at Rochester earlier in the year, so that it was scarcely safe for
small parties to venture upon the roadways lest they fall into the hands of
the mercenaries of Henry III.
Not even were the wives and daughters of the barons exempt from the attacks
of the royalists; and it was no uncommon occurrence to find them suffering
imprisonment, and something worse, at the hands of the King's supporters.
And in the midst of these alarms, it entered the willful head of Joan de
Tany that she wished to ride to London town and visit the shops of the
While London itself was solidly for the barons and against the King's
party, the road between the castle of Richard de Tany and the city of
London was beset with many dangers.
"Why," cried the girl's mother in exasperation, "between robbers and
royalists and the Outlaw of Torn, you would not be safe if you had an army
to escort you."
"But then, as I have no army," retorted the laughing girl, "if you reason
by your own logic, I shall be indeed quite safe."
And when Roger de Conde attempted to dissuade her, she taunted him with
being afraid of meeting with the Devil of Torn, and told him that he might
remain at home and lock himself safely in her mother's pantry.
And so, as Joan de Tany was a spoiled child, they set out upon the road to
London; the two girls with a dozen servants and knights; and Roger de Conde
was of the party.
At the same time a grim, gray, old man dispatched a messenger from the
outlaw's camp; a swarthy fellow, disguised as a priest, whose orders were
to proceed to London, and when he saw the party of Joan de Tany, with Roger
de Conde, enter the city, he was to deliver the letter he bore to the
captain of the gate.
The letter contained this brief message:
"The tall knight in gray with closed helm is Norman of Torn," and was
All went well and Joan was laughing merrily at the fears of those who had
attempted to dissuade her when, at a cross road, they discovered two
parties of armed men approaching from opposite directions. The leader of
the nearer party spurred forward to intercept the little band, and, reining
in before them, cried brusquely,
"Who be ye ?"
"A party on a peaceful mission to the shops of London," replied Norman of
"I asked not your mission," cried the fellow. "I asked, who be ye ?
Answer, and be quick about it."
"I be Roger de Conde, gentleman of France, and these be my sisters and
servants," lied the outlaw, "and were it not that the ladies be with me,
your answer would be couched in steel, as you deserve for your boorish
"There be plenty of room and time for that even now, you dog of a French
coward," cried the officer, couching his lance as he spoke.
Joan de Tany was sitting her horse where she could see the face of Roger de
Conde, and it filled her heart with pride and courage as she saw and
understood the little smile of satisfaction that touched his lips as he
heard the man's challenge and lowered the point of his own spear.
Wheeling their horses toward one another, the two combatants, who were some
ninety feet apart, charged at full tilt. As they came together the impact
was so great that both horses were nearly overturned and the two powerful
war lances were splintered into a hundred fragments as each struck the
exact center of his opponent's shield. Then, wheeling their horses and
throwing away the butts of their now useless lances, De Conde and the
officer advanced with drawn swords.
The fellow made a most vicious return assault upon De Conde, attempting to
ride him down in one mad rush, but his thrust passed harmlessly from the
tip of the outlaw's sword, and as the officer wheeled back to renew the
battle, they settled down to fierce combat, their horses wheeling and
turning shoulder to shoulder.
The two girls sat rigid in their saddles watching the encounter, the eyes
of Joan de Tany alight with the fire of battle as she followed every move
of the wondrous swordplay of Roger de Conde.
He had not even taken the precaution to lower his visor, and the grim and
haughty smile that played upon his lips spoke louder than many words the
utter contempt in which he held the sword of his adversary. And as Joan de
Tany watched, she saw the smile suddenly freeze to a cold, hard line, and
the eyes of the man narrow to mere slits, and her woman's intuition read
the death warrant of the King's officer ere the sword of the outlaw buried
itself in his heart.
The other members of the two bodies of royalist soldiers had sat spellbound
as they watched the battle, but now, as their leader's corpse rolled from
the saddle, they spurred furiously in upon De Conde and his little party.
The Baron's men put up a noble fight, but the odds were heavy and even with
the mighty arm of Norman of Torn upon their side the outcome was apparent
from the first.
Five swords were flashing about the outlaw, but his blade was equal to the
thrust and one after another of his assailants crumpled up in their saddles
as his leaping point found their vitals.
Nearly all of the Baron's men were down, when one, an old servitor, spurred
to the side of Joan de Tany and Mary de Stutevill.
"Come, my ladies," he cried, "quick and you may escape. They be so busy
with the battle that they will never notice."
"Take the Lady Mary, John," cried Joan, "I brought Roger de Conde to this
pass against the advice of all and I remain with him to the end."
"But, My Lady -- " cried John.
"But nothing, sirrah !" she interrupted sharply. "Do as you are bid.
Follow my Lady Mary, and see that she comes to my father's castle in
safety," and raising her riding whip, she struck Mary's palfrey across the
rump so that the animal nearly unseated his fair rider as he leaped
frantically to one side and started madly up the road down which they had
"After her, John," commanded Joan peremptorily, and see that you turn not
back until she be safe within the castle walls; then you may bring aid."
The old fellow had been wont to obey the imperious little Lady Joan from
her earliest childhood, and the habit was so strong upon him that he
wheeled his horse and galloped after the flying palfrey of the Lady Mary de
As Joan de Tany turned again to the encounter before her, she saw fully
twenty men surrounding Roger de Conde, and while he was taking heavy toll
of those before him, he could not cope with the men who attacked him from
behind; and even as she looked, she saw a battle axe fall full upon his
helm, and his sword drop from his nerveless fingers as his lifeless body
rolled from the back of Sir Mortimer to the battle-tramped clay of the
She slid quickly from her palfrey and ran fearlessly toward his prostrate
form, reckless of the tangled mass of snorting, trampling, steel-clad
horses, and surging fighting-men that surrounded him. And well it was for
Norman of Torn that this brave girl was there that day, for even as she
reached his side, the sword point of one of the soldiers was at his throat
for the coup de grace.
With a cry, Joan de Tany threw herself across the outlaw's body, shielding
him as best she could from the threatening sword.
Cursing loudly, the soldier grasped her roughly by the arm to drag her from
his prey, but at this juncture, a richly armored knight galloped up and
drew rein beside the party.
The newcomer was a man of about forty-five or fifty; tall, handsome,
black-mustached and with the haughty arrogance of pride most often seen
upon the faces of those who have been raised by unmerited favor to
positions of power and affluence.
He was John de Fulm, Earl of Buckingham, a foreigner by birth and for years
one of the King's favorites; the bitterest enemy of De Montfort and the
"What now ?" he cried. "What goes on here ?"
The soldiers fell back, and one of them replied:
"A party of the King's enemies attacked us, My Lord Earl, but we routed
them, taking these two prisoners."
"Who be ye ?" he said, turning toward Joan who was kneeling beside De
Conde, and as she raised her head, "My God ! The daughter of De Tany ! a
noble prize indeed my men. And who be the knight ?"
"Look for yourself, My Lord Earl," replied the girl removing the helm,
which she had been unlacing from the fallen man.
"Edward ?" he ejaculated. "But no, it cannot be, I did but yesterday leave
Edward in Dover."
"I know not who he be," said Joan de Tany, "except that he be the most
marvelous fighter and the bravest man it has ever been given me to see. He
called himself Roger de Conde, but I know nothing of him other than that he
looks like a prince, and fights like a devil. I think he has no quarrel
with either side, My Lord, and so, as you certainly do not make war on
women, you will let us go our way in peace as we were when your soldiers
wantonly set upon us."
"A De Tany, madam, were a great and valuable capture in these troublous
times," replied the Earl, "and that alone were enough to necessitate my
keeping you; but a beautiful De Tany is yet a different matter and so I
will grant you at least one favor. I will not take you to the King, but a
prisoner you shall be in mine own castle for I am alone, and need the
cheering company of a fair and loving lady."
The girl's head went high as she looked the Earl full in the eye.
"Think you, John de Fulm, Earl of Buckingham, that you be talking to some
comely scullery maid ? Do you forget that my house is honored in England,
even though it does not share the King's favors with his foreign favorites,
and you owe respect to a daughter of a De Tany ?"
"All be fair in war, my beauty," replied the Earl. "Egad," he continued,
"methinks all would be fair in hell were they like unto you. It has been
some years since I have seen you and I did not know the old fox Richard de
Tany kept such a package as this hid in his grimy old castle."
"Then you refuse to release us ?" said Joan de Tany.
"Let us not put it thus harshly," countered the Earl. "Rather let us say
that it be so late in the day, and the way so beset with dangers that the
Earl of Buckingham could not bring himself to expose the beautiful daughter
of his old friend to the perils of the road, and so -- "
"Let us have an end to such foolishness," cried the girl. "I might have
expected naught better from a turncoat foreign knave such as thee, who once
joined in the councils of De Montfort, and then betrayed his friends to
curry favor with the King."
The Earl paled with rage, and pressed forward as though to strike the girl,
but thinking better of it, he turned to one of the soldiers, saying:
"Bring the prisoner with you. If the man lives bring him also. I would
learn more of this fellow who masquerades in the countenance of a crown
And turning, he spurred on towards the neighboring castle of a rebel baron
which had been captured by the royalists, and was now used as headquarters
by De Fulm.
When Norman of Torn regained his senses, he found himself in a small tower
room in a strange castle. His head ached horribly, and he felt sick and
sore; but he managed to crawl from the cot on which he lay, and by
steadying his swaying body with hands pressed against the wall, he was able
to reach the door. To his disappointment, he found this locked from
without and, in his weakened condition, he made no attempt to force it.
He was fully dressed and in armor, as he had been when struck down, but his
helmet was gone, as were also his sword and dagger.
The day was drawing to a close and, as dusk fell and the room darkened, he
became more and more impatient. Repeated pounding upon the door brought no
response and finally he gave up in despair. Going to the window, he saw
that his room was some thirty feet above the stone-flagged courtyard, and
also that it looked at an angle upon other windows in the old castle where
lights were beginning to show. He saw men-at-arms moving about, and once
he thought he caught a glimpse of a woman's figure, but he was not sure.
He wondered what had become of Joan de Tany and Mary de Stutevill. He
hoped that they had escaped, and yet -- no, Joan certainly had not, for now
he distinctly remembered that his eyes had met hers for an instant just
before the blow fell upon him, and he thought of the faith and confidence
that he had read in that quick glance. Such a look would nerve a jackal to
attack a drove of lions, thought the outlaw. What a beautiful creature she
was; and she had stayed there with him during the fight. He remembered
now. Mary de Stutevill had not been with her as he had caught that glimpse
of her, no, she had been all alone. Ah ! That was friendship indeed !
What else was it that tried to force its way above the threshold of his
bruised and wavering memory ? Words ? Words of love ? And lips pressed
to his ? No, it must be but a figment of his wounded brain.
What was that which clicked against his breastplate ? He felt, and found a
metal bauble linked to a mesh of his steel armor by a strand of silken
hair. He carried the little thing to the window, and in the waning light
made it out to be a golden hair ornament set with precious stones, but he
could not tell if the little strand of silken hair were black or brown.
Carefully he detached the little thing, and, winding the filmy tress about
it, placed it within the breast of his tunic. He was vaguely troubled by
it, yet why he could scarcely have told, himself.
Again turning to the window, he watched the lighted rooms within his
vision, and presently his view was rewarded by the sight of a knight coming
within the scope of the narrow casement of a nearby chamber.
From his apparel, he was a man of position, and he was evidently in heated
discussion with some one whom Norman of Torn could not see. The man, a
great, tall black-haired and mustached nobleman, was pounding upon a table
to emphasize his words, and presently he sprang up as though rushing toward
the one to whom he had been speaking. He disappeared from the watcher's
view for a moment and then, at the far side of the apartment, Norman of
Torn saw him again just as he roughly grasped the figure of a woman who
evidently was attempting to escape him. As she turned to face her
tormentor, all the devil in the Devil of Torn surged in his aching head,
for the face he saw was that of Joan de Tany.
With a muttered oath, the imprisoned man turned to hurl himself against the
bolted door, but ere he had taken a single step, the sound of heavy feet
without brought him to a stop, and the jingle of keys as one was fitted to
the lock of the door sent him gliding stealthily to the wall beside the
doorway, where the inswinging door would conceal him.
As the door was pushed back, a flickering torch lighted up, but dimly, the
interior, so that until he had reached the center of the room, the visitor
did not see that the cot was empty.
He was a man-at-arms, and at his side hung a sword. That was enough for
the Devil of Torn -- it was a sword he craved most; and, ere the fellow
could assure his slow wits that the cot was empty, steel fingers closed
upon his throat, and he went down beneath the giant form of the outlaw.
Without other sound than the scuffing of their bodies on the floor, and the
clanking of their armor, they fought, the one to reach the dagger at his
side, the other to close forever the windpipe of his adversary.
Presently, the man-at-arms found what he sought, and, after tugging with
ever diminishing strength, he felt the blade slip from its sheath. Slowly
and feebly he raised it high above the back of the man on top of him; with
a last supreme effort he drove the point downward, but ere it reached its
goal, there was a sharp snapping sound as of a broken bone, the dagger fell
harmlessly from his dead hand, and his head rolled backward upon his broken
Snatching the sword from the body of his dead antagonist, Norman of Torn
rushed from the tower room.
As John de Fulm, Earl of Buckingham, laid his vandal hands upon Joan de
Tany, she turned upon him like a tigress. Blow after blow she rained upon
his head and face until, in mortification and rage, he struck her full upon
the mouth with his clenched fist; but even this did not subdue her and,
with ever weakening strength, she continued to strike him. And then the
great royalist Earl, the chosen friend of the King, took the fair white
throat between his great fingers, and the lust of blood supplanted the lust
of love, for he would have killed her in his rage.
It was upon this scene that the Outlaw of Torn burst with naked sword.
They were at the far end of the apartment, and his cry of anger at the
sight caused the Earl to drop his prey, and turn with drawn sword to meet
There were no words, for there was no need of words here. The two men were
upon each other, and fighting to the death, before the girl had regained
her feet. It would have been short shrift for John de Fulm had not some of
his men heard the fracas, and rushed to his aid.
Four of them there were, and they tumbled pell-mell into the room, fairly
falling upon Norman of Torn in their anxiety to get their swords into him;
but once they met that master hand, they went more slowly, and in a moment,
two of them went no more at all, and the others, with the Earl, were but
circling warily in search of a chance opening -- an opening which never
Norman of Torn stood with his back against a table in an angle of the room,
and behind him stood Joan de Tany.
"Move toward the left," she whispered. "I know this old pile. When you
reach the table that bears the lamp, there will be a small doorway directly
behind you. Strike the lamp out with your sword, as you feel my hand in
your left, and then I will lead you through that doorway, which you must
turn and quickly bolt after us. Do you understand ?"
He nodded.
Slowly he worked his way toward the table, the men-at-arms in the meantime
keeping up an infernal howling for help. The Earl was careful to keep out
of reach of the point of De Conde's sword, and the men-at-arms were nothing
loath to emulate their master's example.
Just as he reached his goal, a dozen more men burst into the room, and
emboldened by this reinforcement, one of the men engaging De Conde came too
close. As he jerked his blade from the fellow's throat, Norman of Torn
felt a firm, warm hand slipped into his from behind, and his sword swung
with a resounding blow against the lamp.
As darkness enveloped the chamber, Joan de Tany led him through the little
door, which he immediately closed and bolted as she had instructed.
"This way," she whispered, again slipping her hand into his and, in
silence, she led him through several dim chambers, and finally stopped
before a blank wall in a great oak-panelled room.
Here the girl felt with swift fingers the edge of the molding. More and
more rapidly she moved as the sound of hurrying footsteps resounded through
the castle.
"What is wrong ?" asked Norman of Torn, noticing her increasing
"Mon Dieu !" she cried. "Can I be wrong ! Surely this is the room. Oh,
my friend, that I should have brought you to all this by my willfulness and
vanity; and now when I might save you, my wits leave me and I forget the
"Do not worry about me," laughed the Devil of Torn. "Methought that it was
I who was trying to save you, and may heaven forgive me else, for surely,
that be my only excuse for running away from a handful of swords. I could
not take chances when thou wert at stake, Joan," he added more gravely.
The sound of pursuit was now quite close, in fact the reflection from
flickering torches could be seen in nearby chambers.
At last the girl, with a little cry of "stupid," seized De Conde and rushed
him to the far side of the room.
"Here it is," she whispered joyously, "here it has been all the time."
Running her fingers along the molding until she found a little hidden
spring, she pushed it, and one of the great panels swung slowly in,
revealing the yawning mouth of a black opening behind.
Quickly the girl entered, pulling De Conde after her, and as the panel
swung quietly into place, the Earl of Buckingham with a dozen men entered
the apartment.
"The devil take them," cried De Fulm. "Where can they have gone ? Surely
we were right behind them."
"It is passing strange, My Lord," replied one of the men. "Let us try the
floor above, and the towers; for of a surety they have not come this way."
And the party retraced its steps, leaving the apartment empty.
Behind the panel, the girl stood shrinking close to De Conde, her hand
still in his.
"Where now ?" he asked. "Or do we stay hidden here like frightened chicks
until the war is over and the Baron returns to let us out of this musty
hole ?"
"Wait," she answered, "until I quiet my nerves a little. I am all
unstrung." He felt her body tremble as it pressed against his.
With the spirit of protection strong within him, what wonder that his arm
fell about her shoulder as though to say, fear not, for I be brave and
powerful; naught can harm you while I am here.
Presently she reached her hands up to his face, made brave to do it by the
sheltering darkness.
"Roger," she whispered, her tongue halting over the familiar name. "I
thought that they had killed you, and all for me, for my foolish
stubbornness. Canst forgive me ?"
"Forgive ?" he asked, smiling to himself. "Forgive being given an
opportunity to fight ? There be nothing to forgive, Joan, unless it be
that I should ask forgiveness for protecting thee so poorly."
"Do not say that," she commanded. "Never was such bravery or such
swordsmanship in all the world before; never such a man."
He did not answer. His mind was a chaos of conflicting thoughts. The feel
of her hands as they had lingered momentarily, and with a vague caress upon
his cheek, and the pressure of her body as she leaned against him sent the
hot blood coursing through his veins. He was puzzled, for he had not
dreamed that friendship was so sweet. That she did not shrink from his
encircling arms should have told him much, but Norman of Torn was slow to
realize that a woman might look upon him with love. Nor had he a thought
of any other sentiment toward her than that of friend and protector.
And then there came to him as in a vision another fair and beautiful
face -- Bertrade de Montfort's -- and Norman of Torn was still more
puzzled; for at heart he was clean, and love of loyalty was strong within
him. Love of women was a new thing to him, and, robbed as he had been all
his starved life of the affection and kindly fellowship, of either men or
women, it is little to be wondered at that he was easily impressionable and
responsive to the feeling his strong personality had awakened in two of
England's fairest daughters.
But with the vision of that other face, there came to him a faint
realization that mayhap it was a stronger power than either friendship or
fear which caused that lithe, warm body to cling so tightly to him. That
the responsibility for the critical stage their young acquaintance had so
quickly reached was not his had never for a moment entered his head. To
him, the fault was all his; and perhaps it was this quality of chivalry
that was the finest of the many noble characteristics of his sterling
character. So his next words were typical of the man; and did Joan de Tany
love him, or did she not, she learned that night to respect and trust him
as she respected and trusted few men of her acquaintance.
"My Lady," said Norman of Torn, "we have been through much, and we are as
little children in a dark attic, and so if I have presumed upon our
acquaintance," and he lowered his arm from about her shoulder, "I ask you
to forgive it for I scarce know what to do, from weakness and from the pain
of the blow upon my head."
Joan de Tany drew slowly away from him, and without reply, took his hand
and led him forward through a dark, cold corridor.
"We must go carefully now," she said at last, "for there be stairs near."
He held her hand pressed very tightly in his, tighter perhaps than
conditions required, but she let it lie there as she led him forward, very
slowly down a flight of rough stone steps.
Norman of Torn wondered if she were angry with him and then, being new at
love, he blundered.
"Joan de Tany," he said.
"Yes, Roger de Conde; what would you ?"
"You be silent, and I fear that you be angry with me. Tell me that you
forgive what I have done, an it offended you. I have so few friends," he
added sadly, "that I cannot afford to lose such as you."
"You will never lose the friendship of Joan de Tany," she answered. "You
have won her respect and -- and -- " But she could not say it and so she
trailed off lamely -- "and undying gratitude."
But Norman of Torn knew the word that she would have spoken had he dared to
let her. He did not, for there was always the vision of Bertrade de
Montfort before him; and now another vision arose that would effectually
have sealed his lips had not the other -- he saw the Outlaw of Torn
dangling by his neck from a wooden gibbet.
Before, he had only feared that Joan de Tany loved him, now he knew it, and
while he marvelled that so wondrous a creature could feel love for him,
again he blamed himself, and felt sorrow for them both; for he did not
return her love nor could he imagine a love strong enough to survive the
knowledge that it was possessed by the Devil of Torn.
Presently they reached the bottom of the stairway, and Joan de Tany led
him, gropingly, across what seemed, from their echoing footsteps, a large
chamber. The air was chill and dank, smelling of mold, and no ray of light
penetrated this subterranean vault, and no sound broke the stillness.
"This be the castle's crypt," whispered Joan; "and they do say that strange
happenings occur here in the still watches of the night, and that when the
castle sleeps, the castle's dead rise from their coffins and shake their
dry bones.
"Sh ! What was that ?" as a rustling noise broke upon their ears close
upon their right; and then there came a distinct moan, and Joan de Tany
fled to the refuge of Norman of Torn's arms.
"There is nothing to fear, Joan," reassured Norman of Torn. "Dead men
wield not swords, nor do they move, or moan. The wind, I think, and rats
are our only companions here."
"I am afraid," she whispered. "If you can make a light, I am sure you will
find an old lamp here in the crypt, and then will it be less fearsome. As
a child I visited this castle often, and in search of adventure, we passed
through these corridors an hundred times, but always by day and with
Norman of Torn did as she bid, and finding the lamp, lighted it. The
chamber was quite empty save for the coffins in their niches, and some
effigies in marble set at intervals about the walls.
"Not such a fearsome place after all," he said, laughing lightly.
"No place would seem fearsome now," she answered simply, "were there a
light to show me that the brave face of Roger de Conde were by my side."
"Hush, child," replied the outlaw. "You know not what you say. When you
know me better, you will be sorry for your words, for Roger de Conde is not
what you think him. So say no more of praise until we be out of this hole,
and you safe in your father's halls."
The fright of the noises in the dark chamber had but served to again bring
the girl's face close to his so that he felt her hot, sweet breath upon his
cheek, and thus another link was forged to bind him to her.
With the aid of the lamp, they made more rapid progress, and in a few
moments, reached a low door at the end of the arched passageway.
"This is the doorway which opens upon the ravine below the castle. We have
passed beneath the walls and the moat. What may we do now, Roger, without
horses ?"
"Let us get out of this place, and as far away as possible under the cover
of darkness, and I doubt not I may find a way to bring you to your father's
castle," replied Norman of Torn.
Putting out the light, lest it should attract the notice of the watch upon
the castle walls, Norman of Torn pushed open the little door and stepped
forth into the fresh night air.
The ravine was so overgrown with tangled vines and wildwood that, had there
ever been a pathway, it was now completely obliterated; and it was with
difficulty that the man forced his way through the entangling creepers and
tendrils. The girl stumbled after him and twice fell before they had taken
a score of steps.
"I fear I am not strong enough," she said finally. "The way is much more
difficult than I had thought."
So Norman of Torn lifted her in his strong arms, and stumbled on through
the darkness and the shrubbery down the center of the ravine. It required
the better part of an hour to traverse the little distance to the roadway;
and all the time her head nestled upon his shoulder and her hair brushed
his cheek. Once when she lifted her head to speak to him, he bent toward
her, and in the darkness, by chance, his lips brushed hers. He felt her
little form tremble in his arms, and a faint sigh breathed from her lips.
They were upon the highroad now, but he did not put her down. A mist was
before his eyes, and he could have crushed her to him and smothered those
warm lips with his own. Slowly, his face inclined toward hers, closer and
closer his iron muscles pressed her to him, and then, clear cut and
distinct before his eyes, he saw the corpse of the Outlaw of Torn swinging
by the neck from the arm of a wooden gibbet, and beside it knelt a woman
gowned in rich cloth of gold and many jewels. Her face was averted and her
arms were outstretched toward the dangling form that swung and twisted from
the grim, gaunt arm. Her figure was racked with choking sobs of
horror-stricken grief. Presently she staggered to her feet and turned
away, burying her face in her hands; but he saw her features for an instant
then -- the woman who openly and alone mourned the dead Outlaw of Torn was
Bertrade de Montfort.
Slowly his arms relaxed, and gently and reverently he lowered Joan de Tany
to the ground. In that instant Norman of Torn had learned the difference
between friendship and love, and love and passion.
The moon was shining brightly upon them, and the girl turned, wide-eyed and
wondering, toward him. She had felt the wild call of love and she could
not understand his seeming coldness now, for she had seen no vision beyond
a life of happiness within those strong arms.
"Joan," he said, "I would but now have wronged thee. Forgive me. Forget
what has passed between us until I can come to you in my rightful colors,
when the spell of the moonlight and adventure be no longer upon us, and
then," -- he paused -- "and then I shall tell you who I be and you shall
say if you still care to call me friend -- no more than that shall I ask."
He had not the heart to tell her that he loved only Bertrade de Montfort,
but it had been a thousand times better had he done so.
She was about to reply when a dozen armed men sprang from the surrounding
shadows, calling upon them to surrender. The moonlight falling upon the
leader revealed a great giant of a fellow with an enormous, bristling
mustache -- it was Shandy.
Norman of Torn lowered his raised sword.
"It is I, Shandy," he said. "Keep a still tongue in thy head until I speak
with thee apart. Wait here, My Lady Joan; these be friends."
Drawing Shandy to one side, he learned that the faithful fellow had become
alarmed at his chief's continued absence, and had set out with a small
party to search for him. They had come upon the riderless Sir Mortimer
grazing by the roadside, and a short distance beyond, had discovered
evidences of the conflict at the cross-roads. There they had found Norman
of Torn's helmet, confirming their worst fears. A peasant in a nearby hut
had told them of the encounter, and had set them upon the road taken by the
Earl and his prisoners.
"And here we be, My Lord," concluded the great fellow.
"How many are you ?" asked the outlaw.
"Fifty, all told, with those who lie farther back in the bushes."
"Give us horses, and let two of the men ride behind us," said the chief.
"And, Shandy, let not the lady know that she rides this night with the
Outlaw of Torn."
"Yes, My Lord."
They were soon mounted, and clattering down the road, back toward the
castle of Richard de Tany.
Joan de Tany looked in silent wonder upon this grim force that sprang out
of the shadows of the night to do the bidding of Roger de Conde, a
gentleman of France.
There was something familiar in the great bulk of Red Shandy; where had she
seen that mighty frame before ? And now she looked closely at the figure
of Roger de Conde. Yes, somewhere else had she seen these two men
together; but where and when ?
And then the strangeness of another incident came to her mind. Roger de
Conde spoke no English, and yet she had plainly heard English words upon
this man's lips as he addressed the red giant.
Norman of Torn had recovered his helmet from one of his men who had picked
it up at the crossroads, and now he rode in silence with lowered visor, as
was his custom.
There was something sinister now in his appearance, and as the moonlight
touched the hard, cruel faces of the grim and silent men who rode behind
him, a little shudder crept over the frame of Joan de Tany.
Shortly before daylight they reached the castle of Richard de Tany, and a
great shout went up from the watch as Norman of Torn cried:
"Open ! Open for My Lady Joan."
Together they rode into the courtyard, where all was bustle and
excitement. A dozen voices asked a dozen questions only to cry out still
others without waiting for replies.
Richard de Tany with his family and Mary de Stutevill were still fully
clothed, having not lain down during the whole night. They fairly fell
upon Joan and Roger de Conde in their joyous welcome and relief.
"Come, come," said the Baron, "let us go within. You must be fair famished
for good food and drink."
"I will ride, My Lord," replied Norman of Torn. "I have a little matter of
business with my friend, the Earl of Buckingham. Business which I fear
will not wait."
Joan de Tany looked on in silence. Nor did she urge him to remain, as he
raised her hand to his lips in farewell. So Norman of Torn rode out of the
courtyard; and as his men fell in behind him under the first rays of the
drawing day, the daughter of De Tany watched them through the gate, and a
great light broke upon her, for what she saw was the same as she had seen a
few days since when she had turned in her saddle to watch the retreating
forms of the cut-throats of Torn as they rode on after halting her father's
Some hours later, fifty men followed Norman of Torn on foot through the
ravine below the castle where John de Fulm, Earl of Buckingham, had his
headquarters; while nearly a thousand more lurked in the woods before the
grim pile.
Under cover of the tangled shrubbery, they crawled unseen to the little
door through which Joan de Tany had led him the night before. Following
the corridors and vaults beneath the castle, they came to the stone
stairway, and mounted to the passage which led to the false panel that had
given the two fugitives egress.
Slipping the spring lock, Norman of Torn entered the apartment followed
closely by his henchmen. On they went, through apartment after apartment,
but no sign of the Earl or his servitors rewarded their search, and it was
soon apparent that the castle was deserted.
As they came forth into the courtyard, they descried an old man basking in
the sun, upon a bench. The sight of them nearly caused the old fellow to
die of fright, for to see fifty armed men issue from the untenanted halls
was well reckoned to blanch even a braver cheek.
When Norman of Torn questioned him, he learned that De Fulm had ridden out
early in the day bound for Dover, where Prince Edward then was. The outlaw
knew it would be futile to pursue him, but yet, so fierce was his anger
against this man, that he ordered his band to mount, and spurring to their
head, he marched through Middlesex, and crossing the Thames above London,
entered Surrey late the same afternoon.
As they were going into camp that night in Kent, midway between London and
Rochester, word came to Norman of Torn that the Earl of Buckingham, having
sent his escort on to Dover, had stopped to visit the wife of a royalist
baron, whose husband was with Prince Edward's forces.
The fellow who gave this information was a servant in my lady's household
who held a grudge against his mistress for some wrong she had done him.
When, therefore, he found that these grim men were searching for De Fulm,
he saw a way to be revenged upon his mistress.
"How many swords be there at the castle ?" asked Norman of Torn.
"Scarce a dozen, barring the Earl of Buckingham," replied the knave; "and,
furthermore, there be a way to enter, which I may show you, My Lord, so
that you may, unseen, reach the apartment where My Lady and the Earl be
"Bring ten men, beside yourself, Shandy," commanded Norman of Torn. "We
shall pay a little visit upon our amorous friend, My Lord, the Earl of
Half an hour's ride brought them within sight of the castle. Dismounting,
and leaving their horses with one of the men, Norman of Torn advanced on
foot with Shandy and the eight others, close in the wake of the traitorous
The fellow led them to the rear of the castle, where, among the brush, he
had hidden a rude ladder, which, when tilted, spanned the moat and rested
its farther end upon a window ledge some ten feet above the ground.
"Keep the fellow here till last, Shandy," said the outlaw, "till all be in,
an' if there be any signs of treachery, stick him through the gizzard --
death thus be slower and more painful."
So saying, Norman of Torn crept boldly across the improvised bridge, and
disappeared within the window beyond. One by one the band of cut-throats
passed through the little window, until all stood within the castle beside
their chief; Shandy coming last with the servant.
"Lead me quietly, knave, to the room where My Lord sups," said Norman of
Torn. "You, Shandy, place your men where they can prevent my being
Following a moment or two after Shandy came another figure stealthily
across the ladder and, as Norman of Torn and his followers left the little
room, this figure pushed quietly through the window and followed the great
outlaw down the unlighted corridor.
A moment later, My Lady of Leybourn looked up from her plate upon the grim
figure of an armored knight standing in the doorway of the great dining
"My Lord Earl !" she cried. "Look ! Behind you."
And as the Earl of Buckingham glanced behind him , he overturned the bench
upon which he sat in his effort to gain his feet; for My Lord Earl of
Buckingham had a guilty conscience.
The grim figure raised a restraining hand, as the Earl drew his sword.
"A moment, My Lord," said a low voice in perfect French.
"Who are you ?" cried the lady.
"I be an old friend of My Lord, here; but let me tell you a little story.
"In a grim old castle in Essex, only last night, a great lord of England
held by force the beautiful daughter of a noble house and, when she spurned
his advances, he struck her with his clenched fist upon her fair face, and
with his brute hands choked her. And in that castle also was a despised
and hunted outlaw, with a price upon his head, for whose neck the hempen
noose has been yawning these many years. And it was this vile person who
came in time to save the young woman from the noble flower of knighthood
that would have ruined her young life.
"The outlaw wished to kill the knight, but many men-at-arms came to the
noble's rescue, and so the outlaw was forced to fly with the girl lest he
be overcome by numbers, and the girl thus fall again into the hands of her
"But this crude outlaw was not satisfied with merely rescuing the girl, he
must needs mete out justice to her noble abductor and collect in full the
toll of blood which alone can atone for the insult and violence done her.
"My Lady, the young girl was Joan de Tany; the noble was My Lord the Earl
of Buckingham; and the outlaw stands before you to fulfill the duty he has
sworn to do. En garde, My Lord !"
The encounter was short, for Norman of Torn had come to kill, and he had
been looking through a haze of blood for hours -- in fact every time he had
thought of those brutal fingers upon the fair throat of Joan de Tany and of
the cruel blow that had fallen upon her face.
He showed no mercy, but backed the Earl relentlessly into a corner of the
room, and when he had him there where he could escape in no direction, he
drove his blade so deep through his putrid heart that the point buried
itself an inch in the oak panel beyond.
Claudia Leybourn sat frozen with horror at the sight she was witnessing,
and, as Norman of Torn wrenched his blade from the dead body before him and
wiped it on the rushes of the floor, she gazed in awful fascination while
he drew his dagger and made a mark upon the forehead of the dead nobleman.
"Outlaw or Devil," said a stern voice behind them, "Roger Leybourn owes you
his friendship for saving the honor of his home."
Both turned to discover a mail-clad figure standing in the doorway where
Norman of Torn had first appeared.
"Roger !" shrieked Claudia Leybourn, and swooned.
"Who be you ?" continued the master of Leybourn addressing the outlaw.
For answer Norman of Torn pointed to the forehead of the dead Earl of
Buckingham, and there Roger Leybourn saw, in letters of blood, NT.
The Baron advanced with outstretched hand.
"I owe you much. You have saved my poor, silly wife from this beast, and
Joan de Tany is my cousin, so I am doubly beholden to you, Norman of Torn."
The outlaw pretended that he did not see the hand.
"You owe me nothing, Sir Roger, that may not be paid by a good supper. I
have eaten but once in forty-eight hours."
The outlaw now called to Shandy and his men, telling them to remain on
watch, but to interfere with no one within the castle.
He then sat at the table with Roger Leybourn and his lady, who had
recovered from her swoon, and behind them on the rushes of the floor lay
the body of De Fulm in a little pool of blood.
Leybourn told them that he had heard that De Fulm was at his home, and had
hastened back; having been in hiding about the castle for half an hour
before the arrival of Norman of Torn, awaiting an opportunity to enter
unobserved by the servants. It was he who had followed across the ladder
after Shandy.
The outlaw spent the night at the castle of Roger Leybourn; for the first
time within his memory a welcomed guest under his true name at the house of
a gentleman.
The following morning, he bade his host goodbye, and returning to his camp
started on his homeward march toward Torn.
Near midday, as they were approaching the Thames near the environs of
London, they saw a great concourse of people hooting and jeering at a small
party of gentlemen and gentlewomen.
Some of the crowd were armed, and from very force of numbers were waxing
brave to lay violent hands upon the party. Mud and rocks and rotten
vegetables were being hurled at the little cavalcade, many of them barely
missing the women of the party.
Norman of Torn waited to ask no questions, but spurring into the thick of
it laid right and left of him with the flat of his sword, and his men,
catching the contagion of it, swarmed after him until the whole pack of
attacking ruffians were driven into the Thames.
And then, without a backward glance at the party he had rescued, he
continued on his march toward the north.
The little party sat upon their horses looking in wonder after the
retreating figures of their deliverers. Then one of the ladies turned to a
knight at her side with a word of command and an imperious gesture toward
the fast disappearing company. He, thus addressed, put spurs to his horse,
and rode at a rapid gallop after the outlaw's troop. In a few moments he
had overtaken them and reined up beside Norman of Torn.
"Hold, Sir Knight," cried the gentleman, "the Queen would thank you in
person for your brave defence of her."
Ever keen to see the humor of a situation, Norman of Torn wheeled his horse
and rode back with the Queen's messenger.
As he faced Her Majesty, the Outlaw of Torn bent low over his pommel.
"You be a strange knight that thinks so lightly on saving a queen's life
that you ride on without turning your head, as though you had but driven a
pack of curs from annoying a stray cat," said the Queen.
"I drew in the service of a woman, Your Majesty, not in the service of a
"What now ! Wouldst even belittle the act which we all witnessed ? The
King, my husband, shall reward thee, Sir Knight, if you but tell me your
"If I told my name, methinks the King would be more apt to hang me,"
laughed the outlaw. "I be Norman of Torn."
The entire party looked with startled astonishment upon him, for none of
them had ever seen this bold raider whom all the nobility and gentry of
England feared and hated.
"For lesser acts than that which thou hast just performed, the King has
pardoned men before," replied Her Majesty. "But raise your visor, I would
look upon the face of so notorious a criminal who can yet be a gentleman
and a loyal protector of his queen."
"They who have looked upon my face, other than my friends," replied Norman
of Torn quietly, "have never lived to tell what they saw beneath this
visor, and as for you, Madame, I have learned within the year to fear it
might mean unhappiness to you to see the visor of the Devil of Torn lifted
from his face." Without another word he wheeled and galloped back to his
little army.
"The puppy, the insolent puppy," cried Eleanor of England, in a rage.
And so the Outlaw of Torn and his mother met and parted after a period of
twenty years.
Two days later, Norman of Torn directed Red Shandy to lead the forces of
Torn from their Essex camp back to Derby. The numerous raiding parties
which had been constantly upon the road during the days they had spent in
this rich district had loaded the extra sumpter beasts with rich and
valuable booty and the men, for the time satiated with fighting and loot,
turned their faces toward Torn with evident satisfaction.
The outlaw was speaking to his captains in council; at his side the old man
of Torn.
"Ride by easy stages, Shandy, and I will overtake you by tomorrow morning.
I but ride for a moment to the castle of De Tany on an errand, and, as I
shall stop there but a few moments, I shall surely join you tomorrow."
"Do not forget, My Lord," said Edwild the Serf, a great yellow-haired Saxon
giant, "that there be a party of the King's troops camped close by the road
which branches to Tany."
"I shall give them plenty of room," replied Norman of Torn. "My neck
itcheth not to be stretched," and he laughed and mounted.
Five minutes after he had cantered down the road from camp, Spizo the
Spaniard, sneaking his horse unseen into the surrounding forest, mounted
and spurred rapidly after him. The camp, in the throes of packing
refractory, half broken sumpter animals, and saddling their own wild
mounts, did not notice his departure. Only the little grim, gray, old man
knew that he had gone, or why, or whither.
That afternoon, as Roger de Conde was admitted to the castle of Richard de
Tany and escorted to a little room where he awaited the coming of the Lady
Joan, a swarthy messenger handed a letter to the captain of the King's
soldiers camped a few miles south of Tany.
The officer tore open the seal as the messenger turned and spurred back in
the direction from which he had come.
And this was what he read:
Norman of Torn is now at the castle of Tany, without escort.
Instantly the call "to arms" and "mount" sounded through the camp and, in
five minutes, a hundred mercenaries galloped rapidly toward the castle of
Richard de Tany, in the visions of their captain a great reward and honor
and preferment for the capture of the mighty outlaw who was now almost
within his clutches.
Three roads meet at Tany; one from the south along which the King's
soldiers were now riding; one from the west which had guided Norman of Torn
from his camp to the castle; and a third which ran northwest through
Cambridge and Huntingdon toward Derby.
All unconscious of the rapidly approaching foes, Norman of Torn waited
composedly in the anteroom for Joan de Tany.
Presently she entered, clothed in the clinging house garment of the period;
a beautiful vision, made more beautiful by the suppressed excitement which
caused the blood to surge beneath the velvet of her cheek, and her breasts
to rise and fall above her fast beating heart.
She let him take her fingers in his and raise them to his lips, and then
they stood looking into each other's eyes in silence for a long moment.
"I do not know how to tell you what I have come to tell," he said sadly.
"I have not meant to deceive you to your harm, but the temptation to be
with you and those whom you typify must be my excuse. I -- " He paused.
It was easy to tell her that he was the Outlaw of Torn, but if she loved
him, as he feared, how was he to tell her that he loved only Bertrade de
Montfort ?
"You need tell me nothing," interrupted Joan de Tany. "I have guessed what
you would tell me, Norman of Torn. 'The spell of moonlight and adventure
is no longer upon us' -- those are your own words, and still I am glad to
call you friend."
The little emphasis she put upon the last word bespoke the finality of her
decision that the Outlaw of Torn could be no more than friend to her.
"It is best," he replied, relieved that, as he thought, she felt no love
for him now that she knew him for what he really was. "Nothing good could
come to such as you, Joan, if the Devil of Torn could claim more of you
than friendship; and so I think that for your peace of mind and for my own,
we will let it be as though you had never known me. I thank you that you
have not been angry with me. Remember me only to think that in the hills
of Derby, a sword is at your service, without reward and without price.
Should you ever need it, Joan, tell me that you will send for me -- wilt
promise me that, Joan ?"
"I promise, Norman of Torn."
"Farewell," he said, and as he again kissed her hand he bent his knee to
the ground in reverence. Then he rose to go, pressing a little packet into
her palm. Their eyes met, and the man saw, in that brief instant, deep in
the azure depths of the girl's that which tumbled the structure of his
new-found complacency about his ears.
As he rode out into the bright sunlight upon the road which led northwest
toward Derby, Norman of Torn bowed his head in sorrow, for he realized two
things. One was that the girl he had left still loved him, and that some
day, mayhap tomorrow, she would suffer because she had sent him away; and
the other was that he did not love her, that his heart was locked in the
fair breast of Bertrade de Montfort.
He felt himself a beast that he had allowed his loneliness and the aching
sorrow of his starved, empty heart to lead him into this girl's life. That
he had been new to women and newer still to love did not permit him to
excuse himself, and a hundred times he cursed his folly and stupidity, and
what he thought was fickleness.
But the unhappy affair had taught him one thing for certain: to know
without question what love was, and that the memory of Bertrade de
Montfort's lips would always be more to him than all the allurements
possessed by the balance of the women of the world, no matter how charming,
or how beautiful.
Another thing, a painful thing he had learned from it, too, that the
attitude of Joan de Tany, daughter of an old and noble house, was but the
attitude which the Outlaw of Torn must expect from any good woman of her
class; what he must expect from Bertrade de Montfort when she learned that
Roger de Conde was Norman of Torn.
The outlaw had scarce passed out of sight upon the road to Derby ere the
girl, who still stood in an embrasure of the south tower, gazing with
strangely drawn, sad face up the road which had swallowed him, saw a body
of soldiers galloping rapidly toward Tany from the south.
The King's banner waved above their heads, and intuitively, Joan de Tany
knew for whom they sought at her father's castle. Quickly she hastened to
the outer barbican that it might be she who answered their hail rather than
one of the men-at-arms on watch there.
She had scarcely reached the ramparts of the outer gate ere the King's men
drew rein before the castle.
In reply to their hail, Joan de Tany asked their mission.
"We seek the outlaw, Norman of Torn, who hides now within this castle,"
replied the officer.
"There be no outlaw here," replied the girl, "but, if you wish, you may
enter with half a dozen men and search the castle."
This the officer did and, when he had assured himself that Norman of Torn
was not within, an hour had passed, and Joan de Tany felt certain that the
Outlaw of Torn was too far ahead to be caught by the King's men; so she
"There was one here just before you came who called himself though by
another name than Norman of Torn. Possibly it is he ye seek."
"Which way rode he ?" cried the officer.
"Straight toward the west by the middle road," lied Joan de Tany. And, as
the officer hurried from the castle and, with his men at his back, galloped
furiously away toward the west, the girl sank down upon a bench, pressing
her little hands to her throbbing temples.
Then she opened the packet which Norman of Torn had handed her, and within
found two others. In one of these was a beautiful jeweled locket, and on
the outside were the initials JT, and on the inside the initials NT; in the
other was a golden hair ornament set with precious stones, and about it was
wound a strand of her own silken tresses.
She looked long at the little trinkets and then, pressing them against her
lips, she threw herself face down upon an oaken bench, her lithe young form
racked with sobs.
She was indeed but a little girl chained by the inexorable bonds of caste
to a false ideal. Birth and station spelled honor to her, and honor, to
the daughter of an English noble, was a mightier force even than love.
That Norman of Torn was an outlaw she might have forgiven, but that he was,
according to report, a low fellow of no birth placed an impassable barrier
between them.
For hours the girl lay sobbing upon the bench, whilst within her raged the
mighty battle of the heart against the head.
Thus her mother found her, and kneeling beside her, and with her arms about
the girl's neck, tried to soothe her and to learn the cause of her sorrow.
Finally it came, poured from the flood gates of a sorrowing heart; that
wave of bitter misery and hopelessness which not even a mother's love could
"Joan, my dear daughter," cried Lady de Tany, "I sorrow with thee that thy
love has been cast upon so bleak and impossible a shore. But it be better
that thou hast learnt the truth ere it were too late; for, take my word
upon it, Joan, the bitter humiliation such an alliance must needs have
brought upon thee and thy father's house would soon have cooled thy love;
nor could his have survived the sneers and affronts even the menials would
have put upon him."
"Oh, mother, but I love him so," moaned the girl. "I did not know how much
until he had gone, and the King's officer had come to search for him, and
then the thought that all the power of a great throne and the mightiest
houses of an entire kingdom were turned in hatred against him raised the
hot blood of anger within me and the knowledge of my love surged through
all my being. Mother, thou canst not know the honor, and the bravery, and
the chivalry of the man as I do. Not since Arthur of Silures kept his
round table hath ridden forth upon English soil so true a knight as Norman
man of Torn.
"Couldst thou but have seen him fight, my mother, and witnessed the honor
of his treatment of thy daughter, and heard the tone of dignified respect
in which he spoke of women thou wouldst have loved him, too, and felt that
outlaw though he be, he is still more a gentleman than nine-tenths the
nobles of England."
"But his birth, my daughter !" argued the Lady de Tany. "Some even say
that the gall marks of his brass collar still showeth upon his neck, and
others that he knoweth not himself the name of his own father, nor had he
any mother."
Ah, but this was the mighty argument ! Naught could the girl say to
justify so heinous a crime as low birth. What a man did in those rough
cruel days might be forgotten and forgiven but the sins of his mother or
his grandfather in not being of noble blood, no matter howsoever wickedly
attained, he might never overcome or live down.
Torn by conflicting emotions, the poor girl dragged herself to her own
apartment and there upon a restless, sleepless couch, beset by wild,
impossible hopes, and vain, torturing regrets, she fought out the long,
bitter night; until toward morning she solved the problem of her misery in
the only way that seemed possible to her poor, tired, bleeding, little
heart. When the rising sun shone through the narrow window, it found Joan
de Tany at peace with all about her; the carved golden hilt of the toy that
had hung at her girdle protruded from her breast, and a thin line of
crimson ran across the snowy skin to a little pool upon the sheet beneath
And so the cruel hand of a mighty revenge had reached out to crush another
innocent victim.
When word of the death of Joan de Tany reached Torn, no man could tell from
outward appearance the depth of the suffering which the sad intelligence
wrought on the master of Torn.
All that they who followed him knew was that certain unusual orders were
issued, and that that same night, the ten companies rode south toward Essex
without other halt than for necessary food and water for man and beast.
When the body of Joan de Tany rode forth from her father's castle to the
church at Colchester, and again as it was brought back to its final resting
place in the castle's crypt, a thousand strange and silent knights, black
draped, upon horses trapped in black, rode slowly behind the bier.
Silently they had come in the night preceding the funeral, and as silently,
they slipped away northward into the falling shadows of the following
No word had passed between those of the castle and the great troop of
sable-clad warriors, but all within knew that the mighty Outlaw of Torn had
come to pay homage to the memory of the daughter of De Tany, and all but
the grieving mother wondered at the strangeness of the act.
As the horde of Torn approached their Derby stronghold, their young leader
turned the command over to Red Shandy and dismounted at the door of Father
Claude's cottage.
"I am tired, Father," said the outlaw as he threw himself upon his
accustomed bench. "Naught but sorrow and death follow in my footsteps. I
and all my acts be accurst, and upon those I love, the blight falleth."
"Alter thy ways, my son; follow my advice ere it be too late. Seek out a
new and better life in another country and carve thy future into the
semblance of glory and honor."
"Would that I might, my friend," answered Norman of Torn. "But hast thou
thought on the consequences which surely would follow should I thus remove
both heart and head from the thing that I have built ?
"What suppose thou would result were Norman of Torn to turn his great band
of cut-throats, leaderless, upon England ? Hast thought on't, Father ?
"Wouldst thou draw a single breath in security if thou knew Edwild the Serf
were ranging unchecked through Derby ? Edwild, whose father was torn limb
from limb upon the rack because he would not confess to killing a buck in
the new forest, a buck which fell before the arrow of another man; Edwild,
whose mother was burned for witchcraft by Holy Church.
"And Horsan the Dane, Father. How thinkest thou the safety of the roads
would be for either rich or poor an I turned Horsan the Dane loose upon
ye ?
"And Pensilo, the Spanish Don ! A great captain, but a man absolutely
without bowels of compassion. When first he joined us and saw our mark
upon the foreheads of our dead, wishing to out-Herod Herod, he marked the
living which fell into his hands with a red hot iron, branding a great P
upon each cheek and burning out the right eye completely. Wouldst like to
feel, Father, that Don Piedro Castro y Pensilo ranged free through forest
and hill of England ?
"And Red Shandy, and the two Florys, and Peter the Hermit, and One Eye
Kanty, and Gropello, and Campanee, and Cobarth, and Mandecote, and the
thousand others, each with a special hatred for some particular class or
individual, and all filled with the lust of blood and rapine and loot.
"No, Father, I may not go yet, for the England I have been taught to hate,
I have learned to love, and I have it not in my heart to turn loose upon
her fair breast the beasts of hell who know no law or order or decency
other than that which I enforce."
As Norman of Torn ceased speaking, the priest sat silent for many minutes.
"Thou hast indeed a grave responsibility, my son," he said at last. "Thou
canst not well go unless thou takest thy horde with thee out of England,
but even that may be possible; who knows other than God ?"
"For my part" laughed the outlaw, "I be willing to leave it in His hands;
which seems to be the way with Christians. When one would shirk a
responsibility, or explain an error, lo, one shoulders it upon the Lord."
"I fear, my son," said the priest, "that what seed of reverence I have
attempted to plant within thy breast hath borne poor fruit."
"That dependeth upon the viewpoint, Father; as I take not the Lord into
partnership in my successes it seemeth to me to be but of a mean and poor
spirit to saddle my sorrows and perplexities upon Him. I may be wrong, for
I am ill-versed in religious matters, but my conception of God and
scapegoat be not that they are synonymous."
"Religion, my son, be a bootless subject for argument between friends,"
replied the priest, "and further, there be that nearer my heart just now
which I would ask thee. I may offend, but thou know I do not mean to. The
question I would ask, is, dost wholly trust the old man whom thou call
father ?"
"I know of no treachery," replied the outlaw, "which he hath ever conceived
against me. Why ?"
"I ask because I have written to Simon de Montfort asking him to meet me
and two others here upon an important matter. I have learned that he
expects to be at his Leicester castle, for a few days, within the week. He
is to notify me when he will come and I shall then send for thee and the
old man of Torn; but it were as well, my son, that thou do not mention this
matter to thy father, nor let him know when thou come hither to the meeting
that De Montfort is to be present."
"As you say, Father," replied Norman of Torn. "I do not make head nor tail
of thy wondrous intrigues, but that thou wish it done thus or so is
sufficient. I must be off to Torn now, so I bid thee farewell."
Until the following Spring, Norman of Torn continued to occupy himself with
occasional pillages against the royalists of the surrounding counties, and
his patrols so covered the public highways that it became a matter of
grievous import to the King's party, for no one was safe in the district
who even so much as sympathized with the King's cause, and many were the
dead foreheads that bore the grim mark of the Devil of Torn.
Though he had never formally espoused the cause of the barons, it now
seemed a matter of little doubt but that, in any crisis, his grisly banner
would be found on their side.
The long winter evenings within the castle of Torn were often spent in
rough, wild carousals in the great hall where a thousand men might sit at
table singing, fighting and drinking until the gray dawn stole in through
the east windows, or Peter the Hermit, the fierce majordomo, tired of the
din and racket, came stalking into the chamber with drawn sword and laid
upon the revellers with the flat of it to enforce the authority of his
commands to disperse.
Norman of Torn and the old man seldom joined in these wild orgies, but when
minstrel, or troubadour, or storyteller wandered to his grim lair, the
Outlaw of Torn would sit enjoying the break in the winter's dull monotony
to as late an hour as another; nor could any man of his great fierce horde
outdrink their chief when he cared to indulge in the pleasures of the wine
cup. The only effect that liquor seemed to have upon him was to increase
his desire to fight, so that he was wont to pick needless quarrels and to
resort to his sword for the slightest, or for no provocation at all. So,
for this reason, he drank but seldom since he always regretted the things
he did under the promptings of that other self which only could assert its
ego when reason was threatened with submersion.
Often on these evenings, the company was entertained by stories from the
wild, roving lives of its own members. Tales of adventure, love, war and
death in every known corner of the world; and the ten captains told, each,
his story of how he came to be of Torn; and thus, with fighting enough by
day to keep them good humored, the winter passed, and spring came with the
ever wondrous miracle of awakening life, with soft zephyrs, warm rain, and
sunny skies.
Through all the winter, Father Claude had been expecting to hear from Simon
de Montfort, but not until now did he receive a message which told the good
priest that his letter had missed the great baron and had followed him
around until he had but just received it. The message closed with these
"Any clew, however vague, which might lead nearer to a true knowledge of
the fate of Prince Richard, we shall most gladly receive and give our best
attention. Therefore, if thou wilst find it convenient, we shall visit
thee, good father, on the fifth day from today."
Spizo, the Spaniard, had seen De Montfort's man leave the note with Father
Claude and he had seen the priest hide it under a great bowl on his table,
so that when the good father left his cottage, it was the matter of but a
moment's work for Spizo to transfer the message from its hiding place to
the breast of his tunic. The fellow could not read, but he to whom he took
the missive could, laboriously, decipher the Latin in which it was penned.
The old man of Torn fairly trembled with suppressed rage as the full
purport of this letter flashed upon him. It had been years since he had
heard aught of the search for the little lost prince of England, and now
that the period of his silence was drawing to a close, now that more and
more often opportunities were opening up to him to wreak the last shred of
his terrible vengeance, the very thought of being thwarted at the final
moment staggered his comprehension.
"On the fifth day," he repeated. "That is the day on which we were to ride
south again. Well, we shall ride, and Simon de Montfort shall not talk
with thee, thou fool priest."
That same spring evening in the year 1264, a messenger drew rein before the
walls of Torn and, to the challenge of the watch, cried:
"A royal messenger from His Illustrious Majesty, Henry, by the grace of
God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Aquitaine, to Norman of
Torn, Open, in the name of the King !"
Norman of Torn directed that the King's messenger be admitted, and the
knight was quickly ushered into the great hall of the castle.
The outlaw presently entered in full armor, with visor lowered.
The bearing of the King's officer was haughty and arrogant, as became a man
of birth when dealing with a low born knave.
"His Majesty has deigned to address you, sirrah," he said, withdrawing a
parchment from his breast. "And, as you doubtless cannot read, I will read
the King's commands to you."
"I can read," replied Norman of Torn, "whatever the King can write. Unless
it be," he added, "that the King writes no better than he rules."
The messenger scowled angrily, crying:
"It ill becomes such a low fellow to speak thus disrespectfully of our
gracious King. If he were less generous, he would have sent you a halter
rather than this message which I bear."
"A bridle for thy tongue, my friend," replied Norman of Torn, "were in
better taste than a halter for my neck. But come, let us see what the King
writes to his friend, the Outlaw of Torn."
Taking the parchment from the messenger, Norman of Torn read:
Henry, by Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of
Aquitaine; to Norman of Torn:
Since it has been called to our notice that you be harassing and plundering
the persons and property of our faithful lieges ---
We therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in us by Almighty God, do
command that you cease these nefarious practices ---
And further, through the gracious intercession of Her Majesty, Queen
Eleanor, we do offer you full pardon for all your past crimes ---
Provided, you repair at once to the town of Lewes, with all the fighting
men, your followers, prepared to protect the security of our person, and
wage war upon those enemies of England, Simon de Montfort, Gilbert de Clare
and their accomplices, who even now are collected to threaten and menace
our person and kingdom ---
Or, otherwise, shall you suffer death, by hanging, for your long unpunished
crimes. Witnessed myself, at Lewes, on May the third, in the forty-eighth
year of our reign.
"The closing paragraph be unfortunately worded," said Norman of Torn, "for
because of it shall the King's messenger eat the King's message, and thus
take back in his belly the answer of Norman of Torn." And crumpling the
parchment in his hand, he advanced toward the royal emissary.
The knight whipped out his sword, but the Devil of Torn was even quicker,
so that it seemed that the King's messenger had deliberately hurled his
weapon across the room, so quickly did the outlaw disarm him.
And then Norman of Torn took the man by the neck with one powerful hand
and, despite his struggles, and the beating of his mailed fists, bent him
back upon the table, and there, forcing his teeth apart with the point of
his sword, Norman of Torn rammed the King's message down the knight's
throat; wax, parchment and all.
It was a crestfallen gentleman who rode forth from the castle of Torn a
half hour later and spurred rapidly - in his head a more civil tongue.
When, two days later, he appeared before the King at Winchelsea and
reported the outcome of his mission, Henry raged and stormed, swearing by
all the saints in the calendar that Norman of Torn should hang for his
effrontery before the snow flew again.
News of the fighting between the barons and the King's forces at Rochester,
Battel and elsewhere reached the ears of Norman of Torn a few days after
the coming of the King's message, but at the same time came other news
which hastened his departure toward the south. This latter word was that
Bertrade de Montfort and her mother, accompanied by Prince Philip, had
landed at Dover, and that upon the same boat had come Peter of Colfax back
to England -- the latter, doubtless reassured by the strong conviction,
which held in the minds of all royalists at that time, of the certainty of
victory for the royal arms in the impending conflict with the rebel barons.
Norman of Torn had determined that he would see Bertrade de Montfort once
again, and clear his conscience by a frank avowal of his identity. He knew
what the result must be. His experience with Joan de Tany had taught him
that. But the fine sense of chivalry which ever dominated all his acts
where the happiness or honor of women were concerned urged him to give
himself over as a sacrifice upon the altar of a woman's pride, that it
might be she who spurned and rejected; for, as it must appear now, it had
been he whose love had grown cold. It was a bitter thing to contemplate,
for not alone would the mighty pride of the man be lacerated, but a great
Two days before the start of the march, Spizo, the Spaniard, reported to
the old man of Torn that he had overheard Father Claude ask Norman of Torn
to come with his father to the priest's cottage the morning of the march to
meet Simon de Montfort upon an important matter, but what the nature of the
thing was the priest did not reveal to the outlaw.
This report seemed to please the little, grim, gray old man more than aught
he had heard in several days; for it made it apparent that the priest had
not as yet divulged the tenor of his conjecture to the Outlaw of Torn.
On the evening of the day preceding that set for the march south, a little,
wiry figure, grim and gray, entered the cottage of Father Claude. No man
knows what words passed between the good priest and his visitor nor the
details of what befell within the four walls of the little cottage that
night; but some half hour only elapsed before the little, grim, gray man
emerged from the darkened interior and hastened upward upon the rocky trail
into the hills, a cold smile of satisfaction on his lips.
The castle of Torn was filled with the rush and rattle of preparation early
the following morning, for by eight o'clock the column was to march. The
courtyard was filled with hurrying squires and lackeys. War horses were
being groomed and caparisoned; sumpter beasts, snubbed to great posts, were
being laden with the tents, bedding, and belongings of the men; while those
already packed were wandering loose among the other animals and men. There
was squealing, biting, kicking, and cursing as animals fouled one another
with their loads, or brushed against some tethered war horse.
Squires were running hither and thither, or aiding their masters to don
armor, lacing helm to hauberk, tying the points of ailette, coude, and
rondel; buckling cuisse and jambe to thigh and leg. The open forges of
armorer and smithy smoked and hissed, and the din of hammer on anvil rose
above the thousand lesser noises of the castle courts, the shouting of
commands, the rattle of steel, the ringing of iron hoof on stone flags, as
these artificers hastened, sweating and cursing, through the eleventh hour
repairs to armor, lance and sword, or to reset a shoe upon a refractory,
plunging beast.
Finally the captains came, armored cap-a-pie, and with them some semblance
of order and quiet out of chaos and bedlam. First the sumpter beasts, all
loaded now, were driven, with a strong escort, to the downs below the
castle and there held to await the column. Then, one by one, the companies
were formed and marched out beneath fluttering pennon and waving banner to
the martial strains of bugle and trumpet.
Last of all came the catapults, those great engines of destruction which
hurled two hundred pound boulders with mighty force against the walls of
beleaguered castles.
And after all had passed through the great gates, Norman of Torn and the
little old man walked side by side from the castle building and mounted
their chargers held by two squires in the center of the courtyard.
Below, on the downs, the column was forming in marching order, and as the
two rode out to join it, the little old man turned to Norman of Torn,
"I had almost forgot a message I have for you, my son. Father Claude sent
word last evening that he had been called suddenly south, and that some
appointment you had with him must therefore be deferred until later. He
said that you would understand." The old man eyed his companion narrowly
through the eye slit in his helm.
"'Tis passing strange," said Norman of Torn but that was his only comment.
And so they joined the column which moved slowly down toward the valley and
as they passed the cottage of Father Claude, Norman of Torn saw that the
door was closed and that there was no sign of life about the place. A wave
of melancholy passed over him, for the deserted aspect of the little
flower-hedged cote seemed dismally prophetic of a near future without the
beaming, jovial face of his friend and adviser.
Scarcely had the horde of Torn passed out of sight down the east edge of
the valley ere a party of richly dressed knights, coming from the south by
another road along the west bank of the river, crossed over and drew rein
before the cottage of Father Claude.
As their hails were unanswered, one of the party dismounted to enter the
"Have a care, My Lord," cried his companion. "This be over-close to the
Castle Torn and there may easily be more treachery than truth in the
message which called thee thither."
"Fear not," replied Simon de Montfort, "the Devil of Torn hath no quarrel
with me." Striding up the little path, he knocked loudly on the door.
Receiving no reply, he pushed it open and stepped into the dim light of the
interior. There he found his host, the good father Claude, stretched upon
his back on the floor, the breast of his priestly robes dark with dried and
clotted blood.
Turning again to the door, De Montfort summoned a couple of his companions.
"The secret of the little lost prince of England be a dangerous burden for
a man to carry," he said. "But this convinces me more than any words the
priest might have uttered that the abductor be still in England, and
possibly Prince Richard also."
A search of the cottage revealed the fact that it had been ransacked
thoroughly by the assassin. The contents of drawer and box littered every
room, though that the object was not rich plunder was evidenced by many
pieces of jewelry and money which remained untouched.
"The true object lies here," said De Montfort, pointing to the open hearth
upon which lay the charred remains of many papers and documents. "All
written evidence has been destroyed, but hold what lieth here beneath the
table ?" and, stooping, the Earl of Leicester picked up a sheet of
parchment on which a letter had been commenced. It was addressed to him,
and he read it aloud:
Lest some unforeseen chance should prevent the accomplishment of our
meeting, My Lord Earl, I send thee this by one who knoweth not either its
contents or the suspicions which I will narrate herein.
He who bareth this letter, I truly believe to be the lost Prince Richard.
Question him closely, My Lord, and I know that thou wilt be as positive as
Of his past, thou know nearly as much as I, though thou may not know the
wondrous chivalry and true nobility of character of him men call ---
Here the letter stopped, evidently cut short by the dagger of the assassin.
"Mon Dieu ! The damnable luck !" cried De Montfort, "but a second more and
the name we have sought for twenty years would have been writ. Didst ever
see such hellish chance as plays into the hand of the fiend incarnate since
that long gone day when his sword pierced the heart of Lady Maud by the
postern gate beside the Thames ? The Devil himself must watch o'er him.
"There be naught more we can do here," he continued. "I should have been
on my way to Fletching hours since. Come, my gentlemen, we will ride south
by way of Leicester and have the good Fathers there look to the decent
burial of this holy man."
The party mounted and rode rapidly away. Noon found them at Leicester, and
three days later, they rode into the baronial camp at Fletching.
At almost the same hour, the monks of the Abbey of Leicester performed the
last rites of Holy Church for the peace of the soul of Father Claude and
consigned his clay to the churchyard.
And thus another innocent victim of an insatiable hate and vengeance which
had been born in the King's armory twenty years before passed from the eyes
of men.
While Norman of Torn and his thousand fighting men marched slowly south on
the road toward Dover, the army of Simon de Montfort was preparing for its
advance upon Lewes, where King Henry, with his son Prince Edward, and his
brother, Prince Richard, King of the Romans, together with the latter's
son, were entrenched with their forces, sixty thousand strong.
Before sunrise on a May morning in the year 1264, the barons' army set out
from its camp at Fletching, nine miles from Lewes and, marching through
dense forests, reached a point two miles from the city, unobserved.
From here, they ascended the great ridge of the hills up the valley Combe,
the projecting shoulder of the Downs covering their march from the town.
The King's party, however, had no suspicion that an attack was imminent
and, in direct contrast to the methods of the baronial troops, had spent
the preceding night in drunken revelry, so that they were quite taken by
It is true that Henry had stationed an outpost upon the summit of the hill
in advance of Lewes, but so lax was discipline in his army that the
soldiers, growing tired of the duty, had abandoned the post toward morning,
and returned to town, leaving but a single man on watch. He, left alone,
had promptly fallen asleep, and thus De Montfort's men found and captured
him within sight of the bell-tower of the Priory of Lewes, where the King
and his royal allies lay peacefully asleep, after their night of wine and
dancing and song.
Had it not been for an incident which now befell, the baronial army would
doubtless have reached the city without being detected, but it happened
that, the evening before, Henry had ordered a foraging party to ride forth
at daybreak, as provisions for both men and beasts were low.
This party had scarcely left the city behind them ere they fell into the
hands of the baronial troops. Though some few were killed or captured,
those who escaped were sufficient to arouse the sleeping army of the
royalists to the close proximity and gravity of their danger.
By this time, the four divisions of De Montfort's army were in full view of
the town. On the left were the Londoners under Nicholas de Segrave; in the
center rode De Clare, with John Fitz-John and William de Monchensy, at the
head of a large division which occupied that branch of the hill which
descended a gentle, unbroken slope to the town. The right wing was
commanded by Henry de Montfort, the oldest son of Simon de Montfort, and
with him was the third son, Guy, as well as John de Burgh and Humphrey de
Bohun. The reserves were under Simon de Montfort himself.
Thus was the flower of English chivalry pitted against the King and his
party, which included many nobles whose kinsmen were with De Montfort; so
that brother faced brother, and father fought against son, on that bloody
Wednesday, before the old town of Lewes.
Prince Edward was the first of the royal party to take the field and, as he
issued from the castle with his gallant company, banners and pennons
streaming in the breeze and burnished armor and flashing blade
scintillating in the morning sunlight, he made a gorgeous and impressive
spectacle as he hurled himself upon the Londoners, whom he had selected for
attack because of the affront they had put upon his mother that day at
London on the preceding July.
So vicious was his onslaught that the poorly armed and unprotected
burghers, unused to the stern game of war, fell like sheep before the iron
men on their iron shod horses. The long lances, the heavy maces, the
six-bladed battle axes, and the well-tempered swords of the knights played
havoc among them, so that the rout was complete; but, not content with
victory, Prince Edward must glut his vengeance, and so he pursued the
citizens for miles, butchering great numbers of them, while many more were
drowned in attempting to escape across the Ouse.
The left wing of the royalist army, under the King of the Romans and his
gallant son, was not so fortunate, for they met a determined resistance at
the hands of Henry de Montfort.
The central divisions of the two armies seemed well matched also, and thus
the battle continued throughout the day, the greatest advantage appearing
to lie with the King's troops. Had Edward not gone so far afield in
pursuit of the Londoners, the victory might easily have been on the side of
the royalists early in the day, but by thus eliminating his division after
defeating a part of De Montfort's army, it was as though neither of these
two forces had been engaged.
The wily Simon de Montfort had attempted a little ruse which centered the
fighting for a time upon the crest of one of the hills. He had caused his
car to be placed there, with the tents and luggage of many of his leaders,
under a small guard, so that the banners there displayed, together with the
car, led the King of the Romans to believe that the Earl himself lay there,
for Simon de Montfort had but a month or so before suffered an injury to
his hip when his horse fell with him, and the royalists were not aware that
he had recovered sufficiently to again mount a horse.
And so it was that the forces under the King of the Romans pushed back the
men of Henry de Montfort, and ever and ever closer to the car came the
royalists until they were able to fall upon it, crying out insults against
the old Earl and commanding him to come forth. And when they had killed
the occupants of the car, they found that Simon de Montfort was not among
them, but instead he had fastened there three important citizens of London,
old men and influential, who had opposed him, and aided and abetted the
So great was the wrath of Prince Richard, King of the Romans, that he fell
upon the baronial troops with renewed vigor, and slowly but steadily beat
them back from the town.
This sight, together with the routing of the enemy's left wing by Prince
Edward, so cheered and inspired the royalists that the two remaining
divisions took up the attack with refreshed spirits so that, what a moment
before had hung in the balance, now seemed an assured victory for King
Both De Montfort and the King had thrown themselves into the melee with all
their reserves. No longer was there semblance of organization. Division
was inextricably bemingled with division; friend and foe formed a jumbled
confusion of fighting, cursing chaos, over which whipped the angry pennons
and banners of England's noblest houses.
That the mass seemed moving ever away from Lewes indicated that the King's
arms were winning toward victory, and so it might have been had not a new
element been infused into the battle; for now upon the brow of the hill to
the north of them appeared a great horde of armored knights, and as they
came into position where they could view the battle, the leader raised his
sword on high, and, as one man, the thousand broke into a mad charge.
Both De Montfort and the King ceased fighting as they gazed upon this body
of fresh, well armored, well mounted reinforcements. Whom might they be ?
To which side owned they allegiance ? And, then, as the black falcon wing
on the banners of the advancing horsemen became distinguishable, they saw
that it was the Outlaw of Torn.
Now he was close upon them, and had there been any doubt before, the wild
battle cry which rang from a thousand fierce throats turned the hopes of
the royalists cold within their breasts.
"For De Montfort ! For De Montfort !" and "Down with Henry !" rang loud
and clear above the din of battle.
Instantly the tide turned, and it was by only the barest chance that the
King himself escaped capture, and regained the temporary safety of Lewes.
The King of the Romans took refuge within an old mill, and here it was that
Norman of Torn found him barricaded. When the door was broken down, the
outlaw entered and dragged the monarch forth with his own hand to the feet
of De Montfort, and would have put him to death had not the Earl
"I have yet to see my mark upon the forehead of a King," said Norman of
Torn, "and the temptation be great; but, an you ask it, My Lord Earl, his
life shall be yours to do with as you see fit."
"You have fought well this day, Norman of Torn," replied De Montfort.
"Verily do I believe we owe our victory to you alone; so do not mar the
record of a noble deed by wanton acts of atrocity."
"It is but what they had done to me, were I the prisoner instead," retorted
the outlaw.
And Simon de Montfort could not answer that, for it was but the simple
"How comes it, Norman of Torn," asked De Montfort as they rode together
toward Lewes, "that you threw the weight of your sword upon the side of the
barons ? Be it because you hate the King more ?"
"I do not know that I hate either, My Lord Earl," replied the outlaw. "I
have been taught since birth to hate you all, but why I should hate was
never told me. Possibly it be but a bad habit that will yield to my
maturer years.
"As for why I fought as I did today," he continued, "it be because the
heart of Lady Bertrade, your daughter, be upon your side. Had it been with
the King, her uncle, Norman of Torn had fought otherwise than he has this
day. So you see, My Lord Earl, you owe me no gratitude. Tomorrow I may be
pillaging your friends as of yore."
Simon de Montfort turned to look at him, but the blank wall of his lowered
visor gave no sign of the thoughts that passed beneath.
"You do much for a mere friendship, Norman of Torn," said the Earl coldly,
"and I doubt me not but that my daughter has already forgot you. An
English noblewoman, preparing to become a princess of France, does not have
much thought to waste upon highwaymen." His tone, as well as his words were
studiously arrogant and insulting, for it had stung the pride of this
haughty noble to think that a low-born knave boasted the friendship of his
Norman of Torn made no reply, and could the Earl of Leicester have seen his
face, he had been surprised to note that instead of grim hatred and
resentment, the features of the Outlaw of Torn were drawn in lines of pain
and sorrow; for he read in the attitude of the father what he might expect
to receive at the hands of the daughter.
When those of the royalists who had not deserted the King and fled
precipitately toward the coast had regained the castle and the Priory, the
city was turned over to looting and rapine. In this, Norman of Torn and
his men did not participate, but camped a little apart from the town until
daybreak the following morning, when they started east, toward Dover.
They marched until late the following evening, passing some twenty miles
out of their way to visit a certain royalist stronghold. The troops
stationed there had fled, having been appraised some few hours earlier, by
fugitives, of the defeat of Henry's army at Lewes.
Norman of Torn searched the castle for the one he sought, but, finding it
entirely deserted, continued his eastward march. Some few miles farther
on, he overtook a party of deserting royalist soldiery, and from them he
easily, by dint of threats, elicited the information he desired: the
direction taken by the refugees from the deserted castle, their number, and
as close a description of the party as the soldiers could give.
Again he was forced to change the direction of his march, this time heading
northward into Kent. It was dark before he reached his destination, and
saw before him the familiar outlines of the castle of Roger de Leybourn.
This time, the outlaw threw his fierce horde completely around the
embattled pile before he advanced with a score of sturdy ruffians to
Making sure that the drawbridge was raised, and that he could not hope for
stealthy entrance there, he crept silently to the rear of the great
building and there, among the bushes, his men searched for the ladder that
Norman of Torn had seen the knavish servant of My Lady Claudia unearth,
that the outlaw might visit the Earl of Buckingham, unannounced.
Presently they found it, and it was the work of but a moment to raise it to
the sill of the low window, so that soon the twenty stood beside their
chief within the walls of Leybourn.
Noiselessly, they moved through the halls and corridors of the castle until
a maid, bearing a great pasty from the kitchen, turned a sudden corner and
bumped full into the Outlaw of Torn. With a shriek that might have been
heard at Lewes, she dropped the dish upon the stone floor and, turning,
ran, still shrieking at the top of her lungs, straight for the great dining
So close behind her came the little band of outlaws that scarce had the
guests arisen in consternation from the table at the shrill cries of the
girl than Norman of Torn burst through the great door with twenty drawn
swords at his back.
The hall was filled with knights and gentlewomen and house servants and
men-at-arms. Fifty swords flashed from fifty scabbards as the men of the
party saw the hostile appearance of their visitors, but before a blow could
be struck, Norman of Torn, grasping his sword in his right hand, raised his
left aloft in a gesture for silence.
"Hold !" he cried, and, turning directly to Roger de Leybourn, "I have no
quarrel with thee, My Lord, but again I come for a guest within thy halls.
Methinks thou hast as bad taste in whom thou entertains as didst thy fair
"Who be ye, that thus rudely breaks in upon the peace of my castle, and
makes bold to insult my guests ?" demanded Roger de Leybourn.
"Who be I ! If you wait, you shall see my mark upon the forehead of yon
grinning baboon," replied the outlaw, pointing a mailed finger at one who
had been seated close to De Leybourn.
All eyes turned in the direction that the rigid finger of the outlaw
indicated, and there indeed was a fearful apparition of a man. With livid
face he stood, leaning for support against the table; his craven knees
wabbling beneath his fat carcass; while his lips were drawn apart against
his yellow teeth in a horrid grimace of awful fear.
"If you recognize me not, Sir Roger," said Norman of Torn, drily, "it is
evident that your honored guest hath a better memory."
At last the fear-struck man found his tongue, and, though his eyes never
left the menacing figure of the grim, iron-clad outlaw, he addressed the
master of Leybourn; shrieking in a high, awe-emasculated falsetto:
"Seize him ! Kill him ! Set your men upon him ! Do you wish to live
another moment, draw and defend yourselves for he be the Devil of Torn, and
there be a great price upon his head.
"Oh, save me, save me ! for he has come to kill me," he ended in a pitiful
The Devil of Torn ! How that name froze the hearts of the assembled
The Devil of Torn ! Slowly the men standing there at the board of Sir
Roger de Leybourn grasped the full purport of that awful name.
Tense silence for a moment held the room in the stillness of a sepulchre,
and then a woman shrieked, and fell prone across the table. She had seen
the mark of the Devil of Torn upon the dead brow of her mate.
And then Roger de Leybourn spoke:
"Norman of Torn, but once before have you entered within the walls of
Leybourn, and then you did, in the service of another, a great service for
the house of Leybourn; and you stayed the night, an honored guest. But a
moment since, you said that you had no quarrel with me. Then why be you
here ? Speak ! Shall it be as a friend or an enemy that the master of
Leybourn greets Norman of Torn; shall it be with outstretched hand or naked
sword ?"
"I come for this man, whom you may all see has good reason to fear me. And
when I go, I take part of him with me. I be in a great hurry, so I would
prefer to take my great and good friend, Peter of Colfax, without
interference; but, if you wish it otherwise; we be a score strong within
your walls, and nigh a thousand lie without. What say you, My Lord ?"
"Your grievance against Peter of Colfax must be a mighty one, that you
search him out thus within a day's ride from the army of the King who has
placed a price upon your head, and from another army of men who be equally
your enemies."
"I would gladly go to hell after Peter of Colfax," replied the outlaw.
"What my grievance be matters not. Norman of Torn acts first and explains
afterward, if he cares to explain at all. Come forth, Peter of Colfax, and
for once in your life, fight like a man, that you may save your friends
here from the fate that has found you at last after two years of patient
Slowly, the palsied limbs of the great coward bore him tottering to the
center of the room, where gradually a little clear space had been made; the
men of the party forming a circle, in the center of which stood Peter of
Colfax and Norman of Torn.
"Give him a great draught of brandy," said the outlaw, "or he will sink
down and choke in the froth of his own terror."
When they had forced a goblet of the fiery liquid upon him, Peter of Colfax
regained his lost nerve enough so that he could raise his sword arm and
defend himself and, as the fumes circulated through him, and the primal
instinct of self-preservation asserted itself, he put up a more and more
creditable fight, until those who watched thought that he might indeed have
a chance to vanquish the Outlaw of Torn. But they did not know that Norman
of Torn was but playing with his victim, that he might make the torture
long, drawn out, and wreak as terrible a punishment upon Peter of Colfax,
before he killed him, as the Baron had visited upon Bertrade de Montfort
because she would not yield to his base desires.
The guests were craning their necks to follow every detail of the
fascinating drama that was being enacted before them.
"God, what a swordsman !" muttered one.
"Never was such swordplay seen since the day the first sword was drawn from
the first scabbard !" replied Roger de Leybourn. "Is it not marvellous !"
Slowly but surely was Norman of Torn cutting Peter of Colfax to pieces;
little by little, and with such fiendish care that, except for loss of
blood, the man was in no way crippled; nor did the outlaw touch his
victim's face with his gleaming sword. That he was saving for the
fulfillment of his design.
And Peter of Colfax, cornered and fighting for his life, was no marrowless
antagonist, even against the Devil of Torn. Furiously he fought; in the
extremity of his fear, rushing upon his executioner with frenzied agony.
Great beads of cold sweat stood upon his livid brow.
And then the gleaming point of Norman of Torn flashed, lightning-like, in
his victim's face, and above the right eye of Peter of Colfax was a thin
vertical cut from which the red blood had barely started to ooze ere
another swift move of that master sword hand placed a fellow to parallel
the first.
Five times did the razor point touch the forehead of Peter of Colfax, until
the watchers saw there, upon the brow of the doomed man, the seal of death,
in letters of blood -- NT.
It was the end. Peter of Colfax, cut to ribbons yet fighting like the
maniac he had become, was as good as dead, for the mark of the Outlaw of
Torn was upon his brow. Now, shrieking and gibbering through his frothy
lips, his yellow fangs bared in a mad and horrid grin, he rushed full upon
Norman of Torn. There was a flash of the great sword as the outlaw swung
it to the full of his mighty strength through an arc that passed above the
shoulders of Peter of Colfax, and the grinning head rolled upon the floor,
while the loathsome carcass, that had been a baron of England, sunk in a
disheveled heap among the rushes of the great hall of the castle of
A little shudder passed through the wide-eyed guests. Some one broke into
hysterical laughter, a woman sobbed, and then Norman of Torn, wiping his
blade upon the rushes of the floor as he had done upon another occasion in
that same hall, spoke quietly to the master of Leybourn.
"I would borrow yon golden platter, My Lord. It shall be returned, or a
mightier one in its stead."
Leybourn nodded his assent, and Norman of Torn turned, with a few words of
instructions, to one of his men.
The fellow gathered up the head of Peter of Colfax, and placed it upon the
golden platter.
"I thank you, Sir Roger, for your hospitality," said Norman of Torn, with a
low bow which included the spellbound guests. "Adieu." Thus followed by
his men, one bearing the head of Peter of Colfax upon the platter of gold,
Norman of Torn passed quietly from the hall and from the castle.
Both horses and men were fairly exhausted from the gruelling strain of many
days of marching and fighting, so Norman of Torn went into camp that night;
nor did he again take up his march until the second morning, three days
after the battle of Lewes.
He bent his direction toward the north and Leicester's castle, where he had
reason to believe he would find a certain young woman, and though it galled
his sore heart to think upon the humiliation that lay waiting his coming,
he could not do less than that which he felt his honor demanded.
Beside him on the march rode the fierce red giant, Shandy, and the wiry,
gray little man of Torn, whom the outlaw called father.
In no way, save the gray hair and the parchment-surfaced skin, had the old
fellow changed in all these years. Without bodily vices, and clinging ever
to the open air and the exercise of the foil, he was still young in muscle
and endurance.
For five years, he had not crossed foils with Norman of Torn, but he
constantly practiced with the best swordsmen of the wild horde, so that it
had become a subject often discussed among the men as to which of the two,
father or son, was the greater swordsman.
Always taciturn, the old fellow rode in his usual silence. Long since had
Norman of Torn usurped by the force of his strong character and masterful
ways, the position of authority in the castle of Torn. The old man simply
rode and fought with the others when it pleased him; and he had come on
this trip because he felt that there was that impending for which he had
waited over twenty years.
Cold and hard, he looked with no love upon the man he still called "my
son." If he held any sentiment toward Norman of Torn, it was one of pride
which began and ended in the almost fiendish skill of his pupil's mighty
sword arm.
The little army had been marching for some hours when the advance guard
halted a party bound south upon a crossroad. There were some twenty or
thirty men, mostly servants, and a half dozen richly garbed knights.
As Norman of Torn drew rein beside them, he saw that the leader of the
party was a very handsome man of about his own age, and evidently a person
of distinction; a profitable prize, thought the outlaw.
"Who are you," said the gentleman, in French, "that stops a prince of
France upon the highroad as though he were an escaped criminal ? Are you
of the King's forces, or De Montfort's ?"
"Be this Prince Philip of France ?" asked Norman of Torn.
"Yes, but who be you ?"
"And be you riding to meet my Lady Bertrade de Montfort ?" continued the
outlaw, ignoring the Prince's question.
"Yes, an it be any of your affair," replied Philip curtly.
"It be," said the Devil of Torn, "for I be a friend of My Lady Bertrade,
and as the way be beset with dangers from disorganized bands of roving
soldiery, it is unsafe for Monsieur le Prince to venture on with so small
an escort. Therefore will the friend of Lady Bertrade de Montfort ride
with Monsieur le Prince to his destination that Monsieur may arrive there
"It is kind of you, Sir Knight, a kindness that I will not forget. But,
again, who is it that shows this solicitude for Philip of France ?"
"Norman of Torn, they call me," replied the outlaw.
"Indeed !" cried Philip. "The great and bloody outlaw ?" Upon his handsome
face there was no look of fear or repugnance.
Norman of Torn laughed.
"Monsieur le Prince thinks, mayhap, that he will make a bad name for
himself," he said, "if he rides in such company ?"
"My Lady Bertrade and her mother think you be less devil than saint," said
the Prince. "They have told me of how you saved the daughter of De
Montfort, and, ever since, I have been of a great desire to meet you, and
to thank you. It had been my intention to ride to Torn for that purpose so
soon as we reached Leicester, but the Earl changed all our plans by his
victory and only yesterday, on his orders, the Princess Eleanor, his wife,
with the Lady Bertrade, rode to Battel, where Simon de Montfort and the
King are to be today. The Queen also is there with her retinue, so it be
expected that, to show the good feeling and renewed friendship existing
between De Montfort and his King, there will be gay scenes in the old
fortress. But," he added, after a pause, "dare the Outlaw of Torn ride
within reach of the King who has placed a price upon his head ?"
"The price has been there since I was eighteen," answered Norman of Torn,
"and yet my head be where it has always been. Can you blame me if I look
with levity upon the King's price ? It be not heavy enough to weigh me
down; nor never has it held me from going where I listed in all England. I
am freer than the King, My Lord, for the King be a prisoner today."
Together they rode toward Battel, and as they talked, Norman of Torn grew
to like this brave and handsome gentleman. In his heart was no rancor
because of the coming marriage of the man to the woman he loved.
If Bertrade de Montfort loved this handsome French prince, then Norman of
Torn was his friend; for his love was a great love, above jealousy. It not
only held her happiness above his own, but the happiness and welfare of the
man she loved, as well.
It was dusk when they reached Battel and as Norman of Torn bid the prince
adieu, for the horde was to make camp just without the city, he said:
"May I ask My Lord to carry a message to Lady Bertrade ? It is in
reference to a promise I made her two years since and which I now, for the
first time, be able to fulfill."
"Certainly, my friend," replied Philip. The outlaw, dismounting, called
upon one of his squires for parchment, and, by the light of a torch, wrote
a message to Bertrade de Montfort.
Half an hour later, a servant in the castle of Battel handed the missive to
the daughter of Leicester as she sat alone in her apartment. Opening it,
she read:
To Lady Bertrade de Montfort, from her friend, Norman of Torn.
Two years have passed since you took the hand of the Outlaw of Torn in
friendship, and now he comes to sue for another favor.
It is that he may have speech with you, alone, in the castle of Battel this
Though the name Norman of Torn be fraught with terror to others, I know
that you do not fear him, for you must know the loyalty and friendship
which he bears you.
My camp lies without the city's gates, and your messenger will have safe
conduct whatever reply he bears to,
Norman of Torn.
Fear ? Fear Norman of Torn ? The girl smiled as she thought of that
moment of terrible terror two years ago when she learned, in the castle of
Peter of Colfax, that she was alone with, and in the power of, the Devil of
Torn. And then she recalled his little acts of thoughtful chivalry, nay,
almost tenderness, on the long night ride to Leicester.
What a strange contradiction of a man ! She wondered if he would come with
lowered visor, for she was still curious to see the face that lay behind
the cold, steel mask. She would ask him this night to let her see his
face, or would that be cruel ? For, did they not say that it was from the
very ugliness of it that he kept his helm closed to hide the repulsive
sight from the eyes of men !
As her thoughts wandered back to her brief meeting with him two years
before, she wrote and dispatched her reply to Norman of Torn.
In the great hall that night as the King's party sat at supper, Philip of
France, addressing Henry, said:
"And who thinkest thou, My Lord King, rode by my side to Battel today, that
I might not be set upon by knaves upon the highway ?"
"Some of our good friends from Kent ?" asked the King.
"Nay, it was a man upon whose head Your Majesty has placed a price, Norman
of Torn; and if all of your English highwaymen be as courteous and pleasant
gentlemen as he, I shall ride always alone and unarmed through your realm
that I may add to my list of pleasant acquaintances."
"The Devil of Torn ?" asked Henry, incredulously. "Some one be hoaxing
"Nay, Your Majesty, I think not," replied Philip, "for he was indeed a grim
and mighty man, and at his back rode as ferocious and awe-inspiring a pack
as ever I beheld outside a prison; fully a thousand strong they rode. They
be camped not far without the city now."
"My Lord," said Henry, turning to Simon de Montfort, "be it not time that
England were rid of this devil's spawn and his hellish brood ? Though I
presume," he added, a sarcastic sneer upon his lip, "that it may prove
embarrassing for My Lord Earl of Leicester to turn upon his companion in
"I owe him nothing," returned the Earl haughtily, "by his own word."
"You owe him victory at Lewes," snapped the King. "It were indeed a sad
commentary upon the sincerity of our loyalty-professing lieges who turned
their arms against our royal person, 'to save him from the treachery of his
false advisers,' that they called upon a cutthroat outlaw with a price upon
his head to aid them in their 'righteous cause'."
"My Lord King," cried De Montfort, flushing with anger, "I called not upon
this fellow, nor did I know he was within two hundred miles of Lewes until
I saw him ride into the midst of the conflict that day. Neither did I
know, until I heard his battle cry, whether he would fall upon baron or
"If that be the truth, Leicester," said the King, with a note of skepticism
which he made studiously apparent, "hang the dog. He be just without the
city even now."
"You be King of England, My Lord Henry. If you say that he shall be
hanged, hanged he shall be," replied De Montfort.
"A dozen courts have already passed sentence upon him, it only remains to
catch him, Leicester," said the King.
"A party shall sally forth at dawn to do the work," replied De Montfort.
"And not," thought Philip of France, "if I know it, shall the brave Outlaw
of Torn be hanged tomorrow."
In his camp without the city of Battel, Norman of Torn paced back and forth
waiting an answer to his message.
Sentries patrolled the entire circumference of the bivouac, for the outlaw
knew full well that he had put his head within the lion's jaw when he had
ridden thus boldly to the seat of English power. He had no faith in the
gratitude of De Montfort, and he knew full well what the King would urge
when he learned that the man who had sent his soldiers naked back to
London, who had forced his messenger to eat the King's message, and who had
turned his victory to defeat at Lewes, was within reach of the army of De
Norman of Torn loved to fight, but he was no fool, and so he did not relish
pitting his thousand upon an open plain against twenty thousand within a
walled fortress.
No, he would see Bertrade de Montfort that night and before dawn his rough
band would be far on the road toward Torn. The risk was great to enter the
castle, filled as it was with his mighty enemies. But if he died there, it
would be in a good cause, thought he and, anyway, he had set himself to do
this duty which he dreaded so, and do it he would were all the armies of
the world camped within Battel.
Directly he heard a low challenge from one of his sentries, who presently
appeared escorting a lackey.
"A messenger from Lady Bertrade de Montfort," said the soldier.
"Bring him hither," commanded the outlaw.
The lackey approached and handed Norman of Torn a dainty parchment sealed
with scented wax wafers.
"Did My Lady say you were to wait for an answer ?" asked the outlaw.
"I am to wait, My Lord," replied the awestruck fellow, to whom the service
had been much the same had his mistress ordered him to Hell to bear a
message to the Devil.
Norman of Torn turned to a flickering torch and, breaking the seals, read
the message from the woman he loved. It was short and simple.
To Norman of Torn, from his friend always, Bertrade de Montfort.
Come with Giles. He has my instructions to lead thee secretly to where I
Bertrade de Montfort.
Norman of Torn turned to where one of his captains squatted upon the ground
beside an object covered with a cloth.
"Come, Flory," he said, and then, turning to the waiting Giles, "lead on."
They fell in single file: first the lackey, Giles, then Norman of Torn and
last the fellow whom he had addressed as Flory bearing the object covered
with a cloth. But it was not Flory who brought up the rear. Flory lay
dead in the shadow of a great oak within the camp; a thin wound below his
left shoulder blade marked the spot where a keen dagger had found its way
to his heart, and in his place walked the little grim, gray, old man,
bearing the object covered with a cloth. But none might know the
difference, for the little man wore the armor of Flory, and his visor was
And so they came to a small gate which let into the castle wall where the
shadow of a great tower made the blackness of a black night doubly black.
Through many dim corridors, the lackey led them, and up winding stairways
until presently he stopped before a low door.
"Here," he said, "My Lord," and turning left them.
Norman of Torn touched the panel with the mailed knuckles of his right
hand, and a low voice from within whispered, "Enter."
Silently, he strode into the apartment, a small antechamber off a large
hall. At one end was an open hearth upon which logs were burning brightly,
while a single lamp aided in diffusing a soft glow about the austere
chamber. In the center of the room was a table, and at the sides several
Before the fire stood Bertrade de Montfort, and she was alone.
"Place your burden upon this table, Flory," said Norman of Torn. And when
it had been done: "You may go. Return to camp."
He did not address Bertrade de Montfort until the door had closed behind
the little grim, gray man who wore the armor of the dead Flory and then
Norman of Torn advanced to the table and stood with his left hand
ungauntleted, resting upon the table's edge.
"My Lady Bertrade," he said at last, "I have come to fulfill a promise."
He spoke in French, and she started slightly at his voice. Before, Norman
of Torn had always spoken in English. Where had she heard that voice !
There were tones in it that haunted her.
"What promise did Norman of Torn e'er make to Bertrade de Montfort ?" she
asked. "I do not understand you, my friend."
"Look," he said. And as she approached the table he withdrew the cloth
which covered the object that the man had placed there.
The girl started back with a little cry of terror, for there upon a golden
platter was a man's head; horrid with the grin of death baring yellow
"Dost recognize the thing ?" asked the outlaw. And then she did; but still
she could not comprehend. At last, slowly, there came back to her the
idle, jesting promise of Roger de Conde to fetch the head of her enemy to
the feet of his princess, upon a golden dish.
But what had the Outlaw of Torn to do with that ! It was all a sore puzzle
to her, and then she saw the bared left hand of the grim, visored figure of
the Devil of Torn, where it rested upon the table beside the grisly head of
Peter of Colfax; and upon the third finger was the great ring she had
tossed to Roger de Conde on that day, two years before.
What strange freak was her brain playing her ! It could not be, no it was
impossible; then her glance fell again upon the head grinning there upon
the platter of gold, and upon the forehead of it she saw, in letters of
dried blood, that awful symbol of sudden death - NT !
Slowly her eyes returned to the ring upon the outlaw's hand, and then up to
his visored helm. A step she took toward him, one hand upon her breast,
the other stretched pointing toward his face, and she swayed slightly as
might one who has just arisen from a great illness.
"Your visor," she whispered, "raise your visor." And then, as though to
herself: "It cannot be; it cannot be."
Norman of Torn, though it tore the heart from him, did as she bid, and
there before her she saw the brave strong face of Roger de Conde.
"Mon Dieu !" she cried, "Tell me it is but a cruel joke."
"It be the cruel truth, My Lady Bertrade," said Norman of Torn sadly. And,
then, as she turned away from him, burying her face in her raised arms, he
came to her side, and, laying his hand upon her shoulder, said sadly:
"And now you see, My Lady, why I did not follow you to France. My heart
went there with you, but I knew that naught but sorrow and humiliation
could come to one whom the Devil of Torn loved, if that love was returned;
and so I waited until you might forget the words you had spoken to Roger de
Conde before I came to fulfill the promise that you should know him in his
true colors.
"It is because I love you, Bertrade, that I have come this night. God
knows that it be no pleasant thing to see the loathing in your very
attitude, and to read the hate and revulsion that surges through your
heart, or to guess the hard, cold thoughts which fill your mind against me
because I allowed you to speak the words you once spoke, and to the Devil
of Torn.
"I make no excuse for my weakness. I ask no forgiveness for what I know
you never can forgive. That, when you think of me, it will always be with
loathing and contempt is the best that I can hope.
"I only know that I love you, Bertrade; I only know that I love you, and
with a love that surpasseth even my own understanding.
"Here is the ring that you gave in token of friendship. Take it. The hand
that wore it has done no wrong by the light that has been given it as
"The blood that has pulsed through the finger that it circled came from a
heart that beat for Bertrade de Montfort; a heart that shall continue to
beat for her alone until a merciful providence sees fit to gather in a
wasted and useless life.
"Farewell, Bertrade." Kneeling he raised the hem of her garment to his
A thousand conflicting emotions surged through the heart of this proud
daughter of the new conqueror of England. The anger of an outraged
confidence, gratitude for the chivalry which twice had saved her honor,
hatred for the murderer of a hundred friends and kinsmen, respect and honor
for the marvellous courage of the man, loathing and contempt for the base
born, the memory of that exalted moment when those handsome lips had clung
to hers, pride in the fearlessness of a champion who dared come alone among
twenty thousand enemies for the sake of a promise made her; but stronger
than all the rest, two stood out before her mind's eye like living
things -- the degradation of his low birth, and the memory of the great
love she had cherished all these long and dreary months.
And these two fought out their battle in the girl's breast. In those few
brief moments of bewilderment and indecision, it seemed to Bertrade de
Montfort that ten years passed above her head, and when she reached her
final resolution she was no longer a young girl but a grown woman who, with
the weight of a mature deliberation, had chosen the path which she would
travel to the end -- to the final goal, however sweet or however bitter.
Slowly she turned toward him who knelt with bowed head at her feet, and,
taking the hand that held the ring outstretched toward her, raised him to
his feet. In silence she replaced the golden band upon his finger, and
then she lifted her eyes to his.
"Keep the ring, Norman of Torn," she said. "The friendship of Bertrade de
Montfort is not lightly given nor lightly taken away," she hesitated, "nor
is her love."
"What do you mean ?" he whispered. For in her eyes was that wondrous light
he had seen there on that other day in the far castle of Leicester.
"I mean," she answered, "that, Roger de Conde or Norman of Torn, gentleman
or highwayman, it be all the same to Bertrade de Montfort -- it be thee I
love; thee !"
Had she reviled him, spat upon him, he would not have been surprised, for
he had expected the worst; but that she should love him ! Oh God, had his
overwrought nerves turned his poor head ? Was he dreaming this thing, only
to awaken to the cold and awful truth !
But these warm arms about his neck, the sweet perfume of the breath that
fanned his cheek; these were no dream !
"Think thee what thou art saying, Bertrade ?" he cried. "Dost forget that
I be a low-born knave, knowing not my own mother and questioning even the
identity of my father ? Could a De Montfort face the world with such a man
for husband ?"
"I know what I say, perfectly," she answered. "Were thou born out of
wedlock, the son of a hostler and a scullery maid, still would I love thee,
and honor thee, and cleave to thee. Where thou be, Norman of Torn, there
shall be happiness for me. Thy friends shall be my friends; thy joys shall
be my joys; thy sorrows, my sorrows; and thy enemies, even mine own father,
shall be my enemies.
"Why it is, my Norman, I know not. Only do I know that I didst often
question my own self if in truth I did really love Roger de Conde, but
thee -- oh Norman, why is it that there be no shred of doubt now, that this
heart, this soul, this body be all and always for the Outlaw of Torn ?"
"I do not know," he said simply and gravely. "So wonderful a thing be
beyond my poor brain; but I think my heart knows, for in very joy, it is
sending the hot blood racing and surging through my being till I were like
to be consumed for the very heat of my happiness."
"Sh !" she whispered, suddenly, "methinks I hear footsteps. They must not
find thee here, Norman of Torn, for the King has only this night wrung a
promise from my father to take thee in the morning and hang thee. What
shall we do, Norman ? Where shall we meet again ?"
"We shall not be separated, Bertrade; only so long as it may take thee to
gather a few trinkets, and fetch thy riding cloak. Thou ridest north
tonight with Norman of Torn, and by the third day, Father Claude shall make
us one."
"I am glad thee wish it," she replied. "I feared that, for some reason,
thee might not think it best for me to go with thee now. Wait here, I will
be gone but a moment. If the footsteps I hear approach this door," and she
indicated the door by which he had entered the little room, "thou canst
step through this other doorway into the adjoining apartment, and conceal
thyself there until the danger passes."
Norman of Torn made a wry face, for he had no stomach for hiding himself
away from danger.
"For my sake," she pleaded. So he promised to do as she bid, and she ran
swiftly from the room to fetch her belongings.
When the little, grim, gray man had set the object covered with a cloth
upon the table in the center of the room and left the apartment, he did not
return to camp as Norman of Torn had ordered.
Instead, he halted immediately without the little door, which he left a
trifle ajar, and there he waited, listening to all that passed between
Bertrade de Montfort and Norman of Torn.
As he heard the proud daughter of Simon de Montfort declare her love
for the Devil of Torn, a cruel smile curled his lip.
"It will be better than I had hoped," he muttered, and easier. 'S blood !
How much easier now that Leicester, too, may have his whole proud heart in
the hanging of Norman of Torn. Ah, what a sublime revenge ! I have waited
long, thou cur of a King, to return the blow thou struck that day, but the
return shall be an hundred-fold increased by long accumulated interest."
Quickly, the wiry figure hastened through the passageways and corridors,
until he came to the great hall where sat De Montfort and the King, with
Philip of France and many others, gentlemen and nobles.
Before the guard at the door could halt him, he had broken into the room
and, addressing the King, cried:
"Wouldst take the Devil of Torn, My Lord King ? He be now alone where a
few men may seize him."
"What now ! What now !" ejaculated Henry. "What madman be this ?"
"I be no madman, Your Majesty. Never did brain work more clearly or to
more certain ends," replied the man.
"It may doubtless be some ruse of the cut-throat himself," cried De
"Where be the knave ?" asked Henry.
"He stands now within this palace and in his arms be Bertrade, daughter of
My Lord Earl of Leicester. Even now she did but tell him that she loved
"Hold," cried De Montfort. "Hold fast thy foul tongue. What meanest thou
by uttering such lies, and to my very face ?"
"They be no lies, Simon de Montfort. An I tell thee that Roger de Conde
and Norman of Torn be one and the same, thou wilt know that I speak no
De Montfort paled.
"Where be the craven wretch ?" he demanded.
"Come," said the little, old man. And turning, he led from the hall,
closely followed by De Montfort, the King, Prince Philip and the others.
"Thou hadst better bring twenty fighting men -- thou'lt need them all to
take Norman of Torn," he advised De Montfort. And so as they passed the
guard room, the party was increased by twenty men-at-arms.
Scarcely had Bertrade de Montfort left him ere Norman of Torn heard the
tramping of many feet. They seemed approaching up the dim corridor that
led to the little door of the apartment where he stood.
Quickly, he moved to the opposite door and, standing with his hand upon the
latch, waited. Yes, they were coming that way, many of them and quickly
and, as he heard them pause without, he drew aside the arras and pushed
open the door behind him; backing into the other apartment just as Simon de
Montfort, Earl of Leicester, burst into the room from the opposite side.
At the same instant, a scream rang out behind Norman of Torn, and, turning,
he faced a brightly lighted room in which sat Eleanor, Queen of England and
another Eleanor, wife of Simon de Montfort, with their ladies.
There was no hiding now, and no escape; for run he would not, even had
there been where to run. Slowly, he backed away from the door toward a
corner where, with his back against a wall and a table at his right, he
might die as he had lived, fighting; for Norman of Torn knew that he could
hope for no quarter from the men who had him cornered there like a great
bear in a trap.
With an army at their call, it were an easy thing to take a lone man, even
though that man were the Devil of Torn.
The King and De Montfort had now crossed the smaller apartment and were
within the room where the outlaw stood at bay.
At the far side, the group of royal and noble women stood huddled together,
while behind De Montfort and the King pushed twenty gentlemen and as many
"What dost thou here, Norman of Torn ?" cried De Montfort, angrily. "Where
be my daughter, Bertrade ?"
"I be here, My Lord Earl, to attend to mine own affairs," replied Norman of
Torn, "which be the affair of no other man. As to your daughter: I know
nothing of her whereabouts. What should she have to do with the Devil of
Torn, My Lord ?"
De Montfort turned toward the little gray man.
"He lies," shouted he. "Her kisses be yet wet upon his lips."
Norman of Torn looked at the speaker and, beneath the visor that was now
partly raised, he saw the features of the man whom, for twenty years, he
had called father.
He had never expected love from this hard old man, but treachery and harm
from him ? No, he could not believe it. One of them must have gone mad.
But why Flory's armor and where was the faithful Flory ?
"Father !" he ejaculated, "leadest thou the hated English King against
thine own son ?"
"Thou be no son of mine, Norman of Torn," retorted the old man. "Thy days
of usefulness to me be past. Tonight thou serve me best swinging from a
wooden gibbet. Take him, My Lord Earl; they say there be a good strong
gibbet in the courtyard below."
"Wilt surrender, Norman of Torn ?" cried De Montfort.
"Yes," was the reply, "when this floor be ankle deep in English blood and
my heart has ceased to beat, then will I surrender."
"Come, come," cried the King. "Let your men take the dog, De Montfort !"
"Have at him, then," ordered the Earl, turning toward the waiting
men-at-arms, none of whom seemed overly anxious to advance upon the doomed
But an officer of the guard set them the example, and so they pushed
forward in a body toward Norman of Torn; twenty blades bared against one.
There was no play now for the Outlaw of Torn. It was grim battle and his
only hope that he might take a fearful toll of his enemies before he
himself went down.
And so he fought as he never fought before, to kill as many and as quickly
as he might. And to those who watched, it was as though the young officer
of the Guard had not come within reach of that terrible blade ere he lay
dead upon the floor, and then the point of death passed into the lungs of
one of the men-at-arms, scarcely pausing ere it pierced the heart of a
The soldiers fell back momentarily, awed by the frightful havoc of that
mighty arm. Before De Montfort could urge them on to renew the attack, a
girlish figure. clothed in a long riding cloak. burst through the little
knot of men as they stood facing their lone antagonist.
With a low cry of mingled rage and indignation, Bertrade de Montfort threw
herself before the Devil of Torn, and facing the astonished company of
king, prince, nobles and soldiers, drew herself to her full height, and
with all the pride of race and blood that was her right of heritage from a
French king on her father's side and an English king on her mother's, she
flashed her defiance and contempt in the single word:
"Cowards !"
"What means this, girl ?" demanded De Montfort, "Art gone stark mad ? Know
thou that this fellow be the Outlaw of Torn ?"
"If I had not before known it, My Lord," she replied haughtily, "it would
be plain to me now as I see forty cowards hesitating to attack a lone man.
What other man in all England could stand thus against forty ? A lion at
bay with forty jackals yelping at his feet."
"Enough, girl," cried the King, "what be this knave to thee ?"
"He loves me, Your Majesty," she replied proudly, "and I, him."
"Thou lov'st this low-born cut-throat, Bertrade," cried Henry. "Thou, a De
Montfort, the daughter of my sister; who have seen this murderer's accursed
mark upon the foreheads of thy kin; thou have seen him flaunt his defiance
in the King's, thy uncle's, face, and bend his whole life to preying upon
thy people; thou lov'st this monster ?"
"I love him, My Lord King."
"Thou lov'st him, Bertrade ?" asked Philip of France in a low tone,
pressing nearer to the girl.
"Yes, Philip," she said, a little note of sadness and finality in her
voice; but her eyes met his squarely and bravely.
Instantly, the sword of the young Prince leaped from its scabbard, and
facing De Montfort and the others, he backed to the side of Norman of Torn.
"That she loves him be enough for me to know, my gentlemen," he said. "Who
takes the man Bertrade de Montfort loves must take Philip of France as
Norman of Torn laid his left hand upon the other's shoulder.
"No, thou must not do this thing, my friend," he said. "It be my fight and
I will fight it alone. Go, I beg of thee, and take her with thee, out of
harm's way."
As they argued, Simon de Montfort and the King had spoken together, and, at
a word from the former, the soldiers rushed suddenly to the attack again.
It was a cowardly strategem, for they knew that the two could not fight
with the girl between them and their adversaries. And thus, by weight of
numbers, they took Bertrade de Montfort and the Prince away from Norman of
Torn without a blow being struck, and then the little, grim, gray, old man
stepped forward.
"There be but one sword in all England, nay in all the world that can,
alone, take Norman of Torn," he said, addressing the King, "and that sword
be mine. Keep thy cattle back, out of my way." And, without waiting for a
reply, the grim, gray man sprang in to engage him whom for twenty years he
had called son.
Norman of Torn came out of his corner to meet his new-found enemy, and
there, in the apartment of the Queen of England in the castle of Battel,
was fought such a duel as no man there had ever seen before, nor is it
credible that its like was ever fought before or since.
The world's two greatest swordsmen: teacher and pupil -- the one with the
strength of a young bull, the other with the cunning of an old gray fox,
and both with a lifetime of training behind them, and the lust of blood and
hate before them -- thrust and parried and cut until those that gazed
awestricken upon the marvellous swordplay scarcely breathed in the tensity
of their wonder.
Back and forth about the room they moved, while those who had come to kill
pressed back to make room for the contestants. Now was the young man
forcing his older foeman more and more upon the defensive. Slowly, but as
sure as death, he was winning ever nearer and nearer to victory. The old
man saw it too. He had devoted years of his life to training that mighty
sword arm that it might deal out death to others, and now -- ah ! The grim
justice of the retribution he, at last, was to fall before its diabolical
He could not win in fair fight against Norman of Torn; that the wily
Frenchman saw; but now that death was so close upon him that he felt its
cold breath condensing on his brow, he had no stomach to die, and so he
cast about for any means whereby he might escape the result of his rash
Presently he saw his opportunity. Norman of Torn stood beside the body of
one of his earlier antagonists. Slowly the old man worked around until the
body lay directly behind the outlaw, and then with a final rally and one
great last burst of supreme swordsmanship, he rushed Norman of Torn back
for a bare step -- it was enough. The outlaw's foot struck the prostrate
corpse; he staggered, and for one brief instant his sword arm rose, ever so
little, as he strove to retain his equilibrium; but that little was
enough. It was what the gray old snake had expected, and he was ready.
Like lightning, his sword shot through the opening, and, for the first time
in his life of continual combat and death, Norman of Torn felt cold steel
tear his flesh. But ere he fell, his sword responded to the last fierce
command of that iron will, and as his body sank limply to the floor,
rolling with outstretched arms, upon its back, the little, grim, gray man
went down also, clutching frantically at a gleaming blade buried in his
For an instant, the watchers stood as though petrified, and then Bertrade
de Montfort, tearing herself from the restraining hand of her father,
rushed to the side of the lifeless body of the man she loved. Kneeling
there beside him she called his name aloud, as she unlaced his helm.
Tearing the steel headgear from him, she caressed his face, kissing the
white forehead and the still lips.
"Oh God ! Oh God !" she murmured. "Why hast thou taken him ? Outlaw
though he was, in his little finger was more of honor, of chivalry, of true
manhood than courses through the veins of all the nobles of England.
"I do not wonder that he preyed upon you," she cried, turning upon the
knights behind her. "His life was clean, thine be rotten; he was loyal to
his friends and to the downtrodden, ye be traitors at heart, all; and ever
be ye trampling upon those who be down that they may sink deeper into the
mud. Mon Dieu ! How I hate you," she finished. And as she spoke the
words, Bertrade de Montfort looked straight into the eyes of her father.
The old Earl turned his head, for at heart he was a brave, broad, kindly
man, and he regretted what he had done in the haste and heat of anger.
"Come, child," said the King, "thou art distraught; thou sayest what thou
mean not. The world is better that this man be dead. He was an enemy of
organized society, he preyed ever upon his fellows. Life in England will
be safer after this day. Do not weep over the clay of a nameless
adventurer who knew not his own father."
Someone had lifted the little, grim, gray, old man to a sitting posture.
He was not dead. Occasionally he coughed, and when he did, his frame was
racked with suffering, and blood flowed from his mouth and nostrils.
At last they saw that he was trying to speak. Weakly he motioned toward
the King. Henry came toward him.
"Thou hast won thy sovereign's gratitude, my man," said the King, kindly.
"What be thy name ?"
The old fellow tried to speak, but the effort brought on another paroxysm
of coughing. At last he managed to whisper.
"Look -- at -- me. Dost thou -- not -- remember me ? The --- foils --
the -- blow -- twenty-long-years. Thou -- spat -- upon --- me."
Henry knelt and peered into the dying face.
"De Vac !" he exclaimed.
The old man nodded. Then he pointed to where lay Norman of Torn.
"Outlaw -- highwayman -- scourge -- of -- England. Look --- upon -- his --
face. Open -- his tunic -- left -- breast."
He stopped from very weakness, and then in another moment, with a final
effort: "De -- Vac's -- revenge. God -- damn -- the --- English," and
slipped forward upon the rushes, dead.
The King had heard, and De Montfort and the Queen. They stood looking into
each other's eyes with a strange fixity, for what seemed an eternity,
before any dared to move; and then, as though they feared what they should
see, they bent over the form of the Outlaw of Torn for the first time.
The Queen gave a little cry as she saw the still, quiet face turned up to
"Edward !" she whispered.
"Not Edward, Madame," said De Montfort, "but -- "
The King knelt beside the still form, across the breast of which lay the
unconscious body of Bertrade de Montfort. Gently, he lifted her to the
waiting arms of Philip of France, and then the King, with his own hands,
tore off the shirt of mail, and with trembling fingers ripped wide the
tunic where it covered the left breast of the Devil of Torn.
"Oh God !" he cried, and buried his head in his arms.
The Queen had seen also, and with a little moan she sank beside the body of
her second born, crying out:
"Oh Richard, my boy, my boy !" And as she bent still lower to kiss the lily
mark upon the left breast of the son she had not seen to know for over
twenty years, she paused, and with frantic haste she pressed her ear to his
"He lives !" she almost shrieked. "Quick, Henry, our son lives !"
Bertrade de Montfort had regained consciousness almost before Philip of
France had raised her from the floor, and she stood now, leaning on his
arm, watching with wide, questioning eyes the strange scene being enacted
at her feet.
Slowly, the lids of Norman of Torn lifted with returning consciousness.
Before him, on her knees in the blood spattered rushes of the floor, knelt
Eleanor, Queen of England, alternately chafing and kissing his hands.
A sore wound indeed to have brought on such a wild delirium, thought the
Outlaw of Torn.
He felt his body, in a half sitting, half reclining position, resting
against one who knelt behind him, and as he lifted his head to see whom it
might be supporting him, he looked into the eyes of the King, upon whose
breast his head rested.
Strange vagaries of a disordered brain ! Yes it must have been a very
terrible wound that the little old man of Torn had given him; but why could
he not dream that Bertrade de Montfort held him ? And then his eyes
wandered about among the throng of ladies, nobles and soldiers standing
uncovered and with bowed heads about him. Presently he found her.
"Bertrade !" he whispered.
The girl came and knelt beside him, opposite the Queen.
"Bertrade, tell me thou art real; that thou at least be no dream."
"I be very real, dear heart," she answered, "and these others be real,
also. When thou art stronger, thou shalt understand the strange thing that
has happened. These who wert thine enemies, Norman of Torn, be thy best
friends now -- that thou should know, so that thou may rest in peace until
thou be better."
He groped for her hand, and, finding it, closed his eyes with a faint sigh.
They bore him to a cot in an apartment next the Queen's, and all that night
the mother and the promised wife of the Outlaw of Torn sat bathing his
fevered forehead. The King's chirurgeon was there also, while the King and
De Montfort paced the corridor without.
And it is ever thus; whether in hovel or palace; in the days of Moses, or
in the days that be ours; the lamb that has been lost and is found again be
always the best beloved.
Toward morning, Norman of Torn fell into a quiet and natural sleep; the
fever and delirium had succumbed before his perfect health and iron
constitution. The chirurgeon turned to the Queen and Bertrade de Montfort.
"You had best retire, ladies," he said, "and rest. The Prince will live."
Late that afternoon he awoke, and no amount of persuasion or commands on
the part of the King's chirurgeon could restrain him from arising.
"I beseech thee to lie quiet, My Lord Prince," urged the chirurgeon.
"Why call thou me prince ?" asked Norman of Torn.
"There be one without whose right it be to explain that to thee," replied
the chirurgeon, "and when thou be clothed, if rise thou wilt, thou mayst
see her, My Lord."
The chirurgeon aided him to dress and, opening the door, he spoke to a
sentry who stood just without. The sentry transmitted the message to a
young squire who was waiting there, and presently the door was thrown open
again from without, and a voice announced:
"Her Majesty, the Queen !"
Norman of Torn looked up in unfeigned surprise, and then there came back to
him the scene in the Queen's apartment the night before. It was all a sore
perplexity to him; he could not fathom it, nor did he attempt to.
And now, as in a dream, he saw the Queen of England coming toward him
across the small room, her arms outstretched; her beautiful face radiant
with happiness and love.
"Richard, my son !" exclaimed Eleanor, coming to him and taking his face in
her hands and kissing him.
"Madame !" exclaimed the surprised man. "Be all the world gone crazy ?"
And then she told him the strange story of the little lost prince of
When she had finished, he knelt at her feet, taking her hand in his and
raising it to his lips.
"I did not know, Madame," he said, "or never would my sword have been bared
in other service than thine. If thou canst forgive me, Madame, never can I
forgive myself."
"Take it not so hard, my son," said Eleanor of England. "It be no fault of
thine, and there be nothing to forgive; only happiness and rejoicing should
we feel, now that thou be found again."
"Forgiveness !" said a man's voice behind them. "Forsooth, it be we that
should ask forgiveness; hunting down our own son with swords and halters.
"Any but a fool might have known that it was no base-born knave who sent
the King's army back, naked, to the King, and rammed the King's message
down his messenger's throat.
"By all the saints, Richard, thou be every inch a King's son, an' though we
made sour faces at the time, we be all the prouder of thee now."
The Queen and the outlaw had turned at the first words to see the King
standing behind them, and now Norman of Torn rose, half smiling, and
greeted his father.
"They be sorry jokes, Sire," he said. "Methinks it had been better had
Richard remained lost. It will do the honor of the Plantagenets but little
good to acknowledge the Outlaw of Torn as a prince of the blood."
But they would not have it so, and it remained for a later King of England
to wipe the great name from the pages of history -- perhaps a jealous king.
Presently the King and Queen, adding their pleas to those of the
chirurgeon, prevailed upon him to lie down once more, and when he had done
so they left him, that he might sleep again; but no sooner had the door
closed behind them than he arose and left the apartment by another exit.
It was by chance that, in a deep set window, he found her for whom he was
searching. She sat looking wistfully into space, an expression half sad
upon her beautiful face. She did not see him as he approached, and he
stood there for several moments watching her dear profile, and the rising
and falling of her bosom over that true and loyal heart that had beaten so
proudly against all the power of a mighty throne for the despised Outlaw of
He did not speak, but presently that strange, subtle sixth sense which
warns us that we are not alone, though our eyes see not nor our ears hear,
caused her to turn.
With a little cry she arose, and then, curtsying low after the manner of
the court, said:
"What would My Lord Richard, Prince of England, of his poor subject ?" And
then, more gravely, "My Lord, I have been raised at court, and I understand
that a prince does not wed rashly, and so let us forget what passed between
Bertrade de Montfort and Norman of Torn."
"Prince Richard of England will in no wise disturb royal precedents," he
replied, "for he will wed not rashly, but most wisely, since he will wed
none but Bertrade de Montfort." And he who had been the Outlaw of Torn took
the fair young girl in his arms, adding: "If she still loves me, now that I
be a prince ?"
She put her arms about his neck, and drew his cheek down close to hers.
"It was not the outlaw that I loved, Richard, nor be it the prince I love
now; it be all the same to me, prince or highwayman -- it be thee I love,
dear heart -- just thee."

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