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here, for every stranger who enters the walls of the Stein Hauss, (so is my tower entitled), to acknowledge the supremacy in beauty of the lady Rosaline over all others, or else, but what say you to this Sir Richard ?'
I may not make such acknowledgments without exception; I may not admit any inferiority in her whose colours I wear.'
• Our custom admits an alternative ; you must then do battle with me as the lord of the tower, either with the arms of enmity, or of courtesy.'
I accept your alternative, and will most joyfully join in a trial of our skill, with a blunt lance, or if it better please you with a sharp one.'
•Now in truth,' replied Schwartz, I am by no means a lover of needless war, nor do I choose to put my body in jeopardy, when I may as well remain skin-whole ; and so I vote for the blunt lance; and now, sirs, the night cup is filled.'
They drank and rose to depart to rest. The host himself, conducted Rossayne to his chamber, and wished him a good night and pleasant dreams.
The wish, with whatever sincerity it might have been expressed, was not fated to be realized. Though his accommodations were as good as the manners of the age allowed, Rossayne tumbled to and fro on his couch, now watching the uncertain light of the wood fire that burned upon the hearth, and now vainly essaying to win sleep to his eyes. At last he slept, but his slumbers were broken and uneasy. His dreams were filled with strange phantasms. Sometimes he was in the tilt yard unhorsed before the lance of Herman Schwartz, and sometimes he was transformed into the shapes of various wild beasts. Morning came at last, and Rossayne awoke from his unrefreshing slumbers.
The first sound that met his ear was that of the workmen who were engaged in preparing the list for his amicable contest with his host. He looked from the window of his chamber, and saw them toiling at their work. The plain on which the combat was to take place, was bounded by a line of larch trees, beyond which lay the hills and vallies of Switzerland, clad in a grey mist, which was rapidly breaking before the influence of the morning sun. The knight thought of his own land; then of his lady, and then of the conquest he hoped that day to gain in honour of her name.
When he descended to the hall below, whither he was summoned by a greyheaded retainer, who came to offer his services at the guest's toilet, he found his companions of the preceding night already assembled.
The board was spread, not with the unsubstantial articles with which modern tables are wont to be furnished, but with provender fit for men whose lives were devoted to the exercise of military achievements. Huge chines of beef, boar's brawn, the fowls of the air, and the fish from the lake offered their seductions, while draughts of mead and spiced liquors were at hand to wash down the savoury morsels.
The knight looked around the apartment, perhaps in expectation of seeing the fair one of the castle, the sovereignty of whose charms he had refused to acknowledge, But she was not there, and the meal concluded without his seeing any female form whom he might suppose to be the daughter of Herman.
At length they were informed, that all was ready for the combat. The host looked at Rossayne, who signified that he was prepared to attend him. Both retired to fit on their armour, and both returned to the hall fully armed, excepting that their helmets were carried by their attendants.
They arrived at the ground, where their steeds awaited them. On one side of the lists, on a seat elevated on a platform, sat a lady, whom Rossayne immediately concluded to be Rosaline Schwartz.
* Shall I make you known,' said Schwartz, 'to my daughter ? perhaps your opinion of her charms may change, and you may confess that-you shake your head; well, I would not seduce any true knight from his allegiance, however, you must see and speak to her.'
• Most willingly,' replied Rossayne, and he accompanied Herman accordingly to the foot of the platform. He raised his eyes to the lady as her father introduced him, as the knight who denied her charms. How he belied him! He gazed with admiration on the lovely being before him, who sat pale and trembling with apprehension for her parent, with eyes averted from him who was the cause of her confusion. Alas! for a moment Rossayne forgot England, and inwardly bowed to a new idol. When he returned to his station in the lists, his helmet, which, out of respect to the lady, he had left behind him, was gone.
An immediate search was instituted; the wrath of Herman Schwartz was vehement when he learned that a part of his guest's furniture was missing,and he loudly threatened his attendants with pains and penalties unnumbered, unless the helmet was forthcoming. But all search after it was vain.
At this conjuncture the palmer suddenly stepped forward, and addressed himself in a low tone to Rossayne.
• Here is a helmet richer than yours by far, promise not to part with it to any one whom it will not fit, and it is your's.'
He held in his hand a beautiful helmet of polished gold, the workmanship of which surpassed all that Rossayne had ever beheld.
• Give me the helmet,' he answered, thy condition is light enough. I promise what thou requirest,' and, buckling on the head-piece, he sprung on his steed, and placed his lance in the rest.
A wild flourish of trumpets was succeeded by the signal of encounter given by the two knights who had been Rossayne's companions the preceding evening, and who now discharged the duty of marshals of the lists. This sign was followed by the rushing tramp of horses, by the crashing of the shivered lances, and the clang of the armour of the combatants. The knights met in full career, and Rossayne, horseman and horse, lay prostrate on the earth.
The English Knight when raised from the ground was senseless, but recovered on the removal of his armour. To the entreaties of his host and conqueror, that he would for some time continue his guest, he turned a deaf ear; and burning with shame and disappointment, rode hastily away.
Sad were his reflections as he journeyed along. He, who until that day had been a knight sans reproche, and had never unsuccessfully armed his lance in honour of his lady, had by a momentary failure from his allegiance, for to that he imputed all his misfortunes, been overthrown and disgraced. *I did well,' said he, to boast to that chattering palmer, who knew me, it seems, better than I did myself of my faith; craven knight, thou deservest not only to lose thy helmet, but to have thy shield reversed, and thy spurs hacked off, who could’st even in thought be false to her to whom thy arm and heart were vowed.'
With such soliloquies did Rossayne entertain himself as he rode on, he knew nor cared whither so he might escape from the scene of his discomfiture. For a year and a day he pursued his travels, meeting with many
adventures, and unsuccessful in all. His spirit almost broke down under these reverses of fortune, yet still he persevered and looked on his mishaps in some degree as so many expiations for his treason to his liege love. When a year and a day were passed, he found himself once more by the lake of Constance.
He viewed its lovely waters with a melancholy foreboding, and looking around saw in the distance the Stein Hauss, the first scene of his misfortunes. He bethought him how constantly since he had accepted the helmet he wore, mischance had pursued him. Under a sudden feeling of indignation he unfastened it from his head, and with the utmost exertion of his strength, flung it far into the peaceful waters. This done he once more rode away.
A grassy hillock, overhung with delicious shrubs, afforded him a restingplace for that night. But his amazement was equal to his grief, when, on awaking in the morning, he found lying close beside him the mysterious helmet.
• I have yet one remedy,' thought he, 'I am at liberty to part with it to any whom it will fit. To find some such one cannot surely be a matter of much difficulty. I will try.' So saying, he adjusted his armour, and mounting his horse, departed in quest of some one upon whom he might bestow the gift, which to him had been so fatal.
He was not long in finding one who was sufficiently willing to become the owner of the beautiful hemlet. Would it fit him ? was then the question. It seemed it would. But no sooner was the trial made than the helmet sank over the head of its intended possessor. It was manifest that thus to bestow it would be no performance of the condition, and the knight again rode on fretting and fuming, and devoured with chagrin at the evil issue of his first trial.
Often did he repeat the experiment, and as often unsuccessfully. For one the helmet was too large, for another it was too small. Search where he would he could find no one whose head it would fit. Wearied with disappointment, he resigned himself to his fate, and considering himself destined to the perpetual ownership of the fatal helmet, renewed his quest of military adventures, though with little hope of deriving fame from his unfortunate efforts.
It chanced that one day he encountered a knight whom he instantly re'cognized as his sworn brother in arms, and joyfully greeted as such. But though his visor was unclosed, and his countenance thus exposed to view, he was surprised to receive no corresponding acknowledgement. So far from it, the knight after examining the device on Rossayne's shield, demanded eagerly who he was, and why he bore that shield ?
• I am Richard of Rossayne, as thou knowest full well—Saint Mary! I conceive thy wits have deserted thee Robert Wainford, that thou askest that question.'
Thou, Richard of Rossayne! thou my companion in arms; the jetty sable differs not more from the noble ermine than thou from the good knight whose armour thou bearest. Recreant ! thou hast overcome him by treachery, and stolen his steed and accoutrements ; prepare thee for battle.Speak not, I defy thee as a coward and traitor. Speed- I brook not delay!'
Stay, Robert, 1-' “Peace I tell thee; take thy lance.' Remonstrance was vain, and Rossayne marvelling much at this strange miscônception, addressed himself to the fight. For once he was conqueror, and the body of Robert Wainford transfixed by the lance of his friend, fell bleeding on the plain.
Rossayne dismounted with speed, and applied himself to the assistance of his dying friend; but his offers were rejected with scorn. In vain he protested his identity, and wept in the torment of his spirit. Wainford answered, but with looks of contempt, and muttering a prayer for his departing soul, breathed his last. The amazement of the unhappy conqueror was extreme.
That some extraordinary change had taken place in him was manifest from his former friends' refusal to acknowledge him; a refusal persevered in under such peculiar circumstances. Remedy he saw none, and he wended on his way full of remorse, indignation, and bitterness.
From town to town, and from city to city, the knight travelled, bearing along with him his heavy burthen of affliction; yet he met with no adventure. It seemed as if he were alone on the world without even an enemy; a thing whom mankind had abandoned ; a weed cast on the surface of the waters.
At length a report reached him that a tournament was about to be held at Florence, in honour of the marriage of a son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and thither he determined to repair.
* There,' said he inwardly, it can hardly fail but that I shall either retrieve some part of my lost honour, or that some lance in the joust, or some sword in the melic, may end the miseries of a wretched adventurer, as unfortunate in arms as undeserving in his love !'
He turned the head of his steed to the banks of the Arno; the magnificent city was gay in the pride of assembled chivalry. The streets were thronged with people noble and plebeian; processions, religious and military, passed in rapid succession ; the houses were decorated and hung with garlands of autumn flowers; banner pennon and pennoncel streamed and fluttered at every turn; the hymns from the churches joined with the sound of festival and merriment, and the shrill echoes of trumpets and the din of armourers rang throughout the city. A delirium of pleasure and merriment pervaded every street,
Amid the universal joyfulness Richard de Rossayne rode along sad and solitary. To him the charms of festivity yielded no glad excitation, the song of the monks sank unheeded on his ear, and even the war-note of the trumpet failed to arouse his depressed spirit. Dejected and unheeded he hurried his way through the crowd, and having procured a lodging betook himself to his chamber, and passed the remainder of the day and the night in solitude and reflection.
In the morning he was aroused from his comfortless slumbers by the flourishes of music and the shouts of the populace. Finding on inquiry that the tourney was about to commence, he arrayed himself in his armour, and, mounting his steed, rode to the plain appointed for the contest.
The tumult of the preceding day was now redoubled; knights, alone or in companies, issued from every street, all bent to the same quarter. Squires followed, bearing their masters' lances and shields, and armourers with their implements of office, were all hastening to be in attendance. The ringing of bells, the clashing of arms, the trampling of steeds, and the united shouts and exclamations of all ranks of people, stunned the ear with an unimaginable confusion of sounds.
A level plain stretching along the banks of the Arno had been fixed on as the scene of the day's exhibition. There the lists had been marked out, and galleries for the accommodation of the noble throngs who had aseembled to witness the efforts of the good knights had been erected.
When Rossayne arrived, the marshals of the field had taken their stations, and the lists were cleared. There was a glorious assemblage of knighthood on the plain that day, and a proud display of beauty to look on and to animate. In the centre of the right hand side of the lists, under a splendid canopy, sat the Duke and his bride. With them, however, our history hath no concern.
Five knights had taken upon themselves to be the general challengers of all comers ; valiant knights they were, and of great worship, so were many who had gathered together to oppose them. Many a noble heart beat that day, anxious to merit the applause of the fair one who might be gazing on her true knight, and many a tender bosom sighed for the safety and the success of the one whom it favoured. At length the heralds began their proclamations, the marshals gave the signal, and the tourney commenced.
The sun was sinking before it was the lot of Richard de Rossayne to try his lance. When he delivered in his name to the pursuivant, a shout was raised by several of his countrymen who were on the spot, and to whom his former reputation was not unknown. His heart throbbed, and hope for a while revived in his breast. He chose his opponent, retired to his station, and put his lance in the rest.
The champions joined half way; the shock was as the conflict of mighty waters when they meet. Their lances shivered, and the horses of both riders sank upon their haunches.
Those who favoured either warrior suspended their exclamations, so doubtful did the issue of the joust seem ; so well matched the knights.
They resumed their places, and took new lances. They were again about to join when the marshals spurring their horses between the combatants interrupted the contest.
· Whence comes this helmet?' exclaimed one of them, addressing Rossayne, speak quickly, thy honour and thy life hang on thine answer.'
Who asks, and wherefore ?' inquired the knight, in a broken and hollow voice.
• Who asks ? I ask, Hugo, Count of Parma. Wherefore! because the helmet thou bearest, unless thou explainest whence thou hadst it, marks thee as a traitorous and craven knight. It is the helmet of our late Duke, slain, as I fear me, thou knowest but too well how, more than a year since in the Bohemian forest.'
'I had it,' returned Rossayne,' from a palmer whom I met by the lake of Constance.'
And thine own helmet what of it; had'st thou travelled so far bareheaded to run the chance of finding an itinerant vender of armour at Constance ?'
• My own helmet I lost most unaccountably. But I answer no further. What I have said I am ready to defend on the body of the best knight here.'
• It is needful, Sir,' said the Count, that you should for a time be our prisoner, you will be treated with that courtesy which your rank and fame require. Your countrymen will have free access to you.'
The English knights had meantime drawn near, and now requested that Rossayne might be delivered into their custody, pledging themselves for his appearance. But when, the marshals having granted their request, Rossayne inclosed his helmet and was about to thank his friends, they looked with amazement at each other.