Изображения страниц

impulse of an unguarded moment which took him unawares. Please, your Grace, forbid not that I chide him.”

With these words the Abbot, without waiting the King's reply, left him, and going up to the Count of Artois,—" You do much harm yourself”-he said, addressing him in the same low tone of voice in which he had spoken to the King" You do much harm yourself and your cause, my Lord, to strike this heat into his Grace; be still, I pray you, use towards your Sovereign some of that patience which you but just now craved that he would have for you. Thus to enrage him is to undo yourself, to lend a licence to his anger 'gainst you, and give authority to the ill imaginings of the many here who do wish you harm.”

"Please you, my Liege,” Robert said, “my Lord the Abbot doth tell me I am wrong to take so much to heart the words the Sire of Flanders lately uttered; and said I did bespeak me with an undue arrogance unto your Grace. If it be thus, my Liege, and I have misdemeaned myself, I do entreat your Grace to think upon my fault as one not living in my will, but bred out of the anger which I felt that Louis should impute to me an action so disloyal.”

Philip turned his eyes upon him for a moment-a slight frown was observed to knit his brow, as, without deigning an answer, he resumed his seat.

Seeing which, Robert-speaking in a far more subdued tone of voice-began to give all those reasons which presented themselves to him, to shew that, though the signatures brought from the archives did in some trifling respect differ from those produced by himself, they might nevertheless have been made by the same person at various times of life, or under different states of health and nerve.

He then dwelt upon the extreme unlikelihood of his having-unless indeed because the assertion was true-preferred saying he had found such documents in the Abbey, to asserting that he had discovered them in some chamber of one of his own ancestral castles, where it might have been supposed they had

been originally secreted for safety and then forgotten.

Having thus far attempted to clear himself to the council in general of the charge—which though not absolutely made, was nevertheless intimated by Louis—he addressed his discourse more particularly to the King.

“And now, my Liege, having to each point of application replied such things as I deemed fittest for my justification, I have nought more to add, and it remaineth but that I again advert to the very trifling diversity which exists 'twixt the signatures produced by me and those your Grace's Prothonotary hath brought from out the archives. This diversity is in truth so small as to have escaped the note, not only of your Grace, but of each person here present, except the Lord of Flanders."

He stopped, and looking sternly at the one of whom he spoke, continued — "Who hath been and is—though for what reason know I not, unless it be because I saved from his loathed love a maid he would have rendered wretched-my most mortal foe; and who

VOL. 1.

for so do I believe, and I call now on Him who died for us as witness to my wordshath made this foul impeachment of my fame from hate and thirst of vengeance.

“And now, my Liege,” he continued, again turning towards the Monarch, “ for this affront—this cruel slur—this shameless slander on my fair name and fame, I humbly crave your Grace's leave in single combat in the lists, against that falsely saying recreant Lord, to prove mine innocence. Give but your royal sanction unto this, and here do I throw down my glove and my defiance, trusting the event to God.”

“With your Grace's leave,” replied Louis, rising up and addressing the King, “ do I accept this cartel of defiance; but be it first permitted me to say, that one who lieth 'neath so grave a charge as that which now doth press upon the Count of Artois, is unfit to offer combat thus; let him but shew himself to be a preux and loyal Knight, and meet to meet me in the lists, I will not then eschew the struggle which he seeks.”

“ Well spoken,” said the King, “let matters rest as they are at present; the Count of Artois shall have full time allowed him to find the one who placed this casket in his keeping, or otherwise to shew that the parchments therein bear the signatures of those whose signatures they would seem to be. When this hath been, I will command the lists to be prepared, till then I do forbid them.”

“ 'Tis then most like,” replied Robert, in a tone of angry sarcasm, “ your Grace will never view this combat: for guess I not how I may further prove these signatures than is already done. He who did seize me of them is now dead; I have no voice, my Lord, to call up spirits from the grave-I meddle not with sorcery!

“ But, my Liege, my presence is no longer needful here, and therefore, making my most humble baisements, I depart.”

In thus saying he made towards the door, still speaking, but in so low a tone of voice as not to be distinctly heard.

“ How!”-exclaimed Philip, who could only

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »