one of the yeomen of the guard; but finding him in the inner hall, he looked at him with more attention, and recognised the Norman knight in the dress of an English yeoman.
What mummery is this, De Bracy? said Fitzurse, somewhat angrily; is this a time for Christmas gambols and quaint maskings, when the fate of our master, Prince John, is on the very verge of decision? Why hast thou not been, like me, among these heartless cravens, whom the very name of King Richard terrifies, as it is said to do the children of the Saracens?
I have been attending to mine own business, answered De Bracy calmly, as you, Fitzurse, have been minding yours.
I minding mine own business! echoed Waldemar; I have been engaged in that of Prince John, our joint patron.
As if thou hadst any other reason for that, Waldemar, said De Bracy, than the promotion of thine own individual interest! Come, Fitzurse, we know each otherambition is thy pursuit, pleasure is mine, and they become our different ages. Of Prince John thou thinkest as I do, that he is too weak to be a determined monarch, too tyrannical to be an easy monarch, too insolent and presumptuous to be a popular monarch, and too fickle and timid to be long a monarch of any kind. But he is a monarch by whom Fitzurse and De Bracy hope to rise and thrive; and, therefore, you aid him with your policy, and I with the lances of my Free Companions.
A hopeful auxiliary, said Fitzurse impatiently; playing the fool in the very moment of utter necessity. What on earth dost thou purpose by this absurd disguise at a moment so urgent?
To get me a wife, answered De Bracy coolly, after the manner of the tribe of Benjamin.
The tribe of Benjamin! said Fitzurse; I comprehend thee not.
Wert thou not in presence yester-even, said De Bracy, when we heard the Prior Aymer tell us a tale in reply to the romance which was sung by the minstrel?He told how, long since in Palestine, a deadly feud arose between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelitish nation; and how they cut to pieces well-nigh all the chivalry of that tribe; and how they swore by our blessed Lady, that they would not permit those who remained to marry in their lineage; and how they became grieved for their vow, and sent to consult his holiness the Pope how they might be absolved from it; and how, by the advice of the Holy Father, the youth of the tribe of Benjamin carried off from a superb tournament all the ladies who were there present, and thus won them wives without the consent either of their brides or their brides families.
I have heard the story, said Fitzurse, though either the Prior or thou hast made some singular alterations in date and circumstances.
I tell thee, said De Bracy, that I mean to purvey me a wife after the fashion of the tribe of Benjamin; which is as much as to say, that in this same equipment I will fall upon that herd of Saxon bullocks, who have this night left the castle, and carry off from them the lovely Rowena.
Art thou mad, De Bracy? said Fitzurse. Bethink thee that, though the men be Saxons, they are rich and powerful, and regarded with the more respect by their countrymen, that wealth and honour are but the lot of few of Saxon descent.
And should belong to none, said De Bracy; the work of the Conquest should be completed.
This is no time for it at least, said Fitzurse; the approaching crisis renders the favour of the multitude indispensable, and Prince John cannot refuse justice to any one who injures their favourites.
Let him grant it, if he dare, said De Bracy; he will soon see the difference betwixt the support of such a lusty lot of spears as mine, and that of a heartless mob of Saxon churls. Yet I mean no immediate
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