Perhaps it was the young man's timidity that brought a sudden courage to Lady Alice; perhaps it was the graciousness of her gentle breeding that urged her to relieve Myles's somewhat awkward humility, perhaps it was something more than either that lent her bravery to speak, even knowing that the Lady Anne heard all. She turned quickly to him: "Nay, Sir Myles," she said, "I am foolish, and do wrong thee by my foolishness and silence, for, truly, I am proud to have thee wear my favor." She unclasped, as she spoke, the thin gold chain from about her neck. "I give thee this chain," said she, "and it will bring me joy to have it honored by thy true knightliness, and, giving it, I do wish thee all success." Then she bowed her head, and, turning, left him holding the necklace in his hand.
Her cousin left the window to meet her, bowing her head with a smile to Myles as she took her cousin's arm again and led her away. He stood looking after them as they left the room, and when they were gone, he raised the necklace to his lips with a heart beating tumultuously with a triumphant joy it had never felt before.
And now, at last, had come the day of days for Myles Falworth; the day when he was to put to the test all that he had acquired in the three years of his training, the day that was to disclose what promise of future greatness there was in his strong young body. And it was a noble day; one of those of late September, when the air seems sweeter and fresher than at other times; the sun bright and as yellow as gold, the wind lusty and strong, before which the great white clouds go sailing majestically across the bright blueness of the sky above, while their dusky shadows skim across the brown face of the rusty earth beneath.
As was said before, the lists had been set up in the great quadrangle of the castle, than which, level and smooth as a floor, no more fitting place could be chosen. The course was of the usual size --sixty paces long--and separated along its whole length by a barrier about five feet high. Upon the west side of the course and about twenty paces distant from it, a scaffolding had been built facing towards the east so as to avoid the glare of the afternoon sun. In the centre was a raised dais, hung round with cloth of blue embroidered with lions rampant. Upon the dais stood a cushioned throne for the King, and upon the steps below, ranged in the order of their dignity, were seats for the Earl, his guests, the family, the ladies, knights, and gentlemen of the castle. In front, the scaffolding was covered with the gayest tapestries and brightest-colored hangings that the castle could afford. And above, parti-colored pennants and streamers, surmounted by the royal ensign of England, waved and fluttered in the brisk wind.
At either end of the lists stood the pavilions of the knights. That of Myles was at the southern extremity and was hung, by the Earl's desire, with cloth of the Beaumont colors (black and yellow), while a wooden shield bearing three goshawks spread (the crest of the house) was nailed to the roof, and a long streamer of black and yellow trailed out in the wind from the staff above. Myles, partly armed, stood at the door-way of the pavilion, watching the folk gathering at the scaffolding. The ladies of the house were already seated, and the ushers were bustling hither and thither, assigning the others their places. A considerable crowd of common folk and burghers from the town had already gathered at the barriers opposite, and as he looked at the restless and growing multitude he felt his heart beat quickly and his flesh grow cold with a nervous trepidation --just such as the lad of to-day feels when he sees the auditorium filling with friends and strangers who are to listen by-and-by to the reading of his prize poem.
Suddenly there came a loud blast of trumpets. A great gate at the farther extremity of the lists was thrown open, and the King appeared, riding upon a white horse, preceded by the King-at-arms and the heralds, attended by the Earl and the Comte de Vermoise, and followed by a crowd of attendants. Just then Gascoyne, who, with Wilkes, was busied lacing some of the armor plates with new thongs, called Myles, and he turned and entered the pavilion.
As the two squires were adjusting these last pieces, strapping them in place and tying the thongs, Lord George and Sir James Lee entered the pavilion. Lord George took the young man by the hand, and with a pleasant smile wished him success in the coming encounter.
Sir James seemed anxious and disturbed. He said nothing, and after Gascoyne had placed the open bascinet that supports the tilting helm in its place, he came forward and examined the armor piece by piece, carefully and critically, testing the various straps and leather points and thongs to make sure of their strength.
In the morning I asked a young Indian, who was wet to the
descended. I had a glimpse of a dark-faced man who evidently
see how her eyes glittered. I stooped and picked up the
“These are some of the gifts that he lavishes upon me!”
He ducked rapidly, almost touching the muddy water with
to Western naturalists—had been released upon the common