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For many roods their lands marched together; but, at a certain angle where the boundary stream trended eastward, the fief of Dynevor ended, whilst that of Malpas stretched its fertile length a full league beyond his neighbour's landmark. Sir Giles could scarce remember the time, when he first cast covetous eyes on the broad inheritance that seemed to dwarf, by contrast, his own domain. Certainly, before boyhood ended, he had sworn to attach it to himself by fair means or foul. For a while, the course of events seemed to run strangely in unison with his design.
After the birth of one son his own marriage-bed was barren; and, of four born to Ivo Malpas, one daughter only remained, some years younger than Dynevor's heir. True it was, that at the death of its lord without issue, the fief of Tyringham would revert to its suzerain. But, for years to come, the crown must needs be worn by a driveller, or an infant; and Sir Giles had faith enough in his own sagacity and knowledge of court tides, not to fear the result. The husband of Malpas' only daughter, being of suitable degree, might reasonably ask for the renewal of her father's seisin; and, by the time it was wanted, there should be gold enough in the family coffers to secure the intercession of any favourite by glutting his greed. So, let Ivo only live till the night of the day that should make their houses one. Afterwards
At this stage in his musings Sir Giles' cruel face would harden and darken. Of a surety he did not reckon on his friend's enjoying great length of days.
Before Edith Malpas was well into her teens, she was solemnly betrothed to Simon Dynevor; and the plighting, by proxy, of hand and glove was celebrated at Tyringham by a mighty carouse, whence the lord of the castle was borne senseless to his couch; whilst the other contracting party walked slowly and steadily to his chamber, where he sat pondering late into the night.
The affianced pair grew up through boyhood and girlhood, meeting very seldom. Neither did this rare intercourse ripen their liking. The damsel was anything but pleasant to look upon; being, in truth, somewhat deformed in shape, and afflicted almost from her birth with fits of the falling-sickness. Of these defects, when he sent his son a-wooing, Sir Giles made account of no more than, in choosing a war-horse, he would have objected to a coarse neck or heavy crest, where all other points were perfect. In bare justice to him it should be averred, that he would not have been a whit more delicate had the case been his
own. The broad lands of Tyringham must needs be taken with an encumbrance; and he would as lief have laid the burden on his own shoulders as on those of his heir. But Dame Alice Dynevor cared for her body's health no less than for her soul's; and showed no signs of presently quitting the world whose sins she was ever bewailing. So, since better might not be, he prepared to sacrifice his firstborn calmly-if not complacently-as many fathers, Pagan, Hebrew, and Christian, have done before and since his time.
Now, though all the surface looked placid and prosperous enough, there was an undercurrent fraught with danger and wreck to these politic plans. Though he inherited not his sire's ruthless strength of will, there was in Simon Dynevor a slow sullen obstinacy, prompting him to run counter to the bidding of any authority whatsoever, so long as he risked not open revolt. Having no ambition, and but a moderate share of avarice, he held that the fief of Bever might well suffice his needs, as it had hitherto sufficed his father's; and cared not to pay with his body for the acquirement of wealth and power that he wist not how to use, or for possible advancement to baron's degree.
He had conceived an aversion for his child-betrothed from the first moment he heard her shrill, querulous voice, and set eyes on her white, pain-stricken face and mis-shaped figure. As the days drew on, this deepened into somewhat nearly akin to loathing; and the unseen fetter galled him more and more sorely. When he was of age to ride in his father's train to distant jousts, or other congresses of knights and barons, it was strange to see how his mood would change and lighten when once fairly out of sight of the watch-tower of Tyringham, which was a landmark for leagues around. By the time they reached their journey's end, Simon was ready to join in revel or mischief with as keen a relish as the maddest esquire of them all; albeit there was ever a certain feverishness in his mirth. When they turned bridle again, the cloud settled down faster than it had lifted; and there passed in over the drawbridge of Bever the same sullen, silent youth that had ridden forth a week agone.
When the lords of the Western Marches rose up in revolt, Dynevor went not forth with Lancaster and his compeers. Further, he prevailed on Malpas to bide quietly at home. Not without difficulty-for that brainless knight could never hear of brawl or battle, without coveting his share in blows and plunder. During their brief success, Sir Giles never once repented himself of his caution, neither did he deign to answer his comrade's repeated grumblings. But, after the disaster at
Boroughbridge, when the best blood in England was flowing under the doomster's knife, said Dynevor with his surly smile
"Owest me no thanks for again saving that big carcase of thine? This last was a better turn, than when I plucked thee out of Black James's grip. Were it not for me, thou wouldst be feeding crows on the same gibbet with yonder wittol of Badlesmere."
To all this Ivo gave ready assent, and thenceforth believed more helplessly than ever in the other's foresight and sagacity.
So the time for the fulfilment of the contract drew nearer and nearer, till the espousals were fixed for Edith's sixteenth birthday. It was in the year that brought a weak and wicked reign to a shameful ending-the year that saw a long debt fairly paid, when Isabella and her liegemen gave monarch and minion quittance in full.
Ere this, another feeling besides aversion, was at work in Simon Dynevor's breast.
MATCHED, NOT MATED.
In those times, many discreet and pious ladies, even of no great estate, were wont to take under their charge one or more damsels of gentle birth, whom death or other chance had deprived of their natural protectors, for the purpose of educating them till they should be sought in marriage; such education being in most cases confined to perpetual practice of tapestry work, and the hearing of homilies and saintly legends, read aloud by the chapellan of the castle.
Maude Warenne's father was but a poor knight-bachelor; and spent well-nigh all the remains of his worldly estate in the furnishing of a small clump of lances, when the King set forth for his last Scottish War; hoping, doubtless, to recoup himself by ransom of prisoners, if not by plunder. But by that ill-fated armament neither wealth nor fame was to be won. When Michael Warenne died gallantly in his harness at Bannockburn-covering the flight of the monarch who knew him not by name-he left his orphan child nearly a beggar.
Dame Alice Dynevor was a somewhat distant cousin; nevertheless Sir Giles made no objection when his wife proposed to take the maiden in charge. The hangings in the great presence-chamber sorely wanted
renewing; and, for some few years to come, a deft worker in tapestry might be well worth clothing and maintenance.
Mande Warenne was a fair, delicate girl-fair enough, at least, to draw to herself whatsoever of heart the heir of Dynevor had to spare. It was the old story over again, that never lacks a new phase-the story of the Labyrinth as ancient as Time, wherein any one of ten thousand thousand paths may lead to the same fatal goal. Dame Alice, albeit the austerest and most vigilant of matrons-like other dragonssaw no danger in her own brood; and set little check on the companionship of those two. Simon Dynevor grew wondrously duteous in attendance of his mother, and fond of listening to the chapellan's long-winded readings. Then, there came about meetings-brief at first, and seemingly by chance, soon of design, and perilously prolonged-in some lonely echoing corridor, through which few of the household would have cared to pass alone after nightfall; then, stolen trysts by moonlight in some shady nook of the castle-garden. One morning, just a month before the day for which the Malpas espousals were set, those two strolled forth into the plaisance beyond the barbican, innocently enough; but they came not back to the nooning and, before vespers, all at Bever wist that they had fled together.
When Sir Giles returned-he had ridden forth to a neighbouring town soon after dawn-he found his household in great turmoil; and Dame Alice ill at ease, tended only by her bower-woman and mediciner. That imperious lady stood in mortal fear of her husband, albeit her worst treatment at his hands had been cold neglect, varied by some brutal jest or savage sneer; and she preferred that he should hear bad tidings from any other mouth than hers. But Dynevor received them with singular calmness, only grumbling under his breath,
"A murrain on the hot-blooded fool! Could he not have waited for his leman till he was wived ?"
He thought his son was but repeating one of the profligate adventures for which his own youth and early manhood had been evilly renowned; and guessed that the seducer would not tarry long with his victim after his fantasy was sated. Also, he knew that Ivo Malpas would be more like to laugh than be wroth at such a freak of his future son-in-law; and that the child-bride-even if it came to her earswould not dare to murmur. So that the espousals need not necessarily be deferred. The good knight had ever a politic horror of open scandal or uproar; wherefore he caused no hue and cry to be made
after the truants, and for a while seemed content to let things bide.
But, on the fifth evening, one of Dynevor's foresters, coming homeward through the twilight, was accosted about a league from the castle, by a stranger of mean exterior, who thrust into his hand a sealed packet, with charge to deliver it instantly to his lord; and then dived into the woodland without abiding question.
The missive, penned by Simon Dynevor himself-the youth had no mean clerkly skill-was simple enough. It told of his marriage to Maude Warenne according to the rites of Holy Church; besought his father's forgiveness; and, further, prayed that answer should be sent to the house of a certain obscure scrivener dwelling in the borough of Southwark.
When Sir Giles had read the letter through, there came over his face a change such as no man had ever seen there; and there broke forth betwixt his grinded teeth a curse and an oath that made the chapellan, who alone chanced to be present, shiver and cross himself as though he stood in the visible presence of the Fiend. The curse was levelled at the heads of both the rebels: in the oath, Dynevor swore that, come life or come death, his will should yet be wrought out, by foul means or fair. After that first outbreak, he gave no sign either of grief or anger; only he bade the priest keep his tongue from wagging, if he would keep it in his head; and so betook himself to his chamber, where, for years past, he had been wont to sleep or watch alone.
In those times of rapine and misrule, few knights or nobles scrupled to thrust any obstacle out of their path with the strong hand. More than once during his long night-musings, Dynevor meditated violence against the life or liberty of the new-made bride. Even if she were not done instantly to death, prisons might be found scarcely less safe and secret than the grave. But the penniless orphan was of gentle birth, and it might not be wise to crush her like a churl's daughter. Certain of her kinsfolk might be both able and willing to exact heavier wehr-geld for their cousin's blood than it would be convenient to pay. Notably, there was Hugh Warenne, who had won great renown in the Scots and Irish wars, and had taken part with the King in the rebellion of the Earls-a good knight and true, but very choleric and rancorous, apt to draw sword in quarrels far less just than the redressing of a kinswoman's wrong. So, malpractice behoved to be managed warily. Sir Giles thought within himself,