L. Lamprey.

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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team


By L. Lamprey

Author of "In the Days of the Guild"

Illustrated by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis

New York



To Dorothy






The Jesters



The Abbot's Lesson



Cap O' Rushes



The Castle



Lullaby of the Pict Mother



St. Hugh and the Birds



The Lances






To Josian from Prison



New Altars



Galley Song



Harbor Song



The Leprechaun



The Ebbing Tide



The Crusaders



"The boy gave a low call and a soft rush of wings was heard"

"'You have your choice - to remain here quietly, alive, or to remain
permanently, dead'"

"'How now, Master Stephen! What foolery is this?'"

"It was the first time Padraig had seen anyone write"

"'Every inch of this linen will be covered with embroidery'" (in colors)

"''Tis the brat of a scatter-brained woman'"

"Directly in front sounded the unmistakable snarl of a wolf"

"An immense boar stumbled out and charged at Eleanor's horse"

"'Belike he got it where he's been - in the Holy Land'" (in colors)

"'I know all about your search for treasure'"

"'He called me his mouse and if I kept still I had cheese for my

"Nothing would do but that they all should go immediately to see what
had come to light"

"Andrea was at work upon the carving of the doorway"

"A siffle of indrawn breath was heard in the crowd as he carried it to
the fire" (in colors)

"There was shouting and laughter in the courtyard"



O little girl who used to be,
Come down the Old World road with me,
And watch the galleons leaping home
Deep-laden, through the rainbow foam,
And the far-glimmering lances reel
Where clashes battle-axe on steel,
When the long shouts of triumph ring
Around the banner of the King!

To elfin harps those minstrels rime
Who live in Once-upon-a-Time!

In that far land of Used-to-Be,
Strange folk were known to you and me, -
Mowgh and Puck, and all their kin,
Launcelot, and Huckleberry Finn,
Wise Talleyrand, brave Ivanhoe,
Juliet, and Lear, and Prospero,
Alleyne and his White Company,
And trooping folk of Faerie!

People of every race and clime
Are found in Once-upon-a-Time!

And in those days that used to be
The gypsy wind that raced the sea
Came singing of enchanted lands,
Of sapphire waves on golden sands,
Of wind-borne fleets that race the swallow,
Of Squirrel-fairy in her hollow,
Of brooklets full of scattered stars,
And odorous herbs by pasture-bars

Where to the cow-bells' tinkling chime
Come dreams of Once-upon-a-Time!

O little girl who used to be,
The days are long in Faerie, -
Their garnered sunshine's wealth of gold
No royal treasure-vault may hold.
And now, as if our earth possessed
Alchemy's fabled Alkahest,
Our harbors blaze with jewelled light,
Our air-ships wing their circling flight,

And we ourselves are in the rime
That sings of Once-upon-a-Time!



It was a great day in Count Thibaut's castle. Every one knew that,
down to the newest smallest scullery-maid. The Count had come home from
England with Lady Philippa, his daughter, and there would be feasting
and song and laughter for days and days and days.

Ranulph the troubadour, who had arrived in their company, was glad of a
quiet hour in the garden before supper was served. He knew that he would
have to sing that evening, and he wished to go over the melodies he had
in mind, for he might on the spur of the moment compose new words
to them. In fact a song in honor of his hostess was already in his
thoughts. The very birds of the air seemed to welcome her. The warm
southern winds were full of their warbling - beccafico, loriot, merle,
citronelle, woodlark, nightingale, - every tree, copse and tuft of
grass held a tiny minstrel. When the great gate opened to a fanfare of
trumpets, from the castle walls there came the murmur of innumerable
doves. A castle had its dove-cote as it had its poultry-yard or
rabbit-warren, but the birds were not always so fearless or so many.

The song was nearly finished when the singer became aware that some one
else was in the garden. A small boy, with serious dark eyes and a white
pigeon in his arms, stood close by. Ranulph smiled a persuasive smile
which few children could resist.

"And who are you, my lad?"

"Peirol, the gooseherd's boy," the youngster replied composedly. "You're
none of the family, are you?"

"Only a jongleur. You have a great many pigeons here."

"That's why I came in when I heard you playing. Does she - Lady
Philippa - like pigeons?"

"I think she does. In fact I know she does. Why?"

"Grandfather said she would not care how many pigeons were killed to
make pies. Nobody really loves them much, but me. They're fond of me

The boy gave a low call and a soft rush of wings was heard in every
direction. Pigeons flew from tree-top, tower, parapet and gable,
alighting on his head and arms until he looked like a little pigeon-tree
in full bloom.

"Some of them are voyageurs," he said, strewing salted pease for the
strutting, cooing, softly crowding birds. "I'm training them every
day. Some day I shall know more about pigeons than any one else in the

Ranulph had some ado not to smile; the speaker was so small and the tone
so assured. "Perhaps you will," he said. "Are they as tame with others
as they are with you?" "Some others," answered Peirol gravely. "People
who are patient and know how to keep still. They like you."

A slaty-blue pigeon was already pecking at Ranulph's pointed scarlet
shoe for a grain lodged there. The troubadour bent down, held out his
hand, and the bird walked into it. He had played with birds often enough
in his vagabond early years to know their feelings. But now a wave of
merry voices broke upon the garden paths.

"Peirol," he said, "I will see you again. I have a little plan for you
and the pigeons which will, I think, give pleasure to Lady Philippa."

One of the entertainments arranged to take place was a feast out
of doors, in a woodland glade especially suited to it. Ranulph's
inspiration had to do with this.

Among the guests the only stranger was Sir Gualtier (or Walter) Giffard,
younger son of a Norman family. One of his ancestors had gone to England
with Duke William a hundred years before, but the family had not been on
good terms with later kings and its fortunes had somewhat fallen. Every
one, however, spoke with respect of this knight and his elder brother,
Sir Stephen, and they had been of service to Count Thibaut during his
stay in England. This Giffard had never been so far south before, and he
seemed to feel that he had got into some sort of enchanted realm. He
was more soldier than courtier, but his eyes said a great deal. The
luxurious abundance of a Provencal castle, the smooth ease of the
serving, the wit and gaiety of the people, all were new to him. He had
attended state banquets, but they were as unlike the entertainment here
provided as was the stern simplicity of his boyhood home in Normandy, or
the rough-and-tumble camp life of recent years.

The out-of-door dinner was not a hap-hazard picnic, but neither was it
in the least stiff or formal. The servants went by a short cut across
the meadow to prepare the tables, while knights and ladies followed
the more leisurely path along the river bank. It was a walk through
fairyland. The very waters were in a holiday mood. The current strayed
from one side to the other, leaving clear still pools and enticing
little backwaters, and singing past the elfin islets and huge
overshadowing trees, like a gleeful spirit.

Lady Philippa had never looked more lovely. As the party was not to be
seen on a public road, veils and wimples were discarded, and her bright
brown hair, braided in two long braids, was crowned only by a circlet
of gold set with pearls and emeralds. The trailing robes worn at formal
dinners would also be out of place, and she wore a bliaut or outer robe
of her favorite rose-colored silk, a wide border of gold embroidery
giving it weight enough to make it hang in graceful lines. The sleeves
were loose and long, the ends almost touching the hem of the gown. Under
this was a violet silk robe of heavier material with bands of ermine
at the neck and on the small close sleeves. Under this again the
embroidered edges of a fine white linen robe could be seen at throat and
wrists. The girdle was of braided violet silk, the ends weighted with
amethyst and emerald ornaments. A white mantle of silk and wool, trimmed
with fur of the black squirrel, and fastened under the chin with a gold
button, and an embroidered alms-purse, completed the costume. The other
ladies of the party were attired as carefully, and the dress of the men
was as rich and brilliant as that of the women. They passed through
the wavering light and shadow of the woodlands like a covey of
bright-plumaged birds.

In the level open space where the feast was spread the servants had
placed trestles, over which long boards were fitted. Benches covered
with silken cushions served as seats. The cloth was of linen dyed
scarlet in the rare Montpellier dye, and over it was spread another of
white linen, embroidered in open-work squares. At each end of the table
was a large silver dish, one containing a meat-pie, the other a pie made
of the meat of various fowls with savory seasoning. On silver plates
were slices of cold chicken and meat. Glass trays contained salad,
lettuces, radishes and olives. The salt, pepper and spices were in
silver and gold dishes of fanciful shapes. Here and there were crystal
vases of freshly gathered roses and violets. On the corners of the table
were trenchers of white bread - wastel, cocket, manchet, of fine wheaten
flour, - and brown bread of barley, millet and rye. For dessert there
were the spicy apples of Auvergne, Spanish oranges, raisins, figs,
little sweet cakes, wine white and red, and nuts in a great carved brass
dish of the finest Saracen work, with carved wood nut-crackers. Ewers
and basins of decorated brass, for washing the hands after the meal,
were ready. Eastern carpets and cushions, placed upon a bank under
the trees, would afford a place where the company, after dining, might
linger for hours, enjoying the gay give-and-take of conversation, the
songs of artists who knew their art, and the constant musical undertone
of winds, birds and waters. The surprise which Ranulph had planned was
designed for the moment when the guests began to dally with nuts and
wine, reluctant to leave the table. Some one called upon the troubadour
to sing. He had counted upon this. Rising, he bowed to the Count and his
daughter, and began:

"In the month of Arcady
Green the summer meadows be, -
When the dawn with fingers light
Lifts the curtains of the night,
And from tented crimson skies
Glorious doth the sun arise, -
Who are these who give him greeting,
On swift wings approaching, fleeting, -
Who but birds whose carols bring
Homage to their gracious King!
"Lo! the Queen of Arcady
From the land of Faery
Gladdens our adoring eyes,
Fair and gentle, sweet and wise,
Her companions here on earth
Love and Loyalty and Mirth!
Who, the joyous tidings hearing,
Fly to greet her, now appearing?
Aphrodite's pigeons fleet, -
See, they gather at her feet."

No one had heard a low clear call from the boughs of the tree overhead,
or seen the figure of a small boy in a fantastic tunic of goatskins,
slipping down the tree-trunk near Ranulph. As the company rose from the
table the troubadour moved away a little, still thrumming his refrain,
and in that moment there was a whir of sudden wings and the air was dark
with pigeons. As the birds alighted Lady Philippa was surrounded by the
pretty creatures, and in a graceful little speech Ranulph presented to
her Peirol as a Faun, the Master of the Pigeons, who had brought them to
do homage to their sovereign lady.

It was just the sort of informal pageant to delight the heart of
Provence. No more dainty and captivating interlude had been seen at a

There was a great deal of wonderment about the way in which the scene
had been arranged, but it was really quite simple. According to the
usual fashion the guests were seated on only one side of the table,
the other side being left free for the servants to present the various
dishes. The company faced the river, and the trees that canopied the
table were behind them. Nothing, therefore, hindered Peirol from luring
his pigeons to a point within hearing of his voice, and concealing
himself in the thick leafage until Ranulph gave the signal for them to
be brought upon the stage. Most of the afternoon was spent in watching
and discussing Peirol and the pigeons.

"A pigeon has certain advantages," observed Gualtier Giffard, as he
and the troubadour, sitting a little way from the others, watched the
carriers rise and circle in the air. "He need only rise high enough to
see his goal, - and fly there."

"Pity but a man might do the same," said Ranulph lightly. The eyes of
the two young men met for an instant in unspoken understanding. Under
some conditions they might have felt themselves rivals. But neither the
penniless younger son of a Norman house, nor a landless troubadour of
Avignon, had much hope of meeting Count Thibaut's views for his only

"It would be rather absurd," Ranulph went on, stroking the feathers of
the little dun pigeon Rien-du-Tout, "for a bird to outdo a man. Perhaps
some day we shall even sail the air as now we sail the seas. Picture to
yourself a winged galleon with yourself at the helm - about to discover a
world beyond the sunset. It is all in having faith, I tell you. Unbelief
is the dragon of the ancient fables."

The Norman smiled rather sadly. "Meanwhile," he said, "having no flying
ships and no new crusades to prove our mettle, we spend ourselves on
such errands as we have, or beat the air vainly - like the pigeons. Were
it not that a man owes loyalty to his house and to his King I would
enlist under the piebald banner of the Templars. But my brother and
I have set ourselves to win back the place that our fathers lost, and
until that is done I have no errand with dragons."

Ranulph nodded, thoughtfully. "The King would be glad of more such
service," he said. "Good fortune be with you!"


Hail, Poet - and farewell! Our day is past,
Yet may we hear new songs before we die,
The chanteys of the mightiest and the last, -
The squadrons of the sky.

We knew the rhythm of myriad marching feet,
Gray tossing seas that rocked the wind-whipped sail,
The drumming hoofs of horses, and the beat
Of stern hearts clad in mail.

But you - earth-fettered we shall watch your wings
Topping the mountains, battling winds, - to dare
Challenge the lammergeyer where she swings
Down the long lanes of air.

And when you take the skylark for your guide,
And soar straight up to sun-drenched shores of Time,
Immortal singers there shall, eager-eyed,
Await your new-born rhyme.

Their songs are charm-songs, a divine caress,
Or torrents that no power of man could tame,
Or time-hushed gardens of grave loveliness,
But yours, - a leaping flame!

Hail, Poet! Yours the Dream Interpreted,
Earth's haunting fairy-tale since life began, -
The Dragon of Unfaith, his magic dead,
Slain by the Flying Man!



Alazais de Montfaucon was to be married, and had chosen her dearest
friend Philippa to be maid of honor. None of her friends except Philippa
had seen the bridegroom; he was an English knight, Hugh l'Estrange.
He had lands on the Welsh marches, and the charming Alazais was to
be carried off by him, to live among savages. This, at least, was the
impression of Beatriz d'Acunha and Catalina d'Anduze, who were also to
be bridesmaids. Philippa, having lived in England, looked at the matter
less dolefully. Still, when all was said, it was an immense change for
Alazais, and she herself declared that if any one but Hugh had proposed
it she would not think of such a thing.

"We must provide you with a flock of these voyageur pigeons," said
Savaric de Marsan. "Then, when you are shut up in your stronghold with
the Welsh on one side and Saxon outlaws on the other, you can appeal to
your friends for help."

Alazais laughed her pretty rippling laugh.

"The fortress is not yet built," she said with a toss of her golden
head. "We are not going to live among the heathen."

"You men!" pouted Beatriz. "You are always thinking of battles and
sieges, wars and jousting. Perhaps you would like a tournament of

"Why not?" queried Savaric undisturbed. "It would be highly amusing."

"I lay my wager on Blanchette here," said Peire d'Acunha. "She is as
graceful as a lady. She shows her breeding."

"Endurance, my friend, is what counts in a carrier," said Bertrand
d'Aiguerra. "Pere Azuli yonder will forget the miles behind him - as you
forget your debts."

"You are both wrong," said Savaric. "It is spirit that wins. Little
Sieur Rien-du-Tout, the pigeon without a pedigree, will make fools of
all of you."

The pigeon-tournament was actually planned, with much laughter and
light-hearted nonsense. It was to take place at Montfaucon during the
week of the wedding. Each knight should adorn his bird with his lady's
colors, and the little feathered messengers were to carry love-letters
written in verse. Afterward, the pigeons were all to be presented to
Lady Alazais for her dovecote in the barbarous land to which she was

Pigeons were very much the fashion for a time. Dainty demoiselles
preened and paced on the short sweet turf, petting and feeding the
birds, and looking rather like pigeons themselves. But no one became
really intimate with the carriers except Ranulph the troubadour, Lady
Philippa, and Sir Gualtier Giffard, who loved them for her sake.

The guests at the castle were all going to the wedding except Ranulph
and the Norman knight. Ranulph expected to accompany King Henry to
England, and Gualtier Giffard had to take a report from Count Thibaut to
friends in Normandy, touching certain matters of state.

Then the Count was invited to a hastily arranged banquet in a town some
leagues away, where various important persons were to be guests, among
them Henry Plantagenet himself. The way to Montfaucon lying in the same
direction, it was decided that Alazais and her bridesmaids should return
to her home under escort of the Count and his friends. When the banquet
was over and the conference between Henry and his vassals in Guienne was
concluded, the wedding guests would assemble at Montfaucon.

Gossip about the banquet and the conference flew like tennis-balls among
the guests. It was said that one of the matters discussed would be the
claim of the deposed King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurragh, who was
even now at the heels of the English King, trying to interest him in a
possible Norman invasion of Ireland.

"I have seen this Dermot," said de Marsan, "and a choice group of
cut-throats he had collected about him. Garin de Biterres was one of
them, by the way."

"He was always over-fond of laying wagers," yawned d'Acunha. "He is
probably betting his head on this Irish wild-goose chase."

"I will burn a candle," said Bertrand d'Aiguerra, "to any god of luck
who will send that caitiff where he gets himself killed. If he were not
one of us he would not be such a nuisance. His mercenaries will be the
ruin of us. The people were touchy enough before, but now they begin to
think we are all birds of the same black feather."

"He is only half Auvergnais," objected Savaric. "The other half is
Sicilian, I believe. A man cannot be half a gentleman, can he? I will
admit that Biterres desires to live like a gentleman, - according to his
own ideas of one. He has not been the same man since he was taken by the
Moors. He was never honest, but that seemed to warp his nature as well
as his body. He learned things that it does no man any good to know."

"Let us hope that Saint Patrick will dispose of him for the good of his
Irish," remarked Enrique de Montfaucon. "They say that the Plantagenet
will do no more than give letters patent to any Norman adventurer who
takes up Dermot's cause. I think he has his hands full with his own

Ranulph listened to this conversation with interest. The ill-famed
leader of mercenaries had aspired to the hand of Lady Philippa while
she was yet a child - and had been brusquely dismissed by her father. He
lived now by hiring himself and his troops to any ruler who had a war on
hand and would pay his price. In peaceful intervals they lived as they

The Count was talking to Gualtier Giffard about the Irish venture.

"If the Normans rule Ireland," he observed, "your fortunes may improve.
A grant of land there might be worth your while."

The young knight met the Count's searching glance fearlessly. "I would
not take it," he answered. "Dermot lost his realm by his own fault.
There is no honor in serving him."

"Ah," said the Count with a quizzical lift of the eyebrow, "in that case
you are very right."

Ranulph often acted as an unofficial unrecognized envoy in state
matters, and it did not surprise him when he received a message from
King Henry to the effect that he was to meet the monarch at Montfaucon
after the conference. Peirol, who knew every mile of the country, was to
take the pigeons thither for the tournament and be Ranulph's guide. It
was altogether a very pleasant prospect for perfect summer weather.

By brisk riding the troubadour and his little companion reached
Montfaucon late in the afternoon of the day following the departure of
the Count's guests. The porter, a surly looking fellow, hesitated about
admitting them, and before opening the wicket gate consulted some one
within. The castle seemed to be in a somewhat disorderly state. Soldiers
were playing dice by the gateway, and horses were stamping and feeding
in the outer bailey. Peirol was evidently taken for the troubadour's
servant, and an unkempt lad ushered them into a small room with a barred
window, in one of the older towers. Ranulph was not wont to think of his
own dignity, but this lack of courtesy did a little surprise him. Almost
at once the youth poked his head in, without knocking, to say that the
lord of the castle would see him in the great hall.

More mystified than before, Ranulph obeyed the summons, for it amounted
to that. In the master's chair sat a man of about thirty, dark-skinned,
with dense black hair and eyes, one leg somewhat malformed, the
knee being bowed and the foot turned slightly inward. He looked
the troubadour over with a sarcastic smile. Ranulph was still in
riding-dress, and might have been mistaken for a joglar or wandering
minstrel, calling himself by the more dignified title of troubadour or

"I think," began the knight in a harsh drawl, "that one can often do
no better than to tell the truth, is it not so? I am the lord of this
castle - for the present. Of course I could not refuse you admittance,
or you might go off and spread inconvenient rumors. I must ask you
therefore to accept our hospitality unquestioning, like a courteous
guest. We cannot allow you to depart until we ourselves are gone.
You have your choice - to remain here quietly, alive, or to remain
permanently, dead.

"Naturally you will not communicate with any ladies whom you may see,
but if you can afford them some entertainment you shall be paid. They
have had but a dull time thus far, I fear, and I would not have them
think us barbarians, soldiers of fortune though we are. When I am
through with this castle I shall leave it as I found it, except for the
temporary detention of the inmates in various rooms, where I suppose
they will stay until some one finds them. If anybody is found dead

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