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The knight dropped his head on his breast.
“No, you'll rot inch by inch where you are ; alone, unfriended, without even death to relieve you."
The knight gnawed his nails with impatience; while the fiend turned as if about to take his departure. Suddenly resuming, however, he said,
“Oh! I forgot, there is the old baron, the hereditary enemy of your house, has taken advantage of your absence to help himself to the best of your broad lands."
Sir Hildebrand bounded up like a roe.
“More than that, Sir Knight, the rascal is in love with your wife ; and though to do her justice, she has hitherto held firm; he'll have her at last : les absens--you know the proverb."
“ What else, thou most devilish of devils, what else?” roared the knight in an agony of vexation.
“I'll show her to you, if you like ; and won't charge you a groat for the sight,” said the demon.
“Oh, for the love of heaven! show me Isabel-let me but see her.”
“ Certainly I will; but not for the love of that place.”
In a moment, as if a picture were displayed on the dark wall, was seen the old feudal barrack, the home of Sir Hildebrand's ancestors ; and in a well-known chamber, the mourning Isabel was visible, kneeling and praying for the soul of her defunct husband.
Sir Hildebrand winced as if a wasp had stung him.
While the unhappy husband gazed in silence, a door opened in the scene, and the hated baron entered the chamber with the nonchalance of one who had a right to be there. Addressing Isabel in a tone of cool insolence, that made the knight's blood boil in his veins, he wound up a speech, brief, but very argumentative, by informing her, that if she would not be his wife with a good grace, he would take care she should be his, whether she would or no.
This speech told—as we say of speeches in the House of Commons —the lady relented, dried her eyes, and declared that if her husband did not return in a fortnight, it should be a match.
Here the demon stamped with his hoof, the whole scene vanished, and the knight looked only on the dank and dripping wall.
“ This,” said the fiend,“ is the fourteenth day, and
The knight writhed with agony, while a cold dew started from his forehead, and trickled down his distorted visage.
“ I suppose it's a bargain then ?" drawled out the fiend. life and a merry,—Isabel and vengeance; and all for the small consideration of which, by the by, a less goodnatured devil would have wrung from you, with half the trouble, by only leaving you to your despair."
"Not so fast,” exclaimed the knight, whose opinions on the point were, for a man of his stamp and calling, unusually decided. " My soul I will not give you; but I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll play for it with you, and the game shall be, who shall overreach the other. If I succeed in “ doing' you, it shall be quits between us; but if I fail, then since it must be so, the soul's your own."
“Done," said the devil; "agreed; and between gentlemen, done and done is as good as a bond.”
“ A long
“Thus then it stands," says the knight: "you shall carry me home to my castle without delay.
“İnstantly, if you require it; but a few hours will make the journey more pleasant.
“Right,” said the knight: “and then you must stay supper with me."
“Oh, no ceremony," replied the evil one.
“I tell you, I ask you to supper after vespers ; it is a part of our agreement; and it is further agreed that you shall sup when I have done."
“Before or after, that's all one to the devil.”
“Well, then, for your supper you shall have my leavings; and remember, if you find a morsel to eat, I consent to be yours.”
“Sir Knight, the devil has long teeth," quoth the fiend.
“Sir Devil, I'll stand my chance," said the knight; and the prison was instantly vacated.
After a remarkably pleasant voyage, the demon and his charge alighted on a gentle éminence a stone's throw from the castle, which was the proposed terminus of their day's journey. On setting his foot on the ground, the demon came down so heavily, that the print of his hoof sank deep in the rock, where the impression remains to be seen by those who go to look for it to this day. This, reader, you are aware, is an universal etiquette on such occasions.
The day was far spent, and the two allies, spiritual and carnal, entered the castle by a narrow footpath, that attested the lonely desolation and solitude of its inmates. The court was overgrown with weeds; and if the fox had looked out of the window, as in the days of Ossian, the rank grass would certainly have waved around his head.
Sadly Sir Hildebrand ascended the steps ; and the ponderous knocker under his hand, sent its echoes resounding through the courts and towers. Presently from the wasisdas, or peep-hole in the gate, the knight's aged nurse showed herself, open-mouthed and open-eyed, at the unwonted summons.
" What, are you there still, old duchess?” quoth the knight," forth, quick, open the gate. Don't you know your old master, that you stand staring there?"
“ Wretch ! varlet !" screamed the dame; “are we not sad enough here, but you must come to make a mock of us? Away with you in the devil's name, hence."
“Why, old lady, have you lost your eyes? Cannot you see it is I your foster-child Hildebrand.”
“ You, Sir Hildebrand! you lean, scurvy fellow; a likely story indeed. If you are Sir Hildebrand, where are your vassals, your banners, your men-at-arms ?"
“ Dead, all dead, good Winifred, and I alone am left to tell the tale."
Here the demon came with a lie to the assistance of his friend, and the knight obtained admission in the name of his rival. Once in the castle, the poor crusader (admitted on the footing of charity), wasted the time in vain efforts to procure a recognition from some one of his many followers. At length midnight came, and with it came the rival chieftain to claim his bride.
Now, demon,” quoth the knight, “ up, up to the turret ; sound out the ban and the arrière ban."
The chapel was illuminated, and every thing was prepared for the ceremony. The bride knelt on a crimson cushion beside her mother, as the ladies on such occasions say, “tolerably composed ;" and she waited with becoming resignation the event.
Followed by his retainers and the neighbours, who came flocking in to the tolling of the great bell, the odious usurper, with flushed countenance and dancing eyes, proceeded along the aisle, stamping with his spurred heel, as if to awaken the very dead that slept beneath, to arise and witness the overthrow of their house. Placing bimself at the right of the bride, he called with the air and voice of a Petruchio, to the trembling monk, our old acquaintance, and in a menacing tone desired him to do his duty.
Sir Hildebrand could contain himself no longer, but seizing his rival by the neck, uttered aloud the war-cry of his family. The astonished bridegroom started, and at the aspect of Sir Hildebrand turned pale and trembled: no wonder; for he recognised in the wobegone knight, the ghost of an injured husband sent to interrupt the marriage ceremony. The barons, in those days, believed in ghosts as firmly as in the pope's infallibility, and the hour, as we have said, was twelve.
“ Friends or enemies,” cried the knight, still grasping his rival, “nobles or vassals, is there no one among you to recognise Sir Hildebrand, the lord of this castle ?"
Not a tongue, not an eye moved in recognition ; none, save only the aged greyhound, which we have seen the faithful companion of the knight in the days of his prosperity, responded to the appeal. At the first accent of his master's voice, the grateful animal rose on his legs, approached with a low whine, and wagging his tale, raised his fore paws to the knight's breast. The bystanders were astonished : some, convinced, shouted lustily,“ 'Tis Sir Hildebrand !” Others, more timid, exclaimed, “ 'Tis a robber,-a Saracen-a magician!”
The Baron, at length aroused from his stupor, wrenched himself from Sir Hildebrand's grasp, and raised his drawn sword high in air to strike. The knight seized, from a neighbouring tomb, the broken shaft of an old lance, which had been placed there as a trophy; and straight a combat commenced, for life or for death, between the two rivals. Whether in truth the knight was the best man, or whether the demon added to his other civilities a little Mephistophilean assistance from behind in the fight, we know not; but so it was, that the usurper was left without longer occasion for a wife or a castle, and was borne out of the chapel by his flying retainers, with some score or so of wounds on his body, “ the least a death to nature.”
When the chapel was emptied, the victorious knight, approaching his wife, produced (for fear of accidents) from his bosom the blue and silver ribbon as a token, before he claimed her recognition.
“My ribbon," she said, “ sure enough; but are you indeed Sir Hildebrand? How very odd! How much you are changed. I declare, by all the saints in Paradise, I should not have known you.”.
She would, like Mrs. Beppo, have asked after his liver, but in those days livers were not the fashion.
"To supper, to supper!" exclaimed the demon, who had assumed the shape of a worthy ecclesiastic to celebrate the event.
“With all my heart," quoth the crusader, somewhat disarranged by this “untoward” reminiscence, but anxious to bring matters to an issue. “But have you such a thing about you as a broad piece ?"
The demon was good to that amount; and the knight, slipping the money into the shrivelled palm of his nurse, whispered something in her ear.
The gratuity or bribe (whichever Father Foigarde might have called it) had its effect. When supper was announced the parties adjourned to the great hall, where an ample table was magnificently set forth for the guests; but there was nothing upon it by way of repast, save only one poor plate of nuts.
The knight placed himself between his wife's mother and her daughter, Isabel, who from time to time regarded him with more of doubt than of satisfaction, as she cracked her nuts ; while the rest of the party looked on in silence. At the corner of the table sat the demon, with his flaming eyes fixed on the knight, as if he could have gulped him down without salt, impatient for the price of his bargain.
Slowly, and one by one, the knight proceeded with his supper, taking especial care that not an atom of the kernels should remain behind for the devil to sup upon. At last, when all was eaten, and Sir Hildebrand had once more gone over the shells with redoubled attention, to make all sure, he pushed the dish to the demon, exclaiming,
“There, old fellow, try if you can sup after me now; and then be off with you in heaven's name."
The demon, whether it was the shells, or the affront, that he could not swallow, or whether he did not relish the knight's mode of swearing, was not slow in doing as he was bid ; and he vanished through a hole he made for the nonce in the castle-wall.
Why he took that trouble, we cannot exactly say; the door was open, or he might have gone up the chimney if he preferred it, and there was nothing in his discomfiture so pleasing that he should thus commemorate the adventure. Yet all the masons that ever were seen from that time to this, could not have closed the hole thus made, so that there it remains a witness of the deed to all visiters ;-unless, indeed, the old castle has been pulled down, which we will not answer for, not having travelled there to see.
Now was not this a deuced silly devil, good readers; and was it worth any one's while to be a devil to so little purpose ?
Every thing, however, did not prosper with Sir Hildebrand. Whether the recollection of this compact weighed on his spirits, or he was less than satisfied with his reception at home,-or whether, more probable still, he regretted the loss of his beautiful green acres, sold or mortgaged to heaven knows who, he never held up his head afterwards, but went moping about, till one day he set off with his greyhound and a wallet to a distant hermitage, to repent through the rest of his life, in fasting and in prayer. What became of him eventually, was never known. The little remnant of his property fell into the hands of the church; and his boots and spurs (all that remained of the valiant crusader) hang up in the north transept of St. Mary's Abbey to this day.
THE OLD MAN'S PÆAN.
BY HORACE SMITH.
your page Assaults and vilifies old age,
'Tis still life's golden era; Its pleasures, wisely understood, An unalloy'd, unfailing good,
It's evils a chimera.
Time's victim, I am victor still :-
To seize him by the forelock,
Not e'en a single hoar-lock.
We blame th' idolatrous divine,
Its Deity neglected;
No reverence directed.
Graybeards there are, who thinking art
Of adolescent friskers;
False teeth, hair, eyebrows, whiskers.
While to the frame due care I give,
No vain appearance-pander ;
Of cheerfulness and candour.
A youthful cheer sustains us old,
Wing’d by a lightsome feather.
Life's flowers and fruit together.
To dark oblivion I bequeath
And eyes that brightly twinkle;
My heart without a wrinkle.