Approach the chamber, look upon his bed.
His is the passing of no peaceful ghost,
Which, as the lark arises to the sky,
'Mid morning's sweetest breeze and softest dew,
Is wing'd to heaven by good men's sighs and tears!---
Anselm parts otherwise.
During the interval of quiet which followed the first success of
the besiegers, while the one party was preparing to pursue their
advantage, and the other to strengthen their means of defence,
the Templar and De Bracy held brief council together in the hall
of the castle.
"Where is Front-de-Boeuf?" said the latter, who had superintended
the defence of the fortress on the other side; "men say he hath
"He lives," said the Templar, coolly, "lives as yet; but had he
worn the bull's head of which he bears the name, and ten plates
of iron to fence it withal, he must have gone down before yonder
fatal axe. Yet a few hours, and Front-de-Boeuf is with his
fathers---a powerful limb lopped off Prince John's enterprise."
"And a brave addition to the kingdom of Satan," said De Bracy;
"this comes of reviling saints and angels, and ordering images of
holy things and holy men to be flung down on the heads of these
"Go to---thou art a fool," said the Templar; "thy superstition is
upon a level with Front-de-Boeuf's want of faith; neither of you
can render a reason for your belief or unbelief."
"Benedicite, Sir Templar," replied De Bracy, "pray you to keep
better rule with your tongue when I am the theme of it. By the
Mother of Heaven, I am a better Christian man than thou and thy
fellowship; for the 'bruit' goeth shrewdly out, that the most
holy Order of the Temple of Zion nurseth not a few heretics
within its bosom, and that Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is of the
"Care not thou for such reports," said the Templar; "but let us
think of making good the castle.---How fought these villain
yeomen on thy side?"
"Like fiends incarnate," said De Bracy. "They swarmed close up to
the walls, headed, as I think, by the knave who won the prize at
the archery, for I knew his horn and baldric. And this is old
Fitzurse's boasted policy, encouraging these malapert knaves to
rebel against us! Had I not been armed in proof, the villain had
marked me down seven times with as little remorse as if I had
been a buck in season. He told every rivet on my armour with a
cloth-yard shaft, that rapped against my ribs with as little
compunction as if my bones had been of iron---But that I wore a
shirt of Spanish mail under my plate-coat, I had been fairly
"But you maintained your post?" said the Templar. "We lost the
outwork on our part."
"That is a shrewd loss," said De Bracy; "the knaves will find
cover there to assault the castle more closely, and may, if not
well watched, gain some unguarded corner of a tower, or some
forgotten window, and so break in upon us. Our numbers are too
few for the defence of every point, and the men complain that
they can nowhere show themselves, but they are the mark for as
many arrows as a parish-butt on a holyday even. Front-de-Boeuf
is dying too, so we shall receive no more aid from his bull's
head and brutal strength. How think you, Sir Brian, were we not
better make a virtue of necessity, and compound with the rogues
by delivering up our prisoners?"
"How?" exclaimed the Templar; "deliver up our prisoners, and
stand an object alike of ridicule and execration, as the doughty
warriors who dared by a night-attack to possess themselves of the
persons of a party of defenceless travellers, yet could not make
good a strong castle against a vagabond troop of outlaws, led by
swineherds, jesters, and the very refuse of mankind?---Shame on
thy counsel, Maurice de Bracy!---The ruins of this castle shall
bury both my body and my shame, ere I consent to such base and
"Let us to the walls, then," said De Bracy, carelessly; "that man
never breathed, be he Turk or Templar, who held life at lighter
rate than I do. But I trust there is no dishonour in wishing I
had here some two scores of my gallant troop of Free Companions?
---Oh, my brave lances! if ye knew but how hard your captain were
this day bested, how soon should I see my banner at the head of
your clump of spears! And how short while would these rabble
villains stand to endure your encounter!"
"Wish for whom thou wilt," said the Templar, "but let us make
what defence we can with the soldiers who remain---They are
chiefly Front-de-Boeuf's followers, hated by the English for a
thousand acts of insolence and oppression."
"The better," said De Bracy; "the rugged slaves will defend
themselves to the last drop of their blood, ere they encounter
the revenge of the peasants without. Let us up and be doing,
then, Brian de Bois-Guilbert; and, live or die, thou shalt see
Maurice de Bracy bear himself this day as a gentleman of blood
"To the walls!" answered the Templar; and they both ascended the
battlements to do all that skill could dictate, and manhood
accomplish, in defence of the place. They readily agreed that
the point of greatest danger was that opposite to the outwork of
which the assailants had possessed themselves. The castle,
indeed, was divided from that barbican by the moat, and it was
impossible that the besiegers could assail the postern-door, with
which the outwork corresponded, without surmounting that
obstacle; but it was the opinion both of the Templar and De
Bracy, that the besiegers, if governed by the same policy their
leader had already displayed, would endeavour, by a formidable
assault, to draw the chief part of the defenders' observation to
this point, and take measures to avail themselves of every
negligence which might take place in the defence elsewhere. To
guard against such an evil, their numbers only permitted the
knights to place sentinels from space to space along the walls in
communication with each other, who might give the alarm whenever
danger was threatened. Meanwhile, they agreed that De Bracy
should command the defence at the postern, and the Templar should
keep with him a score of men or thereabouts as a body of reserve,
ready to hasten to any other point which might be suddenly
threatened. The loss of the barbican had also this unfortunate
effect, that, notwithstanding the superior height of the castle
walls, the besieged could not see from them, with the same
precision as before, the operations of the enemy; for some
straggling underwood approached so near the sallyport of the
outwork, that the assailants might introduce into it whatever
force they thought proper, not only under cover, but even
without the knowledge of the defenders. Utterly uncertain,
therefore, upon what point the storm was to burst, De Bracy and
his companion were under the necessity of providing against every
possible contingency, and their followers, however brave,
experienced the anxious dejection of mind incident to men
enclosed by enemies, who possessed the power of choosing their
time and mode of attack.
Meanwhile, the lord of the beleaguered and endangered castle lay
upon a bed of bodily pain and mental agony. He had not the usual
resource of bigots in that superstitious period, most of whom
were wont to atone for the crimes they were guilty of by
liberality to the church, stupefying by this means their terrors
by the idea of atonement and forgiveness; and although the refuge
which success thus purchased, was no more like to the peace of
mind which follows on sincere repentance, than the turbid
stupefaction procured by opium resembles healthy and natural
slumbers, it was still a state of mind preferable to the agonies
of awakened remorse. But among the vices of Front-de-Boeuf, a
hard and griping man, avarice was predominant; and he preferred
setting church and churchmen at defiance, to purchasing from them
pardon and absolution at the price of treasure and of manors.
Nor did the Templar, an infidel of another stamp, justly
characterise his associate, when he said Front-de-Boeuf could
assign no cause for his unbelief and contempt for the established
faith; for the Baron would have alleged that the Church sold her
wares too dear, that the spiritual freedom which she put up to
sale was only to be bought like that of the chief captain of
Jerusalem, "with a great sum," and Front-de-Boeuf preferred
denying the virtue of the medicine, to paying the expense of the
But the moment had now arrived when earth and all his treasures
were gliding from before his eyes, and when the savage Baron's
heart, though hard as a nether millstone, became appalled as he
gazed forward into the waste darkness of futurity. The fever of
his body aided the impatience and agony of his mind, and his
death-bed exhibited a mixture of the newly awakened feelings of
horror, combating with the fixed and inveterate obstinacy of his
disposition;---a fearful state of mind, only to be equalled in
those tremendous regions, where there are complaints without
hope, remorse without repentance, a dreadful sense of present
agony, and a presentiment that it cannot cease or be diminished!
"Where be these dog-priests now," growled the Baron, "who set
such price on their ghostly mummery?---where be all those unshod
Carmelites, for whom old Front-de-Boeuf founded the convent of St
Anne, robbing his heir of many a fair rood of meadow, and many a
fat field and close---where be the greedy hounds now?---Swilling,
I warrant me, at the ale, or playing their juggling tricks at the
bedside of some miserly churl.---Me, the heir of their founder
---me, whom their foundation binds them to pray for---me
---ungrateful villains as they are!---they suffer to die like the
houseless dog on yonder common, unshriven and unhouseled!---Tell
the Templar to come hither---he is a priest, and may do something
---But no!---as well confess myself to the devil as to Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who recks neither of heaven nor of hell.---I have
heard old men talk of prayer---prayer by their own voice---Such
need not to court or to bribe the false priest---But I---I dare
"Lives Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said a broken and shrill voice
close by his bedside, "to say there is that which he dares not!"
The evil conscience and the shaken nerves of Front-de-Boeuf
heard, in this strange interruption to his soliloquy, the voice
of one of those demons, who, as the superstition of the times
believed, beset the beds of dying men to distract their thoughts,
and turn them from the meditations which concerned their eternal
welfare. He shuddered and drew himself together; but, instantly
summoning up his wonted resolution, he exclaimed, "Who is there?
---what art thou, that darest to echo my words in a tone like
that of the night-raven?---Come before my couch that I may see
"I am thine evil angel, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," replied the
"Let me behold thee then in thy bodily shape, if thou be'st indeed
a fiend," replied the dying knight; "think not that I will blench
from thee.---By the eternal dungeon, could I but grapple with
these horrors that hover round me, as I have done with mortal
dangers, heaven or hell should never say that I shrunk from the
"Think on thy sins, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said the almost
unearthly voice, "on rebellion, on rapine, on murder!---Who
stirred up the licentious John to war against his grey-headed
father---against his generous brother?"
"Be thou fiend, priest, or devil," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "thou
liest in thy throat!---Not I stirred John to rebellion---not I
alone---there were fifty knights and barons, the flower of the
midland counties---better men never laid lance in rest---And
must I answer for the fault done by fifty?---False fiend, I defy
thee! Depart, and haunt my couch no more---let me die in peace
if thou be mortal---if thou be a demon, thy time is not yet
"In peace thou shalt NOT die," repeated the voice; "even in death
shalt thou think on thy murders---on the groans which this castle
has echoed--- on the blood that is engrained in its floors!"
"Thou canst not shake me by thy petty malice," answered
Front-de-Boeuf, with a ghastly and constrained laugh. "The
infidel Jew---it was merit with heaven to deal with him as I did,
else wherefore are men canonized who dip their hands in the blood
of Saracens?---The Saxon porkers, whom I have slain, they were
the foes of my country, and of my lineage, and of my liege lord.
---Ho! ho! thou seest there is no crevice in my coat of plate
---Art thou fled?---art thou silenced?"
"No, foul parricide!" replied the voice; "think of thy father!
---think of his death!---think of his banquet-room flooded with
his gore, and that poured forth by the hand of a son!"
"Ha!" answered the Baron, after a long pause, "an thou knowest
that, thou art indeed the author of evil, and as omniscient as
the monks call thee!---That secret I deemed locked in my own
breast, and in that of one besides---the temptress, the partaker
of my guilt.---Go, leave me, fiend! and seek the Saxon witch
Ulrica, who alone could tell thee what she and I alone witnessed.
---Go, I say, to her, who washed the wounds, and straighted the
corpse, and gave to the slain man the outward show of one parted
in time and in the course of nature---Go to her, she was my
temptress, the foul provoker, the more foul rewarder, of the deed
---let her, as well as I, taste of the tortures which anticipate
"She already tastes them," said Ulrica, stepping before the couch
of Front-de-Boeuf; "she hath long drunken of this cup, and its
bitterness is now sweetened to see that thou dost partake it.
---Grind not thy teeth, Front-de-Boeuf---roll not thine eyes
---clench not thine hand, nor shake it at me with that gesture of
menace!---The hand which, like that of thy renowned ancestor who
gained thy name, could have broken with one stroke the skull of a
mountain-bull, is now unnerved and powerless as mine own!"
"Vile murderous hag!" replied Front-de-Boeuf; "detestable
screech-owl! it is then thou who art come to exult over the ruins
thou hast assisted to lay low?"
"Ay, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," answered she, "it is Ulrica!---it
is the daughter of the murdered Torquil Wolfganger!---it is the
sister of his slaughtered sons!---it is she who demands of thee,
and of thy father's house, father and kindred, name and fame
---all that she has lost by the name of Front-de-Boeuf!---Think
of my wrongs, Front-de-Boeuf, and answer me if I speak not truth.
Thou hast been my evil angel, and I will be thine---I will dog
thee till the very instant of dissolution!"
"Detestable fury!" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf, "that moment shalt
thou never witness---Ho! Giles, Clement, and Eustace! Saint Maur,
and Stephen! seize this damned witch, and hurl her from the
battlements headlong---she has betrayed us to the Saxon!---Ho!
Saint Maur! Clement! false-hearted, knaves, where tarry ye?"
"Call on them again, valiant Baron," said the hag, with a smile
of grisly mockery; "summon thy vassals around thee, doom them
that loiter to the scourge and the dungeon---But know, mighty
chief," she continued, suddenly changing her tone, "thou shalt
have neither answer, nor aid, nor obedience at their hands.
---Listen to these horrid sounds," for the din of the
recommenced assault and defence now rung fearfully loud from the
battlements of the castle; "in that war-cry is the downfall of
thy house---The blood-cemented fabric of Front-de-Boeuf's power
totters to the foundation, and before the foes he most despised!
---The Saxon, Reginald!---the scorned Saxon assails thy walls!
---Why liest thou here, like a worn-out hind, when the Saxon
storms thy place of strength?"
"Gods and fiends!" exclaimed the wounded knight; "O, for one
moment's strength, to drag myself to the 'melee', and perish as
becomes my name!"
"Think not of it, valiant warrior!" replied she; "thou shalt die
no soldier's death, but perish like the fox in his den, when the
peasants have set fire to the cover around it."
"Hateful hag! thou liest!" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf; "my
followers bear them bravely---my walls are strong and high---my
comrades in arms fear not a whole host of Saxons, were they
headed by Hengist and Horsa!---The war-cry of the Templar and of
the Free Companions rises high over the conflict! And by mine
honour, when we kindle the blazing beacon, for joy of our
defence, it shall consume thee, body and bones; and I shall live
to hear thou art gone from earthly fires to those of that hell,
which never sent forth an incarnate fiend more utterly
"Hold thy belief," replied Ulrica, "till the proof reach thee
---But, no!" she said, interrupting herself, "thou shalt know,
even now, the doom, which all thy power, strength, and courage,
is unable to avoid, though it is prepared for thee by this feeble
band. Markest thou the smouldering and suffocating vapour which
already eddies in sable folds through the chamber?---Didst thou
think it was but the darkening of thy bursting eyes---the
difficulty of thy cumbered breathing?---No! Front-de-Boeuf, there
is another cause---Rememberest thou the magazine of fuel that is
stored beneath these apartments?"
"Woman!" he exclaimed with fury, "thou hast not set fire to it?
---By heaven, thou hast, and the castle is in flames!"
"They are fast rising at least," said Ulrica, with frightful
composure; "and a signal shall soon wave to warn the besiegers to
press hard upon those who would extinguish them.---Farewell,
Front-de-Boeuf!---May Mista, Skogula, and Zernebock, gods of the
ancient Saxons---fiends, as the priests now call them---supply
the place of comforters at your dying bed, which Ulrica now
relinquishes!---But know, if it will give thee comfort to know
it, that Ulrica is bound to the same dark coast with thyself, the
companion of thy punishment as the companion of thy guilt.---And
now, parricide, farewell for ever!---May each stone of this
vaulted roof find a tongue to echo that title into thine ear!"
So saying, she left the apartment; and Front-de-Boeuf could hear
the crash of the ponderous key, as she locked and double-locked
the door behind her, thus cutting off the most slender chance of
escape. In the extremity of agony he shouted upon his servants
and allies--"Stephen and Saint Maur!---Clement and Giles!---I
burn here unaided!---To the rescue---to the rescue, brave
Bois-Guilbert, valiant De Bracy!---It is Front-de-Boeuf who
calls!---It is your master, ye traitor squires!---Your ally
---your brother in arms, ye perjured and faithless knights!---all
the curses due to traitors upon your recreant heads, do you
abandon me to perish thus miserably!---They hear me not---they
cannot hear me---my voice is lost in the din of battle.---The
smoke rolls thicker and thicker---the fire has caught upon the
floor below---O, for one drought of the air of heaven, were it to
be purchased by instant annihilation!" And in the mad frenzy of
despair, the wretch now shouted with the shouts of the fighters,
now muttered curses on himself, on mankind, and on Heaven itself.
---"The red fire flashes through the thick smoke!" he exclaimed;
"the demon marches against me under the banner of his own element
---Foul spirit, avoid!---I go not with thee without my comrades
---all, all are thine, that garrison these walls---Thinkest thou
Front-de-Boeuf will be singled out to go alone?---No---the
infidel Templar---the licentious De Bracy---Ulrica, the foul
murdering strumpet---the men who aided my enterprises---the dog
Saxons and accursed Jews, who are my prisoners---all, all shall
attend me---a goodly fellowship as ever took the downward road
---Ha, ha, ha!" and he laughed in his frenzy till the vaulted
roof rang again. "Who laughed there?" exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf,
in altered mood, for the noise of the conflict did not prevent
the echoes of his own mad laughter from returning upon his ear
---"who laughed there?---Ulrica, was it thou?---Speak, witch, and
I forgive thee---for, only thou or the fiend of hell himself
could have laughed at such a moment. Avaunt---avaunt!------"
But it were impious to trace any farther the picture of the
blasphemer and parricide's deathbed.