"Let him grant it, if he dare," said De Bracy; "he will soon see the difference betwixt the support of such a lusty lot of spears as mine, and that of a heartless mob of Saxon churls. Yet I mean no immediate discovery of myself. Seem I not in this garb as bold a forester as ever blew horn? The blame of the violence shall rest with the outlaws of the Yorkshire forests. I have sure spies on the Saxon's motions — To-night they sleep in the convent of Saint Wittol, or Withold, or whatever they call that churl of a Saxon Saint at Burton-on-Trent. Next day's march brings them within our reach, and, falcon-ways, we swoop on them at once. Presently after I will appear in mine own shape, play the courteous knight, rescue the unfortunate and afflicted fair one from the hands of the rude ravishers, conduct her to Front-de-Boeuf's Castle, or to Normandy, if it should be necessary, and produce her not again to her kindred until she be the bride and dame of Maurice de Bracy."
"A marvellously sage plan," said Fitzurse, "and, as I think, not entirely of thine own device. — Come, be frank, De Bracy, who aided thee in the invention? and who is to assist in the execution? for, as I think, thine own band lies as far off as York."
"Marry, if thou must needs know," said De Bracy, "it was the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert that shaped out the enterprise, which the adventure of the men of Benjamin suggested to me. He is to aid me in the onslaught, and he and his followers will personate the outlaws, from whom my valorous arm is, after changing my garb, to rescue the lady."
"By my halidome," said Fitzurse, "the plan was worthy of your united wisdom! and thy prudence, De Bracy, is most especially manifested in the project of leaving the lady in the hands of thy worthy confederate. Thou mayst, I think, succeed in taking her from her Saxon friends, but how thou wilt rescue her afterwards from the clutches of Bois-Guilbert seems considerably more doubtful — He is a falcon well accustomed to pounce on a partridge, and to hold his prey fast."
"He is a Templar," said De Bracy, "and cannot therefore rival me in my plan of wedding this heiress; — and to attempt aught dishonourable against the intended bride of De Bracy — By Heaven! were he a whole Chapter of his Order in his single person, he dared not do me such an injury!"
"Then since nought that I can say," said Fitzurse, "will put this folly from thy imagination, (for well I know the obstinacy of thy disposition,) at least waste as little time as possible — let not thy folly be lasting as well as untimely."
"I tell thee," answered De Bracy, "that it will be the work of a few hours, and I shall be at York — at the head of my daring and valorous fellows, as ready to support any bold design as thy policy can be to form one. — But I hear my comrades assembling, and the steeds stamping and neighing in the outer court. — Farewell. — I go, like a true knight, to win the smiles of beauty."
"Like a true knight?" repeated Fitzurse, looking after him; "like a fool, I should say, or like a child, who will leave the most serious and needful occupation, to chase the down of the thistle that drives past him. — But it is with such tools that I must work; — and for whose advantage? — For that of a Prince as unwise as he is profligate, and as likely to be an ungrateful master as he has already proved a rebellious son and an unnatural brother. — But he — he, too, is but one of the tools with which I labour; and, proud as he is, should he presume to separate his interest from mine, this is a secret which he shall soon learn."
The meditations of the statesman were here interrupted by the voice of the Prince from an interior apartment, calling out, "Noble Waldemar Fitzurse!" and, with bonnet doffed, the future Chancellor (for to such high preferment did the wily Norman aspire) hastened to receive the orders of the future sovereign.