"Fickle tyrant!" muttered De Bracy, as he left the presence of the Prince; "evil luck have they who trust thee. Thy Chancellor, indeed! — He who hath the keeping of thy conscience shall have an easy charge, I trow. But High Marshal of England! that," he said, extending his arm, as if to grasp the baton of office, and assuming a loftier stride along the antechamber, "that is indeed a prize worth playing for!"
De Bracy had no sooner left the apartment than Prince John summoned an attendant.
"Bid Hugh Bardon, our scout-master, come hither, as soon as he shall have spoken with Waldemar Fitzurse."
The scout-master arrived after a brief delay, during which John traversed the apartment with, unequal and disordered steps.
"Bardon," said he, "what did Waldemar desire of thee?"
"Two resolute men, well acquainted with these northern wilds, and skilful in tracking the tread of man and horse."
"And thou hast fitted him?"
"Let your grace never trust me else," answered the master of the spies. "One is from Hexamshire; he is wont to trace the Tynedale and Teviotdale thieves, as a bloodhound follows the slot of a hurt deer. The other is Yorkshire bred, and has twanged his bowstring right oft in merry Sherwood; he knows each glade and dingle, copse and high-wood, betwixt this and Richmond."
"'Tis well," said the Prince. — "Goes Waldemar forth with them?"
"Instantly," said Bardon.
"With what attendance?" asked John, carelessly.
"Broad Thoresby goes with him, and Wetheral, whom they call, for his cruelty, Stephen Steel-heart; and three northern men-at-arms that belonged to Ralph Middleton's gang — they are called the Spears of Spyinghow."
"'Tis well," said Prince John; then added, after a moment's pause, "Bardon, it imports our service that thou keep a strict watch on Maurice De Bracy — so that he shall not observe it, however — And let us know of his motions from time to time — with whom he converses, what he proposeth. Fail not in this, as thou wilt be answerable."
Hugh Bardon bowed, and retired.
"If Maurice betrays me," said Prince John — "if he betrays me, as his bearing leads me to fear, I will have his head, were Richard thundering at the gates of York."