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The chieftain's gripe his throat compressed,
KING RICHARD, THE NUBIAN, AND THE ASSASSIN.'
ad-dress', skill, dexterity.
in the countries bordering the eastbrig'an-dine, coat of mail.
ern shores of the Mediterranean. caf'tan, a Turkish vest.
mar-a-bouť (-boot), a Moorish saint. con'tu-me-ly, haughty insolence. of'fice, duty, occupation. ge'nie (jēlny), a fabulous being be- sol'dan, sultan. tween angels and men.
thews (thūz), muscles. hau'berk, a shirt of mail.
va-gā'ries, wild freaks. knave, servant.
ward'ers, guards. lingua Franca (literally the Frank- wind'ed, sounded.
ish tongue), a mongrel speech used I writh'en, twisted, distorted.
RICHARD surveyed the Nubian in silence as he stood before him, his looks bent upon the ground, his arms folded on his bosom, with the appearance of a black marble statue of the most exquisite workmanship, waiting life from the touch of a Prometheus. The king of England, who, as it was emphatically said of his successor Henry the Eighth, loved to look upon A MAN, was well pleased with the thews, sinews, and symmetry of him whom he now surveyed, and questioned him in the lingua Franca, “ Art thou a pagan?”
The slave shook his head, and, raising his finger to his brow, crossed himself in token of his Christianity, then resumed his posture of motionless humility.
“A Nubian Christian, doubtless,” said Richard, "and mutilated of the organ of speech by these heathen dogs ?"
The mute again slowly shook his head, in token of
From the Talisman.
negative, pointed with his forefinger to heaven, and then laid it upon his own lips.
"I understand thee,” said Richard; “thou dost suffer under the infliction of God, not by the cruelty of man. Canst thou clean an armor and belt, and buckle it in time of need?”
The mute nodded, and stepping towards the coat of mail, which hung with the shield and helmet of the chivalrous monarch, upon the pillar of the tent, he handled it with such nicety of address, as sufficiently to show that he fully understood the business of the armor-bearer.
“Thou art an apt, and wilt doubtless be a useful knave. Thou shalt wait in my chamber, and on my person," said the king, "to show how much I value the gift of the royal Soldan. If thou hast no tongue, it follows thou canst carry no tales, neither provoke me to be sudden by any unfit reply.”
The Nubian again prostrated himself till his brow touched the earth, then stood erect, at some paces distant, as waiting for his new master's commands.
“Nay, thou shalt commence thy office presently," said Richard, “ for I see a speck of rust darkening on that shield; and when I shake it in the face of Saladin, it should be bright and unsullied as the Soldan's honor and mine own."
A horn was winded without, and presently Sir Henry Neville entered with a packet of dispatches. “From England, my lord,” he said, as he delivered it.
“From England, — our own England!” repeated Richard, in a tone of melancholy enthusiasm. “ Alas! they little think how hard their sovereign has been
beset by sickness and sorrow, faint friends, and forward enemies." Then, opening the dispatches, he said hastily, “Ha! this comes from no peaceful land: they too have their feuds. Neville, begone: I must peruse these tidings alone, and at leisure."
Neville withdrew accordingly, and Richard was soon absorbed in the melancholy details which had been conveyed to him from England, concerning the factions that were tearing to pieces his native dominions, - the disunion of his brothers, John and Geoffrey, and the quarrels of both with the High Justiciary Longchamp, Bishop of Ely; the oppressions practiced by the nobles upon the peasantry, and rebellion of the latter against their masters, which had produced everywhere scenes of discord, and in some instances the effusion of blood. Details of incidents mortifying to his pride, and derogatory from his authority, were intermingled with the earnest advice of his wisest and most attached counsellors, that he should presently return to England, as his presence offered the only hope of saving the kingdom from all the horrors of civil discord, of which France and Scotland were likely to avail themselves.
Filled with the most painful anxiety, Richard read, and again read, the ill-omened letters, compared the intelligence which some of them contained with the same facts as differently stated in others, and soon became totally insensible to whatever was passing around him, although seated, for the sake of coolness, close to the entrance of his tent, and having the curtains withdrawn, so that he could see and be seen by the guards and others who were stationed without.
Deeper in the shadow of the pavilion, and busied
with the task his new master. had imposed, sat the Nubian slave, with his back rather turned towards the king. He had finished adjusting and cleaning the hauberk and brigandine, and was now busily employed on a broad pavesse, or buckler, of unusual size, and covered with steel-plating, which Richard often used in reconnoitering, or actually storming, fortified places, as a more effectual protection against missile weapons, than the narrow triangular shield used on horseback.
This pavesse bore neither the royal lions of England, nor any other device, to attract the observation of the defenders of the walls against which it was advanced. The care, therefore, of the armorer was addressed to causing its surface to shine as bright as crystal, in which he seemed to be peculiarly successful. Beyond the Nubian, and scarce visible from without, lay the large dog, which might be termed his brother slave, and which, as if he felt awed by being transferred to a royal owner, was couched close to the side of the mute, with head and ears on the ground, and his limbs and tail drawn close around and under him.
While the monarch and his new attendant were thus occupied, another actor crept upon the scene, and mingled among the group of English yeomen, about a score of whom, respecting the unusually pensive posture and close occupation of their sovereign, were, contrary to their wont, keeping a silent guard in front of his tent. It was not, however, more vigilant than usual. Some were playing at games of hazard with small pebbles, others spoke together in whispers of the approaching day of battle, and several lay asleep, their bulky limbs folded in their green mantles.