Yet I do not despair, for only last week I won for myself a noble war-horse for which I paid not a penny, so perchance a suit of armor may also come my way."
"And how won you the horse?"
"It was given me by the monks of Waverley."
"This is wonderful. Pardieu! I should have expected, from what I had seen, that they would have given you little save their malediction."
"They had no use for the horse, and they gave it to me."
"Then we have only to find some one who has no use for a suit of armor and will give it to you. Yet I trust that you will think better of it and let me, since that good lady proves that I am your kinsman, fit you for the wars."
"I thank you, noble sir, and if I should turn to anyone it would indeed be to you; but there are other ways which I would try first. But I pray you, goon Sir John, to tell me of some of your noble spear-runnings against the French, for the whole land rings with the tale of your deeds and I have heard that in one morning three champions have fallen before your lance. Was it not so?"
"That it was indeed so these scars upon my body will prove; but these were the follies of my youth."
"How can you call them follies? Are they not the means by which honorable advancement may be gained and one's lady exalted?"
"It is right that you should think so, Nigel. At your age a man should have a hot head and a high heart. I also had both and fought for my lady's glove or for my vow or for the love of fighting. But as one grows older and commands men one has other things to think of. One thinks less of one's own honor and more of the safety of the army. It is not your own spear, your own sword, your own arm, which will turn the tide of fight; but a cool head may save a stricken field. He who knows when his horsemen should charge and when they should fight on foot, he who can mix his archers with his men-at-arms in such a fashion that each can support the other, he who can hold up his reserve and pour it into the battle when it may turn the tide, he who has a quick eye for boggy land and broken ground - that is the man who is of more worth to an army than Roland, Oliver and all the paladins."
"Yet if his knights fail him, honored sir, all his head-work will not prevail."
"True enough, Nigel; so may every Squire ride to the wars with his soul on fire, as yours is now. But I must linger no longer, for the King's service must be done. I will dress, and when I have bid farewell to the noble Dame Ermyntrude I will on to Farnham; but you will see me here again on the day that the King comes."
So Chandos went his way that evening, walking his horse through the peaceful lanes and twanging his citole as he went, for he loved music and was famous for his merry songs. The cottagers came from their huts and laughed and clapped as the rich full voice swelled and sank to the cheery tinkling of the strings. There were few who saw him pass that would have guessed that the quaint one-eyed man with the yellow hair was the toughest fighter and craftiest man of war in Europe. Once only, as he entered Farnham, an old broken man-at-arms ran out in his rags and clutched at his horse as a dog gambols round his master. Chandos threw him a kind word and a gold coin as he passed on to the castle.
In the meanwhile young Nigel and the Lady Ermyntrude, left alone with their difficulties, looked blankly in each other's faces.
"The cellar is well nigh empty," said Nigel. "There are two firkins of small beer and a tun of canary. How can we set such drink before the King and his court?"
"We must have some wine of Bordeaux. With that and the mottled cow's calf and the fowls and a goose, we can set forth a sufficient repast if he stays only for the one night. How many will be with him?"
"A dozen, at the least."
The old dame wrung her hands in despair. "Nay, take it not to heart, dear lady!" said Nigel. "We have but to say the word and the King would stop at Waverley, where he and his court would find all that they could wish."
"Never!" cried the Lady Ermyntrude.