BY ROBERT SOUTHEY 1872.
he woodmen had carried the news of Lisuarte's imprisonment to London ; immediately there was a great stir in the city; the knights all ran to horse, and gallopped to his rescue, so that the whole plain seemed full of them. King Arban of North Wales was talking with the queen, when his squires brought him horse and arms, and a page said to him, Arm yourself, sir! what are you doing? there is not a knight of all the king's company, except yourself, who is not gone full speed to the forest. And why? quoth Arban. Because they say ten knights are carrying away the king prisoner. Holy Mary! exclaimed the queen; I always feared this! and she fell down in a swoon. Arban left her to the care of her ladies, all making loud lamentation, and armed himself. As he was mounting, he heard a great cry that the tower was taken. Holy Mary! quoth he, we are all betrayed ! and then he knew he must not leave the queen. By this time there was such an uproar in the town, as if all the people of the world were there. Arban drew up his two hundred knights before the queen's palace, and sent two of them to discover the cause of the tumult. They went to the tower, and saw that Barsinan had got possession of it, and was killing some and throwing others from the walls, for he had six hundred knights with him, besides footmen, and the king's knights suspecting nothing had all gone to their master's rescue. The townsmen hearing this, ran all armed as they could in haste to the queen's palace, and there also Barsinan went that he might take her, and get possession of the crown and throne. When he arrived he found Arban ready for defence. Arban, quoth he, you have hitherto been the wisest knight of a young man that has been known: see now that you lose not your wisdom. Why do you say this? cried Arban. Because before five days end Lisuarte's head will be sent me, and there is no other in this land who can and ought to be king except myself, and king I will be! I give you the kingdom of North Wales which now you hold, because you are a good knight and wise: so retire now, and let me take the crown and throne, for whosoever opposes me shall lose his head. Villain and traitor! quoth Arban ; and then began a sharp conflict, wherein many were slain, which lasted till night, for the streets being narrow Barsinan could not avail himself of his numbers, and King Arban so behaved himself that he that day saved the queen.
At night both parties retired: The queen then sent for Arban; he went to her armed as he was, and wounded in many places, and, when he came before her, took off his battered helmet. There were five wounds in his face and neck, and his countenance was all bloody; but it seemed a beautiful face to those who, under God, thought him their protector. But the queen seeing him, wept aloud with great pity: Ah, good nephew, God defend thee! what will become of the king? and what will become of us? Of him, quoth Arban, we shall have good news ; for ourselves, fear nothing from these traitors : your vassals who are with me can defend themselves in their great loyalty. But, nephew, you are not in a state to bear arms, and what can the others do without you! Fear not, lady, so long as life is in me I shall not forsake my arms.
Barsinan, who found his people had need of rest, took twenty knights with him in the morning, and went to a post which Arban's high steward kept. They at the barrier took their arms to defend them selves, but Barsinan cried out that he came to speak with them, and make a truce till noon; to which Arban, being advised thereof, assented willingly, for the most part of his company had been so hardly handled that they could not bear arms. Barsinan then went to Arban, and said he would make a truce for five days. Agreed, said Arban, but provided that you shall not attempt to take anything in the town ; and that if the king comes, we immediately act as he may order us. I grant all this, said Barsinan, that there may be no more battling, for I value my own knights, and I value you who will be mine sooner than you think. I will tell you how: the king is dead, and I have his daughter and will make her my wife. God forsake me then, quoth Arban, if ever thou shalt have truce with me, since thou. art a partaker in the treason against my liege lord! go and do thy worst! And before night Barsinan made three attacks upon him, and was repulsed.