Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XVI / The Wager of Battle. A Tale of the Feudal Ages. >> Page 362

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Page 362

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 362 SOUTHWARD Ho !
as he came in sight. This was that of the accused. With the
first coming of the ancient man, I had instinctively fixed my
gaze upon the countenance of the nobleman. I could easily
discern that his lips were compressed as if by sudden effort,
while his usually florid features were covered with a momentary
paleness. This emotion, with the utter absence of that air of
curiosity which marked every other visage, struck me, at once,
as somewhat significant of guilt.
Behold thy accuser !" exclaimed the sovereign.
He ! the bookworm ! the dreamer ! the madman ! -- sor-
cerer to the vulgar, but less than dotard to the wise ! Does your
majesty look to a star-gazer for such evidence as will degrade
with shame the nobles of your realm ? Sire ! if no sorcerer,
this old man is verily distraught ! He is lunatic or vile � a
madman, or a bought servitor of Satan !"
The venerable man thus scornfully denounced, stood, mean-
while, looking sorrowful and subdued, but calm and unruffled, at
the foot of the dais. His eye rested a moment upon the speaker,
then turned, as if to listen to that speech, with which the favor-
ite, behind the throne of the monarch, appeared to reply to the
language of the accused. This I did not hear, nor yet that
which the sovereign addressed to the same person. But the
import might be divined by the answer of the accused.
And I say, your majesty, that what he Lath alleged is false
all a false and bitter falsehood, devised by cunning and malice
to work out the purposes of hate. My word against his�my
gauntlet against the world. I defy him to the proof ! I defy all
my accusers !"
And he shall have the truth, your majesty," was the firm,
clear answer with which the venerable man responded to this
defiance. His tones rang through the assembly like those of a
sweet bell in the wilderness.�" My life, sire, is sworn to the
truth ! I can speak no other language. That I have said
nothing falsely of this lord, I invoke the attestation of the Lord
of all. I have had his sacred volume brought into this presence.
You shall know, sire, what I believe, by what I swear !"
He made a step aside, even while he spoke, to a little girl whom
I had not before seen, but who had evidently followed him into
the assembly. She now approached, bearing in her hands one