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Chapter 15
And yet he thinks,---ha, ha, ha, ha,---he thinks
I am the tool and servant of his will.
Well, let it be; through all the maze of trouble
His plots and base oppression must create,
I'll shape myself a way to higher things,
And who will say 'tis wrong?
Basil, a Tragedy
No spider ever took more pains to repair the shattered meshes of his web, than did
Waldemar Fitzurse to reunite and combine the scattered members of Prince John's
cabal. Few of these were attached to him from inclination, and none from personal
regard. It was therefore necessary, that Fitzurse should open to them new prospects of
advantage, and remind them of those which they at present enjoyed. To the young and
wild nobles, he held out the prospect of unpunished license and uncontrolled revelry; to
the ambitious, that of power, and to the covetous, that of increased wealth and
extended domains. The leaders of the mercenaries received a donation in gold; an
argument the most persuasive to their minds, and without which all others would have
proved in vain. Promises were still more liberally distributed than money by this active
agent; and, in fine, nothing was left undone that could determine the wavering, or
animate the disheartened. The return of King Richard he spoke of as an event
altogether beyond the reach of probability; yet, when he observed, from the doubtful
looks and uncertain answers which he received, that this was the apprehension by
which the minds of his accomplices were most haunted, he boldly treated that event,
should it really take place, as one which ought not to alter their political calculations.
"If Richard returns," said Fitzurse, "he returns to enrich his needy and impoverished
crusaders at the expense of those who did not follow him to the Holy Land. He returns
to call to a fearful reckoning, those who, during his absence, have done aught that can
be construed offence or encroachment upon either the laws of the land or the privileges
of the crown. He returns to avenge upon the Orders of the Temple and the Hospital, the
preference which they showed to Philip of France during the wars in the Holy Land. He
returns, in fine, to punish as a rebel every adherent of his brother Prince John. Are ye
afraid of his power?" continued the artful confident of that Prince, "we acknowledge him
a strong and valiant knight; but these are not the days of King Arthur, when a champion
could encounter an army. If Richard indeed comes back, it must be alone,---unfollowed-
--unfriended. The bones of his gallant army have whitened the sands of Palestine. The
few of his followers who have returned have straggled hither like this Wilfred of Ivanhoe,
beggared and broken men.---And what talk ye of Richard's right of birth?" he
proceeded, in answer to those who objected scruples on that head. "Is Richard's title of
primogeniture more decidedly certain than that of Duke Robert of Normandy, the
Conqueror's eldest son? And yet William the Red, and Henry, his second and third
brothers, were successively preferred to him by the voice of the nation, Robert had
every merit which can be pleaded for Richard; he was a bold knight, a good leader,