Flemish Legend Sir Halewyn by Charles de Coster Chapter 23

Of Toon the Silent

On the eighth day, the Silent went wolf-hunting.

Following a certain beast he rode into the domain of Halewyn.

And at vespers the lady Gonde, leaving the great hall to go to the kitchen for the ordering of supper, on opening the door saw Toon before her. He seemed loth to come in, and hung his head as if with shame.

The lady Gonde, going to him, said: “My son, why do you not come into the hall to bid good evening to the lord your father?”

The Silent, without answering, went into the hall, and muttering short and sullen words by way of salutation, went to sit in the darkest corner.

And the lady Gonde said to Sir Roel: “Our son is angry at something, I think, since he goes off into a dark corner far away from us, against his habit.”

Sir Roel said to the Silent: “Son, come hither to the light that we may see thy face.”

He obeyed, and Sir Roel, the lady Gonde, and the sorrowing Magtelt saw that he was bleeding from the head and from the neck, and cast down his eyes, not daring to look them in the face.

The lady Gonde cried out with fright on seeing the blood, and Magtelt came to him, and Sir Roel said: “Who has given my son this shamed countenance, this downcast heart, and these wounds in his body?”

The Silent answered: “Siewert Halewyn.”

“Why,” said Sir Roel, “was my son so presumptuous as to attack the Invincible?”

The Silent answered: “Anne-Mie hanged in the Gallows-field of Siewert Halewyn.”

“Woe!” cried Sir Roel, “our poor maid hanged! shame and sorrow upon us!”

“Lord God,” said Gonde, “you smite us hard indeed.” And she wept.

But Magtelt could neither weep nor speak from the bitterness of the grief which laid hold upon her.

And she looked at her brother fixedly, and his sunken face blenched, and from the wounds against his eyes dropped tears of blood, and his body was shaken with spasms.

And the Silent sank into a seat, weeping dully like a wounded lion.

“Ha,” quoth Sir Roel, hiding his face, “this is the first man of the house of Heurne that has found need to sit weeping. Shame upon us, and without redress, for there is a spell woven.”

And the Silent stuffed his fingers into the wound in his neck, pressing out the blood; but he felt nothing of the pain.

“Toon,” said the lady Gonde, “do not dirty your wound with your fingers in this wise; you will poison it, my son.”

But the Silent did not seem to hear.

“Toon,” said the lady Gonde, “do not do it; I, your mother, order you. Let me wash away this blood and dress with ointment these ugly sores.”

While she hurried to prepare the ointment and to warm the water in a washing-basin, Toon did not cease his groaning and weeping. And he tore out the hair from his beard in a rage.

And Sir Roel, watching him, said: “When a man weeps ’tis blood and shame, shame without redress. Halewyn has a spell. Ah, presumptuous one, must thou then go to his castle to brave the Invincible?”

“Woe, my lord,” said the lady Gonde, “be not so bitter angry with the Silent, for he showed fine courage in wishing to avenge Anne-Mie on the Miserable.”

“Yes,” said Sir Roel, “fine courage that brings shame to our house.”

“Tell,” said she, “tell, Toon, the tale to thy father, to show him that thou art a worthy son to him none the less.”

“I wish it,” said Sir Roel.

“My lord father,” said the Silent, groaning, and speaking in short breaths, “Anne-Mie hanging, Siewert Halewyn near to the gallows. He was laughing. I ran at him, cutting at his belly with my sword in the fashion of a cross to break the spell. Invincible! He laughed, saying: ‘I will take Magtelt.’ I struck him with a knife; the blade turned. He laughed. He said: ‘I do not care for punishment, be off.’ I did not go. I struck him with sword and knife together; in vain. He laughed. He said again: ‘Be off.’ I could not. Then he struck me with the flat of his sword in the neck and breast, and with the hilt in the back, like a serf. He laughed. I lost sense from the blows. Beaten like a serf, my lord father, I could do naught against him.”

Sir Roel, having heard Toon speak, was less angered, understanding that he had not been presumptuous, thinking also of his great pain and of his bitter groaning and his grievous shame.

With the ointment ready and the water warm, the lady Gonde set to work to dress the wounds of her son, particularly that on his neck, which was a deep one.

But Magtelt wept never a tear, and soon went off to her bed, not without a blessing from Sir Roel her father, and her lady mother.

The three stayed a long while together before the fire, father, mother, and son, without a word spoken, for the Silent, moaning all the while, could not bear his defeat, and the lady Gonde wept and prayed; and Sir Roel, sad and ashamed, hid his face.