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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > CHAPTER 34
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 August came in with storm and rain, and a wind blew from the south-west, masses of cloud over a spiritless sky. Southwards, the sea tumbled, a grey expanse edged with , its great breakers booming upon the cliffs. The wind swept over Gambrevault, moaning and over battlement and tower, driving the rain in drifting sheets. The bombards still and smoked under their penthouses, and the arms of the catapults rose and fell against the sky.  
The eighteenth night of the siege came out of the east like a thunder bank, and the grey shivering ghost of the day fled over the western hills. When darkness had fallen, the walls of Gambrevault were invisible from the . Here and there a light shone out like a spark in tinder; the sky above was black as a , unbroken by the crack or cranny of a star.
Flavian, armed, kept watch upon the with a strong company of men-at-arms. He had taken the ugly measure of the night to heart, and had prepared accordingly. Under the shelter of the wall men slept, wrapped in their cloaks, with their weapons lying by them. The sentinels had been doubled on the battlements, though little could be seen in the blank murk, and even the keep had to be looked for before its mass disjointed itself from the background of the night.
It was weather, and just the season for an enemy to creep from the trenches and attempt to rush the breach. Flavian leant upon his long sword, and brooded. The black ends of the broken wall stood up hugely on either hand; and fallen paved the breach, and a rough rampart of had been piled along the summit. Around him shone the dull of his men, as they stood on guard in the rain.
The storm deadened soul and body, yet kept Flavian with its laughter, a sound that might the tramp of stormers pouring to the breach. He was not lonely, for a lover can do without the confidences of others, when he has a woman to speak with in his heart. In fancy he can the infinite tenderness of the soul, , quarrel, kiss, comfort, with all the idealisms of the imagination. The spirit lips we touch are sweeter and more red than those in the flesh. To the true man love is the grandest the world can produce.
Flavian's figure straightened suddenly as it leant bowed in thought upon the sword. He was alert and vigilant, staring into darkness that baffled vision and hid the unknown. A dull, characterless sound was in the air. Whether it was the wind, the sea, or something more , he could not tell. Calling one of his to his side, they stood together listening on the of the wall.
A vague clink, clink, came in to the wind, a sound that suggested the cautious moving of armed men. A voice was in the distance, as though giving orders. The noise of steel grew more obvious each moment; the black void below appeared to grow full of movement, to and like a , whose muddy waters are disturbed by some huge at night. The sudden hoarse cries of sentinels rose from the walls. Feet stumbled on the debris at the base of the breach; stormers were on the threshold of Gambrevault.
A blared in the entry; the guard closed up on the rampart; sleeping men started from the shadows of the wall, seized sword and shield as the ' rang in their ears. Colgran's stormers, discovered in their purpose, cast caution to the winds, and sent up a shout that should have wakened all Gambrevault.
In the darkness and the driving rain, neither party could see much of the other. The stormers came climbing blindly up the pile of wreckage in masses. Flavian and his knights, who held the rampart, big men and large-hearted, at the black tide of bodies that rolled to their swords. It was grim work in the dark. It was no sleepy, disorderly that held the breach, but a tense line of steel, that stemmed the assault like a wall. The stormers pushed up and up, to break and deliquesce before those terrible swords. Modred's deep voice sounded through the , as he smote with his great , blows that would have shaken an oak. There was little shouting; it was breathless work, done in earnest. Colgran's men showed pluck, fought well, left a rampart of dead to their credit, a squirming, barrier, but came no nearer forcing the breach.
They had lost the moment, and the whole was under arms, ready to the attacks made at other points. Scaling ladders had been jerked forward and reared against the walls; men up, but the rebels gained no foothold on the battlements. They were beaten back, their ladders down, masonry toppled upon the mass below. Many a man lay with neck or back broken in the confused of humanity at the foot of the castle.
Colgran ordered up fresh troops. It was his policy to wear out the garrison by sheer and the stress of numbers. He could afford to lose some hundred men; every score were precious now to Flavian. It was a system of counter in blood, till the weaker ran dry. The Lord of Gambrevault understood this rough philosophy well enough, and husbanded his resources. He could not gamble with death, and so changed his men when the opportunity offered, to give breathing space to all. Conscious of the strong of personal , he kept to the breach himself, and fought on through every assault with Modred's great axe swinging at his side. He owed his life more than once to those gorilla-like arms and that crescent of steel.
In the outer court, certain of the women folk with Yeoland dealt out wine and food, and tended the wounded. In the , , the and the saints, the priest chanting at the altar, the women and children who knelt in the shadowy praying for those who fought upon the walls. Panic over the pale faces, the fear, the shivering, weeping, pleading figures. There was little heroism in Gambrevault chapel, save the heroism of . While swords tossed and men groped for each other in the wind and rain, old Peter the cellarer lay drunk in a wine , and Joan, who tended the , was snivelling in the chapel and fingering the gold angels sewn up in her .
Five times did Colgran's men assault the breach that night, each repulse leaving its husks on the wreckage, its red libations to the swords of Gambrevault. The last and toughest came during the grey before dawn. The place was so packed with the dead and stricken, that it was well-nigh impassable. For some minutes the struggle hung ............
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