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Fitzwarenne in flesh and blood, mayhap thou wilt believe his is not fairy gold."

He laid a heavy purse in her lap, sickening at heart. In very truth, the crone was a spectacle at once ghastly and grotesque, as she fumbled at the purse-strings with shaking fingers, and then dabbled them in the coin-mumbling the while, and wagging her withered jaws, as a toothless wolf might do over a dainty morsel. The girl followed Brakespeare as he crossed the threshold.

"You will not deem us all ungrateful, noble sir? I would my father were at home to thank you better than I; but he is away to the town after certain matters pertaining to his forestcraft. He will pay his duty to your worship betimes in the morning, and"-she glanced up again with that half-coquettish shyness-"you will not think me so light of conduct as her chiding would import. I am betrothed to Robin since Martinmas, and he is to my father as a son already."

The knight bent his lofty head till his lips touched the smooth, upturned brow. Robert Staveley, jealous and choleric as he was, need never have begrudged his sweetheart that salute; yet it dwelt long in Janet's memory. Its grave, kindly courtesy-so different from anything to which she had been accustomed-made her shrink a little, that evening, from the boisterous caresses which had hitherto satisfied her entirely.

"I had guessed as much"-he said. "What is left in yon purse after they have buried thy grandame shall go towards thy dowry. Fare thee well, pretty child: thou canst have so few sins of thine own to answer, that thou may'st sometimes spare an orison for poor Ralph Brakespeare's."

The girl stood watching the stately figure till it was wholly lost in shadow; and then sighing a little-she wist not why-turned back into the cottage to find her grandame still mumbling and chuckling over the gold.

The knight returned not straight to his hostel; but walked a furlong or two further on, to a spot of rising ground, bare of trees, whence there was fair view of the castle. By this time the moon had risen; bringing out in sharp relief turret, and battlement, and bartizan. Lights were shining through many of the narrow window-slits; and sound of voices-sometimes bursts of laughter-came across the castle-ditch through the still, warm night. And the moon rose higher and higher; and the stars came out, one by one, till their tale was full; and still Ralph stood with lips tightly compressed, and crossed hand, resting

on his sword-hilt. When at length he had gazed his fill, he turned sharply on his heel; and, looking neither to the right nor to the left, nor glancing once over his shoulder, retraced his steps towards the inn, where he found Lanyon awaiting in their common chamber. Had the esquire been talkative and inquisitive, instead of marvellously stolid and taciturn, something in the knight's face would have forbidden question. So, with scarcely a word exchanged, those two lay down on their pallets, and took their rest—or unrest-till the dawning.

Rumours of the visitors' names and quality had oozed out somehow through Bever hamlet; and when Ralph came forth to mount the hackney which the esquire held ready, he found, besides Dame Gillian's son, a small knot of idlers at the hostel door. After brief converse with the ranger, the knight put foot in stirrup: even as he did so, he looked rather wistfully around the circle, to see if no old acquaintance had found his way thither. Amongst the bystanders there were several old enough to have remembered Ralph Fitzwarenne; but not a single face expressed aught beyond indifferent curiosity, and one or two loured with a vague disappointment: reports of fabulous wealth, and reckless liberality, had spread through the village; and some who stood there had half expected that gold pieces would be scattered broadcast to be gathered by whoso chose to stoop for them.

And so Ralph Brakespeare turned his back, for the very last time, on the place of his nurture; and only one voice-his foster-brother's -wished him "God speed.'

They had ridden a league or more before the knight broke silence. "And how didst thou disport thyself betwixt supper and bed-time, Will? An thou had'st not better luck than I, we might have spared our journey hitherwards."

"I scarce know what your worship calls good luck"-the other answered, even more gruffly than his wont. "Sometimes 'tis better luck to miss folk than to find them. Our old mill clacks merrily as ever; but strangers gather the grist thereof. My father drained his last posset ten years agone. He drank deeper, they say, after the Black Pest carried off my step-dame-whether for joy or sorrow, God knoweth ; and the rest of my kindred have wandered away, none can tell me whither. So I bethought me I would go up to the forge, and drink a cup of honest John Burnley's ale, and ask after the health of Cicely, his wife-mine ancient sweetheart. She was gracious enough, and he seemed ever glad of my company, when I was here last on your worship's errand."

"Did'st thou see them ?"-the knight inquired, marking that the other paused as if there were no more to tell.

"I heard them "--Lanyon answered, with a grim laugh-" and that sufficed me. By Saint Giles! my step-dame's tongue never jangled faster or shriller than did Cicely's 'yester-even. Yea-once there came so shrewd a clatter, that I guess she proved whether John Burnley's costard or her distaff were the toughest. I care not to thrust myself where dry blows and hard words are agoing; so I even withdrew myself warily to whence I came; and called for a pottle at mine own cost for the good of our inn. 'Twas poor muddy liquor, but the ale-wife suffered me to drink it in peace."

The knight looked hard at his follower, doubting—and not for the first time either-whether, under that heavy, stolid exterior, there lay not a better philosophy than any he himself could boast of.

"Good sooth, I envy thee," he said-not in irony or bitterness. "Here have I been disquieting myself-because Gillian, my fostermother, knew me not again, having fallen into dotage; and I waxed wroth with the poor folk yonder, for that their welcome was naught. What are we that man, or woman either, who have their own daily task to do, and their own kith and kin to care for, should carry us in their memories for half a lifetime. What babble they, that the love of our native country never dies? Basta! Minstrels' fables all. A man's true country is wheresoever a man's lot is cast, and where such as care for him dwell-be they never so few. An I hunger to cross the seas again, write me down driveller."

"Our welcome at Hacquemont was not cold"-the squire said simply. "I wot, there is watching and waiting for us, even now; and I would we were within hail of my gruff gossip, Gilles."

Brakespeare smiled, as if his thoughts had been turned to a pleasanter current. Then they rode onwards cheerily enough, and the next afternoon found them once more housed at the "Spur."




A BRIEF halt in London was absolutely needful; for their cattle had travelled far and fast of late, and neither the knight nor the squire even without their harness-was a light load for horseflesh.

On the following day, Sir Ralph Brakespeare went forth about noon alone. He crossed London Bridge, and passing through the Chepe, issued forth by Ludgate into the open fields; and held onward past the Savoy, through the hamlet of Charing, till he came to Westminster-a town, even at that period, of no mean importance; for, besides only mere courtiers and ecclesiastics, not a few knights and nobles had their lodging in the neighbourhood of the Palace and the Abbey. Furthermore, as trade ever follows custom, clothiers, armourers, and goldsmiths to say nothing of butchers, bakers, and vintners—had built for themselves booths, dwellings, and warehouses all about; so that in Westminster streets were to be found, more irregular, perchance, in their architecture, but scarcely less busy than some in the heart of the City.

Brakespeare was passing one of these-the lodging evidently of some personage of importance-when his eye was attracted by the rare beauty of a charger whose bridle was held by two dismounted squires, and by the blazonry on the cointise that seemed familiar to him. In the rear was mustered a troop of some score retainers, gallantly mounted, and richly armed. Almost immediately, he for whom they waited came forth-a goodly knight, and of a marvellous presence still, albeit both beard and hair were white as hoar-frost; and he moved lightly under his gorgeous plate armour with firm elastic step. As, with a soothing word or two, the old noble laid his hand on the withers of the fretting destrier, his glance encountered Brakespeare's. For a second or two, each gazed on the other, in the vague fashion of one who racks his memory to give the name to a resemblance. Recognition dawned on Ralph first; and, as he made a hasty step forward, he bared his head-not alone with the reverence due to superior age, but partly from the force of old habit-for, the last time those two met, there had been betwixt them the difference that divides a leader of armies from a nameless subaltern.

"Sir Walter Breckenridge, if I mistake not"--he said, in his clear, bold voice. "My good lord, I scarce need inquire after your health. You carry more lightly than the rest of us the score of years that have slipped by since last I looked upon your face. Belike you have forgotten Sir John Hawkwood, and Ralph Brakespeare, his esquire.”

The old knight's countenance lighted up cordially, as he reached out his gauntletted hand across the saddle-tree.

"By God's body! I have forgotten neither "he answered. “Nonor how that same squire saved mine honour, and the ransom of

Hacquemont to boot, against such odds as seldom have been heard of, save in jongleur's tales. Though 'twas mine evil hap to miss Poitiers, I heard how worthily you there won golden spurs; and we live not so far to the West but that we have heard how, of late, beyond Alps, the Free Lances have borne all before them; and who hath led their companies. Only it grieves me that so much los was not won under the Red Cross, rather than under the banner of Prince or Pope. Surely thou wilt not pass my lodging, without draining one hanap therein to our ancient acquaintance. Though I am boune to visit our lord the King at Windsor, my business is not so pressing but that, for so fair a purpose, I can spare a poor half hour."

So the two went together into the presence-chamber-hung with costly arras, and otherwise richly decorated, after the fashion of the time and Sir Ralph did his host reason, in a mighty beaker. The gallants of those days drank as they fought-right royally-and carried off, easily enough, a morning-draught that would have set the steadiest of modern brains a-working.

After brief interchange of question and answer, quoth Sir Walter Breckenridge

"Thou mindest what I said anon-how it grieved me to think so stark a blade had been wielded so long in the service of the alien. Now, might not this be yet amended? A word in thine ear. My lord the King never stood in more need than now of tried soldiers. Not I alone, but many others, opine that since sore sickness forced Prince Edward to quit Aquitaine, our foothold therein is scarce so firm as heretofore. I have had much talk with Sir Guiscard d'Angle, the Poitevin envoy, since he hath tarried here—a wise and valiant captain, I warrant him : not given to evil foreboding-and he hath plainly averred that matters out yonder need wary handling. Now the Lord John of Pembroke, who goeth forth thither as the King's lieutenant, though he hath a right good courage and right good will, hath scarce the brain for such a task: yet—an he will hearken to counsel-I fear not but that all will go well with us yet. Glad man were I, if I could persuade thee to cast in thy lot with us. He sails presently from Southampton for La Rochelle. Albeit thine own following be meagre just now, the Free Lances will gather to the sound of thy name like hounds to the horn." The other bit his lip, as he answered, with some bitterness""Tis an apt comparison, pardie! Surely they are but hounds at the best, and ravening ones to boot; and I-though you are pleased to over-rate my poor repute-am but a huntsman, unversed in the laws

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