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Ralph took his wife in his arms before them all, and held her for some seconds closely embraced. Then he kissed her on her forehead; and on her eyes, from which tears were streaming. His countenance was so calm that never an one there--not even the woman pressed against his heart-guessed how near that heart was to breaking. Then he lifted her into the saddle; settling her riding-skirt carefully-as he used to do in the old hawking days; and, still keeping silence, took the bridle of the jennet, and led it forth through the arch of the barbican, and over the outer drawbridge. There he stopped and kissed his wife once more— this time only on the left hand, that hung listlessly down: saying softly-"God be with thee, sweetheart"—and so let her pass on.
Then the escort filed out two abreast; Lanyon and three others spurring to the front, as soon as they were past the drawbridge, to form an advanced guard; De Marsan bringing up the extreme rear. At the turning of the descent, where it plunged into the woodland, the Lady Odille turned in her saddle, and looked back. She saw dimly, through tears, her husband standing statue-like on the very same spot where she had left him-just within the square shadow cast forward by the barbican walls. She waved her kerchief twice or thrice: but her adieu was seemingly unnoticed; for there came back no answering sign.
Many times thereafter-in night or day dreams-the lady saw that stately figure, with crossed arms, and head slightly bent as though in thought or in sorrow. But in life, or substance, she saw him never any
Peace bath her Victories.
WRITTEN RECENTLY AT PARIS.
To people wastes, to supplement the sun,
To plant the olive where the wild-brier grew,
The youth of aged cities to renew ;—
To raise the drooping artist's head, to breathe
This is to give our darkling earth a star,
To stand amidst the passions of the hour
Storm-lash'd, resounding fierce from shore to shore ;
To build on hatred nothing; to be just,
Judging of men and nations as they are-
To draw the nations in a silken bond
On to their highest exercise of good;
The sea of Egypt, all whose waves are blood;
THE FORTUNES OF A FREE LANCE.
BY THE AUTHOR OF GUY LIVINGSTONE," ETC., ETC.
HAD it been Ralph Brakespeare's wont, to fret or make moan over what was past and gone, there would have been scant leisure for such follies just now. But it was not in his nature so to abase himself; and, when ad once faced his sorrow, he no more thought of letting it overmaster him than of yielding without drawing sword to any foe in flesh and blood.
The next three days were very busy ones at Hacquemont. There was the victualling of the castle to be provided for; walls to be repaired as thoroughly as haste would permit; stones and bolts to be provided for the great engines, with a store of lighter missiles for the hand artillery. All these matters the Free Companion directed with unwearying care; not seldom himself doffing doublet and giving example to his artificers, where there was special need for strength or skill.
So each night came more quickly than might have been looked for ; and he lay down too tired to dream. Towards the evening of the third day, when all things were ready, Sir Ralph mustered his entire garrison in the courtyard, and thus bespoke them
"Good friends and followers: It behoves ye to know how matters stand with us here. For I will take no man's service by fraud or cozenage; neither shall any risk life or liberty further for me, unless by his own free will. I have been summoned-as some of ye may have partly guessed-to render homage to the French King, and to serve under the banner of the Lord du Guesclin, his Constable. Now thiswherefore it boots not to explain-suits in no wise with my humour: rather am I minded to hold this castle to the uttermost against any force, great or small, that may come to beleaguer it. But I constrain none to abide with me, in a strait well nigh desperate; for of rescue or relief there is, I confess, but scant hope. So I hereby give licence
to each and every one of you, now to depart, receiving full wages up to this very hour; and such as it shall thus please to go forth, I assoilzie of cowardice or treachery. Most here were bred and born in France, even as I was bred and born in merry England yonder; and shame it were to my knighthood, if I enforced-yea, or overpersuaded-such to bear arms against their natural Suzerain. Furthermore, I needs must avow that, for mine own self, I purpose to take no quarter; albeit if I am sped, I doubt not that the Lord du Guesclin, or whosoever holdeth command in his stead, will grant to any one who shall require it fair terms of surrender. Now let any speak, or hereafter hold their peace. For whoso bideth with me, from this night forth must needs bide to the end."
All left in Hacquemont were, as hath been aforesaid, picked men; chosen by an eye that seldom erred in scanning the points of a soldier. Yet it was scarce to be expected but that some two or three would have availed themselves readily of a proffer, so frank and timely. It was only fair to reckon that the old routiers, who had gone through fire and water beyond Alps with the famous Free Companion, should stand by him to the last-for even those masterful thieves were not exempt from a rude wild code of honour-but there were others there, who, had they listened to the voice of prudence, or even the promptings of natural affection, would surely have left the stranger to fight out his rash battle alone. Yet never a man gave token of such purpose by word or sign-nay, the brows of some grew dark and overcast; as if they liked not the choice set before them. A murmur ran through the crowd, not hard to interpret; and, at the last, one bolder and readier of tongue than his fellows, spoke out.
"My lord; if this be no jest, we pray you to prove your followers no further. We have ever been bounteously entreated by you; not in the matters of wage alone, but with kindness not to be paid in coin. Should any leave you in such a strait-ay, were it mine own brother that stands here-I would never break bread with him thereafter, nor give him water to slake his thirst. And so say we all."
For the first time since he began to be lonely, Ralph Brakespeare smiled.
"It is no jest "-he said-" but bitter earnest. Yet be it as ye will; and I thank ye heartily."
Then, waving his hand in sign of dismissal, the knight went up into the keep. Save when he went his wonted round of the sentinels, he exchanged no other word with any that evening.
The fourth day passed quietly enough at Hacquemont. So also did the fifth, up to the afternoon; when two of the mounted scouts came in, bringing tidings, that from the summit of a hill some five leagues distant, they had caught sight of many spears, followed by a large body of footmen-and what the scouts took to be a long battering train-in the act of crossing the Vezère to the south-east of Coutances.
Ralph received the news with perfect coolness.
"We shall not see them before to-morrow at noon, at the earliest -he answered. "The Constable, or whosoever may be his lieutenant, will scarce adventure his artillery over our rough roads, under darkness. They will camp near Bergerac to-night." But he muttered within himself as he turned away-"I would honest Will Lanyon were back. "Twill break the poor knave's heart if he be caught by the way; and 'tis a chance if he stumble not on some of their scurriers unawares."
The knight was sitting over a solitary meal an hour or two after sundown, eating and drinking rather mechanically, when the sound of a bugle without the barbican made him start-not in wonder or alarm, but with pleasure. He knew the call well enough; and, settling himself in his chair again, drained a beaker, with deeper relish than he had felt of late, muttering
"So the old fox hath slipped the hunters, and found his way home." A few minutes later, Lanyon stood in his lord's presence; and, after making his reverence, waited to be spoken to.
"Thou art welcome back, Will "—the knight said. "Thy scruples were idle, as thou seest. How did my dear lady and wife compass her journey? Thou didst not, I trust, press forward beyond her strength."
"The Lady Odille bore her journey bravely "-the esquire answered-" and she was well enough in body, albeit somewhat sad in spirit, when I took my leave. She charged me to bear to your worship her loving duty; and to entreat that, for her sake, you would not rashly risk your person. Also I delivered the packet to Messire Bartelot, for the which I hold his receipt. He too, commended himself humbly to your lordship, and would have had me lodge with him that night; but after our cattle were refreshed, I cared not to tarry longer; so we turned bridle, and rode homeward under the moon."
"How sayest thou-'we' ?"-the other asked hastily. thou then not back alone?'