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- The Herd Boy and His Hermit - 20/27 -
There was a man-at-arms with the star of the De Veres emblazoned on his breast, and a red rosette on his steel cap, but he would not admit the new-comers till Sir Giles had given his name, and it had been sent in by another of the garrison to the Earl of Oxford.
Presently, after some waiting in the rain, and looking up with awe at the massive defences, two knights appeared with outstretched hands of welcome. Down went the drawbridge, up went the portcullis, the horses clattered over the moat, and the reception was hearty indeed. 'Well met, my Lord of Musgrave! I knew you would soon be where Red Roses grew.'
'Welcome, Sir Giles! Methought you had escaped after the fight at Hexham.'
'Glad indeed to meet you, brave Sir John, and you, good Lord of Holmdale! Is all well with the King?'
'As well as ever it will be. The Constable is nigh at hand! You have brought us a stout band of archers, I see! We will find a use for them if March chooses to show his presumptuous nose here again!'
'And hither comes my Lord Constable! It rejoices his heart to hear of such staunch following.'
The Earl of Oxford, a stern, grave man of early middle age, was coming across the court-yard, and received Sir Giles with the heartiness that became the welcome of a proved and trustworthy ally. After a few words, Musgrave turned and beckoned to Hal, who advanced, shy and colouring.
'Ha! young Lord Clifford! I am glad to see you! I knew your father well, rest his soul! The King spoke to me of the son of a loyal house living among the moors.'
'The King was very good to me,' faltered Hal, crimson with eagerness.
'Ay, ay! I sent not after you, having enough to do here; and besides, till we have the strong hand, and can do without that heady kinsman of Warwick, it will be ill for you to disturb the rogue-- what's his name--to whom your lands have been granted, and who might turn against the cause and maybe make a speedy end of you if he knew you present. Be known for the present as Sir Giles counsels. Better not put his name forward,' he added to Musgrave.
'I care not for lands,' said Hal, 'only to see the King.'
'See him you shall, my young lord, and if he be not in one of his trances, he will be right glad to see you and remember you. But he is scarce half a man,' added Oxford, turning to Musgrave. 'Cares for nought but his prayers! Keeps his Hours like a monk! We can hardly bring him to sit in the Council, and when he is there he sits scarce knowing what we say. 'Tis my belief, when the Queen and Prince come, that we shall have to make the Prince rule in his name, and let him alone to his prayers! He will be in the church. 'Tis nones, or some hour as they call it, and he makes one stretch out to another.'
They entered the low archway of St. Peter ad Vincula, and there Hal perceived a figure in a dark mantle just touched with gold, kneeling near the chancel step, almost crouching. Did he not know the attitude, though the back was broader than of old? He paused, as did his companions; but there was one who did not pause, and would not be left outside. Watch unseen had pattered up, and was rearing up, jumping and fawning. There was a call of 'Watch! here sirrah!' but 'Watch! Watch! Good dog! Is it thou indeed?' was exclaimed at the same moment, and with Watch springing up, King Henry stood on his feet looking round with his dazed glance.
'My King! my hermit father! Forgive! Down, Watch!' cried Hal, falling down at his feet, with one arm holding down Watch, who tried to lick his face and the King's hand by turns.
'Is it thou, my child, my shepherd?' said Henry, his hands on the lad's head. 'Bless thee! Oh, bless thee, much loved child of my wanderings! I have longed after thee, and prayed for thee, and now God hath given thee to me at this shrine! Kneel and give the Lord thy best thanks, my lad! Ah! how tall thou art! I should not have known thee, Hal, but for Watch.'
'It is well,' muttered Oxford to Musgrave. 'I have not seen him so well nor so cheery all this day. The lad will waken him up and do him good.'
CHAPTER XVII. A CAPTIVE KING
And we see far on holy ground, If duly purged our mental view.--KEBLE.
The King held Harry Clifford by the hand as he left St. Peter's Church. 'My child, my shepherd boy,' he said, and he called Watch after him, and interested himself in establishing a kind of suspicious peace between the shaggy collie and his own 'Minion,' a small white curly-haired dog, which belonged to a family that had been brought by Queen Margaret from Provence.
His attendant knight, Sir Nicolas Romford, told Sir Giles Musgrave that he had really never seemed so happy since his deliverance, and Sir Nicolas had waited on him ever since his capture, six years previously. He led the youth along to the royal rooms, asking on the way after his sheep and the goodwife who had sent him presents of eggs, then showing him the bullfinch, that greeted his return with loving chirps, and when released from its cage came and sat upon his shoulder and played with his hair, 'A better pet than a fierce hawk, eh, Hal?' he said.
He laughed when he found that Harry thought he had spent all this time in a dark underground dungeon with fetters on his feet.
'Oh no!' he said; 'they were kindly jailors. They dealt better with me than with my Master.'
'Sir, sir, that terrible ride through Cheapside!' said Harry. 'We heard of it at Derwent-side, and we longed to have our pikes at the throats of the villain traitors.'
The King looked as if he hardly remembered that cruel procession, when he was set upon a sorry jade with his feet tied to the stirrups, and shouts of 'Behold the traitor!' around him. Then with a sweet smile of sudden recollection, he said, 'Ah! I recall it, and how I rejoiced to be led in the steps of my Lord, and how the cries sounded, "We will not have this man to reign over us!" Gratias ago, unworthy me, who by my own fault could not reign.'
Harry was silenced, awe-struck, and by-and-by the King took him to see his old chamber in the White Tower, up a winding stone stair. It was not much inferior to the royal lodgings, except in the matter of dais, canopy, and tapestry, and the window looked out into the country, so that the King said he had loved it, and it had many a happy thought connected with it.
Hal followed him in a sort of silent wonder, if not awe, not daring to answer him in monosyllables. This was not quite the hermit of Derwentdale. It was a broader man--not with the breadth of full strength, but of inactivity and advance of years, though the fiftieth year was only lately completed--and the royal robe of crimson, touched with gold, suited him far less thaft the brown serge of the anchoret. The face was no longer thin, sunburnt, and worn, but pale, and his checks slightly puffed, and the eyes and smile, with more of the strange look of innocent happiness than of old, and of that which seemed to bring back to his young visitor the sense of peace and well-being that the saintly hermit had always given him.
There was consultation that evening between Lord Oxford and Sir Giles Musgrave. It was better, they agreed, to let young Clifford remain with the King as much as possible, but without divulging his name. The King knew it, and indeed had known it, when he received the boy at his hermitage, but he seemed to have forgotten it, as he had much besides. Oxford said that though he could be roused into actual fulfilment of such forms as were required of him, and understood what was set before him, his memory and other powers seemed to have been much impaired, and it was held wiser not to call on him more than could be helped, till the Queen and her son should come to supply the energy that was wanting. They would make the gay and brilliant appearance that the Londoners had admired in Edward of York, and which could not be obtained from poor Henry.
His memory for actual matters was much impaired. Never for two days together could he recollect that his son and Warwick's daughter were married, and it was always by an effort that he remembered that the Prince of Wales was not the eight-years-old child whom he had last seen. As to young Clifford, he sometimes seemed to think the tall nineteen-years-old stripling was just where he had left the child of twelve or thirteen, and if he perceived the age, was so far confused that it was not quite certain that he might not mix him up with his own son, though the knight in constant attendance was sure that he was clear on that point, and only looked on 'Hal' as the child of his teaching and prayers.
But Harry Clifford could not persuade him to enter into that which more and more lay near the youthful heart, the rescuing Anne St. John from the suitor of whom little that was hopeful was heard; and the obtaining her from his father. Of course this could not be unless Harry could win his father's property, and no longer be under the attaint in blood, so as to be able to lay claim to the lands of the De Vescis through his mother; but though the King listened with kindly interest to the story of the children's adventure on the Londesborough moor, and the subsequent meeting in Westmorland, the rescue from the outlaws, and the journey together, it was all like a romance to him--he would nod his head and promise to do what he could, if he could, but he never remembered it for two days together, and if Hal ventured on anything like pressure, the only answer was, 'Patience, my son, patience must have her work! It is the will of God, it will be right.'
And when Hal began to despair and work himself up and seek to do more with one so impracticable, Lord Oxford and Sir Giles warned him not to force his real name and claims too much, for he did not need too many enemies nor to have Lord St. John and the Nevil who held his lands both anxious to sweep him from their path.
Nor was anything heard from or of the Prioress of Greystone, and whenever the name of George Nevil, the Chancellor and Archbishop of York, was heard, Hal's heart burnt with anxiety, and fear that the lady had forgotten him, though as Dick Nevil, who held the lands of
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