“The Holy Saints be praised! You have come, you have come! Ah, how I have prayed that help might come! And my prayers have been heard!”
CHAPTER XXV. THE FAIRY OF THE FOREST
Gaston sat motionless in his saddle, gazing at the apparition as though fascinated. He had seen this woodland nymph before. He had spoken with her, had sat awhile beside her, and her presence had inspired feelings within him to which he had hitherto been a complete stranger. As he gazed now into that lovely face, anxious, glad, fearful, all in one, and yet beaming with joy at the encounter, he felt as if indeed the denizens of another sphere had interposed to save his brother, and from that moment he felt a full assurance that Raymond would be rescued.
Recovering himself as by an effort, he sprang from his saddle and stood beside the girl.
“Lady,” he said, in gentle accents, that trembled slightly through the intensity of his emotion — “fairest lady, who thou art I know not, but this I know, that thou comest ever as a messenger of mercy. Once it was to warn me of peril to come; now it is to tell us of one who lies in sore peril. Lady, tell me that I am not wrong in this — that thou comest to give me news of my brother!”
Her liquid eyes were full of light. She did not shrink from him, or play with his feelings as on a former occasion. Her face expressed a serious gravity and earnestness of purpose which added tenfold to her charms. Gaston, deeply as his feelings were stirred with anxious care for his brother’s fate, could not help his heart going out to this exquisite young thing standing before him with trustful upturned face.
Who she was he knew not and cared not. She was the one woman in the world for him. He had thought so when he had found her in the forest in wayward tricksy mood; he knew it without doubt now that he saw her at his side, her sweet face full of deep and womanly feeling, her arch shyness all forgotten in the depth and resolution of her resolve.
“I do!” she answered, in quick, short sentences that sounded like the tones of a silver bell. “You are Gaston de Brocas, and he, the prisoner, is your twin brother Raymond. I know all. I have heard them talk in their cups, when they forget that I am growing from a child to a woman. I have long ceased to be a child. I think that I have grown old in that terrible place. I have heard words — oh, that make my blood run cold! that make me wish I had never been born into a world where such things are possible! In my heart I have registered a vow. I have vowed that if ever the time should come when I might save one wretched victim from my savage uncle’s power — even at the risk of mine own life — I would do it. I have warned men away from here. I have done a little, times and again, to save them from a snare laid for them. But never once have I had power to rescue from his relentless clutch the victim he had once enclosed in his net, for never have I had help from without. But when I heard them speak of Raymond de Brocas — when I knew that it was he, thy brother, of whom some such things were spoken — then I felt that I should indeed go mad could I not save him from such fate.”