Nor was Gaston disappointed of his other hope; for scarce had they obtained admission for their unconscious and invalided comrade within the walls of the Cistercian Monastery, and Gaston was still eagerly pouring into the Prior’s ears the story of his brother’s capture and imprisonment, when the door of the small room into which the strangers had been taken was slowly opened to admit a tall, gaunt figure, and Father Paul himself stood before them. He gave Gaston one long, searching look; but he never forgot a face, and greeted him by name as Sir Gaston de Brocas, greatly to the surprise of the youth, who thought he would neither be recognized nor known by the holy Father. Then passing him quickly by, the monk leaned over the couch upon which Raymond had been laid — a hard oaken bench — covered by the cloak of the man who had borne him in.
Raymond’s eyes were closed; his face, with the sunset light lying full upon it, showed very hollow and white and worn. Even in the repose of a profound unconsciousness it wore a look of lofty purpose, together with an expression of purity and devotion impossible to describe. Gaston and the Prior both turned to look as Father Paul bent over the prostrate figure with an inarticulate exclamation such as he seldom uttered, and Gaston felt a sudden thrill of cold fear run through him.
“He is not dead?” he asked, in a passionate whisper; and the Father looked up to answer:
“Nay, Sir Knight, he is not dead. A little rest, a little tendance, a little of our care, and he will be restored to the world again. Better perhaps were it not so — better perchance for him. For his is not the nature to battle with impunity against the evil of the world. Look at him as he lies there: is that face of one that can look upon the deeds of these vile days and not suffer keenest pain? To fight and to vanquish is thy lot, young warrior; but what is his? To tread the thornier path of life and win the hero’s crown, not by deeds of glory and renown, but by that higher and holier path of suffering and renunciation which One chose that we might know He had been there before us. Thou mayest live to be one of this world’s heroes, boy; but in the world to come it will be thy brother who will wear the victor’s crown.”
“I truly believe it,” answered Gaston, drawing a deep breath; “but yet we cannot spare him from this world. I give him into thy hands, my Father, that thou mayest save him for us here.”
CHAPTER XXVII. PETER SANGHURST’S WOOING.
“Joan — sweetest mistress — at last I find you; at last my eyes behold again those peerless charms for which they have pined and hungered so long! Tell me, have you no sweet word of welcome for him whose heart you hold between those fair hands, to do with it what you will?”
Joan, roused from her reverie by those smoothly-spoken words, uttered in a harsh and grating voice, turned quickly round to find herself face to face with Peter Sanghurst — the man she had fondly hoped had passed out of her life for ever.