“And now,” cried Gaston, clasping his brother’s hand, “our day of service is for the moment ended. Now for a space of peaceful repose and of those domestic joys of which thou and I, brother, know so little.”
“At last!” quoth Raymond, drawing a long breath, his eyes glowing and kindling as he looked into his brother’s face and then far beyond it in the direction of the land of his adoption. “At last my task is done; my duty to my Prince has been accomplished. Now I am free to go whither I will. Now for England and my Joan!”
CHAPTER XXXIII. “AT LAST!”
“At last, my love, at last!”
“Raymond! My own true lord — my husband!”
“My life! my love!”
At last the dream had fulfilled itself; at last the long probation was past. Raymond de Brocas and Joan Vavasour had been made man and wife by good Master Bernard de Brocas in his church at Guildford, and in the soft sunlight of an October afternoon were riding together in the direction of Basildene, from henceforth to be their home.
Raymond had not yet seen Basildene. He had hurried to Joan’s side the moment that he left the ship which bore him from the shores of France, and the marriage had been celebrated almost at once, there being no reason for farther delay, and Sir Hugh being eager to be at the Court to receive the triumphant young Prince when he should return to England with his kingly captive.
All the land was ringing with the news of the glorious victory, of which Raymond’s vessel was the first to bring tidings. He himself, as having been one of those who had taken part in the battle and having won his spurs on the field of Poitiers, was regarded with no small admiration and respect. But Raymond had thoughts of nothing but his beloved; and to find her waiting for him, her loving heart as true to him as his was to her, was happiness sweeter than any he had once dreamed could be his.
The time had flown by on golden wings. He scarce knew how to reckon its flight. He and Joan lived in a world of their own — a world that reckons not time by our calendar, but has its own fashion of computation; and hours that once had crept by leaden footed, now flew past as if on wings. He and his love were together at last, soon to be united in a bond that only death could sunder. And neither of them held that it could be broken even by the stern cold hand of death. Such love as theirs was not for time alone; it would last on and on through the boundless cycles of eternity.
And now the holy vows had been spoken. At last the solemn ceremony was over and past. Raymond and Joan were man and wife, and were riding side by side through the whispering wood in the direction of Basildene.
Joan had not changed much since the day she and Raymond had plighted their troth beside the dying bed of John de Brocas. As a young girl she had looked older than her years; as a woman she looked scarce more. Perhaps in those great dark eyes there was more of softness; weary waiting had not dimmed their brightness, but had imparted just a touch of wistfulness, which gave to them an added charm. The full, curved lips were calmly resolute as of old, yet touched with a new sweetness and the gracious beauty of a great happiness.