“Nay, verily not.”
“I think with thee, and therefore say I, Let not all those who would fain lead the spotless life think to do so by withdrawing from the world. Rather let them carry about the spotless heart beneath the coat of mail or the gay habit. Their quest need not be the less exalted —”
“But what is that quest to be?” cried Raymond eagerly; “that is what I fain would know. Good John, give me some task to perform. What wouldst thou do thyself in my place?”
“Thou wouldst laugh were I to tell thee.”
“Try me and see.”
“I will. If I were sound and whole tomorrow, I should forth into the forest whence we came, and I should seek and find that aged woodman, who seemed so sorely bowed down with sorrow, and I should bid him unfold his tale to me, and see if in any wise I might help him. He is poor, helpless, wretched, and by the words he spoke, I knew that he had suffered heavy sorrow. Perchance that sorrow might be alleviated could one but know the story of it. His face has haunted my fevered dreams. To me it seems as though perchance this were an errand of mercy sent to me to do. Deeds of knightly prowess I trow will never now be mine. It must be enough for me to show my chivalry by acts of love and care for the helpless, the sorrowful, the oppressed.”
Raymond’s eyes suddenly glowed. Something of the underlying poetry of the thought struck an answering chord in his heart, though the words themselves had been plain and bald enough.
“I will perform that task for thee, good John,” he said. “I well remember the place, ay, and the old man and his sorrowful mien. I will thither tomorrow, and will bring thee word again. If he may be helped by any act of mine, be assured that act shall not be lacking.”
John pressed his comrade’s hand and thanked him; but Raymond little knew to what this quest, of apparently so little moment, was to lead, nor what a link it was to form with the story of the lost inheritance of Basildene.
CHAPTER VIII. THE VISIT TO THE WOODMAN.
“Raymond, I am glad of this chance to speak alone together, for since thou hast turned into a man of books and letters I have scarce seen thee. I am glad of this errand into these dark woods. It seems like times of old come back again — and yet not that either. I would not return to those days of slothful idleness, not for all the gold of the King’s treasury. But I have wanted words with thee alone, Brother. Knowest thou that we are scarce ten miles (as they measure distance here in England) from Basildene?”
Raymond turned an eager face upon his brother.
“Hast seen it, Gaston?”
“Nay. It has not been my hap to go that way; but I have heard enough and to spare about it. I fear me that our inheritance is but a sorry one, Raymond, and that it will be scarce worth the coil that would be set afoot were we to try to make good our claim.”