At length three or four men, in the military costume so familiar to Elfric, approached the litter; and raising him, bore him into the interior of the building, up the stairs, into the gallery, which partly ran round at the height of the first floor. The door of a room was opened, a familiar room; it had been his father’s bedroom, and Elfric was placed on the bed.
“Ask them to come to me,” he said “father, mother, Alfred, Edgitha! —where are they?”
But minute after minute passed by, and no one came near; there was no light in the room, and it was soon very dark. Elfric became very uncomfortable; it was not the kind of reception he had promised himself.
“Why does not my father come,” he muttered impatiently, “to see his wounded boy?” and he felt at one moment his pride revive, then a sickening feeling of anxiety filled his heart.
But it was not until an hour had passed that he heard a heavy step on the stairs, and soon the door opened, and Redwald appeared.
Elfric. gazed upon him with surprise; especially when he noted the stern cold look which sat on his features. As Redwald did not speak, Elfric took the initiative.
“Why is not my father here? I want to see him, Redwald; do send him to me; say I must see him, I must—I cannot endure this longer; it is more than I can bear.”
“Calm yourself and listen to me, for I have a strange story to unfold to you.”
“Not now; some other time; do send them to me.”
“It must be heard now; and perhaps when you have heard it, you will comprehend why they do not come.”
“But they will come?”
“Elfric, there was, two generations back, a man who had two sons; he was a noble thane of high descent, his eldest son was worthy of his father, high souled, impetuous, brave, fiery, and in short, all a warrior’s son should be: the younger son had the heart of a monk, and was learned in all pious tricks; he stole the father’s heart from his elder brother.”
Elfric began to listen at this point.
“At last, misjudgment and unkindness drove the elder brother from home, and he sought food and shelter from men who had the souls of conquerors. With them he lived, for his father disinherited him; he had no father, he had no country.”
Elfric began to draw his breath quickly.
“At length war arose between those who had sheltered and protected him, and the people who should have been his own people; say what side was the exile to be found on?”
“He should have fought with his own people.”
“His own people were those who had really adopted him when his father and family disowned him, and with them he fought for victory; but the fates were unpropitious, the people with whom his father and brother fought were successful; the son was taken prisoner, and adjudged to die a traitor’s death, his own father and brother consenting.”
Elfric began to comprehend all.