“They put him on board an open boat, and sent him out to sea, at the mercy of winds and waves; but not alone; he had married amongst the people who had adopted him, and his boy would not forsake his sire, for he had one boy—the mother was dead. This boy besought the hard-hearted executioners of a tyrant’s will to let him share the fate of his sire, so earnestly, that at last they consented.”
“The boat, as it pleased fate, was driven by wind and tide on the shore of Denmark, and there the unhappy exile landed; but he had been wounded in the battle, and his subsequent exposure caused his early death; before he died he bequeathed one legacy, and only one, to his son—
Elfric was pale as death, and trembled visibly.
“Then you are—”
“Elfric, I am your cousin, and the deadly foe of you and yours!”
“Then my poor father; but if you must find a victim seek it in me; spare him! oh, spare him!”
Redwald smiled; but such a smile.
“At least let me see him now, and obtain his forgiveness. Redwald, he is my father; you were faithful to your father; let me atone for my unfaithfulness to mine.”
“You believe there is another world, perhaps?”
Elfric. only answered by a look of piteous alarm.
“Because, in that case, you must seek your father there; although I fear Dunstan would say there is likely to be a gulf between you.”
Elfric comprehended him, and with a cry which might have melted a heart of stone, fell back upon the bed. For a moment he lay like one stunned, then began to utter incoherent ravings, and gazed vacantly around, as one who is delirious.
Redwald seemed for one moment like a man contending with himself, like one who felt pity struggling with sterner emotions; yet the contest was very short.
“It is of no use—he must die; if hearts break, I hope his will break, and save me the task of shedding his blood, or causing it to be shed; there must be no weakness now; he has been sadly wounded; if he is left alone, he will die; better so—I would spare him if I were not bound by an oath so dread that I shudder to think of it. The others have escaped: he must die.”
Still he walked to and fro, as if pity yet contended with the thirst for vengeance in his hardened breast: perhaps it was his day of grace, and the Spirit of Him, Who has said “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” pleaded hard with the sinner. Yet the gentle Voice pleaded in vain; still he walked to and fro, until his resolution seemed firmly made; and he left the chamber, fastening it on the outside.
CHAPTER XXI. “UNDER WHICH KING?”
It will be remembered that one of the theows who had borne Elfric home from the field of battle had become alarmed by the suspicious aspect of things at the hall, and had escaped, by prompt evasion, the confinement which awaited his companions. Oswy, for it was he, thus showed his natural astuteness, while he also conferred the greatest possible obligation upon Elfric, since he bore the news of his ill-timed arrival at once to the priory.