Here his worst suspicions were confirmed; and the faithful thrall heard for the first time of the death of his late lord, and that he had given his young master into the hands of his bitter foes. Alfred was at once summoned; and a conference was held, in which Father Cuthbert, his brethren, and the chamberlain and steward of the hall, took part.
“It is now generally believed,” said Father Cuthbert, “that Redwald is the bitter enemy, for some reason, of the house of Aescendune. Has any one here suspected that reason?”
No one could give any reply.
“I fear what I am about to say,” he continued, “will startle you all. Redwald is a member of the family himself.”
“A member of the family!”
“Yes. Is there any one present who remembers the unhappy brother of our late lamented lord—Oswald, the son of Offa?”
“Yes,” said the old chamberlain, “I remember him well; and I see now what you mean.”
“Is not the expression of the face identical? Are they not the same features, as one might say?”
“Yet Redwald is much darker.”
“Because his mother was Danish, and he has inherited some of her peculiarities, that is all.”
“Still,” said the steward, “every one supposed that the unhappy Oswald perished at sea with his son. Never shall I forget the grief of the old thane Offa, when inquiring for the son, he learned that he had gone with the father to his death. He would have adopted him.”
“And do we not,” added a Benedictine. “say a mass daily at St. Wilfred’s altar for the souls of Oswald and his son Ragnar?”
“Oswald may be dead; Ragnar yet lives in Redwald. The name alone is changed.”
“But where are the proofs? We cannot wholly trust an imaginary resemblance.”
“It is not imaginary; and these are the proofs in question. The night after the murder” (all looked at each other as if a sudden inspiration struck them), “as I was going to the chapel from the lady Edith’s apartments, I passed through a passage little used, but leading past the chamber allotted to Redwald, and only separated by a thin wainscoting. I was startled as I passed it by the sound of a pacing to and fro; an incessant pacing; and I heard the inmate of the room soliloquising with himself as in a state of frenzied feeling. I caught only broken words but again and again I heard ‘Avenged;’ and once ’Father you are avenged;’ and once ‘Little do they know who is their guest;’ once ’It is a good beginning,’ and such like ejaculations. I remained a long time, because, as you will all see, the murderer stood revealed.”
“Then why did you not tell us before?” exclaimed all, almost in a breath.