“What means this insolence?” said Ethelgiva.
“No insolence is intended, royal lady, nor could be offered to the widow of the Etheling, by me,” replied Dunstan, “but I seek to discharge a sacred trust committed to me. Where are my pupils, the Prince Edwy and his companion?”
“In their beds, at the palace, I should suppose.”
“Nay, be not so perfidious; they are here, lady, and probably within hearing; they must come forth, or I must order the guard to search the house, which I should regret.”
“By whose authority?”
“By that of the king, whose signet is on my hand.”
“They are not here; they left half-an-hour ago.”
“Pardon me, madam, if I observe that we have watched the house for an hour.
“Had not this scene better terminate?” he added, with icy coldness.
At this moment a favourite dog, which Edwy had often petted, and which had entered with the guard, found him out behind the curtain, and in its vociferous joy betrayed the whole secret.
Confusion or smiles sat on every face save that of the imperturbable Dunstan.
“Your dog, madam, is more truthful than its mistress,” he said, bluntly yet quietly; and then, advancing to the recess, he drew aside the curtain and gazed upon the discovered couple.
“Will you kindly return to the palace with me?”
“How dare you, insolent monk, intrude upon the pleasures of your future king?”
“I dare by the orders of the present king, your royal uncle, who has committed the whole matter into my hands; and, Prince Edwy, in the discharge of my duty ‘dare’ is a superfluous word. Will you, as I said before, both follow me, if you are sufficiently masters of yourselves to do so?”
The import of all this was seen at a glance, but there was no course but submission, and Edwy well knew how utterly indefensible his conduct was; so, with crestfallen gait, he and Elfric followed their captor to the river, where was another large boat by the side of their own. They entered it, and returned to the palace stairs much more sober than on previous occasions.
CHAPTER VII. “THE KING IS DEAD!—LONG LIVE THE KING!”
The unhappy Elfric passed the night in a most unenviable frame of mind. He felt distinctly how utterly he was in the power of Dunstan, and that he could only expect to return home in disgrace; yet there was no real repentance in all this: he had sinned and suffered, but although he dreaded punishment he no longer hated sin.
He scarcely slept at all, and early in the morning he rose to seek an interview with Edwy, when he found that he was a prisoner. One of the hus-carles posted at his door forbade all communication.
Early in the morning the bell sounded for the early service, still he was not released, and later his breakfast was brought to him, after which he heard a heavy step approaching, and Dunstan appeared at the door of the sleeping chamber.