Redwald sat near the king, who had introduced him to Ella as a dear friend both to him and his son—“a very Mentor,” he said, “who, since the unhappy quarrel into which my counsellors forced me—yes, forced me—with Dunstan, has done more to keep Elfric and me straight in our morals than at one time I should have thought possible for any man to do.
“Redwald, you need not blush; it is true, and your king is proud to own it.”
Redwald was not exactly blushing; he had spent the interval before the banquet in looking eagerly and wistfully all round the house, and now his countenance had a cold composure, which made it seem as if he had never known emotion; still he answered fittingly to the king’s humour:
“Alack, my lord, such credit is due only to the blessed saints, especially St. Wilfred, whom you first learned to love at Aescendune, as you have often told me.”
“Yes,” said Edwy; “you remember, Ella, how I used to steal away even from the chase, and visit his chapel at the priory which your worthy father founded. Truly, I mused upon the saint so much that I marvel he appeared not to me; I think he did once.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed his auditors.
“Yes; I had been musing upon my condition as a poor orphan boy, deprived of my brave father—he was your friend, Ella!—when methought a figure in the dress of a very ancient bishop, stood beside me, yet immaterial as the breeze of evening. ‘Thy prayer is heard’ said he to me; ’thou hast brought many gifts to St. Wilfred; he shall send thee one, even a friend.’ It was fulfilled in Elfric.”
“Truly, it was marvellous,” said Father Cuthbert, who listened with open mouth. “I doubt not it was our sainted patron.”
Alfred said nothing; his recollections of Edwy’s days at Aescendune did not embrace many hours in the chapel of St. Wilfred.
The great wonderment of Ella may be conceived: he had always mourned over Edwy as a headstrong youth, dead to religion, and now he was called upon to contemplate him in so different a light. The reader may wonder at his credulity, but if he had listened to the sweet voice of the beautiful king, had gazed into that innocent-looking face—those eyes which always seemed to meet the gaze, and never lowered themselves or betrayed their owner—he would, perhaps, have been deceived too; yet Edwy was overdoing it, and a look from Redwald warned him of the fact. He took the other line.
“Alas!” he said, “I have been very very unworthy of St. Wilfred’s fond interest in me, and may have done very rash things; but some day the saint may rejoice in me again, and then he shall not find in me a rebellious son.”
Further than this he was not disposed to go, for in truth he felt himself sickened by his very success in deceit, although half disposed to be proud of it at the same time. But Redwald had taken up the conversation.
“These halls of yours seem old, venerable thane; has your family long dwelt under this hospitable roof?”