“Often hast thou,” answered Des Bois, “with sage reproof bid me turn to an honest and a sober life, and now I have turned to the side of the holy saints. Lo! I have cut my ropes this night, and am free again. Free, that is to say, if thou wilt hide me for a season, and do thy good offices for Nigel here, who indeed hath saved me, as I him.”
The good priest grasped his hand, and I thought he wept, as though Des Bois’ words conveyed more than I could understand. The two men drew aside together and whispered seriously for a time.
But I was glad, before they ceased, to wash away the blood from my wounds, and all the dust and sweat of my capture and escape. And after much washing in the brook, I felt well-nigh a new man; and sitting down at the priest’s rough board, we next refreshed ourselves with such store as the good man had. And after we had eaten, Des Bois, whose name I now knew was Ralf, began to explain the plan by means of which I was still to journey safely to Normandy.
“Hark you, good Nigel,” said Ralf. “I have discovered a rare likeness betwixt you and our Father, this dear Augustine. Indeed, saving for the marks of time, ye might be brothers of one birth. Now, it likes me not to cast away prodigally such rare aid given by Mother Nature to our designs. So, look you, you shall journey to Normandy as Father Augustine, priest of St. Apolline’s in Guernsey, while Father Augustine and I, dear yoke-fellows of old, shall betake ourselves, as once or twice before, to the nether-world for a season.”
Father Augustine smiled his assent to the scheme, as I asked hastily—
“But, even so, how will the knaves yonder let me pass?”
Ralf smiled as he replied, “Ay, they will not molest thee. Augustine hath a gift of walking warily, so that all men count him their friend, and, earnest man, he hath full oft his own good designs, that carry him to and fro across the seas. Thou hast but to stride with his smart step boldly by yon chateau gate, and so to Pierre Port, and none will forbid thy passage on any vessel that thou pleasest, if thou but give good word to all thou meetest, Moor and islander alike, good man and good dame. Pat, too, the little innocents on the head with a paternal blessing. Answer not save in words of hearty jest. Keep a front unconcerned and free, though thy heart rap hard against thy chest-bones, and, in good faith, within a sennight or twain thou wilt be back in the isle, with Duke William at thy tail.”
“And it is well for thee, good lad,” said Augustine, “that thou art better suited than this rogue to figure harmlessly as a priest that men trust. But surely it will aid thee much in carrying through this scheme that thou wast bred amid monks, and churchmen, and art used to their ways of act and speech. Yea, lad, with a bold step and an easy manner thou wilt be safer beneath my cloak in the open than if by secret paths thou essayedst never so warily to cheat the Sarrasin’s sentinels.”