Then I asked her the meaning of this fair tapestry that, stretched on a long frame, she and her maidens toiled at round the chamber, for it caught my eyes as showing, I thought, great exploits of arms. And she told me that it was the exploits of Duke Rollo that she wrought there in many colours, and that the Lady Matilda herself, who loved such needlework, had made choice of the panels. In one I saw the ships being made in far Norway; in another, in a goodly company they rode upon the sea; in another, Rollo ate and drank with his fellows; and some pictures told of battles, wherein I saw them in their close hauberks and narrow shields, waving swords and driving their deadly spears.
“And in every picture,” she said, “I love to work in one like my dear lord in figure and knightly person, and to work the name of this great family above.”
“Ay, good aunt,” cried I; “in sooth thou art like myself in pride of the Norman race, that even now, in the glory of William, is worthy of its forbears.”
She smiled kindly as mine eyes sparkled, and said I was indeed a knightly youth. Then, as we were left alone by the vicomte, she dropped her voice, and gazing at me most tenderly, inquired if I had ever seen my father.
“Nay, dear lady,” said I, sadly but proudly, “I know not, from aught that has been told me by any, whether he be alive or dead. Save that he is my lord vicomte’s brother, I know naught.”
“Poor lad!” she murmured tenderly, “’tis time thou shouldst know more. Yet it is a sad story. Know, then, thy father was a wild and untameable youth, that was courteous and brave withal, but brooked not government overmuch. He was, too, of a wondrous merry disposition, that loved a jest at men in great places, and this made him not beloved. Against his father’s command he stole away thy mother, who perished in a raid of her kinsmen upon his house, and in the minority of the duke he was found on the side of violent men—and then he disappeared. Thou in thy baby innocence wert the only charge he left us, and as soon as times were fit thou wert sent to the Abbey of the Vale, which is indeed a good school of gentle manners and sound learning.”
I had listened sadly enough to the story of my father’s fall, and its recital grieved me.
“And has my lord vicomte seen my father since? Has he inquired of me?” I asked.
“Nay, I must tell thee no more,” she said. “Maybe I have told thee too much already.”
“At least, tell me of my mother,” said I.
“Poor child,” said she, “thou hast never known mother’s love! Thy mother was most fair and gentle, and indeed thine eyes and smile are hers.”
“Of what race came she, lady?”
“Child,” said she, sadly, “I will not tell thee that to-day. Know only her name was of the noblest.”
Thus, in the chamber of the vicomtesse, that afternoon I learned something of the secrets that I had wondered over in my boyhood. Sadly I kissed her hand, when I knew she would tell me no more, and thanked her courteously for her tender words.