But at length the men-at-arms were drawn up in order of march, and every man sent forward gave word that no sign of Sarrasin could be seen in the Vale. So, steadily, with the great standard of the two lions unrolled, we marched across the common, and soon the great mass of Vale Castle, on its seat of rock, towered up before us, and along the rampart we saw gathered the defenders, like saints of heaven, welcoming us as we came. And the women, so long pent up with anxious minds therein, waved their light kerchiefs, and wept for very joy at the sound of the soldier’s tramp shaking the plain. And along the wall, as at a set signal, when we passed the black ruin of the old cloister and church, uprose the deep sound of men’s singing, and we heard the goodly round Latin tongue roll its heavy cadence o’er our heads—“Magnificat anima mea Dominum”—ay, magnificat of praise and glory, as greeting this deliverance wrought by the most Holy One, and the downfall of Satan’s power. And ever, when they sing that hymn of blessed Mary, I seem again to be a-marching with all the triumph of a noble lad in the successful doings of his first great enterprise over the wind-swept grass of the Vale up to the Castle gate—marching with a great army, that knows naught of sin and guile, full-stedfast and full-faithful through all its sunny ranks.
Then, without let or hindrance, we stood before the gate, and once more the great bolts shot back, the mighty bars clanged as they moved, and the huge gate swung heavily on its massy hinges, and the advance guard sweeping on one side, left the way free for Samson and myself to enter.
Could I enter in such stately wise with trumpet-blare and step of dignity into that place on that day as a young prince or saviour from afar? Nay, here were the very stones I had played upon through all my boyhood, and around me stood the good nurses and governors of my early years. It was no place for me to enter in this pomp. Nor were these simple monks the men for me to come back to so ceremoniously.
I stood for a moment by Samson’s side in hesitation. Then, seeing Hugo and the abbot, I forgot the army and Samson and my place, and ran straight forward, like a babe to his mother, and in a moment had mine arms around the neck of my father-in-arms, Brother Hugo of the Vale. Then, when he stayed me, and unclasped my hands, that were like to choke him, so joyously they hugged, down went I on one knee and kissed the hand of Abbot Michael, that stood by his side. He, courteously raising me, said simply—
“Thou hast done well, good child. And glad are we that our woes are over. But who is yonder gentleman?”
Then I led up Samson to him, and made them known, and a fair scene of courtesy it was to see Samson in his chain-mail kneel and take the abbot’s hand so thin and delicate in his own rough palm.
“Ye come like angels from above, good gentlemen,” said Michael; “for, with all sparing and restraint, our cruse is now full low, our store consumed, and, with diminished strength, there was small hope to rebut the next attack.”