The soldier was more bewildered than ever. He was incapable of conceiving of such falsehood as the other’s. It seemed to him now that Prudence might be mistaken, and have converted a mere compliment into an insult, so contrary appeared, the intimations which she had made to what was to be expected from the years and gravity of the Assistant. The freedom with which Spikeman spoke of kissing the girl confirmed the idea, and Philip fancied that he had been harsh.
“Master Spikeman,” he said at length, “if I have unjustly suspected thee, I crave pardon. There may be something in what you said, but the prison hath clouded my mind.”
“Think no more of it, Philip, though doubtless it is so. I have known many a one who, by confinement, hath irretrievably lost his wits. Therefore will it be wise in thee not to be arrested again.”
“Wherefore arrested, since I have an order of release?”
“Alas, thou dost forget thy banishment. If thou art taken within the forbidden boundaries, severe will be thy punishment. Attempt not for Prudence’s sake, or any cause, to return without apprising me thereof, when I will endeavor to provide for thy safety.”
The soldier extended his hand.
“This is kind,” he said, “and be assured, Master Spikeman, that I will not soon conceive suspicion of thee again.” These women be notional things, he murmured to himself.
Spikeman took the hand.
“Now this is like thyself, Philip,” he said—“a brave soldier—true as a Toledo blade—one who loves his friend, and hates his enemy, although this latter part should not be so. Thou art journeying, I see, to the knight’s place. Mayst thou find in him a patron, but it will do no harm to say—be on thy guard; one old friend is better than a dozen new.”
He turned away, and the soldier, as he looked after him, said—
“There is truth in thy words, but thou art ignorant that the knight and I were friends long before I knew thee.”
Nature I court in her sequestered haunts,
By mountain, meadow, streamlet, grove or cell,
Where the poised lark his evening ditty chaunts,
And Health, and Peace, and Contemplation dwell.
So long had the soldier been delayed by his interviews with Prudence and the Assistant, that it was not until past noon that he reached the knight’s residence. It was a large, irregularly built log-cabin, or cottage, covered with thatch, resembling somewhat, except in the last particular, and in being larger, the log-cabins one meets in the new settlements of the West, with a sort of piazza or porch, which seemed to have been lately built, running across the front. Such was the rude exterior; though the interior, as we shall presently see, when we enter the building, was furnished in a style indicating both wealth and refinement.