The brow of Sir Nigel rested on his hand, his attitude was as one bowed and drooping ’neath despondency; the light of the taper fell full upon his head, bringing it out in beautiful profile. It was not his capture alone which had made him thus, the boy felt and knew; the complicated evils which attended his king and country in his imprisonment were yet not sufficient to crush that spirit to the earth. It was some other anxiety, some yet nearer woe; there had been many strange rumors afloat, both of Sir Nigel’s bridal and the supposed fate of that bride, and the boy, though he knew them false, aye, and that the victim of Jean Roy was a young attendant of Agnes, who had been collecting together the trinkets of her mistress, to save them from the pillage which would attend the conquest of the English, and had been thus mistaken by the maniac—the boy, we say, though he knew this, had, instead of denying it, encouraged the report, and therefore was at no loss to discover his master’s woe. He advanced, knelt down, and in a trembling, husky voice, addressed him. “My lord—Sir Nigel.”
The young knight started, and looked at the intruder, evidently without recognizing him. “What wouldst thou?” he said, in a tone somewhat stern. “Who art thou, thus boldly intruding on my privacy? Begone, I need thee not!”
“The Earl of Hereford hath permitted me to tend thee, follow thee,” answered the page in the same subdued voice. “My gracious lord, do not thou refuse me.”
“Tend me—follow me! whither—to the scaffold? Seek some other master, my good boy. I know thee not, and can serve thee little, and need no earthly aid. An thou seekest noble service, go follow Hereford; he is a generous and knightly lord.”
“But I am Scotch, my lord, and would rather follow thee to death than Hereford to victory.”
“Poor child, poor child!” repeated Nigel, sadly. “I should know thee, methinks, an thou wouldst follow me so faithfully, and yet I do not. What claim have I upon thy love?”
“Dost thou not know me, Nigel?” The boy spoke in his own peculiarly sweet and most thrilling voice, and raising his head, fixed his full glance upon the knight.
A wild cry burst from Nigel’s lips, he sprang up, gazed once again, and in another moment the page and knight had sprung into each other’s arms; the arms of the former were twined round the warrior’s neck, and Sir Nigel had bent down his lordly head; burning tears and impassioned kisses were mingled on the soft cheek that leaned against his breast.