Alice ran up to her eagerly. ’Ah, dear Clairette, and was he greatly hurt?’
‘Not much; he had only swooned for fright.’
‘Swooned! to be a prince, and not have the heart of a midge!’
‘And how was it with you, you very wyvern for courage?’
’With me? Oh, I was somewhat appalled at first, when my father took hold of my rein, and bade me never fear; for I saw his face grow amazed. Sir Richard Nevil rode up on the other side, and said the hobgoblins should eat out his heart ere they hurt me; and I looked into his face as he said that, and liked it more than ever I thought to like any but yours, Clairette. I think my father was going to leave me to him and see whether the King needed some one to back him; but up came a French lord, and said ’twas all a mere show, and my father said he was glad I was a stout-hearted wench that had never cried out for fear; and then I was so pleased, that I never heeded the ugly sight any more. Ay, and when Sir Richard lifted me off my horse, he kissed my hand of his own accord.’
‘This is all he has ever said to you?’ said Esclairmonde, smiling. ’It is like an Englishman—to the purpose.’
’Yea, is it not? Oh! is it not better than all the fine speeches and compliments that Joan Beaufort gets from her Scottish king?’
‘They have truths in them too, child.’
’Ay; but too fine-spun, too minstrel-like, for a plain English maid. The hobgoblins should eat out his heart ere they touched me!’ she repeated to herself, as though the saying were the most poetical concert sung on minstrel lover’s lute.
Death’s Dance had certainly brought this affianced pair to a better understanding than all the gayest festivities of the Court.
Esclairmonde would have been happy if no one had noticed her benevolence to the young Scot save Alice Montagu; but she had to endure countless railleries from every lady, from Countess Jaqueline downwards, on the unmistakable evidence that her heart had spoken; and her grave dignity had less effect in silencing them than usual, so diverting was the alleged triumph over her propriety, well as they knew that she would have done the same for the youngest horse-boy, or the oldest man-at-arms.
’Lady, fairest lady! Ah, suffer your slave to fall at your feet with his thanks!’
‘No thanks are due, Sir. I knew not who had fallen.’
‘Cruel coyness! Take not away the joy that has fed a hungry heart.’
‘Lord Glenuskie’s heart was wont to hunger for better joys.’
‘Lady, I have ceased to be a foolish boy.’
‘Such foolishness was better than some men’s wisdom.’
’Listen, belle demoiselle. I have been forth into the world, and have learnt to see that monasteries have become mere haunts for the sluggard, who will not face the world; and that honour, glory, and all that is worth living for, lie beyond. Ah, lady! those eyes first taught me what life could give.’