“Escaped prisoners being run down,” muttered Bolle, but Cicely took no heed. There was something about the appearance of the rider of the grey horse that seemed to draw her heart out of her.
She leaned forward on her beast’s neck, staring with all her eyes. Now the two men were almost opposite the thicket, and the man in mail turned his face to his companion and called cheerily—
“We gain! We’ll slip them yet, Jeffrey.”
Cicely saw the face.
“Christopher!” she cried; “Christopher!”
Another moment and they had swept past, but Christopher—for it was he—had caught the sound of that remembered voice. With eyes made quick by love and fear she saw him pulling on his rein. She heard him shout to Jeffrey, and Jeffrey shout back to him in tones of remonstrance. They halted confusedly in the open space beyond. He tried to turn, then perceived his pursuers drawing nearer, and, when they were already at his heels, with an exclamation, pulled round again to gallop away. Too late! Up the slope they sped for another hundred yards or so. Now they were surrounded, and now, at the crest of it, they fought, for swords flashed in the red light. The pursuers closed in on them like hounds on an outrun fox. They went down—they vanished.
Cicely strove to gallop after them, for she was crazed, but the others held her back.
At length there was silence, and Thomas Bolle, dismounting, crept out to look. Ten minutes later he returned.
“All have gone,” he said.
“Oh! he is dead!” wailed Cicely. “This fatal place has robbed me of father and of husband.”
“I think not,” answered Bolle. “I see no bloodstains, nor any signs of a man being carried. He went living on his horse. Still, would to Heaven that women could learn when to keep silent!”
BETWEEN DOOM AND HONOUR
The day was about to break when at last, utterly worn out in body and mind, Cicely and her party rode their stumbling horses up to the gates of Blossholme Priory.
“Pray God the nuns are still here,” said Emlyn, who held the child, “for if they have been driven out and my mistress must go farther, I think that she will die. Knock hard, Thomas, that old gardener is deaf as a wall.”
Bolle obeyed with good will, till presently the grille in the door was opened and a trembling woman’s voice asked who was there.
“That’s Mother Matilda,” said Emlyn, and slipping from her horse, she ran to the bars and began to talk to her through them. Then other nuns came, and between them they opened one of the large gates, for the gardener either could not or would not be aroused, and passed through it into the courtyard where, when it was understood that Cicely had really come again, there was a great welcoming. But now she could hardly speak, so they made her swallow a bowl of milk and took her to her old room, where sleep of some kind overcame her. When she awoke it was nine of the clock. Emlyn, looking little the worse, was already up and stood talking with Mother Matilda.