“What is likely to come of it?” said Eustace; “Clarenham made an uncalled-for, unjust, shameless attempt to seize the person of my ward. I repelled him by force of arms, and I think he would scarce like to call the attention of justice to his own share in the matter.”
“Ah! well, you speak boldly, but before you have reached my years, you will have learnt what it is to have for your foe the most mighty man of the county—nay, of the court; for your foe, Lord de Clarenham, is in close friendship with the Earl of Pembroke. Beware, my young friend, beware!”
When the hall was clear of guests, a council was held between the Knight, the Priest, and the two Esquires. Its result was, that Arthur’s person, as the most important point, should be secured, by his uncle carrying him at once to the Prince’s protection at Bordeaux; but it was only with difficulty that Eustace was prevailed on to fly, as he said, from his accusers. The good Father had to say, with a smile, that after all there was as much need for patience and submission under the helm as under the cowl, before Eustace at length consented. Cyril meanwhile was to lay the case before the Chancellor, William of Wykeham, and Eustace gave him letters to the Duke of Lancaster and to Sir Richard Ferrars, in the hopes of their recommending his suit.
Eustace then received from the hands of the Priest a bag of gold coins, his portion as a younger son, part of which he gave to be distributed in alms, part he still confided to Father Cyril’s keeping, and the rest he was to take away for present needs—and they parted for the last night of his brief stay at Lynwood Keep.
In the early morning, Sir Eustace and his few followers were in their saddles, little Arthur riding between his uncle and Gaston. The chief part of the day was spent on the journey. They dined, to Arthur’s glee, on provisions they had brought with them, seated on a green bank near a stream, and at evening found themselves at the door of a large hostel, its open porch covered by a vine.
The host and his attendants ran out at first to meet them with alacrity, but, on seeing them, appeared disappointed. And as the Knight, dismounting, ordered supper and bed, the host replied that he could indeed engage to find food, and to accommodate their steeds, but that the whole of the inn had been secured on behalf of two noble ladies and their train, who were each moment expected.
“Be it so,” said Eustace; “a truss of hay beside our horses, or a settle by the fire, is all we need. Here is a taste already of a warrior’s life for you, Arthur.”
The boy was delighted, certain that to sleep beside his pony was far more delightful, as well as more manly, than to rest in his bed, like a lady at home.
As this was arranged, a sound of horses’ feet approached, and a band of men-at-arms rode up to the door. Arthur started and seized his uncle’s hand as he recognized the Clarenham colours and badge, uttering an exclamation of dismay. “Never fear, Arthur,” said Eustace, “they come from the way opposite to ours. It is not pursuit. See, it is an escort—there are ladies among them.”