“Four!” said Arthur. “Uncle, that tall dame in black must be the Lady Muriel. And surely the white veil tied with rose-colour belongs to kind Cousin Agnes.”
“True! These are no Clarenhams to guard against,” said Eustace to his Squire, who looked ready for action. “Lady Muriel, the step-mother of the Baron and his sister, is my godmother, and, by birth, a Lynwood.”
Then stepping forward, he assisted the elder lady to dismount; she returned his courtesy by a slight inclination, as to a stranger, but her companion, who had lightly sprung to the ground, no sooner perceived him than she exclaimed, “Eustace!” then laying her hand on Lady Muriel’s arm, “Mother, it is Sir Eustace Lynwood.”
“Ha! my gallant godson!” said the Baroness, greeting him cordially. “Well met, brave youth! No wonder in that knightly figure I did not know my kinswoman’s little page. How does my gentle niece, Eleanor?”
“Alack! then you have not heard the tidings?” said Eustace.
“We heard long since she was sick with grief,” said Lady Muriel, much alarmed. “What mean you? Is she worse? You weep—surely she still lives!”
“Ah! honoured dame, we come even now from laying her in her grave. Here is her orphan boy.”
Young Agnes could not restrain a cry of grief and horror, and trying to repress her weeping till it should be without so many witnesses, Lady Muriel and her bower-woman led her to their apartments in the inn. Eustace was greatly affected by her grief. She had often accompanied her step-mother on visits to Lynwood Keep in the peaceful days of their childhood; she had loved no sport better than to sit listening to his romantic discourses of chivalry, and had found in the shy, delicate, dreamy boy, something congenial to her own quiet nature; and, in short, when Eustace indulged in a vision, Agnes was ever the lady of it, the pale slight Agnes, with no beauty save her large soft brown eyes, that seemed to follow and take in every fancy or thought of his. Agnes was looked down on,—her father thought she would do him little honour,—her brother cared not for her; save for her step-mother she would have met with little fostering attention, and when Eustace saw her set aside and disregarded, his heart had bounded with the thought that when he should lay his trophies at her feet, Agnes would be honoured for his sake. But Eustace’s honours had been barren, and he could only look back with a sad heart to the fancies of his youth, when he had deemed Knight-errantry might win the lady of his love.
Eleanor had been one of the few who had known and loved the damsel of Clarenham, and had encouraged her to lay aside her timidity. Agnes wept for her as a sister, and still could hardly restrain her sobs, when Eustace and his nephew were invited to the presence of the ladies to narrate their melancholy tale.