“Ah! Master d’Aubricour, ’twas not me, ’twas the traitor, Sanchez— ’twas Tristan,” was the answer. “Oh, mercy, for our blessed Lady’s sake!”
“No mercy, dogs! till ye have shown me Sir Eustace in life and limb.”
“Alas! alas! Master d’Aubricour!” This cry arose from some of the English; and Gaston, springing towards the bartizan, beheld the senseless form of his beloved Knight lying stretched in a pool of his own blood! Pouring out lamentations in the passionate terms of the South, tearing his hair at having been beguiled into leaving the Castle, and vowing the most desperate vengeance against Clarenham and his accomplices, he lifted his master from the ground, and, as he did so, he fancied he felt a slight movement of the chest, and a faint moan fell upon his ear.
What recked Gaston that the Castle was but half taken, that enemies were around on every side? He saw only, heard only, thought only, of Sir Eustace! What was life or death, prosperity or adversity, save as shared with him! He lifted the Knight in his arms, and, hurrying up the stone steps, placed him on his couch.
“Bring water! bring wine!” he shouted as he crossed the hall. A horse-boy followed with a pitcher of water, and Gaston, unfastening the collar of his doublet, raised his head, held his face towards the air, and deluged it with water, entreating him to look up and speak.
A few long painful gasps, and the eyes were half unclosed, while a scarce audible voice said, “Gaston! is it thou? I deemed it was over!” and then the eyes closed again. Gaston’s heart was lightened at having heard that voice once more, even had that word been his last—and answering, “Ay, truly, Sir Knight, all is well so you will but look up,” he succeed in pouring a little water into his mouth.
He was interrupted by several of the men-at-arms, who came trooping up to the door, looking anxiously at the wounded Knight, while the foremost said, “Master Gaston, here is gear which must be looked to. Thibault Sanchez and half a dozen more have drawn together in Montfort’s tower, and swear they will not come forth till we have promised their lives.”
“Give them no such pledge!—Hang without mercy!” cried another voice from behind. “Did not I myself hear the traitorous villains send off Tristan de la Fleche to bear the news to Carcassonne? We shall have the butcher of Bretagne at our throats before another hour is over.”
“Cowardly traitor!” cried Gaston. “Wherefore didst thou not cut the throat of the caitiff, and make in to the rescue of the Knight?”
“Why, Master d’Aubricour, the deed was done ere I was well awake, and when it was done, and could not be undone, and we were but four men to a dozen, what could a poor groom do? But you had better look to yourself; for it is true as the legends of the saints, that Tristan is gone to Carcassonne, riding full speed on the Knight’s own black charger!”