“For that, Sir Eustace, there is little cause to grieve. I have been a wanderer, friendless and homeless, throughout my life; and save for yourself, and, perhaps, poor little Arthur’s kind heart, where is one who would cast a second thought on me, beyond, perhaps, saying, ’He was a brave and faithful Squire!’ But little, little did I think, when I saw your spurs so nobly won, that this was to be the end of it—that you were to die, defamed and reviled, in an obscure den, and by the foul treachery of—”
“Speak not of that, Gaston,” said Eustace. “I have dwelt on it in the long hours of the night, and I have schooled my mind to bear it. Those with whom we shall soon be, know that if I have sinned in many points, yet I am guiltless in that whereof they accuse me— and, for the rest, there are, at least, two who will think no shame of Eustace Lynwood. And now, if there is yet time, Gaston, since no Priest is at hand, I would pray thee to do me the last favour of hearing the confession of my sins.”
And Gaston kneeling down, the Knight and Squire, according to the custom of warriors in extremity, confessed to each other, with the crucifix raised between them. Eustace then, with his weak and failing voice, repeated several prayers and psalms appropriate to the occasion, in which Gaston joined with hearty devotion. By this time, a slight stir was heard within the Castle; and Gaston, rising from his knees, went to the loophole, which commanded a view of the court, where the French had taken up their quarters for the night in some of the outbuildings—and the lion rampant of Clisson was waving in triumph on the gateway tower.
“All silent there,” said he; “but I must go to rouse our knaves in time to meet the first onset.” And, as he clasped on his armour, he continued, “All that is in the power of man will we do! Rest assured, Sir Eustace, they reach you not save through my body; and let your prayers be with me. One embrace, Sir Eustace, and we meet no more—”
“In this world.” Eustace concluded the sentence, as Gaston hung over him, and his tears dropped on his face. “Farewell, most faithful and most true-hearted! Go, I command thee! Think not on me—think on thy duty—and good angels will be around us both. Farewell, farewell.”
Gaston, for the first time in his life, felt himself unable to speak. He crossed the room with slow and lingering step; then, with a great effort, dashed out at the door, closing his visor as he did so, and, after a short interval, during which he seemed to have stopped on the stairs, Eustace could hear his gay bold tones, calling, “Up! up! my merry men, all! Let not the French dogs find the wolf asleep in his den. They will find our inner bartizan a hard stone for their teeth— and it will be our own fault, if they crack it before the coming of our brave comrades from Bordeaux!”