‘No great fear on that score, dame,’ laughed the knight. ’Did you not hear the lad shouting for ‘Phil, Phil!’ almost in a voice like old times? It does one good to hear it.’
Just at twilight, Berenger came down the steps, conducting a graceful gentleman in black, to whom Lady Thistlewood’s instinct impelled her to make a low courtesy, before Berenger had said, ’Madam, allow me to present to you my friend, the Abbe de Mericour.’
‘Is it the same?’ whispered Bessie to Annora. ’Surely he is translated!’
’Only into Philip’s old mourning suit. I know it by the stain on the knee.
’Then it is translated too. Never did it look so well on Philip! See, our mother is quite gracious to him; she speaks to him as though he were some noble visitor to my Lord.’
Therewith Sir Marmaduke came forward, shook Mericour with all his might by the hand, shouted to him his hearty thanks for the good he had done his poor lad and assured him of a welcome from the very bottom of his heart. The good knight would fain have kept both Berenger and his friend at the Manor, but Berenger was far too impatient to carry home his joy, and only begged the loan of a horse for Mericour. For himself, he felt as if fatigue or dejection would never touch him again, and he kissed his mother and his sisters, including Lucy, all round, with an effusion of delight.
‘Is that indeed your step-father?’ said Mericour, as they rode away together. ‘And the young man, is he your half-brother?’
‘Brother wholly in dear love,’ said Berenger; ’no blood relation. The little girls are my mother’s children.’
‘Ah! so large a family all one? All at home? None in convents?’
‘We have no convents.’
’Ah, no. but all at home! All at peace! This is a strange place, your England.’
CHAPTER XXII. DEPARTURE
It is my mistress!
Since she is living, let the time run on
To good or bad.—CYMBELINE
Mericour found the welcome at Hurst Walwyn kindly and more polished than that at Combe Manor. He was more readily understood, and found himself at his natural element. Lord Walwyn, in especial, took much notice of him, and conversed with him long and earnestly; while Berenger, too happy and too weary to exert himself to say many words, sat as near Cecily as he could, treating her as though she, who had never contradicted in his trust in Eustacie, were the only person who could worthily share his infinite relief, peace, and thankfulness.
Lord Walwyn said scarcely anything to his grandson that night, only when Berenger, as usual, bent his knee to ask his blessing on parting for the night, he said, gravely, ’Son, I am glad of your joy; I fear me you have somewhat to pardon your grandsire. Come to my library so soon as morning prayers be over; we will speak then. Not now, my dear lad,’ he added, as Berenger, with tears in his eyes, kissed his hand, and would have begun; ’you are too much worn and spent to make my dear ears hear. Sleep, and take my blessing with you.’