CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE ENEMY IN PRESENCE
Then came and looked him in the face,
An angel beautiful and bright,
And then he knew it was a fiend,
That miserable knight.—COLERIDGE
’Father, dear father, what is it? What makes you look so ill, so haggard?’ cried Diane de Selinville, when summoned the next morning to meet her father in the parlour of the convent.
’Ah, child! see here. Your brother will have us make an end of it. He has found her.’
‘Eustacie! Ah, and where?’
’That he will not say, but see here. This is all billet tells me: “The hare who has doubled so long is traced to her form. My dogs are on her, and in a week’s time she will be ours. I request you, sir, to send me a good purse of crowns to reward my huntsmen; and in the meantime—one way or the other—that pet of my sister’s must be disposed of. Kept too long, these beasts always become savage. Either let him be presented to the royal menagerie, or there is a still surer way."’
‘And that is all he says!’ exclaimed Diane.
’All! He was always cautions. He mentions no names. And now, child, what is to be done? To give him up to the King is, at the best, life-long imprisonment, yet, if he were still here when my son returns— Alas! alas! child, I have been ruined body and soul between you! How could you make me send after and imprison him? It was a mere assassination!’ and the old man beat his head with grief and perplexity.
‘Father!’ cried Diane, tearfully, ’I cannot see you thus. We meant it for the best. We shall yet save him.’
’Save him! Ah, daughter, I tossed all night long thinking how to save him, so strong, so noble, so firm, so patient, so good even to the old man who has destroyed his hope—his life! Ah! I have thought till my brain whirls.’
‘Poor father! I knew you would love him,’ said Diane, tenderly. ’Ah! we will save him yet. He shall be the best of sons to you. Look, it is only to tell him that she whom he calls his wife is already in my brother’s hands, wedded to him.’
’Daughter,’—and he pushed back his gray hair with a weary distressed gesture,—’I am tired of wiles; I am old; I can carry them out no longer.’
’But this is very simple; it may already be true—at least it will soon be true. Only tell him that she is my brother’s wife. Then will his generosity awaken, then will he see that to persist in the validity of his marriage would be misery, dishonour to her, then—– -’
’Child, you know not how hard he is in his sense of right. Even for his brother’s sake he would not give way an inch, and the boy was as obstinate as he!’
’Ah! but this comes nearer. He will be stung; his generosity will be piqued. He will see that the kindest thing he can do will be to nullify his claim, and the child——’