‘Not wounded, but nearly dead in a Guisard prison,’ said Berenger, with an unspeakable sense of relief and security, as the sentries admitted them into the large walled court, where horses were eating hay, being watered and rubbed down; soldiers snatching a hasty meal in corners; gentlemen in clanking breastplates coming in and out of the house, evidently taking orders from a young man in a gray and silver suit, whose brown eagle face, thin cheeks, arched nose, and black eyes of keenest fire, struck Berenger at once with a sense of recognition as well as of being under a glance that seemed to search out everybody and everything at once.
‘More friends!’ and the tone again recalled a flood of recollections. ’I thank and welcome you. What! You have met the enemy—where is he?’
‘My servant is not wounded. Sire,’ said Berenger, removing his hat and bending low. ’This is the effect of long captivity. We have but just escaped.’
’Then we are the same case! Pardon me, sir, I have seen you before, but for once I am at fault.’
‘When I call myself De Ribaumont, your Grace will not wonder.’
’The dead alive! If I mistake not, it was in the Inferno itself that we last met! But we have broken through the gates at last! I remember poor King Charles was delighted to hear that you lived! But where have you been a captive?’
’At Nid-de-Merle, Sire; my kinsmen accused me of treason in order to hinder my search for my wife. We escaped even now during the funeral of the Chevalier.’
’By favour of which we are making our way to Parthenay unsuspected, though, by my faith, we gather so like a snowball, that we could be a match for a few hundreds of Guisards. Who is with you, M. de Ribaumont?’
’Let me present to your Majesty my English brother, Philip Thistlewood,’ said Berenger, drawing the lad forward, making due obeisance, though entirely ignorant who was the plainly-dressed, travel-soiled stranger, so evidently a born lord of men.
‘An Englishman is ever welcome,’ was his gracious reception.
‘And,’ added Berenger, ’let me also present the young De Selinville, to whom I owe my escape. Where is he, Philip?’
He seemed to be busy with the horses, and Berenger could not catch his eye.
‘Selinville! I thought that good Huguenot house was extinct.’
’This is a relation of the late Count de Selinville, my cousin’s husband, Sire. He arranged my evasion, and would be in danger at Nid-de-Merle. Call him, Philip.’
Before this was done, however, the King’s attention was otherwise claimed, and turning to one of his gentlemen he said, ’Here, d’Augigne, I present to you an acquaintance made in Tartarus. See to his entertainment ere we start for Parthenay.’