‘I know nothing of young lords,’ sulkily growled Anne, who had been hitherto busy with her pets, striking her hand on the table.
‘And I tell thee, Bertram Selby,’ exclaimed the Prioress, ’that if thou art ware of a poor fatherless lad lurking in hiding in these parts, it is not the part of an honest man to seek him out for his destruction, and still less to try to make the maid he rescued betray him. Well done, little Anne, thou knowest how to hold thy tongue.’
‘Reverend Mother,’ expostulated Bertram, ’if you knew what some would give to be on the scent of the wolf-cub!’
’I know not, nor do I wish to know, for what price a Selby would sell his honour and his bowels of mercy,’ said Mother Agnes. ’Come away, Nan; thou hast done well.’
Bertram muttered something about having thought her a better Yorkist, women not understanding, and mischief that might be brewing; but the Prioress, taking Anne by the hand, went her way, leaving Bertram standing confused.
‘Oh, mother,’ sighed Anne, ’do you think he will go after him? He will think I was treacherous!’
‘I doubt me whether he will dare,’ said the Prioress. ’Moreover, it is too late in the day for a search, and another snow-shower seems coming up again. I cannot turn the youth, my kinsman, from my door, and he is safer here than on his quest, but he shall see no more of thee or me to-night. I may hold that Edward of March has the right, but that does not mean hunting down an orphan child.’
‘Mother, mother, you are good indeed!’ cried Anne, almost weeping for joy.
Bertram, though hurt and offended, was obliged by advance of evening to remain all night in the hospitium, with only the chaplain to bear him company, and it was reported that though he rode past Blackpool, no trace of shepherd or hovel was found.
CHAPTER V. MOTHER AND SON
My own, my own, thy fellow-guest
I may not be, but rest thee, rest—
The lowly shepherd’s life is best.—Wordsworth.
The Lady Threlkeld stood in the lower storey of her castle, a sort of rough-built hall or crypt, with a stone stair leading upward to the real castle hall above, while this served as a place where she met her husband’s retainers and the poor around, and administered to their wants with her own hands, assisted by the maidens of her household.
Among the various hungry and diseased there limped in a sturdy beggar with a wallet on his back, and a broad shady hat, as though on pilgrimage. He was evidently a stranger among the rest, and had his leg and foot bound up, leaning heavily on a stout staff.