CHAPTER IX. HENRY OF WINDSOR
My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
Not deck’d with diamonds, and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen. My crown is call’d Content.—Shakespeare.
Summer had faded, and an early frost had tinted the fern-leaves with gold here and there, and made the hermit wrap himself close in a cloak lined with thick brown fur.
Simon, who was accustomed very respectfully to take the command of him, insisted that he should have a fire always burning on a rock close to his door, and that Piers, if not Hal, should always take care that it never went out, smothering it with peat, as every shepherd boy knew how to do, so as to keep it alight, or, in case of need, to conceal it with turf.
One afternoon, as Hal lay on the grass, whiling away the time by alternately playing with Watch and trying to unravel the mysteries of a flower of golden-rod, until the hermit should have finished his prayers and be ready to attend to him, Piers came through the wood, evidently sent on a message, and made him understand that he was immediately wanted at home.
Hal turned to take leave of his host, but the hermit’s eyes were raised in such rapt contemplation as to see nought, and, indeed, it might be matter of doubt whether he had ever perceived the presence of his visitor.
Hal directed Piers to arrange the fire, and hurried away, becoming conscious as he came in sight of the cottage that there were horses standing before it, and guessing at once that it must be a visit from Sir Lancelot Threlkeld.
It was Simon Bunce, however, who, with demonstrations of looking for him, came out to meet him as he emerged from the brushwood, and said in a gruff whisper, clutching his shoulder hard, ’Not a word to give a clue! Mum! More than your life hangs on it.’
No more could pass, to explain the clue intended, whether to the presence of the young Lord Clifford himself, which was his first thought, or to the inhabitant of the hermitage. For Sir Lancelot’s cheerful voice was exclaiming, ’Here he is, my lady! Here’s your son! How now, my young lord? Thou hast learnt to hold up thy head! Ay, and to bow in better sort,’ as, bending with due grace, Hal paused for a second ere hurrying forward to kneel before his mother, who raised him in her arms and kissed him with fervent affection. ’My son! mine own dear boy, how art thou grown! Thou hast well nigh a knightly bearing!’ she exclaimed. ’Master Bunce hath done well by thee.’
‘Good blood will out, my lady,’ quoth Simon, well pleased at her praise.
‘He hath had no training but thine?’ said Sir Lancelot, looking full at Simon.
‘None, Sir Knight, unless it be honest Halstead’s here.’
‘Methought I heard somewhat of the hermit in the glen,’ put in the lady.
‘He is a saint!’ declared two or three voices, as if this precluded his being anything more.