‘Went for wool and came back shorn!’ said the Prioress, laughing. ’Well, my Lord Musgrave, what say you to letting us join company?—as I see your band is afoot it will be no great delay, and the more the safer as well as the merrier! Here, let me present to you my young maid, the Lady Anne of Bletso, whom I in person am about to deliver to her father.’
‘And let me present privately to both ladies,’ said Sir Giles, ’the young squire Harry of Derwentdale, who hath been living as a shepherd in the hills during the York rule.’
’Ha! my lord, methinks this may not be the first meeting between Lady Anne and you, though she would not know who the herd boy was who found her, a stray lambkin on the moor.’
The young people looked at each other with eyes of recognition, and as Hal made his best bow, he said, ’Forsooth, lady, I did not know myself till afterwards.’
’Your shepherd and his wife gave me to understand that I should do hurt by inquiring too much,’ said the young lady smiling, and holding out her hand, which Hal did not know whether to kiss or to shake. ’I hope the kind old goodwife is well, who cosseted me so lovingly.’
‘She fares well, indeed, lady, only grieved at parting with me.’
‘There now,’ said the Prioress, ’since we are quit of the robbers, methinks we cannot do better than halt awhile for Master Lorimer’s folk to mend the tackling of their gear, while we make our noonday meal and provide for our further journey. Allow me to be your hostess for the nonce, my lords.’
And between the lady’s sumpter mules and the merchant’s stores a far more sumptuous meal was produced than would have otherwise been the share of the Lancastrian party.
’Twas sweet to see these holy maids,
Like birds escaped to greenwood shades,—Scott.
The Prioress Agnes Selby of Greystone was a person who would have made a much fitter lady of a castle than head of a nunnery. She would have worked for and with her lord, defended his lands for him, governed his house and managed her sons with untiring zest and energy. But a vow of her parents had consigned her to a monastic life at York, where she could only work off her vigour by teasing the more devout and grave sisters, and when honourably banished to the more remote Greystone, in field sports, and in fortifying her convent against Scots or Lancastrians who, somewhat to her disappointment, never did attack her. No complaint or scandal had ever attached itself to her name, and she let Mother Scholastica manage the nuns, and regulate the devotions, while Greystone was known as a place where a thirsty warrior might be refreshed, where tales and ballads of Border raids were welcome, and where good hawk or hound was not despised.
It had occurred to the Lord St. John of Bletso that the little daughter whom he had left at York might be come to a marriageable age, and he had listened to the proposal of one of the cousins of the house of Nevil for a contract between her and his son, sending an escort northwards to fetch her, properly accompanied.