’I do not know. The dark vaulted roof and the dimness seem to crush me down,’ said the mountain lad, ’though the singing lifts me sometimes, though at others it comes like a wailing gust, all mournful and sad! If I could only understand! My royal hermit would tell me when I can come to him.’
’Do you think, now he is a king again, he will be able to take heed to you?’
‘I know he cares for me,’ said Hal with confidence.
’Ah yea, but will the folk about him care to let him talk to you? I have heard say that he was but a puppet in their hands. Yea, you are a great lord, that is true, but will that great masterful Earl Warwick let you to him, or say all these thoughts of his and yours are but fancies for babes?’
’Simon Bunce did mutter such things, and that one of us was as great an innocent as the other,’ said Hal, ‘but I trust my hermit’s love.’
‘Ay, you know you are going to someone you love, and who loves you,’ sighed Anne, ‘but how will it be with me?’
‘Your father?’ suggested Hal.
’My father! What knows he of me or I of him? I tell thee, Harry Clifford, he left me at York when I was not eight years old, and I have never seen him since. He gave a charge on his lands to a goldsmith at York to pay for my up-bringing, and I verily believe thought no more of me than if I had been a messan dog. He wedded a lady in Flanders and had a son or twain, but I have never seen them nor my stepdame; and now Gilbert there, who brought the letter to the Mother Prioress, says she is dead, and the little heir, whose birth makes me nobody, is at a monastery school at Ghent. But my Lord of Redgrave must needs make overtures to my father for me, whether for his son or himself Gilbert cannot say. So my father sends to bring me back for a betrothal. The good Prioress goes with me. She saith that if it be the old Lord, who is a fierce old rogue with as ill a name as Tiptoft himself, the butcher, she will make my Lord St. John know the reason why! But what will he care?’
‘It would be hard not to hear my Lady Prioress!’ said Hal, looking back at the determined black figure, gesticulating as she talked to Sir Giles.
Anne laughed, half sadly, ’So you think! But you have never seen the grim faces at Bletso! They will say she is but a woman and a nun, and what are her words to alliance with a friend of the Lord of Warwick? Ah! it is a heartless hope, when I come to that castle!’
’Nay, Anne, if my King gives me my place then—
‘Lady Anne! Lady Anne!’ called Sir Giles Musgrave, ’the Mother Prioress thinks it not safe for you to keep so much in the front. There might be ill-doers in the thickets.’
Anne perforce reined in, but Hal fed on the idea that had suddenly flashed on him.
CHAPTER XV. BLETSO
Matter of marriage was the charge he gave me.—Shakespeare,