‘My King, my King, what of him?’ sighed Hal in the Prioress’s ear, and she made the inquiry for him: ’What said you of King Henry, Sir Seneschal? How did he fare in his captivity?’
‘Not so ill, methinks,’ said the seneschal. ’He had the range of the Tower, and St. Peter’s in the Fetters to pray in, which was what he heeded most; also he had a messan dog, and a tame bird. Indeed, men said he had laid on much flesh since he had been mewed up there; and my lord, who went with my Lord of Warwick to fetch him, said his garments were scarce so cleanly as befitted. ’Twas hard to make him understand. First he clasped his hands, and bowed his head, crying out that he forgave those who came to slay him, and when he found it was all the other way, he stood like one dazed, let his hand be kissed, and they say is still in the hands of my Lord Archbishop of York just as if he were the waxen image of St. John in a procession.’
‘The Earl and the Queen will have to do the work,’ said the Prioress, ’and they will no more hold together than a couple of wild hawks will hunt in company. How long do you give them to tear out one another’s eyes?’
‘Son and daughter may keep them together,’ said Musgrave,
‘Hatred of the Woodvilles is more like, a poor band though it be,’ said the Prioress. ’These are stirring times! I’ll not go back to my anchoress lodge in the north till I see what works out of them! Meantime, to our beds, sweet Anne, since ’tis an early start tomorrow.’
The Prioress, who had become warmly interested in Hal, and had divined the feeling between him and Anne, thought that if she could obtain access to the Archbishop of York, Warwick’s brother George, she could deal with him to procure Clifford’s restitution in name and in blood, and at least his De Vesci inheritance, if Dick Nevil, who had grasped the Clifford lands, could not be induced to give them up.
‘I have seen George Nevil,’ she said, ’when I was instituted to Greystone. He is of kindlier mood than his brothers, and more a valiant trencherman and hunter than aught else. If I had him on the moors and could show him some sport with a red deer, I could turn him round my finger.’
CHAPTER XVI. THE HERMIT IN THE TOWER
Thy pity hath been balm to heal their wounds,
Thy mildness hath allayed their swelling griefs,
Thy mercy dried their ever flowing tears.—Shakespeare.
Early in the morning, while the wintry sun was struggling with mists, and grass and leaves were dark with frost, the Prioress was in her saddle. Perhaps the weather might have constrained a longer stay, but that it was clear to her keen eyes that, however welcome Wenlock might make his young lady, there was little provision and no welcome for thorough-going Lancastrians like Sir Giles’s troop, who had besides a doubtful Robin Hood-like reputation; and as neither she nor Anne wished to ride forward without them, they decided to go on all together as before.