Still the King smiled. ’It has come true, my child. All is lost, and it may be well for my soul that thus it should be, and that I should go into the presence of my God freed from the load of what was gained unjustly. I know not whether, if my hand had been stronger, I should have striven to have borne up the burthen of these two realms, but they never ought to have been mine, and if the sins of the forefathers be visited on the children to the third and fourth generation, no marvel that my brain and mine arm could but sink under the weight. Would that I had yielded at once, and spared the bloodshed and sacrilege! Miserere mei! My son was a temptation. Oh, my poor boy! is he to be the heir to all that has come on me? Have pity on him, good Lord!’
’Nay, sir, your brave son will come home to comfort you, and help you and make all well.’
’I know not! I know not! I cannot believe that I shall see him again, or that the visitation of these crimes is not still to come! My son, my sweet son, I can only pray that he might give up his soul sackless and freer of guilt than his father can be, when I remember all that I ought to have hindered when I could think and use my will! Now, now all is but confusion! God has taken away my judgment, even as He did with my French grandsire, and I can only let others act as they will, and pray for them and for myself.’
He had never spoken at such length, nor so clearly, and whenever he was required to come forward, he merely walked, rode, sat or signed rolls as he was told to do, and continually made mistakes as to the persons brought to him, generally calling them by their fathers’ names, if he recognised them at all, but still to his nearest attendants, and especially to his beloved herd boy, he was the same gentle, affectionate being, never so happy as at his prayers, and sometimes speaking of holy things as one almost inspired.
The bird that hath been limed in a bush,
With trembling wings misdoubteth every bush.
One day, soon after that Twelfth Day, Hal accompanied Sir Giles Musgrave to the shop or stall of Master Lorimer in Cheapside, a wide space, open by day but closed by shutters at night, where all sorts of gilded and emblazoned leather-works for man or horse were displayed, and young ’prentices called, ‘What d’ye lack?’ ’Saddle of the newest make?’ ’Buff coat fit to keep out the spear of Black Douglas himself?’
‘’Tis Master Lorimer himself I lack,’ said Musgrave with a good-humoured smile, and the merchant appeared from a room in the rear, something between a counting-house and a bedroom, where he welcomed his former companions, and insisted on their tasting the good sherris sack that had been sent with his last cargo of Spanish leather.
‘I would I could send a flask to our good Prioress,’ he said, ’to cheer her heart. I went to the Minoresses’ as she bade me, to settle some matters of account with her, and after some ado, Sister Mabel came down to the parlour and told me the Prioress is very sick with a tertian fever, and they misdoubt her recovering.’