Mistress Lorimer had heard them before, but accompanied every report with a pious prayer; Sister Mabel screamed at each, then joined in; the Prioress was greatly excited, and walked about with Master Lorimer, now on the roof, trying to see, now at the gate, trying to hear. Anne fancied it meant victory to Hal’s party, but knelt, tried to pray while she listened, and the dogs barked incessantly. And that Hal must be in the army above the little town they guessed, for in the evening Watch came floundering into the courtyard, hungry and muddy, but full of affectionate recognition of his old friends and the quarters he had learnt to know. Florimond, who happened to be loose, had a romp with him in their old fashion, and to the vexation and alarm of his mistress, they both ran off together, and must have gone hunting on the heath, for there was no response to her silver whistle.
CHAPTER XX. BARNET
A dead hush fell; but when the dolorous day
Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came
A bitter wind, clear from the North, and blew
The mist aside.—Tennyson.
And Sir Henry Clifford? Still he was Hal of Derwentdale, for the perilous usurper, Sir Richard Nevil, was known to be continually with Warwick, and Musgrave was convinced that the concealment was safest.
The youth then remained with the Peelholm men, and became a good deal more practised in warlike affairs, and accustomed to campaigning, during the three months when Oxford was watching the eastern coast. On this Easter night he lay down on the hill-side with Watch beside him, his shepherd’s plaid round him, his heart rising as he thought himself near upon gaining fame and honour wherewith to win his early love, and winning victory and safety for his beloved King, or rather his hermit. For as his hermit did that mild unearthly face always come before him. He could not think of it wearing that golden crown, which seemed alien to it, but rather, as he lay on his back, after his old habit looking up at the stars, either he saw and recognised the Northern Crown, or his dazed and sleepy fancy wove a radiant coronet of stars above that meek countenance that he knew and loved so well; and as at intervals the cannon boomed and wakened him, he looked on at the bright Northern Cross and dreamily linked together the cross and crown.
Easter Sunday morning came dawning, but no one looked to see the sun dance, even if the morning had not been dull and grey, a thick fog covering everything; but through it came a dull and heavy sound, and the clang of armour. Even by their own force the radiant star of the De Veres could hardly be seen on the banner, as the Earl of Oxford rode up and down, putting his men in battle array. Hal was on foot as an archer, meaning to deserve the spurs that he had not yet worn. The hosts were close to one another, and at first only the continual rain of arrows