The Prioress laughed at men being so much more afraid than women. She was willing to bear all the consequences, but then the Plantagenets were not in the habit of treating ladies as traitors. However, all agreed that it would be wiser to be out of reach of London as soon as possible, and Master Lorimer, who had become deeply interested in this romance of true love, arranged to send one of his wains to York, in which the bride and bridegroom might travel unsuspected, until the latter should be able to ride and all were out of reach of pursuit. The Prioress would go thus far with them, ’And then! And then,’ she said sighing, ’I shall have to dree my penance for all my friskings!’
‘But, oh, what kindly friskings!’ cried Anne, throwing herself into those tender arms.
‘Little they will reck of kindness out of rule,’ sighed the Prioress. ’If only they will send me back to Greystone, then shall I hear of thee, and thou hadst better take Florimond, poor hound, or the Sisters at York may put him to penance too!’
Henry Clifford was able to walk again, though still lame, when, in the early morning of Ascension Day, he and Anne St. John were married in the hall of Master Lorimer’s house by a trusty priest of Barnet, and in the afternoon, when the thanksgiving worship at the church had been gone through, they started in the waggon for the first stage of the journey, to be overtaken at the halting-place by the Prioress and Master Lorimer, who had had to ride into London to finish some business.
And he brought tidings that rendered that wedding-day one of mournful, if peaceful, remembrances.
For he had seen, borne from the Tower, along Cheapside, the bier on which lay the body of King Henry, his hands clasped on his breast, his white face upturned with that heavenly expression which Hal knew so well, enhanced into perfect peace, every toil, every grief at an end.
Whether blood dropped as the procession moved along, Lorimer could not certainly tell. Whether so it was, or whoever shed it, there was no marring the absolute rest and joy that had crowned the ’meek usurper’s holy head,’ after his dreary half-century of suffering under the retribution of the ancestral sins of two lines of forefathers. All had been undergone in a deep and holy trust and faith such as could render even his hereditary insanity an actual shield from the poignancy of grief.
Tears were shed, not bitter nor vengeful. Such thoughts would have seemed out of place with the memory of the gentle countenance of love, good-will and peace, and as Harry and Anne joined in the service that the Prioress had requested to have in the early daylight before starting, Hal felt that to the hermit saint of his boyhood he verily owed his own self.
CHAPTER XXIII. BROUGHAM CASTLE
And now am I an Earlis son,
And not a banished man.—Nut-brown maid.