« AnteriorContinuar »
The London business had been concluded, and Robin and Amy had been enjoying the society of their early friends. Old Madge positively refused to see them again, therefore they could only leave a small sum of money in the hands of Mr. Sandford for her benefit, whenever she should quit the hospital. If the leg did not and would not mend, she could not expect to be maintained there much longer.
And now, with his work accomplished, and the journey safely performed, Robin stands at the door of the palazzo-wondering whether the contents of the letter, which he held in his hand, would ever be communicated to him; whether he should ever learn for what cause a message from Lord Pendyne could be so longed for by his mother.
It was the very day of his return. He had left Amy with the Easdales, who were now again at their former residence. Then he had gone to his own rooms, and there recollected that the key of the large chest was in the care of Lady Pendyne. The Countess, he was told, had called in one day; then he judged she bad been to look at his drawings, or else to see to their preservation.
The door of the palazzo opened. “Is Lord Pendyne at home?'
'Yes, Sir, but he has been ill again; and her Ladyship has been ill. I am not quite sure that my Lord can see you, but I will inquire.'
Robin was shewn into one of the rooms, and soon the Earl came in, leaning upon the arm of his servant.
He looked very pale, and very grave, and he scarcely greeted Robin with his usual cordiality of manner. The young artist perceived that there was something amiss. With great interest he made inquiry after the Earl's health, and then for the Countess, but the replies were slow and almost absent.
Robin turned to his own subject. “My Lord,' said he, 'I am the bearer of a letter addressed to yourself, which I believe to have been written by one related very nearly to Amy and to me. It has been wrongfully detained for many years; with what object, it is not easy to understand. The interest, if any, has probably long passed away, otherwise I fear you might be scarcely strong enough to receive it at present, but I bring it on the day of my return, having no right to detain your property; and since the Countess is, like yourself, an invalid, I cannot consult her. There is no alternative but to deliver it at once.'
He placed Annette's letter in the hand of the Earl, who seemed to be thinking of something else, and he did not even look at the address.
Robin's words, however, had struck him. The words, “having no right to detain your property.'
'I thought, my Lord,' pursued Robin, "you might possibly have some inquiry to make of me—at a future day—and therefore it seemed better to bring the letter upon my return to Rome, than to allow it to precede
me by the post. I might explain some particulars, if necessary; but the subject of the communication is, of course, unknown to me.'
He rose to depart. Do not go, Mr. Gray,' said the Earl, very feebly, 'I have something very important to say to you, and am feeling too weak and ill to do it.'
He laid his arms upon the table, and bent down his face upon them.
Robin waited in silence until Lord Pendyne looked up again; but he did not resume his seat.
* Be assured, Mr. Gray, that I do not forget your services in this house—that I never shall forget them. There could be no other motive than Christian kindness to myself.'
There was no unworthy motive, my Lord; could one be possibly suggested ?' said Robin, very much astonished.
No,' said the Earl, “never ; but yet I have more to add than this. You heard, perhaps, of the fire at the next house to your own ?
I did,' said Robin ; and saw some of the effects of it at home-of the water at least.'
"And we feared,' continued Lord Pendyne, that the water might damage the drawings in the chest ; so my wife, having your permission, availed herself of the key which you gave her, to see if she could be of
• It was very good of Lady Pendyne, cried Robin ; 'I feel greatly obliged indeed. And she was not well, perhaps, at the time. kindly convey my acknowledgements ?'
We brought her home froin your studio very ill indeed,' continued the Earl, forgetting to notice the last portion of Robin's exclamation. received a great shock there, and so did I, when I went later in the day to seek her.'
• The Galley Slaves! Lady Pendyne had seen them before; tliere could be nothing else,' observed Robin. 'I am very grieved.'
• Yes, Mr. Gray, excuse me,' said the Earl gravely, there was something else. There was a parcel.'
“Yes,' said Robin, there was a parcel in the same drawer with the sketches. It would not have been there had I not quitted Rome in such haste, for I should have taken it with me.' Why?' asked Lord Pendyne.
Why?' Had the Earl's delirium returned, or was it his manners only that had deserted him? Was he-were peers of the realm in generalsubject to occasional fits of rudeness of which an ordinary gentleman would never dream? What was it to Lord Pendyne whether he, Robin Gray, moved or did not move a parcel he had left in one of his drawers, and which was only discovered unintentionally by the Countess during his absence?
But the Earl had been ill; and Robin was a gentleman in feelingnay more, he was a Christian. Only he was surprised almost out of his
usual deference to his friend and patron. With a slight elevation of his eye-brows, he replied, ‘Bucause the contents of it do not belong to me, and are only in my charge until
He paused to consider how much he ought, or ought not, to say.
• Not until they should be claimed,' exclaimed the Earl, ‘for how could Lady Pendyne expect-?'
Lady Pendyne!' exclaimed Robin; and his brows now reached an altitude they had never before attained. • What interest could she take in an old parcel belonging to
* Belonging to me, Mr. Gray,' continued the Earl, with great seriousness of manner; and I entreat you to calm our minds, so far as may be, by telling me how you became possessed of its contents.'
• Pardon me, my Lord. With regard to the contents of that parcel, am I to understand that Lady Pendyne is better informed upon the subject than myself? I have carried it about with me for years; but being addressed to one Mrs. Sutton, not to myself, I am quite ignorant as to what it may contain.'
But the paper was in pieces, being soaked through and through by the water,' replied the Earl, "revealing to my startled wife our precious children's clothes, and the lockets which I had myself purchased. The cypher and crest are not to be mistaken. 1 pray you explain it to me in some way, if you can do so ?'
'Indeed I cannot, my Lord; but the letter you hold in your hand may possibly afford you assistance. I am very sorry for the Countess's indisposition.'
'I did not know whether she would ever revive,' continued Lord Pendyne. I found her, Mr. Gray, as one dead, upon the floor of your studio, and there she may have been for hours. Will you tell me from whom you received the package?'
This turn of the inquiry was not very agreeable to Robin. He had known of strange property in the Gipsy tents before, and although he could not exactly believe that Annette had retained what was not her own, yet she had seemed very miserable and conscience-stricken, and also had written a letter to Lord Pendyne.
Another time, if you require it, after this.' He pointed to the letter, and bowed to the Earl more stiffly than was his wont.
“You must excuse me, Mr. Gray; you do not know what has made the discovery such a marvel to us. You are too young to have known trouble yourself.'
• Indeed you are mistaken, my Lord,' said Robin ; ‘my sister and I have had a sorrow which we must carry to our graves.'
* Then I would grieve for you, and with you,' replied the Earl. But I am ill and suffering, perhaps selfish too, in the recollection of our trouble at the present moment.'
· Believe me that I feel and suffer with you, my Lord,' returned Robin.
The Earl took his hand, and pressed it with something of his old affection.
Matters had mended a little. Robin felt rather less uncomfortable than he had done five minutes before. Upon leaving the palazzo he ran immediately to his sister Amy, to make her acquainted with the wondrous contents of Mrs. Sutton's parcel.
(To be continued.)
THE CHILD'S CRUSADE.
BY EVELYN TOD.
THE VOW FULFILLED.
MAITRE Olivier sat by the fire-side one autumn night in the year 1221, adding up his accounts by the simple process of counting the notches on his tallies, a little heap of which lay near bim. The good wife was busy with her distaff on the other side, occasionally breaking off her work to call her hand-maiden's attention to the pot on the fire, which wafted a pleasant sour smell through the room, suggestive of savoury soup a-brewing. At the other end of the low raftered room the men and maid-servants were collected, and in the recess of the window stood Françoise, now a pretty dark-eyed girl of eighteen, ostensibly employed, like her mother, with her distaff; but really devoting herself to young Michel Vassal, the master of a trading-vessel, and the betrothed lover of the merchant's fair daughter.
There had been some little excitement in Marseilles that day, owing to the arrival of two galleys laden with warriors returning from the disastrous Fifth Crusade; an:l Michel was describing to Françoise the landing, the melancholy array of wounded and fever-smitten men who had been carried ashore, and the down-cast looks even of their stronger comrades, who turned proudly away from curious or pitying questioners, loth to tell the tale of their defeats. In the hard practical spirit of that money-making town Marseilles, the young seaman threw out not a few sarcasms against the religious ardour of these nobles and gentlemen, who wasted their strength in the East, while merchants and ship-owners throve and fattened on the gold the Crusaders spent as lavishly as they did their lives.
While he yet spoke, there came a loud knock at the door. Visitors were not common at that time of night, and the serving-man drew back the bolts with considerable caution, scanning the stranger closely ere he would admit him. The new comer, however, had evidently no notion of standing to be looked at, and setting his shoulder against the door, he flung it back, and coolly walked in.
He was a very giant for beight and strength of limb, but crippled for the time by having his right arm in a sling; and his face, with its thick brown hair and hazel eyes, was a bright and pleasant one, though a scimitar-cut which scored his forehead across, had destroyed all his pretensions to good looks, if he had ever had them. His dress was that of a knight, and the Red Cross was displayed on his shoulder ; but his long cloak was threadbare, and his embroidered surcoat faded and torn.
There was a little commotion in the family thus unexpectedly disturbed, and Michel Vassal stepped into the middle of the room, with rather a hostile air; but Maître Olivier, courteous as ever, came forward, saying, • What would you with us, Sir Knight?
• Tell me, good Maître Olivier,' returned the tall stranger, “have you forgotten Raoul Saint-André? Truly, I think, he was so much of a burthen to you once, that you must needs remember him.'
“Remember him ? In sooth, that I do,' answered the merchant; then, as he saw the young knight's eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth, the truth dawned upon him, and he exclaimed, 'Are you he? Yes, now I see a likeness to the boy I knew, but
• Ten years and the sun of Egypt have made a difference, sans doubt,' quoth Saint-André, for he it was, with a laugh: “Ha! Mère Lucie, are you in health? 1 mind me well of the kind tendance you gave me when I was last under your roof.—What, is it thou, Françoise, my little playmate?' as the girl advanced rather shyly, 'Dost thou ever come down to the harbour now ?'
Now, as Françoise of late had constantly been down at the port to see Michel's ship come in or go out, this chance allusion of Raoul's made her blush till she looked prettier than ever, and the young knight, gazing at her with evident admiration, said, ' Pardon me, Françoise; we are old friends, thou knowest;' and straightway kissed her on the forehead.
Michel Vassal scowled, all the more because his betrothed submitted to Raoul's salute with a very good grace ; but no one heeded him, and the visitor was installed in the best seat by the fire, with a pressing invitation to stay the night, which he was no wise loth to accept, as it saved him from the discomfort of a crowded hostelry. ‘Had he been on the Crusade ?' and 'What fortune had the Christians met with ?' were, of course, the first questions; so Raoul Saint-André, after having refreshed himself with a cup of Rousillon, and pledged the whole company, threw himself back on the settle, and prepared to pay for his supper and lodging after the usual fashion of knights-errant, by detailing his own and his comrades' adventures to the merchant's admiring household.
It was a dreary tale of one long failure that he had to tell, the only redeeming feature being the capture of Damietta, where Raoul had gained his knighthood from the hand of Jean de Brienne, and received a severe wound in the head. After this, there had been nothing but hardships,