Книга The Black Arrow. Содержание - CHAPTER VIII — CONCLUSION
“Ye may not go to Holywood,” said Dick.
“How! May not?” asked the knight.
“Look ye, Sir Daniel, this is my marriage morn,” said Dick; “and yon sun that is to rise will make the brightest day that ever shone for me. Your life is forfeit — doubly forfeit, for my father’s death and your own practices to meward. But I myself have done amiss; I have brought about men’s deaths; and upon this glad day I will be neither judge nor hangman. An ye were the devil, I would not lay a hand on you. An ye were the devil, ye might go where ye will for me. Seek God’s forgiveness; mine ye have freely. But to go on to Holywood is different. I carry arms for York, and I will suffer no spy within their lines. Hold it, then, for certain, if ye set one foot before another, I will uplift my voice and call the nearest post to seize you.”
“Ye mock me,” said Sir Daniel. “I have no safety out of Holywood.”
“I care no more,” returned Richard. “I let you go east, west, or south; north I will not. Holywood is shut against you. Go, and seek not to return. For, once ye are gone, I will warn every post about this army, and there will be so shrewd a watch upon all pilgrims that, once again, were ye the very devil, ye would find it ruin to make the essay.”
“Ye doom me,” said Sir Daniel, gloomily.
“I doom you not,” returned Richard. “If it so please you to set your valour against mine, come on; and though I fear it be disloyal to my party, I will take the challenge openly and fully, fight you with mine own single strength, and call for none to help me. So shall I avenge my father, with a perfect conscience.”
“Ay,” said Sir Daniel, “y’ have a long sword against my dagger.”
“I rely upon Heaven only,” answered Dick, casting his sword some way behind him on the snow. “Now, if your ill-fate bids you, come; and, under the pleasure of the Almighty, I make myself bold to feed your bones to foxes.”
“I did but try you, Dickon,” returned the knight, with an uneasy semblance of a laugh. “I would not spill your blood.”
“Go, then, ere it be too late,” replied Shelton. “In five minutes I will call the post. I do perceive that I am too long-suffering. Had but our places been reversed, I should have been bound hand and foot some minutes past.”
“Well, Dickon, I will go,” replied Sir Daniel. “When we next meet, it shall repent you that ye were so harsh.”
And with these words, the knight turned and began to move off under the trees. Dick watched him with strangely-mingled feelings, as he went, swiftly and warily, and ever and again turning a wicked eye upon the lad who had spared him, and whom he still suspected.
There was upon one side of where he went a thicket, strongly matted with green ivy, and, even in its winter state, impervious to the eye. Herein, all of a sudden, a bow sounded like a note of music. An arrow flew, and with a great, choked cry of agony and anger, the Knight of Tunstall threw up his hands and fell forward in the snow.
Dick bounded to his side and raised him. His face desperately worked; his whole body was shaken by contorting spasms.
“Is the arrow black?” he gasped.
“It is black,” replied Dick, gravely.
And then, before he could add one word, a desperate seizure of pain shook the wounded man from head to foot, so that his body leaped in Dick’s supporting arms, and with the extremity of that pang his spirit fled in silence.
The young man laid him back gently on the snow and prayed for that unprepared and guilty spirit, and as he prayed the sun came up at a bound, and the robins began chirping in the ivy.
When he rose to his feet, he found another man upon his knees but a few steps behind him, and, still with uncovered head, he waited until that prayer also should be over. It took long; the man, with his head bowed and his face covered with his hands, prayed like one in a great disorder or distress of mind; and by the bow that lay beside him, Dick judged that he was no other than the archer who had laid Sir Daniel low.
At length he, also, rose, and showed the countenance of Ellis Duckworth.
“Richard,” he said, very gravely, “I heard you. Ye took the better part and pardoned; I took the worse, and there lies the clay of mine enemy. Pray for me.”
And he wrung him by the hand.
“Sir,” said Richard, “I will pray for you, indeed; though how I may prevail I wot not. But if ye have so long pursued revenge, and find it now of such a sorry flavour, bethink ye, were it not well to pardon others? Hatch — he is dead, poor shrew! I would have spared a better; and for Sir Daniel, here lies his body. But for the priest, if I might anywise prevail, I would have you let him go.”
A flash came into the eyes of Ellis Duckworth.
“Nay,” he said, “the devil is still strong within me. But be at rest; the Black Arrow flieth nevermore — the fellowship is broken. They that still live shall come to their quiet and ripe end, in Heaven’s good time, for me; and for yourself, go where your better fortune calls you, and think no more of Ellis.”
CHAPTER VIII — CONCLUSION
About nine in the morning, Lord Foxham was leading his ward, once more dressed as befitted her sex, and followed by Alicia Risingham, to the church of Holywood, when Richard Crookback, his brow already heavy with cares, crossed their path and paused.
“Is this the maid?” he asked; and when Lord Foxham had replied in the affirmative, “Minion,” he added, “hold up your face until I see its favour.”
He looked upon her sourly for a little.
“Ye are fair,” he said at last, “and, as they tell me, dowered. How if I offered you a brave marriage, as became your face and parentage?”
“My lord duke,” replied Joanna, “may it please your grace, I had rather wed with Sir Richard.”
“How so?” he asked, harshly. “Marry but the man I name to you, and he shall be my lord, and you my lady, before night. For Sir Richard, let me tell you plainly, he will die Sir Richard.”
“I ask no more of Heaven, my lord, than but to die Sir Richard’s wife,” returned Joanna.
“Look ye at that, my lord,” said Gloucester, turning to Lord Foxham. “Here be a pair for you. The lad, when for good services I gave him his choice of my favour, chose but the grace of an old, drunken shipman. I did warn him freely, but he was stout in his besottedness. ‘Here dieth your favour,’ said I; and he, my lord, with a most assured impertinence, ‘Mine be the loss,’ quoth he. It shall be so, by the rood!”
“Said he so?” cried Alicia. “Then well said, lion-driver!”
“Who is this?” asked the duke.
“A prisoner of Sir Richard’s,” answered Lord Foxham; “Mistress Alicia Risingham.”
“See that she be married to a sure man,” said the duke.
“I had thought of my kinsman, Hamley, an it like your grace,” returned Lord Foxham. “He hath well served the cause.”
“It likes me well,” said Richard. “Let them be wedded speedily. Say, fair maid, will you wed?”
“My lord duke,” said Alicia, “so as the man is straight” — And there, in a perfect consternation, the voice died on her tongue.
“He is straight, my mistress,” replied Richard, calmly. “I am the only crookback of my party; we are else passably well shapen. Ladies, and you, my lord,” he added, with a sudden change to grave courtesy, “judge me not too churlish if I leave you. A captain, in the time of war, hath not the ordering of his hours.”
And with a very handsome salutation he passed on, followed by his officers.
“Alack,” cried Alicia, “I am shent!”
“Ye know him not,” replied Lord Foxham. “It is but a trifle; he hath already clean forgot your words.”
“He is, then, the very flower of knighthood,” said Alicia.
“Nay, he but mindeth other things,” returned Lord Foxham. “Tarry we no more.”
In the chancel they found Dick waiting, attended by a few young men; and there were he and Joan united. When they came forth again, happy and yet serious, into the frosty air and sunlight, the long files of the army were already winding forward up the road; already the Duke of Gloucester’s banner was unfolded and began to move from before the abbey in a clump of spears; and behind it, girt by steel-clad knights, the bold, black-hearted, and ambitious hunchback moved on towards his brief kingdom and his lasting infamy. But the wedding party turned upon the other side, and sat down, with sober merriment, to breakfast. The father cellarer attended on their wants, and sat with them at table. Hamley, all jealousy forgotten, began to ply the nowise loth Alicia with courtship. And there, amid the sounding of tuckets and the clash of armoured soldiery and horses continually moving forth, Dick and Joan sat side by side, tenderly held hands, and looked, with ever growing affection, in each other’s eyes.