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child would heed the seratching and spitting of a new kitten.
It was only six months since William of Dene had done them just such a turn, and had he survived and been a shade less unlucky, the present arrangement was a very likely one, and in a week's time, no doubt, the girl would be used to her new lord.
She submitted : what else could she do? She was cowed, and her girlish nerves and courage failed her. She was married, and when her bridegroom kissed her she quailed and shrank, and dared not curse bim above her breath. She was very fortunate, and so were all the villeins and vassals of Dene. Their new master was no more of a savage than their old one, they were no worse off, save for the one day's harrying, a common event. Out they crept from their holes, back into the church went the plate and hangings, some sort of order was restored inside the tower as the servants reappeared as if by magic, and a wedding feast was spread, after which the remains of the late lord of Dene, (those of his son were undiscoverable,) were solemnly laid in consecrated ground, the funeral service being decently attended by his murderers with all their train at their back. After which they attended mass, and presented the Church with a gold chain, and felt that they had indeed conducted themselves as knights and gentlemen.
“Well, will you leave your bride here with a guard or take her to Fitz-urse ?” said Sir Reginald.
“ I shall leave her here,” said Eustace. “She is but a child, and since my mother's death I deem she is best away from Fitz-urse.”
Sir Reginald laughed at his son's scruples. Eustace’s notions were thought squeamish in the paternal halls where much comfortable licence reigned ; but Dene was a place of great strength and worth defending. It had only now been taken by superior numbers, and Eustace meant to reside there himself and have his own way.
No one took much heed of Avis, her utter silence passed unnoticed, and indeed by nightfall even the superior Eustace was not in a condition to observe minutely the demeanour of his bride.
“Look you, Avis of Dene,” he said on the next morning. “I mean to be good lord to you. You are lady here and may do as you will. Remember that you are my wife. I shall return shortly. You have your women as you had before. You are a fair damsel, and I'll fight hard and strike fair as your lord should. Fare you well.”
He was a tall, powerful youth, with a certain manly grace of figure, and the dashing and defiant air that passed for high breeding in those lawless days, his eyes keen and fierce as those of a hawk. And he had principles, and respected the Church as a rule, and had a standard below which he did not mean to sink. He was less of a savage than his bride's father, and indeed was better than most of his compeers. In the natural course of things Avis would have lifted her blue eyes to his face and dried her tears, and kissed him willingly, and loved him as her lord from henceforth, as far as love entered into the experiences of her day.
She was a beautiful child, tall and erect, with fair skin and a long neck, shapely features, and eyes blue like the sky above, as she did look up at her new lord, but with hate and fear written on every feature. No, she dared not defy him,-she muttered, “ Ay, my lord,” and hung her head, and took his kiss, and saw him ride away.
Then she fled out of sight into the remotest corner of the old tower, and fear, and grief, and wrath, and shame found vent in sobs, and screams, and gestures of fury. She was nothing but a little savage, Lady of Dene though she might
all her high breeding, a certain habit of command and of selfrespect, all her religion a few awful and uncomprehended forms. She had no mother. She had feared her father, rough, and coarse, and wild as the Fitz-urses. She had despised her brother, who was shy, and weak, and tame, and now she hated her husband with an utter hatred. She had lived all her life at Dene, the women of the castle rough and sometimes vicious, her only feminine examples ; the poor, ignorant, time-serving priest, her only spiritual guide. She was not so much grieving for her lost kindred, as furious at the wrong done her in their death, and, above all, terrified to her very soul by the raid and the harrying, the burning and the slaying, the bridal and the funeral of that dreadful night and day. She sobbed, shrieked, and trembled till the anguish spent itself, and then she sat upon the floor and clasped her hands around her knees. Had she been a “good girl," that is, if she had recognised the need of submission to her fate, of yielding to the inevitable, of making the best of things, she would have wept till she was weary, and then have remembered that there was nothing very uncommon in her lot-it was not more out of the way than a great fire or a railway accident in the nineteenth century, would have slowly dried her tears, have told herself that Eustace Fitzurse was as good a husband as she was likely to get, have smiled at him when he came back, and been as happy as other women, until some day, perhaps not far distant, she was called on to weep for the result of some other raid, which might leave her a widow and her babes fatherless. But Avis was proud and revengeful, and sensitive too, and she could not forgive the horrible terror that bad come on her. She was half a heathen, and since she did not know how to propitiate the unseen Powers which had brought this woe upon her, she was as resentful towards them as towards the Fitz-urses. It was a long time since they had burnt any candles at the shrine of S. Dunstan, their patron saint, so doubtless he had allowed S. Hugh, the special friend of the Fitz-urses, thus to injure them. And S. Dunstan might have known that they had had, no money to buy candles with. Avis would never offer one to him again, and as for kneeling at the shrine of his rival, -never. She would not be so
Either of them might do her all the harm he liked. Father Boniface rebuked her for her impiety, but he did not know how to teach her better. Religion was at a low ebb everywhere and was almost frightened out of the land. When Eustace Fitz-urse came back after a three weeks' absence, he was delighted with the beauty of his bride as she stood before him in recovered bloom, though still with averted eyes and sullen lips.
"See you, fair lady,” he said, "I have brought you a mantle of crimson silk with cunning work on it, and a silver rosary,
you may pray me safe home from the wars. Canst read, Avis ?”
No,” said Avis. “And broider and spin ?”
Well, what matters? You are the fairest lady in the shire. Still I would I knew any dame who was kind and well-nurtured with whom I could bestow thee,” said Eustace, with a curious new sense of responsibility as he took her hand and endeavoured to kiss her. She burst away from him, and he followed, first in jest and then in anger, as he insisted on the kiss that was his due. She looked askance at him and held her peace, afraid to resist him when his voice grew loud. But he gazed at her, sadly even in his anger, for her rare beauty had touched his heart and he loved her.
"Fie on you, madam,” said the old Mistress Agnes, the eldest and most civilised of the women about the tower, “fie on you, so to flout my lord who is so good to you.”
“Do not hate me, Avis. I will be good lord to you,” said Eu
stace. See, I would have you wear the finest gear in the land,” and he held up the crimson mantle before her eyes.
Then Avis stood upright before him, and clasped her hands behind her back, and he felt her beauty, and a certain force of brain and will with which she was gifted, hard, ignorant child as she was ; and as he tried to coax and win her, she felt her power, and all her fear passed away. “You have killed my kindred and taken my
lands. You forced me to wed you. I hate
I will not touch your gifts. Some day I will have my revenge. I will not
I will not pray for you. I hope you will be killed as
saint of yours. I hate the saints that have played us false.”
Madam, madam,” cried Agnes, “hush with such awful words. Blaspheme the saints, and the Evil One will come at your call.”
And give me my will,” said Avis. “ Lady,” said Eustace, “ you have your revenge. I'd give the Tower and all
your lands if you would kiss me and smile on me. will not, I will go out of your sight.”
Eustace had never seen anything in all his days but rough fighting, and rougher feasting, coarse pleasures, and careless lives. He could just remember in his mother's day, when the times had been less bad, a certain gentleness and orderliness that he had liked, and as he had ridden back to Dene with the crimson robe and the silver rosary, he bad thought whether something like it might not be set up there. His bride should have her way, he thought, and he would conform to all her household rules and orders. But Eustace, though ready enough for the woman-worship, said by some to be the chief straining after good of those rough times, had lighted on no S. Margaret to rule his household and himself, but on a wild young barbarian, as fierce as she was fair.
Let us see what that riotous, evil world had made of a soul of
But if you
That night, under cover of the darkness, just before the dawn, Father Boniface possessed himself of a small basket of provisions, and leaving the little chamber in the church tower, where he dwelt for safety's sake, betook himself to the depths of the uncleared wood. He found his way by landmarks, known to himself alone, to where a little but was roughly built of green boughs interlaced, and the interstices stuffed with moss and turf. The birds were beginning to chirp,
and rays of light shot under the boughs of the tall thick trees as the priest entered the little hut, where, lying on a couch of moss and leaves, was a youth of sixteen or seventeen, who awoke and sat upright as the priest entered.
Well, my son, how fares it ?” said Father Boniface. “Well enough,” said the youth. “I am mending fast.” “ And now, noble sir, what think you to do? Will you,
if a horse could be brought into the forest, ride away to my lord of Courtland, and
pray him to take up your cause ? He bears a grudge to the Fitzurses. May the saints mete them out the reward of their deeds. It would cost him little to harry Dene for a second time and restore it to its rightful owner. Or will you bestow yourself in S. Augustine's Convent? Holy Church has yet some power, and my lord Abbot might threaten Fitz-urse with her curse." “I will do neither," said the youth.
Neither, my lord ? Surely your life was not spared from the fire for nought, and what can you accomplish unaided ?”
I owe my life to you, good father,” said Nicolas of Dene, “and I propose to dedicate it to the service of Heaven. Listen,” he continued, as the priest looked blankly at him. “ This is an evil world. For what purpose are we born ? I love neither fighting nor feasting, and I can see no good thing under the sun. We kill and destroy, no one has any rest or joy in life. The poor peasants live like beasts, and like beasts they are killed. We nobles, - what are we that it matters who is lord of Dene? I will have none of it. My sister is safe. I can but harm her by my return.”
My son,” said Father Boniface, “ be it an evil world or no, lord of Dene you were born, and times may mend, when the war is over. Things were different in the days of King Henry.”
Nicolas sat up on his couch, with the light of the morning falling on the fair clear-cut face, which had all the beauty and delicacy of his sister's features, but he looked at the priest with eyes that were sad, dreamy, and far away, not as hers, fierce and keen.
“ Look you,” he said. “I have ridden with my father and his men. I have seen the Count of Anjou's followers, and those of the Queen. Both alike burn, slay, and torture. I have seen my father burn Fitzurse's villeins alive. I cannot mend all this, nor do other than my fellows. So I will leave the world which I hate, which I truly think God will destroy. I will stay here, and in this lonely hermitage I will