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The Black Arrow
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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.
Thenceforth the dust and blood of that unruly epoch passed them by. They dwelt apart from alarms in the green forest where their love began.
Two old men in the meanwhile enjoyed pensions in great prosperity and peace, and with perhaps a superfluity of ale and wine, in Tunstall hamlet. One had been all his life a shipman, and continued to the last to lament his man Tom. The other, who had been a bit of everything, turned in the end towards piety, and made a most religious death under the name of Brother Honestus in the neighbouring abbey. So Lawless had his will, and died a friar.
(1) At the date of this story, Richard Crookback could not have been created Duke of Gloucester; but for clearness, with the reader's leave, he shall so be called.
(2) Richard Crookback would have been really far younger at this date.
(3) Technically, the term "lance" included a not quite certain number of foot soldiers attached to the man-at-arms.