kept tight grip upon his sword as if he feared. He, Raoul of Cartillon, the man whose headlong courage was an army's byword, he feared in his own hall.
Even so, for proceeding further, his speech grew more wild, and I fain would have fled.
"You know my oath to my father." I of course knew naught of the matter, nor do I know it yet, though I have diligent inquired.
"My oath to forego the hall, give up my place with my fighting men. Yea, upon my father's sword I swore, recking light of an oath, and the old man, dying, would have it so. That oath torments me now. The evil demons of the air haunt my bed; fiends leer at me through the day and whisper all the night. I see my father's soul writhing in the fires of Hell, and there he lays and beckons me to him. But no, by the heart of Mars I'll be no craven fool to give up my castle and my name. Perhaps my son may, I'll make him swear to me to do so. Yet I fear; I fear; I like not that pit of scorching flame where my father suffers because he did lay his hand upon his brother."
I could not but look him in the face, and he thought there was wisdom in my glance, for he clutched me at the throat.
"Ah, thou prying hound, what dost thou know? Speak! Speak!"
But speak I could not, though a soul's salvation hung on my glib and nimble tongue.
Count Raoul soon loosed me, seeing my ignorance. Yet some dark story had I heard and repeated not—the crimes of the great are too dangerous morsels for a poor man to mouth.
"Go now to thy shop, and mark ye, sirrah, that no man sees thy work."
I had hardly gotten well to my forge before three stout varlets came in on a pretense of seeing a golden bracelet which I showed them without suspecting aught. When, my back well turned, they slipped gyves upon my wrists, bound me by a great band of iron at the waist, and made all fast to the huge stone pillar.
Thenceforward, all through the days and nights which followed, one of these men stood ever at my window to see I worked with speed, worked on the locket and not upon my chains.
Count Raoul came many times as the work progressed, but the guards were alway at too great a distance to tell in what quaint form my beaten gold was fashioned.