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A Clerk of Oxford : And His Adventures in…
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A Clerk of Oxford : And His Adventures in the Barons' War

by Evelyn Everett-Green

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A Clerk of Oxford : And His Adventures in the Barons' War (historical tales)
"My son," spoke a gentle voice from behind the low, moss-grown wall, "we must not mourn and weep for those taken from us, as if we had no hope."

Face downwards upon the newly-made mound of earth lay a youth of some fifteen or sixteen summers. His slight frame was convulsed by the paroxysm of his grief; from time to time a strangled sob broke from his lips. The kindly-faced monk from the Priory hard by had been watching him for some time before he thus addressed him. Probably he now saw that the violence of the outburst was spent.

The youth started upon hearing himself addressed, and as he sprang to his feet he revealed a singularly attractive face. The brow was broad and massive, indicating intellectual power. The blue eyes beneath the pencilled arch of the delicate eyebrows looked out upon the world with a singular directness and purity of expression. The features were finely cut, and there were strength and sweetness both in the curved, thoughtful lips, and in the square outline of the jaw. The fair hair clustered in curling luxuriance about his head, and fell in sunny waves to his shoulders. His hands were long and white, and looked rather as though they had wielded pen than weapon or tool of craftsman. Yet the lad's habit was that of one occupying a humble rank in life, and the shoes on his feet were worn and patched, as though by his own apprentice hands. Beside him lay a wallet and staff, upon which the glance of the monk rested questioningly. The youth appeared to note the glance, yet it was the words addressed to him that he answered.

"I think it is rather for myself I weep, my father. I know that they who die in faith rest in peace and are blessed. But for those who are left—left quite alone—the world is a hard place for them."

Father Ambrose looked with kindly solicitude at the lad. He noted his pale face, his sunken eyes, the look of weary depression that seemed to weigh him down, and he asked gently,—

"What ails thee, Leofric, my son?"

"Everything," answered the youth, with sudden passion in his tones. "I have lost everything in the world that I prized. My father is dead. I have no home. I have no fortune. All that we had is swallowed up in paying for such things as were needful for him while he lay ill. Even that which he saved for masses for his soul had to go at the last. See here, my father, I have but these few silver pieces left in all the world. Take them, and say one mass for him, and let me kneel at the door of the chapel the while. Then will I go forth into the wide world alone, and whether I live or die matters nothing. I have no one in the wide world who will know or care."

But the monk gently put back the extended hand, and laid his own kindly upon the head of the youth.

"Keep thy money, my son. The mass shall be said—ay, and more than one—for the repose of thy father's soul. He was a good man and true, and I loved him well. That pious office I will willingly perform in memory of our friendship. But now, as to thyself. Whither goest thou, and what wilt thou do? I had thought that thou wouldst have come to me ere thou didst sally forth into the wide world alone."

There was a faint accent of reproach in the monk's voice, and Leofric's sensitive face coloured instantly. ( )
  amzmchaichun | Jul 20, 2013 |
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