"We three have been talking it over this morning," said his father, "and so think each one that the time hath come for thee to quit this poor home of ours. An thou stay here ten years longer, thou'lt be no more fit to go then than now. To-morrow I will give thee a letter to my kinsman, the Earl of Mackworth. He has thriven in these days and I have fallen away, but time was that he and I were true sworn companions, and plighted together in friendship never to be sundered. Methinks, as I remember him, he will abide by his plighted troth, and will give thee his aid to rise in the world. So, as I said, to-morrow morning thou shalt set forth with Diccon Bowman, and shall go to Castle Devlen, and there deliver this letter which prayeth him to give thee a place in his household. Thou mayst have this afternoon to thyself to make read such things as thou shalt take with thee. And bid me Diccon to take the gray horse to the village and have it shod."
Prior Edward had been standing looking out of the window. As Lord Falworth ended he turned.
"And, Myles," said he, "thou wilt need some money, so I will give thee as a loan forty shillings, which some day thou mayst return to me an thou wilt. For this know, Myles, a man cannot do in the world without money. Thy father hath it ready for thee in the chest, and will give it thee to-morrow ere thou goest."
Lord Falworth had the grim strength of manhood's hard sense to upbear him in sending his son into the world, but the poor lady mother had nothing of that to uphold her. No doubt it was as hard then as it is now for the mother to see the nestling thrust from the nest to shift for itself. What tears were shed, what words of love were spoken to the only man-child, none but the mother and the son ever knew.
The next morning Myles and the old bowman rode away, and no doubt to the boy himself the dark shadows of leave-taking were lost in the golden light of hope as he rode out into the great world to seek his fortune.
WHAT MYLES remembered of Falworth loomed great and grand and big, as things do in the memory of childhood, but even memory could not make Falworth the equal of Devlen Castle, when, as he and Diccon Bowman rode out of Devlentown across the great, rude stone bridge that spanned the river, he first saw, rising above the crowns of the trees, those huge hoary walls, and the steep roofs and chimneys clustered thickly together, like the roofs and chimneys of a town.
The castle was built upon a plateau-like rise of ground, which was enclosed by the outer wall. It was surrounded on three sides by a loop-like bend of the river, and on the fourth was protected by a deep, broad, artificial moat, almost as wide as the stream from which it was fed. The road from the town wound for a little distance along by the edge of this moat. As Myles and the old bowman galloped by, with the answering echo of their horses' hoof-beats rattling back from the smooth stone face of the walls, the lad looked up, wondering at the height and strength of the great ancient fortress. In his air-castle building Myles had pictured the Earl receiving him as the son of his one-time comrade in arms--receiving him, perhaps, with somewhat of the rustic warmth that he knew at Crosbey-Dale; but now, as he stared at those massive walls from below, and realized his own insignificance and the greatness of this great Earl, he felt the first keen, helpless ache of homesickness shoot through his breast, and his heart yearned for Crosbey-Holt again.
Then they thundered across the bridge that spanned the moat, and through the dark shadows of the great gaping gate-way, and Diccon, bidding him stay for a moment, rode forward to bespeak the gate-keeper.