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close again, but fester, -- and thus shalt thou find thyself despoiled of even that little hope thou now mayest have of thine aunt's bequest.”
“I know not how your Grace will like the thoughts which move me, - but liever would I again enter Artois with an armed band of men, and wrench from her by force the land she robbed me of, than live to hold — but not enjoy, -I could not on like terms enjoy-as bounty, that which is mine own of right. Methinks that I would die, and be content to die, could I but wrest it from her, — then meet her face to face, reproach her with disloyalty, and shower upon her head the scorn with which my soul is loaded. Artois is much averse unto Matilda—it liketh not a female reign,
- to me it is attached — 'twould cost small charge and little trouble to possess me"
“Yes, yes, Robert, all that may be, and is, perhaps, most true; but I must not have the kingdom thrown into confusion by such mad schemes as these. We have just shorn
the Flamands for revolt, and it behoveth not to set example of the crime we censure. .Wait till thine aunt shall die — she is already old, and may chance to leave to thee by will that land thou seekest to gain by these unlawful means. Yet, should she give it unto any one less near allied to her, 'twill then be time to urge again thy claim, and then I'll aid thee in the quest.— Think no more of it at present.”
“ Not think of it, my Liege! Not think that — not only I, but that my child will also be despoiled and plundered of his heritage ! - My Liege !- Bid me not to breathe---say to my heart, · Be still, beat no more'— tell me to die- to have no consciousness of what I am, nor of the wrongs I suffer, - tell me this, 'twere full as easy to obey! There hath not been a day of all the many years I've passed since I've come to man's estate, nor of the days which formed those years, a single hour, in which I have not thought of it, and prayed that Heaven would grant me retribution, e'en though its lightning fell to scorch me unto death the very moment that my vengeance was complete. Thoughts of the wrong—the cruel, crying wrong I suffer—are ever present to me sleeping as when awake — for my dreams are of it!"
" Dear Robert, thou knowest well the affection I have ever born to thee from childhood, - thou knowest too, that were it only for my sister's sake, I fain would see thee righted, - thou dost but grieve me by these sallies, and this the more as I lack power to aid thee in thy wishes. Let us not speak more of it at present : - compose thyself, and we'll again converse of it anon.”
It might be some two or three months after the conversation related in the preceding Chapter, that—the Count of Artois being in his apartment in the palace, for there was it that he resided—a page entered, and presented him with a parcel, in which, on opening it, he found a letter addressed to himself. He broke its seal, and read as follows :
“ Very excellent and most injured Lord.
“ Little booteth it who I am. You have been much wronged; but, God and our Lady aiding, I will give a medicine which shall cure the wound.
“ Your late father, of happy memory, 'spousing Blanche of Brittany, an act was made, and — in presence of many witnesses
-signed by Robert the Second of Artois, your grandsire ; and this act bore :
“ Imprimis. — We, Robert the Second of " that name, Count of Artois and Peer of “ France, promise at our death to cede to “ our beloved son Philip, that land of Artois “ wherewith we be now seized,-upon condi“ tion of his taking to wife Blanche, daughter “ of the Count of Brittany.
“ Sec : do. — And we give it to him in ex“ clusion of all females, and will—seeing that . "some have ineptly doubted whether the said “ County of Artois were not liable to fall en “quenouille (to the distaff)-that henceforth “ it be governed, as is the Kingdom of France, “ of which it holds-by males.
"Item.-We, Robert the Second of Artois, “ Count and Peer of France, do make over “ this land to our said beloved son, Philip, “ upon the condition that he leave to us the “ usu fruit thereof, during our natural life.”