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When Robert, with the Abbot of St. Bertin, arrived in the council chamber, they there found one who had not been present at the former investigation.
This personage was young Otho, a nephew to the late Otho, or Othelin, Matilda's husband : to whom she, Matilda, on dying, had bequeathed the lands of Artois.
As Robert and the Father Leon enteredfor they arrived some time after the rest had been assembled—a deep silence fell on all present, and continued for many seconds : when Otho broke it by thus addressing his Sovereign and the council.
“ Grievous is, my Sovereign Liege!” he
said, “ the obligation now imposed on me, of fronting thus, a cousin-for so the law doth give us, though, from the warfare which of late years hath shook our houses, we be as aliens, and are foes.-Yet, did not I-my land being placed in peril.-deem it wise to hold aloof, and be not at the hearing of the suit: nor should I fitly have demeaned myself, methought, had I not come to learn, and-if this indeed may be disprove so sad a charge 'gainst one, whom, as a benefactress, I must ever love: and who-though I may not call her mother-I am bound to reverence as a parent.
“ That Matilda, Countess of BurgundyMatilda, a scion of the house of Artois, and descended from our Kings, should e'er have stooped unto so—so small a crime!-thus let me call it-I deemed not, nor deem as possible;
-but truce to this, all things be possible. But three short months agone, I should have thought it full as like that she had done this deed, as that any should have dared impute it to her; the which doth shew that there is
nought which is not, and yet which may not be--and therefore, ere I passed the barrier of my Hold, I swore unto myself that, should the charge be proved, I would without a struggle render back unto their rightful Lord the lands of Artois, and thus make atonement for the crime of her whose bounty fixed them on me.
“ My Lord of Artois !-prove this charge, we will be friends !—fail in't, and we again must meet, but never more may part till either Heaven have venged the falsehood of the accuser, or reaved me of the breath wherewith I now defy him.”
Otho ceased to speak, and during the whole of the succeeding scene remained silently bending forward on the bench and listening with the utmost attention to each syllable that was uttered.
After a pause of some moments, Robert addressed the King, and informed him of the measures he had so unsuccessfully pursued to discover the friar who had possessed him of the casket.
The minds of all present were so intent on this detail, that they gave no heed to the Count of Flanders; had they done so, they might have perceived that he sat uneasily on his chair, that he often changed his position, and was frequently abstracted. This indeed was scarcely noted, except by the Abbot and Robert himself, who, whilst speaking, often turned his eyes towards him, he now baving an indefinable suspicion-one for which he could not perhaps, even to himself, render a valid reason--that Louis was the person who had caused the friar to be assassinated.
When the Prior's letter was produced and read, Louis' embarrassment became still more apparent. He rose-reseated himself-rose again and desired to see the scroll; he took, read and handed it to some one else-again begged to look at it; and, in fine, evinced all that confusion of manner which may be supposed of one who felt he had had more to do in the business than he chose to avow.
After all, this might be nothing at all events it proved nothing. He soon recovered, himself and such temporary perplexity might have arisen from circumstances unconnected with the letter. How unreasonable to suppose that, from mere hatred to Robert and the desire of keeping him from his heritage, the Count of Flanders should contrive a murder, which murder would, if discovered, call down upon his head the severest censures of the Church, and also cover him with public infamy. Both the Abbot and Robert felt the reasonableness of this argument, and though they by no means dismissed suspicion, they neither of them thought it advisable to urge it at the present moment.