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when the time comes," broke in de Ayala. "But the audience is done, and
his Highness beckons us forward to the feast, where there will be no
heretics to vex us, and, as it is Lent, not much to eat. Come, Senor!
for we stop the way."
Three hours had gone by, and the sun sank redly, for even at that spring
season it was cold upon the marshy lands of Westminster, and there was
frost in the air. On the open space opposite to the banqueting-hall, in
front of which were gathered squires and grooms with horses, stood and
walked many citizens of London, who, their day's work done, came to see
the king pass by in state. Among these were a man and a lady, the latter
attended by a handsome young woman, who were all three sufficiently
striking in appearance to attract some notice in the throng.
The man, a person of about thirty years of age, dressed in a merchant's
robe of cloth, and wearing a knife in his girdle, seemed over six feet
in height, while his companion, in her flowing, fur-trimmed cloak, was,
for a woman, also of unusual stature. He was not, strictly speaking, a
handsome man, being somewhat too high of forehead and prominent of
feature; moreover, one of his clean-shaven cheeks, the right, was marred
by the long, red scar of a sword-cut which stretched from the temple to
the strong chin. His face, however, was open and manly, if rather stern,
and the grey eyes were steady and frank. It was not the face of a
merchant, but rather that of one of good degree, accustomed to camps and
war. For the rest, his figure was well-built and active, and his voice
when he spoke, which was seldom, clear and distinct to loudness, but
cultivated and pleasant--again, not the voice of a merchant.
Of the lady's figure little could be seen because of the long cloak that
hid it, but the face, which appeared within its hood when she turned and
the dying sunlight filled her eyes, was lovely indeed, for from her
birth to her death-day Margaret Castell--fair Margaret, as she was
called--had this gift to a degree that is rarely granted to woman.
Rounded and flower-like was that face, most delicately tinted also,
with rich and curving lips and a broad, snow-white brow. But the wonder
of it, what distinguished her above everything else from other beautiful
women of her time, was to be found in her eyes, for these were not blue
or grey, as might have been expected from her general colouring, but
large, black, and lustrous; soft, too, as the eyes of a deer, and
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