“Oho!” said he, “wake up. Here be food, look ye, and, by Saint Crispin, rich and dainty. And drink—good wine, wake and eat!”
Then Beltane’s clutching fingers relaxed and he raised his head, blinking in the rays of the lanthorn; and looking upon his rumpled hair, the gaoler stared and peered more close.
“Methought thou wert a golden man, yet art silver also, meseemeth.”
“Fellow,” said Beltane harsh-voiced and slow, “Troy town was burned, and here was great pity, methinks, for ’twas a fair city. Yet to weep o’er it these days were a fond madness. Come, let us eat!”
But as Beltane uprose in his jangling fetters, the gaoler, beholding his face, backed to the door, and slamming it shut, barred and fast bolted it, yet cast full many a glance behind as he hasted down the winding stair.
Then Beltane ate and drank, and thereafter threw himself upon his narrow couch, but his fetters jangled often in the dark. Thus as he lay, staring upwards into the gloom, he was aware of the opening of the iron-clamped door, and beheld his gaoler bearing a lanthorn and behind him Sir Pertolepe leaning on the arm of his favourite esquire, who, coming near, looked upon Beltane nodding right jovially.
“Messire Beltane,” quoth he, “thou did’st dare set up thyself against Ivo our lord the Duke—O fool! ’Tis said thou hast sworn to drive him forth of Pentavalon—seeking her to wife, O fool of fools! Did’st think, presumptuous rogue, that she—the glorious Helen—that Helen the Beautiful, whom all men desire, would stoop to thee, an outcast— wolf’s head and outlaw that thou art? Did’st dare think so, forsooth? To-morrow, belike, my lord Duke shall come, and mayhap shall bring the Duchess Helen in his train—to look upon the manner of thy dying—”
Now hereupon up started Beltane that his fetters clashed, and laughed so sudden, so fierce and harsh, that Raoul the esquire clapped hand to dagger and even Red Pertolepe started.
“Sweet lord,” quoth Beltane, “noble messire Pertolepe, of thy boundless mercy—of thy tender ruth grant unto me this boon. When ye shall have done me to death—cut off this head of mine and send it to Helen—to Helen the beautiful, the wilful—in memory of what befell at Blaen.”
OF THE HORRORS OF GARTHLAXTON KEEP, AND HOW A DEVIL ENTERED INTO BELTANE
Six days came and went, and during all this time Beltane spake word to no man. Every evening came Sir Pertolepe leaning on the arm of Raoul the esquire, to view his prisoner with greedy eyes and ply him with jovial talk whiles Beltane would lie frowning up at the mighty roof-beams, or sit, elbows on knee, his fingers clenched upon that lock of hair that gleamed so strangely white amid the yellow.
Now upon the seventh evening as he sat thus, came Sir Pertolepe according to his wont, but to-night he leaned upon the shoulder of Beda the Jester, whose motley flared ’gainst rugged wall and dingy flagstone and whose bells rang loud and merry by contrast with the gloom.