To him went Roger to shake him into groaning wakefulness and to point with eager finger to Beltane. Whereat up sprang Giles and came running with hands outstretched in welcome, yet of a sudden, paused and stood staring upon Beltane, as did the others also, for the place was very bright and moreover Beltane’s mail-coif was fallen back. So they looked on him all three, yet spake no word. Therefore Beltane sat him down beside the fire and rested his head upon his hands as one that is weary. Sitting thus, he told them briefly what had chanced, but of the Duchess he said nothing. And in a while, lifting his head he saw them watching him all three, and all three incontinent glanced otherwhere.
“Wherefore do ye stare upon me?”
“Why, as to that, good brother,” said the archer, “’tis but that—that we do think thee something—changed of aspect.”
“Changed!” said Beltane, and laughed short and bitter, “aye, ’tis like I am.”
“Lord,” quoth Walkyn, clenching mighty fists, “have they tormented thee—was it the torture, lord?”
“Aye,” nodded Beltane, “’twas the torture. So now good comrades, here will I sleep awhile. But first—go forth with the sun and question all ye may of Ivo and his doings—where he doth lie, and where his forces muster—hear all ye can and bring me word, for methinks we shall be busy again anon!” Then, throwing himself upon the bed of fern that Roger had re-made, Beltane presently fell asleep. And while he slept came the three, very silent and treading very soft, to look down upon his sleeping face and the manacles that gleamed upon his wrists; and behold, even as he slept, he groaned and writhed, his tender lips grown fierce, a relentless, down-curving line—his jaws grim set, and between his frowning brows a lock of silky hair that gleamed snow-white among the yellow.
“The torture!” growled Roger, and so, soft as they came, the three turned and left him to his slumber. But oft he moaned and once he spake a word, sudden and fierce ’twixt clenched teeth.
And the word was: