But Sir Jocelyn paused to look down at Beltane, who was setting his dress in order.
“Sir forester, thou hast a mighty arm,” quoth he, “and thy face liketh me well. Here’s for thee,” and tossing a purse to Beltane’s feet, he rode upon his way.
So the gay cavalcade passed ’neath the leafy arches, with the jingle of bridle and stirrup and the sound of jest and laughter, and was presently lost amid the green; only Gefroi the wrestler lay there upon his back and groaned. Then came Beltane and knelt and took his heavy head upon his knee, whereat Gefroi opened his eyes and groaned again.
“Good fellow,” said Beltane, “I had not meant to throw thee so heavily—”
“Nay, forester, would it had been a little harder, for a ruined man am I this day.”
“How so—have you not life?”
“I would ’twere death. And I bit you—in the arm, I mind me?”
“Aye, ’twas in the arm.”
“For that am I heartily sorry, forester. But when a man seeth fame and fortune slipping from him—aye, and his honour, I had nigh forgot that— fame and fortune and honour, so small a thing as a bite may be forgiven?”
“I forgive thee—full and freely.”
“Spoke like an honest forester,” said Gefroi, and groaned again. “The favour of a lord is a slippery thing—much like an eel—quick to wriggle away. An hour agone my lord Duke held me in much esteem, while now? And he struck me! On the face, here!” Slowly Gefroi got him upon his feet, and having donned cap and pourpoint, shook his head and sighed; quoth he:
“Alack! ’tis a ruined man am I this day! Would I had broken thy neck, or thou, mine—and so, God den to ye, forester!” Then Gefroi the wrestler turned and plodded on his way, walking slow and with drooping head as one who knoweth not whither he goes, or careth. Now, as he watched, Beltane bethought him of the purse and taking it up, ran after Gefroi and thrust it into his hand.
“’Twill help thee to find a new service, mayhap.” So saying my Beltane turned upon his heel and strode away, while Gefroi stood staring wide-eyed long after Beltane was vanished amid the trees.
So thus it was that Beltane looked his first upon Duke Ivo of Pentavalon, and thus did he overthrow Gefroi the famous wrestler. And because of this, many were they, knights and nobles and esquires, who sought out Beltane’s lonely hut beside the brook, with offers of service, or to try a fall with him. But at their offers Beltane laughed and shook his head, and all who came to wrestle he threw upon their backs. And thus my Beltane dwelt within the greenwood, waxing mightier day by day.
HOW LOVE CAME TO BELTANE IN THE GREENWOOD
Upon a day Beltane stood at his forge fashioning an axe-head. And, having tempered it thereafter in the brook, he laid it by, and straightening his back, strode forth into the glade all ignorant of the eyes that watched him curiously through the leaves. And presently as he stood, his broad back set to the bole of a tree, his blue eyes lifted heavenwards brimful of dreams, he brake forth into a song he had made, lying sleepless upon his bed to do it.