“Ye are free to go whither ye will. Take what ye will, none shall gainsay you, but get you gone within this hour, for in the hour Garthlaxton shall be no more.”
Then beckoning Walkyn he bade him choose six men, and turning to the women—
“These honourable men shall bring you safe upon your way—haste you to be gone. And should any ask how Garthlaxton fell, say, ’twas by the hand of God, as a sure and certain sign that Pentavalon shall yet arise to smite evil from her borders. Say also that he that spake you this was one Beltane, son of Beltane the Strong, heretofore Duke of Pentavalon.” Thus said Beltane unto these women, his brows knit, and with eyes that looked aside from each and every, and so went forth of the chapel.
HOW GILES MADE A MERRY SONG
Morning, young and fragrant, bedecked and brave with gems of dewy fire; a blithe morning, wherein trees stirred whispering and new-waked birds piped joyous welcome to the sun, whose level, far-flung beams filled the world with glory save where, far to the south, a pillar of smoke rose upon the stilly air, huge, awful, and black as sin—a writhing column shot with flame that went up high as heaven.
“O merry, aye merry, right merry
To live and to love ’neath the merry green tree,
Nor the rain, nor the sleet,
Nor the cold, nor the heat,
I’ll mind, if my love will come thither to me.”
Sang Giles, a sprig of wild flowers a-dance in his new-gotten, gleaming bascinet, his long-bow upon his mailed shoulder, and, strapped to his wide back, a misshapen bundle that clinked melodiously with every swinging stride; and, while he sang, the ragged rogues about him ceased their noise and ribaldry to hearken in delight, and when he paused, cried out amain for more. Whereupon Giles, nothing loth, brake forth afresh:
“O when is the time a maid to kiss,
Tell me this, ah, tell me this?
’Tis when the day is new begun,
’Tis to the setting of the sun,
Is time for kissing ever done?
Tell me this, ah, tell me this?”
Thus blithely sang Giles the Archer, above the tramp and jingle of the many pack-horses, until, being come to the top of a hill, he stood aside to let the ragged files swing by and stayed to look back at Garthlaxton Keep.
Now as he stood thus, beholding that mighty flame, Walkyn and Roger paused beside him, and stood to scowl upon the fire with never a word betwixt them.
“How now,” cried Giles, “art in the doleful dumps forsooth on so blithe a morn, with two-score pack-horses heavy with booty—and Garthlaxton aflame yonder? Aha, ’tis a rare blaze yon, a fire shall warm the heart of many a sorry wretch, methinks.”
“Truly,” nodded Roger, “I have seen yon flaming keep hung round with hanged men ere now—and in the dungeons beneath—I have seen—God forgive me, what I have seen! Ha! Burn, accursed walls, burn! Full many shall rejoice in thy ruin, as I do—lorn women and fatherless children—fair women ravished of life and honour!”