upon his wrists, and thereafter fell upon his knees and with his face yet hidden, spake: “Walkyn,” said he, “O Walkyn, but a little while since I named thee ‘murderer’! Yet what, in sooth, am I? So now do I humbly ask thy pardon. As for thee, sir knight, grant thy pity to one that is abased. Had I tears, now might I shed them, but tears are not for me. Go you therefore to—to her that sent thee and say that Beltane died within the dungeons of Garthlaxton. Say that I who speak am but a sword for the hand of God henceforth, to smite and stay not until wrong shall be driven hence. Say that this was told thee by a sorry wight who, yearning for death, must needs cherish life until his vow be accomplished.” But as Beltane spake thus upon his knees, his head bowed humbly before them all, the young knight came near with mailed hands outstretched, yet touched him not. “Messire,” said he, “thou hast craved of me a boon the which I do most full and freely grant. But now would I beg one of thee.” “’Tis thine,” quoth Beltane, “who am I to gainsay thee?” “Messire, ’tis this; that thou wilt take me to serve thee, to go beside thee, sharing thy woes and perils henceforth.” “So be it, sir knight,” answered Beltane, “though mine shall be a hazardous service, mayhap. So, when ye will thou shalt be free of it.” Thus saying he arose and went aside and sat him down in the mouth of the cave. But in a while came Roger to him, his sword-belt a-swing in his hand, and looked upon his gloomy face with eyes full troubled. And presently he spake, yet halting in his speech and timid: “Master,” he said, “suffer me a question.” “Verily,” quoth Beltane, looking up, “as many as thou wilt, my faithful Roger.” “Master,” says Roger, twisting and turning the belt in hairy hands, “I would but ask thee if—if I might cut another notch from this my accursed belt—a notch, lord—I—the young knight—?” “You mean him that I would have murdered, Roger? Reach me hither thy belt.” So Beltane took the belt and with his dagger cut thence two notches, whereat quoth Roger, staring: “Lord, I did but save one life—the young knight—” “Thou did’st save two,” answered Beltane, “for had I slain him, Roger—O, had I slain him, then on this night should’st have hanged me for a murderer. Here be two notches for thee—so take back thy belt and go, get thee to thy rest—and, Roger—pray for one that tasteth death in life.” So Roger took the belt, and turning softly, left Beltane crouched above the fire as one that is deadly cold.
HOW BELTANE HAD NEWS OF ONE THAT WAS A NOTABLE PARDONER