Thus spake Beltane quick and passionate and thereafter paused, waiting their answer; but no man spake or moved, only from their grim ranks a growl went up ominous and deep, and eyes grown bright and fierce glared upon tall Orson and Jenkyn o’ the Ford, who shuffled with their feet and fumbled with their hands and knew not where to look.
“’Tis well, ’tis well, good comrades all!” spake Beltane in a while, “this night, mayhap, shall we, each one, achieve great things. Go now, dig ye a pit and therein hide such treasure as ye will and thereafter arm ye at points, for in the hour we march. Eric, see each doth bear with him food, and Giles, look that their quivers be full.”
So saying, Beltane turned and coming to his sleeping-place, forthwith began to don his armour. And presently he was aware of Orson and Jenkyn standing without the cave and each with look downcast; and eke they fumbled with their hands and shuffled with their feet and fain were to speak yet found no word. But at last spake Jenkyn humbly and on this wise:
“Master, here come I, look’ee, with Orson that is my comrade, look’ee—”
“Nay, go get thee to thy ’booty’!” says Beltane, busied with his armour.
“Nay, but look’ee master, we be—”
“No men!” quoth Beltane, “thus would I be free of ye both—so get you hence.”
“But good master,” spake Orson, “we do ha’ changed our minds—it do be a direful thing to burn, and if they do ha’ tormented maids—”
“’Tis no matter of thine,” quoth Beltane. “So go thy ways and meddle not.”
“But master, look’ee now, we be stout men, and look’ee, we be full of lust to fight—O master, let us go! Kneel, Orson, bend—bend thy long shanks, look’ee—” and forthwith on their knees fell Jenkyn and tall Orson with pleading eyes and eager hands outstretched.
“O master, look’ee, let us go!”
“Aye, we do ha’ changed our minds, master!”
“Then be it so!” said Beltane, “and I pray ye be ever faithful to your minds!” Then took they Beltane’s hand to kiss and thereafter up they sprang and went rejoicing to their company.
And, within the hour, mail and bascinet agleam, the two hundred and twenty and four marched forth of the hollow with step blithe and free, and swung away through the green till the sound of voice and laughter, the ring and clash of their going was died away and none remained, save where, cross-legged upon the sward, his open wallet on his knee, the round and buxom Pardoner sat to cherish a bruised arm and to stare from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth with eyes wider and rounder even than was their wont and custom.
HOW THEY CAME TO BELSAYE