“Nay Giles, thy post is here. Let your bows be strung and ready, but set your pikes to the fore—and Giles, watch! Walkyn, bring now the smocks.”
So saying, Beltane tightened his belt, drew on his hood of mail and laced it close, and turning, found Sir Fidelis close by to aid him with the hooded smock; and Beltane wondered to see him so pale and his slender hands a-tremble.
So the smocks were donned, with straw about their legs bound by withies as was the custom, and taking the sacks upon their shoulders, they turned aside into the green and were gone.
HOW GUI OF ALLERDALE CEASED FROM EVIL
Sir Gui of Allerdale, lord Seneschal of Belsaye town, rode hawk on fist at the head of divers noble knights and gentle esquires with verderers and falconers attendant. The dusty highway, that led across the plain to the frowning gates of Belsaye, was a-throng with country folk trudging on foot or seated in heavy carts whose clumsy wheels creaked and groaned city-wards; for though the sun was far declined, it was market-day: moreover a man was to die by the fire, and though such sights were a-plenty, yet ’twas seldom that any lord, seneschal, warden, castellan or—in fine, any potent lord dowered with right of pit and gallows—dared lay hand upon a son of the church, even of the lesser and poorer orders; but Sir Gui was a bold man and greatly daring. Wherefore it was that though the market-traffic was well nigh done, the road was yet a-swarm with folk all eager to behold and watch how a white friar could face death by the flame. So, on horse and afoot, in creaking cart and wain, they thronged toward the goodly city of Belsaye.
Sir Gui rode at a hand-pace, and as he rode the folk drew hastily aside to give him way, and bent the knee full humbly or stood with bowed heads uncovered to watch him pass; but ’neath bristling brows, full many an eye glared fiercely on his richly-habited, slender figure, marking his quick, dark glance, the down-curving, high-bridged nose of him with the thin lips and the long, pointed chin below.
Thus rode he, assured in his might and confident, heedless alike of the glory of day fast drawing into evening, of the green world whose every blade and leaf spake of life abundant, and of these trampling folk who bent so humbly at his passing, their cheeks aglow with health; thus, heeding but himself and his own most dear desires, how should he mark the four tall and dusty miller’s men whose brawny backs were stooped each beneath its burden? And how should he, confident in his strength and might, hale and lusty in his body, come to think on death sharp and swift? Thus Sir Gui of Allerdale, lord Seneschal of Belsaye town, rode upon his way, with eyes that glowed with the love of life, and tongue that curled ’twixt smiling lips as one that savoured its sweetness or meditated coming joys. Perceiving the which, two youthful esquires that rode near by nudged elbows, and set their heads together.