So thus it was that the folk of fair Belsaye town, men and women with gnashing teeth and rending hands, made them an end of Tyranny, until with the night, there nothing remained of proud Sir Gui and all his lusty garrison, save shapeless blotches piled amid the gloom—and that which lay, forgotten quite, a cold and pallid thing, befouled with red and trampled mire; a thing of no account henceforth, that stared up with glazed and sightless eyes, where, remote within the sombre firmament of heaven, a great star glowed and trembled.
HOW THEY LEFT BELSAYE
Lanthorns gleamed and torches flared in the great square of Belsaye where panting, shouting townsfolk thronged upon Beltane and his company with tears of joy, with laughter loud and high-pitched, with shouts and wild acclaim; many there were who knelt to kiss their sun-browned hands, their feet, the very links of their armour. And presently came Giles o’ the Bow, debonair and smiling, a woman’s scarf about his brawny throat, a dozen ribands and favours tied about each mailed arm.
“Lord,” quoth he, “tall brother, I have been fairly kissed by full a score of buxom dames—the which is excellent good, for the women of Belsaye are of beauty renowned. But to kiss is a rare and notable science, and to kiss well a man should eat well, and forsooth, empty am I as any drum! Therefore prithee let us eat, that I may uphold my reputation, for, as the learned master Ovidius hath it, ’osculos’—”
But from the townsfolk a shout arose:
“Comes the Reeve! ’Tis good master Cuthbert! Way for the Reeve!”
Hereupon the crowd parting, a tall man appeared, his goodly apparel torn, his long white hair disordered, while in his hand he yet grasped a naked sword. Stern his face was, and lined beyond his years, moreover his broad shoulders were bowed with more than age; but his eye was bright and quick, and when he spake, his voice was strong and full.
“Which, I pray, is chiefest among ye?”
“That am I,” quoth Beltane.
“Messire,” said the Reeve, “who and what men ye are I know not, but in the name of these my fellow-citizens do I thank ye for our deliverance. But words be poor things, now therefore, an it be treasure ye do seek ye shall be satisfied. We have suffered much by extortion, but if gold be your desire, then whatsoever gold doth lie in our treasury, the half of it is freely thine.”
“O most excellent Reeve!” cried Giles, “forsooth, a very proper spirit of gratitude.”
“Good master,” spake Beltane, quelling the archer with a look, “these my comrades hither came that a noble man should not perish, and that Sir Gui of Allerdale should cease from evil, and behold, ’tis done! So I pray you, give us food and shelter for the night, for with the dawn we march hence.”
“But—O tall brother!” gasped Giles, “O sweet lord, there was mention made of treasure! A large-souled Reeve—a Reeve with bowels! ‘Treasure’ quoth he, and likewise ‘gold!’ And these be matters to excogitate upon. Moreover, pecunioe obediunt omnia, brother.”