“For that I did love thee, so would I see thee a strong man—yet gentle: a potent lord, yet humble: a noble man as—as thou wert said to be!”
“Alas, my Fidelis, harsh have I been, proud and unforgiving—”
“Aye, my lord—thou art unforgiving—a little!”
“So now, Fidelis, would I crave forgiveness of all men.” Then came the young knight nearer yet, his face radiant with sudden joy, his white hands clasped.
“Lord!” he whispered, “O Beltane, could’st indeed forgive all—all harm done thee, howsoever great or small thy mind doth hold them—could’st forgive all!”
“Aye, I could forgive them all, Fidelis—all save Helen—who hath broke this heart of mine and made my soul a thing as black as she hath whited this my hair.”
Now of a sudden Beltane heard a sound—a small sound ’twixt a sob and a moan, but when he raised his heavy head—lo! Sir Fidelis was gone.
HOW A MADNESS CAME UPON BELTANE IN THE WILD-WOOD
The sun rose high, jet still Beltane sat there beside the stream, staring down into the gurgling waters, grieving amain for his unworthiness.
Thus presently comes Sir Fidelis, and standing afar, spake in voice strange and bitter:
“What do ye there, my lord? Dost dream ever upon thy woes and ills? Wilt dream thy life away here amid the wild, forsooth?”
Quoth Beltane, very humbly:
“And wherefore not, Sir Fidelis? Unfit am I for great achievements. But, as to thee, take now the horse and ride you ever north and west—”
“Yea, but where is north, and where west—?”
“The trees shall tell you this. Hearken now—”
“Nay, my lord, no forester am I to find my way through trackless wild. So, an thou stay, so, perforce, must I: and if thou stay then art thou deeply forsworn.”
“How mean you, good sir?”
“I mean Belsaye—I mean all those brave souls that do wait and watch, pale-cheeked, ’gainst Ivo’s threatened vengeance—”
“Ha—Belsaye!” quoth Beltane, lifting his head.
“Thou must save Belsaye from flame and ravishment, my lord!”
“Aye, forsooth,” cried Beltane, clenching his hands, “though I be unworthy to stand in my noble father’s place, yet Belsaye must be saved or I die in it. O Fidelis, friend art thou indeed and wise beyond thy years!” But as Beltane arose, Sir Fidelis incontinent turned away, and presently came back leading the great horse. So in a while they set out northwards; but now were no arms to clasp and cling, since Sir Fidelis found hold otherwhere. Thus, after some going, Beltane questioned him:
“Art easy, Fidelis?”
“Wilt not take hold upon my belt, as yesterday?”
“Methinks I am better thus.”
“Nay then, shalt have stirrups and saddle, for I am fain to walk.”