ROGER (fearfully). “Master—master!”
BELTANE. “Nor to suffer woman’s love to come ’twixt me and my duty—”
ROGER (despairingly). “O master, swear it not—swear it not—”
BELTANE. “Nor shall aught let or stay me until Pentavalon win to freedom or my poor soul return whence it came. And this do I swear to the ears of God!”
Now turned he to Roger, bright-eyed and with hands tight-clenched.
“Roger,” said he, “thou art witness to this my oath, an I do fail or falter henceforth, then in that same hour may sharp death be mine. So now bring to me sword and armour, for this night must I hence.”
Now was Roger sore troubled and fain was to speak, but beholding his master’s flashing eye, he presently did as he was commanded. So Beltane took hold upon the sword and drew it, and looked glad-eyed upon its broad and shining blade. But when he would have wielded it, behold! he scarce could lift it; with teeth fierce-clenched he strove against his weakness until his breath waxed short and the sweat ran from him, but ever the great blade grew the heavier. Then he groaned to find himself so feeble, and cried aloud an exceeding bitter cry, and cast the sword from him, and, staggering, fell into Roger’s waiting arms. Forthwith Roger bare him to the cave and laid him down upon his bed.
“Master,” quoth he, “O master, grieve not thyself, thou shalt be hale and strong anon, but the time is not yet. Comfort ye, comfort ye, my lord—ere long thou shalt be strong, aye, and mightier e’en than aforetime. So grieve not nor repine, my master!”
But Beltane lay heeding not, nor would he eat despite all Roger’s wheedling arts; but being fevered and athirst, drank deep of the sleeping draught, and thereafter, falling to his black humour, turned his face to the shadows, and, lying thus, straightway fell to weeping, very silently, because of his so great weakness, until, like a child, he had wept himself to sleep.
Slowly the moon sank, the fire burned low and Roger snored blissfully hard by, but Beltane, blessed within his slumbers, dreamed again of one who stole, light of foot, to lie beside him watchful in the dark and with warm, soft arms set close about him like the sheltering arms of that mother he had never known.
Thus slept Beltane, like a weary child upon a mother’s breast, and knew great peace and solace and a deep and utter content.
HOW BELTANE SET OUT FOR HANGSTONE WASTE
Day by day Beltane waxed in health and strength, and daily, leaning upon Roger’s trusty arm he walked further afield. And day by day, with growing strength, so grew his doubt, and therewith, by times, a black despond; for needs must he think ever of Helen the Beautiful, and fain was he to tear her from his heart yet could not; then fain he would have hated her, but in his ears her cry rang still—“God pity thee, my Beltane!”—wherefore he was wont to fall to sudden gloom and melancholy.