“I behold things with mind unclouded, Roger.”
“Save by enchantments damned, master. Since that evil day we met yon accursed witch of Hangstone, hast never been thyself.”
“Now do ye mind me how this woman did speak me of marvels and wonders, Roger—”
“Artifice, lord—devilish toys to lure thee to fouler bewitchments.”
“Howbeit, I will seek her out.”
“Nay, good master, here shall be perils dire and deadly. O bethink thee, lest she change thee into a swine, or black dog, aye, or even a small shrew-mouse—I’ve heard of such ere now—or blast thee with fire, or loathly disease, or—”
“None the less will I go.”
“Never say so, master!”
“At the full o’ the moon.”
“Lord, now do I beseech thee—”
“And the moon will be full—to-night, Roger. Go you and saddle now the horse.”
Forthwith went Roger, gloomy and nothing speaking, what time Beltane sat there staring down at the wallet on his knee, bethinking him of many things, and, for that he was alone, sighing deep and oft; and so, very suddenly, hung the wallet to his girdle and thereafter arose.
In a while cometh gloomy Roger leading the destrier Mars, whereon gloomy Beltane swung to saddle, and, looking round about him once and twice, rode slowly towards where, beyond the shade of trees, the forest road ran north and south.
But, as for Roger, needs must he pause upon the edge of the clearing to look back at the little cave beneath the steep, whereby the small water-brook flowed murmurously; a while he stood thus, to frown and shake gloomy head; then lifted he his hand on high, much as he had bid one sorrowful farewell, and, turning about, trudged away after his lord.
HOW BELTANE FOUND PEACE AND A GREAT SORROW
It had been an evening of cloud, but now the sky was clear and the moon shone bright and round as they reached that desolate, wind-swept heath that went by the name of Hangstone Waste, a solitary place at all times but more especially wild and awful ’neath the ghostly moon; wherefore Roger went wide-eyed and fearful, and kept fast hold of Beltane’s stirrup.
“Ha—master, master!” cried he ’twixt chattering teeth, “did’st not hear it, master?”
“Nay,” answered Beltane, checking his horse, “what was it? where away?”
“’Twas a cry, master—beyond the marsh yonder. ’Tis there again!”
“’Twas an owl, Roger.”
“’Twas a soul, master, a poor damned soul and desolate! We shall see dire and dreadful sights on Hangstone Waste this night, master—holy Saint Cuthbert! What was yon?”
“Nought but a bat, Roger.”
“A bat, lord? Never think so. Here was, belike, a noble knight or a lusty fellow be-devilled into a bat. Good master, let us go no further —if thou hast no thought for thyself, have a little heed for poor Roger.”