“Lord Beltane,” said she, looking up ’neath glistening lashes—“as thou hast dealt with me, so may heaven deal with thee. May thy sore heart find solace until love find thee—and—dear my lord, I pray you where is—he—the young knight that rode with thee—for where he is, there also is—Helen—”
“And thou dost know, too?”
“I knew her that day in the forest when I fled away, for though I would have confessed my sin to thee, yet her cold scorn I could not have borne. Where is she now, my lord?”
“Safe within Mortain, I pray.”
“Then come you to Mortain. Come with us this night—ah! come you to Mortain and—Helen!”
Now hereupon Beltane turned to look with yearning eyes towards the gloom of the forest beyond which lay the soft and peaceful valleys of fair Mortain, and she that called herself Fidelis, who had indeed been so faithful in all things, so patient and enduring; and, as his eyes yearned, so yearned the great passionate soul of him, insomuch that he must needs fall a-trembling, whereat Roger the watchful drew a soft pace nearer. So stood Beltane awhile, hands clenched, head bent, staring ever northwards, his blood aglow with eager love, his heart a-throb with passionate remorse.
“Come, my lord,” breathed Winfrida, “O come—in Mortain is rest and solace—and love!”
“Rest?” said Beltane softly, “solace and love—O sweet thought! Yet I may not go hence, for here is sorrow and shame and suffering—sword and fire and battle. So must I bide here in Pentavalon—with my duty.” So saying, he lifted Winfrida to Sir Jocelyn’s ready clasp and thereafter spake with head downbent: “An thou chance to see—her— within Mortain, I pray you say that the blind doth see at last and is gone to his duty, that, peradventure, he may be, some day, more worthy her great love. And now fare ye well, good friends, God have ye ever in His tender care. Come, Roger!”
Then Beltane turned him suddenly away, and with broad back set towards Mortain, strode off across the desolate moor.
TELLETH HOW BELTANE WENT FORTH TO HIS DUTY
Silent went Beltane, his lips firm-set, his wistful eyes staring ever before him, nor paused he once, nor once glanced back towards that happy Mortain which held for him all that was fair and sweet and noble; that pure and faithful heart wherein no evil could exist; that radiant body in whose soft, white loveliness lay all the joy, all the happiness the wide world might ever yield him.
And now, because of her proved innocence, he was uplifted by a great and mighty joy, and therewith his step was light and swift; anon, because of his base doubt of her, he writhed ’neath the sharp-gnawing tooth of bitter remorse, and therewith his step grew heavy and slow. Now was he proud of her so great love for him, and again, he knew a profound and deep humility because of his so great unworthiness. Thus went he, nothing speaking, now with flying feet, now with steps that dragged, insomuch that watchful Roger fell to solemn wonderment, to a furtive unease, and so, at last, to speech.