At last, whenas his sobs had ceased, he lifted his wretched head and stared in wide-eyed wonder to see Beltane upon his knees, his mailed hands clasped and his lips moving in silent prayer; when, his prayer ended, he raised his head and straightway Roger’s wonder grew, for behold! the eyes of Beltane were wondrous gentle, his mouth sweet-curved and tender, the old harsh lines of grim-curled lip and lowering brow had vanished quite; and thus at last Black Roger saw again the face of my Beltane that had smiled on him long since amid the green across the prostrate form of poor Beda the Jester. So now, my Beltane smiled, and smiling, reached forth his hand.
“Roger,” said he, “by shame and agony some men do win to new life and fuller manhood, and such a man, methinks, thou art. So hath God need of thee, and from this the dust of thy abasement, mayhap, shall lift thee, one day, high as heaven. Stand up, Roger, good my friend, stand up, O man, for he only is unworthy that ne’er hath wept remorseful in the dust for evil past and done.”
Then Roger grasped that strong, uplifting hand, and stood upon his feet, yet spake he no word; and presently they went on along the road together.
And Roger’s habit was stained with dust, and on his cheek the mark of bitter tears—but his head was high and manfully uplifted.
HOW THEY HAD NEWS OF WALKYN
Now went they in silence again for that Beltane dreamed of many things while Roger marvelled within himself, oft turning to look on my Beltane’s radiant face, while ever his wonder grew; so oft did he turn thus to gape and stare that Beltane, chancing to meet his look, smiled and questioned him, thus:
“Why gape ye on me so, Roger man?”
“For wonder, master.”
“To see thee so suddenly thyself again—truly Saint Cuthbert is a potent saint!”
“And thou a sturdy pray-er, good Roger.”
“And most vile sinner, lord. Howbeit I have dared supplicate on thy behalf and behold! thou art indeed thyself again—that same sweet and gentle youth that smote me on my knavish mazzard with thy stout quarter-staff in Shevening Thicket in the matter of Beda, Red Pertolepe’s fool—a dour ding, yon, master—forsooth, a woundy rap!”
Now fell they to thoughtful silence again, but oft Black Roger’s stride waxed uneven, and oft he stumbled in his going, wherefore Beltane slackened his pace.
“What is it, Roger?”
“Naught but my legs, master. Heed ’em not.”
“They be shorter than thine, lord, and love not to wag so fast. An thou could’st abate thy speed a little—a very little, master, they shall thank thee dearly.”
“Art so weary, Roger?”
“Master, I was afoot ere sunrise.”
“Why truly, Roger. Yet do I, to mine own selfish ends, keep thee from thy slumber thus. Verily a selfish man, I!”