Thus, within the hour, the trumpets brayed ‘to horse’ and all was seeming hurry and confusion; yet a confusion, this, governed by soldierly method, so that, ere long, horsemen were mounted and footmen in array what time Beltane, bedight in goodly vizored casque, with lance and shield borne behind him, came where stood Sir Benedict beside a great and noble war-horse.
Forthwith Beltane mounted, and forthwith from these well-ordered ranks a great shout arose:
“Beltane—the Duke—the Duke!”
Now, reining in his eager beast, Beltane looked upon that stern array, and as he looked his eye kindled and his heart swelled within him.
“O men!” said he, “I that ye do acclaim am but a man even as ye are men, to bear with ye the heat and labour of the day. What ye must endure that will I endure with you. Here stand I, ready to spill my blood that Wrong may cease. Even as ye, I am prepared to adventure me, life and limb, that Lust and Murder may cease to be and Innocence and Truth may walk again all unashamed. So shall I lead ye into battles and affrays desperate and bloody, where foes shall be a-many and we, few. But we do fight for hearth and home, and the thought of this, methinks, shall nerve us strong as giants. Yet is our way a perilous way, and some of us, belike, must die. But, by the blood of such, this our country is hallowed unto those that shall come after us, so shall our memories teach others how to die—and better—how to live that this our country may stand, hereafter, for all things great and noble. He that dieth for home and children shall, mayhap, from the floor of heaven, look down upon a great and happy people whose freedom he—by weary marches, by pain of wounds, by sharp and sudden death—he himself hath helped to purchase, and, in their peace and happiness, find an added joy.
“O men! who would not be a man to fight in such just cause? Who would not cherish life that he might lose it to such noble purpose?
“Now therefore, all ye that do love Pentavalon—follow!”
Thus saying, my Beltane wheeled his horse; and with rhythmic ring and clash, together, rank on rank, horsemen and footmen, they followed hard behind, a silent, grim array, with eyes that gleamed ’neath helm and bascinet, and purposeful hands that griped full strong on lance and spear-shaft, as, coming to the forest-road, they swung away northwards towards Winisfarne.
WHAT THEY FOUND AT WINISFARNE
Two and two they rode—for the way was oft-times narrow—their flanks well covered by light-armed archers who marched within the green, with mounted archers far in their van and others in their rear.
A glory of sun dappled their way with dancing shadows, flowers were a-bloom in bank and hedgerow, and birds carolled blithe in the fragrant air, what time Sir Benedict rode beside Beltane, his ponderous casque a-swing at saddle-bow; and oft he turned his grizzled head to view my thoughtful Beltane as one might look upon a son, new-found.