And therewith she smiled wondrous tender and put the great weapon into his grasp; then stooped and kissed him, and, pointing upward with her finger, was gone.
And now within his sleep his anguished heart found solacement in slow and burning tears, and, sleeping yet, he wept full bitterly, insomuch that, sobbing, he awoke. And lo! beneath his right hand was the touch of cold steel and his fingers clenched tight upon the hilt of his great sword.
Then my Beltane arose forthwith, and finding his clothes near by, clad himself and did on his mail, and, soft-treading, went forth of his narrow chamber. Thus came he where Friar Martin lay, deep-breathing in his slumber, and waking him not, he passed out into the dawn. And in the dawn was a gentle wind, very cool and grateful, that touched his burning brow and eyes like a caress; now looking up to heaven, where stars were paling to the dawn, Beltane raised the hilt of his sword and pressed it to his lips.
“O blessed mother!” he whispered, “God hath surely found thee worthy to be one of His holy angels, so hast thou stooped from heaven to teach to me my duty. Thus now will I set by my idle grieving for thee, sweet saint, and strive to live thy worthy son—O dear my mother, who, being dead, yet liveth!”
Then Beltane sheathed his sword and went softly up the narrow stair that led to the battlements.
It was a bleak dawn, full of a thick, low-lying mist beyond the walls, but within this mist, to north and south and east and west, was a faint stir, while, ever and anon, rose the distant cry of some sentinel within Duke Ivo’s sleeping camp, a mighty camp whose unseen powers held the fair city in deadly grip. In Belsaye nothing stirred and none waked at this dead hour save where, high on the bartizan above the square and mighty keep, the watchman paced to and fro, while here and there from curtain wall and massy tower, spear-head and bascinet gleamed.
Slow and light of foot Beltane climbed the narrow stair that led up to one of the two square towers that flanked the main gate, but, being come thither, he paused to behold Giles, who chancing to be captain of the watch, sat upon a pile of great stones beside a powerful mangonel or catapult and stared him dolefully upon the lightening east: full oft sighed he, and therewith shook despondent head and even thus fell he to soft and doleful singing, groaning to himself ’twixt each verse, on this wise:
“She will not heed her lover’s
His moped tear, his deep-fetched groan,
So doth he sit, and here alone
("With three curses on this foul mist!)
“The little fishes fishes woo,
Birds blithe on bough do bill and coo,
But lonely I, with sad ado
("And may Saint Anthony’s fire consume Bernard, the merchant’s round, plump son!)