“Now mark yon tower,” said Sir Benedict, closing his vizor, “here shall be good sport for Eric’s perriers—watch now!” and he nodded where on the battlement below, crouched Eric with Walkyn and Roger who laboured at the winches of a great trebuchet hard by. To left and right on wall and turret, Eric glanced, then blew a blast upon the horn he carried; and immediately, from wall and turret mangonels, trebuchets and balistae unknown of until now crashed and whirred, and the tall tower shook and quivered ’neath the shock of great stones and heavy bolts, its massy timbers were split and rent, insomuch that it was fain to be withdrawn.
Thereafter the besiegers brought up a long pent-house or cat unto the edge of the moat, and sheltered within this cat were many men who fell to work filling up the moat with bags of earth and stone werewith to form a causeway across which they might assault the wall with bore and ram; and because this cat was builded very strong, Eric’s engines battered it in vain, wherefore he presently desisted; thus, hour by hour the causeway grew and lengthened. So needs must Beltane seek Sir Benedict and point this out with anxious finger.
“Let them come, Beltane!” quoth Sir Benedict, placid as was his wont, “once they are close against the wall with ram a-swing, I will make their labour of no avail; you shall see me burn them with a devil’s brew I learned of in the foreign wars. So, let them come. Beltane!”
Thus, day in, day out, was roar of conflict about the walls of Belsaye town, and ever Sir Benedict, with Beltane beside him, went to and fro, quick of eye and hand, swift to foresee and counteract the tactics of the besiegers, meeting cunning artifice with crafty strategem; wheresoever was panic or pressing need there was Sir Benedict, calm-voiced and serene. And Beltane, watching him thus, came to understand why this man had withstood the powers of Duke Ivo all these years, and why all men trusted to his judgment.
Thus, all day was rage of battle, but with the night peace came, since in the dark men might not see to aim and slay each other. And by night the folk of Belsaye made good their battered walls what time the besiegers prepared fresh devices of attack. Every morning at sunrise it was Beltane’s custom to steal to the great minster and, soft-treading despite his armour, come to his mother’s grave to hold communion with her in his prayers. And lo! upon that hallowed stone there always he found fragrant flowers, roses and lilies, new-gathered, upon whose sweet petals the dew yet sparkled, and ever his wonder grew.