So Beltane kissed her once and went forth of the chamber, looking not back. She heard the ring of his armour a-down the stair, the quick tread of his feet, and leaning from the casement watched him go; and he, knowing her there, looked not up, but with teeth hard shut and iron hands clenched, strode fast upon his way.
And now, since he looked not up, it seemed to her she was out of his thoughts already, for his face was stern and set, and in his eyes was the fierce light of battle.
And she, kneeling alone in the failing glory of the moon, hid her face within yearning, desolate arms and wept long and bitterly.
FRIAR MARTIN’S DYING PROPHECY
Now as Beltane hasted along he heard the tread of mailed feet, and looking round beheld the white friar, and ’neath his white frock mail gleamed, while in his hand he grasped a heavy sword. Close on his heels came many men, old men these for the most part, grey of beard and white of head, and their armour, even as they, was ancient and rusty; but the faces that stared from casque and mail-hood were grim and sorrow-lined, stern faces and purposeful, and the eyes that gleamed ’neath shaggy brows ere now had looked on sons and brothers done to death by fire and gallows, and wives and daughters shamed and ravished. And ever as they came Friar Martin smote, sword in hand, on door and shuttered window, and cried hoarse and loud:
“Ye men of Belsaye—fathers and husbands, arm ye, arm ye! Ye greybeards that have seen Duke Ivo’s mercy, arm ye! Your foes be in, to burn, to loot again and ravish! O ye husbands and fathers, arise, arise—arm, arm and follow me to smite for wife and children!”
So cried the tall white friar, pallid of cheek but dauntless of eye, and ever as he cried, smote he upon door and shutter with his sword, and ever his company grew.
Within the square was Roger, hoarse-voiced, with Beltane’s battered war-helm on a pike whereto the foresters mustered—hardy and brown-faced men, fitting on bascinet and buckling belt, yet very quiet and orderly. And beside Roger, Ulf the Mighty leaned him upon his axe, and in the ranks despite their bandages stood Orson the Tall and Jenkyn o’ the Ford, even yet in wordy disputation.
“How many muster ye, Roger?”
“One hundred and nine, master.”
“And where is Walkyn—where Giles?”
“With Sir Benedict, hard by the gate, master. My lord, come take thy helm—come take it, master, ’twill be a close and bitter fight—and thou art no longer thine own man—bethink thee of thy sweet wife, Sir Fidelis, master!”
So Beltane did on the great casque and even now came Sir Brian beside whom Sir Hacon limped, yet with sword bloody.
“Ha, my lord,” he cried, “mine eyes do joy to see thee and these goodly fellows—’tis hard and fierce business where Benedict and his pikes do hold the gate—”