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Jeffery Farnol
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 506 pages of information about Beltane the Smith.

FRIAR.  “Stealeth!  Holy Saint Dunstan, dare ye speak thus of so great a lord—­a son of the Church, a companion of our noble Duke?  Steal, forsooth!  The poor have nought to steal!”

BELTANE.  “They have their lives.”

FRIAR.  “Not so, they and their lives are their lord’s, ’tis so the law and—­”

BELTANE.  “Whence came this law?”

FRIAR.  “It came, youth—­it came—­aye, of God!”

BELTANE.  “Say rather of the devil!”

FRIAR.  “Holy Saint Michael—­’tis a blasphemous youth!  Never heard ears the like o’ this—­”

BELTANE.  “Whence cometh poverty and famine?”

FRIAR. “’Tis a necessary evil!  Doth it not say in Holy Writ, ’the poor ye have always with you’?”

BELTANE.  “Aye, so shall ye ever—­until the laws be amended.  So needs must men starve and starve—­”

FRIAR.  “There be worse things!  And these serfs be born to starve, bred up to it, and ’tis better to starve here than to perish hereafter, better to purge the soul by lack of meat than to make of it a fetter of the soul!”

“Excellently said, holy sir!” quoth Beltane, stooping of a sudden.  “But for this pasty now, ’tis a somewhat solid fetter, meseemeth, so now do I free thee of it—­thus!” So saying, my Beltane dropped the pasty into the deeper waters of the brook and, thereafter, took up his staff.  “Sir Friar,” said he, “behold to-day is thy soul purged of a pasty against the day of judgment!”

Then Beltane went on beside the rippling waters of the brook, but above its plash and murmur rose the deeptoned maledictions of Friar Gui.

CHAPTER IX

WHEREIN IS SOME ACCOUNT OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF FOLLY AND THE WISDOM OF A FOOL

As the day advanced the sun grew ever hotter; birds chirped drowsily from hedge and thicket, and the warm, still air was full of the slumberous drone of a myriad unseen wings.  Therefore Beltane sought the deeper shade of the woods and, risking the chance of roving thief or lurking foot-pad, followed a devious course by reason of the underbrush.

Now as he walked him thus, within the cool, green twilight, watchful of eye and with heavy quarter-staff poised upon his shoulder, he presently heard the music of a pipe now very mournful and sweet, anon breaking into a merry lilt full of rippling trills and soft, bubbling notes most pleasant to be heard.  Wherefore he went aside and thus, led by the music, beheld a jester in his motley lying a-sprawl beneath a tree.  A long-legged knave was he, pinched and something doleful of visage yet with quick bright eyes that laughed ’neath sombre brows, and a wide, up-curving mouth; upon his escalloped cape and flaunting cock’s-comb were many little bells that rang a silvery chime as, up-starting to his elbow, he greeted my Beltane thus: 

“Hail, noble, youthful Sir, and of thy sweet and gracious courtesy I pray you mark me this—­the sun is hot, my belly lacketh, and thou art a fool!”

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